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Federal Standards will Advance Massachusetts Education Reform

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Jul 20, 2010 10:54:00 AM

Associated Industries of Massachusetts commends the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education for adopting federal “Common Core” educational standards. Federal standards will accelerate the commonwealth’s 17-year effort to build a world-class public education system that supports educational opportunity for children and economic competitiveness for everyone.

describe the imageAIM has been deeply involved in efforts to improve public schools since the early 1990s, when the association funded studies that led to the landmark Education Reform Act of 1993. Our approach to education has always reflected the practical mindset of the employers we represent – deliver results, measure results, insist upon accountability, educate young people and never mind labels and political wrangling.

The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, AIM’s partner on elementary and secondary educational issues, commissioned an independent study comparing Massachusetts’ K-12 English and math standards with the proposed Common Core Standards.

The study, conducted by WestEd, 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 they are comparable with regard to whether they are clear and measureable; 
  • 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.

“The study,” MBAE says, “found that these standards not only draw heavily from Massachusetts' current standards, but improve upon them by incorporating the some of the best international standards. To maintain our competitive advantage, Massachusetts must regularly update its standards to make sure that we’re applying the best current thinking about educating our young people.”

Common Core has other advantages as well. A national curriculum will allow financially strapped school systems to reduce costs by using common textbooks, software and learning materials. And Common Core will also improve Massachusetts’ chances of winning $250 million in federal education funding through the Race to the Top Program.

Under the Common Core adoption process, states may choose to exceed the standards by up to 15 percent.

Education matters to Massachusetts employers because it is one of the few areas where a high-cost, highly regulated commonwealth competes effectively with other states and countries. Employers also care about education because they recognize the importance of having a work force with the math skills for metal machining, the science skills for biotechnology or the literacy skills to fill out job applications. 

Opponents of the move to Common Core view it as an abandonment of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Achievement System (MCAS) that has pushed Bay State students to the head of the class when measured against their peers. AIM does not share that concern. Common Core will maintain the emphasis on testing and accountability while improving the performance of Massachusetts students in key areas such as science, probability and strategic reasoning.

Education reform, like the students themselves, is ready to graduate to the next level.

Topics: Employers, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts Education Reform

Employer Support Key as Massachusetts Seeks Federal Education Money

Posted by Andre Mayer on Apr 14, 2010 11:56:00 AM

One of the key reasons that Massachusetts lost out in Round 1 of the Race to the Top (RTTT) contest for federal K-12 education funds was that only 60 percent of Bay State school districts supported a plan to improve the performance of the public schools. The two winning states submitted applications supported by 100 percent of their school districts.

Now local districts have a second chance to participate by signing the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education's Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).  Has your district signed on? (Map | List )

Please use any influence you may have to get your city or town's schools on board, with all three signatories: the superintendent, the school committee, and the teachers' union.  Districts that do not sign on by the May 14 deadline cannot opt in later.  

Involvement by employers became imperative over the weekend when the American Federation of Teachers, Massachusetts, representing teachers in most of the state's largest cities, urged its affiliates not to sign on to MOUs and to withdraw their commitments from Round 1.

The financial stakes are significant - $250 million for Massachusetts, with at least half going directly to qualifying districts.  Even more important, the MOU commits districts to goals that are strongly supported by employers:

  • Improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance.
  • Ensure effective teachers and leaders in every school and classroom.
  • Use data to improve instruction.
  • Turn around the lowest-achieving schools.

Participating districts are also encouraged to join in a statewide P-12 Teaching and Learning System, and to partner with the state to develop and implement new programs, supports and incentives to improve students' preparation for college and careers.

The MOU allows considerable flexibility, and commits the state to supporting and working with districts. It takes effect only if RTTT funds are awarded.  It advances goals Massachusetts has already embraced.  And its underlying principles, such as student performance as a component of educator evaluation, have been agreed to on the state level not only by business associations but by groups representing school committees, school administrators and teachers - including both teachers' unions.

Massachusetts has some of the best schools anywhere, but the competition - national and global - is not standing still.  Help keep our state, and your district, at the forefront of educational excellence. 

Topics: Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Massachusetts Education Reform, Race to the Top

Federal Funding Announcement Confirms Wisdom of Education Reform

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 4, 2010 4:25:00 PM

The announcement today by federal officials that Massachusetts is among the finalists for up to $4 billion in Race to the Top education funds confirms the wisdom of the recently enacted state education reform.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced that Massachusetts, 14 other states and the District of Columbia were selected from among 40 applications to continue the funding competition.  Massachusetts education officials will be interviewed in Washington D.C. later this month regarding the state's understanding, knowledge, capacity, and will to deliver on what is proposed in the application. Winners will be announced in April.

Massachusetts could secure up to $250 million from the Race to the Top process.

AIM and employers throughout the commonwealth support Massachusetts' Race to the Top application and the education-reform measure upon which it is based. The reform, signed by Governor Deval Patrick in January, attempts to close the achievement gap by increasing the number of charter school seats in under-performing districts and expanding the authority of state and local officials to improve schools with poor results.  

"These efforts to strengthen the education system here in the commonwealth are key to providing economic opportunity for people and for ensuring the growth of our economy," said Richard C. Lord, President and Chief Executive Officer of Associated Industries of Massachusetts.

"Governor Patrick and the Legislature deserve tremendous credit for making education reform a reality."

According to the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, the state's Race to the Top plan commits to Massachusetts to strengthen the high school curriculum, curb dropouts, decrease the achievement gap, review how teachers are licensed, and reverse the decline of underperforming schools. The state plan envisions an advanced teaching and learning system that allows networking between teachers, near-real time access to student performance data to guide instruction, and dissemination of model classes and instruction tools.

AIM and the Business Alliance for Education will provide an opportunity for business leaders to meet with state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester on Thursday, April 1 from 4:00 to 5:30 p.m.  to hear an update about the Race to the Top competition.  This will be a chance to get your questions answered about what the state proposed;  what the plans are for implementation; and what role the business community is being asked to play.  Contact Candace Kydd, ckydd@aimnet.org, at AIM to register.

Topics: Massachusetts Legislature, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, AIM, Deval Patrick, Massachusetts Education Reform

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