For Immediate Release - January 03, 2011

Over $2 Million Available to Support the Development of Innovation Schools

Planning and Implementation Grants to Aid Prospective Applicants

BOSTON - Monday, January 3, 2011 - Over $2 million dollars in competitive grants and new support is now available to assist applicants across the state in the design and implementation of plans to open Innovation Schools.

A signature component of Governor Deval Patrick's Achievement Gap Act of 2010 which he signed into law in January, 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. The schools are designed and approved at the local level in order to best meet the unique needs of their students.

"The Innovation Schools initiative has tremendous potential to move public education forward in Massachusetts," said Governor Patrick. "Our success in public education will be measured by the success of our students, and Innovation Schools provide educators and partners with new flexibility and opportunities to reach more students more effectively."

"Education is about student learning and this administration is committed to maximizing opportunities for our students' academic achievements," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Innovation Schools empower educators to take charge and design education programs based in practice to ensure all students reach academic proficiency and higher."

The $2 million plus comes from $1.5 million in the Commonwealth's successful Race to the Top proposal, and a $650,000 grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, an organization with a successful history of supporting innovative and bold education reform strategies. Massachusetts has also received funding in the amounts of $70,000 and $35,000 from The Boston Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation respectively, two longstanding partners of the Executive Office of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. All of this funding is being used to award planning and implementation grants to school, district, and community teams and to provide ongoing technical assistance to educators and their partners that are interested in establishing Innovation Schools.

"We designed Innovation Schools to apply the best practices of our most successful traditional district schools, charter schools and pilot schools to impact a greater number of students," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "In addition to educating students, these schools will improve our ability to highlight and extend innovative, effective strategies in teaching and learning to a greater number of schools."

"Innovation Schools provide educators with a new option to build supportive schools that ensure students reach high standards and expectations," said Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "These dedicated funds will help ensure educators and partners have the resources necessary to apply what works to increase student learning."

Two Innovation Schools are already in operation after each received unanimous approval from their local school committees only months after the Governor signed the bill authorizing the schools. The Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere and the Pathways Early College Innovation School, a partnership between the Ralph C. Mahar School District and Mount Wachusett Community College, both began educating students in September 2010. In addition, the Massachusetts Virtual Academy, approved by the Greenfield School Committee in October 2010, has enrolled 285 students in the state's first virtual Innovation School.

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.

 

Jonathan Palumbo
Communications Director
Executive Office of Education
Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Office: 617-979-8348
Cell: 617-515-4606

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