Gov. Patrick continues rollout of education reform

Liz Mineo

In the second leg of a three-day announcement, Gov. Deval Patrick will be in Hopkinton Tuesday to continue unveiling his major school reform to overhaul the state's public education.

On Tuesday, Patrick plans to speak at EMC headquarters in Hopkinton about his "Readiness Project,'' a statewide initiative involving 200 educators, business leaders and community activists to develop a 10-year strategic plan for Massachusetts public schools. Joe Tucci, president and CEO of EMC Corp., is one of the three co-chairs of the Readiness Project, created by Patrick a year ago.

On Monday, Patrick visited the Boys and Girls Club in Dorchester to introduce the first part of his long-term education reform plan, which included recommendations to address the achievement gap and continue support for quality early education, considered one of the best predictors of educational success.

To close the achievement gap - the disparity between youngsters in different school districts and different demographics - the initiative calls for reducing class size in K-2 classrooms in high-need districts, launching a pilot program to identify students at risk of dropping out of high school, and increasing the number of Adult Basic Education and English programs, among other measures.

`"Education transforms lives, and there is no better way to position Massachusetts for prosperity in the 21st century than to prepare our children with the skills they need to compete anywhere,'' said Patrick in Dorchester, according to a press release. "It's time to build on the remarkable achievements of the past 15 years, and take education to the next level.''

Patrick's Readiness Project includes 50 recommendations to improve public schools in the Bay State. He started unveiling those recommendations yesterday in Dorchester, and will release the full action agenda by Wednesday at the JFK Library in Boston at the first-ever joint meeting of the state's four education boards, said Becky Deusser, Patrick's spokeswoman.

The governor is not releasing the recommendations before hand, but some of them have been leaked to the press. Among them are the creation of universal pre-kindergarten and full-day kindergarten, negotiating a single statewide teachers contract, allowing high school students to receive credit for classes taken on college campuses, merging some school districts, and letting students graduate if they pass a test to determine if they are ready for college, the Associated Press reports.

As for how the governor will finance his sweeping reforms, Monday he announced the creation of the Readiness Finance Commission to recommend short-term education investments for the 2010 school-year budget, according to the AP.

Supporters said Patrick's initiative, which hopes to build on the state's Education Reform Act of 1993, have hailed the plan as a call to action to transform education.

It's a needed step, said Lesley Ogrodnick, EMC public relations manager. EMC's Tucci heads the Readiness Project with Wheelock College president Jackie Jenkins-Scott and Harvard University professor Tom Payzant.

In an e-mailed response, Ogrodnick said the Readiness Project recommendations will provide the strategic plan to improve education in Massachusetts from kindergarten through higher education.

"While Massachusetts students continue to lead the nation in achievement, we recognize that together we must create the next-generation education systems to prepare our students to meet the needs of a global marketplace,'' she wrote.

The project has also met some opposition from within. On Monday, some Readiness Project members criticized Patrick for not following their recommendation to overhaul the current MCAS assessment system.

Six members of the MCAS subcommittee, who were speaking as individuals not for the full group, said they were unhappy to hear Patrick's announcement that there might be additional tests, but the current tests and graduation requirements will remain.

Kathleen Donaghue, a software engineer who lives in Westborough, has been a volunteer with the Readiness Project for over a year. She has nothing but praise for Patrick's education reform.

"It shows how our governor values education,'' she said. "It would really allow Massachusetts to grow strong by keeping our young people here, and allow our students to compete in a global economy.''

Liz Mineo can be reached at (508) 626-3825 or

The MetroWest Daily News