Hints of Healey education plans 

Driscoll says focus on college and career pathways ‘very much aligned’ with incoming administration’s thinking

IT HAS FAST become the parlor game of choice among political and policy prognosticators: Exactly what will incoming Gov. Maura Healey do once she grabs the reins of power in January? 

The former standout point guard never broke a sweat on her way to a layup landslide election, a race so one-sided that she was able to steer clear of making many specific policy pledges. Globe columnist Joan Vennochi wrote yesterday that it has left the “politically connected in a post-election state of high frustration. All they want for Christmas is a road map to the new administration.” 

That road map still appears to be hidden away in the Healey-mobile glove compartment, with no cabinet appointments or other major positions yet filled, three weeks and a day after her election. For those looking for even some breadcrumbs hinting at policy direction, though, a Tuesday forum offered at least a morsel of the new administration’s thinking on education. 

The online webinar on “Student Pathways to Success” focused on growing interest in vocational education, early college programs that let high school students earn higher ed credits, and other efforts to form a stronger link between K-12 education and the world of college and career that follows. The forum featured a keynote address by Amy Lloyd, the US Department of Education’s assistant secretary for career, technical, and adult education, and a panel discussion with leaders from three states with robust career pathways programs. 

Massachusetts has been expanding its early college programming, and demand for seats at many vocational-technical high schools continues to outstrip supply, putting pressure on the state to expand technical education offerings. 

In closing remarks at the end of yesterday’s program, Lt. Gov.-elect Kim Driscoll offered an enthusiastic embrace of efforts to tie high school more closely to college and career success. 

“The creation of meaningful pathways that provide more equitable career and college pathways, opportunities for students is key, and certainly very much aligned with the thinking of the governor-elect about the future of both how we support education and economy and workforce goals,” Driscoll said. “Kids have been some of the biggest victims of this pandemic, and they’re telling us, frankly, in lots of ways that they want their high school experience to relate more closely to their interest in future careers.They want real engagement, hands-on learning, and deeper understanding of how what they’re learning today is connected to their future lives and livelihoods.” 

Ed Lambert, the executive director of the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, which sponsored the forum, said Massachusetts may be a leader in K-12 student achievement overall, but the state has “a lot of catch-up” to do when it comes to college and career pathways through voc-tech education, early college programs, and other initiatives. Lambert said that made it especially gratifying to hear Driscoll signal the incoming administration’s support for growing those efforts. He also said it’s an area that has lots of support across the spectrum and stays out of the policy war “dust-ups” over charter schools, testing, and other hot-button issues. 

“How can you argue with anything that puts students at the center of trying to increase their chances for success?” Lambert said. 

Meet the Author

Michael Jonas

Executive Editor, CommonWealth

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

About Michael Jonas

Michael Jonas has worked in journalism in Massachusetts since the early 1980s. Before joining the CommonWealth staff in early 2001, he was a contributing writer for the magazine for two years. His cover story in CommonWealth's Fall 1999 issue on Boston youth outreach workers was selected for a PASS (Prevention for a Safer Society) Award from the National Council on Crime and Delinquency.

Michael got his start in journalism at the Dorchester Community News, a community newspaper serving Boston's largest neighborhood, where he covered a range of urban issues. Since the late 1980s, he has been a regular contributor to the Boston Globe. For 15 years he wrote a weekly column on local politics for the Boston Sunday Globe's City Weekly section.

Michael has also worked in broadcast journalism. In 1989, he was a co-producer for "The AIDS Quarterly," a national PBS series produced by WGBH-TV in Boston, and in the early 1990s, he worked as a producer for "Our Times," a weekly magazine program on WHDH-TV (Ch. 7) in Boston.

Michael lives in Dorchester with his wife and their two daughters.

While there may be broad agreement with that, one voice that has argued against a focus on college and career readiness is the leader of the state’s largest teachers union. Max Page, the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, tore into the idea when he testified before the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education earlier this year. Page disparaged the  focus on college and career readiness as a misguided approach that is “tied to the capitalist class and its needs for profit.” 

Page was named this week, along with more than a dozen others, to the Healey-Driscoll administration’s education transition committee. There may be lots of things on the table for discussion when the group meets, but Driscoll’s comments suggest turning away from the increased focus on college and career readiness won’t be one of them.