Introducing Marblehead Beacon’s Multi-Part Series: Focus on Our Schools
As the largest component of the Marblehead town budget and one of the most important elements of life in our community, the public schools warrant an in-depth analysis covering matters such as the educational program, fiscal underpinnings of our budget, staffing challenges, and leadership initiatives. In these areas and others, Marblehead Beacon's new series provides an examination of quantitative metrics regarding the system’s performance, where we excel, and where there is room for improvement.
In past years, a similar analysis was produced annually by Marblehead’s school department in order to benchmark our performance against comparable communities. That practice diminished over time and was eventually abandoned completely. Given the importance of concrete data in crafting effective policy, Marblehead Beacon is committed to providing the factual resources necessary to evaluate our schools.
In selecting appropriate communities for comparison, we have followed the guidelines established by the school department when they created their original reports, including selecting a number of communities that are comparable to Marblehead in terms of size, geography, demographic makeup, and socio-economics. Our comparison communities are Andover, Belmont, Hingham, Lynnfield, Needham, Swampscott, and Winchester. All of these towns have significant similarities to Marblehead in two or more of the categories identified above and have long been accepted as appropriate options for use in benchmarking Marblehead’s progress.
In addition, any comparison should reflect “aspirational” goals by including communities that consistently produce the most successful student outcomes. With that in mind, we have analyzed lists of top-performing school districts generated by major media sources such as Boston Magazine, The Boston Globe, US News, and the Wall Street Journal. These lists, while diverging in some areas, always include Lexington, Wayland, Wellesley, and Weston among the top-ten performing districts in the state.
Most residents have chosen to live in Marblehead for one or more compelling reasons, with the quality of our local public education often ranking near the top of the list. But successful educational outcomes do not occur without measurable benchmarks in place, and with effort and analysis. So what happens when we compare Marblehead to a range of comparable and aspirational communities in terms of student-teacher ratios, expenditures per student, teacher pay, enrollment trends, and academic outcomes? Stay tuned to find out.