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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the March 21, 2011 Special Meeting and the March 22, 2011 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
March 11, 2011


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, March 22, 2011, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. The regular meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. (coffee will be available at 8) and will adjourn by 1 p.m. The Board also will hold a special meeting on Monday, March 21, 2011, from 5-7 p.m., at our offices in Malden. As a reminder, immediately preceding the special meeting, the Board's Proficiency Gap Committee will meet from 3-5 p.m. at our offices in Malden. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call JC Considine at (781) 338-3112.


The Board's special meeting on Monday evening will focus on our college and career readiness initiative. This is a major component of our work under Race to the Top and closing the proficiency gap. The special meeting will be a good opportunity for in-depth discussion on this topic. The regular meeting on Tuesday morning leads off with a discussion of the recommendations of the Educator Evaluation Task Force, followed by the presentation and discussion of district review reports and next steps on four Level 4 districts: Gill-Montague, Holyoke, Randolph and Southbridge, as well as the monitoring report on the Fall River Public Schools. No votes on these items are scheduled for the March 22 meeting. The Board will discuss and take an initial vote to solicit public comment on a proposed amendment to the Competency Determination regulation pertaining to history and social science, and we will review some initiatives to support teaching and learning in history and social science. The agenda also includes discussion and action on a charter school request for review and a waiver request for a virtual innovation school.

Special Meeting

  1. College and Career Readiness Initiative - Presentation and Discussion

    At the Board's special meeting on Monday evening, March 21, we will discuss our initiatives to improve college and career readiness statewide. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus, Carrie Conaway from our Office of Planning and Research, and staff members from our Office of College and Career Readiness will present an overview and respond to your questions. We are pleased that Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland and Aundrea Kelley, Deputy Commissioner for P-16 Policy and Collaborative Initiatives at the Department of Higher Education, will join us at the meeting to discuss policy initiatives in higher education that complement this work.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and upcoming events. She will ask members who chair Board committees (e.g., cross-board activities, proficiency gap follow-up, commissioner's evaluation) to give a brief update. Chair Banta will also recap the Board's Monday evening special meeting.

Comments from the Commissioner
  1. Family and community engagement initiative. The Board's Proficiency Gap Task Force put a spotlight on the role that meaningful family and community engagement can play in moving at-risk students to higher levels of academic growth and achievement and, thereby, closing persistent gaps in proficiency. I have directed the Department's Adult & Community Learning office to lead and coordinate the Department's initiatives advancing this work. Specifically, in consultation with several of the Board's advisory councils, including the Advisory Council on Parent and Community Education and Involvement, the Department is pursuing the following action steps:

    • Develop a communication strategy about the value of family and community engagement;
    • Coordinate evidence-based policies, services, and resources from within the Department and with partner agencies and organizations;
    • Strengthen and expand professional development, technical assistance, and training opportunities relating to family and community engagement; and
    • Review and report on the results and impact of increased family and community engagement.

    In June I will provide you with a more in-depth update and progress report on this initiative.

  2. White House conference on bullying. On March 10 I attended a conference at the White House on bullying prevention and intervention. Our Massachusetts law is recognized as a national model and I was one of several attendees from the Commonwealth. President Obama and Mrs. Obama opened the conference, which included breakout sessions during the day. The conference brought together students and family members, educators, advocates for groups that are often targets of bullying, and policymakers. Secretaries Duncan and Sibelius as well as Melody Barnes, White House Domestic Policy Advisor, closed the session.

  3. Dates and topics for special meetings. The Board's special meetings allow for more in-depth discussions than is generally possible at our regular business meetings. Besides the special meeting on the evening of March 21, please note the following dates and tentative topics for special meetings through June 2011:

    • Tuesday, April 27, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: Online Learning, Teaching, and Assessment
    • Monday, May 23, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: Special Education Policy Issues
    • Monday, June 27, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: Recap of the Year; Connecting Agendas.

    We will send additional details as the plans and meeting agendas are confirmed.

  4. Jeff Nellhaus. As Board members know, this is Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus's last meeting, and we pay tribute to him. Jeff is leaving the Department, after 25 years of outstanding leadership, to work with Achieve, Inc. in Washington, D.C. as Director of the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) assessment consortium. Jeff has served in many key roles in the Department - as a policy and planning specialist, Director of Student Assessment, Associate Commissioner for Curriculum and Assessment, Deputy Commissioner, and Acting Commissioner. He has been a major architect of the Commonwealth's success in adopting and implementing high standards for curriculum and student assessment. Students and educators throughout the Commonwealth have benefited from Jeff's leadership and wisdom. We will miss him here but are pleased that we will continue to work with him through the PARCC consortium. We thank Jeff and wish him all the best in the years ahead.

Comments from the Secretary

Secretary Reville will brief the Board on current issues and activities.

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Report and Recommendations from Educator Evaluation Task Force and Commissioner's Initial Response - Discussion

    On the afternoon of February 28 the Board had a special meeting to hear about and discuss the work of the Task Force on Educator Evaluation, which you established in May 2010. The task force held its final meeting on March 7. At our March 22 Board meeting, the Board will receive the report and recommendations from the task force. Members of the task force will be present along with Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr and Associate Commissioner David Haselkorn. I will offer my initial thoughts on the task force report and outline next steps. At the April 27 Board meeting, I will present my recommendations for amendments to our regulations on evaluation of teachers and administrators, for initial discussion and a vote to solicit public comment.

  2. Level 4 District Review Reports and Next Steps - Initial Discussion

    Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr and Eva Mitchell, who leads our Center for School and District Accountability, will present the reviews completed this year of each of the four districts identified by the Board as "underperforming"/Level 4: Gill-Montague, Holyoke, Randolph and Southbridge. This is the third Board discussion this year regarding Level 4 districts. At the September 2010 Board meeting we provided background on the Department's accountability and assistance work with Level 4 districts. In February 2011 we presented an overview of the district accountability review process. This month we will also update the Board on the intervention and assistance the Department is providing to each of these districts.

  3. Monitoring Report on Fall River Public Schools - Initial Discussion

    Deputy Commissioner Baehr and Eva Mitchell will update the Board on the progress of the Fall River Public Schools in meeting the benchmarks and conditions we established in partnership with the district based on the January 2009 district review conducted by the Department's Center for District and School Accountability. I am following up on my commitment to provide the Board with regular progress reports on this Level 4 district. No action is required at the March 22 meeting.

  4. Proposed Amendment to Competency Determination Requirement in History and Social Science, 603 CMR 30.03(4) - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    This month's meeting is an opportunity to revisit the issue of student assessment in history and social science and to describe initiatives we have underway to promote and support teaching and learning in this important area. I am recommending that the Board vote this month to solicit public comment on a proposed amendment to the Competency Determination (CD) regulation pertaining to history and social science. As is explained in the memo under Tab 4, the proposed amendment would delete an obsolete regulation and replace it with a regulation stating that the CD requirement for history and social science would take effect in the third consecutive year that the history and social science high school assessment is administered, in order to provide fair notice to students and schools about performance levels and expectations. I further propose that implementation of the requirement be contingent upon the appropriation of additional academic support funds targeted for students who fail or are at risk of failing to meet the CD standard in history and social science. With the Board's approval, we would solicit public comment on the proposed regulation in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act, and then expect to bring it back to the Board for final action at the May meeting.

  5. Request for Review: Conservatory Lab Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    In February 2011 I denied an expansion proposal/charter amendment request from the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Boston. Under the Board's charter school regulations, a school's board of trustees may request that the state Board review the Commissioner's denial of an amendment request. Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson has been in discussions with representatives of the school about possible next steps. Since the school's board of trustees may still ask for a review by the Board, we have placed this item on the agenda for the March 22 meeting. I will update the Board on further developments.

  6. Virtual Innovation Schools: Waiver Request from Hadley Public Schools - Discussion and Vote

    The Hadley Public Schools is requesting a waiver of the Board's regulations on innovation schools (603 CMR 48), to allow for the opening of the Hadley Virtual Academy of Massachusetts (HVAM) next September. As is explained in the memo under Tab 6, Hadley is requesting a waiver of the regulation that requires at least 25% of the enrollment in a virtual innovation school to be from the sponsoring district. I recommend approval of the waiver. At the Board's special meeting next month, we will have an in-depth discussion of virtual education.

Other Items for Information

  1. Education-Related News Clippings

    Enclosed are several recent articles about education.

  2. Report on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by Commissioner

    Under tab 8 are two memos reporting on the following matters:

    • I approved federal grants under six state and federal grant programs on March 2, 2011, per the Board's vote in October 2008 to delegate grant approvals to the commissioner. This authorization allows us to make decisions and inform grant applicants on a timely basis.
    • In September 2009, the Board also delegated authority to me to approve charter renewals that do not involve conditions or probation and charter amendments that do not involve changes in grade span, maximum enrollment, or districts served, with the proviso that I will notify the Board in advance of all such intended actions and a Board member may request that the matter be placed on the Board agenda for discussion and action. In February 2011, I notified the Board that I intended to approve the renewal of the charters of two schools, Martha's Vineyard Public Charter School and Phoenix Charter Academy. There were no requests for either renewal to be brought to the Board for review. The memorandum under tab 8 notifies you that I have approved these two charter renewals.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on March 21 and 22.

Last Updated: March 15, 2011
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