Sunday, June 5, 2011

Lexington MA named as a "Top Education Town"

Best cities 2011: Clusters of Excellence.

Find out why certain suburbs of NYC, SF, Boston, and Cleveland are topping our lists as the best cities to live and learn.

By Jessica Kelmon Print Email.

Among the 67 cities picked as "Top education towns" this year, a few geographical regions stood out. Six out of the seven California cities are located in the San Francisco Bay Area. Similar clusters of high-performing schools emerged in suburban areas surrounding New York City and Boston. A number of towns near Cleveland, OH also caught our eye — offering quality schooling and more affordable homes.

Why is public education flourishing in these metro areas? At first glance the answers might seem obvious: The Bay Area, Boston, and New York regions all benefit from major universities. And though Cleveland is far from a booming economy, it has a number of thriving local businesses. But these factors don’t tell the whole story; instead we found that each community has found ways to bolster public

•Area: Greater Boston

•Towns on our list: Belmont, Concord, Lexington, Weston, Westwood, Winchester, MA; and Bedford, NH

•Defining feature: Education is a respected profession

•Quote: "Professional development is the key to getting from really good to great." — Superintendent Paul Ash, Lexington Public Schools

Got a cutting-edge idea? You may want to be a teacher in Greater Boston. In Concord, entrepreneurial teachers get grants to fund innovative new programs. (One class is creating its own biodiesel fuel, for example.)

Lexington's 600 teachers have taken more than 700 courses — on topics they’ve requested — to improve their techniques and class presence.

In Weston, groups of educators take on long-term professional development projects to gather data and research solutions: One group of teachers is studying the achievement gap; an elementary school is focusing on student fluency.

In an area renown for its educational elite colleges and universities (Harvard, MIT, Wellesley, to name a few), it’s hardly surprising that the teaching profession is so highly valued.

Another step toward greatness (at least for Belmont, Concord, Lexington, and Weston) is a voluntary desegregation program. Through a state-run program called METCO, students from inner-city Boston can go to school in one of the wealthier, better equipped school districts in the nearby suburbs. Weston Superintendent Cheryl Maloney has only praise for the program. "Most of the [METCO] kids start in kindergarten and head to college like their Weston peers upon graduation," she says.

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