James A. Peyser has been chosen by Governor-elect Charlie Baker to be the next education chief for Massachusetts.
Peyser has been both credited with and criticized for his role in the launch of the state’s MCAS test, as well as the promotion of charter schools across the state, while he was education adviser to governors William F. Weld, Jane Swift, and Mitt Romney, and as a former chairman of the state Board of Education.
Recently he was the managing director for NewSchools Venture Fund, a nonprofit group that awards grants to charter schools and other education entrepreneurs.
Under his new role, Peyser will aid in education policy at all levels, from pre-kindergarten through college, writes Michael Levenson for The Boston Globe.
His position will begin during a time of uncertainty in the state as the Common Core standards become fully implemented, the MCAS is being phased out in favor of a new online testing system known as PARCC, and the introduction of new curriculum. Throughout all this, Peyser will face the increase in mounting criticism from parents and teachers who believe the state is overtesting its students.
Peyser will also be helping Baker to fulfill his vow to allow at least 50 new charter schools to open in the state over the next four years. There are currently 80 charter schools operating in the state.
He may face criticism from teachers’ unions across Massachusetts who have spoken out against charter schools and standardized tests, referring to them as attempts to privatize public schools. In response to the announcement of Peyser’s new position, Barbara Madeloni, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said: “Vigorous disagreement should be welcome in the debate over public education.”
“Our goal is to make sure that Jim Peyser — and other education officials who are appointed to join the new administration — will respond to the views of educators, parents, and communities concerning all policy decisions they make,” she said.
Peyser said he would like to help close the ever-present achievement gap between low-income and more affluent students, increase vocational and technical education, all while helping to make college more affordable.
In a statement, Peyser said, “I am committed to advancing the Governor-elect’s ambitious priorities by producing more great schools throughout the Commonwealth, expanding and strengthening career-technical education programs, developing new partnerships with local school districts and communities, and making higher education more affordable and responsive to the needs of our diverse regions.”