Entries by Scott W. Graves

Media hounds…

Who is?  We are!  Two op-eds in two days.  Ahem, you might want to dig Jamie Gass’ piece in the Metro West Daily News entitled “Teacher licensing rules just got more complex“. How about Alice White’s “City officials silent on looming health care liability” in the New Bedford Standard-Times? Then there is a wonderful piece by Howard Greis entitled “Lawmakers should reject Patrick proposal to drop EQA” in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Outside of Boston, there is grumbling

Outside of Boston the Governor’s plans are not playing well. The Lawrence Eagle-Tribune opined yesterday that Governor Patrick’s promises run afoul of fiscal reality. The following are the money quotes (unconnected excerpts): Gov. Deval Patrick has Republicans and members of his own party scratching their heads over his grand plans for spending money the state and its taxpayers simply don’t have. The rhetoric is soaring… But the reality is neither the state, nor the cities and towns on which the burden of paying for many of these mandates will inevitably fall, are in a position to afford such grand schemes. Such talk is certainly not appropriate at a time the Massachusetts Transportation Finance Commission says it will cost between $15 […]

3 chairs to craft the education plan

A change of the guard seems underway for the “Readiness Project,” as the Governor calls his recently announced education plan. Rumor has it that Dana Mohler-Faria is on his way back to Bridgewater State College at the start of July. Also, there is the Governor’s announcement of the core leaders of the new new Task Force he is calling on to deliver a fleshed out plan, a budget, and an implementation plan. Up to the front come Tom Payzant, EMC Chairman/President/CEO Joe Tucci, and Wheelock’s Jackie Jenkins-Scott. Congratulations to the Governor for three solid picks, listed below with the strength they will bring to the TF. Strong on urban education reform: Payzant has the know-how and a strong record of achievement […]

MCAS and dropout rates

In a previous posting on the appointment of Ruth Kaplan to the Board of Education, I noted a significant problem with promoting the view that there is a connection between MCAS and increasing dropout rates: More than half of all dropouts have already passed the MCAS. Then, passed on from one of our wonderful Center for School Reform Advisors, is the editor’s commentary from last summer’s American Educator, a publication of the American Federation of Teachers (an affiliated international union of the AFL-CIO). Using two very different studies, the commentary, entitled “Conventional Wisdom on Dropout Rate is Questioned–Impact of Higher Standards is Not,” points out that high standards and exit exams have NOT driven up drop-out rates. So let’s set […]

Good luck to the new commissioner of DCR!

Great column by Taylor Armerding in the Eagle Tribune today (We ‘interfere with natural processes’ in everything we do) on the attitude many within DCR have toward human management of the environment. The hands-off, let it lie naturally philosophy is, as Armerding underscores, a moral position–and one that makes it hard for the Department to do its job. Even when they make the right choices, they can run up against the local talent (ConComs). Armerding: I am living in fear that somebody from the state Department of Conservation and Recreation, or perhaps from the Rockport Conservation Commission, will visit me and declare my very existence to be interfering with a natural process. And these people are pretty authoritative on the […]

What a difference a few feet make

As a kid, I lived on the border of Massachusetts and used to jump over the border regularly. Fun for us was rock fights, with one side being Rhode Island and the other the Bay Staters. What a difference a few feet made back then, and still do now. Massachusetts may be growing accustomed to Governor Patrick’s biweekly billion dollar proposals, but Rhode Island seems headed in a different direction. Governor Carcieri, facing a deficit quite a bit smaller than our $1.1 billion shortfall, is moving to Cut what probably approaches 10 percent of RI’s state employees, and Bid out as much work as possible to minimize ballooning public salaries, pension and health care liabilities. The Providence Journal article quotes […]

Promises, promises

During the campaign, we heard that good ideas were what mattered — what didn’t was whether it was a Democrat or Republican idea. We did a check-in at around the 100-day mark, when the Harshbarger & Co. Cleaning Crew came up with the brilliant idea of cleaning out all the Republican appointees. As Frank Phillips put it, the first priority for the shadow advisory group (Ron Homer, Scott Harshbarger, pollster Tom Kiley, state Dem Party chair John Walsh, and political consultants/advisers John Marttila, Dennis Kanin, and Michael Goldman) was to crack the whip on the administration’s lagging efforts to replace Republican-appointed government managers with a team loyal to Patrick. Now the work’s been done — out Harry Spence (Social Services), […]

The Gov’s new BOE pick (number three)

There is no need to comment on this.  Ruth’s words do all the talking that is needed:  When educators are devalued, when the business model ALONE is considered a healthy and effective way to run a learning organization, when shame, fear and humiliation are considered healthy and effective motivators for teachers and principals, then the whole child is being left behind. Is that your view of testing?

What does Ruth Kaplan mean for ed reform? (Redux)

Ms. Kaplan is right to be “deeply troubled by the fact that too many children are being left behind in Massachusetts despite 12 years of Ed Reform,” as she noted at a State House press conference held by the Alliance for the Education of the Whole Child on January 10, 2006. As she further noted on that occasion: For the school year 2003-4, DOE figures show that over 10,000 children dropped out of our schools. All good so far. Also, not bad to have someone with passion to address the drop-out rate on the BOE. As Ms. Kaplan states later at the conference: This drop-out rate is a disgrace and should be of urgent concern to everyone who has watched […]

What does Ruth Kaplan mean for ed reform?

With the Governor’s appointment of Ruth Kaplan to the Board of Education, the anti-MCAS movement gets a swell of momentum.  Here is a comment from the Legislature’s Education Committee Hearing on MCAS Bills in September 2003: MCAS has failed abysmally to address the circumstances of students with disabilities. This test is destroying the aspirations of some of the Commonwealth’s hardest working students. Why are we placing insurmountable obstacles in the paths of our most vulnerable public school students? ‘One size does not fit all,’ and standardization is the antithesis of special education. If MCAS remains the barrier it has become for these children, then 25 years of progress will be reversed, and a high school diploma will become the ‘impossible […]

Turning up the heat on MCAS

I don’t know how or why the Gov’s folks think moving away from the MCAS is something they are going to get any buy-in on.  If you want to push it to the end of the school year, as many teachers have long asked–sure, that makes sense.  If you want to limit the number of days a school can take to give the exam–sure, makes sense.  But the attempt to sell this as a question of whether the MCAS is “a” versus “the” requirement is too lawyerly.  In a previous post, I went through the Worcester T&G’s take on the Gov’s plan.  Take a look at Jon Keller’s blog “Deval’s MCAS Folly”.  Tough words from Keller: And if he thinks the […]

What’s all this then about… the Worcester T&G

The June 5 T&G makes one more point worth mentioning.  As Monty Python used to say, What’s all this then about… free community colleges?  As the editorial notes, the idea “disappointingly fails to address more immediate concerns.”  As the piece notes, Community colleges play a vital role as a portal into post-secondary education — including four-year colleges and technical programs — for nontraditional students, limited-English speakers and others. While state funding may have made community colleges beyond the means of some, doesn’t everyone agree that we have a lot of work to do to ensure that CCs are effective delivery systems for skills needed in the market place?  I mean, a financial services firm, to remain unnamed, has a wonderful relationship […]

Anybody have an education bandaid?

The education announcement was long on desire, but its lack of detail and, um, how to get it done (sometimes known as an implementation plan) is buying the Governor more static.  Check out the June 5 editorial in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, which makes three points: Conspicuously absent from his presentation, however, were a price tag for the sweeping expansion he envisions and an action plan for overcoming resistance by unions, school administrators and taxpayers to various aspects of his education plan. A decade and a half after enactment of the landmark education reform law, the No. 1 standing of Massachusetts students nationwide has vindicated the “grand bargain” that underlies the effort’s success: a major infusion of funding accompanied by measurable standards and accountability for results. […]

Biotech vs. Precision Plastics

Good play on the radio and in the print media subsequent to our piece in the Herald giving Pioneer’s take on the billion-dollar biotech bonanza, excerpted below: We all want to attract and grow biotech companies. [But] why not focus on financial services, which employs 180,000, or precision plastics, a large employer in Worcester and Springfield? [Why] not focus on the small business sector as a whole, which creates many times more jobs than biotech. Those jobs start people up the economic ladder – and stay in Massachusetts. The only way to grow and retain jobs and broad prosperity is to improve the business climate by addressing areas of competitive disadvantage like unemployment insurance, permitting, health care and energy costs. Massachusetts has the […]

Who will improve our health care blues?

Today’s Globe editorial lays out the health care riffs of the Democratic presidential bluesmasters, noting some pretty big refrains: $90 to $120 billion for John “Pretty Boy” Edwards and $50 to $65 billion for “Sweet Talk” Barack Obama. Seems everyone’s in love with the Massachusetts mandate. Edwards, the Globe reports, would require that everyone obtain health insurance, a national version of the individual mandate that takes effect in Massachusetts July 1. Businesses would have to offer insurance or make contributions (amount not specified) so workers could get it on their own. When I hear riffs like these, it makes me want to run, or to stay in tune, uh, go “down to the station, suitcase in my hand.” I have […]

Today, I want to be…

Veronique de Rugy of the American Enterprise Institute. Why? I’ve long been a booster of small business creation and the need for government to improve the general business climate. The problem is the debate has morphed into a maniacal focus on access to capital. That is important, but the folks in the small business cheerleading squad, generally because they lack strong experience in business creation (otherwise they wouldn’t be doing what they are doing…), ignore the numbers. Along comes Veronique with a tremendous article in the Cato Institute’s magazine Regulation, which deconstructs the practices of the multi-billion dollar Small Business Administration. (The SBA provides government-sponsored loans and loan guarantees, as well as technical assistance and advocacy to and for small […]

A non-conventional pain in the butt, but. . .

Jeff Jacoby was right on in his Globe op-ed of May 6th on the rush to get even more subsidies for the Hynes Convention Center. In the piece, Jeff compares Patrick Lyons’ private investment proposal on Lansdowne Street to the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) proposal for more subsidies to prop up the Hynes and asks why one is being done with private financing and the other one requiring more subsidies on top of old ones, on top of a big chunk of money thrown at the new South Boston facility. Now, I’ve received a number of queries asking why Pioneer hasn’t continued to hammer away on Convention Center subsidies and turning the Hynes over to a higher and better […]

Congrats to 3 Mass charters and a Big, Open Question

At a ceremony held at the Capitol Building in DC yesterday, the Center for Education Reform named three of Massachusetts charter schools among the 53 National Charter Schools of the Year. The day’s events included a press conference, a National Press Club lunch, and meetings with reps and senators. The three award recipients were Excel Academy Charter School (East Boston), MATCH Charter Public High School (Boston), and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (Roxbury). These are schools that are inspiring and changing the expectations of minority students. They are also outscoring on achievement tests many of the “W” communities that have so many more advantages. To anyone who has been in these schools, it is clear, however, that the students’ impressive results […]

Only big businesses move, right? Wrong!

Even if we lose all our headquarters, even if big business expansions go elsewhere, we can always count on small businesses to stay here and grow, right? Wrong. We’ve all heard the constant drumbeat about Fidelity’s moves and expansions elsewhere—they’re going to New Hampshire, packing off to North Carolina, they’ve been lassoed by Texas, and they have a great base in my lovely birth state Li’l Rhodey. A small digression in defense of Rhodey for you Mass snobs who can only venture to Plum Island, the Cape or Vineyard: Rhode Island has everything you could want—coffee syrup, Saugy hot dogs, the Cranston accent can cut through any clump of earwax, and the beaches are Florida compared to Salisbury and anything […]

Holy Reconstitutions, Batman!

All right, so the Governor has made a $1 billion bet on the biotech industry. And he is also betting that there will be 15,000 jobs at the end of the $1.4 billion New Bedford-Fall River rainbow—I mean, rail line. All this suggests that he will be a betting man on gambling as well. But before you go and cancel your bus tickets to Foxwoods, we have another pretty big gamble coming up in the next couple of weeks. Governor Patrick is widely rumored to have up his sleeve an ace that will please the unions, superintendents, and school committees—a reconstitution of the Board of Education and the creation of a Secretary of Education. The Secretary’s post, according to the […]

Digging Big into the state’s pocket

Ouch. The state has documented $173 million in new Big Dig cost overruns – and, worse, another $160 million in future costs. Gov. Deval Patrick noted his “continued frustration with the contractor” and, together with Speaker DiMasi, pooh-poohed Treasurer Cahill’s suggestion that we increase taxes – I mean, tolls – to pay for new and future overruns. The feds – yes, the same feds who bless the construction of bridges and highways to nowhere – are not going to pay any more for our project management failures. So we’re stuck waiting to see if we can post facto recover some of the cost overruns. That’s what the Speaker, Senate President and the Governor are all counting on – let’s let […]

How do you say “yippee” in French?

Paris is six hours ahead. The polls will soon open. While things French do not fall within the bandwidth of Pioneer, it would be foolish to ignore the sea change that is coming in France. Paris is still an important intellectual center. The big money focus of Chirac’s tenure brought insider deals for his friends and a politics of convenience. Good riddance. The Left in France, which has never seen the kind of reform that took place in Italy or Britain, is still spinning its wheels in Stalingrad. That soon will change, as the various components of France’s Left coalition (and especially the Socialists) will face an overhaul the likes of which we have not seen in the last half […]

Build it and they will come?

I think we have heard that one before. So now we are going to build a $1.4 billion commuter line to New Bedford, even though the T can’t afford it, even though that will add to the ongoing costs of the T to maintain the line, and even though expected ridership is dismally low so it won’t even pay for a tiny fraction of the ongoing costs. Okay, what else is new? Perhaps we can build a convention center at the end of the line to soak up all the excess demand for conventions in Massachusetts. Stephen Smith, executive director of the Southeastern Regional Planning and Economic Development District (SRPEDD) and I did an op-ed on this months ago for […]

More Drapes? Enough with the drapes!

Sometimes smart people cannot learn. We are smart people in Massachusetts. We all know that. Jim Rooney, executive director of the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority, is a smart and also capable guy. And he’s done a great job with the bad hand he was dealt. We have two convention centers and the market isn’t big enough to fill them. Jim R’s worked hard to fill the convention centers with events, any events, including meetings of law firms and boat and flower shows. There are some big shows, but still far too many events where people drive in and out of town, leaving in their wake not enough spending and too much traffic. Room nights is the coin of the realm […]


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