New Bedford Schools Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin is praising the move away from the No Child Left Behind Act.

This fall, the federal education law will be replaced with the new Every Student Succeeds Act, which puts an emphasis on cultural and linguistic diversity in addition to test scores and graduation rates.

In an interview with WBSM's Brian Thomas, Dr. Durkin said that could be key to changing the perception about New Bedford schools that is conveyed by numbers alone.

"It will very much benefit New Bedford to look at the entire school experience, as opposed to simply achievement data," Durkin said. "Which is very important, don't get me wrong, but the other things are important as to what makes good schools, and what makes families want to have their children in those schools."

Durkin said one of the areas where New Bedford excels is in the diversity of its culture and languages.

"Nearly 27 percent of our students are English Language Learners, and they are the group that is having the furthest and deepest growth and progress," she said. "They are carrying the district in terms of achievement gains."

Durkin said New Bedford schools have identified 600 new E.L.L. students this year, and with that have garnered an additional $1.2 million in Chapter 70 funding.

Even as the school department has sought to improve performance in its schools, Durkin said the middle schools still remain an issue.

"Our middle schools need a major redesign," Durkin said. "We have seen traction in our elementary schools, and we are seeing growth in our high schools, but ninth grade is heavily impacted by middle school students coming into our school that simply aren't as well prepared as they should be."

Durkin also addressed the possibility of adding more vocational training at the middle school level, as well as the potential to allow students from other districts to come to New Bedford's middle schools under the School Choice program.


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