BESE Creates Special Group to Address Statewide Proficiency Gaps- Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Contact:Heidi Guarino 781-338-3106 or JC Considine 781-338-3112

BESE Creates Special Group to Address Statewide Proficiency Gaps

Will Address Patrick Administration Priority by Presenting Policy Recommendations and New Initiatives to Board Next Spring

MALDEN - A group of business, education and community leaders have joined a subcommittee of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to develop recommendations for ways to narrow and ultimately close the state's academic proficiency gap, a top priority identified in Governor Deval Patrick's Education Action Agenda.

Statewide results show that the performance of all students has improved over the past decade, and that some gaps have narrowed. That said, black and Hispanic students still score well below their white and Asian classmates: On the 2008 MCAS exam, black and Hispanic 10th graders averaged 238 on the English language arts exam, while their white classmates averaged 250. On the math exam, black students averaged 238, Hispanic students averaged 236 and white students averaged 254.

The Proficiency Gap Subcommittee will be led by Board member Jeffrey Howard, president of the Efficacy Institute, a Boston-based nonprofit that aims to build the belief that all children can "get smart."

"There are too many children in our state, many from identifiable population groups, who are not thriving academically. The proficiency gaps — that is, gaps between current vs appropriate academic performance — still linger, and that is unacceptable," Howard said. "We have recruited a group of smart, determined people for this committee, and I am hopeful that together we can come up with some new ideas that can help move the needle in the right direction statewide."

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester agreed.

"While we do well as a state, there are still too many pockets of students struggling to achieve at high levels," he said. "I look forward to working with the members of this committee to find innovative ways to narrow and eventually close these gaps."

Board Chairwoman Maura Banta thanked the committee members in advance for their efforts, and stressed the importance of the work ahead.

"One of the most important things we can do as a Board is set policy that will make it possible to move all students toward proficiency," she said. "This committee's recommendations will help move our state in that direction, and I am grateful to everyone who has agreed to commit their time to unraveling this complex problem."

The group will meet monthly over the next year and will present a set of policy recommendations and proposed initiatives to the Board next spring. The group's first full meeting will be held at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on Thursday, March 26 from 3-5 p.m.

Members of the group include:

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Harneen Chernow
Gerald Chertavian
Beverly Holmes
Jeffrey Howard
Dana Mohler-Faria

Other Members
Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education
Howard Eberwein, Pittsfield Superintendent
Richard Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education
Chris Gabrieli, Mass2020
Ricci Hall, teacher at University Park Campus School
Alan Ingram, Springfield Superintendent
Carol Johnson, Boston Superintendent
Sherri Killins, Commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care
Wendell Knox, Abt Associates
Bill Lupini, Brookline Superintendent
Adria Steinberg, Jobs for the Future
Neil Sullivan, Boston PIC
Susan Szachowicz, Brockton High School principal
Paul Toner, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Governor Deval Patrick's Education Action Agenda provides a blueprint for a more rigorous, comprehensive and successful 21st Century education system that expands on our achievements so that we ensure all Massachusetts students are prepared to succeed in the global economy. The full action agenda is available at

Last Updated: March 25, 2009

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