For Immediate Release - May 20, 2011

GOVERNOR PATRICK VISITS NEW WORCESTER INNOVATION SCHOOL

Highlights Patrick-Murray Administration's strategy to close achievement gaps through innovative learning


Woodland Academy

Governor Patrick tours Woodland Academy. (Photo credit: Matt Bennett/Governor's Office)

WORCESTER - Friday, May 20, 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 newly established Woodland Academy Innovation School in Worcester, one of five new Innovation Schools that will begin operating in September.

"Woodland Academy and all five new Innovation Schools in Worcester are shining examples of what can happen when teachers, principals, district administrators, union leaders, parents and community members come together to improve our schools," said Governor Patrick. "Worcester has long been a leader in education reform and I'm confident these schools will build on the good work that is already being done across the district."

"This is a significant accomplishment, and Worcester has set the stage for the next chapter of school reform," said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. "Woodland Academy and the other Innovation Schools will provide new learning opportunities for students and exciting professional opportunities for teachers and principals."

The Worcester Public Schools became the first district in Massachusetts to establish multiple Innovation Schools when the School Committee recently voted unanimously to approve five new Innovation Schools: Chandler Magnet School, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Goddard Scholars Academy, University Park Campus School and Woodland Academy.

The Innovation Schools initiative, a signature component of the 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.

During his visit, Governor Patrick toured Woodland Academy and stopped into classrooms to meet with students and educators, including the teachers and principals who proposed the five new Innovation Schools. The Governor also convened a meeting of his Cabinet on site.

The five new Innovation Schools (three elementary schools, one middle school academy, and a grade 7-12 school) will implement different strategies to increase learning time, provide more targeted instruction to students, increase professional development and planning time for educators and provide more comprehensive social and health services to students and their families.

The Chandler Magnet School will provide dual language instruction in Spanish and English, the Goddard Scholars Academy will serve highly motivated middle school students and University Park Campus School will expand its successful efforts to increase college and career readiness. The Goddard School of Science and Technology, University Park Campus School and Woodland Academy are also part of the Main South Promise Neighborhood initiative, an effort to coordinate the efforts of educators, social service providers, community members, and city leaders in order to improve the lives of children.

Other longstanding district partners such as Clark University and Worcester State University contributed to the development of the innovation plans for the five schools, and these institutions will work with the schools to implement the new strategies.

"We need to meet students where they are and provide them with learning opportunities that better meet their needs," said Education Secretary Paul Reville. "For each one of these Innovation Schools, educators and community members thought long and hard about how to improve the quality of instruction, increase teacher ownership and professionalism, and add instructional time. The strategies that will be implemented will have impact not only in these schools, but also across the district."

"Innovation Schools provide districts with a new option to build supportive schools that ensure students reach high standards and expectations," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "I am pleased to see the leadership that Worcester has demonstrated in implementing new approaches to increase student learning."

Innovation Schools can be established in any school district in Massachusetts. A wide range of applicants including teachers, school and district leaders, parents, union representatives, non-profit business partners, institutions of higher education, and community partners can create a new school or convert an existing school. In addition, multiple districts can work together to create an Innovation School that serves students from different communities. The approval process is entirely locally-based; school committees authorize the establishment of Innovation Schools for a period of up to five years, and work with superintendents to monitor progress and impact over time.

"Successful schools are linked to successful communities," said Mayor Joseph O'Brien, the Chairman of the Worcester School Committee. "Our Innovation Schools initiative is an example of the ways we are making the district the preferred choice for education among parents and family members."

"When teachers, parents and the community unite to support the success of every child, wonderful things happen," said Dr. Melinda Boone, Superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools. "We are taking advantage of the Innovation School model to support high quality teaching and learning and also ensure that we have outstanding results for our students."

"As an Innovation School, Woodland Academy and its students will benefit from additional professional development, new educational technology and enhanced systems of student support," said Patricia Padilla, Principal of Woodland Academy. "Innovation Schools have united the entire school community to support high levels of achievement and also college and career readiness."

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.

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