Boston Spends the Most on Students of Any Large District in the Nation. Its Test Scores Are at Their Lowest in More Than a Decade.

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May 31, 2023

Boston Public Schools spent more per student during the 2020-21 school year than any other large school district in the nation, according to U.S. Census data released this month, even as test scores dropped to their lowest level in a decade.

The school district spent $31,397 per student during the school year, an almost 13 percent increase over the previous year. Despite the record spending, reading and math scores for fourth and eighth grade students last year reached their lowest point since 2011, according to data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

Less than a third of students in grades 3-8 met expectations on the state’s standardized test. Enrollment also declined by 2,500 students, according to state data.

Both declines follow a national trend after students were kept out of the classroom for months during the pandemic. Boston’s K-8 students did not return to the classroom until late April 2021, more than a year after schools were first closed.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association, the largest teachers' union in the state, fought the district’s reopening plans even as governor Charlie Baker (R.) declared "it’s time" to return students to the classroom.

Enrollment in public schools has fallen in districts across the nation. Private school enrollment rose 4 percent in the 2021-22 school year as homeschool enrollment increased by 30 percent, according to the Urban Institute. 

The City of Boston avoided a state takeover of its school district due to poor performance last summer, striking a deal with the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Boston mayor Michelle Wu (D.) announced a $2 billion investment last year to remodel "every school building in Boston over the next decade" to address climate change and equity issues.

Published under: Boston , Public School