A Tale of Two City Schools: Worcester Tech and Putnam Academy Become Models for Recovery

This report focuses highlights turnarounds at two Massachusetts schools, Worcester Technical High School and the Roger L. Putnam Vocational Technical Academy in Springfield, that were once known for high dropout rates and low graduation rates. The report shows that these schools now excel due to new leadership, community investment, and committed teachers. The report analyzes how Worcester Tech and Putnam Academy — schools with high numbers of low-income and special needs students — leapt from the bottom of Massachusetts voc-tech rankings to become leaders among local schools. The Pioneer paper includes interviews with administrators and presents several recommendations that could help transform struggling voc-tech schools.

Replicating the Massachusetts Model of Vocational-Technical Education

This new report — “Replicating the Massachusetts Model of Vocational-Technical Education” — is a toolkit that can empower state leaders to transform their vocational-technical schools for the better. It builds on “Hands-On Achievement,” a book detailing the Massachusetts model that Pioneer published earlier this year.

METCO Funding: Understanding Massachusetts’ Voluntary School Desegregation Program

The Metropolitan Council for Educational Opportunity, or METCO program, has successfully educated thousands of students for 56 years, but several minor changes could make it even better, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Earning Full Credit: A Toolkit for Designing Tax-Credit Scholarship Policies (2022 Edition)

This report shows that education tax credits grew increasingly popular in 2021, with four more states enacting programs. There are now 28 tax-credit scholarship (TCS) programs in 23 states, and they serve more than 325,000 students.

The Boston Public Schools’ Road to Receivership

This report summarizes the findings of MA DESE’s 2020 review of the Boston Public Schools, highlighting key findings around the teaching and learning, operational, financial, and enrollment challenges the state identified. It also describes why, according to the report, BPS persistently struggles in these areas and how its struggles negatively impact students. The paper describes several options the district and the state have for rectifying the problems and helping BPS meet its constitutional and moral obligations to the students and families it serves.

Learning for Self-Government: A K–12 Civics Report Card

This report, intended primarily for civics reformers considering how best to defend and improve traditional American civics education, surveys a selection of different civics offerings, both the traditional and the radical. Surveyed providers include organizations such as the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life, We the People, and Hillsdale College’s 1776 Curriculum. It also provides recommendations about how civics reformers should build upon this existing array of civics curriculum resources to work most effectively to reclaim America’s civics education.

Modeling an Education Savings Account for Massachusetts

This report finds that Massachusetts provides fewer options for students to be educated outside their assigned school districts than most other states do, and educational savings accounts (ESAs) offer an effective tool for giving students additional opportunities. Author Cara Candal proposes two potential ESA programs for Massachusetts.

Online and On Course: Digital learning creates a path for at-risk students

Digital learning, the use of computers and the internet to study courses taught in the classroom, is viewed by many educators as a breakthrough to helping those at-risk students stay in school and earn their diplomas. The flexibility afforded by digital learning, with students working on their own time at their own pace, is a way for students to meet the requirements of their courses while handling pressing responsibilities outside of school, problems at home or personal issues.  Yet parents should scrutinize digital programs closely. Their quality and effectiveness vary widely. Students are poorly served by point-and-click assessments with no engagement, virtual schools with videos instead of real teachers and programs without pacing and scheduling support.

Virtual Learning, Concrete Option: How virtual differs from remote learning during the pandemic

After schools closed in March of 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students, families and teachers had to shift learning from in-class to online. But the switch to remote learning was hasty and disorganized in many school districts. Families struggled with the technology and coordinating schedules at home, while teachers tried to shift the in-person model to teaching through a computer. The dissatisfaction caused many families to believe that the remote learning they were experiencing was what takes place in full-time virtual schools. In fact the two are much different.  This report includes information on how to distinguish between questionable and quality virtual programs.

Homeschooling in Uncertain Times: COVID Prompts a Surge

After steadily increasing for years, the number of parents choosing to homeschool their children skyrocketed during the pandemic, and policy makers should do more to acknowledge homeschooling as a viable option, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Bad IDEA: How States Block Federal Special Education Funding to Private and Religious School Students

This report finds that two states and three school districts around the country for which data are available appear to be out of compliance with provisions of the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that require provision of equitable, publicly funded special education services to students in private schools, after a $3.8 million settlement was reached in Massachusetts for failure to comply.

Madison Park II: Capitalizing on Employment Opportunity

This report reviews the co-operative education program at Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School, which places students in paid positions with local employers. The study finds that the program lags far behind other Massachusetts vocational-technical schools in terms of both placements and number of employer contacts.  But with the school as a whole beginning to improve after years of turmoil, the co-op is also showing promising signs.

Earning Full Credit: A Toolkit for Designing Tax-Credit Scholarship Policies

Tax-credit scholarship (TCS) policies create an incentive for taxpayers to contribute to nonprofit scholarship organizations that aid families with tuition and, in some states, other K–12 educational expenses. This paper explores the central design features of TCS policies—such as eligibility, the tax credit value, credit caps, and academic accountability provisions—and outlines the different approaches taken by the TCS policies in each state. The paper also offers suggestions regarding each feature for policymakers who want to design a TCS policy that most likely to succeed at its central purpose: empowering families to provide their children with the education that works best for them.

Madison Park Technical Vocational High School Turnaround Update

Four years after it began to implement a turnaround plan, Boston’s Madison Park Technical Vocational High School is showing clear signs of progress, but its performance continues to lag behind that of other vocational-technical schools in Massachusetts, according to a new study published by Pioneer Institute.

Accountability in Massachusetts’ Remote Learning Regulations

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This policy brief and public comment argues that the COVID-19 pandemic-related revisions to Massachusetts’ remote learning regulations should restore state and local accountability by specifying that any remote academic work shall, to the same extent as in-person education, prepare students to take MCAS tests, and that grading criteria should be the same across in-person, remote, and hybrid learning environments.

How Should Massachusetts Reopen Its K–12 Schools in the Fall? Lessons from Abroad and Other States

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This report asserts that, with the fall semester fast approaching, Massachusetts should provide more specific COVID-19-related guidance for school districts about ramping up remote learning infrastructure; rotating in-person cohort schedules; diversifying methods of communication between students, parents, and teachers; and investigating physical distancing capabilities.  Districts must determine whether to adopt in-person, remote, or hybrid schooling options, and they will not be ready for the fall unless the state provides clear direction.

Class Dismissed: Massachusetts’ Lack of Preparedness for K–12 Digital Learning During COVID-19

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This white paper contends that the shutdown of Massachusetts schools due to the COVID-19 virus and the shift to online education have exposed the uneven nature of digital learning in the Commonwealth, and calls for state officials to develop programs to create more consistency. The study urges state officials to create a plan for the 2020-21 school year that will address the education gaps that occurred during the final semester of this school year. It also encourages a plan to address how future extended closures would be managed.

Shifting Special Needs Students to Online Learning in the COVID-19 Spring

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This report by Pioneer Institute and ASU Prep Digital addresses the problem that school closures due to COVID-19 have separated more than seven million K-12 special needs students from support they receive in the classroom, and shows how online learning can be appropriate for most of those students if teachers and parents work as a team to provide each one with what he or she needs.

Breaking the Code: The State of Computer Science Education in America’s Public Schools

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Even as the COVID-19 pandemic has further transitioned education…

As college students and parents demand robust COVID-19 response, university finances suffer

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College enrollment has increased in every economic recession since the 1960s, as young people have difficulty finding jobs at their previous level of education. But the COVID-19 crisis has all but upended higher education’s business model, given the high susceptibility of college campuses to viral outbreaks.

The Common Core Debacle: Results from 2019 NAEP and Other Sources

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This study finds that, breaking with decades of slow improvement, U.S. reading and math scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and other assessments have seen historic declines since most states implemented national Common Core English and math curriculum standards six years ago.

Shifting to Online Learning in the COVID-19 Spring

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This new Pioneer Institute and ASU Prep Digital policy brief offers five important considerations for schools and districts dealing with the shift to online education in response to COVID-19.

Keeping Students Academically Engaged During the Coronavirus Crisis – Part One

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Pioneer Institute calls on the U.S. Department of Education (USED) to quickly establish comprehensive but concise guidelines for federal law around school closures.  Because of the COVID-19 virus, schools have been closing rapidly around the nation, and they are trying to transition to alternative, largely online, learning programs. 

The Next Chapter of Education Funding in Massachusetts

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Efforts to update the Commonwealth’s K-12 education funding formula should focus on narrowing the gap between affluent and low-income school districts and be accompanied by reforms designed to improve student outcomes and enhance accountability.

An Analysis of How Massachusetts’ ‘Student Growth’ Model Limits Access to Charter Public Schools

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The Student Growth Percentile (SGP) the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) now uses as 25 percent of the formula for determining school district rankings has a high degree of error. While the SGP may have a role to play as part of discussions around holding districts accountable for performance, it should not be used for high-stakes policy decisions, including which districts are eligible for an increase in the charter public school cap.

Fiscal Crisis at UMass Boston: The True Story and the Scapegoating

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While the blame fell on former UMass Boston Chancellor Keith Motley, the UMass Board of Trustees and President bear the bulk of the responsibility for the recent budget crisis at UMass Boston due to a lack of oversight of the campus’s capital expenditures.

Amicus Brief: Espinoza v Montana Department of Revenue

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Pioneer Institute today announced that it has submitted an amicus curiae urging the United States Supreme Court to hear Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue, which challenges a state constitutional amendment marked by religious bias.

A Risky Proposal for At-Risk Private Colleges: Ten Reasons Why the Board of Higher Education Must Rethink Its Plan

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The Baker administration and the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education (BHE) should slow down a fast-tracked proposal to protect students from sudden, unexpected college closings such as what occurred at Mt. Ida College, and use the time to rethink its proposal from top to bottom.

Wise and Humane: Private School Nursing in Massachusetts

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Private and parochial school students in Massachusetts have been denied well over $10 million in school nursing services to which they are entitled under state law.