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A highly educated population is Boston and the region’s greatest asset. Greater Boston  residents have among the nation’s highest educational attainment, Massachusetts’ K-12 students test highest in the nation on standardized tests  and the Boston Public Schools (BPS) is ranked as one of the nation’s best large urban districts. However, persistent racial/ethnic disparities in combination with global and local demographic trends threaten the region’s educational advantage.

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The Education Sector includes formal institutions of learning at all levels—from early education centers to PreK- 12 public school districts, charter schools, private schools, and public and private 2- and 4-year institutions of higher education as well as continuing and adult education programs.  In addition, it includes parent organizations, teachers’ unions, after school and summer programs, research institutes, advocacy organizations and volunteer groups. 

Massachusetts ’public education system was recently integrated through the Massachusetts Executive Office of Education .  Established in 2008 by Governor Deval Patrick and led by the state’s first Secretary of Education,  the Executive Office of Education encompasses   previously separate departments, including:

  • The Department of  Early Education and Care  (EEC), which supports a network of local and regional early childhood education and caretaking organizations that work with more than 275,000 children every day, provides financial support to more than 60,000 low income families with children and licenses 12,000 EEC programs statewide.
  • The Department of  Elementary and Secondary Education , oversees nearly one million children who attend public elementary and secondary schools in Massachusetts’ 389 school districts as well as curriculum frameworks, teacher licensure, approval and oversight of Charter Schools, Adult Education, Community Learning and ESOL, as well as the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and is the link to Federal programs and policy such as No Child Left Behind and President Obama’s Race to the Top stimulus funding for education.
  • The Department of  Higher Education , with responsibility for  the more than 260,000 students who attend the Commonwealth’s 15 Community Colleges serving over 118,000 students, nine State Colleges serving 72,000 students and the 5 campuses of the University of Massachusetts system .The  University of Massachusetts , is aligned under a Board of Trustees and the President’s Office with five campuses—Boston, Lowell, Dartmouth, Worcester, location of the world-renowned  UMASS Medical School  and the flagship campus in Amherst. Together, they enroll nearly 50,000 undergraduates, and 15,000 graduate students, with a network of more than 375,000  alumni, 225,000 living in Massachusetts. 

The Commonwealth’s largest school district, the  Boston Public School s (BPS) is comprised of 143 schools from Pre-K 0 for 3-year olds through high school.  To meet the academic needs of the highly diverse student body of more than 56,000, the BPS offers 6 Early Learning Centers, 60 Elementary Schools serving grades K-5, 28 K-8 programs—18 of which are single schools, 16 Middle Schools serving grades 6-8, 1 Middle-High School for grades 6-12, 30 High Schools, including 3 Exam Schools, 6 Special Education Schools Spanning grades K to 12, and 3 in-district alternative programs.  Additionally, BPS has opened 21 Pilot schools since 1995, which have increased teacher and programming autonomy, has established the Newcomers Academy for recently-arriving immigrant and English Language Learner students and continues to offer extensive Voc-Tech options at Madison Park High School.

Greater Boston is also home to 74 institutions of public and private higher education—from MIT, Harvard, Boston College, Boston University, Northeastern and Tufts to  many excellent liberal arts colleges and specialized professional schools—with a combined annual enrollment of more than 260,000 students. Of these institutions, about half —35 public and private colleges and universities—are located within Boston’s city limits

Key Trends

Greater Boston and Massachusetts continue to have high rates of educational attainment, particularly among workforce-age young adults.

Accomplishments & Developments

Massachsuetts and Boston have passed legislation and developed innovative public/private partnerships to strengthen the birth to workforce education pipeline.


Greater Boston remains challenged to fully develop the potential home-grown talent, particularly among urban youth of color.

A new integrative early intervention
3 to 3rd
  Boston Metro Innovations

National/International Innovations
New @ Indicators
Nation's Report Card: Massachusetts' 2009 NAEP Results


Massachusetts' 4th and 8th graders ranked first in the nation in both Reading and Math, according to 2009 NAEP results.  Use this interactive tool provided by the National Center for Education Statistics to access NAEP results by state and compare progress across the nation on key educational assessment outcomes.

Indicators Reserach Featured on NECN
April 14, 2009
  State of Education link

State of Education: Making the Grade in Massachusetts offers provocative panel discussions broadcast monthly with leaders and innovators on a range of education topics.

The Nation's Higher Education Report Card
National Center for Public Policy & Higher Education, Measuring Up 2008: The National Report Card on Higher Education (12/08): This fifth biennial evalutaion of higher educaion across the nation and on a stat-by-state basis finds that despite slight advances in college access and preparedness, the US is falling behind other nations, eroding global competitiveness, partiuclary due to surging costs. Though Massachusetts outperforms many US states in perparedness and college completion, high costs remain the largest barrier to college access and success. Click here for the complete Massachusetts report.

Gaston Institute Study on Boston's Latino Students
Mauricio Gaston Institute for Latino Community Development & Public Policy, Where We Go To School: Latino Students and the Public Schools of Boston (06/08): Through the lens of Latino children in Boston Public Schools, this report examines the impact of school quality on key educational outcomes and propposes several policy recommendations to bolster academic engagement and outcomes for Latinos and all students in Boston.

Thrive in 5 Roadmap to School Readiness
Thrive in 5 (a partnership of the City of Boston, the United Way, and additional partners), Boston's School Readiness Roadmap (03/2008): Outlines the needs of Boston's children and the roadmap for increasing school readiness.

National Center for Education Statistics: National Education Indicators
National Center for Education Statistics, The Condition of Education 2008 (06/2008): Presents 43 indicators on the status and condition of education in five topic areas: "1) participation in education; (2) learner outcomes; (3) student effort and educational progress; (4) the contexts of elementary and secondary education; and (5) the contexts of postsecondary education."

National Center for Education Statistics Data on Largest School Districts
National Center for Education Statistics, Characteristics of the 100 Largest Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts in the United States: 2005-06 (06/2008): Provides data on graduation rates, finances and other general data on the nations largest school districts, including Boston, the 74th largest school district in the country.

Commonwealth Focus on Education
MassInc, CommonWealth: Special Issue on Education Reform (06/2008): MassInc takes a look at the state of education in Massachusetts 15 years after the launch of education reform.

Pioneer Institute on Math Education
Pioneer Institute, How to Strengthen K-12 Mathematics Education in Massachusetts (06/2008): Draws on the National Mathematics Advisory Panel's report to make recommendations for improvement of math outcomes in Massachusetts.

National Center for Education Statistics Data on High School Seniors
National Center for Education Statistics, Trends Among High School Seniors, 1972-2004 (05/2008): Tracks long term changes in high school enrollment, types of courses taken, college going and other measures.

Annual KIDS COUNT Data
Annie E. Casey Foundation, 2008 KIDS COUNT Data Book (2008) key measures used to track the well-being of children; state-level statistical data; and tools for generating custom reports, rankings, graphs, and maps.

Strategies for Children/Rennie Center Study of Early Childhood Education and Care
Strategies for Children and Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy,  A Case Study of the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (04/2008): Reviews the process by which the Department of Early Education and Care was created, and its progress towards improving educational services for the states youngest residents.

Rennie Center Study on Science Education
Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy, Opportunity to Learn: Elementary Science (Spring, 2008): Report finds disparities in the amount of time given to science education among elementary students and provides recommendation for improving science education for all elementary students.

State Report on Passing Test Requirements for Graduation
Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, Progress Report on Students Attaining the Competency Determination Statewide & by School & District, Classes of 2008 & 2009 (03/2008): With MCAS retests, 94% of the Class of 2008 was able to earn Competency Determinations (required for graduation), but Hispanic and African American test results continue to lag behind those of whites by 13% to 14%.

State Report on High School Dropouts
Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education, High School Dropouts 2006/2007, Massachusetts Public Schools (03/2008): Reports that the high school dropout rate for Massachusetts increased from 3.3% in 2005/2006 to 3.8% in 2006/2007. The report is linked to data for individual districts, which reports that the Boston Public Schools dropout rate decreased from 9.9% to 8.9% during the same period.