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Success of school brings visit from governor

Date: 9/13/2011

Sept. 14, 2011

By G. Michael Dobbs

Managing Editor

SPRINGFIELD — For the students at the Springfield Renaissance School, the special guest last week brought a message of congratulations and expectation.

Gov. Deval Patrick met with seventh graders at the school, then with a group of seniors and finally with staff and administrators on Sept. 8.

In exchange, he received an invitation to be the school’s commencement speaker in 2012.

Renaissance School is not only an expeditionary learning school; it is also an innovation school, which means it has been given curriculum autonomy by the Springfield School Committee.

The innovation school format is part of the Patrick Administration’s efforts to reform public education.

“Innovation Schools give local communities the tools to close achievement gaps and create an environment where every student can access a high quality education,” Patrick said. “I welcome students back to school and thank the team at the Springfield Renaissance School for leading the way forward on educational innovation.”

For the past two years, the school has had a 100 percent college acceptance rate for its senior class and has been credited as having an academic format that has helped to close the achievement gap of its students.

“The flexibility that the Innovation School model provides is a powerful way of enabling educators and community members to take on enhanced leadership,” Executive Office of Education Secretary Paul Reville said. “The opportunity for teacher leadership and community involvement abounds in Innovation Schools.”

Principal Steve Mahoney said of Patrick’s visit, “It is always great for the kids and teachers for someone in a position like the governor’s to come to the school and listen to them.”

This was Patrick’s first visit to the school and Reville’s third visit, Mahoney added.

In the discussion with seniors, Patrick recalled volunteer work in Darfur he had undertaken after college and recounted how dangerous it was. He said with a laugh he would “kill” either of his children if they wanted to do something similar.

His point, though, with the story was to urge students to push themselves beyond their comfort zone.

Although Patrick admitted he doesn’t do well on standardized tests, he told the students. he supports the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System.

He also spoke on how students during his school career were given promotions to the next grade even though they had not earned the advancement academically. This practice led to lowered expectations for students, something that can’t happen today.

Speaking with the press after the visit, Patrick said that although there have been financial challenges, his administration has sought and received the highest level of funding for public education in the state’s history.

He said that his visit to the school showed him that “marvelous things are happening in urban classrooms.”

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