New Goals Established in Mass. Schools
By Marcos Hernandez
Every year, while students finish their last days of school before summer break, administrators start work towards development for the New Year. They reflect on their current system and take any necessary actions to move it forward.
“Change is happening, and we must continue to make improvements,” said Jacqueline Reis, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in Massachusetts.
Priorities are shifting toward the integration of technology, higher-class standards, and turning around underperforming schools, she said.
“Everything that we’re trying to do is to make sure there is strong teaching and learning going on in the classrooms because that’s the most important thing,” said Reis.
Administrators use certain criteria to distinguish a bad school from a good school. This includes analyzing low graduation rates, quality of teachers, and funding for low performing schools.
Schools are classified from levels one to five, with five being considered the worst. With level four schools, they qualify for financial assistance from the government, along with the state monitoring progress. “You have to file turnaround plans, usually replace the principal, all at level four, and you’re given three years to show significant improvement,” said Reis.
A lack of resources and the amount of money invested per student are factors that contribute to slower development. In 2012, the cost per student in Boston was $17,283, while Worcester’s was $13,489.
A community’s economic background can influence the materials schools can afford. “A lot of people in Worcester don’t have a lot of money and don’t want to pay a lot of taxes,” explains Reis.
Students like Nora Cameron, rising senior at Boston Latin School, agree these rules can raise the bar on standards nationwide, leading to higher test scores. “Kids can be assessed more fairly and equally,” said Cameron.
There are also new plans regarding bullying, and changes in school culture about this issue. “We’ll develop a survey to be administered to students every four years to assess overall school climates, and the severity of bullying to better determine measures needed to prevent it,” said Reis.
Reis mentioned that she deals with setting academic standards for districts, but any issues students have can be solved through student initiative. “We get letters from classes here, and we do listen. I think no matter what age you are, you should feel free to write to whoever about any issues you have,” said Reis.
Other changes in schools revolve around technology, and the increased integration of electronics in the classroom. This is to accommodate the newer generation of students seeking modern ways to learn.
“We’re hoping that by having high standards, teachers will teach those high standards, and students will feel challenged,” said Reis.