BOSTON — METCO students are making strong gains inside and outside of the classroom, Director Curtis Blyden said during a recent School Committee meeting held in Boston.

Blyden said 45 METCO students from Roxbury, Dorchester, Mattapan, Roslindale, Hyde Park, Jamaica Plain, the South End and East Boston are attending Lynnfield Public Schools this academic year.

“Our students come from a variety of neighborhoods in the city,” said Blyden. “I was really excited to add a student from East Boston last year. It shows the extent of our reach, and the impact we have had on students and families.”

Blyden said there are 20 METCO students enrolled at Lynnfield High School, 13 at Lynnfield Middle School, seven at Huckleberry Hill School and five at Summer Street School.

“We have fewer students enrolled at the elementary schools, which is something we are going to work on moving forward,” said Blyden.

Blyden said he has been prioritizing sibling enrollment the last few years.

“When I first started here, we had about 40 percent for sibling enrollment,” said Blyden. “We are now at 91 percent.”

Blyden said the GPA for METCO students enrolled at LHS has steadily increased over the past four years. He said the average GPA for a METCO student during the 2020-2021 academic year was 2.34 percent, and it is now 2.98 percent for the 2023-2024 academic year.

“That represents a 27 percent increase,” said Blyden. “I have been here for seven years now. From when I started to where we are now, we have gone up 65 percent in terms of GPA growth.”

Blyden said the average GPA for a senior at LHS is 3.25, the average GPA for a junior is 2.95, the average GPA for a sophomore is 2.88 and the average GPA for a freshman is 3.19.

“Those are all seven-year highs,” said Blyden.

Blyden said the number of students named to the honor roll at the secondary schools has increased over the past four years. He said 15 students have been named to the honor roll this year while seven students made it during the 2022-2023 academic year. He said two students were named to the honor roll during the 2021-2022 academic year.

“It has gone up exponentially,” said Blyden. “When I first came here, we didn’t have any kids make the academic honors and credit’s list. Each year has gone up since then. This year, we have 75 percent of our kids at the high school who have made the academic honors list. We also had several students at the middle school make the list.”

Blyden said 45 percent of METCO students enrolled at LHS are taking Advanced Placement (AP) and/or Honors-level classes.

“Several of those students are taking multiple AP courses,” said Blyden. “We wanted more students to take Advanced Placement classes to really challenge themselves academically.”

Blyden said there has been an increase in the number of elementary school students who have enrolled into METCO’s Summer School program the last few years.

“We have focused on gap learning,” said Blyden. “Last year, we had five students enroll into METCO Summer School and this year we had seven. We have had students in grades K-5 enroll in that program that runs for six weeks from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. every day. We have seen a significant growth in their knowledge of the core subjects, particularly around STEM, math and science.”

Blyden said the late bus has continued being offered this year, which has allowed METCO students to become more involved with extracurricular activities such as athletics, high school internships, music, SAT prep, Student Council, theater and Lynnfield Community Schools’ after-school program LEDS.

“We have students engaged in a variety of activities across the district,” said Blyden. “It was sports heavy at first, but I am really excited to see our kids doing things outside of sports. We have one student this year who was inducted into the National Honor Society, which I am very excited about.”

Blyden noted that Stephanie Leonard was hired to serve as the METCO program’s coordinator last summer.

“Stephanie has been really instrumental in enhancing the work that we are doing for our families and our students,” said Blyden.

Blyden said he and Leonard have worked to increase communication with METCO families this academic year.

“I have always had a high level of communication with our families by checking in with phone calls and text messages,” said Blyden. “This year, we added another wrinkle to that. We send out postcards when kids have birthdays. If any of our students have academic milestones such as making the credit’s list or the honor roll, we send out congratulatory cards every quarter to give students that personal recognition. We want to make sure our students are seeing us acknowledge their success and the work they put into that success every day.”

Blyden also said he is conducting “academic audits” of all 45 METCO students bi-weekly.

“I go through all of their grades and monitor what is going well and what are the areas for improvement,” said Blyden. “I also point out which assignments are missing so that students have the opportunity to get those assignments in before they lose credits. I really appreciate the team effort we have gotten from our teachers so that we have a consistent and open line of communication.”

Blyden recalled that a prior incarnation of the School Committee voted to expand the METCO program two-and-a-half years ago.

“Our enrollment is projected to be 42 students next year,” said Blyden. “That could go up by one student. I would like keep our numbers at 45 because I think that is an optimal operational number in terms of my bandwidth and the resources we can provide our students at a high level.”

Program praised

School Committee member Jamie Hayman praised Blyden for diligently working to expand and enhance the METCO program over the course of his seven-year tenure.

“As someone who has been here for all seven years, it is pretty remarkable,” said Hayman. “The late bus has gotten more kids involved in activities. You have encouraged kids to take more rigorous courses, which resulted in more post-graduate opportunities for kids such as colleges and the military. It has been really impressive. I think one of the biggest things we have seen is that you made a push to take kids beyond just kindergarten. I think that makes a big difference.”

Hayman also praised the work METCO students have done inside and outside of the classroom. He noted that METCO students have to get up earlier than their Lynnfield peers in order to get to school.

“It’s hard making that drive every day,” said Hayman about the bus ride. “It’s a big commitment. You have gotten the kids to understand the fact that this is an opportunity to thrive. I appreciate that as a parent and as a School Committee member.”

School Committee Chair Kate DePrizio agreed.

“The way you continue to raise the bar for yourself as the director is the same way you continue to raise the bar for our students,” said DePrizio. “You continue to expect more of yourself and continue to expect more from them. You are so intentional and thoughtful with our students, and it shows up in their effort and investment in school. I am so appreciative that.”

Blyden attributed the METCO program’s growth to the students enrolled in the program as well as the support students receive from families, educators, administrators and support staff.

“The standards don’t mean a whole lot if the kids are not buying into the standards,” said Blyden. “I am really appreciative and grateful that our kids have bought into our standards. At the end of the day, students have to do the work. They have done that. I am grateful to our families.

Whatever I am able to do for our students, I can’t do without our teachers. That collaborative mindset has been really helpful for our kids. We all have the same standards and want to see our kids win.”

While Blyden is pleased with the METCO program’s growth, he acknowledged that there is more work to do moving forward.

“My brother once told me, ‘you are only as happy as your saddest child,’” said Blyden. “It’s great to celebrate the achievement of the kids who are doing really well, but we want to make sure the kids who are trying to get there will get there.”

School Committee Vice Chair Kristen Grieco Elworthy said the Summer Street School Council recently discussed how could they get METCO students more involved with their Lynnfield peers outside of school.

Blyden said “finding more host family opportunities” would allow elementary METCO students to spend more time with Lynnfield students after-school. He noted that more middle school students are participating in extracurricular activities in Lynnfield in addition to high school students. He hopes that will trickle down to elementary students as more siblings enroll in the school district.

METCO parent Luis Flores thanked Blyden, school officials, educators and support staff for “all that you do for our kids in the district.”

“I have four kids and they are happy,” said Flores. “Even though we live kind of far away, we get to have play dates. I took my kids and some of their friends to the Children’s Museum, and they had a blast. It’s a good school system.”

DePrizio was touched by the Flores’ comments.

“Thank you trusting us with your kids,” said DePrizio. “We are so lucky to have them.”