NORTH ADAMS, MASS. — The Berkshire Compact for Education and its lead partner, Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), along with MassINC, invite the public to attend a breakfast forum on opportunities that coincide with “Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to Improve Education Accountability in Gateway Cities,” on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 8-10 a.m. at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield.

ESSA is the most dramatic change to federal education funding and accountability since Congress enacted the No Child Left Behind law in 2002, according to Jake Eberwein, chair of the Berkshire Compact for Education and MCLA’s dean of graduate and continuing education. The decisions state education officials make over the next few months will have long-term implications for inclusive urban districts like Pittsfield.

This event, which is open to all and free with registration, will provide a forum for leaders, students, and parents to reflect on lessons learned from the “No Child Left Behind” era, and consider how new approaches to accountability can better position students and families for success.

To comply with ESSA, the Commonwealth is developing a new system to evaluate schools and provide additional assistance to those that are struggling.

“Massachusetts is working to revise our accountability system to comply with the new federal education act,” Eberwein said. “Among many changes, the new law asks states to devise additional measures of student learning, with an aim toward ensuring that students gain both the academic knowledge and the non-academic skills they will need to be successful after high school in college, career and civic life.”

At the forum, MassINC will present research on the new opportunities that ESSA affords urban districts, as well as findings from a recent public opinion poll of Gateway City residents on education accountability.

State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier (D-Pittsfield), Sen. Adam Hinds (D-Pittsfield), MCLA President James F. Birge and Eberwein will offer brief remarks. The event also will include a panel conversation, moderated by Pittsfield Public Schools Superintendent Jason McCandless, and a question and answer session.

Panelists will include MCLA Education Professor Dana Rapp; Andrea Wadsworth of the Berkshire County Education Task Force; Heather Boulger, executive director of the Berkshire County Regional Employment Board; United Educators of Pittsfield President Brendan Sheran; and Kris Hazzard, chief executive officer of the Berkshire United Way.

The Compact and MassINC values public participation in this conversation, Eberwein said, as the opportunity and willingness to convene and dialogue is a characteristic that sets the Berkshires apart.   

Seating for this breakfast forum is limited. To register, go to The Berkshire Museum is at 39 South St., Pittsfield.

Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) is the Commonwealth's public liberal arts college and a campus of the Massachusetts state university system. MCLA promotes excellence in learning and teaching, innovative scholarship, intellectual creativity, public service, applied knowledge, and active and responsible citizenship. MCLA graduates are prepared to be practical problem solvers and engaged, resilient global citizens.

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