VIVA Project brings "Voice Ideas Vision Action" to bear on critical question

What do teachers believe is needed to close the achievement gap in our schools, particularly those in low- and moderate-income communities?

The MTA is working with a nonprofit group called the VIVA Project – the letters stand for Voice Ideas Vision Action – to foster an online discussion about this subject among teachers and other instructional professionals who are represented by the association in certain urban districts, including those working in cities and towns known as Gateway Communities.

“Too often, people with little or no experience in teaching are making the major policy decisions that affect how and what we teach,” said MTA President Paul Toner. “We believe teachers should continually be asked what they believe is needed and our voices should carry the most weight.

“Members of the VIVA staff have a track record of fostering thoughtful discussions about current education issues, which is why we invited them to come here and facilitate a discussion about the difficult issue of how to close the achievement gap, which persists despite our state’s overall high level of performance,” he added.

While the achievement gap among students of different socioeconomic backgrounds is prevalent statewide, it is most pressing in communities where the challenges related to family income are greater. In order to focus on the needs of students in those communities, the MTA conversation is open only to classroom teachers and instructional professionals who work in schools in Barnstable, Brockton, Cambridge, Chicopee, Everett, Fall River, Fitchburg, Haverhill, Holyoke, Leominster, Malden, Methuen, New Bedford, Pittsfield, Quincy, Revere, Somerville, Springfield, Taunton, Westfield and Worcester.

The short-term online discussion – called an Idea Exchange – opened on April 9. MTA members in the targeted districts are being informed about how to participate. Educators from the participating districts who want to sign on can also go directly to http://vivamta.socialsphere.com. Educators who have questions may e-mail Cindy Richards of VIVA at crichards@vivateachers.org.
VIVA’s goal is to raise the level of teachers’ voices in education policy. Its staff moderates the Idea Exchange, but teachers shape the policy prescriptions recommended.

Once the exchange closes, participants who have been identified as “thought leaders” will be invited to join a small Writing Collaborative. Supported by the resources of VIVA, that group will summarize the ideas generated and turn them into actionable recommendations that will be delivered to MTA leaders.

The VIVA Project has previously completed similar projects at the national, state and district levels. The reports can be found at www.vivateachers.org.