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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Race to the Top Priority Partners for Turnaround Project

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 17, 2011

This memo provides an update on the work of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to implement the Priority Partners for Turnaround project. It is one of the 34 Massachusetts Race to the Top (RTTT) projects for years 2-4, and one of the five projects that Level 3 and 4 schools must select under RTTT Project Area 6 relative to turning around the lowest achieving schools.

The Priority Partners for Turnaround project addresses the reality that to turn around their lowest achieving schools, many districts need and are seeking partnerships with educational service providers who have expertise and demonstrated success in promoting the Conditions for School Effectiveness. Accordingly, this project will result in the creation of a Department-approved list of Priority Partners for Turnaround that serves as a resource for districts. Districts will be able to access local and state Race to the Top funds to support partnerships with providers on this list.

A primary rationale for this project is to assist districts by creating a rigorous vetting process for the selection of Priority Partners for Turnaround. Only those providers with a proven track record and demonstrated effectiveness in accelerating school improvement will be selected. Districts will know that these vendors have also been screened for familiarity with the context and requirements of Massachusetts school turnaround work and the Massachusetts definition of Conditions for School Effectiveness. They will know, too, that the vendors will be participating in Department-sponsored networking activities with other priority partners that will be designed to help each integrate and coordinate work with vendors selected through the process. Freeing up districts from having to engage in their own rigorous vetting processes and affording them a "head start" on partners' ability to coordinate with other partners is a significant value the Department can add.

In May 2011, the Department issued the first of what will be a series of Priority Partners for Turnaround Requests for Quotes (RFQs), each with a particular emphasis on a Condition for School Effectiveness. Based on feedback that we solicited from Level 4 districts, the first RFQ sought responses from providers with demonstrated effectiveness in working with schools to address Condition 9: Students' Social, Emotional and Health Needs. The Department received eight proposals.

Submissions are being evaluated through a two-tier review process. In Tier One, a review of each proposal is being conducted using a standard process and scoring rubric to assess the following qualification areas: Defined Theory of Action; Experience and Willingness to Collaborate for Turnaround; Ability to Build Capacity for Sustained Improvement; and Proven Outcomes Based Measurement Plan. For each of the proposals that meet the minimum score for advancing to Tier Two, the review process will proceed with a thorough evaluation of the applicant's demonstrated record of effectiveness and financial capacity, again using a standard process and scoring rubric. Reference interviews will be conducted to gather additional, first-hand evidence of effectiveness. For each of the proposals that meet the minimum score for passing Tier Two, the provider's management team will be asked to participate in an interview with the review team and additional Department leadership and staff. This final step will result in recommendations to Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr for the selection of Priority Partners for Turnaround. See Appendix A for a more detailed description of the review process.

The current RFQ review process is scheduled to be complete and selections announced by the first week of July. In an effort to select as many Priority Partners for Turnaround as possible before the end of July, the goal is to post two additional RFQs in June: Condition 3: Aligned Curriculum and Condition 8: Tiered Instruction and Adequate Learning Time. The Department's selection of condition areas to prioritize was based on district feedback collected through a survey.

We will continue to update you as this project develops.

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Priority Partners for Turnaround, Condition 9 (Students' Social, Emotional and Health Needs) Review Process

Last Updated: June 24, 2011
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