By David P. Driscoll
David P. Driscoll is Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Education. He is also the Secretary of the Board of Education, which oversees the policymaking for public education, grades pre-kindergarten through twelve, and adult basic education.
Nine years ago, with the passage of the Education Reform Act in 1993, Massachusetts renewed its commitment to education in an unprecedented way. The Education Reform Law was designed to comprehensively improve education by incorporating high standards, accountability, school-based reform, and more equitable funding for districts. Teachers, parents, and education and government leaders agreed that the time had come to make a serious investment in public education. That investment has amounted to over $7 billion in new funding since education reform began. Our Governors and the Legislature kept their promise by fully funding education reform through every budget cycle, which has been critical to the opportunity for success.
For me, the human investment in education reform has been equally important. Thousands of teachers and administrators have been engaged in the process of bringing standards-based education to life for the 970,000 public school students in the Commonwealth. Educators continue to be engaged in every step of the process, from developing the standards in the curriculum frameworks to writing questions to assess students' knowledge of the standards for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS).
As each component of education reform has been developed and implemented, the amount of attention focused on public schools in Massachusetts has reached an unparalleled level. However, I believe-and the 2001 MCAS results have shown-that education reform has helped us all to focus our efforts on what really counts: student achievement.
MCAS has acted as a mirror, reflecting the chronic problems that have existed in public education for many years. The 2001 MCAS results also reflected the positive improvements that are taking place in our classrooms. Across the state, 82% of all 10th graders passed the English language arts exam, up from 66% last year. And in mathematics, 75% passed, up from just 55% last year. In total, over two-thirds (68%) of the class of 2003 earned the competency determination they will need to graduate-on their first try. Of those 10th grade students who failed one or both sections of the MCAS, the majority (60% in English and 65% in mathematics) scored within 4 scaled score points of passing. These numbers are proof of the work that has been done to meet the Commonwealth's high standards, and for that, our teachers, administrators, students, and parents should be congratulated.
As I have often said, this is a great time to be involved in the field of education. I would like to thank our state leaders-the Governor, the Legislature, the Board of Education, business partners, parents, and community leaders-for their commitment to education reform in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. All of us, working together, have begun to show that hard work, focus, high expectations, and the right standards can enhance the academic achievement and impact the lives of all students in the Commonwealth.