Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Public Comment at the MA BESE Worth Listening To

It's a shame that the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets on weekday mornings when most teachers, parents and students cannot be there to listen or speak. Nonetheless, so many people wanted to speak at the Oct. 21 meeting that the BESE had to limit the number, prompting Mary Ann Stewart, the board's new parent representative, to ask that they scale back other parts of the agenda to make room for more public comment. 

Fortunately, those who were able to speak at the meeting rose to the occasion, including Barbara Madeloni, president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Carlos Rojas Alvarez, representing the Boston Education Truth Coalition, Dearborn stakeholder Yvonne Powell and CPS Board Member and Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick. 

Here are some public comment highlights: 

Barbara Madeloni

Barbara Madeloni: "As I have traveled the state listening to our members this fall, I am moved by the simplicity of what we ask: well-resourced schools in every community; a commitment to teaching the whole child; freedom to teach to the beautiful diversity of our student populations; autonomy to do our jobs; respect for our expertise; and the time to do our jobs well - free from fear, unhelpful mandates and threats of job loss and school takeovers." Barbara's full testimony is here
Carlos Rojas Alvarez

Carlos Rojas Alvarez, on the proposed intervention in the Dearborn School: "What evidence is there that any of the 'Proven Providers' will be able to successfully work with the Dearborn student population when they have no experience or track record of success with [students with interruption in formal education]? We know that BluePrint has had a negative track record in serving ELL students in Denver, Colorado. What evidence do we have that they will perform differently here with our own ELL population at the Dearborn? We know that UP has a track record here in Boston, alright, but its one of high attrition and suspension rates. For every 'proven provider' offered to us, we'd like to know what their track records are with students with social-emotional disabilities/[therapeutic learning center] students, and inclusion? What experience do they have with working with high school students, and implementing an innovative and successful STEM curriculum?" Carlos' full testimony is here

Yvonne Powell
Yvonne Powell, of the Roxbury Presbyterian Church/Greater Boston Interfaith Organization Dearborn Support Team and a Dearborn stakeholder: "In the future, do not put another Stakeholder Group in the position of not being able to complete their work in a purposeful fashion, one that generates a full and unbiased consensus around a rigorous turn-plan and a fully-supported 'Lead Partner.'"

Tracy Novick

Tracy Novick: "I hope you will listen to school committee members describe meeting increased need with decreasing resources; we are well beyond the point of 'doing more with less.' I hope you will hear us clearly when we tell you that what our schools DO and the growth our students show is more than a 'technicality' or a political game. Stay strong on student growth, or just fess up and start ranking us by parental income and education level. It would be more honest. I hope that you will each make a point of listening, not only to those who can afford to come before you at 8:30 on Tuesday morning in Malden, but to so many who cannot." Full testimony is here.

There were signs that such powerful testimony is beginning to be heard. For instance, new BESE Chair Margaret McKenna, said, after a length DESE presentation on plans for PARCC testing, "Our priorities should be reflected in the time we spend on things. You're spending an awful lot of time on testing."

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