David Osborne presented many declarations of success in his op-ed “A new paradigm of public education” (Opinion, Sept. 5), suggesting facts that are not fully in evidence from various attempts at innovation for 21st-century public schools.
Having been soundly defeated in their attempt to expand charter schools, public school critics now turn to more subtle alternatives that articulate the noble goal of improving student outcomes as camouflage for quasipublic and privatization strategies: expanding the power of state bureaucracies to direct local instruction, while minimizing the voice of parents and community to affect their children’s classrooms in favor of the magical policy unicorn of school choice. They limit the inherent power of collegiality by restricting the ability of teachers and locally elected leaders to influence how schools work best in their communities. Most important, Osborne’s perspective that what he believes is good for Boston must be good for the rest of the Commonwealth’s K-12 schools is simple academic laziness.
We encourage the Legislature to consider a wide range of strategies that look not only at creating greater regulatory freedom for all local school districts but also at student wellness in an era of emotional stress for too many children. Failing to even acknowledge the insidious impact of poverty, the multifaceted forces of health, social, and emotional challenges, and the Commonwealth’s failure to adequately fund urban and rural districts is just another piece of evidence that these public school critics have lost their ability to imagine what the next paradigm for public education should be.
I hope the Legislature begins a serious discussion of what our educational system should look like in 20 years. But it needs to be made clear that the Commonwealth’s best-in-the-nation status for K-12 education is the result of the sustained, great work of hundreds of local school districts rather than Osborne’s favorite research subjects.
The writer is also a member of the Barnstable School Committee.