Entries by Tom Birmingham

The Virtual Lessons Catholic Schools Can Teach

This op-ed originally appeared in The Boston Pilot. By Tom Birmingham In a time when COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges, Catholic schools like St. Joseph Preparatory High School in Brighton and Boston College High School have risen to the occasion and delivered consistent, high-quality education during the pandemic. Sadly, that hasn’t been true everywhere. With the resumption of traditional classes this fall appearing less likely every day, schools across Massachusetts should draw lessons from successes like St. Joseph Prep and B.C. High. I’m proud to include my own alma mater on the list of Catholic schools that have stepped up during this time. Recently, Reading’s Austin Prep used the resumption of religious services as part of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan […]

Easthampton High Scores A National Educational Victory During The COVID-19 Pandemic

This spring, Massachusetts’ Easthampton High School was crowned national champion in the “We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution” contest. The competition brings together about 1,200 students from across the country to answer civics questions based on America’s Founding Documents including the U.S. Constitution; The Federalist Papers; and U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

Mass. schools must recommit to knowledge-based curriculum

The Bay State’s leadership role has continued into the current century. Massachusetts made tremendous strides in the years following passage of a landmark 1993 education reform law. But it has been backsliding since 2010, when it adopted weaker English and math standards known as Common Core. To get back on track, Massachusetts must reform its school- and district-level curriculum to emphasize imparting a shared body of background knowledge and social commitment to students in all ZIP codes.

More students, employers need to benefit from voc-tech schools’ winning formula

This op-ed appeared in Commonwealth Magazine and New Bedford Standard Times. A recent visit to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School demonstrated why career and technical high schools are rightly considered a Massachusetts success story. But it also serves as a reminder that we must not let them become victims of their success. Greater New Bedford Regional Voc-Tech gets most of its 2,139 students from New Bedford, though it also serves Dartmouth and Fairhaven. It can’t keep up with demand, with about 700 students on the wait list. Twice that many students and their parents attend when the school holds an open house. Greater New Bedford Regional Voc-Tech is the most sought-after secondary school in New Bedford, ahead […]

Remarks at 25th Anniversary Event for the Massachusetts Education Reform Act

Massachusetts Education Reform Act co-author and former Senate President Tom Birmingham praised the historic success that has been achieved since the law was enacted in 1993, but expressed concern that the Commonwealth is veering away from basic principles of the law that produced that success at a State House event marking the 25th anniversary of the Education Reform Act.

Lessons for Education Policy Makers

I’ve known E.D. Hirsch for some years, having spoken on the same programs with him on a number of occasions. I have the greatest respect for Professor Hirsch’s work and am happy to consider him a friend. Professor Hirsch is the author of several books including the seminal work Cultural Literacy and most recently, The Making of Americans: Democracy and Our Schools, where he makes the case that a paramount goal of American public education is to produce sentient human beings capable of participating as intelligent citizens in a democracy.

Core Academic Knowledge

Thank you for being here today and caring enough about this important and timely issue. I’m here as the warm up act to the main event; here to introduce Professor E.D. Hirsch and to provide some Massachusetts context to our ongoing discussion about the nature and level of expectations to which we can appropriately hold our public school students.

Has Education Reform Stalled in Massachusetts?

To Pioneer Institute, let me say thanks for hosting what really is a very timely event. Let’s cut right to the chase. The bloom is off the rose of education reform. If by hosting events such as this, you can re-invigorate and re-inject the enthusiasm that heretofore had characterized our efforts to improve our public schools, you will be performing a great public service. So, Pioneer Institute, thank you very much for getting us to focus on this issue.