Next Generation Education Accountability in Springfield

Recapping Our Fourth Community Conversation

Gateway City leaders from the Pioneer Valley came together on Thursday to talk about how education accountability can help advance our shared vision for educational excellence in inclusive urban districts. Building on the conversation at our New Bedford forum earlier in the week, lots of interesting points were made for state policymakers to consider as they evaluate DESE’s proposed ESSA implementation framework.

Here are some strong takeaways divided into three themes:

  1. Success after high school. Much of our discussion focused on measures of post-secondary success, an important area for next-generation accountability that merits far more attention. Imani Hines, an 8th Grade Math Teacher at UP Academy Kennedy and a Teach Plus Commonwealth Teaching Policy Fellow, kicked off the dialogue by sharing how Ohio’s accountability system goes beyond our 10th grade test by requiring students to either pass graduation exams in multiple subjects or earn a professional certificate in order to receive a high school degree. Linda Noonan returned to this theme in her closing remarks, noting that our current accountability system was built around basic proficiency, a standard that is far short of ensuring that all students complete high school prepared for success in college, career, and civic life.
  1. Local Accountability. Crossing the state, we’ve talked a lot about how local accountability could offer Gateway Cities a path to make another leap forward by pinpointing what’s most important for each of their school communities to achieve and making sure focus isn’t lost on these areas. Arria Coburn, principal of Springfield’s Renaissance School, made a compelling case for local accountability. In this clip, she emphasizes how what we’re measuring must align with the school’s goals and program, which can and should vary from school community to school community. Others in the audience noted that this is a practice we should import from charters, which have additional measures described in their charters that correspond to the unique model of education they have developed to serve their students.
  1. Parent engagement. Another great contribution from Arria was the description of how her school uses data to engage parents. At parent-teacher conferences, her educators do not limit the discussion to how each family’s child is performing. Teachers also talk with parents about the goals for the whole school community, and how they as parents can support the work. Paul Foster, Springfield’s Chief Information Officer, said the district is eager to share more data with parents to provide a better indication of what’s happening in the schools. The last comment from the audience came from a nonprofit leader who offered an example on how data can be used to engage the public.

This summary includes only a few nuggets from a very rich conversation. For those who were unable to attend, the videos below capture each segment of the program in full. You can download our PowerPoint presentations (MassINC & DESE). We also invite you to view the thoughtful comments audience members provided for us in writing. They offer a persuasive indication of how Gateway City leaders see next-generation accountability and their eagerness to contribute to the formation of new policies.

Thank you to our partners-Springfield Business Leaders for Education, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, and the Department of Elementary & Secondary Education-and all of the Springfield-area leaders who made this important dialogue possible.

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