Mass. ed guidance scores well in MIT report

Updated: May 19, 2020

This article originally appeared in Commonwealth on April 15, 2020 by Michael Jonas.


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WHILE MASSACHUSETTS SCHOOLS are scrambling — with mixed results — to try to continue lessons for students who are now sequestered at home, the state gets good grades from a new review of the guidelines issued by all 50 state education departments to help districts structure remote learning amidst the coronavirus pandemic. 

The guidance recommendations issued in late March by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education tied with two other states for second best after Texas on a set of 21 indicators established by the Teaching Systems Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Among the factors the report looked at were whether the guidance discussed teaching new material versus focusing on enrichment and review; issues related to English language learners and special education students; digital and non-digital kinds of home-based learning; and discussion of the mental and physical wellbeing of students.  “We thought the state guidance was good. It was among the more comprehensive that we reviewed,” Justin Reich, an assistant professor at MIT and lead author of the report said about the Massachusetts guidance to districts. 

The state recommendations were endorsed by a broad set of stakeholders, including the state superintendents’ association, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, both major teachers unions, and the state charter school association.  State education commissioner Jeff Riley said it was “gratifying to see the collaborative work” of those groups recognized as setting a good platform for districts.  The MIT report offered three broad recommendations to states during the pandemic: