Change agent

With her upset victory, incoming Massachusetts Teachers Association president Barbara Madeloni delivered a jolt to the education establishment

oneononejun142.ashx____imgx.jpgHad 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.

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

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.

You and state education commissioner Mitchell Chester don’t agree on a number of issues, especially the use of testing, and he’s called some of your views “concerning.” There is a growing movement within Massachusetts, across the country, of teachers, parents, students, community members, who understand that what’s happening in our schools is not good for our students and not good for our communities. That should be the concern that we have—that and the incredible economic inequality that we have in this country.