From the office of State Representative Aaron Michlewitz:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Blake Webber 617-722-2488
January 8, 2010
House Passes Landmark Education Legislation
Targets achievement gap; strengthens Commonwealth’s application for Race to the Top Funds
(BOSTON) – Third Suffolk State Representative Aaron Michlewitz joined his colleagues in the Massachusetts House of Representatives in passing crucial legislation focused on eliminating the achievement gap in schools across the Commonwealth. The bill – entitled An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap – strengthens the state’s application for $250 million in federal “Race to the Top” funding, allows stronger intervention authority for the state in underperforming districts, lifts the cap on charter schools in the lowest performing school districts and helps to facilitate innovation and excellence in schools throughout Massachusetts.
“We are one step closer to providing every child with a real opportunity for a well-rounded and positive educational experience in the City of Boston.” said State Representative Michlewitz. “This bill should place the Commonwealth and the City at the front of the line with the $250 million in the Race To The Top funding by the Obama Administration.”
The legislation calls for stronger accountability and intervention authority in underperforming schools, allowing the Commonwealth to intervene and develop comprehensive plans to eliminate the achievement gap in struggling schools. For schools performing in the lowest 3% statewide, the state will be able to develop turnaround plans that involve the state’s social service agencies and suspend or modify elements of local collective bargaining agreements to put struggling schools on the path to success.
“With this bill, the House is taking strong action to eliminate our unacceptable achievement gap and ensure that every child in Massachusetts receives a world class education,” House Speaker Robert A. DeLeo said.
The bill also allows lifts the cap on charter schools in districts performing in the lowest ten percent of districts statewide. The bill intends to use charter school initiatives as one method for narrowing the achievement gap without having an impact beyond the lowest performing districts
“Massachusetts has one of the largest and most persistent achievement gaps of any state in our nation and nothing short of dramatic and disruptive change will solve this problem,” said House Education Chairwoman Martha M. Walz. “Immediate intervention in schools and districts that are repeatedly, and egregiously, failing our students is what we need, and that is exactly what this bill will do”
Embracing fresh ideas in the pursuit of excellence, the legislation also provides the groundwork for innovation schools which can be created with the authorization of individual districts. Innovation schools will offer alternative school models through collaboration between teachers, administrators and outside entities in an effort to provide new, creative options for the state’s children. Innovation schools will be established as new schools or through conversion of existing schools and will be allowed greater flexibility and autonomy than other district schools.
The bill will now go before a House and Senate Conference Committee. By passing the bill in the first session of 2010, the state is on track to submit a competitive application for “Race to the Top” funds by the January 19th, 2010 deadline.