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What is Student Data?

The Data Quality Campaign, a national nonprofit that supports the use of data to improve student achievement, provides the answer in this short video that we are pleased to share.

 

It is important for all of us to keep the facts about data in mind as the debate about assessments in Massachusetts heats up in anticipation of the fall vote by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on whether to replace the MCAS with the PARCC assessment in Massachusetts.  This information, above and at the link to an infographic below, shows what we need to be focusing on to make sure the type of data developed through student assessments is valuable as a tool for parents, teachers and students to improve education services and outcomes for all of our children.

What is Student Data

As DQC notes, “There are many types of data that support student learning—and they’re so much more than test scores. But individual data points don’t give the full picture needed to support the incredibly important education goals of parents, students, educators, and policymakers. See the types of data that can come together—under requirements like privacy and security—to form a full picture of student learning.”

Independence: A Recommendation for School Reform

As we celebrate Independence Day, many school districts are bringing on new leaders who have plans and ambitions for improving the education opportunities for students in their communities.  The Superintendent’s job is a tough one – demanding the skill of a diplomat, savvy of a politician, management ability of a CEO, leadership of a general, and, of course, the education expertise and knowledge of a professor.  Did I mention the judgment to call off school for snow days?

The new Superintendent of the Boston Public Schools, Dr. Tommy Chang, is probably under the sharpest microscope of all his new colleagues as he takes the helm of our largest district and capitol city.  MBAE joins others in wishing him well and offering support for the important work he has ahead.  He is fortunate that his predecessor John McDonough, made some bold decisions in the best interests of students that brought about long-overdue changes. Dr. Chang can also can rely on great educators and leaders in Boston who can support him – starting with Chief of Staff Ross Wilson.

Superintendent Chang has been meeting with stakeholders across the district, listening to their concerns and receiving lots of advice.  We hope he will heed the suggestions that former legislator and Education Committee Co-Chair Marty Walz offered in The Boston Globe Opinion page.  This is the time for bold leadership!  MBAE’s blueprint for the future, The New Opportunity to Lead, explains why we cannot be complacent and need to make the changes that Walz recommends to bring funds and decisions closer to students through greater school autonomy.

Like the Patriots who led our nation from monarchy to democracy, Superintendents have to balance the traditions we cherish against old practices that may be comfortable but need to be jettisoned for new approaches that better reflect the desires and needs of our citizens and students.  Success requires our Superintendents to demonstrate the courage and commitment to realize the dream of our country’s founders – liberty and equality.  Fighting for the cause of high quality education for all students is essential to prepare the citizens our country needs to survive and grow as a democratic society.  Happy July 4th!

 

Foundation Budget Review Recommends Funding Adjustments

The Foundation Budget Review Commission will issue an interim report today, Tuesday, June 30th.

When the report is officially released, MBAE will have its comments posted here.  Please come back later!

Testing Moratorium a Bad Idea

Bills proposing a 3-year moratorium on high-stakes testing drew such a large crowd to a hearing of the Joint Committee on Education that the session had to move to Gardner Auditorium, the largest room in the State House.

MBAE strongly opposes these proposals, and pointed out in testimony that “only by assessing all students can achievement gaps be identified and can parents and teachers get the critical information to support and serve … schools and students”.  In addition, a practical concern is the loss of U.S. government funding since federal law requires that a 95 percent participation rate in assessments be maintained annually to receive these funds.

The moratorium proposal is a distraction that doesn’t address our primary challenge – making sure we have the right test.  MBAE’s New Opportunity to Lead report contends that Massachusetts has the potential to become a world leader in more sophisticated assessment systems.   That means tests that are an authentic part of learning – helping students understand concepts and materials and giving educators powerful information to improve curriculum and instruction.  As Boston Globe columnist Joanna Weiss points out, we in Massachusetts can get even better at assessment.

Massachusetts should not only adopt PARCC but also look beyond it to anticipate what other assessments it will need in the future.  Online assessments offer much greater potential to assess deeper learning: for example, real-time simulations, in which students are asked to answer questions by interrogating additional information available online before determining their answers, offer possibilities for assessing the broader range of competencies they will need in their future.  That’s the kind of innovation MBAE is committed to supporting in education.

Employers are also parents who sympathize with the motivation of those urging a test moratorium out of concern that too much time is being spent on test prep – rote memorization of facts and practicing responses to multiple choice questions.  The answer to that type of misuse of time is not to call a halt to testing – but to come up with solutions to the problem.  PARCC is responding to concerns raised about time spent on testing, by cutting testing time in the 2015/2016 school year.  It will change from two testing windows to one and it will shorten the test by approximately 90 minutes for most students.

This debate is likely to continue until a decision is made by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education next fall.  Let’s show our children we can do the difficult work to get this right – not give up!

Vocational Technical Education in the Spotlight

Future Ready Massachusetts is a member of the Coalition for Vocational Technical Education (CVTE), a group committed to addressing the mismatch between available jobs and workforce skills, particularly among entry-level employees. Vocational education increasingly serves as a bridge to jobs particularly as many jobs require some postsecondary education and training for entry level positions.

A new report, Career and Technical Education: Five Ways that Pay released last week by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce highlighted the fact that there are 29 million jobs that pay middle-class wages and require less than a bachelor’s degree. Many of these jobs, requiring career and technical training, are in the STEM and healthcare fields, two of the largest industries in Massachusetts.

We believe that the work readiness skills required to pursue these positions are of great value to all students, not just those participating in vocational technical education programs.  Vocational technical schools also have great expertise in teaching students applied skills such as collaboration, communication, workplace decorum and problem solving.  These views are expressed in MBAE’s testimony in support of House Bill 455, filed by Rep. Alice Peisch to establish a commission to study vocational-technical schools therefore includes two proposed amendments to the bill.  First, we recommend that an employer be a member of the Commission to provide the perspective of someone with firsthand knowledge about the skills gap in Massachusetts.  Second, we believe the Commission’s scope of work should include examining how vocational schools can collaborate with traditional high schools to help provide work-readiness skills to students attending any high school in the Commonwealth.

What do you think?  The CVTE is conducting a poll of many constituencies of vocational technical education.

Employers are encouraged to take this short survey

Community members should click here to take the survey

Visit FutureReadyMA.org for more information about preparing for postsecondary success!  Follow us on Twitter @FutureReadyMA!

 

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education