While Massachusetts consistently ranks first in education when compared to the rest of the country, there are still many schools and school districts that have fallen behind and are in need of improvement. As legislators, it is our job to find methods and models of education that provide standards and guidelines to our schools, teachers and administrators while also creating enough flexibility in schools and allowing educators to make necessary changes that will provide a better learning environment for our students.
My legislation would allow for statewide expansion of the Springfield Empowerment School Zone model - a partnership between the state, school officials and the teachers’ union in which select schools in a district operate autonomously, under control of an independent board of directors, gaining flexibility in the following areas: curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing, professional development and school district policies and procedures. The Empowerment Zone model enabled eight middle schools in Springfield to build on current systems and preserve local talent, while simultaneously bringing in new talent and making improvements elsewhere. As Massachusetts determines the best path forward to improve struggling schools and close the achievement gap, the Empowerment Zone model has emerged as key strategy, hinging on school level autonomy and accountability, along with a focus on an explicit inclusion of local voices.