A Teacher’s Response to the House Bill

Dear Will,

Thank you for your succinct outline and notes about the current House bill.  I’m posting the text below on my own blog and sending copies to Ken, Jay and Sean.  I appreciate the opportunity to post it on your blog as well.

Thanks again,


I’m satisfied that much of this bill might actually have a positive impact on the achievement gap if managed appropriately but I am losing sleep over three issues:

1) I remain adamantly opposed to charter schools being included in the plan at all unless the funding formula is fixed in such a way as to protect all the resources for all students in the Commonwealth.   I am particularly concerned about there being no model or framework for delivery of special education services in charter schools other than to say that they should try to recruit some of these children and will have the power to decide if a child for whom their services have not been effective must be sent to a private placement at the expense of the sending district.  We cannot take any more resources or focus from public schools that serve all children.

2) I appreciate the accountability that has been built into the law.  However, the formidable and very costly bureaucracy and the extraordinary powers vested in appointed officials proposed in this bill strike me as frighteningly fertile opportunities for waste and malfeasance.  In the hands of our current DOE, I fear that the systems for approval and accountability for the various types of “innovation” schools may become burdensome enough to compromise the positive impacts of the programs.  In fact, we need to eliminate many of the oppressive regulations that are already crippling us.  As I read this bill, charter schools alone will generate a confounding and impossibly expensive bureaucracy.    ­

3)  An underachieving student is one who is not demonstrating learning (according to soundly designed, valid measures) of essential content material (defined by sound research and data) in a reasonable amount of time (defined by sound research and data).  Some of these students have neurological, emotional, cultural, environmental, or medical handicaps which interfere with their learning while others may not have been taught effectively.  Underachieving schools have lots of these students but not nearly all of them.  What will this bill do for under achieving students whose schools do not fit the statistical picture below even though they might be in a target district?

Schools that score  in the lowest twenty percent statewide in the combined composite performance index scores on the English language arts and mathematics Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exams shall be deemed eligible for designation as underperforming or chronically underperforming. Not more than five percent of the public schools in the commonwealth may be designated as underperforming or chronically underperforming at any given time. If the department is no longer using the combined composite performance index as a measure of school and district performance, the department shall use the subsequently developed measure to determine the lowest twenty percent of schools.

We are trying to educate students, not relative percentages of schools.

According to Section 1, subsection 1J of the bill, “Any student who is enrolled in a school at the time it is designated as underperforming or chronically underperforming shall retain the ability to remain enrolled in such school if such student choses to do so.”

Would such “choices” have satisfied the Supreme Court in Brown vs. BOE? No child should have the opportunity to choose an inferior school.  Every child in Massachusetts should have access to a 21st century education as clearly defined by extensive valid research.  There are no excuses for failing any one of our children.

Mary Cummings

One reply on “A Teacher’s Response to the House Bill”

  1. Hi Mary,

    Regarding item 1, I’m always for additional local aid for education, and I am troubled as you are about the particular issue of charter funding. But, I’m not troubled about this issue as it relates to this bill.

    Targeted as they are in this bill, new charters will emerge mostly in larger urban districts, many of which have very high state aid levels already — in some instances, the state is paying most of the cost of the local school system. The districts are also usually large enough that adding charters does not necessarily create diseconomies of scale or awkward grade configurations.

    I think your items 2 and 3 are well taken, but they are just not addressed in this bill. You are quite right that this bill probably creates more paperwork — for underperforming and charter schools — but that paperwork is the control on the special powers given to charter boards and to the commissioner (in the case of underperforming schools). General paperwork reduction will have to await another reform. And you are quite right that the bill is geographically focused — it does not change the special education framework at all or otherwise help underperforming kids in performing district.

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