Governor Deval L. Patrick
Education Reform Announced
June 23, 2008
On June 23, 2008, Governor Deval Patrick visited the Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester today to unveil parts of a long-term plan for education reform, designed to offer a consistently excellent, world-class education for all children in Massachusetts. Governor Patrick's Education Action Agenda is designed to raise achievement of all students as measured against global benchmarks and to help prepare all students by 2020 to compete successfully in the global economy.
The announcement comes after nearly a year of work undertaken by the Readiness Project - a statewide initiative involving more than 200 educators, business leaders, and community leaders to develop a strategic blueprint for the next phase of education reform in the Commonwealth, whose report will be released later this week.
Our Readiness Project has completed their report and developed an action agenda which we expect to release on Wednesday. It's bold, it's ambitious, and it is just what we need to position the Commonwealth's next generation for success in the 21st century. Thanks to the foresight and the hard work of many who have come before us we undertake this effort from a position of strength and that has to be acknowledged.
Our students today are by many measures the best in the nation with leading scores on national assessment tests and the SATs and steady improvement on the MCAS. But we have also seen persistent and in some cases widening achievement gaps. Poor and minority students as a whole still under perform whites as a whole. And drop out rates have increased all across the system.
Meanwhile, competitor nations like China and India are roaring into the 21st century building educational foundations for growth industries and graduating new engineers at ten times the rate of American colleges and universities. All of that, while US achievement has in many respects plateaued.
While that global reality evolves, teachers in too many of our schools are using their own money for basic and required materials in the classrooms. And parents are paying added fees for school band, for academic clubs or sports experiences that round out a child's education. I see some of you nodding your heads. You know this is true. And we know that we can't let that reality go unaddressed. Our public schools must continue to be engines of economic growth, creativity, and social justice. It's education that makes the American story possible. And if we're going to make that story possible for more kids, then we have got to focus here.
To do so, schools must continue to drive innovation and cultivate the highly skilled talent that is our calling card all around the world. And that has to happen in every community in our Commonwealth. That is why we launched the Commonwealth Readiness Project, our effort to re-examine how we deliver public education in Massachusetts. We engaged more than two hundred educators, business leaders, community leaders, nearly seven hundred grass roots organizers and more than two thousand ordinary and interested citizens all across the state. And I want to thank each and every one of those who participated and who gave their time and energy and insights. From their work we developed an action agenda organized around four key priorities.
First, we must raise the achievement of all students. That involves not only improvements in teaching and curriculum but also teaching 21st century skills in addressing external factors, external to the classroom that impede success and providing quality care in the earliest years of life. And I see you over there Margaret; I hope you wrote that down. You've been a part of developing that very important recommendation.
Second, we must elevate the profession of teaching. We must attract and retain the best and the brightest to lead our classrooms and give them the tools, support, and opportunities to develop themselves that they need in order to bring the magic forth - [sneeze in audience] god bless you - in order to bring the magic forward for young people in their classrooms.
Third, we must prepare every student for higher education, employment, and lifetime learning. That starts by assuring at least two years of post secondary learning and it includes a curriculum of 21st century skills including math, science, and technology as well as critical thinking and creative problem solving. Finally, we must use new ideas and approaches to transform our system fundamentally. The whole apparatus for supporting public education has to got to move, has got to be more flexible and has got to respond to needs in tomorrows and today's economy and society.
These are the places where we must be focused if we're going to prepare every student for the world and economy of the 21st century. This is how we must proceed if we hope to address the persistent and pernicious achievement gaps that are keeping too many of our kids from reaching their full potential. And this is how we must proceed if we want to move beyond what Paul calls the "one-size-fits-all" batch-processing approach to a system with flexibility to respond to individual student needs seamlessly from early childhood on into the work force. Now as we unveil these new initiatives over the next several days, we have to begin in earnest the discussion about education financing.
Now that we have a clear idea of what we want to fund, we need to focus on the best ways to do so. The foundation budget for education in the Commonwealth has not been re-calculated in fifteen years. It no longer reflects the support school's need to meet the expectations that we have of them. Our districts are suspending an average of 18% above the foundation budget, much of which comes from property taxes which puts extra burdens on homeowners and disproportionately impacts seniors and others on fixed incomes.
To address those and other issues I'm establishing the Readiness Finance Commission co-chaired by Gloria Larson and by John Phish. Their charge is to cost out the proposals of the readiness project to recommend system savings and efficiencies, to identify potential sources of additional revenues and otherwise to consider options to overhaul the ways that we finance public education today. Gloria and John will be joined by some of the top education, business and policy leaders in the state and they will provide me with a report and recommendations by November 15th of this year.
Today we begin to unveil the blue print to transform our system of education into one that meets the needs of every young person in Massachusetts. All of us in state government and local government as well as in board rooms and at kitchen tables all across the Commonwealth must rise to this challenge. And so I ask all of you to join with us in this effort to ensure that he children of Massachusetts are ready for success in the 21st century. Thank you all for having me today and stay tuned because there will be an awful lot of good and important work that we have to do together over the next many, many months and years.
Secretary of Education Designate Paul Reville:
A word about the charge and what brings us here today. The governor early on in this process said to Dana, said to me, said to a number of the folks associated with the Readiness Project, "We're doing well here in Massachusetts, but doing well isn't good enough." And he charged us to come forward with a plan that would move us into the 21st century. He said, "Design a system that does for all children what those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to do for our own children and make it a system that eliminates pernicious achievement gaps, not only gaps between groups, but gaps between any child and the standard of proficiency and gaps between all of our children and the kind of international competition that has sprung up around us in recent years."
He said, "Design us a system that moves us into the 21st century and prepares us, our society and all our children for success in the 21st century. And by success in the 21st century we mean getting each and every child ready not only to be successful in a job and in the economy but to be successful as citizens in our society, as voters, as leaders in that society, and importantly as members and leaders in families and as lifelong learners."
He said, "Prepare me a plan that serves the economy as well as the individuals, as well as the children. Bring me a plan that's not a simple, single, silver bullet, but a plan that's as complex as the challenge that we have to meet. A plan that will work with the people in the field doing the work of educating and bringing up our children, not a plan that is done to them. Make it a system that will find each and every child where they are and provide them the understanding, the support, the guidance, the academic challenge necessary for each child to traverse our system of education, and to eventually exit from that system of education with some post secondary education ready to be successful in all the dimensions that I mentioned earlier."
That's what we see today coming forward is a set of strategies, a set of choices that are designed to leverage our late 19th, early 20th century education system into the 21st century. And we have responded to the governor's charge by putting in front of him, and now he has shaped and made a set of choices that constitute a long-term plan for the future that will serve our society and each and every one of our children.
So I am proud and excited to sign this legislation, and of the means it offers through this bill, in this field today. But I am even more excited about what miracles may come tomorrow. I am delighted you could all be a part of this today. Thank you very much.