We were lukewarm on Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's "Readiness Project" last summer, but it seems that a year's time has made some of its elements slightly warmer. Patrick now seeks to allow the state to take over the 30 worst failing schools, render moot portions of teacher contracts that pose impediments to reform, and clear the path for the state to repair broken schools. The new powers, which would allow Patrick to change school leadership, teacher contracts, and curriculum, and possibly bring in outside operators, would also allow him to create his signature "readiness schools." (Like other Bay State charter-lite options, these would maintain district oversight and unionized teachers.) The dirty thirty would be returned to their districts' mercies eventually, most likely under the readiness model. While we applaud Patrick's push for changes, including some pushback against restrictive union contracts, state takeovers have a notoriously rocky history. And we're not sure Massachusetts needs yet another version of charter-esque schools (it has two already) when the real thing would certainly do the job, and better. But accompanying legislation reveals that Patrick is also planning to lift the charter cap in "high needs" areas, which would apparently make room for both his readiness schools and more charters. (This is a change from last summer, when Patrick planned to freeze charters as an incentive for districts to accept readiness schools. Could charter-friendly stimulus dollars possibly be affecting his thinking?) Overall, what we're hearing out of Boston is far from red hot, but we're encouraged that parts are at least temperate.
"30 failing schools may face takeover," by James Vaznis, Boston Globe, July 2, 2009
"School 'reform' snubs students," by Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass, Boston Herald, July 3, 2009
"Lifeboat for failing schools," editorial, Boston Globe, July 6, 2009