MBAE Study Finds MA Education System Needs Major Overhaul to Prepare Students to Compete in Global Economy

| Brian Burke


Yesterday morning I was honored to welcome to the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Center, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), MA Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester, Sir Michael Barber and a room full of state education, policy, and business leaders.

We met to discuss an assessment of the Commonwealth’s education system entitled, The New Opportunity to Lead: A Vision for Education in Massachusetts in the Next 20 Years.” The report is a compelling call to action—its findings show that student achievement has plateaued and MA risks falling behind as global competitors push ahead of us in educating a highly skilled workforce and informed, engaged citizens. The consensus based on a poll of MA business leaders is that change is needed.

Brightlines, a partnership of International education experts headed by Sir Michael Barber, led the study, commissioned by the MBAE.  It concludes that districts, schools, and instruction methods must change for MA students to seize future opportunities, successfully compete in the global economy, and to ensure that we continue to be a hub of innovation.

The report targets two of the most important trends that business leaders feel threaten the long-term economic wellbeing of MA: persistent education achievement gaps and growing workforce skills gaps.

MBAE also commissioned a new poll  by MassINC Polling Group that was released yesterday in tandem with the study. The survey of business executives found employers support changes in MA schools—while our schools are better than the national competition, they don’t produce enough graduates prepared for college and the workforce. 69 percent of employers said they are having trouble hiring employees with the skills needed for the positions they have available.

Two of the best ways to better train a STEM-qualified workforce, according to business leaders, are hands-on experience for students (so they can engage with STEM subjects), and partnerships with local STEM-oriented companies (so they can employees into schools as mentors).

“Increasing business-higher education partnerships came up over and over again in the study,” Barber said.

In order to rapidly address the challenges presented in the report, MBAE is bringing together state education, policy, and business leaders to develop a comprehensive public policy agenda designed to make Massachusetts’ schools the best in the world within the next 20 years, and to sustain that lead.

Barber’s report suggests a new approach to education that moves away from state mandates and gives schools autonomy, and creates conditions where schools can advance their own performance. This can be achieved through collaboration to support integration of technology, improving teaching skills and expanding blended learning.

Barber stressed that MA does have one of the best school systems in the world. But as a hub of technology and innovation with so many resources and job opportunities in those areas, we have the means and the need to “lead the way and become a beacon for others around the world.”

“Our Biggest challenge is the threat of complacency,” Barber said. “We need to continue to strive further and faster.”

Both reports are available in full on MBAE’s website.


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