Massachusetts: Charter Lawsuit Will Not Fix the Achievement Gap

Boston Public Library

Boston Public Library

Some Massachusetts students compete with the best other countries can offer  In order to understand why I turned to a article in which a spokesman for the Massachusetts Department of Education described its system.  Then, I dug some more.

Massachusetts adopted high standards in 1993.  They resisted much of Florida’s accountability system, but students do test annually.  It is how Massachusetts does and does not use test scores that is interesting.  The demographics of the state’s population are also telling.  The lawsuit is pointless.  Get to know more about Massachusetts….

  • The State conducts grade 3-8 annual testing, and requires English, math and science tests for high school graduation.
  • The DOE works closely with teachers to get input on how to improve the standards.
  • Schools are rated on a five point scale based on achievement scores, learning gains, and achievement gaps.
  • Lowest rated schools are taken over by the State.
  • Accountability only requires school scores be public.   There are no “political shenanigans” to manipulate data.
  • A rigorous teacher certification and evaluation system is used.  Certification relies on high level content knowledge.  Tenure standards are high.  Support for improving teacher skills is provided rather than grading teachers on student achievement.

Massachusetts clearly is not like Florida!  There were 1860 public schools and only 81 charters.   The state’s per capita personal income rank is the second highest in the nation.  Florida’s is 27th.  The per pupil expenditures across districts, however, ranged from about $10,000 to over $26,000.  Florida spends half of what Massachusetts spends on education, but Florida’s funding is more equitable across districts.

Massachusetts’ population is different.  Students are 63% white, 17.9% Hispanic, and 8.7% African American.   Florida’s student population is 40% white, 30.7% Hispanic, and 22.7% black.   Over half of Florida’s students are economically disadvantaged whereas only 26% of Massachusetts students are.   Massachusetts parents tend on average to be white and affluent compared to Florida.

Massachusetts has not solved the educational problems that they share with other states.  They just have fewer ‘at risk’ students and more advantaged students.  Large achievement gaps in Advanced Placement scores remain. Its AP gaps are ranked 48th among U.S. states for Hispanics and 17th for black  students.  NAEP achievement score gaps for its Hispanic students are among the largest in the nation.  Achievement for Massachusetts’ best students is very good.  Is this due to the percentage of very high income families that emphasize the value in academic attainment or to the focus on high standards in the educational system?  Both?

Now there is controversy in Boston over the mayor’s proposal to expand charter schools.  The Attorney General is fighting a suit to raise the cap that limits charter schools.

Changing the name on the school door from public to charter has not worked elsewhere. Privatizing schools does not make them equitable.  We need a better solution.  Evidently, years ago Massachusetts’ Governor Romney dropped intensive English courses for second language students.  I wonder why?  These are the questions policymakers should be asking.


Posted in Achievement, Florida, Massachusetts, Testing.

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