Today, at the recommendation of Commissioner Mitchell Chester, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously in favor of a regulatory policy that will alter the way that the state determines and measures school district performance, limiting charter public school enrollment in low-performing districts.
Growth in student performance is always a worthy goal. But we know the Commonwealth has lost its way in K-12 education policymaking when it accepts modest growth in student test scores in failing districts (the lowest 10% of performers) as an excuse to block new charter public schools from opening. It is worth remembering that Massachusetts’ charter schools are the best in the nation. We need more high-quality charter schools, not fewer. And it is morally objectionable to consign students in failing district schools to continued academic failure.
This Board’s decision impacts tens of thousands of Massachusetts’ neediest children in Brockton, Worcester, Haverhill and Somerville. While the percentage of students in these four districts scoring Advanced or Proficient on the MCAS has increased a few points, let’s be clear: It is still below 50 percent. That is unacceptable.
And, in the future, the change could impact Boston, Lowell, Everett, Holyoke and other underperforming urban districts.
This is the culmination of an effort to undo major pillars of the historic Massachusetts Education Reform Act (MERA). In 2008, the Patrick administration eliminated the commonwealth’s independent school district accountability office, and then centralized education policy-making authority by eliminating the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s independence. In 2010, the Board voted to replace its best-in-the-nation academic standards with weaker national standards. The 2010 Achievement Gap Legislation authorized the expansion of charter schools in the districts that performed in the lowest 10% – but today’s Board of Education vote seriously undermines that law’s significance. Read our op-eds for more background on this, in The Worcester Telegram & Gazette, The Taunton Gazette, The Standard-Times of New Bedford, or The Fall River Herald News:
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