Great need for increased attention to accountability at the local level
Exploring the opportunity through our Gateways podcast series
How do we get to a future where communities provide more accountability locally and also play a central role helping the state improve its accountability practices? To answer these questions, we embarked on a series of podcasts.
The first stop was Worcester, where we talked Local Accountability with Tracy Novick, former school committee member and Field Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees. Tracy pointed out that turnaround schools are a notable exception when it comes to strategic planning and accountability for executing the plan.
To pick up on the turnaround school story, we went back to Worcester to hear about How One Community Transformed a Struggling School. Union Hill Elementary was one of the first schools in the state to undergo a successful transformation from struggling to high achieving. Marie Morse and Kareem Tatum, who spearheaded the turnaround as a formidable Principal/Assistant Principal duo, joined us on the podcast. We also heard from Mullen Sawyer, Executive Director of Oak Hill Community Development Corporation. Mullen described how efforts to increase housing stability in an area hard-hit by the foreclosure crisis were key to success. Working together, members of the community built a school that everyone could be proud of, which created a stabilizing force for the entire neighborhood.
Conducting our research, we saw that larger cities with more resources had pioneered many of the local accountability efforts around the country. To learn from these districts, we sat down with Marinell Rousmaniere, CEO of Edvestors. Marinell shared the history of efforts in Boston to provide parents with a more complete picture of school quality, including her organization’s work to enhance measures of arts learning. We then went to Springfield to chat with Paul Foster, Chief Information Officer for Springfield Public Schools. Paul described how principals and superintendent evaluations in Springfield are now data-driven and aligned with strategic plans (a practice that we found lacking in almost all of the evaluations we reviewed for our research report).This idea repeats in Caradonio and the Lowell Citywide Family Council: Jim Caradonio, the former superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools, speaks about his career in public education and the formative experience of working with business leaders early on to develop and implement thoughtful strategic plans. As superintendent, he felt it was crucial that his evaluation be tied entirely to performance on the measures laid out in the district’s strategic plan.
Accountability and the School Funding Debate offers a good feel for the moment that’s upon us now. We spoke with Representative Aaron Vega, author of the Education Promise Act, and Ed Lambert, a legislator representing Fall River in 1993 and currently Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education. In the conversation, you hear hope that more funding will come to Gateway City schools, frustration that students have been made to wait for so long, concern that an education aid package might lack appropriate accountability provisions, and trepidation that accountability might make the politics of a progressive funding formula that much more difficult to sort out.