A child’s destiny should not be determined by her zip code. Massachusetts has been a leader in public education reform for nearly two decades, but persistent poverty- and race-based achievement gaps in low-income communities are reminders that we have not done enough to meet our commitment to offer educational opportunity to every young person in the Commonwealth. These inequalities persist under our watch despite clear policy options that work but are not available in every community where they are needed.
Statewide testing results demonstrate that white students score far better than children from minority or low-income families. A 2010 state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education study reported a 25 to 30 percentage-point proficiency gap between African American, Hispanic and low-income students and white students in reading and math. More than one-third of students in the Commonwealth’s urban school districts are still failing MCAS exams, and they can’t graduate from high school without passing that test.
Young adults who are failing in inner city schools consequently lack the skills necessary to compete in the workforce and create a drag on the Commonwealth’s economy. This is something the business community should not only pay attention to but also fear.
By 2018, according to the Georgetown Center on Education and the Workforce, 68 percent of jobs in Massachusetts will require a career certificate or college degree. Currently, only half the Commonwealth’s adults hold an associates degree or higher. When business leaders are unable to fill their job openings with the local workforce, they will look elsewhere to hire and grow their businesses.