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Education & Workforce Development

21st Century Learning System Report

Panel Discussion Topic:
21st Century Learning System Report: MCAS accountability and assessment, training but not standards. How do we overhaul the education system to raise the bar and teach the skills that are needed?

Mass Business Alliance for Education
Linda Noonan, Mass Business Alliance for Education (MBAE), says that they are committed to preparing students to compete in colleges and careers, and need to accelerate the pace to help all these companies who are in need. MBAE got some manufacturers involved to see if they could identify models that could be used. What can employers and the business community do to help schools produce students for the workforce, particularly in STEM?

The 21st Century Learning System Report shows that Massachusetts rates at the top for 21st Century skills, outpacing other states, but trailing other nations. Our graduating students are not bringing the correct skills to the workforce. Our schools must be aware of this. Our objective must be to prepare all students for college and career.

In urban high schools, for every 10 students — 6 graduate, 4 go on to college, and 2 graduate with a degree. We need to identify the skills which help students achieve – communication, attitude, & motivation. All the focus groups Noonan has heard show these traits as key to a student’s success.

Tools to help students become learners can also help keep them employed. Mass Context provides respected research which shows that the rigor of the courses taken most directly indicates college completion. Many students drop out because they were not engaged or bored. Currently, the manufacturing workforce tends to have their high school diploma, but over 70% will be required  to do additional post graduate work or training in order to be hired.

There is a copy of the full report at

Central Massachusetts STEM Pipeline
Sandra Mayrand is Director of the Central Massachusetts STEM Pipeline. Their campaign goal is to make students aware of STEM fields. Research has shown that students decide what they don’t want to do in middle school and close down on horizons thereafter, so it is critical to reach them beforehand.

Many things that go on in careers are invisible. We need to make kids and parents aware that manufacturing and the STEM fields can be great and financially rewarding careers. The Central Massachusetts STEM Pipeline Program has been funded for three years by the Economic Stimulus Package. The objective is to learn what can be done to engage middle school students. Some focuses of the program will be to have students interact with role models in careers and develop peer friendly, parent friendly applications, and to allow creativity and the formation of networks using materials that the kids develop themselves. Currently, they are collaborating with Quinsigamond Community College (QCC) on these projects.

The funding supports the Women in STEM Day for girls in four areas of Massachusetts and Men in STEM Day in the Worcester middle school. STEM career ambassadors from area businesses are needed to participate and if you are interested, please contact Sandra Mayrand at (508) 856-5097.

Another focus of the group is to develop a media campaign. The Worcester Public schools have been very helpful in assisting with the creation of a media message. The 21st Century After School Program offers enrichment activities after normal school hours. These experiences allow the students to apply education to real life. "Because Dreams Need Doing!" workshops help students develop concrete ideas about what they need to do to make their dreams happen.


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