white, they are serving a much more
diverse population — one in which
29 percent of students are from ethnic
and racial minority backgrounds. More
specifically, 8 percent of students,
but only 2. 6 percent of teachers, are
African-American and 15 percent of
students, but less than 3 percent of
teachers, are Latino.
n Improving the quality and
affordability of early childhood
education. According to a 2012 report
by the NAACP, “Finding Our Way
Back to First:
Children,” by the
time they reach
age 3, children
have heard as many as 30 million more
words than children from lower-income
families. In addition to educating
parents about the importance of talking
to and reading to their children, it is
critical to provide children with access
to high-quality early education.
n Encouraging and supporting
more highly qualified and
experienced educators to work in
schools in low-income areas in order
to improve the quality of instruction.
Better compensation and working
conditions in hard-to-staff schools are
important tools to advance this effort.
n Providing teachers and
administrators with resources
to support excellent teaching,
learning and leading. Teachers and
administrators need time to plan,
prepare, evaluate and assess their
instruction and their students’ learning.
This requires more time and resources
and much more engagement with
parents and the community to make all
n Examining and addressing
racial disparities in school discipline
and reducing school suspensions.
While school safety must be a priority,
student suspensions for nonviolent
offenses lead to increased dropout rates
and future incarceration — creating
the so-called school-to-prison pipeline.
Promoting disciplinary measures that
do not deprive students of time on
learning is a shared goal.
Organizations to focus on narrowing achievement gaps and other key goals
By Laura Barrett
and Jean Conley
T he MTA and the New England Area Conference of the NAACP chose Jan. 15, the 84th
anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther
King Jr., to announce a partnership to
address the educational achievement
gaps affecting low-income students and
students of color.
Priorities include increasing
the number of teachers of color
in Massachusetts public schools,
improving access to affordable high-quality early childhood education for
low-income students and students of
color, and recruiting and retaining
highly qualified teachers to work in
hard-to-staff urban schools.
“Education has long been the
key to success for students of color,”
said Juan Cofield, president of the
New England Area Conference of the
NAACP. “Too many of our children
enter kindergarten already behind and
MTA President Paul Toner said
the association is eager to work
with the NAACP to make sure that
all students have an opportunity to
learn and thrive in the state’s public
“On average, our students perform
better than students in any other
state and as well as top-performing
students in the world,” Toner said.
“Unfortunately, averages can mask
persistent disparities. While many
spots in top universities and
succeeding in their studies, too high
a percentage of students entering our
higher education system — especially
English language learners, students
of color and low-income students —
still need remedial education before
they can take college-level courses. In
The day after the announcement,
Toner praised Governor Deval
Patrick’s State of the Commonwealth
address, which proposed significant
new investments in public education,
from early education through college.
Patrick, Toner said, “is wise not to
conclude that our job is done.”
Cofield and Toner agreed that
poverty among African-American
and Latino students is at the root of
the problems facing many of them
and must be addressed through broad
political and economic reforms. They
also agreed, however, that school
systems can do more to close the
achievement gaps if they are given
adequate funding and support.
The partnership’s goals include:
n Increasing the number of
educators of color. Students of color
benefit greatly from having educator
role models who understand and share
their backgrounds. In Massachusetts,
as in other states, teachers of color are
underrepresented in schools. While 93
percent of Massachusetts teachers are
Please turn to MTA/Page 22
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