For Immediate Release - February 23, 2011

27 New Innovation School Prospectuses Receive Local Approval

Many districts are one step closer to providing new choices for students and their families

BOSTON - As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's efforts to close achievement gaps and promote successful innovative strategies in education, the Administration today announced that 27 Innovation School prospectuses have received local approval from superintendents, school committee members, and union leaders. An initial prospectus, or preliminary plan for a proposed Innovation School, must be developed by an applicant and approved by a local screening committee before an Innovation School can be established. The 27 potential new schools have successfully completed the first stage of the approval process, and applicants and partner districts are progressing toward operating new schools - many potentially as early as September.

"Innovation Schools represent one of the most exciting portions of the Achievement Gap Act that I signed last year," said Governor Deval Patrick. "I am heartened to see so many leaders step up and embrace the challenge and the opportunity afforded by Innovation Schools."

A signature component of Governor Patrick's Achievement Gap Act of 2010, Innovation Schools function as in-district, charter-like public schools that can employ inventive strategies and creative approaches to education while keeping school funding within districts. Innovation Schools enjoy greater autonomy and flexibility with regard to curriculum, staffing, budget, schedule/calendar, professional development, and district policies.

"Massachusetts students will be more competitive in the global economy by mastering academic knowledge and employing real world business skills," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Innovation Schools represent the next generation of schools that apply the best lessons we have learned from our most successful schools in the Commonwealth."

The 27 Innovation School initial prospectuses were developed by a wide variety of applicants, including many teacher-led groups as well as superintendents, principals, partners in community organizations and representatives from higher education.

"Innovation Schools provide local teachers, parents, community partners and universities with the unique opportunity to open their own public school within existing districts," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "They offer the power to reform from the inside, and I'm delighted to see so much strong interest."

"The next generation of education reform is deeply anchored in our core principles of high expectations and doing what works for students," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "I am encouraged to see the interest of our educators in pursuing Innovation Schools that embody instructional environments in which all students are prepared for success in the 21st century."

The 27 potential new Innovation Schools represent a wide swath of the state and feature plans to educate students over the whole spectrum from Pre-Kindergarten through high school including plans for conversion of existing schools and for opening new schools.

The proposals include a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) - themed school, a school that will promote stronger bilingual education programs, and an Alternative Education school, among many other themes and areas of focus.

Local stakeholders have approved initial prospectuses for eight schools in Boston, five schools in Worcester and two schools in the Quaboag Regional School District as well as one each in Dennis-Yarmouth, Falmouth, Framingham, Granby- Easthampton-Belchertown-Ludlow-Ware, Hadley, Monson, New Bedford, North Middlesex Regional, Salem, Springfield and West Springfield.

To aid in the planning and approval process, the Commonwealth recently announced the availability of a total of $2 million in planning grants including support from the state's successful Race to the Top proposal, with additional support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Boston Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. The planning grants will support the development of innovation plans that will be submitted to local school committees for final approval, and the implementation grants will support operational costs for one year.

The Commonwealth is the home to three operational Innovation Schools including the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere, the Pathways Early College Innovation School in partnership between the Ralph C. Mahar School District and Mount Wachusett Community College, and the Massachusetts Virtual Academy in Greenfield. Additionally, the Hadley School Committee approved the establishment of the Hadley Virtual Academy of Massachusetts in January which will begin operation in September.

Innovation Schools were designed to complement the state's work with charter schools. The Achievement Gap Act of 2010 that authorized Innovation Schools also included a raising of the cap on charter schools by doubling the maximum allowable district spending on charter schools from 9% to 18% in the state's lowest performing districts for proven providers seeking to expand or open new schools. The dual approach, lifting the cap on charter schools and authorizing Innovation Schools, was designed to simultaneously accelerate efforts to close achievement gaps and promote successful innovative strategies in education reform.

For more information on Innovation Schools please visit www.mass.gov/edu/innovationschools.