The Codcast: Missed opportunities with new K-12 plan

Massachusetts is about to submit to the US Department of Education its plan for monitoring and holding schools accountable under the new Every Student Succeeds Act, the law passed in late 2015 that replaced the No Child Left Behind law.

The new law, which, like the No Child statute, is really a reauthorization of landmark 1965 legislation creating a bigger federal role in overseeing and funding education, gives states more leeway in how they hold schools and districts accountable for improving student outcomes.

MassINC research director Ben Forman and Linda Noonan, executive director of the Massachusetts Alliance for Education, say the state plan mainly holds pat.

“They maintain the status quo,” Forman says of the continued focus on measures of core academic achievement. “There’s a very compelling argument” to do so, he says, pointing to the steady improvements seen under the current system, with Massachusetts topping national rankings of student outcomes, and competitive internationally when benchmarked against other countries.

But both of them see big missed opportunities to push our system forward — and some danger from complacency and reliance on what we’ve done up until now.

Both expressed disappointment that the state plan does not include accountability measurements that are more targeted on “college and career readiness.”

“We’re only measuring whether they’re graduating with the skills in one domain,” Forman says of the high-stakes 10th grade test of English and math skills that students must pass to graduate from high school. Most are passing, yet many aren’t ready for post-secondary education, he says. 

Forman says the system could have included measures of whether students have been awarded credit for AP classes or received credits through early college coursework, both of which have been shown to be good predictors of persistence and degree completion in post-secondary studies. “Nothing gives a principal an incentive to pursue those,” he says of the state plan.

The state is currently revamping its testing system. Noonan says there needs to be more frank acknowledgement that the test the state had been using was never designed to measure college and career readiness. “It’s a 10th grade test that measures basic 8th grade skills,” she says. “It was designed to be a floor, it was designed to be the level every student would get to. Over time it has become a ceiling,” she says of the focus on the high pass rates on the 10th grade test now recorded at nearly all high schools.

The bottom line: They say it’s no time to rest on our laurels, and the state should remain open to rethinking its plan and embracing new measures going forward.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

As fault lines spread in the effort to bring the internet to western Massachusetts, the Baker administration relieves MassBroadband of $20 million in grant-making capacity. (MassLive)

State Sen. Patricia Jehlen and Rep. Mark Cusack, the co-chairs of the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Marijuana Policy, talk about the road to regulating recreational marijuana including the task of finding the “sweet spot” on raising taxes. (Greater Boston)

Gov. Charlie Baker, who once seemed cool to the state-driven life sciences initiative launched by his predecessor, Deval Patrick, made clear in a speech to biotech leaders that “he’s all-in,” reports the Globe.

Sen. Jamie Eldridge of Acton comes to the defense of Rep. Michelle DuBois of Brockton, who has taken heat for warning on her Facebook page of upcoming immigration raid. (NewBostonPost)

A bill offering legal protections to pregnant workers is getting very different treatment this year by the House, moving up to a top priority after getting iced out last year when business leaders objected to it (Boston Globe)

A Globe editorial rips US Rep. Katherine Clark for her remarks critical of Gov. Charlie Baker’s impending role on a panel created by President Trump to address the opioid addiction crisis, saying she’s playing politics over the issue.

Steve Koczela of the MassINC Polling Group dissects what could happen if both a new tax on millionaires and a cut in the sales tax end up on the ballot next year. (WBUR)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Free Speech Bus, which carries anti-transgender messages on its side, rolls into Boston and is met with protests. (Boston Globe) A NewBostonPost article provides the view from inside the bus.

Quincy is  looking to upgrade its sewer system as the city’s development boom brings increased demand on the capacity while the aging pipes have leaks that allow seawater into the system. (Patriot Ledger)

In a move certain to rattle the White House to its core, a crucial bellwether, the Cambridge City Council, plans to take up a measure next week calling on the US House to begin impeachment proceedings against President Trump. (Boston Globe)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Two White House officials were the sources of the information given to House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes that prompted him to declare some aides to President Trump were inadvertently caught up in surveillance sweeps. (New York Times)

Former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn has offered to testify before congressional committees investigating ties between the Trump campaign and Russia but the retired general wants immunity from prosecution. (New York Times)

Republicans had to wait for a senator recovering from spinal surgery to arrive on a special one-day trip from Georgia and beckon Vice President Mike Pence to cast a tie-breaking vote to pass a measure giving states the right to strip Planned Parenthood branches of federal funds. (Boston Globe)

President Trump, still smarting from his loss on health care legislation, is blaming the Freedom Caucus and threatening to run candidates against the conservative officials. (Time)

Gold Star father Kzihr Khan, a 30-year citizen of the US, appears to walk back earlier comments that he cancelled a planned talk in Toronto because his travel privileges were being reviewed by the US government. (The Republican)

Despite campaign promises to dump NAFTA, a draft from the Trump administration reportedly contains only modest changes to the trade deal. (Wall Street Journal)

US Rep. Seth Moulton calls Russia the biggest short-, medium-, and long-term threat to US national security. (Boston Globe)

The Boston area will be feeling the Bern today with three events on tap featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, all of them already at capacity. (Boston Globe)

ELECTIONS

Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah says he might step down if someone like Mitt Romney were to run for his seat. (Deseret News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Volkswagen has agreed to pay $157 million to 10 states, including Massachusetts, that brought suit against the carmaker for violating environmental standards when it fraudulently manipulated diesel emission tests. (New York Times)

EDUCATION

Lawrence High School athletic director Jim Licciardi asks the City Council for $61,502 to replace team uniforms that in some cases are 10 years old. The request was put on hold when councilors asked why the city, and not the school department, is being asked to buy the uniforms. (Eagle-Tribune)

The state says it will pick up the cost of Advanced Placement exams for some low-income students. (State House News)

Daniel Asquino, the retiring president of Mount Wachusett Community College, is leaving with a payment of $334,138 for accrued sick time and vacation. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

One measure of the scale at which lower-wage workers are opting to join the state’s Medicaid plan rather than get health insurance through their employer — a pattern that the Baker administration says is unsustainable: Partners HealthCare CEO David Torchiana tells the Herald editorial board some employees at the state’s giant health care provider are opting out of its generous plan in favor of MassHealth.

The number of babies born in the state addicted to opioids is up sharply. (Boston Herald)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Thursday issued a supplemental environmental impact statement for public comment for the moribund Cape Wind project in accordance with a court order last year that vacated the 2009 impact statement. (Cape Cod Times)

Sudbury Town Meeting will vote on two measures proposed by high school students to ban the sale of plastic water bottles and single use plastic bags. (MetroWest Daily News)

CASINOS/GAMBLING

Wynn Resorts is scooping up properties across from its casino site in Everett, paying far above assessed value for some multi-family houses that it plans to knock down in order to “add landscaping to make the entry to our resort spectacular,” says a company official. (Boston Globe)  

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission approves the sale of Suffolk Downs to a developer and also makes a pitch for taking total control of simulcasting in the state. (CommonWealth)

Blacks, immigrants, and those with less education are overrepresented among problem gamblers, according to a survey of 10,000 Massachusetts residents done for the state gambling commission. (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Immigration, Customs and Enforcement agents arrest five people who showed up at a federal immigration office in Lawrence seeking green cards. (WBUR)

Fishing mogul Carlos Rafael, known on the New Bedford docks as “The Codfather,” pled guilty in federal court to violating government catch quotas and smuggling cash out of the country. (Standard-Times)

A federal judge has ruled a suit against Plymouth District Attorney Timothy Cruz by a former assistant prosecutor who claims he was fired for refusing to donate to Cruz’s campaign can move forward to trial. (Patriot Ledger)