Update on Education Reform

The Senate did not complete debate on the bill until late on Tuesday and amended it extensively.   As of this writing, on Saturday, the amended bill is apparently still unavailable online.  Monday update — click here for the Senate bill as amended.

The House had been expecting to have the education reform bill from the Senate for action on Tuesday morning.    Although the bill was not available we held a very rich caucus discussion about the bill on Tuesday morning.  The caucus lasted over two hours and exposed a wide range of views and concerns — so wide that there was consensus that it would take some time to bridge the gaps and it would be unwise to rush the bill through before session close on Wednesday.

The “Race to the Top” application deadline is in mid-January, so, to the extent that this legislation will strengthen that application, early January action will be timely.   Many have expressed doubts, however, whether the legislation really will make a difference to that application.

So, we have some time to continue to study the bill.  As soon as I get an electronic version of the new draft, I will post it here.  Among the pending concerns that will continue to get heavy attention are:

  • The turnaround provisions of the bill — how great should be the powers of a superintendent to make unilateral changes when a school has low performance?
  • The anti-cherry-picking provisions of the bill — to what extent should charter schools be required to recruit so as to mirror their school district composition based on language learning and special needs?
  • The funding provisions for charter schools — are they being permitted to take disproportionately large chunks of funding from district schools?
  • The innovation school provisions — to the extent that charter schools have advantages, could those advantages be shared more broadly with district schools?
  • The targeting provisions of the bill — are the rules allowing state intervention and/or expanded use of charters defined narrowly enough that districts with generally good outcomes can be sure of avoiding inteference.

The input that many have given me here on this site and by e-mail has been very helpful and I will greatly appreciate your continued input.

Published by Will Brownsberger

Will Brownsberger is State Senator from the Second Suffolk and Middlesex District.

4 replies on “Update on Education Reform”

  1. Dear Mr. Brownsberger,

    I will urge you limit the ability of superintendents to assault the existing teachers teacher’s unions, as well as the ability of superintendents to prevent the formation of new teachers’ unions.

    I am also not impressed with the Obama/Patrick plan to push for charter schools. Funding schools with public money while removing the ability of the paying public to control the said schools is profoundly undemocratic.

    The role of schools is to nurture and develop the independence, talents, and interests of children, not to turn them into obedient workers. Maybe if we concentrated on the needs of children and stopped obsessing about meaningless standardized tests and obscure performance ratings, we will be really reforming the schools. Let’s start by paying teachers well, and letting them unionize.


    1. Thanks, Alexi, for speaking out.

      I think it’s worth bearing in mind that most of the districts that would be subject to increased state control are districts that receive most or a substantial portion of their funding from the state. This is not about the state taking control of locally raised money.

      I don’t think I agree with you about the role of standardized tests, but I would agree that the present bill is not about that and is relatively narrow.

  2. Dear Will,

    I agree with many others who have posted: this education reform bill is based on a premise that’s entirely unproven: that charter schools create innovation or improve outcomes for students. 26 years ago education reform got started with “A Nation At Risk,” a report that skirted the fundamental issue of the achievement gap. 26 years later the gap’s still there and may be widening. Students from strong districts still succeed and students from stressed districts still struggle. The vast dollars poured into standardized testing have proved this over and over and over.

    So how do charter schools and greater powers for superintendents address the societal stresses that leave school officials in some districts worrying about effective college placement, while those in other districts grapple, literally, with multiple shootings on school grounds and a thousand less dramatic woes? I’m not saying we should just give up on our struggling school districts, but I really wonder whether a change in school governance and the powers of the superintendent can be very effective.

    I appreciate the provisions that propose not to tinker with districts that have good outcomes (though I think standardized tests in 10th grade are an abysmally limiting way of measuring outcomes). But is this structural reform overall really going to change anything that matters for the students who most need change?

    And, like so many others, I appreciate your clear communication and openness to posts – even rambling ones like this. I look forward to learning more as you help us follow this issue.

    – Dan

  3. Thanks, Dan. I agree that it is wrong to expect that governance changes will lower the murder rate, and the murder rate does affect learning. Any school reform will have a marginal impact, but hopefully a positive marginal impact.

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