On June 23, 2012, members of the VIVA MTA Writing Collaborative presented their ideas to the Board of Directors of the Massachusetts Teachers Association. The process continued on Aug. 5, when the teachers presented a revised version of their report, incorporating suggestions from MTA Board members.
Massachusetts Gateway Cities have a high percentage of residents living in poverty, growing immigrant populations and multiple language-minority residents. The tremendously dedicated classroom teachers in these communities and the Massachusetts Teachers Association recommend that Gateway Cities work together to share resources, address common challenges and advocate for more financial support.
Our goal as teachers is the education of creative and critical thinkers. Our students deserve to learn the skills that we use to be successful: critical thinking, adaptability and a whole host of others. Our current system makes choices for students: what they learn, when they learn it, and even how well they are capable of learning in general. A powerful education system should have different characteristics. Instead of making choices for our students, we should be empowering them to make their own choices. Students are not buckets to be filled with information. They are fires to be lit.
Teachers are already working on this change. There are thousands of dedicated teachers who strive every day to get their students to read, write, think and apply their knowledge. They are not always supported. Some teachers need to bend the rules, sneaking in labs or writing projects in circumstances where they have been instructed to give practice tests and multiple-choice exams. When every teacher in a district is directed to follow the same timeline
and scripted curriculum, then student questions and student engagement are not driving instruction. This is not a sustainable model of education. If we hope to help our students, to narrow the achievement gaps and to improve the quality of life in our Gateway Cities, we need policies to reflect the intensely personal and provocative nature of education. We need our schools to be growth-focused communities of learners.
Expand language acquisition programs by valuing the existing multilingualism in our Gateway Cities schools and enabling all students to achieve fluency in a second language.
Break the school-to-prison pipeline through student engagement programs focused on positive behavior outcomes.
Transform teacher preparation and professional development to ensure that all teachers are prepared to address the challenges of a diverse student population; then give teachers the autonomy to apply professional knowledge and skills in their classrooms.
Strengthen school-community relationships.
Lengthen the school day and reorganize the school year to better serve students.
Focus the existing Gateway Cities Coalition on identifying and sharing resources to support the recommendations in this report.