Sunday, April 19, 2015

0 1st Quarter Massachusetts Education Recap 2015

Though quiet for awhile now, I have not been absent or ignorant of what has been happening in my beloved school district and the state. Unfortunately, having to search for and then get up to speed in a new job, and because it has been a hard year for my daughter and that, along with high school applications and auditions for my younger daughter, has led to my silence over the past few months. Whether you considered it a nice break (yes, I know some did), or missed my voice and insights - plus the knowledge gained over 22 years as a Boston Public School parent - I am here to say I am back to help keep folks informed and educated. We all need to be aware of what is going on, because if we aren't I daresay by the time my youngest graduates, Boston Public Schools will become the Boston Charter School District, standardized testing will be the only thing our students do in school and the Olympics will be on the way here.

Since I last posted a lot has happened, but the most important to me are as follows: our new Governor, Charlie Baker, took office, a new Education Secretary was appointed, James Peyser, who is a champion for charter schools - no conflict of interest there, right? and a new Superintendent for Boston Public Schools, Tommy Chang from LA, was selected. Each of these on their own is concerning to me, but put together with a Boston Mayor who has made it clear that the only campaign promises Mayor Walsh will keep are those to the Unions and big money donors, it is downright alarming. I'm still waiting to be called for that Charter School Accountability Task Force Mayor Walsh promised the Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) and Boston Educational Justice Alliance (BEJA) he would establish to happen. 

The trend toward further privatizing our public schools continues in our state legislature, where talk of charter schools and lifting the cap on them continues despite the clear voices of thousands of families across the state having already told elected officials that this conversation is premature until we fix the issues with our public education districts by investing more in them instead of draining funds out of them and into schools that: selectively enroll and push out many students who don't test well, schools which claim 100% of their graduates go on to college without clarifying that of the many 9th graders who start at their schools very few are left to graduate from their 12th grade classes (a traditional public school would be closed due to those results) - and most of the students who do are white, unlike the marketing done by charter schools claiming they are successful for students of color or from low-income families. And let's not forget, there is no transparency regarding the money charter schools take in - whether public or private - they tend to refuse to open their books to auditors of all levels. 

And of course, let's not forget the battle waging across our state and the nation: MCAS, Common Core and PARCC assessments being used to deem a student able to graduate and public schools failing by a "deeply broken system" (Mitchell Chester re: MCAS) and before most students have had more than a year or two of the Common Core curriculum taught in their schools. This testing battle has been heating up and gaining momentum not just across this rebellious state, but the entire nation, and it seems, much to ed reformers horror everywhere, that legislators from city to federal levels are starting to realize that families are fed up with their students being taught to take tests so are opting their students out of those tests and the legislators are now making moves to change the way tests are being used to assess students, educators and schools. 

Never fear my ed reform readers, for if the legislators fail you again here in Massachusetts, the education reform groups like Families for Excellent Schools, Stand for Children, Mass Charter Public School Association, Democrats for Education Reform (DFER) and the many others backed by the ed reform conglomerates like the Walton Foundation, Gates, Broad et al, are diligently working toward putting in place a Ballot question for 2016 (and funding the campaign work necessary to push it through of course) by selling you the same old lie: that our public education systems do not work and we must privatize our public schools. After all, if you don't buy what they are selling, how can they make the $500 Billion dollar profits they gain from their New Market Tax Credit (NMTC) they invest in in the name of helping our low-income, urban and students of color?

Isn't it interesting that despite the horrible conditions our public school students endure here in Massachusetts (you know, those rowdy demanding educated parents and students, teachers unions, groups like Citizens for Public Schools that fight to protect our public schools, schools built before WWII, allowing students from low-income families or with language and special needs to attend our schools), our public schools in Massachusetts still rank 1st in the nation on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for the 5th year in a row? Huh, imagine what we could do with more funds invested in them?

Does this mean we are perfect? No, we still have a lot of equity, opportunity and achievement gaps to overcome, especially in an urban district like Boston. But when has defunding something we are trying to fix ever been the right solution? Great example of this is our latest winter and what happened with the MBTA - for years multiple experts and groups told the legislature and voters that we needed to maintain, upgrade and invest in our public transit system, yet no one wanted to spend their money on a system that is integral to the future of our state's economy because "I don't use the T", and so, many had no way to get to work and lost wages. 

Similarly, we hear the same type of argument from folks: "I don't have children" or "My children go to private schools, why should I pay more money for public schools I do not use?" The simple answer: funding public education, like our transit system, is integral to every single voter in Massachusetts as it impacts our future, economically, socially and as a true democratic state and nation. 

And, no, the Olympics coming to Boston is NOT the answer to either our transit or our education needs - in fact, it will drain even more from our citizens and their families, so I hope you haven't bought into that lie!

All in all, it has been a busy few months for Governor Baker and Mayor Walsh, and those who assisted them into office. And it seems no matter what the constituents want, both of them will insist on continuing to ignore the voters of Massachusetts in favor of the corporations, lobbyists and education reform operators who pull their strings. 

Unfortunately for them, I am happy to report that unlike just two short years ago, more families are becoming aware of the differences between our traditional public schools and "charter public schools," more educators and families are saying that standardized testing is not the answer to what ails our public education systems, and more citizens are standing up to voice their objections to the privatization of our public education system. And the voices of these educated citizens are being heard by the legislators at the city, state and federal level. It really might be time for Governor Baker's and Mayor Walsh's advisers to clue them both in that they may very well be assuring that they each only have one term in their respective offices. 

The best evidence for why we all need to pay attention to what is happening with our public schools comes from the ultimate consumers of education services: our students, so please be sure to read EduShyster's article "Students say the darndest things."

Have questions or just want to see what I am working on? Feel free to email me at or follow me via Twitter: @BPSNightmare. 


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