Excellence and No Excuses

I was recently interviewed for Alyson Klein’s EdWeek article on the evolution of Mitt Romney’s education policies since his time as governor of Massachusetts. Worth noting – this retrospective provides an important window into the left-right convergence around urban reform and failing schools.

As Paul Reville points out in the article, when Romney became governor in 2002, “we were on a rising course.”  MA had already passed the critical juncture when graduating high school students had taken the first high stakes tests in 2001 – ultimately with a 95 percent passing rate.

However, Romney took the opportunity to establish a new set of goals, focusing in particular on two areas where little progress had been made.  In partnership with Mass Insight and our Great Schools Coalition of business and university leaders, the governor proposed 1) multiple teacher investment strategies for a STEM excellence agenda and 2) the carrots and sticks required to move beyond the prior dismal attempts at state intervention in failing schools.

Mass Insight had in that period published a list of the 100 worst schools in the state and established the bottom 5 percent turnaround goal, which became the call to action in our 2007 national Turnaround Challenge Report and ultimately the turnaround goal of the Obama Administration.  The bolder actions Romney and a few other governors had advocated earlier had, by this time, developed support from reformers on the left and right concerned about the failure to improve urban schools and paved the way for a more aggressive national strategy.