Massachusetts acts to save US's first public high school

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BOSTON -— One wall at English High School here holds old black-and-white photographs of young white men in high starched collars and V-neck varsity sweaters. Another wall is covered with a mural spray painted in graffiti like an inner-city overpass.

English High was founded in 1821 as the United States’ first public high school, and its graduates include J. P. Morgan and Maj. Gen. Matthew Ridgway from the Korean War. Today, its student body, dressed mostly in baggy jeans and do-rags, is one of the most diverse in the city, and one of its lowest-performing, too.

Most schools that scored as poorly on standardized tests as English High School would have been shut by now, Superintendent Michael Contompasis of Boston said.

“I would have closed English, if it wasn’t English,” Mr. Contompasis said.

Instead, the state has moved to salvage English...

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