Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
Students & Families Educators & Administrators Teaching, Learning & Testing Data & Accountability Finance & Funding About the Department Education Board  

For Immediate Release
Monday, October 30, 2006
Contact: Heidi B. Perlman 781-338-3106

After A Lifetime In Education, Commissioner Driscoll To Retire In August

MALDEN - After 43 years in public education, including eight as leader of the Commonwealth's school system, Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll announced on Monday that he will retire on August 31, 2007.

Driscoll, 64, made his announcement at a press conference in his Malden office, flanked by his family, close friends and members of his staff. He and his wife, both lifetime educators, plan to retire together.

"I've seen the state through the creation and implementation of standards, assessments and accountability, all of which have been recognized nationally and hailed as among the best in the country," he said. "As Commissioner I've visited literally hundreds of schools, and, of everything I've seen, I'm most proud of the hard work and focus of the educators working every day on behalf of children of the Commonwealth, and the students themselves who have shown us that they can rise to - and oftentimes exceed - our expectations."

The Board of Education will be responsible for naming his successor. Driscoll said he purposely made his announcement 10 months prior to his planned departure date to give the Board ample time for a search and smooth transition.

The next commissioner's primary task will be to lead the state's public schools into and through the next phase of Education Reform, he said.

"Our next challenge will be to find ways to better engage students in their learning and create incentives for all to achieve at higher levels," he said. "We need to close the achievement gap and address barriers to learning. We need to graduate students who are college- and career-ready, and prepared to compete in the global economy."

Driscoll is best known for his unwavering devotion to children, his credibility and effectiveness in working with educators, parents and political leaders, his insistence on fairness and equity and his commitment to holding all students - regardless of race, ethnicity or hometown - to high standards and expectations.

Those closest to him know that the question, "What difference will it make for kids?" is the number one measure that he uses in all policy discussions and decisions.

And results, over Driscoll's tenure as commissioner, have shown that his commitment and dedication to doing only what's best for kids has paid off. The passing rate on the state's assessment test for first time test takers has risen from less than 50 percent in 1998 to 84 percent in 2006. And the percentage of 10th graders scoring at least Proficient on the English and Math exams has risen from 38 percent in 2001 to 59 percent in 2006.

State and national policy makers and education leaders alike gave Driscoll high praise and credited him for the state's accomplishments.

"Commissioner Driscoll deserves a large share of the credit for the progress of the Commonwealth's public schools," said Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. "The one million school children in Massachusetts have no greater friend and no better advocate. For 43 years of working in our public schools, he's lived and worked every day for school children. We're first in the nation in math and reading because of Dave's relentless spirit and passion for improvement. He has earned the deepest thanks of parents and students across the Commonwealth."

"Massachusetts has the best public education system in the country," said Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. "We are number one in no small measure because of the leadership of people like David Driscoll. Against all sorts of critics, Commissioner Driscoll defended standardized testing, pushed for more charter schools, emphasized math and science instruction and fought to give our teachers and principals new tools to keep our schools among the very best in the nation. Massachusetts will miss his leadership."

Board of Education Chairman Jim Peyser agreed.

"If any single person deserves credit for making Education Reform succeed in Massachusetts, it's David Driscoll," Peyser said. "David has consistently shown the courage to do what's right for children in the face of sometimes long odds and bitter opposition. Equally important, he has gone about this work with a humility and gentleness of spirit that have earned him the trust and respect of educators, policymakers and parents across the Commonwealth. His leadership will be greatly missed."

Driscoll has been called upon to participate in education policy discussions and decisions both locally and nationwide. He served as President of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in 2005, and is a member of the National Assessment Governing Board. Locally he is a member of the Board of Higher Education, the Board of Early Education and Care, and Chairman of the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement Board.

Driscoll is the state's 22nd Commissioner of Education, overseeing a 600-person agency and annual budget of more than $4 billion. He succeeded Robert Antonucci, who left in 1998.

A former secondary school mathematics teacher, Driscoll was named Melrose Assistant Superintendent in 1972 and Superintendent of Melrose in 1984. He served in that role until 1993, when he was appointed Deputy Commissioner of Education, just days after the state's Education Reform Act was signed into law. He became interim Commissioner in July of 1998, and was named Commissioner by the board of Education on March 10, 1999.

As Commissioner, he oversaw the development of the state's curriculum frameworks, implementation and expansion of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), the development of the state's School and District Accountability System and the development and administration of the Educator Certification Test and new licensure regulations.

These initiatives and others have led to consistent annual improvement in student achievement as measured by state standards (MCAS), national measures (NAEP, SAT and AP), and international tests (TIMMS). In 2005 Massachusetts was named the first state to ever earn the highest scaled score in the nation on all four NAEP exams in one year, a feat highlighted by national education leaders as extraordinary.

After he retires, Driscoll said he plans to play golf, spend more time with his family, write a book, and volunteer at the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy. His wife, Kathy, who has taught Reading at the secondary level for 23 years, will retire next fall. The couple have four grown children - who all graduated from the Melrose Public Schools - and three grandchildren.

Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll's Top 10 Accomplishments

  1. Saw continued progress in student performance on state and national assessments. Massachusetts received national recognition in 2005 when fourth and eighth graders ranked first in reading and tied for first in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams. This surpassed the national average, and marked the first time one state had ever placed first or tied for first on four exams in one year. SAT scores rose for 14 straight years until they declined slightly in 2006, and the state earned the highest score in the nation on the 2006 ACT math exam. Statewide, MCAS performance has improved annually, with more than 95 percent of all students graduating with a competency determination by the end of their senior year.

  2. Implemented the Education Reform Act of 1993 and the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. These two far-reaching laws both called for sweeping changes in public education and required constant oversight, supervision and policy discussion, debate and decision-making. Commissioner Driscoll oversaw the implementation of both laws, fighting for reforms at the State House and in Washington, D.C. when he felt change was needed, and standing firm on the overall goal to raise standards and expectations for all students.

  3. Implemented MCAS as the state's graduation requirement. Students in the Class of 2003 were the first required to earn a minimum of 220 on the MCAS exam to earn a high school diploma. Naysayers complained that the standard was too high; Commissioner Driscoll insisted it was both fair and reasonable. By 2006, 84 percent of 10th graders passed both the English and math exams on their first try. MCAS.

  4. Developed frameworks in the core content areas. Teachers across the Commonwealth worked with the Department to define what students need to know and be able to do in seven content areas: English language arts, mathematics, history and social sciences, science and technology/engineering, the arts, foreign languages, comprehensive health education. MCAS questions were later developed based on the standards in these frameworks. Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks.

  5. Fought for fair and predictable funding for schools. Speaking out for the hundreds of districts struggling with budget cuts, Commissioner Driscoll spent much of 2005 lobbying for a more equitable Chapter 70 funding formula. His successful efforts have greatly enhanced the ability of schools and districts to budget and plan, and reduced the need to charge students exorbitant fees for extracurricular activities. School Finance and District Support.

  6. Created a statewide accountability system that was the first to be approved nationally under NCLB. Massachusetts was one of a handful of states asked to submit their accountability plans early, and was the first to be approved in 2003 by President Bush and his education advisors. The state's system of school and district accountability was held up as a national model for other states to consider when developing their own systems. Accountability, Partnership, & Assistance.

  7. Implemented the Certificate of Occupational Proficiency. High school students in the Class of 2010 who are enrolled in vocational technical education programs and who demonstrate proficiency in their chosen field will be the first eligible to receive the state's new Certificate of Occupational Proficiency. This certificate will mean to employers that they have achieved an advanced level of knowledge and skills in their field, and in Commissioner Driscoll's words, "brings the real world into our vocational technical schools."

  8. Promoted the use of technology. Under the Commissioner's tenure, the use of technology has been encouraged both in the Department, in schools and in the classroom as a way to improve efficiency and effectiveness, make better use of data, and engage students in learning. This includes the development of the state's online licensure system (ELAR), the Student Information Management System (SIMS), and distribution of TestWiz, an application districts can use to interpret their raw MCAS data. Educator Services.

  9. Implemented Question 2. Voters overwhelmingly passed Question 2 in 2004, changing the rules for English language learners to require them to be placed in one year of English immersion before being mainstreamed. No funding came with this new law, but its implementation, including teacher training and student testing, has met with little resistance. English Language Learners.

  10. Provided national educational policy leadership. Driscoll has been called upon to participate in education policy discussions and decisions both locally and nationwide. He served as President of the Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) in 2005, and is a member of the National Assessment Governing Board. Locally he is a member of the Board of Higher Education, the Board of Early Education and Care, and Chairman of the Massachusetts Teachers Retirement Board. He has also made presentations before major national organizations including the Education Trust, the Milken Family Foundation, the National Association of School Boards and the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.

MCAS* 1998 2006
% Passing % Proficient or Advanced % Passing % Proficient or Advanced
Grade 10 English Language Arts 72% 38% 93% 69%
Grade 10 Math 48% 24% 88% 67%
Grade 8 Math 58% 31% 71% 40%
Grade 4 Math 77% 34% 85% 40%
National Assessment of Educational Progress 1998
% Prof +
% Prof +
Grade 4 Reading 35 44
Grade 4 Math (administered in 2000) 31 49
Grade 8 Reading 38 44
Grade 8 Math (administered in 2000) 30 43


SAT 1998 2006
Number of Test Takers 36.842 46,680
Mean Verbal (2005 score: 513) 502 506
Mean Math (2005 score: 522) 502 518
Advanced Placement 1998 2006
Number of Exams With a Score of 3+ 13,597 29,454
Number of Test Takers 12,277 24,749
Number of Exams Taken 19,403 41,345


Charter Schools 1998 2006
Total Number of Operating Charter Schools 24 59
Total Charter School Enrollment 6,607 21,866
Students on Waiting Lists to Enter a Charter School 5,660 16,004

Last Updated: October 30, 2006
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search·Public Records Requests · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact ESE