Editor's Letter

Public schools get a bad rap, especially in these days of manic testing. They're little more than warehouses, critics carp, where children are being force-fed facts they'll need to answer multiple-choice questions — not taught how to reason. But some schools in this birthplace of public education are responding to longtime problems with bright new ideas. This month we peek inside the classrooms (“Smart Answers,” page 132).

Which eastern Massachusetts public elementary schools are the best? In collaboration with a Babson College statistician, we've ranked all 652 of them. Not surprisingly, many of the top schools are in wealthy suburbs. But not all. In fact, some in the most affluent towns should be doing better than they are, based on the resources available to them. See our list of under- and overachieving schools, along with all the data we used to calculate our rankings, here.

Nearly two-thirds of Bostonians would rather never again see a public works project like the Big Dig, according to our exclusive poll, conducted by Atlantic Research & Consulting. That flies in the face of our city's history. Bostonians have always thought big. There was the audacious decision to settle here in the first place, not to mention the ensuing rebellion against the world's then greatest superpower. That was followed by the risky China trade, whose vast profits helped pay for the transcontinental railroad and other huge investments. Then there was the filling of the Back Bay, and the misguided but ambitious redevelopment of the West End. This month, with construction on the Big Dig finally winding down, we start thinking big again, and look at what we might build next (“The Next Big Thing,” page 160).

You can rebuild Boston yourself — online. With the help of Perfect10Design, we've made it possible for you to move or remove local landmarks at the click of a mouse and bring order to the chaos that is Boston's patchwork geography. You can also take our poll yourself, and find conceptions of grand new projects proposed by members of the Boston Society of Architects.

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