Entries by Ken Ardon

Expanding Educational Opportunities: Three Models for Extended Summer Enrichment Programs in Massachusetts

The last of a three-part series by Pioneer Institute on summer learning shows that Massachusetts schools establishing summer enrichment programs to close the achievement gap between lower-income and higher-income students can have a greater impact by eventually expanding the program across multiple summers or for a full year. This final paper introduces three types of extended summer enrichment models: 12-month programs, multi-year summer-only programs, and multi-year, year-round programs.

Attrition, Dropout and Student Mobility in District and Charter Schools: A Demographic Report

This paper uses publicly available DESE data to explore student attrition and other forms of student movement, such as dropouts, within district and charter schools. It is not a direct response to the now dated MTA report, but it does explore the validity of the claim that Massachusetts charter public schools have higher attrition than their district counterparts because these schools “select out” or “push out” weaker students in an effort to produce higher test scores.

Massachusetts Charter Public Schools English Language Learners: Demographic and Achievement Trends

The following paper describes how charter schools in Massachusetts and especially in Boston enroll and serve English language learners. Another report in this series provides similar information about students with disabilities. This paper provides enrollment, attrition, and achievement data for English language learners in charter schools across the Commonwealth, with a concentration on Boston and Gateway Cities such as Lawrence.

Expanding Access to Vocational-Technical Education in Massachusetts

This paper explores why vocational education has become such a popular option in Massachusetts, and why 52 Bay State cities and towns do not have access to either district or regional career vocational technical programs. It also examines funding for vocational- technical education. While vocational-technical education is more expensive than traditional high school, it would cost the state less than ½% of the FY16 education budget to provide 5,000 more CVTE placements in Massachusetts.

Modeling Urban Scholarship Vouchers in Massachusetts

Vouchers have the potential to do many things – improve family satisfaction, reduce racial isolation, and strengthen educational outcomes for both the recipients and the children remaining in public schools – all at little or no net cost to taxpayers. The program described in this paper could provide 10,000 students from low-income families with the choices that other families already possess.

Meeting the Commonwealth’s Demand: Lifting the Cap on Charter Public Schools in Massachusetts

Charter public schools are one of the few public school choice options available in Massachusetts largely due to restrictions the state constitution imposes on public education spending. Charters outperform traditional public schools; statewide, charter school students gain an additional month and a half of learning in English and two and a half months in math compared to students in traditional public schools.

The Cost of Cost-of-Living Adjustments in Massachusetts Public Retirement Systems

While the recent pension reforms focused primarily on reducing the cost to the government, one component of the changes had the opposite effect: the legislation allowed local retirement boards the option of offering retirees a larger annual cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA. While Massachusetts has made its COLAs more generous, many retirement systems around the country have been reducing COLAs to save money.

Enrollment Trends in Massachusetts: An Update

Since 2003, enrollment in public schools in Massachusetts has fallen by 35,000 students, or 4%. The decline has occurred even while enrollment in the rest of the country has increased. The early years of this enrollment decline were documented in a Pioneer Institute report in 2008.

A Changing Bureaucracy: The History of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

The first part of this report looks closely at the background, structure, and function of the DESE in an attempt to understand how the agency has operated, how it currently operates, and what challenges, if any, the structure and operation of DESE pose for its ability to effectively exercise its increased authority. The second part recounts the recent history of the Department, especially its role in implementing the first wave of education reform, which came in the form of the 1993 Massachusetts Education Reform Act. In doing so, this work uncovers some of DESE’s strengths and weaknesses in an attempt to highlight potential obstacles to successfully implementing the second wave of reform.

Follow the Money: Charter School and District Funding in Massachusetts

Charter public schools operate under five-year charters from the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and are not part of traditional local school districts. Charters often organize around a core mission, curriculum, or teaching method. They are free from district management and local collective bargaining agreements, and they control their own budget and hire teachers and staff separately from the local school district.

Enrollment Trends in Massachusetts

Enrollment in public schools in Massachusetts has fallen by 24,000 students, or 2.5 percent, over the past five years. The total number of students in Massachusetts public schools is now just 936,000. The decline started several years ago, and is likely to accelerate over the next decade. The drop in enrollment is steepest in Western Massachusetts and Cape Cod, and urban districts are losing students faster than suburban districts.

Public Pensions

While the pension system is not overly generous for typical employees, it is riddled with exceptions, ambiguities, and loopholes that allow some of them to abuse the system and collect unwarranted benefits, resulting in tremendous cost to the state and ultimately to taxpayers. The root of these problems is that the calculation of benefits is not based on the simple concept of contributions but the complicated interplay of four factors—years of eligible service, maximum three years of compensation, “group” or job classification, and retirement age.

Leaving Money on the Table: The 106 Pension Systems of Massachusetts Public Employee Benefits Series: Part 2

The focus of this paper is the choice that local retirement boards have of managing their own investors or investing all or a portion of their assets in PRIT. Most local boards choose to retain control of their investments. In 2004, 55 out of the 104 local systems invested entirely on their own, 29 had some assets invested in PRIT or the PRIT segmentation program, and only 20 invested entirely with PRIT.