What Price is Education?

On June 8, the Institute for Public Service, the Moakley Center for Public Management, and the Moakley Foundation, hosted a panel discussion on municipal education.

The talk, What Price is Education: Municipal Challenge or Opportunity, was part of the Moakley Breakfast Series. The talks are designed to carry on the legacy of late Congressman John Joseph Moakley, a Suffolk University Law School alumnus who made a lifetime commitment to public service.

Although access to quality education is essential for the development of future Massachusetts leaders, there are many challenges in providing students with the resources and skills for success.

The discussion, moderated by Suffolk alumnus Frederick W. Clark (JD ’86), president of the John Joseph Moakley Charitable Foundation and former chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, featured several prominent leaders in education. They explored some of the challenges in education and suggested possible proactive solutions.

Over the next decade, the demand for Massachusetts teachers is expected to grow exponentially, according to Director of the Center for Education Policy and Practice at the Massachusetts Teachers Association Kathleen J. Skinner. Today is “an opportunity to rethink how the workforce is prepared,” she said.

Although Massachusetts teachers are highly educated and skilled, their retention rates need to improve. Incentives, such as career coaching, and continuing education, are needed to help ensure that great teachers continue to practice in the state, she said.

Today’s diverse classrooms can also be challenging for teachers. “Knowing how to reach 20 different kinds of kids is important,” Skinner said. Teachers need to be culturally proficient and able to work with students with varying background and learning needs.

As more and more jobs require college degrees, the need for qualified teachers is imperative, said Executive Director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education Linda Noonan. She emphasized the importance of developing long-term innovative solutions for today’s challenges.

Many schools promote their science, technology, engineer, and math programs, to help prepare students for today’s fast-paced, high-tech world. However, schools need to do more than just offer the right classes. Teachers need to be a source of motivation. “Inspired students need inspiring educators,” Noonan said.

Superintendent of Belmont School Thomas Kingston agreed, emphasizing the importance of instilling a sense of aspiration in both children and their families. Teachers need to help students plan for their futures, he said.

Kingston helps students realize their goals by advocating for internships and apprenticeships and developing new uses for technology in the classroom. Opportunities to engage within the community offer important experiences for youth, he explained.

Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and Suffolk alumnus Glenn Koocher (MPA ’77) said, “diligent, focused, persistent work by committed educators in a long-term fashion” is necessary to improve education systems.

At the end of the discussion, Kevin Ryan, chief of staff for Congressman Stephen Lynch, received the annual Moakley Breakfast Series Award in Public Service for demonstrating exemplary qualities, including loyalty, compassion, and respect, as a public servant.