Dear Friends and Neighbors, Everyone in Wellesley would love to see every form of bias and intolerance disappear forever. We support the dignity and common humanity of every single life in this town, state, country, and the world as we know it. We want the best for all of Wellesley’s children. One of the reasons our family moved to Wellesley was for its excellent reputation in public education. Stop labeling our children/students by identity. There is no place for indoctrination, divisiveness, victimology, schools replacing parents, one-sided politics, lack of academic rigor and students turning in students for “micro-aggressions”. Wellesley is in the national news now for all the wrong reasons. Our public school system is losing its rankings, and will have law suits brought against the town. Valuable class time is used for indoctrination instead of learning. Neighbors are calling other neighbors “racist.” School children are making videos saying that “we are born racist.” Our school administrators are allowing students to take over school time meant for learning, and our school staff often behave unprofessionally. We parents are not consulted in matters that directly impact our children and families.
Analysis of Wellesley Ranking Compared to Other MA Pier Schools
The point has been made in discussion with various parent groups that the ranking of Wellesley HS in national rankings has declined. A preliminary assessment of this indicates that there may be some basis to this assertion. Examination of the data indicates that the source of the decline is a result of math and reading proficiency.
The Word on the Street & Ranking
Discussions of ranking decline tosses around various numbers such as declined from 4 to 28, or from 12 to 26. The first problem then is to determine what ranking system is being used.
The most commonly referenced ranking is the “U.S. News & World Report” high school ranking. US News has published high school rankings since 2007. However, in 2019, the publication changed its methodology. Consequently, a pre-2019 ranking in the survey is not comparable to a post-2019 ranking.
This paper works with the 2019, 2020 and 2021 rankings as published by US News.
A further complication to analysis is that US News publishes the rankings on-line. Obtaining data from earlier years is quite difficult as there does not seem to be a single source to view past rankings.
Wellesley HS Ranking
In the 2021 rankings, Wellesley HS ranked 26th in the state, an improvement over 2020 when it ranked 28th, but a marked decline from 2019 when it ranked 19th.
The concern when using statistics is whether a change is “statistically significant”. A movement from 12th to 13th position might not be significant, but in this instance I would posit that a decline from 19th to 26th is statistically significant.
One of the better ways to examine such a change is to see how Wellesley HS fared compared to what the School Committee regards as our “peer” schools. The annual district report list 17 school systems that the Committee compares Wellesley HS to. In the 2021 rankings those school systems ranged in rank from a high of 7th (Lexington) to a low of 68th (Lincoln-Sudbury).
For the purposes of visually observing the movement in the rankings over the past three years the graph below looks only at schools in the top 25 as of the 2019 rankings and shows their movements in the recent three years.
Among the top-3 schools, Lexington, Dover-Sherborn and Belmont, there is a demonstrated ability to not just be at a high ranking, but to sustain that position over time.
In the next group, there is considerable volatility and the result of the volatility is, with one exception, not good. All of the schools in the lower group save Weston, are at a lower rank in 2021 than they were in 2019.
Weston is the one exception. In 2020 the school increased its ranking significantly and then held the ranking in 2021. It would seem to early to say whether or not the school can sustain the improvement.
Why Do Schools Move?
There are six components to the US News ranking system, but four of them combine into two elements that comprise 80% of the ranking.
One is “college readiness” (30%) and “college curriculum breadth” (10%). This part of the score looks at students who took AP course and passed AP course, with the pass being weighted more heavily that just taking the course. The “breadth” component looks at how many students took a wide variety of AP courses an exams.
The second major element is “reading and math proficiency” (20%) and “reading and math performance” (20%). This component looks at how well students perform on the MCATs and also looks at how well the students perform against a model of expected performance based on school demographics, income and the like.
Unfortunately, US News does not publish the performance of each school in each category. What is published is partial data relating to the AP component, partial data relating to the reading and math proficiency and then the graduation rate.
Taking the data that is published leads to the table below:
This is from the 2021 data. The question we are now asking is, “What distinguishes the top four schools from the rest?”
Graduation rate can be tossed immediately from consideration. There is only a 2% variation between schools and given a weighting of 10% in the rankings, it will account for little.
Given the conversation of late from the School Committee that AP courses are being cut and students referred to “Honors’ courses, this would seem to be a prime suspect for the decline. While this may be part of the cause, I suspect it is a relatively small component. It is true that relative to the top 4 with the exception of D-S fewer Wellesley HS students take AP courses. But of those who do take AP courses, a significant proportion pass.
Wedfield and Weston look good, at least in terms of the percentage of students taking an AP course, but the difference between those taking and those passing likely hurts their overall rank.
Nevertheless, a policy at Wellesley HS to decrease the number of AP offerings and enrollment in AP courses will eventually impact our position in the rankings.
The only item left for consideration is reading and math proficiency. Two points are striking here between the top-4 and the rest.
First, the scores are 89% or better in both reading and math at all of the top-4. Second, with the exception of Lexington, the difference between the reading and math score is only 1 percentage point. A high ranking would seem determined by not just a high overall score, but by consistent performance in the two score areas.
As well as Wellesley does on math at 89%, the ranking is harmed by a 4 percentage point difference between the math and reading score. Lexington has the same difference, but winds up with a higher ranking because it is starting with a math score of 96% and even with a 4 point difference realizes a reading score of 92%.
Winchester – A Cautionary Tale?
As the graph indicates, Winchester has fallen precipitously in the rankings. Yet, it is notable that the reading and math proficiency scores at 86% in both reading and math are quite close to the Wellesley scores and are the same in both reading and math. However, on the AP measures Winchester is significantly lower in both enrollment and success in AP courses.
This suggests that it will be insufficient to improve the Wellesley reading and math proficiency if at the same time AP course and college readiness are ignored. To advance in the rankings Wellesley will need to improve reading and math proficiency while sustaining the AP environment.
A longitudinal study of three data points is not truly sufficient to establish trends.
That being said, one cannot escape the observation that the best schools are consistently the best schools. The best schools show over even this limited timeframe consistent performance. Whereas the less highly ranked school display considerable volatility in their ranking.
From a school management perspective, I would suggest that the volatility is a greater issue than higher or lower ranking. If component of the ranking is stable and consistent it would seem to provide a more certain base to improve from than if the component is moving around from year to year leaving school with the challenging goal of trying to improve a moving target.
Subject: Re: BLM Display and Curriculum Superintendent Lussier: I respectfully take issue with your reply below, for two reasons. First, your “understanding” of the Marblehead High School situation is incorrect. Second, you completely failed to address my second comment about attempting to “distinguish any ‘confusion’ ” of the BLM Flag displays and curricula from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric of what you have referred to as the “BLM political organization.” I have verified that Marblehead High does not, as you state, display the Israeli flag as “one of many flags . . .reflecting the diverse backgrounds of [its] student body.” On the contrary, the Israeli flag is displayed as one of but four banners on the same wall in the same area as the BLM flag. This was done explicitly at Marblehead High in response to the expressed fears of students and parents arising out of the anti-Semitic rhetoric of the Black Lives Matter political organization. The Israeli flag is one of only four flags in a display that includes the flag of the United States, the banners of the BLM and LGBTQ movements and the State of Israel. Once again, I urge you to take the same step that was taken at Marblehead High and make good on your promise to combat what you noted as “the rise of antisemitism in recent years.” As in Marblehead, you can demonstrate that the symbols of both BLM and Israel can be linked and displayed together as a unifying measure. This effort could be joined with your other commitments “to increase lessons on this topic [of anti-Semitism], and further strategize how we could continue to strengthen our approach” and at the same time to eliminate “confusion” of the BLM Flag displays and curricula from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric of what you refer to as the “BLM political organization,” an organization that you assured the readers of the Townsman that WPS does not endorse. In my message I urged you to make “a clear and direct effort” to explain that distinction to the students in your charge. This would promote unity and avoid the impression that WPS picks “winners” (BLM) and “losers” (Jewish students). Linking the flags is but a symbolic, albeit important, step in this work. Following up that symbolism with the same kind of educational effort and curriculum guidance towards such unification that you have emphasized for BLM is what I asked for in my message. Sadly, you completely ignored that request in your response. We are left with a rather clear emphasis on the elevation of safety and justice concerns for certain groups, coupled with the failure to address the same concerns for others. I urge you to reconsider your response and make good on your promise to take steps towards truly “strengthening our approach” to combating anti-Semitism. WPS states that is is committed to “inclusion.” The actions described above and in my earlier message would help to evidence that commitment in tangible as well as symbolic ways. Best, Neal Glick. On Monday, September 13, 2021, 07:47:14 AM EDT, David Lussier <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Mr. Glick, Thanks for your message. My understanding is that the Marblehead Administration supports the display of the Black Lives Matter flag for the same reasons that we do. The Administration has agreed to display the flag of Israel in the Marblehead High School cafeteria as part of an effort in which they intend to display many flags representing the diversity of their student body. This is identical to our practice at Wellesley High School, where our cafeteria is ringed with many flags, including the flag of Israel, reflecting the diverse backgrounds of our student body. Thanks again for reaching out. Best, David David F. Lussier, Ed.D. Superintendent Wellesley Public Schools 40 Kingsbury Street Wellesley, MA 02481 781-446-6210 x5605
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On Wed, Sep 8, 2021 at 12:14 PM Neal Glick <email@example.com> wrote: Dr. Lussier: It has come to my attention that the Marblehead public school administration has responded to communications from Jewish parents in Marblehead by agreeing to display the Israeli flag in conjunction with the BLM banner. This is in direct response to numerous parents and students who notified the school administration that they felt distressed and/or intimidated by the display of the BLM banner in the public schools, especially in light of the openly anti-Semitic and anti-Israel rhetoric of the national BLM leaders and the significant increase in hate crimes against Jews across the country in the wake of such rhetoric, an increase that continues. These feelings have been exacerbated by the adoption of the written “BLM Flag Plan” (complete with a well-defined curriculum) at Sprague (and presumably at other WPS schools) based directly (and in some cases word-for-word) on the curricula established by BLM in Schools and the Howard Zinn Foundation, both of which entities openly espouse anti-Israel and anti-Semitic (as well as anti-Catholic) rhetoric. As a Jewish resident of Wellesley and parent of a current elementary school child in WPS and a graduate of WHS, I can tell you that these concerns are very real and significant. When this was brought to your attention last Spring, you responded by acknowledging “the rise in antisemitism in recent years” and that you sought to “increase lessons on this topic, and further strategize how we could continue to strengthen our approach . . . That is work that continues.” Well, now you have a concrete example of just how that “increase,” “strategizing” and “strengthening” can be easily, quickly and directly accomplished. Display the Israeli flag alongside the BLM banner, just as Marblehead has done. Doing so now, during the 10-day period of the Jewish High Holidays, would be a terrific start and a meaningful symbolic effort. You could also modify the BLM Flag Plan at WPS to include explicit efforts to distinguish any “confusion” of the BLM Flag displays and curricula from the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic rhetoric of what you have referred to as the “BLM political organization.” In this regard, I note that you stated in the Townsman that your efforts concerning the BLM flag displays at WPS are “not an endorsement of the of the political organization of the same name.” While it is unclear to me and many others how you could possibly square that circle or expect many or even most pre-K through 12 students to make that leap in conceptual gymnastics, a clear and direct effort to explain the distinction with regard to anti-Semitism to students would be a welcome first step. Will you take these easy and important steps? Failing to do so will be a further reinforcement of the notion that only “certain lives matter,” and that Jewish lives are not in that preferred group. I look forward to your response. Sincerely, Neal B. Glick89 River Street