As a concerned parent and educator, I am writing to urge the passage of Article 44 in the Town Meeting to restore academic excellence as the highest priority for our public schools.
My family moved to Wellesley to provide the best possible public education for our children, motivated by top school rankings. While our older children did experience good schools, there has been a noticeable lowering of standards and expectations for our younger children today. Homework is becoming optional. Grades are changing and difficult to interpret. Equal outcomes are increasingly prioritized over individual achievement. Class ranks are no longer recorded, but school rankings have fallen dramatically. Families are resorting to private programs to supplement their children’s education in mathematics and other core subjects—or leaving the public schools altogether.
These trends can only be reversed by prioritizing excellence in core subjects, at a time when many school districts are doing the opposite. I am one of thousands of STEM professionals and educators alarmed by new policies seeking to limit individual advancement in mathematics, as exemplified by the California Mathematics Framework and the removal of honors and AP classes around the country. Our Open Letter on K-12 Mathematics is a fitting companion to Article 44.
Amid growing opposition to standardized testing, it is noteworthy that just last week, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reinstated the SAT/ACT requirement for admissions following pandemic disruptions, in order “to build a more diverse and talented MIT”. It turns out that high test scores are the best indicators of success at MIT, providing equal opportunities to meritorious students of all backgrounds, while highly-rated personal essays are more correlated with family wealth.
There is an important lesson here for our public schools, to prioritize measurable academic achievement over ideology.
Martin Z. Bazant
Professor of Chemical Engineering and Mathematics
Massachusetts Institute of Technology