End the summer slide, close the achievement gap

August 19, 2014 | Sue Thompson

AS SUMMER DRAWS to a close, teachers are returning to work to get ready for the new school year. One significant issue they will have to face, particularly those working at schools that predominantly serve students from low-income families, is the loss of reading and math skills over the long summer vacation. Historically, summer learning programs have been an afterthought for some school districts, while others have not offered a program of any kind. But now some educators and policymakers are considering additional learning time in the summer as an approach to closing stubbornly large achievement gaps between disadvantaged and advantaged students.

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Guest Opinion: Senate took the easy — and wrong — vote on charter school cap

July 22, 2014 | Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass

After losing the 1958 governor’s race, George Wallace, then considered a moderate on segregation by mid-20th century Alabama standards, said he would never get “out-segged” again. Four years later, after his election by the state’s virtually all white voters, it was easy for him to declare in his inaugural address, “I draw the line in the dust and toss the gauntlet before the feet of tyranny, and I say, segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

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Unapproving unreform

July 21, 2014 | Worcester Telegram & Gazette Editorial Team

Debate on a charter school reform bill in the Senate last week ended in acrimony, with charter proponents and opponents disagreeing on everything but this — it isn't likely the Legislature will do anything more with public charter schools this year.

That comes as a relief, because as unconscionable as it is that thousands of Massachusetts families continue to see their freedom of choice in education held hostage by politics, the bill from Sen. Sonia Chang-Diaz (D-Jamaica Plain) in the name of the reform would have made matters worse.

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State Senate needs an honest debate about charters

July 16, 2014 | Scot Lehigh, Boston Globe

SOMETIMES A legislative effort is so transparently bad that it’s simply laughable.
That’s the case with the charter-school cap-lift the Massachusetts Senate is scheduled to debate Wednesday.
In the past, Sonia Chang-Diaz, Senate chair of the education committee, has insisted she wants to get a charter bill done. Herlegislation renders that claim hard to believe. It’s a poison pill through and through, an offer the charter schools can’t help but refuse.

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Editorial: Legislature must raise cap on charter schools

July 13, 2014 | MetroWest Daily News Editorial Staff

As the clock ticks down on the Legislature’s year – lawmakers are due to complete formal sessions at the end of July – there are several items of unfinished business, none more important than raising the cap on charter schools.

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Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass: Mass. weakens education for minorities

July 5, 2014 | Charles Chieppo

In the waning days of the school year, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education ensured that fewer urban schoolchildren will have high-quality learning opportunities come September. The board unanimously adopted a proposal from Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester that manipulates numbers and makes a mockery of the goal of rewarding improved performance.

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Massachusetts Charter Schools: “A Fire You Can’t Put Out”

June 30, 2014 | Jamie Gass

This past week, at the urging of state K-12 education commissioner Mitch Chester, Deval Patrick’s Massachusetts Board of Education took a vote against Massachusetts’ nation-leading and achievement gap-closing charter schools. The vote reminds us once again how intellectually warped so much of K-12 education policymaking remains.

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An affront to freedom

June 27, 2014 | Worcester Telegram & Gazette Editorial Team

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Tuesday pushed forward with a minor change to how it calculates the progress of school districts. But however small, that vote could have a major impact on which communities are allowed to expand enrollment in public charter schools.

Instead of constant tweaking and politicking, what's needed is the true academic freedom that would come with eliminating the BESE's role as kingmaker in the struggle over public charter schools.

Sadly, state education officials have made it clear they are more interested in protecting the jobs of bureaucrats and teachers than in letting real choice and competition do for education what they do for every other consumer market.

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Editorial: How to halt opportunity

June 24, 2014 | Boston Herald Editorial Team

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is quietly defying the intent of a 2010 school reform law by rewriting the definition of a “low-performing” school district. Children and families who seek a way out of failing urban schools will pay for this bureaucratic overreach. The board needs to put a halt to any further change.

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Dismantling education success

June 24, 2014 | Jim Stergios

As we approach the end of Deval Patrick's time as governor, it's clear that his most important legacy will be the dismantling of Massachusetts' landmark 1993 Education Reform Act.

The latest example comes today, when the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education votes on a proposal by Commissioner Mitchell Chester that would use the regulatory process to deprive more than 12,000 students in low-performing school districts of the opportunity to attend a charter school.

Under state law, more charter seats are allowed in districts that are in the bottom 10 percent in terms of student performance. Until recently, performance was measured by MCAS scores. But without legislative permission, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) changed the measure to incorporate "growth," or how much a district is improving, into the determination of the bottom 10 percent.

Under Mr. Chester's proposal, growth would play an even larger role in measuring district performance, which is problematic on at least two fronts.

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