Fashioned from the Governor’s Readiness Project of June, 2008, this complex new law aims at closing achievement gaps and completing the unfinished business of education reform by fulfilling the promise that every child is entitled to attend an excellent school and be prepared for educational and career success.
From the very early days of his campaign, Governor Patrick has insisted that education reform be the state’s top priority because it is the foundation on which the economic future of this Commonwealth will be built. He recognizes that education is the key to our prosperity but also that we have a moral obligation to provide all children with the opportunity to succeed. Put simply, education is the convergence of our moral obligations and our economic vitality.
In the past 17 years of school reform, Massachusetts has vaulted to the top of the country and sometimes the world on measures of academic performance. Empowered with the nation’s highest academic standards, rigorous assessments and powerful accountability systems, our teachers and students have worked incredibly hard to achieve amazing results. Yet, we still have a long way to go.
In 1993, we made a commitment to excellence and equity, to high expectations and an excellent school for every child. We worked hard. We set the pace for the nation on how to effectively employ high standards as a strategy for the improvement of teaching and learning. We made progress. But in spite of our best efforts and high averages, many students are not full realizing the benefits of education reform.
The Readiness Project is the Governor’s vision for the education future outlining a set of strategies designed to complete the job we set out to do in 1993. In July of 2008, the Governor charged me to immediately begin crafting a proposal that would provide educators with stronger tools and greater capacity, more supports for teachers and students and more flexibility and opportunities for innovation. The Achievement Gap bill delivers these tools, providing us with a great shot at finishing the work of school reform
This landmark legislation spreads innovation and choice across the Commonwealth, provides strong intervention tools to deal with persistently under-performing schools and lifts the charter cap by applying the strengths of our best charter schools in the places and for the students who need help most.
We must quickly rescue children from bad schools. Bad schools are not caused by high concentrations of poor teachers but by a combination of factors including low expectations, weak curricula, ineffective instruction, leadership issues, inexperienced faculty, poverty, behavioral, social and emotional problems and other elements. This bill ensures that this wide range of issues can be addressed and that leaders have the prerogatives, supports and resources to take immediate action.
The charter cap lift is highly focused, targeting the neediest districts and the children with the greatest need and relies on the experience and skills of a limited number of the most successful charter providers. These schools will offer opportunity and hope in places where failure has been the norm.
The most exciting and far-reaching part of the bill is the provision for Innovation Schools. Available to all school districts, Innovation Schools will be authorized through an inclusive, local process mainly controlled by school committees. These schools can be conversions of existing schools or new schools and will replicate the best aspects of charter schools within traditional school districts by allowing for enhanced autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, school district policies, and teachers’ contract provisions. Innovation schools can be proposed by teachers, principals, colleges, museums community based organizations and others. Most importantly, the funding for Innovation Schools stays in the district.
This monumental bill gives us the framework we need to build on the success of education reform and close achievement gaps. From here, it’s all about implementation. Education reform is big, challenging work, work that will involve thousands of leaders and tens of thousands of educators and nearly one million students. Only in a spirit of partnership will we be successful in finishing this work of reform and achieving our goals for our students and the Commonwealth.