If Amazon chooses to make Massachusetts the home of its second headquarters, will our workforce be ready? The majority of local employers report having trouble finding qualified candidates. What will happen if we add 50,000 more jobs? More must be done to prepare students for success after graduation and the education field knows how to do this. The problem is that many schools and districts don’t have the capacity or resources to put effective practices in place. 
There’s no shortage of innovative ideas in our education system. When it comes to the success of our students, everyone from educators to state policy makers is working tirelessly on new ways to improve our schools. But why do some new ideas stick and others don’t? Too often, well-intended policies unravel as they hit the ground. We want to change that. We know making large-scale improvements that are effective and sustainable is hard. It requires a thoughtful and structured process. So we've developed a step-by-step process that lays out six essential elements to manage improvement efforts.
Before any school improvement effort gets underway, those leading the process need to identify the problem they're looking to address. At the surface level, this is as simple as defining who is involved, who will be impacted, and why there is a need to fix or improve the system. But the process can be far more complex. Failing to include teachers' voices or look at the underlying reasons for this problem can lead to an ineffective effort.
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.