BOSTON (AP) – The state Board of Education is searching for gentler euphemisms to describe the state’s failing schools after educators complained current labels damage teacher morale and student self-esteem.

Instead of calling schools that don’t make the grade “underperforming,” the board is considering labeling them as a “Commonwealth priority,” The Boston Globe reported.

The schools in the worst shape, now known as “chronically underperforming,” might be called “priority one.”

Springfield superintendent Joseph Burke said though he doesn’t like any label, he’d prefer “priority one” because, “It sounds nicer.” But former board chair and Boston University president John Silber dismissed the debate as foolish “word games.”

“Changing the name doesn’t change the reality,” Silber said. “I think Shakespeare had a good line: ‘A rose by another name would smell as sweet.’ A skunk by any other name would stink.”

In recent months, the board has spent parts of three meetings debating possible euphemism adjustments after some superintendents complained the “underperforming” label unfairly casts blame on educators, hurts students’ self-esteem and makes it harder to recruit good teachers.

In a December meeting on how to improve schools in Holyoke, Lawrence, and Springfield, superintendents asked the board not to label them “chronically underperforming,” the Globe reported.

“For our teachers, it’s a blow,” said Wilfredo Laboy, Lawrence superintendent. “It demoralizes staff completely.”

In November, as the board was considering labeling the entire Randolph district underperforming, Randolph school committee chair Larry Azer asked the board not to stigmatize the schools, saying the only purpose of the label was “to call them out.”

“When the town hears underperforming, the average person thinks these students are underperforming,” he said.

Randolph students are underperforming, according to state benchmarks. More than half of third-graders are not proficient in math and reading. More than 40 percent of 10th-graders don’t perform at grade level in English and math.

It’s uncertain what action, if any, the board will take on any new euphemisms.

“We generally agree that this is not hugely consequential,” board chairman Paul Reville said. “It’s a symbolic action.”

The board’s student member, Oxford High School senior Zachary Tsetsos, said the debate is frivolous.

“Why are we spending time on this?” he said. “I don’t want to tiptoe around the issue. I’m not concerned about what title we give these schools. Let’s work on fixing them.”

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