Monday, January 25, 2016

Not the state of the state of education in the Commonwealth

Governor Baker gave his State of the State address last Thursday. Here is the entirty of what he had to say about K-12 education:
I also you urge to be bold on K-12 education.
For some, expanding the availability of public charter schools is controversial.
But giving parents in underperforming districts more opportunity to choose a better school is nothing less than any of us would demand for our own children.
More than 40,000 kids – most from communities of color – are excelling in public charter schools. However, 37,000 more – mostly the neighbors of those kids – remain on a waiting list. Their parents struggle to understand why they don’t deserve the same education their neighbors’ kids get.
 They cry when they talk to me about the hopes and dreams they have for their children, and as a parent, I feel their pain.
 Parents want their kids to have a shot – a better shot than the one they had. And they see it – right in front of them – but they can’t make it happen.
 These are families that can’t afford to move, and they can’t afford to send their kids to private schools. This is their chance – and it’s a good one.
 In Massachusetts, we’re home to some of the highest performing public schools in the country, many of which are public charter schools serving low-income families in communities of color.
 Students attending the Brooke Charter Schools in Roslindale, Mattapan and East Boston had higher scores on the English and Math PARRC Exams than those in Carlisle, Belmont, Sudbury, Sharon, Concord, Wayland, Weston and Newton.
In fact, they had higher scores than students from every K-8 school in Massachusetts. “We are willing to discuss. We are willing hear both sides.
 But a state that places such high value on education should not place arbitrary limits on high-quality schools. And it should not sit idly by while so many parents feel the pain of missed opportunity for their children.
 I urge you to lift the cap on public charter schools.
Yes. That's it.

There are nearly 1 million children in the Commonwealth being educated at the public expense. Four percent of them are in charter schools. And that is all that Governor Baker saw fit to acknowledge in his comments on how we as a state--as a commonwealth--are doing in educating our children.
I'll leave it to others to debunk Brooke Charter (the Bostonians are getting to be old hands at this; that's just a sample), and that 37,000 number, while raising my usual concern at judging schools solely by their MCAS/PARCC/insert acronym scores.

I will point out, though--just as I did about Baker's inaugural--that he missed the big story in education. Once again, Massachusetts is number one in education in EdWeek's "Quality Counts" rankings. If he wanted to go further, I imagine DESE would have let him be the one to announce that Massachusetts has improved its graduation rate--to 87.3%--for its ninth consecutive year. There are even some good stories that could be told in there: about district led turnaround efforts, about gap closing in urban districts.

There's also real work to be done. As I posted about when the EdWeek report came out, the one indicator we do not lead the nation in is funding equity. We've been falling for years on that, as our progressive education formula isn't so progressive anymore. The Foundation Budget Review Commission has, of course, handed him an answer to that issue.

Governor Baker's budget comes out on Wednesday. We'll be watching closely to see if he has done any better at addressing the true state of education in Massachusetts.

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