AS DELIVERED: 
Governor Deval L. Patrick
Massachusetts Association School Superintendents Summer Executive Institute
Mashpee High School, Mashpee
Thursday, July 18, 2014

 

Good morning and thank you, Secretary Malone, for that generous introduction. There is nobody in Massachusetts more enthusiastic about our students than Secretary Malone.

Let me also thank Barnstable Superintendent Mary Czajkowski (SAJ-KOW-SKI) and the Mashpee Public Schools for hosting here today.

Above all, I wanted to be here this morning to thank your Executive Director Tom Scott, and through him the entire organization for 8-plus years of exceptional and fruitful partnership.

I say “8-plus” because it was in fact about 9 years ago that you welcomed a nervous, unknown, first-time candidate for governor to this very meeting to share a vision not for how to get elected, but for why. We talked about what a Commonwealth that invested in education, innovation and infrastructure might look like, what governing for the next generation instead of the next election cycle might produce. And we talked about working together.

Many of you were there then and each of you have been since, helping to shape policy and initiative, teaching me how to make practical progress toward that vision, sharpening and strengthening the work. Take stock of what that collaboration has produced.

Today, we are number one in the Nation in student achievement, at or near the top in the world in math and science. From STEM initiatives to voc-tech programs, we have more innovative education models in our school districts and communities than ever. Our community colleges are a coordinated system for workforce development. And our public colleges and universities are better funded, better focused and better maintained.

With your help, Massachusetts is the top scorer in the national Race to the Top Competition.

This year’s Education Week Research Center’s “Quality Counts” report ranks Massachusetts first in the nation in K-12 education achievement, beating the national average in virtually every category.

And as an organization, and through Tom’s personal involvement, you’ve been constant and invaluable partners in Project 351, the initiative we launched in 2010 to elevate community service, by bringing together 8th grade service leaders from every school district in the Commonwealth.

Last week I signed my eighth and final budget. For the eighth year straight, right through the worst economic downturn in living memory, we are funding chapter 70 at record levels. Support for primary and secondary education in that line item alone is up 26 percent since we started our work together.

This budget will allow you to provide more free Pre-Kindergarten in your districts – and, for the first time, to count all your Pre-K students toward your Chapter 70 calculation. For those of you who don’t currently have such programs, there’s a $1 million grant program to help you develop one.

This budget moves an additional 1,700 children off the waitlist and into high-quality early education opportunities, which we know to be critical for future academic and economic success.

This budget establishes a STEM teacher Corps – a first-of-its-kind initiative that will support and recognize the best Science, Technology, Engineering and Math teachers we have here and build the next generation of high-quality STEM teachers for the Commonwealth.

And this budget expands our Inclusive Concurrent Enrollment Program (ICE) to 12 different public colleges and universities, so that more students with intellectual disabilities get their chance to step foot on a college campus.

Meanwhile, that tangible commitment to education is one of the reasons we are growing jobs faster than most other states. Just today, our unemployment fell to 5.5 percent and we are now at a 25-year high in in the level of employment in Massachusetts.   Economic growth here is nearly twice the national rate.

So many examples of the progress we have made together. And there are others.

Perhaps the most meaningful for me is the 2010 Achievement Gap Act – the first comprehensive education reform in nearly 20 years. That legislation gave us a number of policy and practical tools to reach the young people we are leaving behind – too often the poor kids, or kids with special needs, or kids who speak English as a second language. The Achievement Gap Act was a values statement: it proclaimed the simple truth that all kids are our kids and all kids can learn.     

When we started, 34 schools were identified as level 4 or underperforming. Last fall, 13 of those schools exited level 4 status – five of them as level 1 schools.  

And Innovation Schools, the in-district “lab schools,” if you will, that free educators to try new techniques to reach the hard to reach and are the centerpiece of this legislation, today number 52 across the Commonwealth.

I intend to keep on governing until January 8 at noon, when the next governor takes the oath of office.  And one of the initiatives we have been working on with many of you is safety in our schools.

Every one of us has been shocked by acts of violence in schools across the nation. We have to ask ourselves whether we are best meeting our responsibility for the safety and well-being of our students.

In that spirit, I created a Task Force on School Safety and Security in January of this year.  Many of the members are here with us today. They were led in this work by Secretary Malone, along with Health and Human Services John Polanowicz and Secretary of Public Safety and Security Andrea Cabral. Their Report and recommendations are ready and available for you all today, and I thank them for their work.

The report contains a resource guide created by educators, law enforcement, mental health professionals and others, designed to help teachers and school administrators enhance the safety and security at your schools.  Of the nearly 30 recommendations presented by the Task Force there are areas for us all to take action on.

We are establishing a state-level technical assistance team that will be appointed jointly by the Secretaries of Education, Health and Human Services and Public Safety. This team will represent a broad range of experts who – at the request of school districts – will work with you to assess and recommend safety and security improvements in your district.

We are also creating a “one-stop shopping” webpage with resources on school safety and security.  This will be a living/ breathing resource that we will be looking for your suggestions to make it stronger and richer by sharing ideas and lessons learned. And we will launch a grant program for school districts to use to enhance school safety and security and specific schools.

I encourage you to read the entire report, give your feedback to the members and make use of the recommendations. I thank the members again for their good and thoughtful work.

And again, I thank each and every one of the superintendents in this room for all the good work we have done together to make the Commonwealth better. It has been the honor of a lifetime to work with you.

Thank you.