For Immediate Release - June 09, 2011

Governor Patrick Visits Pathways Early College Innovation School in Gardner

Highlights Patrick-Murray Administration's strategy to close achievement gaps and increase access to college through innovative approaches to learning

GARDNER - Thursday, June 9, 2011 - As part of the Patrick-Murray Administration's strategy to close achievement gaps by promoting innovation and excellence in education, Governor Deval Patrick today visited the faculty and staff of the Pathways Early College Innovation School - the state's second Innovation School - to hear from students and staff on the success of their first year in operation.

"The Pathways Early College Innovation School is using the Innovation School model to provide a dynamic education to their first class of students," said Governor Patrick. "The students and staff here are trailblazers and I am excited for their strong start and for their future as a school."

The Pathways Early College Innovation School is operated through a unique partnership between the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District and Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC). The primary purpose of the school is to provide motivated 11th grade students, some of whom have faced educational and other challenges, with an alternate pathway to higher education. The school was established by the unanimous vote of the Mahar Regional School Committee in June 2010, and it became the state's second Innovation School. During his visit today, Governor Patrick met with students and staff to learn about their first year and about how the flexibility and autonomy of operating an Innovation School helped ensure success for the students.

"The powerful stories of achievement of the students at the Pathways Early College Innovation School are inspiring," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "This is a powerful model for collaboration between school districts and community colleges, and I am very proud of the accomplishments of the students, the Mahar Regional School District, and MWCC."

The school is located on the MWCC campus and currently serves students from Athol, Barre, Baldwinville, Bolton, Fitchburg, Gardner, Leominster, Lunenburg, Orange, Shirley, Sterling, Townsend and Winchendon. The students are enrolled in MWCC courses and receive credit toward both their high school diplomas and certificate or degrees. In addition, they receive individualized academic and career support, participate in internships and other employment opportunities, and have access to all MWCC facilities and services.

"The Pathways Innovation School wouldn't be possible without our many talented teachers and educators and our strong partnership with Mount Wachusett Community College," said Mahar Superintendent Michael Baldassarre. "The Pathways Early College Innovation School is accomplishing its mission of helping all students access an education that prepares them for a long and successful future. We believe that the opportunities provided by the school can inspire and inform the rest of the school districts in the Commonwealth."

"What is amazing about the Pathways Innovation School and MWCC's Access programs is that the work is going on at a relatively small community college in a relatively rural area by a highly motivated group of professionals" said MWCC President Daniel Asquino. "This is a testament to the vision and inspiration led by Governor Patrick and Secretary Reville born out of the Readiness Project of which I was privileged to sit as a member of the team. This educational opportunity is priceless and the success of the program serves as a model to be used beyond Mount Wachusett Community College."

The Innovation Schools initiative, a signature component of the Patrick-Murray Administration's Education Reform Act signed in 2010, gives educators the opportunity to create in-district schools that operate with greater autonomy and flexibility while keeping school funding within districts. These schools can implement creative and inventive strategies related to curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing, professional development, and school district policies to improve learning outcomes for all students and reduce achievement gaps.

The Dennis-Yarmouth School Committee recently approved the proposal for the Marguerite E. Small Innovation School which is set to open in September. The vote brings the statewide total of Innovation Schools to nine, with several more in the pipeline.

The Executive Office of Education and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have secured Race to the Top funding as well as grants from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Boston Foundation and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to award planning and implementation grants and provide site-based technical assistance to applicants. Twenty-four planning grants were awarded in March and additional grants will be awarded at the end of the calendar year. The deadline for the first round of implementation grants is June 30, 2011.

Guidance documents and additional information about funding sources are available at the Innovation Schools website: www.mass.gov/edu/innovationschools.