Archives for category: Massachusetts

EduShyster reports that three of the city’s leading law firms have filed a lawsuit to overturn the state’s cap on the number of charter schools.

The irony is that they are suing the state and the state board of education, which are led by charter advocates.

She writes:

So our defendants in a case alleging that the charter cap is a violation of students’ civil rights also happen to be wildly pro proponents of lifting said cap. Are there any other ways in which this case is in fact the opposite of what it purports to be? Funny you should ask…It turns out that the case has nothing to with individual rights period—it’s actually a separation of powers case that will hinge on the concept of *justiciability.* I will tell you no more about this now as we have officially stumbled onto a terrain in which I am *needs improvement.* But suffice it to say that this is yet another reason for the decided lack of enthusiasm that beshrouds this case. You see, our white-shod friends have accidentally raised a topic that our proponent-defendants would prefer to eschew: the increasingly unequal state of school funding in Massachusetts, and the role that charter schools play in exacerbating that inequality, especially in poor districts.

Remember the line about charter schools saving poor kids from failing schools? Here is the irony. Massachusetts is the highest performing state in the nation. As more charter schools are opened, more school districts will lose students and resources.

The Bay State–or at least its current leaders–seem determined to create a fiscal crisis for underfunded districts and a two-tier system of schools with public funds. One free to choose its students, the other required to enroll all students.

I first learned about Roland Fryer, Jr., a Harvard economist, when he devised an experiment to pay students for raising test scores in several cities, which failed. Subsequently, he seemed to be involved in other such experiments where the methodology always involved incentives for teachers or students to get higher scores. Here is an outside review of the merit pay plan he designed for New York City. Another of his less-than-successful incentive plans was called “loss aversion.” It works like this: the district gives teachers a $4,000 bonus at the start of the school year; if scores go up, they keep it. If scores don’t go up, they give the money back.

That gave me an idea: how about “loss aversion” for economists? If their predictions are wrong, their computer is confiscated. Or their pay is cut. Or they lose a digit on one finger.

Mercedes Schneider decided to learn more about Fryer after learning that Charlie Baker, the Republican governor, had appointed Fryer to the State Board of Education. The state is on the verge of deciding whether to stick with its MCAS state tests or switch to PARCC. The State Commissioner of Education for Massachusetts, Mitchell Chester, is chair of the PARCC Governing Board. Gosh, I wonder which test they will choose?

Schneider wondered, who is Roland Fryer, Jr.

She writes that Fryer was “promoted from assistant professor to full professor after a single year on the Harvard University faculty (and skipping right over associate professor, to boot).

“Fryer is also the faculty director of Harvard University-based EdLabs, which describes itself as just a helpful group of individuals with no agenda:”

Here is their agenda:

We are an eclectic collection of scientists, educators, and implementers with diverse backgrounds and vast experience, generating ideas and implementing experiments that have the potential to transform education.

Edlabs has no political affiliation or agenda to promote. We squeeze truths from data. People may not always like what we discover, but we will disseminate our results no matter what we find.

Sounds good, yes?

But then she checked out EdLab’s associates and funding, and almost every notable reformer group was there.

Among his advisors: Joel Klein, Condoleeza Rice, and Eli Broad.

Among his funders: the usual suspects. You can guess, or read the post.

Schneider reports on one of Fryer’s ideas to close the achievement gap: don’t test the affluent districts (like the one he lives in), because it would leave less time for reading Shakespeare; but test the poor kids daily.

As I have said on more than one occasion, tests are a measure, not an educational intervention. They measure gaps, they don’t close them. If you have a fever, you can find out how high it is with a thermometer, but taking your temperature again and again will not lower your fever.

Gus Morales, the outspoken leader of the Holyoke, Massachusetts, Teachers Association, won the right to a hearing from the state’s Department of Labor Relations after he was laid off by his district.

The Massachusetts Teachers Association and his colleagues believe he was dismissed because he led protests against the state takeover of the district.

“The state Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has found “probable cause” to believe that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association (HTA) President Gus Morales because of his activism as a union leader.

“The DLR will hold a hearing on the complaint, which stems from a charge filed by the HTA on June 25. The DLR complaint is similar to a grand jury indictment; the upcoming hearing will have many of the characteristics of a trial, with witnesses and cross-examination.

“Because I speak out against policies that I see as bad for our students and bad for our educators, I have been targeted for two straight years,” said Morales, whose employment contract with the Holyoke Public Schools was not renewed at the end of the school year.

“Morales, who does not have professional teaching status, was similarly dismissed at the end the 2013-14 school year after his election to lead the HTA. Then, as now, the DLR issued a complaint that found reason to believe that Morales was illegally terminated for his union activism.”

Morales and the HTA were vocal opponents of the takeover, which was imposed in April despite widespread objections from the community and several of its elected leaders.

“It is an outrage that an educator and leader such as Gus Morales, who has spoken out for the students and the Holyoke community, is being targeted for dismissal,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “The MTA will not tolerate attacks on educators, especially when the attack is meant to cause fear among those who challenge the deeply flawed accountability system used to punish educators, students and communities. Gus has the courage to address the real issues affecting Holyoke — such as economic and racial injustice — and the MTA supports him and the HTA in holding the state accountable for providing resources that the community can use to combat these problems.”

“Throughout stakeholder meetings to craft a “turnaround” plan for Holyoke Public Schools, Morales and others from the HTA raised concerns about the influence of standardized tests, the need to provide social services to students living in poverty, inadequate programs for students on special education plans, the lack of ethnic diversity in the teaching ranks and other issues that they felt that the receiver needs to address.”

Morales never got a bad evaluation until he spoke out against bad policies.

Reader Christine Langhoff read a post about Philadelphia’s Superintendent William Hite, a graduate of the unaccredited Broad Superintendent’s Academy, who filled top jobs with other Broadies. Broadies are trained to support charter schools and to close down public schools.

Langhoff reported similar trends in Boston, since the appointment of Tommy Chang as superintendent. In Los Angeles, Chang was in charge of the disastrous technology program. Now, he has surrounded himself with corporate reform types, all either from Broadie groups or Gates groups trained in the corporate reform ideology.

She writes:

Superintendent Tommy Chang, late of LAUSD and the iPad melodrama; his previous school experience was to run a Green Dot charter school with 580 students. He’s Broadie, class of 2015.

He has named Barbara Deane-Williams, also a Broadie 2015, as his Senior Deputy Superintendent of Operations.

His Chief of Staff comes to us from Families for Excellent Schools.

Doannie Tran, the newly-appointed Assistant Superintendent of Professional Learning in BPS comes from TFA and TeachPlus.

At least one new principal was a TFA’er whose classroom experience is quite limited.

And TNTP is hiring – (isn’t that the school system’s job?) :

“Leadership Coach – Boston Public Schools

Boston, MA

Seeking passionate school leaders!
TNTP seeks a full-time Leadership Coach to support school improvement efforts in Boston, MA. This position is available immediately and is based in Boston.” Wondering if they’re bringing their walkie-talkies and bugs for teachers’ ears.

More of the same at the state level – Heather Peske, current Associate Commissioner for Educator Quality in DESE comes through TeachPlus, Education Trust, and Teach for America.

And – oh glee!

“E4E Focus Groups: Educators for Excellence (E4E) is a teacher-founded non-profit that works with teams of teachers to help them make change at the school, district, state, or union level. They are considering coming to Boston and are interested in learning from current BPS teachers: what are the current issues facing Boston teachers? what channels do teachers have to take leadership on issues that matter to them? This is also a chance to learn firsthand about E4E’s model and how it might work here in Boston. Fill out this brief survey to tell me which dates work for you for a 2-hr meeting (dinner/lunch included):”

Stealth takeovers of the public system.

EduShyster posted an article by Amy Berard, who taught sixth grade in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where she became trained in what was called “No Nonsense Nurturing.” She had to wear a wireless earpiece and receive instructions from three coaches who sat in the back of her classroom, telling her what to say, how to act, how to respond to students, how to stand. She eventually left the district. She was “not the right fit.” Apparently, she got the idea that she was a professional, a human being with thoughts and feelings, and that what she was asked to do was unprofessional and dehumanizing.


It is a shocking article. This is how it begins:

“Give him a warning,” said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. “Tell him he has a detention,” my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom “coaches” huddled around a walkie talkie. “Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!”


Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing. It was supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing “immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.” In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies. I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed. The robot also spoke his mind.
If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that urban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: “In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions 1-4.” But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style. “Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.”
My efforts to make the narration seem less robotic—”I see Victor is on page 6. I see Natalie is on question 3″—triggered flashbacks to Miss Jean and Romper Room. All that was missing was the magic mirror. But even this was too much for the NNN squad in the corner. “Drop the ‘I see’ came through my earpiece. All this narration was incredibly distracting for the students, by the way, to the point where they started narrating me. “Mrs. Berard is passing out the exit tickets.” “Mrs. Berard is helping Christian.” “Mrs. Berard is reviewing the answer to question 4.”


Read it all. It is frightening. Some organization is being paid many thousands of dollars to turn teachers into robots who will treat the children as standardized widgets. Who dreamed up this absurd and insulting program?


PS: This program has the endorsement of an officer of the Gates Foundation, presumably speaking for the Foundation.



In this post, EduShyster includes an actual, genuine report card received by a fifth-grade student in Massachusetts, whom she calls “Ginny.”


You must see it to believe it.


The report card has room for grades in history and social studies, but the spaces are blank. No time for such arcane stuff.


EduShyster checks the history framework for fifth-graders. It is ambitious. But the student was not exposed to any of it.


Now I can guess what you’re thinking—does Ginny really need to learn any of this old timey stuff anyway, since she can just look it up on her phone when she gets to college? Also, maps are SO over as we have GPS now, and by the time Ginny learns to drive her car will drive itself. Also, also, democracy seems to be on its way out anyway, so far better that Ginny devote her time to practice choosing between some predetermined choices.


Is this how we prepare our future citizens?





The Pioneer Institute is a conservative think tank in Boston. Unlike most conservative think tanks, it opposes the Common Core and the associated testing. This week, Pioneer called on State Commissioner if Education Mitchell Chester to recuse himself from deciding whether Massachusetts should keep its MCAS state tests or drop them for PARCC. Chester is chairman of the PARCC board. Pioneer says he has a conflict of interest. Seems obvious, no?

Here is Pioneer’s statement:

“Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester Should Recuse Himself from the Upcoming Decision on PARCC and MCAS

“BOSTON – Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, who later this year will make a recommendation to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (the board) about whether to replace MCAS tests with those developed by the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), chairs PARCC’s governing board.

“Pioneer Institute calls on Chester to recuse himself from the MCAS/PARCC decision process for the following reasons:

“1. As commissioner of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (the department), Chester serves as secretary to the board of education and oversees the state agency and hearing process for choosing between MCAS and PARCC. The agency he heads gathers the information on which the policy decision will be made and conducts the internal evaluation. Commissioner Chester ultimately makes a recommendation to the board about which test to choose.

“This is clearly a conflict of interest. Taking this matter out of the context of education makes the point perhaps more evident. Imagine that the general manager of the MBTA also chaired the board of Keolis or Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad when the two companies were competing for the $2.6 billion contract to operate the T’s commuter rail system. Such a conflict of interest would never have been tolerated, yet this is precisely the situation given the commissioner’s leadership role at the PARCC.

“2. In its role managing a series of five statewide public hearings that are currently underway on whether the board should officially adopt PARCC and abandon MCAS, the department chooses who to invite to deliver expert testimony. The invited experts speak first and are allowed more time than members of the general public. Thus far, in the first four hearings, a strong majority of the invited experts have been supporters of PARCC.

“3. Commissioner Chester has also formed a team of Massachusetts/PARCC Educator Leader Fellows within the department. According to a memo Chester sent to district and charter school leaders, the PARCC fellows, who receive a stipend, should be “excited about the content of the Common Core State Standards” and “already engaged in leadership work around them.” The department has no MCAS fellows.

“4. The commissioner’s interactions with local education leaders have led many to believe that the decision to abandon MCAS has already been made. Brookline Superintendent and Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents President William Lupini, in a 2014 letter to the town’s school committee, flatly stated that “MCAS will be phased out in favor of either PARCC or another new ‘next generation’ assessment after the 2015 test administration.” (No other “next generation” test or MCAS 2.0 is under development or consideration.)

“5. Given that the PARCC consortium originally included 26 participating states and Washington, DC, but now includes only seven and DC, there is enormous pressure on the commissioner, as the chairman of PARCC, to ensure that the testing consortium does not lose any more states. This is especially so after a spring during which numerous states declined further participation in PARCC; just last week one of the few large states remaining in the consortium (Ohio) left the consortium.

“The financial viability of PARCC is in great part a function of the number of students it services. When PARCC included 26 states and DC, it could plan its pricing strategy on the basis of serving over 25 million (of the over 31 million) public school students enrolled in those jurisdictions. With the loss of Ohio, PARCC has been reduced to serving just over 5 million. Additional consortium states, most immediately Arkansas, are actively working toward similar departures. Massachusetts’ almost one million public school students are of considerable concern to the consortium’s financial viability, therefore creating an untenable ethical position for the Commissioner.

“Sadly, the larger process of choosing between Massachusetts’ previous academic standards and Common Core, which led to the current MCAS/PARCC issue, is already one that has been rife with at least the appearance of conflict of interest. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested hundreds of millions of dollars to develop and then to market Common Core. Oddly, Commissioner Chester relied on three studies conducted by Gates-funded entities, directly or indirectly, to inform his 2010 recommendation that the board of education adopt Common Core. A 2010 WCVB-TV 5 investigation found that Chester and other department personnel accepted $15,000 in luxury travel and accommodations from Common Core supporters prior to the board’s adoption of the Common Core.

“As a gubernatorial candidate in 2010, Governor Baker opposed Common Core and PARCC. In March of this year, he criticized the MCAS/PARCC process and earlier procedures that resulted in the adoption of Common Core, telling the State House News Service, “I think it’s an embarrassment that a state that spent two years giving educators, families, parents, administrators and others an opportunity to comment and engage around the assessment system that eventually became MCAS basically gave nobody a voice or an opportunity to engage in a discussion at all before we went ahead and executed on Common Core and PARCC.”

“Such practices need to end, and the public’s trust in the department’s ability to manage a publicly impartial, transparent and accountable process needs to be restored. The first step is for Commissioner Chester, who chairs PARCC’s governing board, to recuse himself from the upcoming policy decision about whether to replace MCAS with the PARCC test.

“In cases where there are several apparent conflicts of interest, recusals are an appropriate administrative response meant to uphold the public trust.”

Andy Hargreaves is a professor at the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. He received the Grawemeyer Award in 2015. He and two of his graduate students–Mary Bridget Burns and Shanee Wangia–wrote the following response to an editorial in the Boston Globe defending high-stakes testing.

Hargreaves, Burns, and Wangia said:

Want to improve the quality of American high school graduates? Keep testing them! That’s the recommendation of last weekend’s Boston Globe Editorial: The editorial blasted a proposed state bill that would implement a three-year hiatus on testing, be it the state test or the PARCC assessment. Citing concerns that the Massachusetts Teachers Association had too much influence on the legislation, and calling it a “blunt instrument” rather than a “well-drafted public policy prescription,” the editorial recommended voting against the bill. The educational performance of Massachusetts is nationally renowned, it said, and its high-stakes tests had been a big contributor to the state’s success. So why abandon them?
Well, it is a bit of a stretch to say that high-stakes testing contributes to high educational performance in Massachusetts or anywhere else for that matter. Massachusetts is certainly a top performer in the US and receives many visitors from all over the world who come to learn from its success. But other New England states perform just as well or almost as well as Massachusetts, yet their approaches to assessment and testing are strikingly different. Let’s look at how two of these other states compare on the well regarded National Assessment for Educational Progress (NAEP) which is not high-stakes (in that it doesn’t have rewards or punishments attached to it), it is applied only to samples of students rather than all of them, and it cannot be manipulated by teaching to the test.
Among all states on the 2013 NAEP, New Hampshire shares top ranking with Massachusetts in 4th Grade reading and math and is just one or two places behind Massachusetts in 8th grade reading and math with a barely perceptible difference of 5 points or less on a scale reaching the high 200s. The only place where such a tiny difference in number of points counts as part of a very large score is in the final minutes of a basketball game!
Essentially, the two states perform at an almost identical level, including on other state-by-state comparisons such as child well-being where they rank first and second respectively. Yet New Hampshire has had a very different and more flexible assessment strategy to that of Massachusetts – using a suite of assessment tools as part of common standards established across Vermont, New Hampshire and Rhode Island.
Meanwhile, over the state line from “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire, the Green Mountain state of Vermont is an equally impressive educational performer. It ranks 2nd– 5th place on different aspects of the NAEP, diverging no more than 6 points from the other two states discussed here. It is also another high scorer on child well-being. Yet, Vermont’s approach to testing is much more cautious and skeptical than that of Massachusetts. Indeed, when the Commissioner of New Hampshire and the Secretaries of Education for Massachusetts and Vermont took the stage together at Boston College last December to debate the reasons for their respective “states of success,” Vermont Secretary of Education Rebecca Holcombe, a staunch opponent of standardized testing, criticized tests for becoming tools with harsh consequences attached, rather than ways to monitor teacher and student progress.

So the Globe Editorial is just plain wrong when it claims that state tests explain high performance in Massachusetts. Neighboring states without this armory of high-stakes assessment have performed equally well. There is high performance with tests and also without them. If we can do well with or without the tests and the consequences that are attached to them, then perhaps we should decide whether we keep them or ditch them on other grounds.
Nearly a million students in Massachusetts take tests like the MCAS or PARCC assessments, at a cost of $29.50-$46 per student. By putting those tests aside, Massachusetts alone could save anywhere from $28-44 million dollars per year. The millions of dollars currently spent on testing could be reallocated instead to supporting teachers more effectively by providing more designated time for them to work together and give feedback on each others’ teaching within the school day, to improve their teaching.
Without the constant concentration on tested subjects, the state could also open up the curriculum beyond the relentless basics of literacy and math to include the artistic, scientific, project-based and out-of-school experiences that are an everyday experience for children of the privileged, but that should be the entitlement of everyone. We could support greater leadership stability in high poverty schools so that these schools can attract great leaders and then keep them. We could stop the revolving door of school leadership in under-performing schools, alleviating the pressure these schools feel to stave off receivership and closure before their work of their leaders has had time to have an impact. Like Canada, Finland, Singapore, and other high performing nations, we could achieve a lot more with far less testing. We can do more. We could do better.
Tests of all kinds can be tools for diagnosis and monitoring in the service of improvement. But they should not be the final say in a student’s academic future or a teacher’s professional career. We can test prudently rather than profligately and get equally strong or even stronger results. That’s not only what high performing countries have learned. It’s also what some of Massachusetts’ immediate neighbors have been doing for years.
Andy Hargreaves, Mary Bridget Burns and Shanee Wangia

Lynch School of Education

Boston College
National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP): Interstate Comparison of 2013 Scores

NAEP Vermont (VT) Massachusetts (MA) New Hampshire (NH) Nation (Public)
4th Grade Reading 228 (5th place) 232 (1st place) 232 (1st place) 221
4th Grade Math 248 (4th place) 253 (1st place) 253 (1st place) 241
8th Grade Reading 274 (3rd place) 277 (1st place) 274 (3rd place) 266
8th Grade Math 295 (2nd place) 301 (1st place) 296 (2nd place) 284

At its annual meeting, the Massachusetts Teachers Association endorsed the right of parents to opt their child out of state testing.

“Delegates to the 2015 MTA Annual Meeting have voted to support the right of parents to opt their children out of high-stakes standardized testing.

“The Annual Meeting, which drew more than 1,100 delegates from all over Massachusetts to the Hynes Convention Center in Boston on May 8 and May 9, also featured wide-ranging discussion of education issues, including the state takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools. The delegates heard speeches by award recipients and a keynote address by Seattle educator and social activist Jesse Hagopian.

“On Friday, the delegates passed a new business item that requires MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson to send a letter to Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and state legislators stating the following MTA positions:

“That parents in Massachusetts deserve the choice to opt their public school students out of high-stakes standardized assessments.

“That districts should be required to provide all parents with yearly written information explaining their right to opt students out of assessments.

“That students who opt out should not be included in data used by state or federal entities in “grading” schools.
That no parent or student should be penalized because of a parental decision to opt out.

“That no educator should be disciplined for discussing with students, parents or community members the options for opting students out of high-stakes tests.

“Madeloni said the opt-out vote by the delegates representing more than 110,000 educators in Massachusetts — including preK-12 educators, educators in the public higher education system and retired educators — is indicative of the growing consensus around the country that standardized high-stakes testing is out of control.

“Supporting the right to opt out is one of the strongest statements we can make as educators against standardized testing,” Madeloni said.

“We need to support the parents and students who decide to do this. The MTA will vigorously defend any educator who is disciplined for supporting the right of parents and students to opt out. The more people step up and speak out, the clearer will be the message to our legislators that the people of Massachusetts want to put a stop to the madness of standardized testing,” she said.

“Standardized testing is distorting the goals of public education and choking the creativity and joy that should be at the center of teaching and learning,” Madeloni added.”

Christine Langhoff sent the following reflections on the state takeover of the schools of Holyoke, Massachusetts. Jitu Brown’s remarks in the opening keynote at NPE Chicago identified the current reform movement as “colonialism.” When she heard Jitu speak, Christine was reminded of the state takeover of the public schools of Chelsea, Massachusetts in 1989.


Christine wrote:


Under the arrogant John Silber, Boston University took over the Chelsea Public schools for 20 years. The teachers’ contract was abrogated and many outside “experts” and researchers poured into the schools, many making careers due to their involvement. Money was also poured into the schools. But not much has changed and BU folded its tent and went away and the money dried up. From a study in 2010 by The Urban Initiative at UMass Dartmouth:


“The less positive news is that the challenges that the School District and City of Chelsea faced back in the 1980’s are still present, and in some instances have been exacerbated by state and regional economic conditions, as well as world-wide unrest and economic hardship for many families moving into the area. The challenges include: poverty, unreported immigrants, unemployment, crime, gangs, drugs, teen pregnancy, family mobility, low attendance rates, and the continuing issue of English as a second language.


The School District of Chelsea can never be accused of not continually looking for a solution to the challenges it faces. The reform efforts have been multiple and continual over the past two decades. Unfortunately they were not always systemic in nature and were driven by a ‘cure de jour’ and perhaps a myopic vision of the individual factors that needed to be addressed, rather than a broad-based plan that built upon succeeding successes and included the resources needed to fully implement the interventions.”


What has worked in Chelsea was not the expertise of the colonizers, but rather the daily hard work of community organizations to provide wrap around services children and families in empoverished cities to mediate the impact of poverty:


“Perhaps most importantly, there is a growing awareness that the school district doesn’t own the problem; that it is a community problem, and it will take the entire community’s resources and willpower to address the needs of its youth in a proactive and effective way. The growing community collaborations with outside agencies and non-profit organizations have already begun to show promise as a major reform strategy.”


In another comment, Christine added:


I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts that one of the first things the state does is eliminating the dual language program from Holyoke’s schools. 79% of kids in the schools are Latino (the majority of them Puerto Ricans, thus American citizens) and 48% are identified as having English as a second language. But those running the department of ed see bilingualism as a deficit. The Dever elementary school in Boston was taken over by the state earlier this school year. The very first thing the charter operator did was eliminate the successful dual language program.


The fact of a large Puerto Rican population in Holyoke matters. (At the Dever, too, many of the families are Puerto Rican.) As citizens, many Puerto Ricans transit between the island and the mainland due to family and employment factors (again, poverty – when there’s no work, you go back to live with abuelita). Children who move between school systems must be fluent in both languages to flourish academically, as public schools in Puerto Rico are conducted in Spanish. Being bilingual is a necessity and the argument of “if they want to live here, they need to learn English” holds no water when compared with the obligation of the state to provide a free, appropriate education to its citizens.


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