Ed coalition urges focus on students with greatest need

Group call for careful monitoring of district spending under new funding law

THE NEWLY OVERHAULED state education funding formula has been touted as a way to improve the persistent gap in educational achievement between groups of students – poor students compared to wealthy ones, black and Latino students compared to white students, English language learners compared to native English speakers.

A new report being released Wednesday by the Massachusetts Education Equity Partnership, a coalition of social justice, civil rights, and education advocacy organizations, shows just how bad that gap continues to be. The organization is using the report to encourage state education officials to ensure that the new money – an estimated $1.5 billion more annually once the formula is fully phased in — actually goes to help disadvantaged students.

Geralde Gabeau, executive director of the Immigrant Family Services Institute and a member of the coalition, said in a statement that the implementation of the new funding formula “offers a once-in-a-generation chance for our districts and schools to make a dramatic improvement to the learning experiences and outcomes for historically underserved students.”

The report cites several statistics that illustrate the disparities in test scores:

In the 2019 MCAS, around half of all elementary and middle school students scored on grade level in English and math, but only around one-third or fewer of black and Latino students did. The numbers were even lower for English language learners and students with disabilities.

The results also varied by district. While in Quincy, half of economically disadvantaged students performed at grade level in English, closer to 15 percent of economically disadvantaged students in Holyoke did so.

On the national NAEP test, Massachusetts students overall rank first in the country in eighth grade math and reading scores, but Latino students rank 21st and 28th respectively.

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Shira Schoenberg

Reporter, CommonWealth

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

About Shira Schoenberg

Shira Schoenberg is a reporter at CommonWealth magazine. Shira previously worked for more than seven years at the Springfield Republican/MassLive.com where she covered state politics and elections, covering topics as diverse as the launch of the legal marijuana industry, problems with the state's foster care system and the elections of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Gov. Charlie Baker. Shira won the Massachusetts Bar Association's 2018 award for Excellence in Legal Journalism and has had several stories win awards from the New England Newspaper and Press Association. Shira covered the 2012 New Hampshire presidential primary for the Boston Globe. Before that, she worked for the Concord (N.H.) Monitor, where she wrote about state government, City Hall and Barack Obama's 2008 New Hampshire primary campaign. Shira holds a master's degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism.

Under the new law, districts must submit three-year improvement plans to the state education department by April 1 that describe how they’ll use the new education funding to address pressing challenges in their schools.

The report recommends that the state ensure that the new money is spent to help disadvantaged students and that districts track how each subgroup of students is doing. Among other recommendations, the report says this could involve doing outreach to these students through parents and community groups, recruiting diverse teachers, hiring additional counselors and social workers, offering professional development to teachers, enhancing after school programs and early education programs, increasing the number of advanced classes being offered, and offering dual language programs