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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Innovation Schools Update

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 14, 2013


The innovation schools statute, G.L. c. 71, § 92, was enacted as an important component of the Achievement Gap Act of 2010. The innovation school statute allows school committees to authorize public schools within the district to operate with increased autonomy and flexibility for the purpose of improving school performance and student achievement. Through a collaborative local approval process, schools may exercise autonomy and flexibility in the areas of curriculum; budget; school schedule and calendar; staffing, including waivers or exemptions from collective bargaining agreements; school district policies; and professional development. Innovation schools receive the same per-pupil allocation as traditional district schools and may engage in fundraising directly or through an associated non-profit. Innovation schools may be established as new schools, conversions of existing schools, or as an innovation program within an existing school.

This memo provides an overview of the initiative to date and information about funding, the Innovation Schools Network, and the legislative report for fiscal year 2013. Also attached for reference is a chart that provides a comparison of innovation schools, pilot schools, Horace Mann charter schools, and Commonwealth charter schools.


Interest has grown in innovation schools in the three years since the statute was enacted. Currently, there are 47 innovation schools across the Commonwealth that serve approximately 17,000 students in 26 school districts. Statewide, students attending innovation schools are diverse and 63 percent are in the high needs accountability subgroup; 25.4 percent of students have a first language that is not English, 16.2 percent of students are limited English proficient, 57.1 percent of students are low income, and 16.1 percent of students receive special education services. Eighteen innovation schools are located in the "gateway cities" designated in G.L. c. 23A, § 3A. About one-third of innovation schools are classified as level 3 schools and are using their autonomy and flexibility to improve student outcomes. About one-fourth of the schools are focused on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), while other innovation schools are implementing dual language immersion programs and programs that incorporate multiple pathways to college and career success. Because innovation schools are still in the early stages of implementation, limited educational outcome data exists.


Innovation schools are designed to be fiscally neutral. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department), in collaboration with the Executive Office of Education (EOE), has used Race to the Top (RTTT) and private grant funding to provide planning and implementation grants to support new innovation schools over the past two years. The Department is in the process of awarding the final remaining $150,000 of RTTT funds allocated for innovation schools through the issuance of a one-time Innovation Schools Enhancement Grant. This grant will provide support to innovation schools in RTTT districts to: (1) plan for sustainable expanded learning time strategies by redesigning the daily school schedule and school year calendar, and (2) provide targeted professional development activities aligned to the school's approved Innovation School Plan. The Senate has proposed $1,000,000 of new state funding for FY2014 to continue supporting planning and implementation efforts.

Innovation Schools Network

The Innovation Schools Network was launched to give educators, administrators, and supporters of innovation schools the opportunity to meet with each other, to receive ongoing planning and implementation support, to gain additional knowledge regarding specific topic areas, and to share best practices. Earlier this year, the "Innovation Schools Principals Network" was also formed. This group provides collegial support to leaders of innovation schools. The Annual Innovation Schools Network Statewide Convening will be held at Auburn Senior High School, Thursday, June 27, 2013. This year's convening will begin with a welcome from state education leaders, followed by a morning breakout session, lunch, and afternoon breakout sessions. The morning breakout session will allow for small group discussions in which participants will be matched by job function; the afternoon breakout sessions will be panel discussions regarding programmatic themes that innovation schools are currently implementing.

FY13 Report to the Legislature

At the Board's meeting on June 25th, we will distribute the legislative report for the current fiscal year, FY2013 Implementation and Fiscal Impact of Innovation Schools. This report was written in collaboration with EOE. The report includes grant award information, a list of innovation schools and their demographic data, and performance profiles of innovation schools that have been in operation for one or more years. The performance profiles include the school's mission, a description of the school's autonomy and innovation, and superintendents' summaries of progress toward meeting the annual goals in schools' Innovation Plans. Under the innovation schools statute, G.L. c. 71, § 92(n), the superintendent must evaluate every innovation school in their district annually and submit the evaluation to the school committee and to the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Department and EOE also use the information contained in these annual evaluations to plan future guidance to innovation schools and to gather data on best practices.

At the Board's meeting on June 25th, the principals of two innovation schools, Dr. Stephen Mahoney of the Springfield Renaissance Innovation School and Jean-Marie Kahn of the Carlton Elementary School in Salem, will discuss their experiences implementing the innovation plans at their respective schools. Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and Bridget Rodriguez, Director of Planning and Collaboration at EOE, will be present to respond to your questions.


Download PDF Document  Download Excel Document
Comparison of Innovation Schools, Pilot Schools, Horace Mann Charter Schools and Commonwealth Charter Schools

Last Updated: June 21, 2013
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