I come before you today full of hope--
Not only did Commissioner Chester open our school year with the assurance that he looked forward to hearing from us, but you and your colleagues have made it clear that you already have been listening.
You have been listening to students like Mr. Willyard describe the time lost to test prep,the curriculum narrowed to the push on ELA and math scores, the lockdown conditions during testing.
You have been listening to teachers lament the loss of elementary science and social studies instruction, deplore watching their children struggle with items on tests that make no sense, and protest the non-research-based tying of teacher evaluation to student test scores.
I could go on, but I hope that this will be just the beginning:
I hope that you will listen when students tell you the richness of what they imagine for their futures.
I hope that you will listen when teachers point out that having a licensure system evaluated and designed by an organization that has been explicitly anti-teacher since its earliest days makes no sense. I hope you will listen to teachers when it comes to professional questions around evaluation and licensure, as we would in any other profession.
I hope that you will listen to administrators protest the unfairness of the sword of Damocles--Level 5 status--that could fall at any time, as there is no concrete calculation and it (and Level 4 status) are apparently imposed by whim.
I hope you will listen to parents exhausted by budget fights every spring, who just want what our state Constitution guarantees: a full, rich education for their children. Too many of us are not doing that due to budgetary constraints. They and we need an appropriate Chapter 70 formula.
I hope you will listen to school committee members describe meeting increased need with decreasing resources; we are well beyond the point of “doing more with less.” I hope you will hear us clearly when we tell you that what our schools DO and the growth our students show is more than a “technicality” or a political game. Stay strong on student growth, or just fess up and start ranking us by parental income and education level. It would be more honest.
I hope that you will each make a point of listening, not only to those who can afford to come before you at 8:30 on Tuesday morning in Malden, but to so many who cannot.
It is you who bear the Chapter 5, section 2 charge of the state Constitution to “cherish the interests of literature and of the sciences” “for the preservation of our rights and liberties.” When John Adams wrote those words in 1779, we did not yet have a country. The Worcester schoolmaster recognized that ultimately we would not keep a democratic republic without a full, rich public school system available and accessibile to all.
Ultimately, the vision of public education in Massachusetts goes back not to the oft-cited 1993 ed reform law, nor to the 2011 Act relative to the achievement gap: it goes back to the state constitution that you and I both swore to uphold and defend. That should be the touchstone of this Board. That is where your accountability ultimately lies.
No less than democracy depends on you.