Bring it on!

The Gateway Cities Journal

Next year Beacon Hill leaders are expected to finally turn their attention to solving the Chapter 70 underfunding challenges that have long plagued Gateway City school districts and disadvantaged Gateway City students. Many are calling on the state to follow the 1993 ed reform playbook, and attach additional accountability for improving student learning to any significant increase in state aid. We wholeheartedly agree, with one caveat: the additional accountability should be driven by the communities themselves, rather than the state.

This week MassINC released the first in a series for papers defining this form of local accountability and making the case for a concerted effort to nurture it. For the past 25 years, the state and federal government have stepped forward to do more to ensure that schools are doing all that they can to improve student learning. However, we have neglected the important role that communities must play deciding what educational outcomes they want for their students, and holding each other mutually responsible for delivering on these shared aspirations.

Our new research on local accountability is the product of several years of work examining the topic of education accountability more broadly. It began in 2016, when we brought together leaders from small and mid-sized cities throughout New England to look at the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and examine the opportunities that this new federal education law presents to further innovation in teaching and learning. It was through those discussions, that the concept of local accountability first surfaced.

The concept of complementing state and federal accountability measures with measures developed locally has merit for all communities, but it is particularly compelling for urban districts, where public schools are increasingly called upon to serve much more systemic functions, from providing pre-K and other services that social-emotional development to building vocational skills and offering more support to students as they make challenging college and career transitions.

Through efforts like the Harvard Redesign Lab’s By All Means project in Salem, Gateway Cities are steadily adopting these more ambitious community-wide approach to learning and youth development. They need accountability policies and systems that live up to what they are trying to accomplish on behalf of their citizens.

Nobody likes money with strings attached and few get excited about more process and paperwork. It’s a difficult sell, but over the coming weeks, we’ll make a compelling argument that local accountability will provide real value to Gateway Cities in the long run. After digesting all of this new research, we hope that Gateway City leaders will step forward and ask state lawmakers to bring it on!    

Housing & Economic Development 

City property values in Worcester have risen by nearly 6 percent, according to a new report by City Assessor William J. Ford.

Geoffrey Anatole, owner of South Shore Property Management, receives initial approval to redevelop a dormant downtown Brockton property into luxury apartments.

A crowdfunding startup called “MainVest” begins work in cities such as Salem and Lynn, with the aim of concentrating capital into community-oriented downtown businesses who typically lack Wall Street or venture capital financing.

The US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation holds a hearing in Lawrence to address the Merrimack Valley gas explosions earlier this year.

Pittsfield forgives $2.55 million in loans awarded to the Beacon Cinema, a downtown anchor, to pave the way for new ownership by a small-theater chain.

Lowell House breaks ground on an innovative opioid treatment and recovery center, which will include a 28-unit complex of sober apartments.

Carollee Moore, an advocate for the homeless population in Lynn, talks about forging a stronger path from the streets to housing.

 Hot Oven Cookies,” a tasty creation by Sheila Coon who graduated from SPARK EforAll in Holyoke, opens on Main Street in downtown Springfield. The bakery is the recipient of a $15,000 Community Development Block Grant and help from MassDevelopment’s Lease it Local.


A recent school committee evaluation has commended Brockton superintendent Kathleen Smith for “doing more with less.”

A New Bedford Coalition to “Save Our Schools” continues its advocacy to address public school needs.


Mayors and city managers begin work to form a coalition dedicated to the MBTA commuter rail system, led by Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll.

The Sun Chronicle praises Attleboro’s historic stone railway arches as the city’s “architectural icons,” and notes the effect they have had on improving traffic conditions.

The MBTA and the city of Haverhill reach a deal on a controversial fence which would have “ruined the view” of a nearby restaurant. 

Creative Placemaking 

Renovations on a historic Fitchburg school building decimated by a 2016 fire are under way and will soon be transformed into the Fitchburg Arts Community, a complex of affordable housing and studio spaces for local artists.

The Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield sells 22 pieces of art and raises $53 million to refurbish and repair the building.

Lynn’s Beyond Walls hosts a garage sale with apparel and art supplies on Small Business Saturday. 

Taunton prepares for its annual Lights On festival on Taunton Green.



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