Emerging out of the Gateway Cities Vision

The NGLAC is born from a multi-year effort to advance an education agenda for small-to-midsize urban districts in Massachusetts

Emerging out of the Gateway Cities Vision

In 2007, MassINC co-authored a study with the Brookings Institution that exposed a deep divide between job growth and prosperity in Boston, and struggling, regional cities in other parts of the state. These regional cities had long been “Gateways” to the middle class for generations of Massachusetts families, but the concentration of activity in the state’s knowledge economy meant that residents in these cities no longer were experiencing the same level of mobility. Home to one-quarter of the state’s population, the health of the Massachusetts middle-class hinges on Gateway Cities providing true access to economic opportunity.

In response to the MassINC-Brookings report, Gateway City leaders began meeting as a group to develop a shared policy agenda. On their own these cities were struggling to advance policies attuned to their unique challenges and opportunities. Together, they hoped to amplify their voices and win the legislature’s support for the policy tools they required.

Following this strategy, MassINC brought Gateway City leaders together for an Education Summit in 2011. At the event, Governor Patrick announced that his education secretary would develop a Gateway Cities education agenda. The following year the Governor’s budget included $10 million to implement this new Gateway Cities education strategy.

But Gateway City leaders felt they needed a bolder long-term vision for change in education. In early 2013, MassINC convened them at Clark University to identify a common set of priorities. Throughout the year, working groups gathered to develop more detailed ideas. The final document, The Gateway Cities Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems, called for improving early education, supporting social-emotional growth, developing pathways to college and career, welcoming newcomers, and expanding learning time.

Throughout the process of crafting and implementing this vision, accountability has been a frequent concern. State accountability places enormous pressure on these district and school leaders; at a times, the incentives have been misaligned with providing the full set of learning opportunities Gateway City students require.

The Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA) provides an opportunity for Gateway City leaders to lay out these concerns and advance approaches to accountability consistent with their vision for community-wide learning in inclusive urban school districts. In March, MassINC brought Gateway City leaders back to Clark University to draw attention to this opportunity. Senator Elizabeth Warren delivered a keynote address on the promise and peril of the new federal law. A panel of education experts responded with their views on the opportunities and challenges presented by ESSA.

This conversation raised a lot of intriguing questions about the capacity of small-to-midsize districts to take advantage of the new federal law. Will their voices be heard as states develop new accountability frameworks to comply with the new law? Do they have the capacity to implement more complex measures of college and career readiness, social-emotional growth, and school climate? And will they be able to make these new performance metrics comprehensible for parents?

To answer these pressing questions, MassINC has formed NGALC. The NGALC includes leaders from similarly situated small-to-midsize districts from all over New England. This cross-state grouping will allow for varied perspective on ESSA. Leading thinkers from districts will have the opportunity to engage with leading experts in these fields for a timely informative exchange.

Meet The Authors

Ben Forman

Research Director, MassINC

Alexia Lipman

Research Intern, MassINC

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