ROMNEY MOVES TO MAKE SCIENCE A GRADUATION REQUIREMENT
Says state's future economic success tied to continued educational improvement
Following up on his State of the Commonwealth address, Governor Mitt Romney today appeared before the Board of Education to urge them to require students to pass a science exam in order to graduate from high school.
"Massachusetts has a choice," Romney said. "We can provide our kids with a first-rate science education today or we can learn to live with a second-rate economy tomorrow."
Noting that the Massachusetts economy largely depends on scientific innovation, Romney said the state must do a better job preparing the workforce of tomorrow.
The Governor asked the Board of Education to require students to pass one of four discipline-specific MCAS science tests - biology, chemistry, physics or technology/ engineering - in order to earn a high school diploma. The science test will be in addition to the English and math MCAS tests that are already mandated.
When compared to their peers, Bay State students perform well on national standardized tests that measure scientific aptitude. However, weaknesses exist, according to Romney. Last spring, nearly one-third of the state's eighth graders did not pass the MCAS science exam and, in the state's five largest school systems, more than half of the students did not pass. In addition, Massachusetts is one of only eight states in the nation without statewide science requirements for students.
"Today's students are tomorrow's scientists and engineers," said Romney. "We need to ask ourselves whether our students are being given the tools to preserve the state's workforce advantage and thrive in tomorrow's science based economy."
Currently, students in the fifth and eighth grades must take the science component of the MCAS test. Beginning in 2006, high school students will be required to take the science exam although it will not count toward the graduation standard until approved by the Board of Education.
Romney applauded the Board of Education's plan to overhaul the teacher certification process and said aggressive efforts should be made to recruit highly qualified candidates to become teachers. He also sought the Board's support in cutting in half the time it takes to review failing schools.
"When a school is labeled as chronically underperforming, that's not a punishment but a signal that extra assistance is needed," said Romney. "Let's do our part and do it swiftly and efficiently to make sure student achievement doesn't suffer."
Romney told the Board of Education that his Fiscal Year 2006 Budget that he will file the next day will reflect many of its requests, including $8 million in additional funding for adult education; $1 million for the Gifted and Talented program; $2 million for extra help for failing schools; $4 million to implement new data tools to track student performance; and nearly $1 million to expand school-to-work programs in high schools.
Romney also said he will file an Education Act of 2005, which will include merit pay for teachers and financial incentives to attract math and science teachers, extending the school day in failing districts and making it easier for principals to weed out bad teachers.