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Why Massachusetts Gets an “A” for Education

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Massachusetts was named the best state in the country recently by Slate Magazine, based in part on its superior education system. While the state has a reputation for prestigious universities,  fourth- and eighth-grade math and reading skills topped the nation.

Slate used metrics such as the Chance for Success index, and a K-12 Achievement index that bundles test results, year-on-year improvement, and the gap between poor and wealthier children, which all showed that the Bay State was number one.

According to the website, Massachusetts students rank fifth in the world in reading, surpassing all other states, as well as Singapore and Japan. In math, the state comes in ninth ahead of Japan and Germany.

“There’s a surrounding group of things beyond what meets the eye that promotes education. It’s something seen as being in the public interest and a priority,” said Tracy Novick, Vice-Chair Worcester School Committee. “There is a long tradition of education being something seen in the public good and as a public resource.”

What Sets Mass. Apart

Massachusetts has a long tradition of showing support for education, the most recent impact being reform in 1993.

“There’s a 20 year effort in Massachusetts to raise standards to hold schools and students and communities accountable to results. We were one of the early states to pass an education reform in ’93,” said JC Considine, Director of Board and Media Relations at the Mass. Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

“We began to see results and improvement in early 2000s. It’s been astounding over the past decades. We’ve also seen graduation rates increase, which is crucial,” Considine said. “There’s nothing more important than making sure all students have the same opportunity – whether it’s coming out of high school or in college.”

Along with this dedication to higher standards, Novick added that there are other issues that play into a successful education system – like healthcare.

“There are a couple of things going on with education in the state. We are the only state in the country that enshrines public education in the state constitution,” Novick said. “The recently passed healthcare law also feeds into this issue. We’re making sure our children are getting their shots and are healthy – that they can see the blackboard.”

Good Times, Bad Times

Locally, education has been successful in its funding, pushing through the recession to cover budget gaps. Worcester schools have seen their hardships, but with such an emphasis throughout the state, struggles have been overcome.

“Because of how we organized the federal stimulus in the budget in Worcester, we were able to ride out the last few years of budget gaps. That’s something that hasn’t been the case everywhere,” Novick said. “When you compare the job cuts across the country in the past few years, we were handling things much better. We’re lucky, but we’ve had to fight for it.”

Coaudine Chin works at a local tutoring facility in Worcester, Kumon, and she knows first-hand that dedication to education is important – from the state level to the individual child.

“There’s a wide range of children I work with – from preschool to high school. Some of it is a little confusing for them because of different learning styles and different approaches they’ve seen in school,” Chin said. “We’re here to solidify their basic skills and help them

build on top of that. We give them a solid foundation.” The Kumon center has been in Worcester for nine years.

In those nine years, Chin says that while they still help children who are getting tutoring for remedial reasons, they have also seen them coming for a challenge.

“The reputation of the center and the program usually brings students to challenge their skills in math and reading. We did see more students coming for more of a challenge as well as remedial help.”

High Goals

“Our goal is to prepare every student for success after school. We do have high standards in Massachusetts, and we want to make sure that the school system is there to push them to those standards,” Considine said. Massachusetts will continue to push its institutions and students to perform their best.

The state will also reap benefits for its push for better education.

"Massachusetts educators now more than ever recognize the significance in preparing our young to be global citizens that can flourish in varying environments embracing innovation and invention. With a growing focus on service learning, we as educators strive to transform our students from service learners into service leaders," said Rose Pavlov, Child Specialist and Founder of Ivy Child International." Education is the greatest investment we can make in our selves as well as in our children. It is the sacred instrument to enhance and expand constructive opportunities for future generations better than that of our own path."

“We have a strong college and university system in Massachusetts. With a greater educated population, there are benefits. There will be more desire to learn and greater sources of parents caring about curriculum and the direction that education goes in,” Novick said. “We keep talking about education. People are interested, and they pay attention. This is an issue that’s not just of interest for people who have children in k-12. It’s a community priority.” 


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