With her upset victory, incoming Massachusetts Teachers Association president Barbara Madeloni delivered a jolt to the education establishment
Had the leadership of the union sold out the members? That’s a baiting question. I think the union leadership has had a different understanding of the nature of what’s happening. The union leadership thought we could work with people around education reform as if we shared the same interests. The analysis that the membership responded to understands that the corporate reform efforts are not helpful to our students, not helpful to our communities, and in fact, undoing the promise of public education as a space for democracy.What was the message of your election as the new MTA president? I think the message is that educators want to reclaim the space where our voices are being heard and we want to bring the voices of parents and students into decision-making about what our public schools will look like.
You’ve been very critical of high-stakes tests, but their introduction was driven by a sense of urgency that schools had failed poorer children. How would we ensure that we’re not returning to those days if we put the brakes on high-stakes tests like MCAS? Public education in this country for many people has been really successful. We have had issues in terms of working with poor students and students of color. How we understand what the structural impediments have been to serving our poorest students and students of color is a really important part of understanding the strategies that we’re going to use to help those students. The first thing we have to do is have those students not be poor anymore. They also have to have the same kinds of resources within their school building as the students at our best public schools. Historically, we have not provided the same things for our poor children and for our students of color.You’ve also been critical of the state’s new teacher evaluation system. What sort of a system would you replace it with? If we start with the premise that teachers are capable and informed, and we can give them the autonomy and trust to do their work and to work with each other and with parents and students to develop in their work, then we create communities based on trust and based on the belief that we can all help each other grow. That’s what an evaluation system would look like, and that’s what a true growth model would look like. We can create communities where we can do that that are not based on a punitive measure and certainly where student test scores, which are the most insignificant piece of what happens in the classroom, are not a part of the decision about a teacher’s effectiveness.
Shouldn’t there be mechanisms in place to remove teachers who are not doing the job despite all these efforts? Absolutely. Those are in place right now. That’s always something that can happen if somebody is not serving children, is not capable of growing within the job.