Governor Deval Patrick said today that his administration’s approach to public education reflects a “generational responsibility” to create economic and social opportunity for young people.
“The whole idea that we in our time are supposed to do something better for those who come behind us is something that has leaked out of our commerce and leaked out of our governing, frankly, for a long time. And it seems to me that now is the time to bring that back,” Patrick said at a forum in Boston sponsored by Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) and the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE).
“Generational responsibility - that’s why we’ve invested in education at highest level in history of the commonwealth, even with this extraordinary budget stress ... We’ve got to start thinking again about what kind of service we owe not just to the here and now, as important as that is, but to those who come behind us.”
Patrick maintained that the news about education in Massachusetts is good, with Bay State students leading the nation in achievement for the past four years and the Legislature having passed an education reform bill this year designed to close the achievement gap between young people in wealthy school districts and those in struggling systems.
The achievement gap is an educational, economic and moral issue, according to Patrick. “The children stuck in that gap are poor children, children with special needs or who speak English as a second language, more often than not children of color,” he said.
The governor’s comments came at the last of three forums sponsored by AIM and MBAE at which the candidates for governor outlined their views on education and the economy. Independent candidate Timothy Cahill and Republican challenger Charles Baker spoke at earlier sessions dominated by discussion of the administration’s recent decision to adopt federal educational standards.
Patrick referenced the move to national “common core” standards and thanked the business community for supporting a decision he said “is a lot about the rest of the country trying to become us.” The national standards will help the Massachusetts economy, Patrick said, because of their emphasis on practical application of science and math concepts.
The governor said his goal for a second term would be to use new policy tools such as $250 million in federal Race to the Top funds and education reform to improve student performance. His agenda includes:
- Close the achievement gap. “Signing the bill is not enough. We need to really get at the problem,” Patrick said.
- Support “innovation schools,” experimental institutions that make changes according to plans approved and supervised by local school districts.
- Ensure that charter schools address children at the short end of the achievement gap.
- Support teachers through strong recruitment, training, mentoring.
- Examine merit pay for teachers. The governor said there is a “right way and wrong way” to implement pay for performance but that “we shouldn’t just say it’s out of bounds because it has been in the past.”
- Refresh the state’s approach to early childhood education to push services to children from birth to age three.
- Review the mission of community colleges.
Patrick defended the role of government in improving education. He also said citizens must leave behind their often nostalgic impressions of what a school should be.
“We must think about the way the world is becoming and what schools must have in order to prepare young people for that,” he said.