Guest Post: Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville describes charter-like district ‘Innovation Schools’

This blog post originally appeared on the Education Innovating blog run by Education Evolving from 2010 to 2011. It has now been merged into our main blog.

Editor’s note: Each Friday we feature guest bloggers that are involved in rethinking what is possible with schooling and the education system.

In a guest post for Education Innovating, Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville describes the motivation behind that state’s recently-enacted Innovation Schools law, enabling districts to create schools with autonomy reflective of chartering. This significant systemic reform is similar to Boston's Pilot Schools, as well as Minnesota’s Site-Governed Schools law passed in 2009. Already in 2010 two new schools were created under the law.

By Secretary of Education Paul Reville

In Massachusetts, we are pushing against the mistaken assumption that innovative strategies can only be implemented outside of, not within, school districts.

Innovation Schools are in-district public schools that are authorized by local school committees and operate with increased autonomy with regard to curriculum, staffing, professional development, school schedule, budget, and district policies. We created this model because we wanted to give educators in traditional public schools the same freedom that is successfully utilized by many charter school operators.

More broadly, we wanted to give educators the opportunity to think differently about how to meet the needs of their students. We know that a one-size-fits-all public education system cannot do what must be done to support all of our students. The Innovation Schools model gives educators the chance to implement new strategies and push boundaries – not innovation for innovation’s sake, but new strategies that will boost student achievement.

We have been greatly encouraged by the strong level of interest in creating these schools. Two Innovation Schools opened this month, and they both demonstrate what can happen when educators and partners work together to benefit students.

The Paul Revere Innovation School was designed by teachers, school and district administrators, union leaders, parents, and community members; they developed a common vision for the school, defined new roles for teachers, and are committed to working together to achieve their goals.

The Pathways Early College Innovation School was established through a partnership between the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School District and Mount Wachusett Community College; high school students from multiple communities will have an alternate pathway to higher education as a result of this joint venture.

These Innovation Schools represent a new way of thinking in Massachusetts. Teachers are talking about being more involved in the operation of their schools, union leaders are having new conversations with school and district administrators, and community partners are talking about different ways to devote expertise and resources to Innovation Schools. Educators and their partners are excited about the possibilities, and are embracing this unique and important opportunity to do what is right for our students.

For additional information about the Innovation Schools initiative, please contact Saeyun Lee in the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education (saeyun.lee@state.ma.us or 617.979.8351) or refer to guidance documents that are available at http://www.mass.gov/edu/innovationschools.

Image: Sec Reville

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