Wrap Gov. Patrick’s proposal to overhaul public education governance in whatever rhetoric you want, at its core, his plan is about taking control of the Board of Education.
His plan, simply put, is to give the Urban Superintendents, Mass Association of Superintendents, the Mass Association of School Committees and the Mass Teachers Association what they have been clamoring for the past decade. Reminder to all: These are all a really nice bunch of well-meaning people who never forget to mention the children when they talk about their own interests, which are control, control, control and, hmm, control… in that order.
They’ve had enough of the pressure to change business as usual. That pressure comes from the state’s accountability system, competition from charters, teacher testing and state curriculum frameworks, which ensure that we are serious about teaching kids what is needed to access a liberal arts education.
The bête noire here is the Board. It has ensured, gulp, reform. And its independence from politics has meant, gulp, gulp, that these groups were unable to stall reform and ultimately kill it.
At the start of the 90s, both political parties and lots of business executives saw the wisdom of securing the Board’s independence and the reforms mentioned above. Experience has proven them right.
Few reforms have done more to make the commonwealth a great place for children to grow up than these two initiatives. In 1993, Massachusetts barely made the top 10 in national assessments. Today, the commonwealth not only leads the nation in student performance, but our rate of improvement is unparalleled among high-performing states.
Instead of caving to special interests, the Governor should keep his eye on the state’s weakest area: urban schools. Charter schools, pilots schools, METCO, vocational-technical schools and university partnerships have proven effective in addressing this issue.