MTA responds to Mass Insight proposal

Response by MTA President Catherine A. Boudreau to "The Unfinished Agenda" proposal released by Mass Insight on Feb. 2, 2005

We all believe in great schools, and we are pleased to see that so much energy is now being focused on public education. It is vitally important to help all students succeed in school and close the achievement gap.

With that said, some parts of the proposal are great, while others are in need of improvement.

We have long advocated for several of the initiatives in this proposal, including early education, full-day kindergarten, better teacher training and longer school days in struggling school districts. We welcome the acknowledgment that resources are crucial to continued improvements in our schools, and we believe that the $400 million to $600 million in new school funding being discussed would greatly benefit students. A similar perspective is reflected in the report issued by Judge Margot Botsford on her findings in the Hancock school-funding case, which is now pending before the Supreme Judicial Court.

An immediate increase in funding is warranted. Long-term, a study such as the one proposed by more than 100 legislators is the right way to determine how the state's standards can be met.

There are many aspects of the proposal released this morning that have yet to be explained, and there are others that we do not support – that are, in fact, distractions from true education reform. It is interesting to note that although the plan sets out to address the needs of our public schools, not a single teacher appears on the roster of the steering committee for the campaign. Our members stand ready to play a part in setting the state's educational agenda and working with the Legislature to ensure that goals are met.

In addition, we are concerned that raising the required passing scores on standardized tests will produce more failure than success. We continue to believe that a single high-stakes test should not be used to close doors to opportunity. Raising the cut-score to 230 or 240 on the MCAS tests could deny diplomas and a future college education to thousands of otherwise-qualified students.* We favor relying on multiple measures of achievement to determine who may graduate.

We oppose denying administrators the right to be represented under the state's collective bargaining laws and the plan to give principals expanded authority to change working conditions or limit educators' due-process rights.

* On the 2004 grade 10 test, 38 percent scored below 240 on the ELA test and 43 percent scored below 240 on the math test. Some who scored above 240 on one did not score above that level on the other. As a result, nearly half of all students would have been denied a diploma had a 240 cut-score been in effect in 2004.