Novick Reports: Conditions of Education in the Commonwealth 2017

This morning, the Rennie Center released their annual Conditions of Education in the Commonwealth report. Congratulations to the Salem, Brookline, and Leominster Public Schools whose work at the Carlton School, at the ACE program at Brookline High, and at the Leominster Center for Excellence, respectively, are recognized as exemplars in the report!


At this morning's program, Dr. Andres Antonio Alonso, past superintendent of the Baltimore Public Schools, spoke of "the type of classroom that re-frames how teachers and students are negotiating the acquisition of knowledge." He lamented the gap between those implementing changes and those implementing the practice, speaking of the need for support for teachers tasked with making changes in their instructional practices, and for leadership to be developed and nurtured. He praised the "harmony" he feels in a school where there is a shared vision of what great learning is.

Chaurice McMillian, a former ACE student and Brookline High graduate, spoke of her experiences within the program. She spoke of the six week classes, formed around competency and mastery, in which students take two academic modules at a time. "Community is really important in the program," she said, speaking of the advisory periods, mix of student grades, and field trips. The "habits of success" in the program encouraged her to be reflective on her own learning. Now a student at Lesley University, Ms. McMillian said that ACE "helped me develop myself and helped me think of what kind of teacher I want to be in the future."

A panel from the three state Boards of Education then responded to the report. They spoke of the need for higher quality, with state support, in preschool, and the need for better compensation for teachers in preschool and early childhood education. They spoke of the concerns of the accuracy of Accuplacer, and the flexibility given to state colleges and universities now in determining student placement. Mr. Gabrieli of the Board of Higher Education spoke of his wish for "silos" of education to be broken down, such that there was not a distinction between high school and college. Mr. Sagan commented that he saw one of the Department's jobs as developing a catalog of effective models, as per the report. Ms. Walachy of the Early Childhood Board spoke of the love of learning innate to children, saying "Our most important job is not to squelch it!"

Secretary Peyser closed the program with what he termed "pragmatic personalization," speaking of the need for pathways, rather than individualized instruction, as "there's a danger in continuing to set an expectation beyond what we can actually reach." He praised empowerment zones, state receivership, and charter schools, saying these "successes are about attracting and retaining strong school leadership." Invited by Mr. Sagan to speak of money, he commented, "I don't want to pretend at all that money doesn't matter; it does," but  "at the end of the day, how much money we spend isn't going to be as important as how we spend it."