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On May 11, the Rennie Center presented "The Condition of Education in Western Massachusetts" at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. They introduced their data dashboard and hosted a panel discussion on student-centered learning.
Secretary Peyser opened the session with remarks on his findings from reviewing the data dashboard, particularly around low income students. He advocated for expansion of programs like the Springfield Empowerment Zone for staff "to take control over their schools and to be held accountable." Concerned that in a high-performing state educators might not continue to strive, he commented we "can't afford to be complacent...that bar is going up all the time."
Senator Lesser spoke of the need, with the reworking of the state testing system and the work on implementing a review of the foundation budget, to pay renewed attention to "educating the citizen." Lamenting the "civic deserts" found by Tuft University's CIRCLE, Lesser advocated for students as active community leaders who are able "to grapple with tough questions, to be a life-long learner, to learn and grow."
After a review of the data dashboard, a panel of district and community members spoke of student-centered learning in their own communities. Lisa Bakowski spoke of the one to one program at Boland Elementary School in Springfield, where she serves as principal, and of the rich investigation students are learning to bring to their own educations as a result. Richard Malinoski introduced the Teach to One math program now being used at Chesnut Accelerated Middle School, where he teaches math, which allows students to learn at their own pace, in groups, as individuals, as a full class, and of the richness of experience that allows. Kate Phelon of the Greater Westfield Chamber of Commerce spoke of her organization's partnership with the Westfield Public Schools through mentorship and career events. Steve Zrike, superintendent-receiver in Holyoke, focused on the pathway work at Holyoke High, creating an ownership of student education by the students, with a clear line leading to work or higher education.
After some questions, including those around the need for solid grounding before further expansion, of the vital need for school-level buy-in on any new program, and the need for foundation budget advocacy, the program closed with remarks from Tricia Canavan of United Personnel.