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The reform effort, Mr. Downes said, made the governor’s job much easier, as did the demographic makeup of Massachusetts.

“I think Massachusetts students probably would be doing well almost independently of everything else that goes on,” he said, referencing the state’s relatively wealthy residents, low poverty rates and higher-than-average school spending.

Running into trouble

But while classroom success continued under Mr. Romney, several of his other key proposals fell flat. He attempted to implement a merit pay system for teachers, designed to reward the best instructors with extra cash.

He also sought reforms to the teacher tenure system, often criticized for making it difficult, if not impossible, to remove ineffective classroom leaders.

Both of those goals met stiff resistance from labor unions and other opponents and were ultimately abandoned.

“It takes two to tango,” Mr. Peyser said, adding that the failure of some of Mr. Romney’s objectives “were not for lack of trying,” but instead were the result of a Democratic legislature unwilling to embrace them and the political power of unions.

“He was trying to push it one step further, and he ran into the kind of opposition that you would expect and that we’ve seen other places” where similar changes have been proposed, Mr. Peyser said.

Mr. Romney also successfully pushed for English immersion in schools and phasing out bilingual education, though many observers believe that the goal of helping Hispanic and other students learn the language quickly hasn’t been met.

Critics argue that it’s because the policy is deeply flawed, while Romney supporters, such as Mr. Peyser, contend that the English immersion approach was never fully implemented, nor can it yet be fully measured.

“The jury is still out from an empirical point of view,” Mr. Peyser said.

More choice

In several instances, Mr. Romney stuck to his guns and stood up to political opponents. He vetoed a bill put forth by Democrats to place a moratorium on the number of charter schools in the state, which were initially given the green light as part of the 1993 reforms.

Now, the state has 72 charters serving more than 2 percent of the student population, and Mr. Romney is making charters and school choice a cornerstone of his education agenda.

“No parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school and that increased choice translates into better outcomes for all students,” reads a portion of his education platform.

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