Viewpoint: Education Writers Association

Posted at 4:36 PM, May 05, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-05 18:58:43-04

All politics may be local. Few issues are exclusively local.

Perhaps more than anything else, that’s what I take away from this week’s Education Writers Association national seminar.

Education reporters from across the United States, and beyond, gathered in Boston for an intensive series of seminars on the big issues facing K-12 and higher education. As I write this post Wednesday morning — somewhere in the skies between Boston and Boise — I’m reminded that Idaho’s K-12 issues are anything but unique.

On Monday, an overflow crowd of writers crammed in for a panel discussion on charter schools. Charters are a sensitive topic in Massachusetts; a referendum to lift the stat’s charter school cap is likely to appear on the November ballot. Yet Monday’s talking points would have blended in nicely in any charter school hearing at the Idaho Statehouse.

Shannah Varon of the Boston Collegiate Charter School said voters can give more parents the chance to enroll their kids in charters, while encouraging school innovation. Juan Cofield of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP argued that charter expansion will continue to siphon off students, at the expense of the traditional schools. “(It’s) the worst thing in the world that can happen.”

The conference closed Tuesday with a keynote from Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. A Republican elected in 2014, Baker touted a state educational system that frequently appears at the top of national rankings. But he listed a series of challenges that aren’t unfamiliar to anyone who follows Idaho education: stagnating test scores, a shortage of career-ready graduates and a troubling college remediation rate. “We obviously need to upgrade what we’re doing at the K-12 level,” he said.

This week’s seminar theme, “The Quest for Quality and Equity,” means different things in different states.

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