The Gateway Cities Journal
News and information for leaders who care about Gateway Cities


Embracing a different path



Like a race car engine tuned for high octane gasoline, we have built the Massachusetts economy to run on superb human talent. Our recent survey of more than 400 employers shows that this fuel is in short supply- and the business community is concerned about our schools' ability to educate students for success in the workforce and society. Two-thirds of companies are struggling to find workers with the skills needed for open positions and 84% of respondents say our education system needs moderate to major change to support the Commonwealth's future vitality.




In stark terms, MassINC's new report substantiates anecdotal evidence about the challenge we face - which will only accelerate as the economy picks up and our experienced baby boomers enter retirement in large waves. The 20 to 30 percent growth in the college-educated workforce Massachusetts saw in the 1990s and 2000s is no more. Between now and 2030, the Commonwealth is projected to see a drop in workers with a bachelor's degree or higher for the first time since the Census Bureau began keeping records. The problem will be particularly acute in regions like the Pioneer Valley, where the college-educated workforce is projected to decline by 27 percent between 2010 and 2030.


While there are many facets to this challenge, there is no question that improving the performance of Gateway City education systems is an essential part of the solution. Gateway City students complete post-secondary training at less than half the rate of students from other Massachusetts communities. With these urban centers educating more than one-quarter of the state's future workforce, this disparity has enormous consequences, not only for these individuals but for everyone dependent on the economic health of our state.  MassINC's analysis shows that if we bring the rate of Gateway City students completing post-secondary degrees up closer to the statewide rate, we could entirely eliminate the decline in the state's college-educated workforce that's projected to occur in the next fifteen years.


From Fall River to Fitchburg and Lowell to Worcester, business leaders are becoming increasingly concerned about the need to respond to this challenge. Many are taking action locally-working closely with school leaders to provide career exposure and work-based learning experience; supporting expansion and improvement of local early education systems; and participating in efforts to reduce the number of students who are dropping out and foreclosing on their future.  In our employer poll, respondents acknowledged their responsibility to increase public awareness about the skills required to succeed in today's economy.


All of these efforts are effective and critical. Yet, a larger challenge must also be addressed. Our education system is woefully out of date.  It simply wasn't designed to deliver what's required today or tomorrow. It's time to reform the way we use time, people, resource and space to address the needs of every child. The Commonwealth has an opportunity to seize what the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education is describing as The New Opportunity to Lead. We need to modernize our education system so it can adapt to the rapidly changing world our students live in and must navigate. Over a year of research and consultation with stakeholders and experts has provided a blueprint for the future. 


Our plan calls for applying what we know about how children learn to focus on personalized learning that meets the needs of individual students. This requires giving school leaders and educators the freedom to redesign learning environments, utilizing varied school models and creating innovative ones; authority over spending and staffing based on student needs; and the tools that developing education technology can provide to enhance this work. Support for effective teachers and leaders must be a priority. This demands new approaches to recruitment, teacher preparation, classroom training and the roles educators play. All of these initiatives rely on a strong foundation of high standards and assessments aligned to the requirements of post secondary education, training and employment. 


Massachusetts is uniquely positioned to succeed in defying the dire predictions of educational attainment too low to qualify our citizens for jobs. Our world class universities, thriving technology sector and commitment to equitable educational opportunities for all students provide a rich source of expertise and resources. Gateway Cities have the added advantage of diverse communities bringing perspectives and experiences that can enrich their students' education and their citizens' lives. By embracing a different path to educating our children for their future, Massachusetts can retain its national leadership and include all children in that success.


Linda M. Noonan, Executive Director

Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education






A report released Monday by MassINC, and the Donahue Institute at the University of Massachusetts, predicts the number of Massachusetts residents with college degrees will decline by 3 percent between 2020 and 2030


The Executive Office of Education issues the RFP for the FY15 Gateway Cities English Language Learners Academies grant.


The state Board of Education meets to contemplate the fate of proposed charter school applications in Brockton and Fitchburg.


Worcester host the 2014 STEM Summit, which includes a panel led by MassINC on taking Gateway City STEM learning models to scale. 


Worcester State University breaks ground on a 101,000-square-foot $53 million wellness center to serve the school's 5,500 students.


Housing & Economic Development


MassDevelopment begins accepting submissions for the Transformative Development Initiative.


Springfield and a Chinese firm win the contract to build new MBTA rail cars


Globe columnist Scott Kirsner writes about the role of Gateway Cities in efforts to spread the innovation economy across the Commonwealth.


Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen tours Chelsea.


Salem and Peabody share a total of $4 million in grants for infrastructure improvements to complement upcoming private development projects, including $1.5 million for work in Peabody Square, the Salem News reports.


The opening of the long-awaited Revere Market Basket will take place next week, according to Mayor Daniel Rizzo, adding, "We have always believed, and continue to believe that bringing Market Basket to Revere will serve as a catalyst towards future economic development in the Northgate area of our community."


Leominster receives a $1.3 million grant from the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development for the reconstruction of Adams and Cotton streets, according to the Sentinel & Enterprise.


The Box District in Chelsea wins the 2014 Jack Kemp Excellence in Affordable and Workforce Housing Award.




MASSCreative's Create the Vote coalition is injecting arts and culture into the 2014 election cycle with particular focus on the revitalization of Gateway Cities. Martha Coakley tours the Victory Theatre in Holyoke and releases her arts platform.


Charlie Bakers urban strategy seems to be paying off large due to success in Gateway Cities according to analysis by WBUR's Poll Vault and could be a key to a victory in two weeks. Globe columnist Yvonne Abraham applauds the overdue attention cities are receiving in this election cycle.


Bristol District Attorney Samuel Sutter becomes the 13th potential candidate to pull nomination papers to run in the Fall River recall election of Mayor Will Flanagan, a former prosecutor under Sutter.




The Standard Times reports that the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has approved a nearly $18.4 million contract for major crossing upgrades in Taunton, Freetown, and New Bedford for South Coast Rail.


Planning for a major makeover of Route 97/Broadway, a gateway to Haverhill from New Hampshire, is underway.


Lawrence is set to receive a $3.9 million MassWorks grant for traffic improvements on Merrimack Street. A $4.5 million grant will help finish the last phase of Pittsfield's streetscape project.


Health/Public Safety


Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera's office establishes a relief fund for the victims of Tuesday's fire which claimed the lives of two young boys. Contributions will go to six displaced families and a firefighter who broke his leg combating the blaze. 




For a full list of Massachusetts Gateway Cities, click here. The Gateway Cities Journal is a weekly news publication of MassINC. If you would like to unsubscribe to The Journal but would still like to hear from MassINC, please let us know. If you are not yet on our list and would like to sign up, click here. To contribute news or comments, please email MassINC.



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