Students’ test scores are not the issue — fairness is
If you repeat something often enough, people start to believe it. That’s why it has become a common assumption that Massachusetts test scores soared after the Education Reform Act of 1993 took effect, as William F. Weld and Thomas F. Birmingham claim (“A winning formula for Mass. schools,” Opinion, Sept. 5).
But the fact is, Massachusetts was almost always close to the top, for a simple reason: Statewide standardized test results mostly measure the income and education of parents, and Massachusetts is high on both metrics. So our test scores have been high all along.
Where we’re not close to the top is in fairness. Education Week reports that Massachusetts ranks 33d in “wealth neutrality,” meaning that wealthier districts get much more funding than poorer districts. Yet poorer districts have student bodies that require more support to close the gap in opportunity that their students suffer.
That’s shameful, especially in a state that claims to be progressive. This is the injustice that the Promise Act is trying to correct, against strong resistance from the governor and the leadership of the House of Representatives.
The children of New Bedford and Worcester are not worth less than those of Weston and Wellesley. They deserve a world-class education. We will all share in the benefits.
The writer is a member of the board of Citizens for Public Schools.
Schools need to offer students a better career pathway
Re “A winning formula for Mass. schools” by Thomas F. Birmingham and William F. Weld: Our state’s former Senate president and former governor are right that increased funding for schools must be tied to reforms of our education system. Just 45 percent of Massachusetts ninth-graders go on to earn the degree or credential that 72 percent of jobs in the Commonwealth will require.
Employers feel the results of this every day as they struggle to find qualified candidates to fill positions they need to grow their companies. Yet students bear the brunt when they miss out on opportunities to secure jobs that could change the trajectory of their lives.
New education funding should be used on evidence-based approaches to closing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps and doubling down on career-connected learning initiatives. We can bring some of what works in vocational schools to the 80 percent of high school students who don’t attend them by expanding career pathway programs and providing opportunities to earn industry-recognized credentials in traditional high schools. These are just some of the ideas put forth by a coalition of business groups working to ensure, as we did in 1993, that Massachusetts leaves no student on the economic sidelines.
School funding reform legislation provides a critical opportunity to greatly expand on what we know works. We cannot let it slip away.
Edward Lambert Jr.
Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education