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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Chairman's Statement at August 28th Board meeting

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Governor Deval Patrick recently honored me by asking me to chair the Massachusetts State Board of Education. Because of my deep respect for the institution of the Board and my belief in the Board's power to promote improved learning for all Massachusetts' children, I readily, and with humility, accepted this new responsibility.

I am eager to work with the Governor, the Legislature, fellow Board members, the Department of Education, educators, community leaders and members, parents and a host of interested parties in leading the next phase of education reform and improvement in the Commonwealth. Our achievements in school reform in Massachusetts have been impressive over the last decade and a half, and we should celebrate these. However, it is obvious that all children are not yet learning at high levels in Massachusetts. Despite the best efforts of policy makers, educators and advocates, there are persistent gaps in student achievement and too often, these gaps correlate with socio-economic status. All students have not achieved proficiency nor are all students, irrespective of their achievements, being challenged. We need to do better.

Schools and educators need support in order to build the necessary expertise to achieve our unprecedented goal of educating all students to high levels. Standards and accountability are critical cornerstones that provide the foundation for education reform, but a foundation alone is insufficient. The Commonwealth needs to provide the resources, expertise, direction and opportunities for our educators to do what is essentially a new job, educating all students to at least a level of proficiency. In addition, the work of educating all students goes beyond the boundaries of traditional K-12 schools. Early childhood education, human and social services, expanded school time and after school and summer programming are all needed in addition to a robust Department of Education capable of providing high quality technical assistance and support to all school districts.

Education reform has arguably lost momentum. Even though tens of thousands of people have worked tirelessly to achieve our educational ideals, the gaps persist and we must redouble our efforts and move forward boldly to do whatever needs to be done to improve educational performance at all levels. Our educational challenges are complex and will not lend themselves to simplistic solutions. We will need to be thoughtful, persistent and courageous in order to move ahead. Now is the time.

I pledge to lead a civil, deliberate process to finding strategies to meet our biggest educational challenges. We want to have a collaborative, thorough process which in the end, leads to decisions that will be lasting and make a constructive difference for children. I will challenge all parties to the conversation to present not only their criticisms of current policy but their constructive prescriptions for future policy. There's much to be done, and I welcome the participation of all of those in the Commonwealth who see high quality education as a fundamental obligation to our children and a vital key to our future as a society.

I recognize that one of our biggest challenges may be to have an expansive, inclusive, civil discourse on education, while still, after a reasonable interval of listening to one another, having the courage to call the question so that we might take timely action on behalf of children. We must be ready to act on behalf of children.

Our first step as a Board will be to commence the work of selecting a Commissioner of Education, the state's chief state school officer. The process of selecting the Commissioner will move forward immediately and embody the opportunities for participation that I hope will be a hallmark of the Board's work. I will be seeking your input as part of this process.

I have played many roles in the world of education from teacher, to principal, to activist, to professor, to researcher, to policy maker, but perhaps my most important role is that of parent. I will be guided in this work by wanting for all children in the Commonwealth what I want for my own children. I invite you to join me and the Board in this important mission. Please feel free to be in touch, to share your views. Know that you will be heard.

I find that most of us agree on the goals that we want to achieve for children in our schools, our desire to educate each one of them fully so that they might both flourish in our society and contribute to it. This agreement on both excellence and equity is heartening and cause for optimism. Our disagreements tend to revolve around strategy: how to achieve our goals. We sometimes disagree strenuously on the ways and means of achieving goals especially when our own adult interests are at stake. A certain amount of disagreement is healthy and essential for forging new solutions to the challenges we face.

I know that, going forward, we won't always agree on strategies either, but we will listen to one anther respectfully, and we will be persistent in our conviction that the quality of our schools depends on our commitment to the continuing struggle to find the right strategies to make good on the promise of a high quality public education for all of our children.

I look forward to working with you on this vitally important mission.


S. Paul Reville
c/o Rennie Center
131 Mt. Auburn Street
Cambridge, Ma. 02138
E mail:

Last Updated: August 28, 2007
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