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Education Pick Heads Reforms

Since his days campaigning for Governor, Deval Patrick has spoken about transformation through education.

He experienced it himself, he says, growing up poor in Chicago, getting a scholarship to Milton Academy, and attending Harvard University.

Since becoming Governor, Patrick has outlined a 10-year plan for reforming the state's education system. His first step was to create an Executive Office of Education. Then yesterday he appointed a new Secretary of Education to oversee its efforts. WBUR's Monica Brady-Myerov reports.

TEXT OF STORY:

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Before announcing his pick for Secretary of Education, Governor Patrick mingled with students in a forensic science class at Monument High School in South Boston. Peering into a microscope, he studied silk fibers.

[SOUNDS OF GOVERNOR PATRICK WITH STUDENTS]

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Now, as Governor Patrick moves forward with restructuring how he oversees education, his approach is going under the microscope. His administration could be judged on it. Governor Patrick.

DEVAL PATRICK: A signature focus of my administration has been to create a comprehensive world class system of public education in Massachusetts.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: To lead his education effort, Patrick has chosen Paul Reville for the newly created cabinet level post of Secretary of Education. Reville, who is currently chairman of the Board of Education, is highly regarded for his reform efforts in the 1990s. Reville says he's fired up by Patrick's commitment.

PAUL REVILLE: Because we have an education governor with that kind of vision I wanted to accept this position and because we have a special moment here in which to advance our system significantly and particularly to make it work for those who we've historically served least well.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: What changes Patrick makes will hinge on the so-called Readiness Project, which will lay out a 10-year strategic plan. The project has brought together nearly 200 educators to look at everything from MCAS to public and private higher education.

But the release of their recommendations has been delayed and now isn't expected for another few months. John Schneider, who is on the Readiness Project and is with the public policy think tank MassInc, says the pace of reform is disappointing.

JOHN SCHNEIDER: I think we lost a year. I think we brought together a lot of smart people some of us who may disagree. But I would have like to have seen this process really begin on is inauguration.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: But the governor is already getting high marks for working with the legislature to create the Executive Office of Education. Neil Sullivan is the executive director of the Boston Private Industry Council, which places students in paid internships.

NEIL SULLIVAN: A lot of governors across the country are throwing programs at the education issues. That's not what Governor Patrick is doing. He's creating an infrastructure so that when we move forward with the right programs we don't lose the gains as we move from year to year.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Many educators say under previous governors the system has been fractured. Now Paul Reville as Education Secretary will be responsible for smoothing the transitions between schooling levels. That's good, says Boston School Superintendent Carol Johnson.

CAROL JOHNSON: What we need to do it make sure we have a seamless system so that when students enter in kindergarten they get a good an early start in the early grades, they move thru elementary, they graduate from high school that they see in their future post secondary experience.

MONICA BRADY-MYEROV: Educators say seamless transitions from pre-K through college could correct some of the most intractable problems in our school system, such as the achievement gap and a high drop out rate. They will be watching closely to see whether Patrick's administration can make gains in these areas.

For WBUR I'm Monica Brady-Myerov.

This program aired on March 12, 2008. The audio for this program is not available.

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