Thursday, March 29, 2012


The Context

Massachusetts is engaged in a fierce competition with other states and nations for talent, investment and jobs. The state’s primary assets in this competition are the overall educational level of our people and our workforce and the inventiveness and competence of the creative individuals and organizational leaders who drive our innovation-dependent, knowledge-based economy. Nurturing these assets through education, research and creative activity is the most important contribution of the state’s colleges and universities to the overall well-being of Massachusetts. The Vision Project is the vehicle through which public higher education has come together to stay focused on this work and hold ourselves accountable for results.

The Key Outcomes
In order to achieve our educational vision, Massachusetts public higher education must
claim national leadership in:
    College-going rates of high school graduates
    Graduation and success rates of the students we enroll
    Academic achievements by our students on campus-level and national assessments of learning
    Alignment of our degree programs with key areas of workforce need in the state’s economy
    Achievement of comparable outcomes among different ethnic/racial, economic and gender groups
In order to achieve our research vision, the University of Massachusetts must claim national leadership in:
  1. RESEARCH ACTIVITYResearch activity related to economic development
  2. ECONOMIC ACTIVITYEconomic activity derived from research

The Annual Report

To hold ourselves accountable for achieving national leadership on these key outcomes, we will issue an annual report to the people of the state, comparing our work to that of our peer institutions in other states.

Policy Areas

Achieving national leadership on the five key educational outcomes calls for attention to the policy areas depicted in this graphic. The goal of eliminating disparate outcomes is embedded in each of the other outcomes

MA Board of Higher Education

PCAST Documents & Reports


On Tuesday, February 7, 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released its report entitled “Engage to Excel: Producing One Million Additional College Graduates with Degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics.”  This report provides a strategy for improving STEM education during the first two years of college that we believe is responsive to both the challenges and the opportunities that this crucial stage in the STEM education pathway presents.


Three imperatives underpin the recommendations in PCAST’s report:

1. Improve the first two years of STEM education in college.
2. Provide all students with the tools to excel.
3. Diversify pathways to STEM degrees.

In addition to its call to create a Presidential Council on STEM Education to help implement and expand uponPCAST’s recommendations, the report’s major policy recommendations—applicable to technical and
community colleges as well as four-year colleges and universities—are:

1. Catalyze widespread adoption of empirically validated teaching practices.Studies have shown that classroom approaches that engage students as active participants improve retention of information and critical thinking skills and can significantly increase STEM-major interest and perseverance, compared with conventional lecturing. In one study, for example, students in traditional lecture courses weretwice as likely to leave engineering and three times as likely to drop out of college entirely compared withstudents taught using active learning techniques. In another study, students in a physics class that used activelearning methods learned twice as much as those taught in a traditional class, as measured by test results.These evidence-based teaching methods do not necessarily require more resources than traditional lectures, butmost faculty lack experience using these methods and are unfamiliar with the vast body of research indicatingtheir impact on learning. The Federal Government could have a major impact by supporting programs thatprovide training for faculty in evidence-based teaching methods and materials, and by supporting thedevelopment of tools to measure progress in this domain.

2. Advocate and provide support for replacing standard laboratory courses with discovery-based
research courses.
Too often, even the “active learning” elements of today’s teaching regimens—laboratory courses— simply repeat classical experiments rather than engaging students in compelling experiments with the possibility and excitement of true discovery. One study found, for example, that college sophomores who engaged in research projects with a professor were significantly less likely to leave STEM majors than those who did not. The Federal Government should support the scale-up of model research and design courses and change Federal rulesto allow the expansion of opportunities for student research and design in faculty research laboratories.

3. Launch a national experiment in postsecondary mathematics education to address the math
preparation gap.
Nearly 60 percent of students enter college without the math skills needed for STEM majors. This not only
limits students’ ability to enter these careers, but costs a great deal—colleges spend at least $2 billion per year on developmental education for underprepared students. The Federal Government should support an initiative to reduce the math bottleneck, focusing on: summer and other bridge programs for high school students entering college; improved remedial courses for college students; new college math curricula developed and taught by scientists and engineers who are not mathematicians, and; producing more K-12 mathematics teachers from non-math-major science and engineering graduates.

4. Encourage partnerships among stakeholders to diversify pathways to STEM careers.The conventional educational “pipeline” to STEM competency and accomplishment should be replaced by a
more diverse set of pathways to attract and retain STEM students with backgrounds atypical of traditional
STEM students. With the assistance of Federal programs and public-private partnerships, 2-and 4-year
institutions should make new connections among themselves and with other institutions to provide more entry
points and pathways to STEM degrees. These connections should reach beyond current partnerships between community and technical colleges and private-sector employers to encourage scientific research and engineering design exchanges across two-and four-year institutions.

PCAST is an advisory group of the nation’s leading scientists and engineers who directly advise the President and the Executive Office of the President. For more information, please visit

2010 - K-12 STEM Education Report

PCAST STEM Education Report
On September 15, the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) released a plan for improvements in K-12 Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education. For more information, see below: