So what does the former Boston School Committee member who’s running for mayor have to say about education?
Plenty. (In fairness, most candidates have a lot to say about education. It’s a hot topic, but right now, that’s beside the point of this post.)
John Barros released his four-point education platform—with a lot of bulleted addendums—last week calling for a “citywide learning system” to close opportunity and achievement gaps. The main points are common themes in the world of education reform: create a level playing field for all families, build on the excellence of all our local schools, establish new standards for quality, empower educational leaders.
But those bulleted addendums are where the specifics of Barros’s plan come into focus. Among them:
• Giving Boston public schools the same autonomy charter schools enjoy with everything from more flexibility with scheduling to deciding what community partners a school can join forces with and what that partnership will look like.
• Complementing that autonomy with an accountability system that includes not only teachers but also community partners and district administration. “Anybody who works with our schools is accountable,” Barros said. “People think teacher performance, which is true, but it’s beyond that.”
• Creating a single application and assignment system for all schools, so parents are less focused on deadlines and requirements and more focused on program differences—football vs. basketball, art vs. music, etc. (Previously written about by my colleague James Vaznis).
• Taking the temperature of staff and teachers’ morale. “I’ve heard from a lot of teachers that the environment in their school is really stressful and is being driven by an abusive message around accountability and we want to change that,” he said. “The climate has to be about support.”
• Measuring students’ social and emotional development by their ability to demonstrate mastery of certain characteristics and skills, not just be observing their ability to communicate, show respect, and work in a team.
And while it’s not one of his bullet points, Barros believes not enough attention has been paid to the physical environment in which students learn, meaning the condition of their classrooms, playgrounds, cafeterias, and hallways.
“I am a candidate that is saying we are not doing enough capital investments,” he said during an interview. “We need a comprehensive facility plan, saying here is where we are going to get the money. We need to invest in Boston public schools.”