Massachusetts residents don’t believe all is well with the state’s public schools, according to the findings of Mass Insight Education’s 27th annual survey on education issues released at a breakfast briefing today, December 1. The survey, the results of which can be found here, indicates that Massachusetts residents are growing increasingly disappointed in the performance of public schools, high schools in particular, in preparing students for college and their future careers, and seem willing to support strategies to help schools improve.
Increasingly, Massachusetts residents view the public school system as running in place. Just 10 percent grade their local school an “A,” the lowest percentage since before the landmark education reform law of 1993 and more than 50 percent below the October 2014 level. At the same time, residents grading the state schools a “C” has dramatically increased since October 2012 to 41 percent, up from a little more than 30 percent a few years ago.
Respondents understand that the state’s economy is changing, with more than eight out of 10 disagreeing that a high school diploma is enough to earn a good living in Massachusetts. They also see the need for more STEM workers: more than 70 percent do not believe Massachusetts has enough skilled workers to meet the needs of STEM employers.
Even more remarkable is that 40 percent believe that the state’s high schools are not currently effective in preparing students for a bachelor’s degree, while 25 percent don’t think high schools are adequately preparing students for the minimal requirements for success in community colleges. Fifty-three percent indicated that high schools are more responsible than colleges for students not completing their college degrees.
Support for public policies that would address mediocre schools was strong. Respondents – supported by a wide margin, with 80 percent agreeing – think the state should include college success indicators in high school rankings. There was also strong support for the governor and legislature to adopt college success policies, including more need-based financial aid. Well over eight in 10 also indicated support for legislation that would give district and school leaders more authority to determine teacher assignments and working conditions.
While not a roadmap, the survey identifies some opportunities for policy innovation beyond the recent debate over charter school expansion. Massachusetts continues to need more skilled college graduates to meet workforce and community challenges, and provide more of our diverse population with opportunities to earn a decent living and support a family. While more funding for public education remains part of the solution, it is clear that more needs to be done to ensure students are provided with the rigorous education necessary to succeed in today’s complex world.