Editorial: Massachusetts education bill would narrow achievement gap

Date Published: 
October 13, 2013
The Republican Editorials

Look no further than Springfield’s Alfred G. Zanetti Montessori School for evidence that state legislation aimed to eliminate the achievement gap is working. 

In 2010, when “An Act to Further Narrow the Achievement Gap” was enacted, Zanetti and 33 other schools in the state were designated as so-called “turnaround schools.” With some of the freedom that officials at charter schools enjoy, teachers and administrators at turnaround schools were empowered to improve student achievement by implementing a series of reforms such as hiring new staff and lengthening the school day. 

As the result of a three-year turnaround strategy, Zanetti was recently elevated from Level 4 status (chronically underperforming) to Level 1, the top rank. 

Last month, Gov. Deval L. Patrick toured Zanetti School and came away “all fired up” about what he saw. 

Massachusetts schools like Zanetti have made great strides in closing the achievement gap that continues to persist between urban and suburban schools, but there are other underperforming schools that continue to struggle making the grade. 

That’s why we support a bill, now in a Statehouse committee, that expands many of the elements contained in the 2010 legislation. Passage of the bill would give Bay State students in poorer communities the chance to succeed that they so badly deserve. 

In addition to providing aid for turnaround schools, the bill would also raise the cap on the number of charter schools in areas like Holyoke and Springfield. We support lifting the cap. 

Springfield’s 1-year-old VeritasPrep, a charter school which operates out of an old nursing home on Pine St., reported last month that it had narrowed the achievement gap to within a few percentage points in English Language Arts between its primarily low-income students and their more affluent suburban peers. 

We urge passage of the updated legislation aimed at narrowing the achievement gap. It’s been working very well, but there’s more work to be done. 