I was reflecting on November’s PTO meeting over the course of this week and I got to thinking about a portion of our conversation that focused on the laws and regulations that govern public education. This is an important part of our work and is increasingly important for parents to understand. These laws and regulations create the context in which much of what you see happening in our school occurs which, consequently, has a high degree of influence on the kind of educational experiences and opportunities children have access to.
Public education in Massachusetts is generally governed by federal and state law which is then operationalized via regulations set by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. At the local level it is up to the School Committee and central office to determine the policies and practices on the ground that will bring the laws and regulations to life. That is a bird’s eye view of the system from 30,000 feet. There are many, many thousands of details and dynamics at play and it would take me a thousand pages to begin scratching the surface of that complexity. Rather than diving into all of that, I would like to point parents and community members to a few good resources that provide national, state, and local perspectives on the policy and politics that impact the education of Ben-Hem’s children.
National Level Public Policy and Legislation
This website provides links to many of the key federal laws that govern the work of schools. There is a lot of great information there!
This is a great periodical that provides a big picture look at public education across the United States.
State Level Policy and Regulation
This link will take you to the DESE’s press release archives. This is a good resource as it hi-lights some of the bigger picture work at the state level and provides lots of links to other resources for those of you who would like to read more.
The MASC website is a good starting place to get a feel for how policy and practice take shape across the state. At the bottom of the main page there are recent articles with links to archives.
Local Policy and Practice
School Committees in Massachusetts are charged with setting district level policy, establishing the budget, and the hiring and evaluation of the superintendent. The School Committee is a great local resource for parents and community members. Their web-site is full of helpful information that is relevant to public education in the Natick Public Schools.
The Office of Curriculum, Assessment, and Innovation is best described as the brain and central nervous system of the school district. As it’s name indicates, this office is primarily responsible for the ongoing coordination, evaluation, and development of K-12 curricula in the Natick Schools.