State Rep. Barbara Gardner (D-Holliston) called the new Massachusetts Education Reform Bill "a major step forward for the state" in a speech before a small group of educators yesterday at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School.
Gardner said the bill--which addresses issues such as school councils, staff development, tenure, multiculturalism, and violence prevention--calls for the development of a core curriculum in public education that includes English, science and technology as well as American history and physical education.
"It's a quantum leap forward in terms of expectations for our students," said Gardner in a speech sponsored by the Harvard chapter of Phi Delta Kappa Society, an honor society for educators.
Gardner said the bill also leaves room for experimentation in student evaluations. In addition to standardized tests, student accomplishments could be measured by reviewing a portfolio of their work.
Governor William F. Weld '66 signed the bill on June 19 of this year after a long and exhaustive process, said Gardner.
"For a while it seemed like a Russian novel--long, complicated, and in the end everybody dies," Gardner said.
In recent years, other proposed education reform bills have failed because of controversial sections or lack of funding, Gardner said.
Massachusetts is the first state to pass an educational reform bill in advance of a court decision ordering it to, Gardner said. She said reform was necessitated by a wide disparity in school spending statewide. Over a seven year period, Gardner said, the reform will mandate increased spending to give poorer communities additional funds. But, Gardner said, "no community will get nothing."
Gardner warned that although a strong framework has been laid, the bill does not include specific means of implementation. For the bill to succeed, she said, the public must continue to pressure the state Board of Education, which now has the responsibility of implementing the bill. Although many groups will be anxious to make amendments to the bill, Gardner said she hopes that it will be given a chance. "I see our job in the next year or two as holding the line; leave it alone, let it work," she said.