Education Reform Groups Call on Massachusetts to Pursue a Dual Agenda
Urgent Need Cited for Pursuing the Twin Goals of High Standards and High Graduation Rates for All Students
Boston, April 24, 2007—Two national organizations today presented ambitious recommendations for creating an education pipeline capable of moving all Massachusetts high school students through an advanced level of skills and credentials that will connect young adults to the well-paying jobs being created in Massachusetts.
According to High Standards and High Graduation Rates: Moving Forward on a Dual Agenda in Massachusetts, a collaboration between Boston-based Jobs for the Future and Washington, DC-based Achieve, Inc, two challenges deserve the special, immediate attention of state leaders: 1) substantially increasing the percentage of the state’s low-income, African-American, and Hispanic young people who graduate from high school in four years; and 2) substantially increasing the percentage of high school graduates who are fully prepared to succeed in work and postsecondary education.
“In today’s economy, our young people need to graduate ready to succeed in postsecondary education and with career-ready skills,” according to JFF CEO and President Marlene B. Seltzer. “The consequences for those who are not prepared for college and careers are grim, including higher rates of unemployment, substantially lower earnings, and even a lower likelihood of good health.”
As the report notes, “The implications are as clear for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts as they are for individuals and their families. Each leak along the education pipeline results in significant losses in tax revenue and significant government costs for health care and other social benefits for the Commonwealth.”
"The MassCore curriculum under consideration by the Massachusetts State Board of Education is the right curriculum and an important first step in improving student preparation for postsecondary education and jobs”, said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, Inc. "But it will only produce better results if the Commonwealth ensures that all students, especially disadvantaged students, have access to it and the supports they need to succeed."
In March, at the Massachusetts Graduation Summit, Governor Deval Patrick called for “a spirit of active collaboration, between government, business, labor, universities, the medical and research community, nonprofits, neighborhood groups” in order to move forward on education reform. These recommendations respond directly to that call, and they demand a strong, active partnership among secondary and higher education, the Governor’s office, the legislature, the business community, youth-serving organizations, parents, and youth.
“Massachusetts has much of the architecture in place for achieving a ‘dual agenda’ of high standards and high graduation rates,” explains JFF Associate Vice President Adria Steinberg and a contributor to the report. “Now is the moment to focus on the challenge that remains: closing the graduation and achievement gaps, especially between low-income young people and their more affluent peers.”
As Steinberg points out, Massachusetts is graduating 80 percent of its students in four years of high school—almost 10 percentage points higher than the estimated national average. However, the 20 percent of students who do not complete a high school diploma on time are concentrated disproportionately in low-income communities across the state, where high school graduation rates average 62 percent and some districts report rates of 50 percent or lower.
Moreover, about one out of every three low-income students fails to graduate on time and nearly 40 percent of the state’s public school graduates need to take remedial coursework in public higher education institutions. Massachusetts must act aggressively to close the gaps.
The report makes specific recommendations about how the Commonwealth can build on current progress, and it calls on different stakeholder groups to act quickly to move the Commonwealth closer to achieving high college- and career-ready graduation rates.
“Massachusetts has new leadership in the Governor’s office, on the state Board of Education, and on the state Board of Higher Education”, states the report. The Commonwealth will soon have a new commissioner of education and possibly a new chancellor of higher education. The leadership has the opportunity to put weight behind an agenda focused on significantly raising high school graduation rates and work- and college readiness for all students, especially the state’s low-income students.”
Created by the nation’s governors and business leaders, Achieve, Inc., is a bi-partisan, non-profit organization that helps states raise academic standards, improve assessments and strengthen accountability to prepare all young people for postsecondary education, work and citizenship.
For more information about Achieve, see www.achieve.org.
Jobs for the Future
JFF seeks to accelerate the educational and economic advancement of youth and adults struggling in today’s economy. Since its founding in 1983, JFF has partnered with local, state, and national organizations to influence major state and national policies on education, welfare, job training, and unemployment.
For more information about Jobs for the Future, see www.jff.org.