Monfredo: Worcester Public Schools Moving Forward With Strategic Plan for Education

Sunday, April 29, 2018
John Monfredo, GoLocalWorcester MINDSETTERâ„¢

The Strategic Plan for education, two years in the making and twenty-five years since the last plan, was unveiled by the two organizations involved in its implementation… the Worcester Regional Research Bureau and the Worcester Education Collaborative. The final version of the plan must be approved by the School Committee when they receive the final report in June.  This is a major step for the city for education is the economic engine that moves our city forward and a strong school system supported by the community is what makes for a vibrant city.  The plan has the potential to do that but it will take hard work and a vision to move it forward.

Tim McGourthy, executive director of the Research Bureau, and Jennifer Davis Carey executive director of the Worcester Educational Collaborative were instrumental in crafting the plan after much input from the Rennie Center. They were involved in the writing of the plan and included ideas from the community. Both agree once approved that the key will be working together and moving forward to make it happen.  The good news is that many parts of the plan have already been started by Superintendent Maureen Binienda and thus the plan will be off to a good start.

The Superintendent embraced the plan and stated, “I feel the strategic plan is a strong document that includes the input of families, students, educators, and the community and business leaders. I look forward to the school committee review of the document… I am appreciative of the work of the Rennie Center, Worcester Educational Collaborative and the Regional Research Bureau.”

 In reviewing the plan I would say that we have the right superintendent in place to move many of the suggestions forward.  Our superintendent is a tireless worker, knows the system well, and is an innovator.   Obviously, not all of the recommendations can be implemented immediately for one major obstacle is the state’s current school funding formula which for several years has underfunded urban districts such as Worcester.

According to Mr. McGourthy the plan acknowledges our current challenges and lays out a roadmap for assembling resources and forming partnerships and programs to get it done.  He stated, “Our hope is that the Superintendent and the School Committee embrace the goals laid out in the plan, establish an implementation strategy and create a mechanism to measure progress on a quarterly basis.

There are five broad goals …

  • Culture of Innovation – evidence based practices and support of school leaders in making improvements.
  • Academic Excellence – all students will have access to rigorous and personalized learning supported by technology.  Part of the plan calls for the district to improve early education to ensure all students have the knowledge and skills to become lifelong learners.
  • Welcoming Schools – All students will gain a holistic set of skills and be supported by a network – inclusive of their families and the community – to realize their personal, academic and professional goals.    The schools will support students’ social and emotional health and foster collaboration with the families and the communities.
  • Investing in Educators – All students will be supported by effective educators who demonstrate leadership and commitment to enhancing student learning and development.   It recommends that the district enhance its educator workforce by recruiting top candidates from diverse backgrounds and support educators through training and instructional support in social-emotional learning, and integrated instruction with technology and cultural competence.
  • Technology and Operations – Worcester will come together as a city, community and school district to prioritize and support success for all students.  This includes more public participation in school policy discussions and new strategies to advocate for state funding.

 

The plan calls for the district to begin during the 2018-2019 school year with the goal to be completed by 2023.  Looking at the statistics – MCAS scores in reading on grade level by the end of grade three are at 31% and the goal is to be at 47% by the end of 2023… The district has an enrollment in postsecondary opportunities now at 65% with the goal being 76% … chronic absenteeism is at 17% with the goal of reducing it to 14%  …  other goals include increasing per pupil expenditures by 8% and increase diversity of new hires by 25%.

In their draft release Ms. Carey and Mr. McGourthy, in collaboration with Superintendent Binienda, stated … “A Strategic Plan for Education in Worcester articulates a commitment to continue Worcester’s renaissance by placing the city’s children, and the future that they represent at the center of our shared work.  It calls for the resources of a community, not just a school district, to fulfill that mission.  Achieving the goals of the plan will demand hard work and unflagging support from each sector of the city.  It will also require the dedicated involvement of the state.  We must ensure state funding levels realize the vision of the 1993 Education Reform Act and guarantee equitable outcomes in both high- wealth and low-wealth communities.  The results of these actions will be well worth the effort…”

Mr. McGourthy stated that the district will have to identify partners, secure funding, and launch an operational plan that will require both public and private leadership.  “Yet,” he stated,” if we succeed in building a framework for the public schools that takes advantage of Worcester’s educational cultural, and business assets, we will be in a class of our own.”

The community has been invited to provide feedback on the plan by using the comment feature on the worcester schools strategic plan website.  In addition, the community may join in for a discussion on May 7th at MCPHS University at 10 Lincoln Street.

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