GED is G-O-N-E in Massachusetts

Posted by Andre Mayer on Feb 5, 2014 9:01:00 AM

Massachusetts employers accustomed to hiring people with the General Education Development (GED) high school equivalency certificate should be aware that the GED has been replaced in the Bay State.

GEDTaking the place of the GED in Massachusetts and at least 10 other states is the new HiSET exam administer by Educational Testing Service (ETS). Those who pass the test qualify for the Massachusetts High School Equivalency Certificate, a meaningful academic credential available to adults over 18 years old and to 16- and 17-year-olds who are no longer enrolled in school. Each year some 11,000 Massachusetts residents seek the certificate, which is well known to employers and colleges.

What happened? The American Council on Education, which created the GED in 1942, turned it over to a joint venture with Pearson LLC, which introduced an entirely new, computer-based version that was more complex and more expensive. ETS, in association with Iowa Testing Programs, launched a competing assessment, as did CTB/McGraw Hill LLC.

States made their individual choices (some support more than one test) based largely on their delivery systems and funding mechanisms. Massachusetts, which utilizes a network of independent local testing centers and requires test-takers to pay fees, contracted with ETS for three years (2014-2016).

HiSET includes assessments in language arts, writing, mathematics, social studies, and science. To ensure that the test measures academic knowledge and proficiency equivalent to those of a high-school graduate, it is aligned with essential components of the College and Career Readiness Standards for Adult Education and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for schools, and is moving towards full alignment. HiSET is offered in English and Spanish.

Employers should be aware that job applicants coming from other states may have taken different tests. In the northeast, New Hampshire, Maine, and New Jersey, like Massachusetts, use HiSET; Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Vermont chose the new GED; and New York went with CTB/McGraw Hill. Each of the competing tests represents a step forward in rigor beyond the old GED.

The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and adult education providers across the state are scrambling to implement HiSET on a tight schedule. General information about the assessment may be found at Specific information about the Massachusetts program will appear at as it becomes available.

Topics: Hiring, Education, Human Resources

Massachusetts is Number One in Education. Is That Enough?

Posted by Brian Gilmore on Nov 7, 2013 9:24:00 AM

Ask any Massachusetts employer about the challenges facing his or her business and you are bound to hear some variation of: “I can’t find people with the skills and education needed to work in my company.”

Education ReformThe gap between the knowledge required by globally competitive Bay State employers and the knowledge offered by job seekers remains a major impediment to economic growth across Massachusetts. It is a gap that has persisted throughout the Great Recession, ranging from software companies that could hire dozens of programmers tomorrow but cannot find them, to precision manufacturers starved for young workers with the mathematical and mechanical skills to do high-tolerance machining.

The need to match educational achievement to a voraciously competitive global knowledge economy was the primary reason that Associated Industries of Massachusetts and other business groups supported the landmark 1993 Massachusetts Educational Reform Act.

The overhaul raised the overall performance of Massachusetts public schools with a unique combination of measurable student testing, transparency, results-based management, and increased funding. Massachusetts students score the highest in the nation on both the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS) tests.

But our state's first-in-the-nation status for student achievement hides some troubling truths about the condition of public education in the commonwealth, a recent publication by our education partner the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) points out.

  • Despite the overall gains in student achievement in K-12 public education since passage of the 1993 reform, we have not closed achievement gaps affecting minority and low-income students.
  • We have reached a point of slower improvement, especially in our Gateway Cities – while other states and nations continue to move forward.
  • While Massachusetts eighth graders scored highest in the U.S. on an international test in math and science, only 19 percent did well enough to be considered advanced in math, compared to nearly 50 percent of eighth-graders in Taiwan, South Korea, and Singapore.
  • Just 14 percent of students in Massachusetts took the Advanced Placement (AP) exam in Math, and only 9 percent scored high enough to earn college credit; the same percentage of students took an AP exam in a science, and 8 percent scored a three or above.      
  • Sixty-five percent of students who enter our community colleges require at least one remedial course – a burden of some $57 million a year in instructional costs and lost earnings that could be saved if all students graduated from high school ready for college.

These troubling issues and the accelerating educational demands of employers are again prompting AIM, Massachusetts lawmakers and the business community to take a look at the commonwealth’s public education system. Two decades after the Education Reform 1.0, we are seeking employer perspectives on how well the schools are preparing the work force of tomorrow.

  • What has education reform has meant for the employer community?
  •  Have gains in student achievement produced better, prepared, more productive employees?
  •  Is our state’s workforce still a major competitive advantage?
  •  Do continuing “achievement gaps” cast a shadow on our economic future?
  •  What should be included on an education reform agenda for the next generation?  

AIM is working with MBAE and other groups to collect employer opinions on education issues. The survey results will be used to develop a set of education priorities for the business community to focus on in the months ahead. Please click the link below and share your views with us today.

Take the Education Survey

Topics: Issues, Massachusetts economy, Education

Why Employers Back a Study of Extended Mandatory School Age

Posted by Andre Mayer on Oct 10, 2013 1:25:00 PM

As our economy slowly recovers from the recent, very severe recession, long-term changes in employment patterns are becoming evident. Lower educational attainment means not just lower pay, but a much higher chance of being unemployed. Unemployment among young entrants to the workforce is especially high – in fact, there has probably never been less opportunity for youth workers.

EducationAIM's employer members of course value a strong work ethic, but they are equally concerned about the education and skills that prospective employees bring to the workplace. They know that in the 21st-century economy, dropping out of school to go to work is likely to be a bad decision. Legal requirements aside, the messages society sends to young people are important – and we are sending the wrong message.

School attendance is currently compulsory in Massachusetts for ages 6-16, but some 32 states now mandate school attendance to age 17 or 18, and nine require attendance from age 5. With “pre-school” increasingly recognized as integral to the education process and high school graduation becoming a near-necessity for career success, our state – with its pre-eminent knowledge-based economy – should examine the desirability and cost implications of extending its requirements.

That is why Associated Industries of Massachusetts supports a bill, H. 341, a resolution authorizing and directing the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to conduct such a study. The measure is sponsored by Senator Garrett Bradley.

We do not believe that this study requirement will be an onerous task. Other states have adopted extended requirements, in some cases quite recently. As Massachusetts is in this case a follower rather than a leader, the board will be able to draw on experience elsewhere to estimate the impacts of similar changes in our state.

We do not advance our resolution in preference to more decisive action as proposed by Representative Bradley, or to a more comprehensive approach as proposed by Senator Chang-Diaz. We observe, however, that these proposals have not succeeded in past sessions, largely because of concerns about their cost implications; and we urge that at the very least the Legislature take this simple step towards a better understanding of what those costs might be.

Topics: Issues, Education, Economy

Community College Funding to be Based upon Performance

Posted by Andre Mayer on Jul 12, 2013 3:14:00 PM

In a significant step towards making the Massachusetts public higher education more responsive to the workforce needs of employers, the Fiscal Year 2014 approved by the House and Senate and signed by Governor Deval Patrick today includes funding and language carrying forward reform of the state’s 15 community colleges.

Community collegesThe centerpiece is a $20 million performance-based funding component, allocated according to a new formula that measures each college's performance on a set of metrics that includes graduating students who have the skills needed by the key sectors of the Massachusetts economy. In addition, the budget restores $5 million to the Department of Higher Education for performance management initiatives at community colleges to promote higher completion rates, the adoption of common course numbering, and consolidation and coordination of administrative and procurement processes.

For Commissioner of Higher Education Richard Freeland, who persuaded the college presidents to support the initiative, the legislative action represents important progress towards realization of his vision, presented to AIM's Public Affairs Council last year, of a public higher education system that responds effectively to the Commonwealth's economic needs.

It is also a victory for the 18-month reform push of the Coalition FOR Community Colleges, in which AIM participates along with other business and civic organizations and number of employer members.

 "We remain more convinced than ever that our community colleges are a vital tool for the social and economic betterment of our Commonwealth, and now they have the funding, tools, and accountability measures to move forward," commented Mary Jo Meisner of The Boston Foundation, who coordinates the coalition.

AIM's view has been that improvements in funding strategy, more than adjustments to mission statements and governance structure, would drive needed change in the community college. We thank the Legislature and especially the conference committee, led by Ways & Means Chairmen Sen. Stephen Brewer and Rep. Brian Dempsey, for taking this important step.


Topics: Business Center, Education, Training

Teachers Hold Key to Improving Computer Skills in Massachusetts

Posted by Andre Mayer on Jun 12, 2013 4:12:00 PM

Massachusetts' economic future depends on computing expertise, yet our schools are not teaching students these vital skills. On Wednesday morning, the Massachusetts Legislative Tech Hub Caucus, co-chaired by Senator Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland) and Representative Kathi-Anne Reinstein (D-Revere), heard from the Massachusetts Computing Attainment Network (MassCAN), an industry-led coalition, about the dimensions of this problem, and its proposed solutions.

Computer ScienceSteve Vinter, Cambridge site manager for AIM-member Google, presented an overview of the issues. When we think of STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics), he pointed out, we should think first of computing, which will account for 71 percent of new STEM jobs. These jobs are of various kinds (hardware, software, IT services, network communications), are found in virtually every sector of the economy, and tend to pay well. Yet few high school students take the computer science Advanced Placement test, and college degrees awarded annually in the field fall far short of demand – unlike other subjects.

Massachusetts technology standards for public schools, Vinter noted, are the best in the country, but they address computer literacy, not computational thinking. MassCAN is pressing for statewide computing standards along with a curriculum that satisfies those standards; professional development programs to prepare teachers for teaching computing; and an informational campaign to make students, parents, and educators aware of the importance of computing.

We are already hearing objections. Resources and time are lacking, and we should blend computing into existing courses, says Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. Let's avoid a top-down mandate and try pilot programs, suggests former education secretary Paul Reville.

These arguments, it seems to me, are theoretical rather than practical. First, let's be clear about the costs.  In education, the main cost is always personnel; hardware and software are small expenses compared to the retraining of teachers to teach and use technology. Second, if the state is imposing new mandates that do not include computing, then we can be pretty sure that computing will fall by the wayside – and this is true not only in the schools themselves, but in teacher preparation as well.

In fact, this would seem to be an ideal time for concerted, decisive action. We are in a period of demographic transition for our teaching workforce, with an opportunity to bring in large numbers of computer-savvy teachers. Hiring practices in schools and districts, and curricular decisions at teacher-training institutions, are important.

But the state, which sets standards for teacher certification, has a primary role as well. If we delay on computing standards for k-12 students, we will pay a price – but if we do not act now on expectations for their future teachers, we will miss our best chance for change.

Topics: Computer Science, Business Center, Education

Employers Have Stake in Education, Training of Future Workers

Posted by Andre Mayer on May 22, 2013 10:59:00 AM

Having trouble finding qualified applicants for job openings?

Education and trainingIt's not just you – and it's going to get worse.

Eighty-one percent of Massachusetts jobs are currently classified as middle-skill or high-skill, and within this decade 70 percent will require postsecondary education. Yet only half of Massachusetts adults today have some postsecondary qualification, and the next generation (relying on guidance from peers, parents and teachers) does not fully understand the demands and opportunities of the world in which they will pursue their careers.

That was the sobering message at the Future Ready Summit at Worcester's DCU Center on Monday.

Future Ready Massachusetts is a public communication campaign promoting college and career programs that exist across the state. It is a collaborative project of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education (DHE) in partnership with Achieve Inc., a national nonprofit education reform organization.

Among the more than 500 attendees at the summit, there was only a scattering of business people.

Organizers of the Future Ready campaign say students must acquire the knowledge, skills and attitudes needed to complete education and training that will provide access to careers of choice. The campaign's key messages are:

  • Start Now: It's never too early (or too late) to begin planning.
  • Aim High: Students who challenge themselves through a rigorous course of study usually go the farthest.
  • Look Beyond: Look outside the classroom for learning opportunities that support career readiness.

The employer role falls largely under the third heading, but the others are also important. Although we often focus on high school, panelist Kathleen Finn of IBM pointed out, there are age-appropriate ways to get younger students to start thinking about careers. Finn also noted that while small companies do not have the resources of large ones like hers, they represent in aggregate a huge reservoir of talent in every community that can engage with schools and students locally.

The employer community has a vital stake in the success of education in Massachusetts. The small turnout of business people at the Worcester summit was hardly surprising – but the effort will fail without their substantial engagement at the local level.

Topics: Business Center, Education, Training

Harvard, MIT Online Venture Changes Educational Model

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Mar 15, 2013 11:40:00 AM

edX, the non-profit online venture of Harvard and MIT, now serves more than 800,000 students across dozens of countries. That’s more people than the combined alumni of the two universities have had through their history.

edXMore than 30,000 new students enroll to take free courses with edX every week, three times the entire enrollment of MIT.

Anant Agarwal, the President of edX, says the world of massive open online courses is expanding educational opportunity to every area of the globe. But the real revolution, he told the AIM Executive Forum this morning, is the data-driven improvements that online college courses are making to the quality of teaching.

“Our mission is to improve access to learning and improve the quality of learning,” said Agarwal, an MIT engineering professor who has run edX since Havard and MIT launched the company with a $60 million investment a year ago.

“We record every click, when people watch the videos, how long they watch them, how they do on the tests … It’s a kind of particle accelerator for education. We get data in hours that used to take 100 years to gather.”

edX is part of an exploding marketplace of online course platforms  that are rapidly remaking the traditional model of a college education. Agarwal told more than 150 business executives at this morning’s forum that there have been few innovations in the delivery of education since the advent of the blackboard in the 19th century.

“We have not been eating our own dog food,” he quipped.

edX students are able to register for online courses offered by faculty members at institutions such as Harvard, MIT, the University of California at Berkeley, Georgetown, Wellesley, the University of Texas and McGill University in Toronto. Students follow learning sequences that employ a combination of videos, text, discussion groups, virtual labs, instantly corrected tests, and links to free textbooks.

The platform even uses artificial intelligence to allow computers to grade essays.
Initial results indicate that approximately 5 percent of students who sign up for an edX course complete the session and earn a certificate. edX data shows that students who spent the largest amount of time doing exercises and problem sets were most likely to pass the courses.

Agarwal said edX eventually hopes to become financially self sustaining by licensing private versions of its courses to universities and school systems worldwide. He does not believe that edX will replace the experience of attending college, but acknowledges that institutions are struggling to determine how the proliferation of online courses fits into their own degree programs.

He said edX really boils down to placing the Socratic teaching method online.

“For the first time in decades,” he said, “people are paying attention to education.”

Topics: Education, AIM Executive Forum

Employer Needs Drive Online Higher Education Revolution

Posted by Andre Mayer on Feb 21, 2013 2:51:00 PM

Where will your company turn in 20 years for new college-educated hires, and courses for incumbent employees? Your local campus?

Agarawal edxMany experts put the odds below 50-50 that you will come anywhere near an ivy-covered hall for your educational needs.  Higher education is facing the same kind of technology-driven disruptive change that has overtaken other information-based industries such as newspapers, bookstores and video rental. The talk in the field revolves around alternative business models and innovative delivery systems, from new competitors, individual institutions, and consortia such as Cambridge-based edX.

Employers, in fact, are at the center of this change. The established higher education model has been unable to keep pace with employers’ programmatic needs, or to provide sufficient flexibility in terms of timing and location. It also tends to be pretty expensive. Today's career-oriented undergraduates, and especially older "nontraditional" students, are attuned to these issues.  It's hard to imagine a more "traditional" college student than Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel – yet "Johnny Football" is reportedly taking all his Texas A&M courses online this semester.

The headlines focus on elite private research universities going online, but they may actually be among the least affect by the disruption. The larger impact, one expert notes, will be on less prestigious institutions that "face disintermediation in their existing relationships among employers and students."  With the number of high school graduates dropping in Massachusetts and the northeast, these comprehensive campuses will be hard-pressed to fill their classrooms by attracting more "nontraditional" and graduate students.

That's what is so important about edX, which began with MIT and Harvard, now includes major state universities (UC-Berkeley, Texas), and is bringing in community colleges (Bunker Hill, Mass Bay).

And that's why AIM's March 15 Executive Forum with Anand Agarwal, President of edX, should be of interest to all employers. It's not just about the future of one of our state's key economic sectors and resources, or about a tradition-bound industry moving towards a new business model – it's about new opportunities for employers and employees in an increasingly competitive knowledge-based economy.

Register for the Executive Forum with Anant Agarwal of edX

Topics: Education, Technology, AIM Executive Forum

Freeland: Public Colleges, Universities Play Key Economic Role

Posted by Andre Mayer on Dec 5, 2012 1:01:00 PM

The Commonwealth’s public colleges and universities are “a neglected resource” with an economic role that is “far greater and far more important than has been true historically,” Richard Freeland, Commissioner of Higher Education, told the AIM Public Affairs Council last week.

Richard.FreelandFreeland pointed out that most Massachusetts high school graduates who go on to college enter the public system, as do large majorities of older students, minority students and veterans.

Without discounting independent institutions (he is a graduate of Amherst and former president of Northeastern) Freeland noted that the students at private schools are increasingly recruited nationally and internationally, and are less likely to pursue careers here after graduation. In a state where 70 percent of jobs will soon require some college education, the primary responsibility for maintaining the quality of the workforce falls to the public campuses.

This realization, he said, is the basis of the Board of Higher Education’s ongoing Vision Project:

“The ‘vision’ in the Vision Project is that Massachusetts needs, and should aspire to have, the best-educated workforce in the nation.” But while the project’s newly-released initial report, “Time to Lead: The Need for Excellence in Public Higher Education,” identified various ways in which the system is providing excellent service to the Commonwealth – for example, the rise in research activity at the University of Massachusetts – the bottom line is that “we’re nowhere near leadership”; there are “too many areas where Massachusetts is just pretty average.”

Further improvement is not all about money, he argued, but money is important. The Massachusetts public system ranks about 30th nationally in per-student funding, and state support has been eroding. 

“Is excellence in public higher education important? Is this an area in which we should be national leaders – as in k-12 education?” he asked.

“This issue needs to be higher on the state’s radar screen.” It should be an issue, particularly, for employers, he said, because they understand the stakes, and can influence the Legislature.

Asked if public higher education could be more efficient, Freeland replied that while individual campuses are generally lean, the system consists of “a relatively large number of relatively small institutions,” with “a culture built around autonomy and decentralization.” The greatest opportunity for savings, he said, is on the administrative side, although some programmatic sharing has been undertaken on the instructional side.

Topics: Business Center, Education, Economy

UMass President: University an Efficient Provider of Education

Posted by Christopher Geehern on Nov 16, 2012 2:18:00 PM

The University of Massachusetts remains the most cost-effective producer of the educated work force needed to sustain the Bay State economy, UMass President Robert Caret said this morning.

CaretCaret told a crowd of business leaders at the AIM Executive Forum that the UMass system educates students at an annual cost of $23,000, versus $40,000 at private institutions within the commonwealth.  He said that 83 percent of the 15,000 or so students who graduate from UMass each year remain in the commonwealth to form a critical piece of the economy.

“You can’t become a whole lot more efficient than that,” said Caret, who took the top job at UMass in January 2011 after serving as president of Towson University in Maryland.

The president affirmed the university’s commitment to working with employers to promote research, development and commercialization of technologies that create jobs. He said the university has already created successful nanotechnology centers, is a partner in the new High Performance Green Technology Center in Holyoke, and expects to create additional initiatives in biotechnology and advanced manufacturing.

AIM and other business organizations this year supported a federal grant application made by UMass and several other states to be designated as one of 15 national Institutes of Advance Manufacturing. The initial application was unsuccessful, but Caret said UMass and its partners are confident of winning a grant in subsequent reviews.

Caret asked business leaders to support increased state funding for UMass, which he said has plummeted from 80 percent to 43 percent of the university budget. He pledged to freeze tuition levels for two years of the state were to raise its share of the budget to 50 percent.

“Only you can help us do that. Try to get your voice out there if you believe in public education,” he said.

Public institutions that once educated 25 percent of people who attended college now teach 70 percent of those students, Caret said, meaning that UMass has an important role to play that compliments the work of the many world-renowned private schools in the region.

Topics: Business Center, Education, University of Massachusetts

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