Innovation Partnership Zones, an educational Third Way

Back in late May, 2016, Empower Schools hosted an event called The Emerging Third Way featuring on-the-ground voices from Lawrence, Springfield, and Denver, as well as MA Secretary of Education Jim Peyser, MA Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, and US Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr.

Another featured voice was Representative Alice Peisch, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education. In her reaction to the morning’s discussions Rep. Peisch said, “we constantly hear in the legislature from districts about their need to have more access to the kinds of flexibilities and autonomies that they get at the level 4 stage much earlier.” Today, Rep Peisch is leading a third way effort of her own by proposing legislation that would enable districts to access real autonomy and flexibility before schools fall into the underperforming category.

According to Scot Lehigh’s article in the Boston Globe, Innovation Partnership Zones, as they are called in Rep. Peisch’s proposal, share the same general structure as the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership: an independent, interlocking board of directors, a performance contract with the local district, and a pathway to a new, negotiated collective bargaining agreement that allows more teacher voice at the school level. The proposal allows Innovation Partnership Zones to be initiated by a district or by the commissioner in partnership with a district in an effort to improve schools before the require state intervention.

Empower’s CEO, Chris Gabrieli, concluded his comments at the Third Way event with the following statement:

“The Third Way is a broad river with several tributary streams that together can and should see themselves, ourselves, as one movement working to create new ways ahead fusing the best of districts and charters.”

We are excited to follow this third way effort to unlock autonomy for more districts and schools across Massachusetts, to give teachers and leaders more decision making power and resources, to build on promising practices, and to continue Massachusetts’ national educational leadership.