The Lie about Our Schools

In Massachusetts, our students perform at a higher level than every other state.  When Massachusetts receives separate data on the performance of its students on International tests, they also perform at a high level.  Compared to many states, we are miles ahead.  That is not to say that our schools are perfect.  There are always things we could do better and in terms of the income gap, we have a long way to go.  The lie comes in when schools are labeled as underperforming based on a percentile score that ranks all the schools in the Commonwealth with other schools in the Commonwealth.

The first problem with this system is the percentile score itself.  By its very nature, 20 percent of the districts are in the bottom 20 percent.  This may seem like an obvious statement, but there seem to be quite a few individuals in positions of power, and perhaps many residents of the commonwealth, that fail to realize this fact.  Labeling the bottom 20 percent of the districts as underperforming means that there will always be 20 percent of the schools labeled this way. Even if our schools were rated the top in the world 20 percent would be rated as underperforming using this method.  If we ranked our schools with the rest of the country, we would find that our schools have a very different percentile score, perhaps none would be in the bottom 20 percent (I suspect that this would be the case).

The second problem is that all districts are in the position of needing to improve, either to remain in the upper 80 percent or to move out of the bottom 20 percent.  Many do improve, those at the bottom included, but since every other district also improves, they remain near the bottom.  This perpetuates a low rating for some districts despite vast improvements over time.  It also sets up a target that is constantly changing; one that no one knows exactly what it will be for any given year.  How can any school meet a goal that is in essence undefined?  With a goal of improving a percentile rank, it may also be an unattainable goal for some districts.  As stated earlier; there will always be a bottom 20 percent.

There needs to be a realistic evaluation of how schools are performing with a defined acceptable performance level.  This needs to be conducted by individuals that truly understand education, not by supposed experts that are motivated by politics.  For far too long, our schools have been lambasted by special interests with a political or personal agenda.  This needs to stop.  These special interests are being driven, not by a desire to improve, but by a desire to destroy.  We will only survive in the global environment if we provide a high quality public education for all students that prepares them to participate in a meaningful way in the world.

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Who Gets to Hire in Education - Seperating Fact from Fiction

1. Superintendent, assistant/associate superintendents, school business administrator, administrator of special education, school physicians and registered nurses, legal counsel, supervisors of attendance

State law: The school committee is responsible for appointing personnel to the following positions:
a.    Superintendent: The school committee has the power to select and terminate the superintendent, and to establish his or her compensation. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 37)
b.    Assistant or associate superintendents: On the recommendation of the superintendent, the committee may establish the positions of and appoint assistant or associate superintendents, who shall report to the superintendent. The superintendent recommends to the school committee candidates for appointment to the position of assistant or associate superintendent. The committee shall approve or disapprove the appointment, but shall not unreasonably withhold its approval. If the superintendent requests, the committee shall explain its disapproval of a recommended candidate. The committee sets the compensation of the superintendent and the assistant or associate superintendents. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59)
c.    School business administrator; administrator of special education; school physicians and registered nurses; supervisors of attendance; legal counsel:The Education Reform Act did not change several pre-existing statutes that refer to the school committee appointing certain personnel. G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 41 states that "a school committee may award a contract to ... a school business administrator for a period not exceeding six years... ." G.L. c. 71B, [[section]] 3A states that "a school committee ... shall appoint a person to be its administrator of special education." G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 53 says, "The school committee shall appoint one or more school physicians and registered nurses... ." G.L. c. 76, [[section]] 19 says, "Every school committee shall appoint, make regulations governing and fix the compensation of one or more supervisors of attendance."

2. Administrators, principals, staff not assigned to particular schools, athletic coaches

State law: The superintendent appoints principals for each public school in the district. (Two or more elementary schools may share a principal, and teaching principals are also permitted in elementary schools.) The superintendent also appoints administrators and other personnel not assigned to particular schools. All such appointments are made at levels of compensation determined in accordance with school committee policies. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59B) The superintendent appoints athletic coaches. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 47A)

3. Teachers and other school staff

State law: The principal is responsible, consistent with district personnel policies and budgetary restrictions, and subject to the approval of the superintendent, for hiring all teachers, instructional or administrative aides and other personnel assigned exclusively to the school, and for terminating all such personnel, subject to review and prior approval by the superintendent and subject to the provisions of state law. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59B)
This general rule does not apply to the Boston Public Schools, where the superintendent continues to have exclusive authority over school personnel decisions, with a few exceptions. (St. 1993, c. 71, [[section]] 97; St. 1987, c. 613) Also, in any school that requires an examination for student admission, the principal is solely and exclusively responsible for hiring and dismissing all teachers and other personnel, without the requirement of review or approval by the superintendent. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 59B)