Martha believes that a quality, well-funded public education system is pivotal to ensuring a brighter future for our children and our country. The current economic crisis highlights the need for education reform that prepares students for the incredible challenges and unprecedented opportunities ahead.
Martha is deeply committed to public education. As Senator, she will fight to improve teacher compensation, fund programs that connect students to innovative technologies and industries, and implement education reform that fosters and rewards innovation.
Improving No Child Left Behind
Martha knows that funding for education at the federal and state levels is a long-term investment. In its current top-down, one-size-fits all form, No Child Left Behind ("NCLB") has not lived up to its promises. However, with several reforms, NCLB has the potential to deliver the changes students deserve.
As Senator, Martha will support legislation that directs federal funding to local governments to satisfy the requirements of NCLB. This way, municipal and regional school systems will have autonomy in directing funding and deciding what is best for their students.
Martha supports efforts to move away from measuring adequate yearly progress ("AYP") based on standardized testing. These tests fail to recognize that all children do not learn in the same way or at the same rate, especially in high-risk schools. By holding schools accountable to this one-size-fits-all standard, many are improperly labeled as underperforming and subject to unfair and counter-productive federal sanctions. Martha supports the use of growth models and indexing systems to focus on tracking the progress of individual students over time.
As Senator, Martha will support funding for universal preschool and all-day kindergarten in any reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act. She will also fight for stand-alone efforts to expand early education programs, such as Head Start.
Ensuring Safe Students, Safe Schools
Closing the achievement gap and preparing our children for success requires a partnership between families, communities, and schools. Martha knows that one of the most important things districts can do to help students excel is to provide a safe and productive environment in which they can learn.
In June 2008, Attorney General Coakley's office awarded $400,000 in grant funding through the Improving School Climate Initiative, which works with community groups and schools to use effective, innovative, peer-to-peer methods that improve the school climate.
Martha knows that for too many young people, school becomes a place to dread because of the actions of a small number of students who engage in bullying. As Attorney General, Martha prioritized this issue and made anti-bullying resources available to teachers, students, and parents across the Commonwealth.
As Attorney General, Martha worked to ensure that students were safe online. Her office's Cyber Crime Division partnered with the Boston Public Schools Cyber Safety Mentors Program, which teaches high school students how to mentor elementary school students about responsible social networking and online safety.
In Washington, Martha will continue to fight for policies that ensure students are safe at school and give families and teachers the resources they need to help students arrive at school ready to learn.
Martha knows that a key to meaningful education reform is improving how we train and compensate our nation's teachers.
First and foremost, Martha will support measures to improve the higher education programs that train teachers, and work to expand and improve training and professional development opportunities for teachers. Without excellent teachers, it is impossible to foster excellence in schools.
Martha believes teachers' compensation should reflect their responsibility to our national success and their status as consummate professionals. They should be rewarded for innovation, collaboration, and flexibility, not "teaching to the test."
As Senator, Martha will fight to protect teachers' health and retirement benefits as well as collective bargaining for public school educators. Martha will also support loan repayment programs and other compensation incentives to reward teachers who choose to dedicate themselves to districts with greater need and/or higher dropout rates.
Martha respects the role that charter schools have come to play in our public education system, especially to the extent that they can serve as laboratories for innovation. That said, she does not think they are the only answer to improving student achievement.
Martha is concerned about the impact of charter schools on the finances of host district schools. She will work to ensure that charter schools are transparent in their funding and administration, and that charter school achievement is measured fairly and accounts for attrition rates. She will explore a number of strategies to reduce costs for host districts, including reimbursing charter schools based on average costs of students in particular age groups; reducing district payments to charter schools based on the percentage of special needs students in the district; and increasing the amount of funding that goes to charter schools from the federal government, rather than siphoning off money from state or municipal funds.
Martha believes in an education system that will equip students with the tools they need to attain and thrive in good jobs. As Attorney General, Martha teamed up with the Mayor and Local Workforce Investment Board of New Bedford to host a Youth Employment Business Roundtable, which fostered mentor relationships and job skill development. From 1996 to 2009, the Attorney General's Office Jobs for Youth program funded over 1,000 jobs for teenagers across the Commonwealth, helping young people gain real world experience and the independence and self-confidence they will need to put their education to use.
Martha supports Massachusetts' involvement with the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, which promotes innovative education programs to integrate a spectrum of skills like critical thinking, leadership, financial literacy, and global awareness into public school curricula, in order to better prepare students for jobs in the global economy.
Supporting Vocational and Technical Training
Martha believes the federal government should prioritize vocational and technical education through career academies, tech prep programs, and career clusters. She supports aligning high school Career and Technical Education (CTE) with college preparatory and community college curricula, encouraging CTE teacher training, and seeking partnerships with community employers to usher students towards pathways to well-paying careers and post-secondary education.
In Washington, Martha will fight for policies that improve all our schools and serve all of our students. She will support measures that strengthen public schools, hold teachers and districts to high standards, and ensure that educators have the resources they need to equip students for 21st Century challenges.
Increasing Access to Higher Education
Fewer and fewer Americans are able to afford a college education, as college tuition and fees have skyrocketed over 400% since 1982. Martha knows that a college education is critical to long-term success, not only for individuals, but also for the workforce and the economy.
As Attorney General, Martha has worked to ensure college student loan conditions are fair to students. This summer, Martha successfully negotiated a settlement with Emerson College after finding that the school had unfairly steered students to borrow from certain lenders that gave undisclosed inducements to Emerson's financial aid staff.
Martha believes an array of strategies should be employed to help students afford higher education. As Senator, she will support an expansion of college tax credits, growth of public institutions of higher education, and efforts to strengthen the community college system.
Martha will also support federal funding to provide incentive grants to four-year colleges and universities to launch performance-based efforts to improve the graduation rates of lower-income and minority student populations, as well as an increase in federal loans, which provide lower interest rates and fairer loan terms for recent graduates.
As Senator, Martha will continue to champion strategies that help students at all skill levels and in all regions reach their potential. The current economic crisis has meant that even the most successful and advantaged students are at great risk of unemployment and financial hardship. Education reform must help all students navigate these new challenges and give them the resources to take full advantage of opportunities for growth.
* Attorney General Martha Coakley Addresses School Committees and Superintendents Conference
* Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office Obtains $780,368 From Emerson College for Student Loan Borrowers
* Massachusetts Schools to Receive Safety Grant Money
* Attorney General Martha Coakley, New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang, and the New Bedford Workforce Investment Board to Host Youth Employment Business Roundtable
* Promoting Civil Rights and Prohibiting Harassment, Bullying, Discrimination and Hate Crimes Sample Policy for Massachusetts School Districts
* The Partnership for 21st Century Skills: Massachusetts