Deval Patrick's Destruction of Massachusetts Education.
With the pillars of reform under attack, Joe Williams, executive director of Democrats for Education Reform, wrote in the Globe, “You have to wonder why Massachusetts seems intent on retreating from its own nationally recognized success. The backward slide is already evident.”
The Commonwealth’s 15-year track record of successful education reform gave Governor Patrick a clear path ahead on education policy. Instead of undoing the reforms of his predecessors, the governor could have built on the state’s success by carrying on the commitment to high standards, fine-tuning a successful accountability system, and maintaining the governance structure that had successfully insulated critical education policy decisions from special-interest pressure. He could extend to others the educational opportunity that transformed his own life by raising from 9 to 20 percent the cap on the amount of money that can be transferred from school districts to charter schools in districts whose MCAS scores are in the bottom 10 percent statewide.
So far, he has chosen instead to dismantle reform and replace the singular focus on student achievement that was the key to education reform’s success with a wish list that would likely cost taxpayers an additional $2 billion per year. With the new Board of Elementary and Secondary Education stripped of independence, there is no entity left that can operate outside the political arena with the sole mission of improving academic performance.
Results released in September 2008 showed a sharp drop in MCAS pass rates and flat or declining scores in the elementary and middle school grades and in many urban districts. While 15 years of progress will not be undone overnight, as the Patrick administration’s efforts to dismantle reform continue, such drops are likely to become the rule. It is the price we will pay for Massachusetts policymakers snatching defeat from the jaws of the Commonwealth’s historic education-reform victory.