For Immediate Release - September 17, 2009

Patrick-Murray Administration LaunchES Next Chapter of Education Reform in Massachusetts

Governor, Secretary Reville offer support for bills to transform underperforming schools, institute smart cap lift for charters

BOSTON - Thursday, September 17, 2009 - Governor Deval Patrick and Education Secretary Paul Reville today urged the Legislature to act on the Governor's legislation designed to improve public schools and close achievement gaps that persist despite the successes of education reform.

"These bills will usher in the next chapter of education reform in our Commonwealth by helping the lowest performing districts catch up to their peers and ensuring healthy districts have the modern tools and ideas at their disposal to continue to improve," said Governor Patrick in written testimony. "Taken together, they lay the foundation for future prosperity for our students, our economic health and our communities all across our Commonwealth. Now is the time to deliver and let the promise of tomorrow's leaders flourish."

The two bills, aired at a public hearing held by the Legislature's Joint Committee on Education at the State House today, authorize Readiness Schools and double the spending cap on Charter Schools in the state's lowest performing districts. Specifically, the Governor's proposals seek to turn around underperforming schools more quickly, provide more targeted support to struggling students and promote new innovative in-district schooling options for all Massachusetts students and families.

Sixteen years after the passage of the Education Reform Act, Massachusetts ranks at or near the top on national and international measures of reading, mathematics and science achievement, including. Still, too many public schools are failing to effectively serve too many students.

"Until we close these achievement gaps, we cannot truly call ourselves the leader among the states in public education," said Education Secretary Reville in his testimony to the legislative committee. "It is time, once and for all, to see that all our children receive the high-quality education they rightfully deserve. It is time now to launch the next generation of education reform through action on these bills."

The Governor's intervention strategy outlines plans for a "Smart Cap" lift on charter schools and for the creation of Readiness Acceleration Schools. The charter school initiative will expand and create successful charter schools that serve high-need students in Massachusetts' lowest-performing districts.

Specifically, the proposal:

  • Lifts charter school spending caps in the lowest-scoring 10 percent of school districts from 9 percent to 18 percent, more than tripling the number of available slots in these districts from the current 10,000 to over 37,000.
  • Invites only successful charter school operators with demonstrated records of student achievement to apply to open, or expand, charter schools.
  • Compels providers to make efforts to recruit and retain populations of low-income students, persistently underperforming students, English Language Learners, students receiving special education and students who have dropped out or are at risk of dropping out.

The Readiness Acceleration Schools initiative will promote rapid school transformation by expanding the authority of the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to intervene in underperforming and chronically underperforming schools.

The proposal:

  • Provides the Commissioner with the ability to develop a performance contract and an "innovation plan" with local stakeholders.
  • Enforces the inclusion of wrap-around services to meet social service, health and workforce development needs of students and families.
  • Allows for greater autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing and district policies.

The Readiness Schools initiative will also establish two types of innovative, in-district public schools that feature high degrees of flexibility and autonomy in the areas of curriculum, budget, school schedule and calendar, staffing, school district and school committee policies and provisions of local teacher contracts. The schools will promote high levels of student achievement, agree to a student performance contract and foster innovation by allowing parents, teachers, universities, museums, non-profit organizations and other groups to submit proposals to create new schools or convert existing schools. The goal of these schools is to allow educators to fundamentally transform classroom instruction.

If passed, this legislation will position the Commonwealth to compete for the $4.35 billion national "Race to the Top" grant program. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan stood alongside Governor Patrick when he announced the bills in July, and said that states need to demonstrate a strong desire to work more aggressively with underperforming schools, transform the education system through more autonomy and innovation and expand the number of charter schools.

For more information on the proposed legislation, please visit the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education website at www.mass.gov/education.

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