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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

MA Schools: Step Back and Take the Long View

As I prepare for the school year ahead, and consider the many issues educators face, I believe it's time for our state to step back and take the long view with regard to education. Specifically, this is what I recommend.

No More Charters
I believe that Massachusetts has what it takes to reignite public education for our state and nation. Massachusetts educators are well educated, enthusiastic, and invested in doing a terrific job for the children of Massachusetts. Rather than giving our money away to private enterprises, I believe we should reinvest those dollars into continuing to create top notch public schools. We can do this with the following actions:
  • Invest in school infrastructure by ensuring that every school has the following attributes:
    • Strong, student-centered leadership that creates loving, holistic, broad-minded, student centered schools. In some cases, the reason some charters are doing well is that they have innovative leadership--there's no reason why our public schools can't have this. In many cases, our administrative models in some schools are outdated.
    • Quality physical environments--every school should be a welcoming, bright, updated, tech-savvy, naturally beautiful environment. 
    • Reasonable expectations--class size, standards, teacher-student responsibility, time-on-task, and collaborative time should be reasonable and doable. As it stands now there are educators who have unreasonable expectations. For example, in our most challenged schools, there needs to be a very low student-teacher ratio so that teachers can deal with the HUGE issues many students face in those environments. I believe this ratio should reflect innovative service delivery models, not the old fashion one teacher-one classroom model. 
    • Continue the positive Union-State synergy and debate that occurs--this back-and-forth conversation, advocacy, and debate helps to shape strong schools. 
    • Continue with the strong focus on achievement, and new ESSA related focus on the whole child to continue to build strong, innovative, successful schools and learning organizations. Massachusetts is doing an excellent job, and continued investment in our public schools will only continue this good work. 
    • Make sure that all Massachusetts educators receive a fair wage, work conditions, and benefits. It's known that states with the strongest unions have the strongest schools, and that's because educators in those states receive the benefits they need to be able to do a good job every day for students.
  • Continue to support private industries innovation with regard to education supplies, technology, and consultation, but allow the public to make the decisions about how they'll use public money and what public money will be spent to acquire innovations created by the private sector. 
  • Continue to build relationships with the private sector with regard to providing student internships, jobs, training, and other creative programs and support. For example the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting a day-long "Elevating and Celebrating Effective Teachers and Teaching (ECET2)" event in Massachusetts to raise the conversation, share, and efforts related to Teaching ALL Students, particularly those most distanced from needed resources, supports, and success.  
I believe Massachusetts has great leadership right now in almost all sectors. This is awesome. This leadership has to look forward to what our state does to impact every citizen and our nation. If Massachusetts makes the bold move to reinvest in public schools with the idea that our schools are "nation/community builders," "family advocates," and "servants committed to the success and welfare of the whole child" we will lead the country forward to reinvesting in the public schools and what those schools can be for our people, country, and world.  It's possible because in Massachusetts we have what it takes to forward this positive, inclusive, success-oriented effort.