Exta Credit

In a commentary that begins on page 9 of this issue, S. Paul Reville calls education reform “the most important work of our time.” We couldn’t agree more. The job of school improvement is essential for the personal well-being of our children and the economic well-being of our state. That makes it work of the highest importance. And the task is far from complete. That makes it work for our time, now as much as ever.

Nearly nine years ago, the Commonwealth began an odyssey toward creating better, more effective, more equitable schools by passing the Education Reform Act of 1993. Since then, the state has more than doubled its annual expenditures on local school districts, exceeding $3 billion this fiscal year. It has reduced disparities in education spending between rich and poor by providing funds sufficient to support the basics of an adequate education in impoverished communities. And it has imposed, for the first time ever, standards for educational achievement that are not only ambitious but uniform–the same for Pittsfield and Provincetown, and for Lawrence and Lexington. The Big Dig notwithstanding, this is the most ambitious project of state government since World War II.

For these reasons, and many others, CommonWealth has devoted more of its pages to reporting on schools and their improvement than on any other topic in its nearly six years of existence. This coverage has included CommonWealth‘s only double issue to date, the Spring-Summer ’97 edition, which posed the question–still in need of answer–are schools improving? And it included the Spring ’00 issue, which presented the looming MCAS graduation requirement as the acid test of school improvement.

Now, we are pleased to mark another milestone in CommonWealth‘s publishing history. This is CommonWealth‘s first-ever extra edition. And the topic of this extra edition is, naturally enough, education reform.

It’s all the more appropriate that this special edition of CommonWealth is made possible by FleetBoston Financial. FleetBoston has been a sponsor of CommonWealth since its debut issue, in April 1996, and a key supporter of MassINC’s work in education from then until now. MassINC will host its next forum on education-reform issues in June, once again thanks to the generosity of FleetBoston.

So it doesn’t surprise us at all that Fleet has added to that effort by underwriting a full-length edition of CommonWealth to take a closer look at school reform in Massachusetts. We are grateful for the support and the encouragement. And we take Fleet’s confidence in us as a special challenge to put the pressing issues of school improvement under a journalistic microscope.

Tripp Jones Matt Malone