Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
Mass EdForum

New Report Offers A Vision for Education in the Next 20 Years

Twenty years ago, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the business community played a leading role in bringing about changes that propelled our state to the top of the nation on most measures of K-12 education performance.  But we all know that the skills-gap present in our workforce results in thousands of unfilled jobs despite our national ranking on standardized test scores.  And everyone knows that in higher education too many Massachusetts students are simply not prepared for college and career success.

That is why the Board of Directors and supporters of MBAE, convinced that neither the status quo nor incremental improvements are enough, decided once again to take a comprehensive look at what education reforms were needed in Massachusetts to sustain and grow our innovation-based state economy.

MBAE commissioned a team of international experts, led by Sir Michael Barber outside of his day job, to conduct a review of education in Massachusetts using the world’s best systems as the benchmark.  Today, were pleased to share this report, as well as our plans for using this information to engage stakeholders in developing a new blueprint for making and keeping public education in Massachusetts the best in the world.  We hope you will read The New Opportunity to Lead: A vision for education in Massachusetts for the next 20 years and share your comments and ideas with us!

Read the Executive Summary

Read the Full Report

And take a look at the Press Release

Massachusetts has three assets it can uniquely claim –  a centuries old-commitment to excellence in public education, the world’s leading colleges and universities, and one of the most vibrant technology sectors in the world.  If we can’t achieve this vision, no one can!


The New Opportunity to Lead

In the Constitution adopted in 1780 and in force today, the people of Massachusetts recognized that the “opportunities and advantages of education” were “necessary for the preservation of their rights had liberties,” and directed the representatives of the people to “cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially … public schools.”  But 200 years later, in 1983, A Nation at Risk warned that the “the educational foundations of our society are presently being eroded by a rising tide of mediocrity [in the nation’s public schools] that threatens our very future as a Nation and a people.”

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) was established twenty-five years ago to stem that “tide of mediocrity” in the public schools of the Commonwealth  The business leaders who founded MBAE recognized that a well-educated citizenry is essential, not only (or even primarily) to create a pool of skilled employees or customers with money in their pockets, but to sustain the knowledgeable democratic communities in which we all want to live and raise our children.  MBAE’s Every Child A Winner (1991) provided the framework for the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993.  The implementation of that statute drove improvements in public education to the point that Massachusetts now has the best performing students in the nation, as measured by national and international standardized test results.

But despite these real gains, the steady progress that characterized two decades of education reform in Massachusetts has stalled.  We have not closed stubborn achievement gaps between rich and poor, and even our best students lack the knowledge and skills of their counterparts in other advanced countries.

And the stakes are, if anything, even higher than they were when A Nation at Risk sounded the alarm.  Demand for skilled talent is intense around the globe.  By 2020, the Georgetown Center for Education and the Workforce projects a shortfall of up to 18 million highly skilled workers will exist in advanced economies, including the United States, which could have 1.5 million too few college-educated workers.  This challenge is of particular concern in Massachusetts where our knowledge and innovation-based economy is dependent on a well-educated workforce and where demand for workers with postsecondary degrees now outpaces the supply.  In STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines alone, 36,000 fewer associate and baccalaureate degrees will be granted than the Massachusetts workforce will need by 2020.

Massachusetts must face the challenge we face today and not rest on its laurels. To that end, MBAE will promote a plan for the transformation of public education to meet that challenge.

Our plan is deeply influenced by a study being released today.  MBAE commissioned Sir Michael Barber and his colleagues at Brightlines to prepare a report that addressed two questions:  where does Massachusetts stand against the best educational systems in the world, and what would it take for Massachusetts to become the best in the world at educating students for informed citizenship and productive employment in the 21st Century.

84% of Employers Say Schools Need Change

Last fall, as we embarked on our New Opportunity to Lead Campaign our partners at Associated Industries of Massachusetts and the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and asked MassINC Polling Group to conduct a statewide survey of employers to gauge their concerns and opinion of school and student performance relative to their workforce needs.

The employer opinion research project, conducted by MassINC Polling Group, included an online poll of Massachusetts businesses, three focus groups of senior business executives and interviews with a select group of prominent Massachusetts CEOs.  The results showed a high level of concern over schools’ performance in preparing students for care

The MassINC Polling Group research found that 84 percent of businesses said the state’s schools need moderate (52%) or major (32%) changes. Only 20 percent gave the K-12 school system an A or B in preparing students for the job market.  69% reported difficulty finding employees with the skills needed for jobs employers are trying to fill.  Among the poll findings are the following:

•Most are having trouble hiring the workers they need, and see the need for change in the public education system
•Schools are doing okay at what they are asked to do, but there is a disconnect between the education system and preparation for the workforce
•Students come to workforce without the applied skills, STEM knowledge they need
•Business leaders want closer partnerships, seek to bridge the perceived disconnect between the education and the job market

“As our survey data showed, if we are going to achieve our goals in science, technology, engineering and math fields, business and education must work together to address the needs of employers, students and teachers,” said JD Chesloff, executive director of the Massachusetts Business Roundtable and a member of the MBAE Board.

Future Ready Massachusetts

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education is thrilled to announce the launch of the Future Ready Massachusetts website. The Future Ready campaign was created to help students, their families, teachers and their mentors access the tools and resources that will help them prepare for whatever postsecondary pathway they choose.  The site helps those who understand the importance of college-and-career-readiness find out how to prepare by focusing on three key messages:

 START NOW:  It’s never too early or too late to start planning for your future

 AIM HIGH:  Students who challenge themselves through a rigorous course of study are usually the ones who go the farthest

LOOK BEYOND:  Look outside the classroom for learning opportunities that support career pathway development.

Parents, mentors and other influential adults, will find links to programs, initiatives and opportunities available to help students prepare for success from early education to high school and beyond. The Future Ready Massachusetts website will be an essential resource in the campaign to ensure that all students will have the knowledge, skills and attitudes to succeed in college and career.

Future Ready Massachusetts is a joint initiative of the MBAE, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education, and MEFA, home of the Your Plan for the Future online planning tool.

Voters Support Common Core and Aligned Assessments

National survey results released Friday by Achieve, a nonprofit, nonpartisan education reform organization, show strong voter support for Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Although a majority of those polled (two-thirds) had heard “nothing” or “not too much” about the Common Core, awareness has increased over time.

Perhaps most revealing is the number of people said they favored the Common Core implementation after being read a short description: an astounding 69%.

With 66% favoring new end-of-year tests aligned with the Common Core, (31% “strongly favoring”), voters also said they value testing and teacher evaluations, but with 81% believing consequences tied to test results should only come after an adjustment period, over half favoring a one or two years.

What does this mean for Massachusetts? With implementation of curriculum frameworks that include CCSS slowly underway over the last two years, and a two-year trial period for PARCC assessments, it means Massachusetts is hitting the mark. After the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to include CCSS in the curriculum frameworks in 2010, Massachusetts will have taken a five-year look at new standards and assessments before the Board votes again on whether or not PARCC is worthy of replacing MCAS.

It also means that general voter support for CCSS is nearly matching support by Massachusetts math, English language arts, science, and/or social studies teachers, 70% of whom are “enthusiastic”  about using the standards in their classrooms.

The poll results from Achieve are telling. People are more concerned about the basic facts of Common Core State Standards, not the scare tactics and “noise” from opponents. Voters and teachers alike want the same for students in public schools: preparedness for the world beyond high school, whether it is college or career.

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education