Statement by Massachusetts Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci
(as prepared for delivery Wednesday, February 4, 1998)
I am announcing today that I am leaving my position as Commissioner of Education next month to become President of ICS Learning Systems, one of the world's premier distance learning companies and a subsidiary of Harcourt General.
The company is based in Scranton, Pennsylvania, serves 400,000 students worldwide and has 1,000 employees.
This new position will be an exciting challenge for me. I am pleased that I will be able to continue my work in education, business and technology through this company.
Reflections on the Past Six Years
As you know, I have served as Commissioner of Education in Massachusetts since being appointed in March, 1992. During this time, the Department of Education was responsible for implementing the innovative reforms of the 1993 Education Reform law, including charter schools, fundamental changes in the funding formula, development of state academic learning standards in all core areas, professional standards for educators, and a new tests for students. I worked under two Boards, and two Board chairs--Marty Kaplan, from 1992 to 1995, and Dr. John Silber, from 1996 to the present. I worked under two Governors, William Weld and Paul Cellucci. It was a pleasure and a privilege and, together, we accomplished a great deal in these years.
We worked to see the Education Reform Act become law. We helped to get off the ground the new funding formula for schools. We helped to establish the school councils. We adopted the first state plan for professional development. We strengthened early childhood education and adult basic education. We established an extensive public outreach process and kept the public involved and informed every step of the way as we implemented Education Reform policies. We built the first five-year cycle for teacher recertification. We reshaped the content of the school day through time and learning reforms. We won federal grants for the second round of our successful math and science initiative, PALMS, and for School-to-Work. We successfully competed for federal regulatory relief through "Ed-Flex." We supported study groups for thousand of teachers. We worked to write, rewrite and finally gained the endorsement of all the curriculum frameworks, including one in the area of health not even specified in the law. We adopted model standards for effective teaching and administration. We helped the first 25 charter schools get off the ground. We are kicking off the new test for teachers this month. We worked to reach an agreement with Lawrence, and to build a statewide system of accountability. And we started a new test for 3rd graders, and arrived at the verge of the new state testing program, MCAS.
Those are remarkable accomplishments. These are terrific times for public education. In Massachusetts we are extraordinarily fortunate to have a leadership team in the executive branch and legislature who are committed to strengthening this system. We have the strong support of our Governor, Paul Cellucci, our Senate President Tom Birmingham with whom I worked to see Ed Reform become law, and Speaker of the House Tom Finneran, and the leaders of the Education Committee in the State House, Hal Lane and Bob Antonioni.
Now, we still have a lot to do. I will continue to be active now and during the period of transition. At the meeting of the Board of Education this Tuesday, February 10, Board members and I will discuss specifics of the transition. I have committed my support and involvement to Governor Cellucci and to Chairman John Silber in order to ensure that the momentum of the many education reform initiatives continues.
In the next few weeks, I want to focus on four major initiatives to ensure they are in place:
- Implementation of the state's agreement with the Lawrence Public Schools
- Review of the new charter school applications in preparation for recommendations to the Board at the end of February.
- Implementation of the new Massachusetts Teacher Tests program set to begin on February 21.
- Completion of final preparations and training for school officials for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment Program, with the first tests of 4th, 8th and 10th graders to take place in May.
My advice to the next Commissioner will be to stay the course. Stay the course in every area -- the Lawrence agreement, the test for teachers, the test for students. In that regard, there is a lot of anxiety about the new testing program for students. I hear those concerns every day. My advice will be to stay committed to this testing program, and watch the results over the next two to four years. Then we will know if Education Reform has worked to raise student achievement. What we know now is that much has happened to strengthen the schools. Teachers, textbooks, technology, standards--these have all helped, and will help more. And the upcoming test is where the baseline to measure Education Reform will be set and where Education Reform will become a permanent reality.
I am very pleased with what has been accomplished. I have spent 30 years in public education in Massachusetts, starting as a 6th grade teacher, then principal, assistant superintendent, then superintendent in Falmouth, and now as Commissioner. So it's time for a change. This new opportunity allows for a change and yet keeps me in the field of serving students, this time through technology and distance learning and around the world.
I would be happy to answer your questions.