Secretary of Education James Peyser, who helps to shape the experiences of Massachusetts students from kindergarten through college as Governor Charlie Baker’s top education advisor, delivered the keynote address Thursday at the University of Massachusetts Boston’s fall convocation ceremony.
The secretary’s remarks were preceded by an address on excellence from Chancellor J. Keith Motley.
Peyser offered robust praise for the UMass system and UMass Boston in particular, citing its inclusion this week on the Best Colleges list from U.S. News & World Report.
“Enrollment is growing, quality is high and improving, and UMass’s reputation across the country, and around the world, and in this city is steadily and deservedly gaining ground,” Peyser said. “Education writ large in Massachusetts leads the nation, and this campus, this university, is a big reason why.”
UMass Boston is a major component of the best state-level education systems in the United States, Peyser said, noting the commonwealth’s No. 1 ranking in K-12 performance and its wide variety of higher education options.
“Nevertheless, we are confronted with serious issues which we can’t afford to ignore,” he said. “The state and federal resources are increasingly limited for both operating expenses and capital investments.”
While admitting he doesn’t have all the answers, Peyser outlined five principles that should underline the commonwealth’s education agenda: Don’t just balance the budget, change the model; get focused, grow what works, and stop doing what doesn’t; align, coordinate, and integrate to maximize efficiency and value; one size doesn’t fit all, and it doesn’t fit even most; and put the mission first.
After his remarks, Peyser answered audience questions for about 20 minutes, including from union members who attended to protest his appearance.