Celebrating 25 Years of Education Reform- All Means All

Richard J. Robison, FCSN Executive DirectorThis is the 25th anniversary of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act, which increased and stabilized state aid to local school districts, established common learning expectations for all students, and made it easier to see where schools are doing well and where support might be needed. Our state law was soon followed by initiatives at the federal level: programs such as Goals 2000, and the reauthorization of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in 1997 and 2004. Under these revisions every student, including students with disabilities, would be guaranteed full access to the general curriculum offered to any student. This was an amazing breakthrough: for the first time, students with disabilities would be able to learn the same things as those without and experience high expectations for learning. In other words, following years of minimal access and impeded progress, the new standard was All means All!

In honor of this anniversary year, the Federation is working with the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education in launching the Leading the Nation campaign, a celebration of public school student success in partnership with school districts across the state and more than a dozen other education associations and organizations. The campaign will include a week of local activities organized by school districts from May 7-11, as well as extensive social and traditional media outreach.

Here are some highlights:

  • Statewide, our students are #1 in the U.S. in reading and math on NAEP, “The Nation’s Report Card” (2015);
  • #1 in the world in reading on the PISA international assessment (2016): If Massachusetts were a nation, it would share the top spot in reading with eight other nations worldwide.
  • Massachusetts’ four-year graduation rate has increased each of the last 10 years, and the dropout rate has decreased during the same period of time.
  • Massachusetts schools have a shared commitment to welcoming and supporting all students regardless of race, ethnicity, immigration status, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender.
  • Massachusetts’ public education system received the highest ratings in the nation for the third year in a row in 2017 as measured by Education Week’s Quality Counts report.

Indeed there is much to celebrate, but this is no time to rest on our laurels; there is much work yet to be done. We know that a significant achievement gap still exists between student with disabilities and those without. Students who face linguistic and cultural barriers can become easily lost in the midst of school bureaucracies. Families of students with social or emotional challenges often experience incredible frustration obtaining the appropriate supports for their children.

It is our hope that discussing the education reform legislation will remind today’s decision makers about the needs it addressed and the challenges we still face in spreading Massachusetts’ success to all districts and all students. We still maintain All Means All and hold high expectations for our government and school leaders to not rest until every student succeeds!
Let’s celebrate our success and fight on for all of our students.

Best wishes,
Richard Robison