MBAE’s Take on Transition in Lawrence; New MCAS Results

In this issue: MBAE’s Take on the Transition in Lawrence | MCAS Scores May Signify We’re on the Right Track | Members in Action: IBM’s Free Math Tool for Teachers | In the News

A new analysis from the D.C.-based Alliance for Excellent Education demonstrates in a compelling infographic that just a 2.7% increase in the Massachusetts high school graduation rate could lead to $48.9 million in economic growth and $40.9 million in health-care cost savings to the state.

If Massachusetts’ high school graduation rate had reached 90% (compared to the 2015 graduate rate of 87.3%), the state would have gained 1,960 additional graduates, who would have earned $27.3 million annually in additional income resulting in $950,000 increase in state and local taxes and $21.3 million increase in spending.

While we at MBAE often lament the incremental pace of urgently-needed change, this data shows that every gain is important and we can never take a single percentage point for granted.

MBAE’s Take On the Transition in Lawrence

Good news was announced this week when state education officials reported that the Lawrence Public Schools had made enough progress since going in to state receivership in 2012 that a transition to a new model will soon be underway.  This news was bittersweet, however, because it means receiver Jeff Riley is stepping down when his contract with the state ends in June.  We applaud Jeff for his leadership and tenacity in turning around a historically underperforming school district, and accomplishing what many thought was impossible.  He has given us a model for other urban districts with similar demographics who have been less aggressive about accelerating improvements.

An independent board will be established in Lawrence that will hire a Superintendent and follow a similar approach to Springfield’s Empowerment Partnership Zone.  It is important to note that both feature autonomy and flexibility for school leaders to hire staff, set schedules, control budgets and design curriculum.

MBAE has long held the position that these proven management authorities, a common feature of successful charter schools, are critical for leaders of all schools, especially those struggling to improve.   Legislation pending at the State House would make these types of “zones” an option for more districts, and we support efforts to extend these tools even further.

As he leaves Lawrence, Jeff Riley deserves our gratitude and congratulations for a job well done.  He has   earned the admiration and respect of educators, state officials and all of us at MBAE.  We wish him well and are looking forward to his future success and contributions to education in Massachusetts.

For more information about Lawrence, read Michael Jonas’s article in Commonwealth Magazine.

MCAS Scores May Signify We’re On the Right Track

News in October that only 50% of students in grades 3-8 scored in the Meeting Expectations or Exceeding Expectations categories on the new MCAS took some by surprise, yet scores were expected to drop during the transition to a test that provides feedback throughout K-12 about whether students are on track for their next step toward college and career.

In a blog post, Linda Noonan writes “Massachusetts finally retired the old MCAS test that was designed in the 1990’s to measure basic proficiency, ensuring that all students were educated to the same minimum level.  Over time, what was intended to be a “floor” became a “ceiling”.  In today’s world, this is simply too low a bar.”

For employers, the ability to trust that a high school diploma means a student has the knowledge and skills to be ready for the workforce is long overdue.  And, for students, being able to access postsecondary opportunities without spending time and resources on remediation will be a game changer.

Members in Action: IBM’s Free Math Tool for Teachers

Employers contribute to the success of students in many different ways.  This month, we’re featuring a new, free online tool from IBM, designed by and for teachers, to help them find highly targeted and standards-aligned math resources to support kindergarten through fifth grade instruction. uses IBM’s Watson technology, which has been trained by leading math experts, to provide educators with targeted recommendations from a library of over 2,000 high-quality lesson plans, activities, proven teaching strategies, and videos, all specially chosen to meet teachers’ needs.

Teacher Advisor is a philanthropic initiative from the IBM International Foundation, who collaborated closely with teachers, education leaders, and providers of best-in-class content to develop a robust platform to help reach young learners of all ability levels.

You can view a short teacher-led demo video here.

In the News

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In a Boston Globe West section op-ed MBAE Board member Henry Dinger argues against a moratorium on high stakes testing stating that  “By conditioning graduation on a student’s demonstration of mastery of the skills needed for college and career, as objectively measured by statewide exams, Massachusetts makes a public high school diploma a valuable credential, and not a “trophy” given to every child just for showing up.  Employers can assume a reasonable level of skill.  The proposed moratorium would drain that diploma of its value and eliminate an incentive for students to master the skills they need.”

In a Wicked Local Newton story on recently released MCAS scores, Greg Reibman, President of the Newton Needham Chamber of Commerce (an MBAE Affiliate) said “I’m not alarmed about these lower scores.  Businesses have been asking for years for tougher MCAS tests that reliably measure whether or not our students are prepared for 21st century jobs and the challenges of our new economy.


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Employers play a pivotal role in bringing about needed change in our public education system.  Please join MBAE  in our effort to ensure every student graduates high school prepared for success in college, career and citizenship.

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