Letters to the Editor

MAPC Applauds Gov. Baker for Signing Landmark Climate Bill

To the Editor,

The Metropolitan Area Planning Council (MAPC) in Boston released the following statement thanking Gov. Baker for signing the new climate bill into law last week:

We at MAPC are thrilled to see this history-making legislation signed into law today. This is a huge win for environmental justice, and will put our state on a clear path toward zero emissions by 2050.

Most impressive of all are the ways this law will help our most marginalized populations, who have consistently borne the brunt of climate related impacts, from heat to flooding to pollution and beyond.

“Massachusetts will also become a leader in offering a net-zero building energy code thanks to this law, enabling future developments to be constructed in a healthier, more climate-resilient way.

Many thanks go to the countless advocates who advanced this legislation, both the House and Senate leadership who made a revamped climate bill their top priority this session, and to Gov. Baker for signing the bill into law so quickly. We can’t wait to get to work supporting our cities and towns in using this moment to plan for a climate-forward future.

Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Stop Assuming Women, Especially Women of Color, Aren’t Qualified to Lead

To the Editor,

Sexism is not new. I and every other woman in the world have been dealing with it all of our lives. It seems that men are assumed to be qualified for jobs without any facts, but women are assumed to be not qualified, again without any facts.

I am going to give a real life example.

Most of my life I have worked in male dominated professions. I started as a seasonal firefighter at age 20, then made my way up to seasonal inspector/investigator, then permanent full time inspector/investigator. During these years, I was told over and over that I only got my job because I am a woman. Here’s the problem with that: when I started, I was already in school getting my degrees in fire science and criminal justice. I graduated both with honors. When I applied for the seasonal inspector position, I had the two degrees, had put myself through the Firefighter 1 academy, and two of three levels each of inspector and investigator certifications from Asilomar. I was told by my bosses that I was miles ahead of any other candidate that applied. Every other candidate was male, and had seasonal experience like me, but no education at all or very little. But I still had to hear every day how I only got my job “because I am a woman.” Yes, if it wasn’t for affirmative action, women and POC would never have jobs as police officers or firefighters, so it gave us opportunity where we were previously shut out. BUT, and this is a big but, we always have to work twice to three times as hard to even be seen as somewhat equal to any of our male counterparts. To be honest, most of the sexism I experienced came from outside the department, from the public and men who didn’t get jobs because they didn’t do any of the work to get experience and education and wanted to blame it on something other than that they just had not done the work.

Reverend Renee Solano

Everett

EPS Joins Urban Districts in Seeking a Waiver from Testing Requirements

To the Editor,

The following letter was written by the Urban Superintendents’ Network, of which, Everett Public Schools Superintendent Priya tahiliani, is a proud member:

I urge our families and residents to read this communication, which clearly and convincingly articulates why mandatory MCAS testing would be detrimental to our students. The EPS and its educators are committed to making the absolute best out of the time we have left in 2020-2021 for full-time in-person teaching and learning. We hope to address several key issues when our students return to their classrooms in April, and I can assure you that standardized-test prep is not among them. Required testing is not fair to our students, our teachers, or our families.

Dear Members of the Board of Education:

The Urban Superintendents’ Network comprises 25 urban school districts located in various regions across the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and educating 279,653 students, making up approximately 31% of the entire public-school student population in our state. We write to you today as the chief child education advocates in our respective school districts with grave concerns regarding the decision to proceed with the requirement of administering the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test this year to students in grades 3-8 and high school. We write to you today to give voice to the students and their families who do not have voice; we write to you today from the lens of equity and fairness. Finally, we write to you today from the core value of putting the needs of our children first; we contend, a state- wide assessment is not an immediate need this spring.

We are struggling to understand the point of diverting our time, energy, and talent from the very real work of ensuring that urban students and their families are supported to combat ongoing food and housing insecurities, physical health and safety issues, social -emotional and mental health concerns, and academic gaps and foundational learning losses. In urban school districts in particular, we must wraparound our students and families and do all of these things. This is equity work, this is putting students first this spring. This is meeting students where they are first, and then moving them forward to success.

The core value of putting students first upon return means we are deploying our teachers to support our students socially and emotionally, establishing routines, comfort, relationships, and beginning to accelerate in a growth-mindset and forgiving environment where learning can occur. Whether we as the adults say the tests are or are not high stakes, our students will internalize the MCAS as a judgment. A judgment on students who have felt the greatest impact of Covid – 19; have spent the greatest number of days in remote learning compared to other students across the Commonwealth. Results of the tests will be publicly available – comparisons will be made district to district—and conclusions will be drawn, and stereotypes reinforced about urban schools and urban students. This is inequity at its most harmful to our next generation.

The argument that the MCAS test is needed to assess learning loss and can be used as a diagnostic, is invalid. As school district leaders, we have at our fingertips in our school districts, multiple formative and benchmark assessments, as well as the district determined measures developed a few years back. Local assessments are more nuanced and are able to truly be diagnostic as the local tests determine the learning progressions missing along the way to proficiency on the Standard. MCAS results are not timely and only tell us if the Standard was met—MCAS is a summative assessment, not formative, and not diagnostic. There are inconsistencies to the Commissioner waiving the Competency Determination (CD) for seniors (three MCAS tests) and allowing in lieu of the CD, course grades, and yet not allowing for those same course grades to be used in combination with local, district determined measures already being used by numerous school districts to assess learning loss.

Ultimately, there is no valid purpose for administering MCAS this spring to our students that we are able to present to you—other than the administration of the test will fulfill a perfunctory compliance task that is disruptive and stealing our valuable time away from efforts toward a healthy return, recovery, and acceleration of learning for all. Stealing time from our students.

Therefore, we ask that you join us in putting students first this spring; in providing students what they need through an EQUITY lens. Join us in requesting Commissioner Riley and Secretary Peyser petition Secretary of US DOE Miguel Cardona to waive the federal requirement for state testing this year. We are Massachusetts, number one in the nation for education. When we talk, our federal leaders do listen. We ask for the Massachusetts Board of Education members to join us in putting our students first.

Signed:

Dr. Brenda Cassellius, Boston Public Schools

Kenneth Salim, Cambridge Public Schools

Almudena G. Abeyta, Chelsea Public Schools

Lynn Clark, Chicopee Public Schools

Priya Tahiliani, Everett Public Schools

Matthew Malone, Fall River Public Schools

Robert M Jokela, Fitchburg Public Schools

Robert A. Tremblay, Framingham Public Schools

Margaret Marotta, Haverhill Public Schools

Paula Deacon, Leominster Public Schools

Dr. Joel D. Boyd, Lowell Public Schools

Patrick Tutwiler , Lynn Public Schools

John Oteri, Malden Public Schools

Thomas Anderson, New Bedford Public Schools

Dr. Dianne Kelly, Revere Public Schools

Daniel J. Warwick, Springfield Public Schools

Maureen Binienda, Worcester Public Schools

John J. Cabral, Taunton Public Schools

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