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Office of Planning and Research


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Success After High School

OPR's mission is to help DESE and the field implement effective policy and programs and make effective resource use decisions to improve student outcomes.

The Latest From Our Team

  • The 'How Do We Know' initiative helps educators use, build, and share evidence about practice.
  • RADAR reports provide school districts with information about their use of people, time, and money, and enable comparisons between districts.
  • The DESE Strategic Plan Download Word Document and the Strategic Plan Summary Download PDF Document  Download Word Document outline the work DESE is doing to reach our goal of success after high school for all students
  • The research agenda details what DESE wants to learn in order to improve program implementation and outcomes
  • In our reports section, find the latest on education policy issues and state education programs in Massachusetts
  • Planning for Success is a collection of resources for district and school improvement planning
  • The VISTA survey is the most current and comprehensive set of findings on what educators are saying about the Commonwealth’s education priority areas
  • Use the DART (District Analysis and Review Tool) to explore DESE data (achievement, post-secondary, English Learners, finance, staffing, and more) over time, and compare your district or school to others across the state

DESE Research Update, August 2018

Research and Reports from DESE

A March 2018 report by the MIT School Effectiveness and Inequality Institute examined the state's 2010 charter school cap expansion, which allowed effective charter schools in low performing districts to replicate at new campuses. Estimates based on randomized admission lotteries show that replication charter schools generate large achievement gains on par with those produced by their parent campuses: 0.32 standard deviations per year in math and 0.23 standard deviations per year in English. The highly standardized model employed by charter schools, which limits the variation in practices across schools and classrooms, may play an important role in consistent replication at new campuses.

A June 2018 white paper Download Word Document released by DESE discusses the reasons for and implications of DESE's 2018 switch to using means (averages) instead of medians for official summaries of student growth percentiles. Studies have revealed that means are significantly more sensitive and accurate than medians, and they also align better with the Department's philosophy that the performance of all students should contribute to accountability measures.

Research on Massachusetts Education Policy

In January 2018, Abt Associates released the second report from its multi-year evaluation of the Department of Early Education and Care's pre-school expansion grant (PEG), which expands access to high-quality early childhood education in Massachusetts to four-year-old children from low-income families. In Year 2 (the 2016-17 school year), PEG programs demonstrated more teacher access to training and coaching, stronger instructional quality, improved family engagement, and more frequent home visits as compared to Year 1. The reach and intensity of supports for educators and families varied across and within communities.

A May 2018 study conducted by the University of Massachusetts Donahue Institute presents findings on the state of college access and success (CAS) in Boston. Sixty-nine college access programs reported serving more than 38,000 Boston students annually; some of these students were served by multiple programs. CAS programs are successful in their mission to serve students with the highest need. Almost 90% of CAS program participants are from low-income families, nearly three-quarters are or will be first-generation college students, and about three-quarters are Black/African American or Hispanic/Latino. However, the number of college access programs offered by community-based organizations and institutes of higher education varied widely across neighborhoods, ranging from seven in Chinatown to 38 in Dorchester.

In May 2018, in collaboration with the Boston Foundation, the Rennie Center published a case study analysis of two innovation schools as they underwent rapid school improvement: the Winter Hill Community Innovation School in Somerville and the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere. Based on interviews and focus groups with students, parents, teachers, administrators, and governing board members at both schools, the report describes the similarities and differences in each school's approach to implementing three common principles: shared leadership, whole child and whole family supports, and individualized instruction.

A July 2018 report from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center examines current challenges with the Massachusetts school funding formula. The report finds that the allocation for health insurance and other benefits in the foundation budget in FY 2017 was $1.44 billion below the actual costs borne by school districts, a gap of $1,500 per student across the state. Similarly, the foundation budget amount for special education services was $1.19 billion below actual spending in FY 2017, almost $1,300 less than actual special education spending for each student in Massachusetts. These issues affect all districts and are most acute in lower-income communities.

In July 2018, the Boston Area Research Initiative published a report on the Boston Public School's home-based assignment system (HBAP). Four years after its full implementation in kindergarten and 6th grades, the report found that HBAP did not achieve its goal of increasing access to high quality schools close to home, largely because of the inequitable geographic distribution of quality schools across neighborhoods and racial groups. Some neighborhoods, which are predominantly inhabited by Black and disadvantaged students, had fewer quality schools to choose from and had greater competition for seats in those schools. Students in these neighborhoods were less likely to attend high quality schools and had to travel longer distances to school when they did attend them. While HBAP did shorten commutes overall, the assignment system diminished integration across the city without creating neighborhood schools.



Last Updated: August 22, 2018
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