Common Core Standards Are Questioned in Massachusetts Education


A spirited group of MA citizens, End Common Core MA, hopes to eliminate Common Core standards from the commonwealth’s education system. The MA state attorney general has officially declared the potential vote to be constitutional—a significant leap toward End Common Core MA’s goal. The group’s next (grueling) step is to gather 65,000 signatures for their cause, which will guarantee their question a spot on the November 2016 ballot.

Common Core Standards for College- and Career-Readiness in Massachusetts

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a set of academic standards for kindergarten through 12th grade; they specify what students should be able to do by the time they reach each specific grade. The history of the CCSS can be traced back to 2008, when former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano made it her goal to initiate a set of national educational standards.

Napolitano and her team had two primary objectives in creating the CCSS. First, they hoped to make American students career- and college-ready; the theory is that students who meet the CCSS will be prepared for both paths. The second objective was to use the CCSS to compare US student achievement against that of the rest of the world.

There is no explicit federal mandate to adopt CCSS, but the Department of Education has created incentives for states to adopt it by including Common Core as a criteria in applications for federal grants. Over forty states, including Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, have adopted some aspect of the CCSS since it was first offered.

Against the Common Core Standards

Opponents of the CCSS say that the standards represent a “one-size-fits-all” approach to education and focus too much on assessment and testing preparation at the expense of genuine learning. Valerie Strauss, for example, said in a letter published in the Washington Post:

When I read that math standard and others like it, I realized the claim of the creators of the Common Core—that the standards are clear, easy to understand and research-based—was simply not true.



For the Common Core Standards

Proponents of the CCSS argue that the mandates give students the education they need to succeed in the economy of the twenty-first century. They also note that although the CCSS sets the standards, states and local districts are free to develop their own methods by which to meet those standards. Robert Pondiscio wrote in the National Review that:

It’s hard to imagine a single education reform that would do more to improve the verbal proficiency of American childrenespecially low-income and minority kidsthan for
[ . . . ] a rich, coherent elementary and middle-school curriculum to take deep and permanent roots in American schools.

People tend to swap sides, too—CCSS is obviously a complex solution to an even more complex problem. It seems difficult for many citizens to be wholeheartedly for or against the CCSS.

Business Groups Paying Close Attention

Massachusetts business groups are watching the progress of this debate closely. They recognize the need for a well-educated workforce that can fill the demands of increasingly sophisticated positions. They also recognize that a workforce lacking sufficient skills will require the assistance of government training (and financial aid), which will likely lead to higher taxes.

As a result, the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (MBAE) has come out in opposition to the proposed vote. MBAE supports the CCSS and claims that it would cost Massachusetts millions of dollars to repeal and replace the standards at this time. The MBAE spokesperson also noted that removing CCSS would make it highly burdensome to amend or replace standards in the future.

What do you think about Common Core in MA? Does Massachusetts need the Common Core to maintain a competitive economy?

How the Massachusetts Economy Is Weathering China’s Recession

China’s economic slowdown has affected countries around the world; many economies rely heavily on exports to China. In the United States, Massachusetts companies have begun to feel the impacts of China’s declining manufacturing industry.

China’s Manufacturing Decline Causing Losses for MA Businesses

In early September, several Massachusetts-based companies trading on the NYSE and NASDAQ showed price-per-share (PPS) losses. Dunkin’ Brands (the umbrella of Dunkin’ Donuts) was off-target by 2.89% and Eaton Vance Management was down 2.88%. Some publicly traded stocks were off by significantly higher margins, including American DG Energy, Inc., which was off 15%, and Collegium Pharmaceutical, off by 10%. Collegium has been plummeting for about a month now and American DG Energy, Inc. is at its lowest PPS since 2009.

Recession Concerns for Institutions of Higher Education

The suffering economy in China is also impacting the well-being of higher education in Massachusetts. Many universities in the commonwealth, as well as many others throughout the United States, depend on the enrollment of international students, especially from China. If the economic situation in China does not improve, Chinese students may not be able to afford the expenses of studying in the United States. Hundreds of US universities have Chinese programs; if schools are unable to fill them, there may be a resultant shift in the economic stability of these institutions.

Some Companies Benefit

Luckily, not all MA industries are facing losses from this turn in China’s economy. Less competition from China—a behemoth in each of the above industries—gives some US companies a chance to flourish. Two companies in Massachusetts actually showed recent gains. Ocata Therapeutics (a biotech- and cell therapy company) and Echo Therapeutics (a health- and lifestyle technology company) were up 6.97% and 4.1%, respectively. Technical Communications showed gains of 5.11%.


Monitoring Impact of China’s Recession on Businesses in MA

Clearly, the economic fluctuation of a country as massive as China has a number of effects on the commonwealth. Some Massachusetts companies swell while others suffer, and universities and colleges are left nervously awaiting the trickle-down effects. We will continue to monitor China’s impact on MA businesses in the coming weeks and months. If you have any personal insights on this topic, please share them below!

MA Craft Beer Industry Pours Money Into the Massachusetts Economy

According to a report compiled by John Dunham & Associates, more than 25,900 new jobs in the commonwealth could be directly attributed to the the growing MA craft beer industry. Not only has craft brewing brought a rush of jobs into Massachusetts, it has generated over $2.5 billion in sales and taxes for the commonwealth.

MA Craft Breweries: Profit by the Barrel

Craft beer is a growing industry throughout the country—it has grown by 32% over the past few years. Simultaneously, though, large companies like Anheuser-Busch have seen their market shares decrease by as much as 7%. American beer palates seem to be evolving—or have at least begun to align more closely with the flavors of smaller craft breweries. In 1980, the Brewers Association reported that there were just 50 craft breweries in the country. As of June 2015, that number has risen to 3,739.


Craft Brewing’s Early Days in Massachusetts

There is disagreement about the official “beginning” of the craft beer business, but it has early roots in Massachusetts. In the mid-1980s, Jim Koch went door-to-door in Boston selling his family’s home brew to local bars. He then founded the Boston Beer Company, following the huge success of his flagship beer, Samuel Adams. The company, which recorded a gross 2014 profit of over $465 million, is still dedicated to the growth of the MA craft beer industry. Early in 2015, the Boston Beer Company partnered with Accion to offer microloans of between $500 and $25,000 to small breweries. They also sponsor a hops-sharing program that helps smaller breweries obtain the hops necessary to brew India Pale Ales (IPA), one of the most popular styles of beer.

MA Craft Beer Taps Into Other Industries

Craft beer sales have significantly improved the Massachusetts economy in a number of ways. Twenty-nine cents of every dollar spent on craft beer in Massachusetts go toward personal and business taxes paid by brewers—that’s $766 million in additional tax revenue. Craft brewing has had a ripple effect on other industries as well. The agricultural industry, for example, benefits from brewers’ incorporation of fruits, vegetables, spices, and other seasonings into their beers. This experimentation has catalyzed a flux of new brews that were previously unavailable. Construction companies and contractors have been hired to renovate old warehouses and abandoned buildings into breweries, like Abandoned Building Brewery in Easthampton, MA. The manufacturing industry has benefitted from craft brewing’s bottling, canning, and labeling processes. In Massachusetts alone, brewing has created over 7,000 supplier jobs.


Guests enjoy food and brew at Mayflower Brewery Company in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Craft Brewing Expected to Grow Lager and Lager

As a growing industry, craft brewing has created a nationwide economic swell, with microbreweries cropping up in towns and cities across the United States. Not sure where to start? Visit a local Massachusetts craft brewery today. Recommend your favorite beers in the comments below!

Craft brewing has shaped up to be a hugely profitable and flourishing industry. We don’t know about you, but we’ll toast to that. Cheers!


Massachusetts Confidence Index Offers Promising Data

Stemming the tide of declining confidence in the Massachusetts economy for the first time in three months, employers indicated that they had a more positive view of the state’s economic outlook during the month of July. The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Confidence Index, which serves as a barometer of local business activity, increased by nearly three points last month, rising to 59.2 points on a scale of 100.

Seen as a benchmark of business function and opportunity in Massachusetts, the Confidence Index registered an all-time high of 68.5 points in 1997 and 1998; they saw a historical low of 33.3 points in 2009.

A lobbying and management group, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts (AIM) collaborates with Massachusetts employers to enhance the business environment and generate greater business opportunity. They also engage various sectors to help reduce healthcare expenditures, unemployment insurance assessments, and other related business costs. AIM also collaborates with legislators in defining regulations on local, state, and federal levels and promotes the need for a knowledgeable and skilled labor force. Another priority for the group is keeping members informed about mandated changes in employment standards and other regulations that may have an adverse impact on their business and the economy of the Commonwealth.

Chairman of the Associated Industries of Massachusetts Board of Economic Advisors Raymond G. Torto asserts:

The AIM Index is up three points from last July, and apart from its recent crest in February and March is at its highest level since December 2006. Like the economy itself, the Index has followed a long-term trend of improvement. But the upward course has been longer and bumpier than most past recoveries.

Data extracted from the released report indicates that the current Massachusetts confidence index data is as strong as from 2006, preceding the 2007 recession.

boston waterfront

Details from the Index:

  • Employers’ opinion of current business conditions, the Current Index, rose 3.5 to a level of 59.7 points in July.
  • Gauging expectations for the next six months, the Future Index, rose 2.2 to a level of 58.6 points.
  • Assessing the overall situations of their operations, the Company Index, rose 3.7 to a level of 61.7 points.
  • Increasing 5.3 to a level of 63.2, the Sales Index rose to its highest level in nine years.
  • Rising to 57.2, up from 54.7, the Employment Index indicated strength compared to prior months.

While the overall view is positive, there were some dips in the manufacturing sector, as well as a lower general confidence rating in areas outside the Boston Greater Metropolitan area, displaying a moderate rise of only 1.1 points. As with any business-monitoring system, fluctuations can be expected; however, there seems to be a consistent but gradual increase in confidence in the Massachusetts business climate.

Do you agree? What kind of working conditions have you experienced in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts Wealth is No Accident

This year has been a period of positive growth for the bay state. Unemployment has declined to a low of 4.8% as of March and current economic reports show that we are no longer in a recession. With just under 7 million workers at its disposal and a growing economy in many industries, the highly productive and profitable state of Massachusetts is set to achieve a new level in its wealth creation prospects. The resulting positive economic fallout will create a great deal of opportunity for development properties.

The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the unemployment rate of Massachusetts is steadily going down. This is a great sign for future development prospects. The state saw a rise of about 12,000 jobs in some of its most important sectors, including healthcare, education, hospitality, science, leisure and professional business services. The positive growth has not happened by accident, and state initiatives have been a huge boon in helping the state move forward out of the recent recession.

Among other efforts by the state of Massachusetts, the ReadyMass 100 initiative is a very efficient way to promote site expansion opportunities for companies that are in the area. It is an initiative for companies, located anywhere in the US, who may be considering a move to or within Massachusetts. The site provides images and information regarding available commercial locations and highlights their most profitable features.

The ReadyMass 100 initiative is a public and private partnership. Massachusetts created the effort in conjunction with MassEcon along with the private real estate community as well as many other regional development groups that are focused on the economy that is within the state. There are many other efforts that private companies have started that are undergoing separate RFPs for the state as well.

Overall, the economic growth of the state of Massachusetts is an encouraging sign for business as a whole. If you are looking for an opportunity to develop properties, then this is definitely one of the best times to be in your shoes. Look for places that encourage growth and development such as Massachusetts. You will have a great chance of success with this type of backing from the state.

Massachusetts Economic Growth Is an Encouraging Sign for Businesses

At the recent Economic Summit breakfast, hosted by Randolph Savings Bank, economic expert Dr. Elliott Eisenberg confidently declared that the state of Massachusetts is not in a recession. Corroborating data shows that since the beginning of 2015, Massachusetts economic growth is moving at a steady pace that exceeds the national average.

According to Eisenberg, the chances of a recession in the next six to twelve months is less than 5%. Although the change has not been a drastically positive one, the economy is still moving steadily forward. The trend in growth is a positive sign for growing businesses in the area, despite some factors that remain a point of concern. The number of experienced baby-boomers retiring from the work force, deteriorating fiscal conditions, income inequality, and the negative after-effects of a brutal winter could be troublesome if not resolved carefully.

However, the rising trend in financial growth sheds a positive light on the future. There has been a significant increase in job opportunities thanks to thriving industries such as technology and software development. Many experienced workers are re-entering the workforce and a population boom has provided additional able bodies to fill available positions.

For business owners, this is the perfect time to lay the foundations for growth. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston has been kept under pressure to maintain current interest rates in order to nurture financial growth in the state. Experts anticipate that any raise in rates would be gradually implemented as inflation requires, as opposed to previous hikes that were made in an attempt to quell a boiling economy.

The current financial atmosphere smacks of opportunity. Businesses considering expansion, either by hiring more personnel, constructing new venues, or investing in new equipment are being encouraged to act now. For those who are not quite ready to push forward, experts advise securing capital for growth objectives before interest rates increase. Massachusetts is now leading the US economy in terms of growth, and Massachusetts businesses stand to gain significant financial ground if they take advantage of the opportunity.