Unfortunately, the charter school movement is a source of deep division within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and around the country. The labor movement in MA has a rich history of advancing worker protection rights and pro-labor groups see the non-union structure of most charter schools as an affront to educational and economic equity. Teacher unions have generally taken a stand against charter schools because of perceived inequities in student enrollment, retention, and funding.
As a way to bridge this divide, the founding group developed the following strategies:
Equitable and sustainable working conditions. Equity Lab operates within a 185 day schedule where staff do not work more than 8 hours per day. This ensures that innovative practices are sustainable and transferable to district schools.
Encourage staff to unionize. We are exploring being one of the first Commonwealth Charter Schools to unionize in Massachusetts in order to pioneer a model that integrates worker protection rights with educational innovation. This strategy is closely aligned to our school mission and vision to promote educational equity.
Implement systematic scaling of effective practices across the district. The proposed Chief Executive Officer worked on a project called the National Center for Scaling Up Effective Schools (NCSU). The Center was a partnership of Vanderbilt University, North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Educational Development Center (EDC). The purpose of NCSU was to develop, implement, and test new processes to scale up effective practices in secondary schools that districts will be able to use within the context of their own goals and unique circumstances.
Leverage the resources of the Big Picture Learning Network to scale innovative practices. Our school support partner, Big Picture Learning, has pioneered educational innovation and equity for over 20 years. They operate a school support network that works with districts to adapt innovative practices to diverse school and community contexts.
Leverage the Lawrence Compact or Lawrence Educational Network. The cities of Boston and Lawrence have successfully established an education compact where representatives from district, charter, and private/religious schools come together on a regular basis to set goals and regularly assess how they are working together to improve the educational outcomes for all students and families. The compact provides the infrastructure for these city-wide collaborations and allows for the sharing of innovative practices and resources. Equity Lab will leverage this compact or network to scale innovative practices across Greater Lawrence.