Blog

Momentum is building around the need to address social-emotional learning (SEL) in Massachusetts. School districts eager to reduce achievement gaps, increase college and career readiness, and help students cope with anxiety, substance abuse, and bullying are looking for ways to make SEL part of every class. What’s next on the path toward widespread implementation? We’re teaming up with Excellence through Social Emotional Learning, Transforming Education, and Teachers 21 to launch the exSEL Network, a group of districts committed to expanding SEL.
Urban high school teacher and Rennie Center Summer Fellow Stephanie Vinal weighs in on the importance of social-emotional learning and looks at evidence-based methods for making classrooms more student-centered.
In our ever-changing global economy, earning a sustainable wage with only a high school diploma or GED has become nearly impossible. Ninety-nine percent of new jobs created since the recession have gone to workers with some level of postsecondary education. This climate is putting our most vulnerable students at an even greater disadvantage.
Workforce readiness remains a critical challenge in our state. A recent survey found that 75 percent of employers have trouble finding qualified job applicants. Meanwhile, 30 percent of Massachusetts public school graduates require developmental—or remedial—courses when enrolling the state’s public colleges and universities. These numbers illustrate a clear disconnect between the lessons taught in schools and the skills needed for success in college and in the workforce. This issue needs to be addressed, and schools can’t do it alone.
President Donald Trump’s inauguration provided both a capstone to the most divisive period of electoral politics in recent American history and the promise of continued animosity between political opponents. And, while the factors driving current divisions among the voting public are myriad, a significant source of conflict has been our new president’s confrontational approach to leadership.
High school graduation rates have continued to climb in Massachusetts, reaching a 10-year high. In 2016, more than 87 percent of high school students graduated in four years and, while achievement gaps persist, efforts to support all students in getting a diploma are having an impact.
We are pleased to announce the launch of a beta version of our new website! We hope this new site makes searching our reports, reading about our initiatives, registering for our events, and checking out our new blog simple and easy from any device. A new feature is our data dashboard, an interactive tool that allows users to filter school performance indicators highlighted in our Condition of Education in the Commonwealth report.

Over the years, the Rennie Center has grown to become an action-based think tank, expanding our reach to apply what we learn from our research to programs that work directly with schools. A central focus of that work has become helping districts build their capacity to design, implement, and continuously assess the use of evidence-based reforms, all with the goal improving education for all students. 

Regardless of how you cast your ballot on Question 2, there is one thing we can all agree on: our state cares about improving education. Although we may disagree about what method of school governance is best to accomplish this, the attention given to this ballot initiative shows us that citizens across Massachusetts consider school improvement a top priority. We need to continue this conversation about school improvement and focus on how we can scale the practices that are working in both charter and traditional public schools across the state.

In 2010, the Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston was failing. With over 80 percent of their students eligible for free or reduced lunch, the Burke faced many difficult challenges – a student population dealing with the effects of poverty, community violence, trauma, and homelessness. The Dorchester school had one of the highest dropout rates in Boston, was unable to meet academic goals, and was designated by the state as underperforming. A few years later, it was the first high school in Massachusetts to exit turnaround, coming out with an award for Boston’s most-improved school, EdVestors' Thomas W. Payzant School on the Move Prize.