Study: Signs of Progress at Madison Park, but Still a Long Way to Go

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on
LinkedIn
+

New Pioneer report reviews enrollment, graduation, and absenteeism rates as well as academic performance, at Boston’s only vocational-technical school

BOSTON – Four years after it began to implement a turnaround plan, Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School is showing clear signs of progress, but its performance continues to lag behind that of other vocational-technical schools in Massachusetts, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

“Madison Park is improving,” said Jamie Gass, Pioneer’s director of education research and policy.  “But a great deal of additional work and leadership from the state and district will be needed for the school to effectively prepare students for both careers and post-secondary education.”

Madison Park was designated as a Level 4, or “underperforming,” school by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) in December 2015.  School officials developed a turnaround plan, which began to be implemented in June 2016.

In “Madison Park Technical Vocational High School Turnaround Update,” author William Donovan reports that the school had for a period suffered from unstable leadership.

Kevin McCaskill has been serving as executive director of the school for the past five years, but has taken a position in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) central office. Though he remains as executive director and interim headmaster at Madison Park, this change raises questions about succession and the future stability of leadership at the school.

There are also questions about BPS’ commitment to Madison Park. The BPS has urged that vocational programs be offered at 22 other city high schools. The programs often duplicate those offered at Madison Park and depress enrollment at the school.

Performance on several metrics has improved during the turnaround.  Madison Park’s graduation rate has risen from 57 percent in 2017 to 68 percent last year.  During that time the dropout rate fell from over 6 percent to less than 5 percent.

During the 2018-19 school year the chronic absenteeism rate (students who miss school at least 10 percent of the time) was 47 percent.  The following year it fell to 32 percent.

Madison Park’s enrollment declined by about half between 2005 and 2017, but has climbed by 17 percent over the last three years.

Despite these encouraging signs, Madison Park is still behind other Massachusetts vocational-technical schools academically.  Its MCAS scores rank at or near the bottom in all categories and it remains the worst performer in terms of graduation and dropout rates.

Madison Park faces demographic challenges.  During the 2019-20 school year, 92 percent of its 1,021 students were classified as “high needs” and 94 percent were students of color. According to 2018-2019 academic year data, about 73 percent were economically disadvantaged, the highest of any voc-tech school in Massachusetts.  Just over 30 percent of its students had disabilities and about 35 percent were English language learners.

Comparing Madison Park to two of the highest performing regional vocational technical schools, 0.2 percent of the students at Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical High School in Upton are English language learners and more than 78 percent of the students at Assabet Valley Regional Technical High School in Marlborough are white.

A 2018 report from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, a regional accreditation association, found that expenditures at Madison Park were less than all but one of eight comparable voc-techs in the region, and per-pupil spending was more than 20 percent below the average of the eight.

As the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute (LVTI) demonstrates, turnarounds are possible at high-need vocational technical high schools. LVTI’s student body was only slightly less challenged than Madison Park’s.

Kevin McCaskill leads the Madison Park turnaround and led one at the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield. While at Madison Park, he has instituted several new programs.

“MCAS Bootcamp” strengthens students’ English, math and science skills in preparation for state exams.  English and math results have been mixed, but the percentage of students scoring “Proficient” in science has more than doubled and the percentage in the “Needs Improvement” category has fallen.

“RoxMAPP” allows students in grades 10-12 to earn college credits while still in high school.  Since the 2014-15 school year, the number of students participating in the program has risen from 15 to 83 and total credits earned have jumped from 45 to 716.  Two students have earned associate’s degrees before graduating from Madison Park.

Among Donovan’s recommendations are that Madison Park be granted more autonomy.  He calls for the school to become an independent district with its own school committee, as is the case with most successful vocational-technical schools in Massachusetts.

Until such autonomy can be achieved, it’s important that the BPS superintendent be a champion for the school.  Support from the top was critical to the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute turnaround.  Related to that, Madison Park must obtain resources to hire the personnel who can address the unique needs of the school’s student body.

Donovan also recommends that Madison Park continue to expand early college options.  Under RoxMAPP, Madison Park partners with Bunker Hill Community College, Roxbury Community College, Wentworth Institute of Technology, and Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology.  The program has been a resounding success and should be expanded to include other local colleges.

Finally, the Boston School Committee should approve a new admissions policy that has already been approved by the DESE.  The policy is similar to that used by other Massachusetts voc-techs and would ensure that students enrolled at Madison Park are those who want to take advantage of the opportunities offered by career vocational technical education.

About the Author

William Donovan is a former staff writer with the Providence Journal in Rhode Island where he wrote about business and government. He has taught business journalism in the graduate programs at Boston University and Northeastern University. He received his undergraduate degree from Boston College and his master’s degree in journalism from American University in Washington, D.C.

About Pioneer

Mission

Pioneer Institute develops and communicates dynamic ideas that advance prosperity and a vibrant civic life in Massachusetts and beyond.

Vision

Success for Pioneer is when the citizens of our state and nation prosper and our society thrives because we enjoy world-class options in education, healthcare, transportation and economic opportunity, and when our government is limited, accountable and transparent.

Values

Pioneer believes that America is at its best when our citizenry is well-educated, committed to liberty, personal responsibility, and free enterprise, and both willing and able to test their beliefs based on facts and the free exchange of ideas.

Get Updates on Our Education Research

Related Posts

Pulitzer Winner Kai Bird on Robert Oppenheimer & the Atomic Bomb

Mr. Bird focuses on the life and legacy of J. Robert Oppenheimer, “father of the atomic bomb.” He discusses Oppenheimer's impact on history, his early life and education, and his academic achievements in quantum physics. Bird covers Oppenheimer's political views, relationships, as well as his leadership in the Manhattan Project and his role in the Trinity test.

Georgetown’s Dr. Marguerite Roza on Federal ESSER Funds & the Fiscal Cliff

Dr. Roza explores the complexities of education finance and its impact on American K-12 education. She outlines the three phases of school funding over the past 40 years and their effect on equity and student achievement. She highlights that only about half of the K-12 education dollars reach student instruction, with significant funds absorbed by the ever-expanding education bureaucracy.

Harlow Giles Unger on Patrick Henry & American Liberty

 Mr. Unger delves into the life of Patrick Henry as the country celebrates the Fourth of July. He explores Henry's early life, his rise as a lawyer and political figure, and his fiery opposition to British policies. Mr. Unger highlights Henry's famous "Give me liberty, or give me death!" speech and his influential role as governor of Virginia, underscoring his enduring legacy in helping forge American independence. In closing, he reads a passage from his book, Lion of Liberty: Patrick Henry and the Call to a New Nation. 

Prof. Joel Richard Paul on Daniel Webster, U.S. Senate, & “Liberty and Union”

Prof. Joel Richard Paul discusses the statesman Daniel Webster, highlighting his reputation as the "conscience of New England" and one of America's greatest orators. Prof. Paul shares that Webster, despite a modest upbringing, became a leading attorney whose arguments in landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases shaped constitutional law. 

Steven Wilson on Charter Public Schools

Mr. Wilson delves into his extensive background, including his tenure at Pioneer Institute, his work with Governor Bill Weld, and his contributions to the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act. Steven shares insights into the high academic expectations and success of Boston's charter schools, emphasizing the importance of recruiting and retaining quality teachers and principals.

Sheldon Novick on Henry James, American Women, & Gilded-Age Fiction

Mr. Novick discusses the complexities of Henry James’ life and writing career, highlighting his significant literary contributions, the influence of his family's intellectual legacy, and the realistic portrayal of social tensions in his works. Novick explores Henry James’ life experiences that shaped his novels like The Portrait of a Lady and The Golden Bowl. 

USAF Academy’s Jeanne Heidler on Henry Clay & Congressional Statesmanship

Dr. Heidler discusses Henry Clay's legacy as a seminal figure in American history. She covers Clay's early life, his transformation from a Virginia farm boy to a leading statesman, and his being mentored in the law by Founding Father, George Wythe.

Kimberly Steadman of Edward Brooke on Boston’s Charter School Sector

Steadman reflects on her educational background and leadership in urban charter public schools. She discusses the importance of rigorous academic expectations for K-12 students, and how this outlook influences her educational philosophy co-directing the Brooke charter school network. Ms. Steadman shares the challenges faced by Massachusetts charters due to the post-2016 ballot loss, and how she and other charter public school leaders advance supportive policy reforms.

Cheryl Brown Henderson on the 70th Anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education

Cheryl Brown Henderson, daughter of the lead plaintiff in the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Education, explores her family's pivotal role in the Brown case, detailing her father’s part within the NAACP's wider legal strategy.

POLITICO’s Peter Canellos on Justice John Marshall Harlan & Plessy v. Ferguson

Mr. Canellos delves into Harlan's upbringing in a prominent slaveholding family, his Civil War service in the Union Army, and his rapid rise in Kentucky politics as a Republican. He highlights John Harlan’s mixed-race half-brother Robert Harlan and key legal precedents like the notorious Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857), which influenced Harlan's views on race and equality. 

Study: Expand Voc-Tech Seats, Don’t Require Lottery- Based Admissions

Bottom line is that demand for career vocational-technical…

Colonel Peter Hayden on U.S. Cyber Command & National Security

General Counsel of U.S. Cyber Command, Colonel Pete Hayden, shares insights about growing up in western Massachusetts, attending law school, his military service, and emphasizes the legal aspects of his national security work. Col. Hayden discusses Cyber Command's mission, distinguishing it from the NSA, while stressing the importance of defending the nation in cyberspace.

Hoover at Stanford’s Stephen Kotkin on Stalin’s Tyranny, WWII, & the Cold War

Dr. Stephen Kotkin explores Stalin's origins, consolidation of power, and his Communist despotism. Kotkin delves into Stalin's cunning political maneuvers, his complex relationships with other Soviet leaders like Lenin and Trotsky, and the devastating consequences of his regime, including the forced collectivization and mass starvation of millions.

Johns Hopkins’ Ashley Berner on Educational Pluralism & Democracy

Johns Hopkins’ Institute for Education Policy director, Dr. Ashley Berner discusses educational pluralism's role in improving K-12 performance, exploring European models and the impact of U.S. school choice programs. Dr. Berner analyzes universal ESAs and vocational-technical schooling, addressing persistent academic struggles and civic knowledge gaps.

39th U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky for National Poetry Month

 Boston University professor, Robert Pinsky discusses his memoir Jersey Breaks: Becoming an American Poet; the enduring influence of sacred texts like the Psalms; and the wide cultural significance of classic poets like Homer and Shakespeare.

U.S. Chamber Foundation’s Hilary Crow on K-12 Civics Education

U.S. Chamber Foundation VP, Hilary Crow discusses the state of K-12 civics, emphasizing the Chamber Foundation’s role in addressing America’s wide civic education deficits. Crow highlights a recent national civics survey, alarming civic literacy gaps, and links between political unrest and our nation’s educational shortcomings in K-12 civics.

UCLA’s Ronald Mellor on Tacitus, Roman Emperors, & Despotism

Dr. Mellor delves into the enduring influence of Tacitus, the great Roman historian, on both America’s Founding Fathers and contemporary understanding of politics and government. He discusses Tacitus's insights on the early Roman emperors, unchecked authority, moral judgment of leadership, and the decline of the Roman Republic, as well as ancient lessons for modern governance.

Tufts Prof. Elizabeth Setren on METCO’s Proven Results

Prof. Setren discusses her recent study of METCO, a pioneering voluntary school desegregation program under which Massachusetts students in Boston and Springfield are bused to surrounding suburban districts. She discusses METCO's history, the academic performance of students in the program, enrollment challenges, long-term benefits, and disparities among students.

Pulitzer Winner Joan Hedrick on Harriet Beecher Stowe & Uncle Tom’s Cabin

Prof. Hedrick discusses Harriet Beecher Stowe's wide literary influence on U.S. history. From her abolitionist activism to the publication of international bestseller Uncle Tom's Cabin, they explore Stowe's New England upbringing, anti-slavery convictions, and lasting impact on American literature and social reform in the 19th century.