Reimagining Schools Safety
Although we approve of police officers familiarizing themselves with school layout during non-school hours as a way to train on entering and exiting school buildings in the event of emergencies, we are opposed to the housing of police officers within schools permanently. The research is clear that school safety is not improved with the use of permanent SROs. In fact, many feel unsafe in the presence of police officers. This is a local, statewide, and national problem. Providence schools and Minneapolis schools have responded by terminating contracts with police departments.
The school system should cease the use of SROs in our schools. A restorative practice/justice program should be implemented and approached as an interconnected part of school culture that takes seriously the three key aspects: creating just and equitable learning environments; building and maintaining healthy relationships; healing harm and transforming conflict. It should be fully funded and include ongoing professional development for teachers, staff, and student leaders.
For more information:
CFJJ Report: We are the Prey
CFJJ Report: Policing in Schools
NAACP New Bedford: Defund SROs
NBCSOS: Reimagining School Safety
Food Quality and Justice
The school system must prioritize equipping all schools with the facilities that allow for healthy meals to be prepared within the school building daily. We must opt for fresh, locally sourced and seasonal foods and scratch cooking whenever possible. Surveys should be distributed to students that assess the quality of school food every academic year. Additionally, we must: provide free, quality, culturally relevant meals to all students and we must recognize and analyze food systems for inequality and cultivate a commitment to take social and political action against these systems; value food service workers and ensure decent pay and working conditions; counter narratives that government regulated and funded is equated with low quality; and resist the privatization of food services. The NBCSOS is also calling for all school-based gardens to be re-established and managed by the communities that surround the school.
We must cancel MCAS and work to replace it with educator developed portfolio assessments that align with class instruction and allow for deep thinking and creativity. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has provided us with all of the standardized assessment data needed to help steer our school system. It should, of course, be utilized as one tool. The pandemic has taught us an important lesson that is also applicable well beyond this moment. These testing regimes are about rewarding privilege. Not too long ago, we seemed to be concerned with the illegal acts of wealthy parents who were buying their children’s way into elite schools. We should also be concerned with legal, although highly unethical practices that also function to secure the same outcomes -- high stakes testing is one of those practices. Countless educational researchers, many in our state, have concluded that measuring teacher effectiveness and school quality through high-stakes test scores is unreliable and unethical. If 97% of engineers agree that the bridge ahead is going to collapse, and 3% say not to worry; would you keep driving? Evaluating teachers in this manner does very little to improve the profession. Rather, it encourages great teachers to resign.
If the state continues imposing the MCAS, a resolution should be written that calls for abandoning the test as a graduation requirement; that calls for a protection of the parental right to opt-out of standardized testing and student data collection; that requires informed parental/guardian consent forms for children to be subjected to standardized testing; and eliminate standardized test-based tracking of students into homogenous classes (Gifted and Talented, Advanced Placement, etc.). The resolution should clearly articulate that any testing of students outside of the boundaries and control of an educator’s specific class is unethical without parental consent.
The system must also oppose the media’s publication of school standardized test performance since it perpetuates biases against low-scoring/low income schools and neighborhoods. We want an investment in school funding to eliminate “opportunity gaps” rather than test-based “achievement gaps.”