In 2010, leaders on Beacon Hill crafted the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, the most ambitious school reform legislation since the historic Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993. In addition to this bill’s, path-breaking provisions on school turnarounds, the Act launched a bold new strategy for addressing the twin challenges of fostering greater school choice and stimulating more innovation.
Policy-makers executed a highly effective two-pronged maneuver: lift the cap on charter schools in communities with the biggest achievement gaps, but only for proven charter providers, while simultaneously creating a new breed of “innovation schools,” an evolved species of in-district charters, which would allow mainstream educators to compete with charters by embracing charter-like autonomies on matters of budget, staffing, schedule and curriculum. In addition, a new breed of Horace Mann schools were added to the mix. The result: the floodgates were opened.