Report to the Legislature
Implementation and Fiscal Impact of Innovation Schools
In January 2010, Governor Patrick signed Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010, Section 8 into law, which authorized the creation of Innovation Schools. These unique, in-district schools will operate with increased autonomy and flexibility to establish the school conditions that will lead to improved teaching and learning. In exchange, the operators of Innovation Schools will be held accountable for meeting annual benchmarks for student achievement and school performance. The new statute requires an annual report to the Legislature on the implementation and fiscal impact of Innovation Schools.
Dear Members of the General Court:
I am pleased to submit this Report to the Legislature : Implementation and Fiscal Impact of Innovation Schools pursuant to Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010, Section 8. The Innovation Schools initiative, a key component of the education legislation that Governor Patrick signed in January 2010 as well as the state's successful Race to the Top grant proposal, provides educators and other stakeholders across the state with the opportunity to create new in-district schools that will leverage the lessons learned from the state's top performing charter schools while keeping school funding within districts. These unique schools, which may be established by superintendents, school committees, teachers, parents, colleges and universities, charter school operators and others, will operate with increased autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing (including waivers from or exemptions to collective bargaining agreements), school district policies, and professional development. In exchange for greater authority to establish the school conditions that will lead to improved teaching and learning, the operators of Innovation Schools will be held accountable for meeting annual benchmarks for student achievement and school performance. There are no caps on the number of Innovation Schools, and new schools can be created or existing schools can be converted in every district in Massachusetts.
Three new Innovation Schools - the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere, the Pathways Early College Innovation School sponsored by the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District and Mount Wachusett Community College, and the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield - opened their doors in fall 2010, and communities are planning to open additional schools in fall 2011. As detailed in this report, the Department has worked closely with the Executive Office of Education to support the development of these new Innovation Schools in Massachusetts throughout the past year and a half.
I am excited about the possibility of the Innovation Schools initiative to spur education reform in districts across Massachusetts, and pleased that we will be able to more directly support the development of these locally-sponsored autonomous schools with designated funds through our newly-secured Race to the Top grant as well grants from several private foundations.
Please feel free to contact me if you have questions.
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D.Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Table of Contents
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) respectfully submits this Report to the Legislature : Implementation and Fiscal Impact of Innovation Schools pursuant to Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010, Section 8, which established M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 92(p), which states, in part:
(p) The commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall, to the extent practicable, be responsible for the following: (i) the provision of planning and implementation grants to eligible applicants to establish Innovation Schools; (ii) provision of technical assistance and support to eligible applicants; (iii) the collection and publication of data and research related to the Innovation Schools initiative; (iv) the collection and publication of data and research related to successful programs serving limited English-proficient students attending Innovation Schools; and (v) the collection and dissemination of best practices in Innovation Schools that may be adopted by other public schools. The board of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate regulations necessary to carry out this section. Annually, the commissioner shall report to the joint committee on education, the house and senate committees on ways and means, the speaker of the house of representatives and the senate president on the implementation and fiscal impact of this section.
This report includes the following: 1) an overview of the Innovation School model and approval process; 2) a description of the implementation of the Innovation Schools initiative to date; 3) descriptions of the first three Innovation Schools in Massachusetts; 4) information about the availability of resources to establish and operate these schools; 5) the fiscal impact of the Innovation Schools initiative; and 6) an update on data collection, research, and dissemination of best practices related to Innovation Schools.
1. Overview of the Innovation School Model
In January 2010, Governor Patrick signed historic education reform legislation, An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, which gives all students and families greater access to high-quality schools. The Innovation Schools initiative, a key component of this legislation, provides educators and other stakeholders in all districts across the state with the powerful opportunity to create new "Innovation Schools," in-district and charter-like schools that will operate with greater autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum, staffing, budget, schedule/calendar, professional development, and district policies. These public schools will be able to implement innovative strategies to improve student achievement while keeping school funding within districts.
The Innovation School model has three primary characteristics: 1) increased autonomy and flexibility for a wide range of eligible operators; 2) greater ownership in exchange for strong accountability; and 3) an entirely local approval process that is dependent upon strong collaboration among different stakeholders. The Innovation Schools initiative represents the next phase of school-based education reform in Massachusetts, and provides a wide array of eligible applicants with the unprecedented opportunity to implement bold and creative strategies in schools. Innovation Schools can be new, or they can be conversions of existing schools.
Innovation Schools are authorized in accordance with a locally-based approval process as follows.
- An applicant develops and submits an initial prospectus to the local superintendent who will convene a screening committee that includes the superintendent or a designee, a school committee member or a designee, and a representative of leadership from the local teachers' union; two-thirds approval is required to move forward.
- An innovation plan committee that includes the applicant and other local stakeholders then develops and internally approves the innovation plan. Upon completion of the innovation plan, specific steps are required.
- A conversion school requires a two-thirds majority vote of the current teachers in the school.
- A new school requires negotiations among the applicant, local teacher's union, and superintendent if the innovation plan includes proposed waivers from or modifications to the district's collective bargaining agreement.
- The innovation plan is then submitted to the school committee, which must hold at least one public hearing; a majority vote of the full school committee is required for approval.
- Upon approval, the Innovation School is authorized for a period of up to five years, will be evaluated annually by the superintendent, and can be reauthorized by the school committee at the end of each term.
To date, three Innovation Schools have been established in Massachusetts, and many groups of teachers, principals, district administrators, and community partners are planning to establish schools in September 2011 or September 2012.
Planning and development activities to establish Innovation Schools first began in earnest during the summer of 2009, when the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) awarded $200,000 in planning grants to establish what were then called "Readiness Schools." Sixteen school districts received grants ranging from $10,000-$36,000 to establish up to 22 Readiness Schools. This grant competition was funded out of the state's 7061-9408 Targeted Assistance appropriation and was open to school districts that had a current NCLB accountability status or contained schools that had an NCLB accountability status. The grants allowed districts to plan and implement strategic reforms to improve student achievement during the 2009-10 school year, and to leverage those reforms to establish Readiness Schools in the following school years. Preliminary planning grants were awarded to the following school districts.
- Adams-Cheshire/North Adams: $10,500 to support the development of a new, two-district, middle-grade "virtual school" in partnership with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
- Ashburnham-Westminster: $10,000 to support the development of a "school within a school" serving grades 2-5
- Boston: $36,376 to support the development of two high school conversions and a new grade 6-12 Advantage School
- Fall River: $10,800 to support the development of up to two schools
- Gill-Montague: $11,080 to support the development of up to two schools, including an elementary school and a program serving students with autism
- Greenfield: $15,000 to support the development of up to three schools by Fall 2011, including an elementary school conversion, middle school conversion, and new 8 th grade program
- Lynn: $10,500 to support the development of a school conversion at the elementary or middle school level
- New Bedford: $10,500 to support the development of a high school conversion, with potential public higher education partners
- North Middlesex Regional: $10,500 to support the development of a new grade 5-12 school in partnership with Teachers 21
- Pittsfield: $10,500 to support the development of an elementary school
- Ralph C. Mahar Regional: $10,500 to support the development of a secondary-level school, using the Gateway to College model, with a potential community college partner
- Randolph: $10,500 to support the development of one school
- Revere: $10,500 to support the development of an elementary school conversion
- Salem: $10,500 to support the development of an elementary school conversion, in partnership with Salem State College
- Somerville: $19,144 to support the development of up to two K-8 conversions, including one modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone
The Executive Office of Education (EOE) and ESE provided technical assistance to these recipients and others interested in developing Innovation Schools throughout the 2009-10 school year. Statewide technical assistance included a series of meetings and conferences to support the development of initial prospectuses and innovation plans. In September and October 2009, the EOE and ESE convened district administrators, school leaders, teachers, school committee members, and other stakeholders to share information about proposed schools, discuss the areas of autonomy and flexibility included in the Readiness School model, and identify common challenges and opportunities.
After An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap was signed into law in January 2010, the EOE and ESE organized another statewide conference in March 2010 to provide planning grant recipients and other education stakeholders with updated information about the new Innovation School model and approval process, and additional guidance regarding the development of initial prospectuses and innovation plans. Lastly, the EOE and ESE developed a series of informational/guidance documents, including a Frequently Asked Questions document, a description of the approval process, and a template for the initial prospectus and innovation plan, and posted them at the following website: www.mass.gov/edu/innovationschools. (The first versions of these documents were posted during the spring of 2010, and updated versions are posted on an ongoing basis as necessary.)
In addition to providing statewide technical assistance to the planning grant recipients, the EOE and ESE provided site-based and differentiated support. Expert consultants - two distinguished former superintendents and staff members at the Center for Collaborative Education, a nationally recognized school reform organization - were assigned to recipient districts based on the match between their areas of expertise and identified areas of need. Throughout the 2009-10 school year and at the request of the planning grant recipients, they attended planning meetings, provided information about curricular and other resources, helped to develop positive relationships among local stakeholders, and guidance regarding the locally-based approval process.
Virtual School Advisory Committee
Two advisory groups were convened over the past year to advise ESE and EOE on various aspects of the Innovation Schools initiative.
In October 2009, in anticipation of the potential expansion of virtual and online education in Massachusetts, Commissioner Chester convened a Virtual School Advisory Committee. This committee was charged with providing guidance as ESE developed regulations for schools in which students receive most, if not all, of their instruction online at a location other than a public school building. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus chaired the committee meetings.
The following individuals served on this committee:
- Senator Stanley Rosenberg, Massachusetts Legislature
- Representative William Brownsberger, Massachusetts Legislature
- Representative Christopher Donelan, Massachusetts Legislature
- Dr. David Whittier, Educational Technology Advisory Council
- Superintendent Nicholas Young, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
- Michael Gilbert, Massachusetts Association of School Committee
- Principal Peter Light, Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association
- Superintendent Susan Hollins, Greenfield Public Schools
- Superintendent Christopher Martes, Foxborough Public Schools
- Superintendent John E Phelan, Hopkinton Public Schools
- Dr. Martha Stone Wiske, Harvard School of Education
- Executive Director Dorsey Yearley, Education Collaborative for Greater Boston
- Shelley Chamberlain, Newton Public Schools
The Virtual School Advisory Committee initially met several times to advise ESE more generally on identifying the needs that online education could meet; promising practices in Massachusetts, other states, and nations; various educational, financial, and practical issues; and the potential roles of state and local educational agencies in this arena. After the passage of the Innovation Schools Statute in January 2010, the committee met four more times to provide additional guidance and specific advice to ESE on the development of regulations governing Virtual Innovation Schools.
Commissioner Chester intends to convene this group again during the 2010 - 11 school year to advise ESE on an ongoing basis regarding the implementation of Virtual Innovation Schools.
Innovation Schools Implementation Advisory Group
During the spring of 2010, Secretary Reville assembled an informal Innovation Schools Implementation Advisory Group to help state education officials ensure that the Innovation Schools initiative will be successfully implemented over time. The Advisory Group first met in
March 2010 and has since met periodically. Over the course of the meetings the members have: 1) helped to identify practical questions regarding the creation of Innovation Schools;
2) developed suggestions and constructive approaches for applicants and districts across the state; and 3) communicated important developments regarding the initiative to their respective constituencies.
The Innovation Schools Implementation Advisory Group is comprised of representatives from the EOE and ESE and the following education leaders:
- Tom Scott, Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
- Glenn Koocher, Massachusetts Association of School Committees
- Paul Toner, Massachusetts Teachers Association
- Daniel Murphy, Tom Gosnell, and Edward Doherty, American Federation of Teachers - Massachusetts
- Kevin Andrews, Massachusetts Charter Public Schools Association
- Linda Hayes, Massachusetts Association of Secondary School Administrators
- Nadya Higgins, Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association
- Dan French, The Center for Collaborative Education and consultant to the EOE
- David Roach, former superintendent and consultant to the EOE
- Joan Connolly, former superintendent and consultant to the EOE
Secretary Reville intends to convene the Innovation Schools Implementation Advisory Group on an as-needed basis during the 2010-11 school year.
The Innovation Schools statute, MGL Chapter 71, Section 92 (p) states, in part: The board of elementary and secondary education shall promulgate regulations necessary to carry out this section. The statute also specifically states in subsection (e): Nothing in this section shall be construed to prohibit …(iv) the establishment of an Innovation School as a virtual public school that provides instruction to students through distance learning, including online learning programs and courses, subject to regulations adopted by the board of elementary and secondary education.
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (the Board) voted to issue proposed Innovation School regulations in April 2010 for public comment. Based on those public comments, a revised set of regulations was discussed at the Board's June meeting, during which various members expressed the need for additional controls and oversight specifically for virtual innovation schools, given their newness. Board members expressed a desire to allow experimentation but also to place some limits on the growth of virtual schools until initial results could be evaluated. Concern was also expressed about the potential financial impact on districts that will be required to pay tuition for those students who enroll in these virtual schools.
At this meeting, the Board voted to adopt basic procedural regulations that applied to all Innovation Schools, specifically those regarding non-discrimination requirements, compliance with state laws and regulations, and waivers to Innovation School regulations.
- All Innovation Schools will be open to all eligible students on a space available basis, and cannot discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, creed, sex, ethnicity, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability, age, ancestry, athletic performance, special need, or proficiency in the English language or a foreign language.
- All school committees that approve an Innovation School must ensure that the school operates in accordance with all laws regulating other public schools.
- If an innovation plan includes provisions that conflict with these state laws, prior to requesting approval from the local school committee, the innovation plan committee must request approval from the Commissioner (additional information is available at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=5652).
- Upon the written request of the Commissioner, the Board has the authority to waive any Innovation Schools regulations for good cause.
Based on the discussion about the virtual Innovation Schools, Board members requested additional revisions to the provisions related to the operation of these schools. After additional discussions with the Virtual School Advisory Committee and other constituency groups, along with additional research about virtual education in other states, the Commissioner presented a revised set of regulations for the Board's approval at its July 21, 2010 meeting, which included several provisions to limit virtual school enrollment, at least in the early years of the initiative:
- The first provision limits enrollment in any single virtual Innovation School to 500 students. Particularly during this initial experimentation, school committees must focus on the procedures and oversight needed to ensure that each enrolled student is properly served.
- The second provision requires that at least 25% of the school's enrollment must come from the sponsoring district. This is consistent with the overall intent of the Innovation Schools statute, which is aimed at enhancing the educational opportunities for students within a school district. Two exceptions to the 25% requirement are permitted as follows.
- First, if a virtual Innovation School is intended to serve a specialized population (such as students at risk of dropping out or students institutionalized in hospitals or correctional facilities), then the 25% requirement is reduced to 10%.
- Second, if there is a written agreement with other districts to serve as co-sponsors of the school, then the enrollment from all of the sponsoring districts could be counted toward meeting the 25% requirement. The statute specifically allows and encourages districts to partner in the development of Innovation Schools.
- The last provision sets a two percent limit on the number of students for which a district would have to pay tuition for an out-of-district virtual Innovation School. For example, if a district has an enrollment of 10,000 students, it would not have to pay tuition for more than 200 students enrolling in virtual schools in other districts. This provision is intended to address the concern that the state-wide nature of a virtual school could result in significant costs to districts whose students attend virtual schools.
At its July 21, 2010 meeting, the Board unanimously adopted the revised Regulations on Innovation Schools, 603 CMR 48.00, as presented by the Commissioner, to implement the statute on Innovation Schools, M.G.L. c. 71, § 92, added by Section 8 of Chapter 12 of the acts of 2010.
During the first half of the 2010-11 school year, the EOE and ESE, working in partnership with the Innovation Schools Implementation Advisory Group, provided information about the Innovation School model and approval process to a wide range of stakeholders including teachers, school and district administrators, and local partners, including representatives from institutions of higher education and also non-profit and community-based organizations.
In October and November, four regional information sessions were conducted at Worcester State University, Holyoke Community College, Bridgewater State University, and the Museum of Science; each session included an overview of the Innovation School model and approval process, a panel presentation and discussion with representatives from different types of autonomous schools in Massachusetts, and a question-and-answer session for attendees. Approximately 200 individuals representing communities across the state participated in these sessions.
In early December, working sessions were conducted at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Worcester State University; these sessions were organized to provide school, district, and community teams with targeted assistance regarding the development of initial prospectuses and innovation plans. Multiple sessions were organized per day to accommodate different schedules, and teams had the opportunity to work directly with expert consultants (the former superintendents and staff members from the Center for Collaborative Education described on page 5, plus EOE and ESE staff members). More than 30 planning teams representing communities around the state attended these sessions.
To accommodate interested parties and teams that could not attend the information and/or working sessions, and to respond to ongoing inquiries about the Innovation Schools initiative, EOE and ESE staff members have also participated in additional conference calls and meetings upon request.
In summary, the EOE and ESE have worked in collaboration with the Virtual Schools Advisory Group, the Innovation Schools Implementation Advisory Group, and other partners to: 1) provide information and guidance to interested parties regarding the establishment of Innovation Schools; 2) develop regulations regarding waivers from state law and the establishment of virtual Innovation Schools; 3) provide statewide and site-based technical assistance to school, district, and community teams; and 4) secure resources to support planning activities and initial operating costs (a description of available resources begins on p. 13). As described on pages 2 and 3, the authorization of Innovation Schools is at the discretion of local applicants and stakeholders. Hence, the EOE and ESE have engaged in the activities described here to support local efforts to establish robust cohorts of Innovation Schools in September 2011 and 2012.
The success of these efforts is illustrated by the establishment of several Innovation Schools to date, increased levels of knowledge on the part of multiple stakeholders about the Innovation School model and approval process, and, most importantly, significant levels of interest in establishing additional Innovation schools in the future.
To date, three Innovation Schools have been established as follows (several other recipients of the 2009 planning grants are planning to open Innovation Schools in September 2011).
Table 1: Currently Authorized Innovation Schools
Current Grade Span
Students Served in 2010-11
Full Enrollment Grade Span
Projected Students Served at Full Enrollment
Paul Revere Innovation School
Ralph C. Mahar
Pathways Early College Innovation School
Massachusetts Virtual Academy (MAVA)
Note: Students served is based on school year 2010-2011 enrollment figures reported on Oct. 1, 2010 in the Department's Student Information Management System (SIMS).
The Paul Revere Innovation School, a conversion school and the first Innovation School in Massachusetts, was established by unanimous approval of the Revere School Committee in May 2010 and serves 350 students in grades K-5. The school is using greater autonomy and flexibility to accomplish the following:
- Increase time for student learning;
- Implement differentiated instructional strategies for English language learners and students with special needs;
- Better address the social and emotional needs of students;
- Create new assessments and use real-time data systems to better monitor student progress and improve the quality of instruction;
- Offer additional enrichment activities for students both before and after school; and
- Implement a more effective professional development model for teachers.
A productive and longstanding partnership between the Revere Public Schools and the Revere Teachers Association, and as well as the contributions of many community members, including parents and the Revere School Committee, led to the establishment of this school.
Pathways Early College Innovation School
The Pathways Early College Innovation School was established by unanimous approval of the Ralph C. Mahar School Committee in June 2010. This new school is located on the Mount Wachusett Community College (MWCC) campus, and is serving an initial cohort of 20 students from the Mahar Regional School District as well as approximately 20 other districts in the region. The school is using greater autonomy and flexibility to provide 11 th grade students, many of whom face particular social and economic challenges, with an alternate pathway to higher education; these students are taking classes at MWCC and also earning credits toward their high school diplomas. In addition to having access to all the resources provided by MWCC, they are receiving ongoing and individualized academic, personal, and career support. Due to the overwhelming level of interest in the school, a second cohort of 20 students will enroll in January 2011, and a third cohort of 20 students will likely enroll during the summer of 2011. As with the Paul Revere Innovation School, a productive and longstanding partnership between the Mahar Regional School District and MWCC, and specifically their previous success jointly implementing other alternative education programs, resulted in the establishment of this school.
The Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield was established by the approval of the Greenfield School Committee in October 2010. This is the state's first full-time virtual Innovation School. The school's vision is to provide a quality virtual public school option that can be utilized by parents, school districts, and organizations when a school-age student needs a complete schooling option that does not require daily participation in a public school building. Educational courses and some teaching services, including management software, learning materials, and technical support services will be provided by K12, Inc., a leading virtual school provider.
As of October 1, 2010, data submitted to the ESE's Student Information Management System (SIMS) indicate that 217 students from 92 cities and towns of residence were enrolled at MAVA. The cities and towns with more than 4 students enrolled are Springfield (25), Boston (12), Brockton (11), Greenfield (9), Chicopee (8), Worcester (7), and Lawrence (6). According to an update provided at the website for this school ( http://www.gpsk12.org/virtualschool/virtualschool_home.html#nov20), as of November 19, 2010, the school has received 622 applications; 285 students have enrolled and 89 students are in the pipeline (20 of these students receive special education services). Students currently come from 110 communities in Massachusetts; roughly 48% of students are male, 52% of students are female, and students are relatively evenly divided between the grades of K-8.
The Innovation School model is cost-neutral with regard to the longer-term operation of schools; however, to support initial planning activities, successful implementation of creative and bold strategies during first year operations, and provision of targeted technical assistance to school, district, and community teams, the EOE and ESE have secured several types of funding.
A total of $1.5 million will be awarded to eligible applicants and participating districts (i.e., those districts that submitted a Memorandum of Understanding to ESE to indicate their commitment to implementing Race to the Top (RTTT) initiatives) to support the establishment of Innovation Schools in September 2011 and September 2012. Table 2 outlines how planning and implementation grants will be awarded.
Table 2: RTTT Planning and Implementation Grants
Type of Award
Amount of Award
Planning Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants and RTTT participating districts that have successfully completed the first step of the Innovation School authorization process, the approval of an initial prospectus.
Priority will be given to proposals to establish Innovation Schools in Level 3 and 4 districts and STEM-focused Innovation Schools.
Up to $15,000 per school
Applicants may request additional funding of up to $5,000 based on the size of the proposed Innovation School and the scope of the initiatives.
Round 1: February 4, 2011
Round 2: October 15, 2011
Implementation Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants and RTTT participating districts that have successfully completed the last step of the authorization process, the establishment of the Innovation School by the local school committee.
Priority will be given to proposals to operate Innovation Schools in Level 3 and 4 districts and STEM-focused Innovation Schools.
$50,000 - $75,000 per school based on the size of the school and the scope of the initiatives
Round 1: June 30, 2011
Round 2: June 30, 2012
Massachusetts has received a grant of $650,000 from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to support the implementation of the Innovation Schools initiative. In September 2011, $600,000 in planning and implementation grants will be awarded to eligible applicants and any school district in Massachusetts to establish Innovation Schools. The remaining $50,000 will be allocated to expert consultants who will provide targeted technical assistance to recipients of the planning and implementation grants.
Innovation Schools that are established with this funding must implement Next Generation Learning Models, new school reform models which are characterized by greater flexibility with regard to instructional and operational concerns, differentiated instruction, ongoing and authentic assessment of student progress, the integration of technology, and expanded instructional and leadership roles for educators. Table 3 outlines how planning and implementation grants will be awarded.
Table 3: Gates Foundation Planning and Implementation Grants
Type of Award
Amount of Award
Planning Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants and any partner districts that have successfully completed the first step of the Innovation School authorization process, the approval of an initial prospectus.
Priority will be given to proposals to establish Innovation Schools in Level 3 and 4 districts.
Up to $15,000 per school
Applicants may request additional funding of up to $5,000 based on the size of the proposed Innovation School and the scope of the initiatives.
February 4, 2011
Implementation Grants will be awarded to eligible applicants and any partner districts that have successfully completed the last step of the authorization process, the establishment of the Innovation School by the local school committee.
Priority will be given to proposals to operate Innovation Schools in Level 3 and 4 districts.
$50,000 - $75,000 per school based on the size of the school and the scope of the initiatives
June 30, 2011
Funding from The Boston Foundation and Nellie Mae Foundation
The EOE also received generous funding in the amounts of $70,000 and $35,000 from The Boston Foundation and the Nellie Mae Foundation respectively, two longstanding partners of the EOE and ESE, during the summer of 2010. This funding will be used to provide ongoing technical assistance to school, district, and community teams that are interested in establishing Innovation Schools.
As noted in the previous section, the Innovation School model is intended to be cost-neutral with regard to the longer-term operation of schools; to support the establishment of these schools, $200,000 in planning grants was awarded during the summer of 2009, and planning and implementation grants will be awarded using funding from multiple sources. Given the relatively small number of schools that have opened to date and the early stage of the initiative, it is difficult to tell exactly what fiscal impact the opening of Innovation Schools may have on local school district budgets. However, here we provide a summary of the preliminary fiscal impacts of the opening of the first three Innovation Schools, each of which is funded in a particular way.
In the case of the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere, the Innovation School model approved is designed to be fiscally neutral and not dependent on any outside sources of funding. The Revere Public Schools secured a $10,500 planning grant in summer 2009 as described on page 4, and allocated an additional $44,500 of local district funding to support the planning and early implementation process in both FY10 and FY11. Additional supplemental district support is not anticipated, and the Innovation School is operationally funded like any other public school in Revere.
The Pathways Early College Innovation School authorized by the Ralph C. Mahar School Committee is funded in a very different manner. Most of the students in the program (an initial cohort of 20 students began in fall 2010, with another cohort of 20 to be added in January 2011) are students who would not normally attend the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School (the only high school in the district). Pathways students matriculate into the school via the state's Inter-District School Choice Program authorized by M.G.L. c.76, s.12B, which usually results in a $5,000 per pupil school choice assessment charged to the student's home district and transferred to Mahar. Under the current funding model, Ralph C. Mahar pays $4,000 per pupil to MWCC, which runs the school on its campus in partnership with the school district. The operation of this Innovation School has the same fiscal impact on surrounding school districts as the Inter-District School Choice program does more generally, though the impact may be more particular since this is a new program with almost all of its seats open to cross-district matriculation at the high school level (compared to the marginal number of spaces available in typical choice programs). In addition, MWCC heavily subsidizes the operation of the school (more than 50% of the cost to operate the program during this first year). An official at MWCC noted that this Innovation School is based on an existing model, the Gateway to College program, and that when Pathways reaches a certain scale, it is possible that the program will be able to operate without MWCC subsidy.
The Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield is funded in accordance with Innovation School regulations 603 CMR 48.05(8), which states that:
The sponsoring district shall annually set the per pupil tuition rate for students enrolled in a virtual innovation school, provided that said rate shall not exceed the maximum tuition rate permitted under M.G.L. c.76, s.12B, and provided further that said rate shall apply to students residing in the sponsoring district and students residing in other Massachusetts districts. Tuition payments shall be
prorated for students enrolled for less than a full year. In addition to said per pupil tuition rate, the costs of additional services required by a student under an individualized education program shall be paid by the student's home district pursuant to the provisions of 603 CMR 10.07. Tuition payments shall be made quarterly.
Greenfield Public Schools has set the current tuition rate at $6,800 per pupil, which is then limited to a maximum of $5,000 charged to districts of students residing outside of Greenfield , which is the maximum tuition rate permitted under M.G.L. c.76, s.12B in most cases. Given the statewide reach of the school and the lack of geographic obstacles to matriculation, the fiscal impact will be similar to that of the Inter-District School Choice program, but potentially magnified. The extent of these impacts is still being determined, as mid-year matriculation into this virtual Innovation School is still ongoing. In addition, preliminary reports indicate that the school is drawing a fair number of students who were previously not enrolled in the public schools of their home districts. Hence, these districts will be charged tuition assessments for students they previously did not serve. ESE will conduct additional analyses of the fiscal impacts of this school as updated data is submitted.
It is important to note than when students from multiple districts enroll in an Innovation School (including a virtual Innovation School), the sending districts receive a credit for these students in the Chapter 70 funding formula; if the student enrolled on or before October 1 st, the credit is applied for the following year, and if the student enrolled after October 1 st, it is applied for the second year following such an enrollment.
M.G.L. Chapter 71, Section 92(p), states, in part:
(p) The commissioner of elementary and secondary education shall, to the extent practicable, be responsible for …(iii) the collection and publication of data and research related to the Innovation Schools initiative; (iv) the collection and publication of data and research related to successful programs serving limited English-proficient students attending Innovation Schools; and (v) the collection and dissemination of best practices in Innovation Schools that may be adopted by other public schools.
Given the early stage of this initiative, ESE has not yet collected or published data and research related to the Innovation Schools initiative or related to successful programs serving limited English-proficient students attending Innovation Schools. Similarly, best practices in Innovation Schools have not yet been collected or disseminated.
Subject to the availability of resources, ESE intends to evaluate the impact of Innovation Schools (including virtual Innovation Schools) on student achievement and other indicators. The Innovation Schools Regulations 603 CMR 48(05) provide ESE with the authority to require additional reporting and, in approving the Innovation Schools regulations in July 2010, the Board voted to require the Commissioner to report to the Board in 2011 and annually thereafter on the status of virtual Innovation Schools in the state.
Commissioner Chester currently plans to continue and expand the existing Virtual Education Advisory Committee to help inform and identify the questions ESE should include in these annual reviews. He also plans to ask the Legislature for additional resources to conduct this evaluation program, possibly in the form of a tuition surcharge that would be made available to the Department. Robust evaluations will help ESE determine whether additional restrictions or controls are needed, and whether the enrollment limits enacted can be relaxed or eliminated.
Information provided by the Executive Office of Education. Created: January 5, 2011.