2024 Condition of Education: Community Conversation


Our world has changed so vastly over the last century, from the way we communicate, to the way we get around, to the way we work. But classrooms today remain strikingly similar to those of the 1920s, when schools were meant to prepare students for work on an assembly line. This year's Condition of Education Action Guide explores the need to rethink education to better meet the realities of today's students.

Over the past year, our team has been looking into innovative practices that reimagine when, where, and how learning happens. We found many bright spots across the Commonwealth, where practitioners are working hard on new approaches that support the needs of both students and educators in 2024. Listen in to hear from practitioners about how their work points to a way forward.



John Cusick, Rethinking Grading Coordinator and English Department Head, Springfield International Charter School
John Cusick earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Massachusetts before pursuing a Master of Art in English for Teachers from Western New England College. He has taught English at both the Middle and High School levels. Currently, John is the Head of the English Department at Springfield International Charter School and serves as the Rethinking Grading Coordinator, overseeing a federal grant to reevaluate the way in which students are assessed and student ability, knowledge, and skills are evaluated. John is also currently pursuing a Master in Education Administration from UMass Lowell.
Cameron Mendes-Moreau, Senior Manager of Network & Engagement, Massachusetts Alliance for Early College
Prior to serving as the Senior Manager of Network and Engagement with the Alliance, Cam served as Opportunity Youth Manager at the Boston Private Industry Council (PIC), where he convened two coalitions focused on education and workforce development for youth and young adults. In that role, he worked to advance policy and practice priorities to improve education and career outcomes for underserved students and young adults. Through this work, Cam built a foundation of experience in convening collective impact initiatives, and he honed his commitment to the career and life success of students and families. Prior to working at the PIC, Cam was in graduate school at Brandeis University’s Heller School of Social Policy and Management, where he earned a Master of Public Policy and a Social Impact MBA.
Emma Pascarella, K-5 Art Teacher, Lt. Edward J. McMahon School, Holyoke Public Schools
Emma Pascarella is an educator located in Western Massachusetts. Emma received her BA in Italian Studies from Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, and her MSEd in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College of Education in New York City. She is currently enrolled in the post-graduate Early Education, Research and Policy program at UMass Boston. She has been an early childhood educator since 2005 and has spent most of her career in first grade, but she has taught learners from preK to fifth. Emma has pursued teacher leadership roles since 2014, serving as a coach with the Collaborative for Educational Services, and she has been a mentor for new and established educators. She has served as an elected member of her district’s Instructional Leadership Team as well as an Advisory Council member to the superintendent. In 2022, Emma was selected as a Teach Plus Policy Fellow and National Advisory Board Member. As a Fellow, Emma pursued passing state and federal legislation recognizing the vital role of early childhood educators and aiming to raise their compensation levels to match those of their K-12 colleagues. Emma intends to continue to harness her classroom teaching experience, teacher leadership roles, and human development background to advocate for policy that will not only give all children relevant and joyful learning experiences, but also to help rebuild the teaching profession into a more sustainable and balanced career. 
Magda Rodriguez, Senior Director of National Strategy, Families First
Magda moved to the United States after receiving a law degree in Colombia. After establishing her own family and experiencing the process of raising two children in a foreign country, Magda became passionate about parenting issues and started to work as a family engagement leader for a non-profit organization offering services in the Boston Public Schools. In 2012, Magda joined the Families First team as a Parenting Educator and facilitated parenting and professional workshops in the Boston area. Currently, Magda is the Senior Director of National Strategy at Families First, a member of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisor Council, and a member of the Boston Universal Pre-K Advisory Committee.