During the parts of last night's gubernatorial debate that focused on education, as during the campaign itself, the discussion focused mainly on questions surrounding the MCAS and national standards. Those are obviously the subjects on everyone's mind, but a lot gets swept under the rug in the meantime.
Earlier today, Robert Schwartz, academic dean of the Harvard Graduate School of education, and Jill Norton, executive director of the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, passed along to Globe editorial writer Larry Harmon five vital questions that they say gubernatorial candidates should have to answer. The questions, which deal more directly with education's persistent inequality issues than did the discussion last night, are after the jump.
1. Massachusetts has made progress in educating its average students, but English language learners, low-income, special education, and minority students continue to lag behind their white and more affluent peers. These achievement gaps continue to plague Massachusetts, even as the state is viewed as a top-performer in terms of overall student achievement nationally and internationally. What will you do to ensure that our state's most vulnerable students receive the high quality education that will change the course of their futures? How will you close the achievement gap?
2. In today's market it is economic suicide for students to drop out of school before earning their high school diploma. How will you work to reduce dropout rates and to ensure that those who've already dropped out have options to earn their degree?
3. A growing number of Massachusetts jobs require a 2- or 4-year college degree, yet large numbers of high school graduates are entering college unprepared to complete college-level work and are forced to enroll in non-credit bearing, remedial courses. What will you do to ensure that students are college- and career-ready upon graduation from high school?
4. Abundant research has shown that students who have three of four effective teachers in a row will do well academically regardless of their racial or economic background, while those who have a series of weak teachers will fall far behind. What actions will you take to ensure that Massachusetts is preparing, supporting, and retaining effective teachers--and that these teachers are placed in the classrooms of the students who need them most?
5. As we strive to ensure that Massachusetts' workforce is attractive to current and potential employers, it is critical that educators, employers and students themselves have the ability to gauge whether or not students possess the knowledge and skills that will make them attractive to future employers. How will you work to ensure that our state assessments measure the knowledge and the skills needed to be successful in the information and technology-focused jobs of Massachusetts' current economy?
What did they miss? What would you ask the candidates about education?