The educational achievement gap in Massachusetts’ public schools is one that generally leaves students in urban classrooms behind, and as state Education Secretary Paul Reville said in a meeting at The Eagle this week, the state is "morally obligated" to see that it is closed. This sense of obligation led to the Patrick administration’s Gateway Cities Education Agenda focused on the 24 designated Gateway cities, one of which is Pittsfield.
Mr. Reville began his day with a visit to Pittsfield’s Reid Middle School to discuss and get feedback about the education initiative. The Patrick administration has included $10 million in additional funding to support the initiative in its fiscal 2013 budget proposal, and the gateway agenda includes shifts in focus to help children living in poverty, minority children, those with disabilities and those who speak English as a second language close the learning gap between them and their peers.
The agenda is centered around five platforms, the first of which, assuring that every child is able to read proficiently by the third grade, is aligned with that of the new city-wide coalition called Pittsfield Promise. The governor’s program would provide grants for early education programs. The second plank involves social service providers with low-income students and their families to ensure children attend school and are ready to learn when they get there. The third part of the agenda calls for tailoring educational programs specifically to students whose second language is English. This could involve summer and afterschool programs.
The fourth item is providing career guidance earlier, in part by, Reville said, moving away from the assumption that everyone is on track to go to a four-year liberal arts college until proven otherwise. He wants schools to create partnerships with local employers and work force development groups. Finally, a research and development fund would be created to develop innovative educational concepts.
This is an ambitious agenda, one that calls for new funding when budgets are tight and will upset traditionalists. The challenges our students face in a complex global economy that puts a premium on education, however, require aggressive, ambitious methods of ensuring they get a fair shot. That is the intent of the Gateway Cities Education Agenda.