Next Generation Education Accountability in Pittsfield

Recapping Our Sixth (and Final) Community Conversation

Tuesday, MassINC joined with the Berkshire Compact for our final community forum on the possibilities the Every Student Succeeds Act presents to improve teaching and learning in inclusive urban school districts. A coalition of community partners, including the K-12 schools, college leaders, and local businesses and business-led organizations, the compact works to strengthen the regional economy by raising educational access, aspirations, and attainment.

Since its formation in 2005, the compact has pursued a data-driven “collective impact” approach, which made this conversation particularly relevant. Compact leaders are aware of the current accountability system’s limitations in terms of understanding how prepared students are for post-secondary success.

Representative Tricia Farley-Bouvier and Senator Adam Hinds opened the conversation by highlighting how important it is to build an accountability system that supports college and career readiness. In a region that is slowly losing population, the Berkshires needs all students to gain the skills necessary to replace aging workers.;

Below you’ll find links to our presentation and full video of the rich conversation. Here are a few soundbites to give you a sampling:

Pittsfield high school junior Olivia Nda on expanding assessment beyond standardized tests:

“It goes a lot further than just a teacher standing in front of a classroom. Each and every student is different, in how we comprehend things, how we think about things, how we observe things, so I don’t think we should have one baseline test.”

“Playing the viola and violin are very different ways of expressing yourself and learning than in math.”

Dana Rapp, Chair of Education Department, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) on the goal of education:

“For all the issues that are arising now and will into the future, we need students who can be not just efficient, but who can think deeply and creatively about the world that they’re going to inherit.”

Kris Hazzard, President and CEO of the Berkshire United Way:

“I really believe accountability is our friend. I really believe that. We shouldn’t be afraid of it, we should embrace it and make it our own.”

Berkshire County Regional Employment Board’s Heather Boulger on career interest and readiness:

“Schools do a good job preparing you for college, but more emphasis needs to be made on career readiness. Academic proficiency is no longer enough to prepare kids for the 21st century.”

President of the United Educators of Pittsfield, Brendan Sheran, on what we measure in schools:

“One of the things we do with school’s is we measure a lot of outputs. I think that we need to do a little bit of reflection here and talk about measuring some of the inputs [collaborative time for educators]”

James Birge, President of MCLA concluded the program by reaffirming the collaborative approach in this region:

“Berkshire county people come together to solve problems. It is remarkable for me to see how that prevailing sense of community has weathered storms, many storms of all sorts. And that’s our greatest asset.”

 Below are the full remarks from the day.

Special thanks are owed to  Jake Eberwein and the Berkshire Compact for planning and co-hosting the event, Pittsfield Superintendent Jake McCandless for expert moderation, and the Berkshire Museum for warm hospitality. Thanks also to all of the elected officials, including Mayor Tyer, Rep. Farley-Bouvier, and Sen. Hinds who attended, and all of the administrators, school committee and community members who participated in an outstanding dialogue. 

Take Action!

With the release of the full draft proposed state plan, DESE has officially opened the public comment period. They’ve built a great online survey for collecting feedback. We strongly encourage you to take a few moments to respond and offer your perspectives on how Massachusetts makes the most out of the new Every Student Succeeds Act.

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