Thursday, January 5, 2017

The Ultimate Answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything*

*reference here is to Douglas Adams

Yesterday, EdWeek released their annual "Quality Counts" analysis of states on three measures:
  • chance for success
  • K-12 achievement
  • school finance
To be honest, you could read my post on this from last year and get more or less the same result. Not only is Massachusetts leading the nation in achievement and chance for success--and I'd argue that chance for success is a better indicator of what schools actually do--we're still WAY down the bottom on educational equity.
We're 42nd in the nation, to be exact. We also rank below the national average. 

Not entirely surprisingly, this particularly piece did not make the Governor's announcement of the results. Again. 

Now Bruce Baker, whose work I respect enormously, once again raises questions about how EdWeek measures educational funding equity (the post is from 2010; he linked to it this morning by tweet). No one, however, is letting Massachusetts off the hook, and here's why:
As I've posted in the past about Baker (the professor, not the Governor)'s work,  a foundation formula, backed by a municipal wealth formula, that truly did more highly fund higher need (in both ways: higher need of schools calling for more resources, and more state resources in communities with fewer local resources) would not have the far side of the hill on the right. Between the state not reconsidering the formula and continuing to devote significant resources to minimum increases outside the formula, we're on a down hill slope.

It is thus reassuring to hear, at least from the Senate, that the review commission's work is being taken seriously and taken up this session. The Governor's office, alas, continues to act as though the Commission is news to him, rather than a working group on which he was represented.

The Governor's budget comes out January 25. We'll see then how much he's giving consideration to the conclusions drawn.
I can't say it better than the Commission itself did in closing:
As the Commission’s work draws to a close, the legislature’s work begins. We submit this report to the legislature with full recognition of the continued fiscal challenges of the Commonwealth, and the many competing priorities, and worthwhile goals, that the legislature must balance in crafting the annual state budget. We recognize that recommendations of this scope and size will need to be phased in to be affordable. However, we also note again what was stated at the beginning of this document: that the good work begun by the education reform act of 1993, and the educational progress made since, will be at risk so long as our school systems are fiscally strained by the ongoing failure to substantively reconsider the adequacy of the foundation budget, We therefore urge that the legislature act on these recommendations with a profound sense of the risks and opportunities at stake for our shared prosperity as a state and, as our constitution acknowledges, the critical nature of education to the health of our democracy. We advise a keen sense of the urgency when it comes to addressing the identified funding gaps, and the moral imperative of reducing the remaining achievement gaps.

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