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During 2018 and 2019, a working group of district and charter school leaders and other education stakeholders from urban and rural locations across the state met to explore ways to increase the effectiveness of principals leading Massachusetts schools. The Barr Foundation engaged Attuned Education Partners to facilitate this group and lead implementation of the learning agendas developed by its members. Together, they prioritized key challenges and identified solutions that research suggests are most likely to strengthen principalship and drive better outcomes for students—especially the students of color and English learners that the state is currently serving least well. This summary highlights their findings and insights. See the full report for more on the challenges and solutions—plus case studies and recommended action steps for state policymakers, school system leaders, principal preparation program providers, and funders.
In 2017, fifty-six percent of the principals hired statewide were new to the job, with high-poverty schools most likely to hire novice principals. During 2018 and 2019, a working group of district and charter school leaders and other education stakeholders from across the state met to explore ways to increase the effectiveness of principals leading Massachusetts schools. The Barr Foundation engaged Attuned Education Partners to facilitate this group and lead implementation of the learning agendas developed by its members. Together, they prioritized key challenges and identified solutions that research suggests are most likely to strengthen principalship and drive better outcomes for students—especially the students of color and English learners that the state is currently serving least well. This report presents their findings and insights—including recommended actions tailored to state policymakers, school system leaders, principal preparation program providers, and funders. It also offers a collection of case studies demonstrating potential solutions in action.
Massachusetts Smart Growth Alliance;
After a pause during the Great Recession, housing costs began rising again as the shortage of homes identified in 2001 began to widen. In some degree, this is because of nationwide changes that have increased demand for apartments and homes on small lots, especially in walkable, transit-connected places. But Greater Boston is also a victim of its own success. The many attractive characteristics of our region are drawing new households by the thousands. Young adults are forming new families and older residents are less likely to flee to Florida and Arizona. Overall, the population of the region is growing – in fact, Massachusetts is the fastest growing state in the Northeast. The disinvestment and population declines of earlier decades have been reversed, and the benefits are overwhelmingly positive. But, if housing supply cannot keep up with demand, these gains could be lost.
From 2010 to 2017, the Metropolitan Boston region added 245,000 new jobs, a 14 percent increase. Yet according to the best data available, cities and towns permitted only 71,600 housing units over that same time period, growth of only 5.2 percent. When supply of new housing does not keep pace with the growing demand created by new workers and young adults forming new households, there is more competition for the existing units. Low rental vacancy rates (just above half of normal) and low for-sale inventory (just above a third of normal) make it a landlord and sellers' market, allowing them to charge top dollar to the highest bidder. Continued demand for labor, driven by economic growth and the retirement of the Baby Boomers is likely to continue driving strong population growth and housing demand well into the future. Compounding the issue is the fact that Baby Boomers will continue to need housing well after they retire, but are stuck in large single family homes because there are very few affordable options to downsize.
For more information: https://ma-smartgrowth.org/resources/resourcesreports-books/
Clean Energy Group;
This report, which describes how states can use energy efficiency funds to provide incentives for energy storage, is a publication of Clean energy group (CEG), with appendices containing several white papers prepared by the applied economics Clinic under contract to CEG. This report explains the steps Massachusetts took to become the first state to integrate energy storage technologies into its energy efficiency plan, including actions to 1) expand the goals and definition of energy efficiency to include peak demand reduction, and 2) show that customer-sited battery storage can pass the required cost-effectiveness test. The report summarizes the economics of battery cost/benefit calculations, examines key elements of incentive design, and shows how battery storage would have been found to be even more cost-effective had the non-energy benefits of batteries been included in the calculations. The report also introduces seven non-energy benefits of batteries, and for the first time, assigns values to them. Finally, the report provides recommendations to other states for how to incentivize energy storage within their own energy efficiency plans. Four appendices provide detailed economics analysis, along with recommendations to Massachusetts on improving its demand reduction incentive program in future iterations of the energy efficiency plan.
A challenge for artists and funders in this intersectional work is to advance both aesthetic and community aims. How do programs balance community development needs and goals with opportunities for artists to experiment? What kinds of supports are needed to help community partners, crucial to the impact of the work, fully engage with artists? What services best support artists who are building their capacity for public realm production and community engagement? What funding strategies and practice standards help ensure projects that meet high marks for both aesthetic achievement and community value?
In the spirit of advancing field dialogue in this arena, Americans for the Arts and the Barr Foundation are happy to share the findings of a National Scan of Programs Supporting Art in the Public Realm. The scan, while not intended to be comprehensive, highlights overarching themes and offers snapshots of 30 programs supporting and building capacity for artists to work in the public realm. Detailed summaries from interviews with seven selected programs provide additional insights.
This scan was conducted to inform future directions of the New England Foundation for the Arts' (NEFA) Creative City program. Creative City's pilot phase offered direct support for artists at varied stages of experience and career to exercise their creative power to excite the public imagination and engage Boston's diverse communities. A report on Creative City's pilot phase and videos highlighting its value and impact in Boston can be found at: nefa.org/CreativeCityLearning.
In 2017, the Barr Foundation launched Engage New England (ENE), a signature initiative that provides a unique opportunity for local education agencies and nonprofits to plan for and develop innovative schools designed to serve students off track to high school graduation. School design partner Springpoint is leading three cohorts of grantees through a three-phase planning year: Understand, Design, and Build. During the Understand phase, grantees conduct research to understand the needs of their student populations. In the Design phase, the grantees design a school model to meet those needs; planning to launch that model begins in the Build phase. The first cohort of grantees received planning year grants for the 2017–18 school year and included a combination of new schools and school redesigns. During the planning year, these grantees assembled teams to lead the design work, collected and analyzed data to learn about their current or potential students and community needs and capacities, articulated design priorities, and began to plan for the launch of the new or refined school model. SRI Education, the research partner for the ENE initiative, captured the learnings from the planning process through interviews, classroom observations, and student focus groups conducted during March and April 2018. The findings in this brief are based on the reflections of the school and design leaders and staff members involved in the design process as well as Springpoint staff members who supported the design process. This brief is designed to benefit all three cohorts of ENE grantees as they plan and build their schools and to highlight key elements of planning for innovative school models.
Sustainable Solutions Lab University of Massachusetts, Boston;
As this report indicates, implementing CRB is necessary but not sufficient to prepare Boston's built environment for the freshwater and coastal flooding anticipated to result from climate change. Additional steps we must take include reforming existing tools, monitoring and evaluating flood adaptation activities, and establishing governance for district-scale coastal flood protection implementation. This report presents an array of options for moving forward. Over the next year or so, the City and relevant stakeholders will need to come together and decide which, if any, of these options provide the best paths forward for a more resilient city and region.
We recommend that the Governor of Massachusetts and the Mayor of Boston establish a joint commission to explore the options and determine a path forward. There is an opportunity for us to learn from the transition to clean energy as we prepare for climate change impacts. We recommend that the legislature take a leadership role in this effort as well, in order to evaluate the different options available to the Commonwealth as we attempt to address this dynamic challenge.
Mt. Auburn Associates;
In May 2013, the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston (Boston Fed) formally launched the Working Cities Challenge: An Initiative for Massachusetts Smaller Cities. The Working Cities Challenge (WCC) encourages and supports leaders from the business, government, philanthropy, and nonprofit sectors in smaller, postindustrial cities to work collaboratively on innovative strategies that have the potential to produce large-scale results for low-income residents in their communities. Ultimately, the Boston Fed expects that the teams' efforts will build the cities' civic infrastructure leading to long-term improved prosperity and opportunity for residents in Working Cities.
The Boston Fed developed a competitive process for city selection in which a jury chose the winning cities with the grant award varying based on the strength of the cities' proposals. WCC announced in early 2014 the award of a total of $1.8 million in grants to six working cities. The competitive grants included four implementation grants ranging in size from $700,000 to $225,000 over a planned three-year period awarded to Chelsea, Fitchburg, Holyoke, and Lawrence. In addition, WCC awarded two smaller $100,000 one-year seed grants to Salem and Somerville. Based on the assessment of progress at the midpoint of the implementation period, the Boston Fed extended the grant cycle slightly and augmented the implementation grants. Following a second juried competitive application process, the Boston Fed awarded each of the four implementation cities an additional $150,000 and extended the grant period through September 2017, making implementation a full three-and-a-half years. Beyond the grant funds, the working cities have received technical assistance and opportunities for shared learning and peer exchange. While perhaps less tangible than technical assistance, but no less important, the working cities now have greater visibility and new forums for access to funders as well.
Below is a presentation produced by Mt. Auburn Associates.
Please find the full report, case studies, and additional resources here: https://www.bostonfed.org/workingcities/massachusetts/round1/process/evaluation.htm
Issue: Managed care organizations (MCOs) are integral to Medicaid payment and delivery reform efforts. In states that expanded Medicaid eligibility under the Affordable Care Act, MCOs have experienced a surge in enrollment of adults with complex needs.
Goal: To understand MCO experiences in Medicaid expansion states and learn about innovations related to access to care, care delivery, payment, and integration of health and social services to address nonmedical needs.
Methods: Interviews with leaders of 17 MCOs in 10 states that have seen large Medicaid enrollment growth and have undertaken payment and delivery reforms.
Findings and Conclusions: MCO leaders regard their ability to enroll and serve the Medicaid expansion populations as a signal achievement. They have focused on identifying and helping high-risk populations and addressing the social determinants of health. MCOs are testing value-based payment strategies that link payment with performance and are increasingly focused on engaging patients in their care. Leaders report common challenges: setting appropriate payment rates; managing members whose needs differ from traditional Medicaid beneficiaries; ensuring access to specialty care; and effectively implementing payment reform and practice transformation. All point to the need for a stable policy environment and a strong working relationship with state Medicaid agencies.
Clean Energy Group;
Sterling Municipal Light Department (SMLD) is a municipal utility serving the small New England town of Sterling, Massachusetts, with 3,700 residential, commercial, municipal, and industrial customers. In 2013, with a total of 3.2 megawatts (MW) of solar PV installed, SMLD became the number one utilityin the country for solar watts per customer. Solar accounted for approximately 30 percent of SMLD's peak load. At this high level of penetration, the variable nature of solar generation bagan to cause problems. Additionally, the costs of capacity and transmission services, based on SMLD"s peak demand for power purchased from the grid operator, were rising dramatically. These costs increased from $500,000 in 2010 to $1.2 million in 2017. SMLD needed a new strategy to firm the output of its solar generation and control rising costs linked to the utility's share of regional demand peak.
The town of Sterling was considering adding a natural gas peaker plant to avoid rising capacity costs at its Municipal Light Department. But this idea was abandoned when the option of energy storage presented itself in the form of a state grant program offered through the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER), called the Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative (CCERI). The grant program, initiated after Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast,w as designed to support municipal resilient clean energy systems. The town had also been hit by an ice storm in 2008, which had left residents without power for up to 14 days; thus, reciliency had been a longtime conern for the town. Energy storage presented an attractive means to firm the town's solar resources, add reciliency for critical infrastructure, and control rising costs.
States can do so much more to address the alarming rates of gun violence in our cities. Read the full report to learn how Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York are transforming communities with sustained investment in evidence-based violence reduction strategies.
Robina Institute of Criminal Law and Criminal Justice;
Massachusetts' original sentencing commission was formed in 1994, and proposed sentencing guidelines in 1996 that were never adopted by the legislature. Massachusetts re-activated its Sentencing Commission in 2014. Its mandate is to "consult with national scholars, gather data on current sentencing practices, and research best practices across a range of sentencing options." Massachusetts has an indeterminate felony sentencing system in which courts impose both a minimum sentence (which determines parole eligibility) and a maximum sentence. The Commission accepts written comments and held a public hearing in October 2016 order to "formulate recommendations for sentencing policies and practices." Massachusetts was the first state in the country to develop a parole supervision system. The state passed a law authorizing parole in 1837. Under the original legislation, parole officers duties' "included assisting released prisoners in finding jobs and providing them with tools, clothing, and transportation at state expense." The current structure and function of the Board was enacted in 1955.