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Michael Goldstein’s interest in education policy pre-dated his two years at Harvard Kennedy School. But by the time he graduated with a Master in Public Policy (MPP) in 1998, Goldstein had mapped out his early career path, designing a charter school for his Policy Analysis Exercise (PAE), the equivalent of a master’s thesis.
Goldstein brought his vision to life in 2000 when he founded the MATCH School a public charter high school in Boston. The school was formed around the principle that children from all socioeconomic backgrounds can excel in the classroom if they are pushed hard enough academically. Goldstein now serves as the school’s director of research and dissemination.
“I went to the Kennedy School expecting to learn ‘what works’ in education reform, then go and get involved in education policy at the state or federal level. I learned, however, that many of the policies don't affect a highly bureaucratic and regimented system; reform often ‘bounces off’ the traditional schools,” Goldstein said. “Meanwhile, I learned about a promising group of effective high-poverty charter public schools. So I designed a charter school as my PAE, thinking I'd just ‘learn by the experience.’ But then I kind of got pulled in and actually launched the school.”
The MATCH School is now considered one of the most successful in the country. A remarkable 99% of students in its first four graduating classes have been accepted into a four-year college or university. And in 2007, it placed in the top 100 of U.S. News and World Report’s rankings of public high schools nationwide.
“Our students make gigantic gains in achievement, far above the norm; and most become first in their families to go to college,” said Goldstein. “Our founding principal, Charlie Sposato, built MATCH on the notion of first building personal relationships with the students and their parents, then leveraging those relationships into generating enormous effort from kids who'd previously done very little in their former schools.”
Goldstein credits much of what he learned at the Kennedy School for helping inspire him to look beyond traditional school models.
“I had some wonderful professors who taught me to be very skeptical of the fads that sweep across the education landscape. My classmates, particularly those who had been in the teaching trenches, really helped shape my views,” Goldstein said. “I also really appreciated the ‘reinventing government’ theme: the various cases on how citizens, particularly those in low-income communities, could get much better services.”
Certainly, many students, parents and teachers would argue that Goldstein has helped “reinvent” education through his work at the MATCH School.
A teacher interacts with students at the MATCH School
“I had some wonderful professors who taught me to be very skeptical of the fads that sweep across the education landscape. My classmates, particularly those who had been in the teaching trenches, really helped shape my views,” Michael Goldstein said.