This election season Massachusetts voters may face a ballot question on whether or not to end the MCAS graduation requirement. In the lead up to November, we’ll be releasing a series of blog posts with all the information you’ll need to help you decide how to cast your vote. We kicked off our series in February with an overview of the MCAS and a look at its history. This month we’re taking a closer look at the implications of the ballot initiative, the graduation requirement itself, and what proponents and opponents of the ballot initiative have to say.
Schools have assessed student learning and growth with essentially the same grading system for more than a century. Since this system was created, the field has learned so much more about the way students learn, the systemic inequities embedded in the design of traditional grading and assessment, and what type of learning leads to success in life. Grading should be aligned with what we know about the learning process, child and adolescent development, and the demands of career, college, and community life. But traditional grading is so deeply ingrained in our culture, that making changes to this system can seem like an insurmountable task. That’s why we partnered with DESE and reDesign to support five unique high schools as they interrogate their traditional grading practices and make shifts toward new systems that better measure student learning and growth. 
This November, Massachusetts voters will weigh in on a ballot initiative that could end the MCAS graduation requirement. Though this ballot question will focus on just one aspect of MCAS, the upcoming vote is also sure to spark wide-ranging conversations on the purpose and value of these assessments (and statewide tests more generally). For those looking to gain a better understanding of the context behind current MCAS debates before heading to the polls, we're here to help with a comprehensive look at the data, research, and history behind MCAS. We'll be sharing a series of blog posts leading up to the November vote—this first one offers a foundation for the conversation.
In June of this year, the Supreme Court struck down race-based affirmative action practices in higher education. With colleges and universities now in the thick of the “admissions season,” and many decisions still pending, we want to share information and resources on the potential impact it will have in the Commonwealth and the nation. Our latest policy analysis also provides information on what those who work in education–from counselors and educators to administrators and policymakers–can do to remain vigilant and engaged in pursuit of equitable education and outcomes for all students.
Earlier this month, we hosted an event bringing together the education and business communities of Western Massachusetts to discuss the Condition of Education in the region. We were fortunate to be joined by Massachusetts Education Secretary Patrick Tutwiler along with a panel of experts representing local schools and employers, who discussed ways to engage students, particularly given a recent spike in chronic absenteeism. 
In many sectors, research and development (R&D) is an integral part of day-to-day operations. In healthcare, for example, research often happens in hospitals right alongside patient care. Research doesn’t look like this in K-12 education. Every day, in classrooms across Massachusetts, educators are testing new and innovative ideas with their students. But without the proper support, these ideas rarely serve as a basis for driving systemic change. We want to change that. We want schools to have functioning R&D operations with the resources, time, and support they need to really explore and activate new ideas. So we’re launching the Rennie R&D Labs, a first-of-it’s-kind endeavor to fully embed research processes within our mainstream public school system
Legislation currently under consideration at the State House proposes new requirements regarding literacy screenings and services. Our bill analysis takes a closer look at An Act to Promote High-Quality Comprehensive Literacy Instruction in All Massachusetts Schools, delving into how literacy screenings will be conducted; state-approved tools, timelines, and templates for reporting; and the types of support state education agencies will provide as schools and districts implement screeners and interventions to promote literacy.
On June 6, Rennie's Director of Policy, Alexis Lian, testified to the Massachusetts Legislature's Joint Committee on Education during a hearing on a number of bills including H.579 and S.263, An act to promote high-quality comprehensive literacy instruction in all Massachusetts schools.
Massachusetts lost nearly 8,000 teachers in the last school year. Teachers report high levels of job stress, insufficient support, and a lack of schedule flexibility. Recently, a national poll found that only 37% of parents would like their children to become public school teachers, the smallest percentage since the poll started in 1969. The teaching role is at a critical juncture. Something must be done to make this essential profession more flexible, sustainable, and attractive. But what?
In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, we're sharing steps schools can take to advance mental health support. Schools, educators, and student support teams are undertaking the overwhelming balancing act of both responding to the present needs of students and building comprehensive systems of support for the future. This is no easy task. And while we don't have all the answers, our work with practitioners through our Thriving Minds initiative has given us some perspective on steps schools can take to get started.