Massachusetts employers rely on our public schools to prepare students to compete in our global economy. MBAE has been a leader in education reform over the past two decades, and although we are proud of our state’s progress, we recognize that there is still work to be done. MBAE continues to focus on improvements at the state level to raise student achievement, particularly in our most challenged and disadvantaged districts.
Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks and Next Generation Assessments
On July 21, 2010, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to replace the 2001 Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Framework and the 2000 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework and their 2004 Supplements. Committees of educators, working with the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, augmented and customized the Common Core in a process that led to the development of the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks that were approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at their December 21, 2010 meeting. MBAE supports this transition to college and career-ready standards, along with other leading business organizations and employers.
Common Core State Standards
MBAE has been a champion of the standards-based reforms approach reflected in the Education Reform Act of 1993 that we helped develop and have supported and monitored ever since. That approach is based on high standards for achievement, accountability for performance, and equitable funding for meeting these goals. After reviewing the rigorous, independent comparison between the Massachusetts and Common Core educational standards, the MBAE board voted to recommend that the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education adopt Common Core and that the Board exceed Common Core in areas where improvements can be made.
Our position on the Common Core State Standards was taken only after serious consideration of whether it would advance the college and career readiness of Massachusetts students and continue to improve our education system. MBAE commissioned a non-ideological, thorough review of the state’s standards and Common Core to provide factual and unbiased information about whether adoption of Common Core would build on the successes of the last 17 years of education reform and investment. This study, conducted by WestEd, an independent national education research agency, which found that:
- There is more in common than not between Massachusetts academic standards and the proposed Common Core; and both sets of standards are high;
- There is substantial alignment in math (96%) and English (74%) and the standards are comparable with regard to whether these are clear and measurable;
- In math, the two sets of standards reflect a comparable level of rigor;
- In English, the Common Core tends to have a heavier emphasis on standards that focus on strategic thinking, and those begin in earlier grades.
We were joined in this position by five other business organizations who also based their conclusions on the WestEd analysis.
Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC)
Whether the Common Core State Standards are an effective tool in the preparation of students for their future will depend on the development of assessments aligned to the standards. MBAE’s position is that new assessments must be a true measure of readiness to succeed without the need for remediation in higher education, to train for whatever credential is necessary for a student’s chosen vocational or career path, and to be productive citizens. We recently commissioned research to compare our state’s existing MCAS tests with the PARCC exams at their current stage of development. MBAE will closely watch the results of 2015 field tests of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) and continue to advocate for accountability for meeting high standards of student achievement.
Evaluation of Teachers and Administrators
MBAE is committed to ensuring that we attract, develop and retain talented educators so every child will be taught by a great teacher in every classroom, every year. The Race to the Top requirement that student achievement be a “significant factor” in the evaluation of teachers and administrators presents Massachusetts an unprecedented opportunity to overhaul an evaluation system that all agree does not serve teachers or students.
Representing the business community on the Task Force on Evaluation of Teachers and Administrators, MBAE advocated for creating a system that recognizes and rewards excellence.
Our position is that an effective new evaluation system must:
Make multiple measures of student achievement at least 50% of an educator’s evaluation;
Make results the centerpiece of the system, rejecting proposals to elevate process over outcomes; and
Institute a statewide system, not one that varies from district to districts.
We expressed our views at a meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on February 28 and in public comments at the Board’s meeting on March 22, 2011. MBAE also presented testimony when the Board voted on final regulations on June 28, 2011.
School Finance – Foundation Budget Review Commission
The Education Reform Act of 1993 calls for periodic review of the formula set forth in “Chapter 70” to provide equitable state funding for every child across the state. The “foundation budget” is established annually for each school district according to this formula that establishes the minimum level of school spending necessary to provide an “adequate education” to each student based on the specific grades, programs, and demographic characteristics of a district’s population. After years of minor adjustments, but no full review, in 2014 the Legislature established a Foundation Budget Review Commission “to review the way foundation budgets are calculated and to make recommendations for potential changes in those calculations as the commission deems appropriate.”
Co-chaired by Joint Committee on Education Co-Chairs Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Alice Peisch, the Foundation Budget Review Commission held six hearings across the Commonwealth on the re-examination of the Chapter 70 school finance law. At the public hearings, citizens were invited to submit testimony on the four areas that the Commission is specifically charged with examining:
- The educational programs and services necessary to achieve the commonwealth’s educational goals and to prepare students to achieve passing scores on the state assessment system;
- The components and assumptions used in the calculation of foundation budgets;
- Measures to ensure that resources are effectively utilized; and
- Models of efficient and effective resource allocation.
MBAE presented testimony emphasizing actions that should be taken to ensure resources are being used effectively and efficiently for the benefit of students. The Commission is now holding frequent meetings through June to prepare its report to the Legislature.
Municipal Health Care Reform
MBAE is in favor of granting cities and towns the authority to design employee health insurance plans outside of collective bargaining. This will provide local governments the opportunity to invest realized cost savings in education and other initiatives. Our position is based on our examination of the foundation budget, School Funding Reality: A Bargain Not Kept, which found that rising costs in school employee health insurance are crowding out spending on budget items that have the most significant impact on student learning. Controlling these health care costs has become the ultimate education issue. MBAE’s report was the catalyst needed by a coalition of business groups to successfully gain passage of fair and reasonable health care reform signed in to law in 2011.
Proficiency for All Students – Support for MCAS
As we raise the bar to proficiency for all students, we must continue to evaluate our assessment system to be sure that our standards are the right ones, assessments are reliable and valid, and that targets are ambitious yet fair. MBAE supports development and use of value-added assessments, which will allow us to chart student achievement across grades and schools and provide an important tool for administrators, teachers, and others for determining what programs and approaches have the greatest impact on student learning. While considering new methods of assessment is important, any retreat from the MCAS requirements for a diploma would be a disservice to our students and an impediment to the continuous improvement of our schools.
MBAE believes that every student deserves an excellent public education that will prepare them to demonstrate proficiency in all subject areas. Since passing the 10th grade MCAS became a graduation requirement for high school students beginning with the class of 2003, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS), a uniform statewide assessment system, has contributed to significant progress toward this goal. MBAE has staunchly supported the MCAS and continues to do so. We also believe that improvements should continue to be made.
MBAE is pleased that Massachusetts is leading the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) consortium of 26 states that has received $170 million in federal funding to develop assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. We applaud Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Mitchell Chester, who is chairing PARCC, for his commitment to ensuring that the new tests are “more rigorous and challenging” than the current exams in English Language Arts and mathematics and his pledge to walk away from anything that is not stronger than the current MCAS.
The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education supported the creation of charter public schools in the Education Reform Act of 1993 to increase educational opportunities for students and to promote educational and administrative innovation and improvements in public schools. It is clear that charter schools can be an effective tool in raising achievement and offering educational options to students and parents.
The current caps on charter schools should be substantially increased or eliminated. Any statewide cap on the number of charter schools should apply to the total number of Charter Schools without separate caps for Commonwealth and Horace Mann Charter Schools.
MBAE is committed to an innovative system that is accountable for improving student achievement and will lead to better schools for all students across the whole range of public education options.
Our state’s system of academic standards and assessments must ensure that all students in all districts have the chance to develop and demonstrate core competencies that are essential for success in college and career. MBAE has consistently called for accountability standards that are based primarily on success in improving student achievement, but also evaluate the management and operational systems essential to facilitating quality teaching and learning.
It is the position of MBAE that accountability is a cornerstone of education reform and essential to the success of efforts to raise student achievement. It is also critical to sustain public support for the resources necessary to do this work. Our priority is to assure that this function is adequately funded and that the system for measuring school district performance is effective, credible, and consistent with the goals of education reform.