Any successful organization –whether a business or a school – needs the authority and flexibility to adapt and respond to the demands of a changing environment. It is an essential tool in a business owner’s box, and there is ample evidence that schools thrive when they have the same ability to make decisions. Today, Board member Henry Dinger testified at an Education Committee hearing that two bills to extend decision-making flexibility and authority to school leaders do not go far enough.
S.279, a bill sponsored by Senator Eric Lesser, and H.304, sponsored by Committee House Chair Alice Peisch, would both create Innovation Partnership Zones modeled to some degree on the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership.
Massachusetts has already established greater freedom and flexibility for Level 4 turnaround schools and Innovation Schools in combination with stronger accountability for improvement. MBAE strongly believes this is the right direction for improving our struggling schools, and it was a primary recommendation of our New Opportunity to Lead research on what needs to be done to provide every child a world class education now and in the future.
MBAE urged the Committee to amend these bills to incorporate the following authorities that have been essential for student gains and improved school performance:
- Add additional time to the school day and year, adjusting schedules to promote optimal conditions for learning and increased teacher planning time;
- Hire and assign staff based on qualifications and performance without regard to seniority;
- Expeditiously dismiss or replace teachers and administrators who do not meet performance standards;
- Re-open and negotiate collective bargaining agreements through an accelerated process in order to drive rapid improvement;
- Relate terms of these authorities to performance benchmarks that give significant weight to improvements in student achievement, rather than an arbitrary timeline; and
- Permit schools and districts that exit from turnaround status to retain the changes that led to their students’ academic success.
In addition to these basic management tools that any administrator must control in order to be held accountable for meeting goals, legislation should avoid requiring time-consuming bureaucratic procedures that limit and unnecessarily delay action. The bottom line is current proposals will not meet the needs of thousands of students languishing in sub-par schools or advance gains in our stronger schools. MBAE supports the extension of staffing, curriculum and budgeting authority to All of the 265 under performing (Level 3) schools that are currently denied these critical tools.
We look forward to working with the Committee to pass legislation that will have real impact on closing achievement gaps and providing every child the high quality education they need and deserve.
Read/download the press statement here
Read/download here testimony given by MBAE Board member, Henry Dinger, at the Education Committee Hearing on September 5, 21017