Governor-elect Charlie Baker has pledged to narrow the achievement gap and improve higher education in Massachusetts. Here’s some advice on how to do it, from Globe Opinion writers.
Boost public colleges
Baker needs to be less Harvard and more Bridgewater State. His new job requires him to bring the state’s public colleges and universities out of the shadows of the prestigious private institutions that have long dominated the higher education landscape in Massachusetts.
Traditionally, graduates of public colleges stick around to do the state’s work, unlike the footloose graduates of private universities. Yet labor officials now worry that Massachusetts will fall about 60,000 college graduates short of what it needs to keep the state’s economy rolling by 2015. The public system needs a booster in the governor’s office — and a boost in the budgets of the colleges with the best graduation rate. — LAWRENCE HARMON
Listen to charter concerns
All parents want their children to receive a great education. But not every parent believes charter schools are the only place where that can happen. While that mindset is anathema to charter advocates, Baker should try to understand the root of the skepticism and not automatically tie all of it to union resistance to change.
Education reform is supposed to be an avenue to excellent public education for children with a wide range of needs. In Massachusetts, it has evolved into a bitter fight over lifting the cap on charter schools. Baker has forcefully argued for lifting that cap. But he should listen to those with most at stake — parents with school-age children — and try to respect all sides, not just charter school enthusiasts. — JOAN VENNOCHI
Stay the course on the Core
Many school districts across the Commonwealth are moving from the state’s old assessment system, MCAS, to PARCC tests aligned with the Common Core curriculum standards — a transition accompanied by horror stories of kids caught in seemingly endless loops of testing and parents stumped by math homework. Baker should pay attention to these grievances, but he should realize that the concerns might tell him more about implementation than about the standards themselves. Baker is skeptical of the Core and argues for local control, but he has an opportunity here to lead. He should encourage school districts to take time to adapt to the test and the curriculum. PARCC could be a step forward for Massachusetts, though it’s too early to tell. — NOAH GUINEY
Shrink that preschool waiting list
This week, the state won a $15 million federal grant to cover pre-kindergarten for 750 needy four-year-olds. That’s a small step toward a promise Baker made in the campaign, to expand early education by targeting a waiting list of 16,000 children who qualify for subsidized preschool. Baker was cautious about the timing, though, citing studies that suggest that any progress kids make in preschool could dissipate if kids go to underperforming elementary schools.
But Baker shouldn’t wait too long. Good, reliable child care makes a huge difference for struggling families, and other studies suggest that early education has plenty of long-term benefits. Improving public schools could be a long, uncertain process, and the state’s youngest citizens need help now. — JOANNA WEISS