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Applied Research and Evaluation Unit assists MBAE Commission. Report on high school reform released

In October 2008, a commission of business leaders convened by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) issued a report outlining the connection between education and a strong economy, and proposing a framework for high school reform in the Commonwealth.  Contracted by MBAE, the UMass Donahue Institute supported the work of the Commission, providing research and staffing support throughout its deliberations, and assisting in the development and presentation of its findings.

The Commission on Educating a 21st Century Workforce’s report, titled Educating a 21st Century Workforce: A Call for Action on High School Reform, stresses the urgency of raising student achievement, increasing graduation rates, and preparing all students for college and career. It concludes that several aspects of our current education system are not well-aligned to meeting the needs of all students and of the Commonwealth’s growing knowledge-based economy.  As such, the report calls for changes in the way high schools are structured, the high school curriculum and system of assessments, and the role of business and community in supporting our schools and our students.

The report presents four key recommendations:

    Reform the Fundamental High School Model.  Students need to learn in supportive, flexible environments that can meet their unique needs.  Increased instructional time, career counseling and guidance support, and access to dual enrollment programs are critical to ensuing that every student has an opportunity to succeed regardless of their skill level upon entry into high school.

    Align Curriculum with the Demands of College and Career.  The cornerstone of effective educational practice is a relevant curriculum that engages students as active participants in their own learning.  With systems of support in place, standards and achievement can be raised by implementing Masscore as the statewide graduation requirement, incorporating applied skills into curriculum frameworks, and increasing opportunities for real-world work-based or service learning.

    Ensure Assessments Measure Relevant Skills and Content Mastery.  Establishing standards for student learning has been a key feature of education reform, and the business community continues to advocate for high standards, measurement of achievement, and accountability for results.  As expectations for students are raised, assessments systems must incorporate these new standards to validate that progress is being made.

    Create and Sustain a System of Education-Business Partnerships.  In an era of limited resources and local financial pressures, schools need ongoing support from the communities that depend on their success.  Employers have an enormous stake in the quality of the education system and can play a pivotal role in supporting and sustaining reforms.  By formalizing regional school-business partnership programs and establishing long-term, meaningful partnerships at the local-level employers can provide essential resources and serve as advocates for our state’s schools.

A copy of the full report can be accessed at the MBAE web site at: http://mbae.org/uploads/06102008230519EducatingA21stCenturyWorkforce.pdf.

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