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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the January 25, 2010 Special Meeting and January 26, 2010 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:January 15, 2010

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, January 26, 2010, at the Malden Senior Center at 7 Washington Street in Malden. The meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. (coffee will be available at 8) and will adjourn by 1 p.m. The Board will also have a special meeting on Monday evening, January 25th, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Beverley O'Riordan at (781) 338-3118.


We have two topics for discussion at our special meeting on Monday evening: a mid-year review of the Board's priorities and progress with a focus on educator effectiveness initiatives, and follow-up to the Inspector General's report. Our agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday leads off with a report on our Race to the Top application and a discussion of the common core standards initiative. We will review the new state education reform legislation and discuss proposed regulations on identifying Level 4 schools under the redesigned state system for accountability and assistance. We have several charter school matters on the agenda including my recommendation that the Board revoke or not renew two charters, as well as two other charter renewals and information on new charter applicants. Please note that we are holding the Tuesday regular meeting at the Malden Senior Center because it has more space to accommodate the expected attendance of people interested in the Robert M. Hughes Academy and Lowell Community Charter School matters.

Special Meeting

At the Board's planning retreat in August 2009, the Board expressed interest in having a mid-year review of the priorities, processes, and time allocation ideas that we discussed. We will have that discussion on Monday evening. In addition, Associate Commissioner David Haselkorn will update the Board on educator effectiveness initiatives, which the Board identified as one of its priorities. The Board will also discuss the Inspector General's report on Gloucester Community Arts Charter School and the actions we are taking to ensure that our charter authorizing process is consistent with law, including the newly amended charter school statute. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and upcoming events, including the February meeting on common core standards that the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) is sponsoring. She will invite Jeff Howard to give an update on the work of the Proficiency Gap Committee. She will also recap the Board's Monday evening discussions on the mid-year review of priorities and progress and the Inspector General's report.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. FY2011 budget planning. We anticipate receiving Governor Patrick's FY2011 budget proposal, known as House 2, on January 27th, the day after our Board meeting. I will forward the information to Board members when we receive it.

  2. Information Technology consolidation. The Governor's Executive Order 510 launched a consolidation of Information Technology (I.T.) services across the Commonwealth. On January 1, 2010, our Chief Information Officer, Jessica Perez-Rossello, and all of our I.T. staff transitioned their reporting lines to the Executive Office of Education, reporting to EOE's new Secretariat CIO, with a dotted-line relationship to Associate Commissioner Bob Bickerton who continues to represent me and the Department in relation to our information technology needs and priorities. As with any consolidation there will be challenges. I have been assured, however, that the Department will continue to receive at least the same levels of quality service that we have benefited from in the past.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Race to the Top: Report on Grant Application and Anticipated Next Steps - Discussion

    After a tremendous amount of good work by many people, we have filed (by the January 19th deadline) the Massachusetts application for federal Race to the Top funding. As I have stated to the Board previously, this is a tremendous opportunity for Massachusetts to leverage additional support for four major areas of reform: high standards and sound assessments, effective teachers and school leaders, data systems to support instruction, and turnaround strategies for the lowest performing schools. I will be delighted to report to you on the final application and our anticipated next steps.

  2. Progress Report on the Common Core State Standards Initiative - Discussion

    Under Tab 2 is an update on the common core state standards initiative. Our work on this initiative is one component of our Race to the Top application.

  3. Review of New State Education Reform Legislation - Discussion

    The recent enactment of the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap is a milestone in Massachusetts education reform. The memo under Tab 3 provides a brief overview, which we will supplement with a more detailed analysis for discussion at our January 26th meeting. We will forward the new law to Board members after it is signed by Governor Patrick on January 18th.

  4. School and District Accountability and Assistance: Proposed Regulations to Identify Level 4 Schools (603 CMR 2.00) - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Comment

    Now that the education reform legislation has been passed, it is important to move ahead with regulations for identifying Level 4 (underperforming) schools so that we can implement the redesigned school and district accountability system. We will send proposed regulations to the Board by January 22nd, for discussion and an initial vote to solicit public comment at the Board meeting on January 26th. The memo under Tab 4 provides a brief overview.

Charter Schools:

  1. Robert M. Hughes Academy Charter School: Proposed Revocation of Charter - Discussion and Vote on Intent to Revoke Charter

    At our December 2009 meeting I presented my recommendation that the Board should revoke the charter of the Robert M. Hughes Academy Charter School. The memorandum and accompanying documents under Tab 5 set forth the basis for my recommendation. We have invited representatives from the charter school to address the Board at this month's meeting before you discuss and vote on my recommendation. Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Charter Schools Director Mary Street will be at the Board meeting to respond to your questions about this and any other charter school matters.

  2. Lowell Community Charter Public School: Proposed Non-Renewal of Charter - Discussion

    At our December 2009 meeting I presented my recommendation that the Board should not renew the charter of the Lowell Community Charter Public School. The memorandum and accompanying documents under Tab 6 set forth the basis for my recommendation. In light of ongoing discussions with the charter school and the district, I am not asking the Board to vote on this matter this month. Representatives of the charter school have been invited to address the Board at our meeting on January 26th.

  3. Charter Renewals for City on a Hill Charter School and Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    I am recommending renewal of the charters of City on a Hill Charter School and Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School with conditions, as outlined in the memo and accompanying documents under Tab 7. I recommend that the Board discuss and vote on the charter renewal applications at this month's meeting.

  4. Information on New Charter Applicants - Initial Discussion

    At the February meeting I may recommend that the Board grant charters for new charter schools. This month we have included in your materials an overview of the process for reviewing and granting new charters and a summary of the six charter applications that are pending.

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 10 are two memos reporting on the following matters:

    • I approved state and federal grants under four grant programs between December 24 and January 12, 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 December 2010, I notified the Board that I intended to approve the renewal of the charters of four schools, Atlantis Charter School, Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School, Community Day Charter Public School, and Neighborhood House Charter School. The Board chose not to discuss or vote on any of these proposed charter renewals. Consequently I have approved these four charter renewals. Details are in the memo under Tab 10.

  3. School District Consolidation in Massachusetts: Opportunities and Obstacles

    Our Center for School Finance, Research, Planning and Evaluation recently published three new reports relating to school district regionalization and consolidation efforts. A copy of School District Consolidation in Massachusetts Download Word Document is enclosed under Tab 11. This overview report provides a brief history of regionalization; explains the relationships that already exist among districts; looks at some demographic, fiscal, and programmatic factors that might motivate districts to regionalize; and uncovers some lessons from a recent series of regionalization studies.

    Two related reports are available online:

    • Results of Regional Planning Studies Download Word Document: This report details the individual results of several recent planning studies in the context of the districts' existing affiliations and compares the current findings with concerns and benefits that have been identified in the past. Most of these planning studies were funded in part by DESE regional planning grants or foundation reserve awards.

    • A Study of Central Office Capacity in Regional Districts: This study examines central office staff and their roles or functions in terms of district size. The study was undertaken by the Massachusetts Association of Regional Schools (MARS) at the request of DESE in order to provide factual information for the ongoing discussion about regionalization, consolidation, and collaboration among small districts in which the question of central office capacity has been raised repeatedly.

    • We hope that these reports will help further the dialog on this important topic.

  4. Quality Counts (Education Week) Summary on Massachusetts

    I am delighted to inform you that Massachusetts has received a top grade by Education Week's annual education report card which rated all 50 states on their education policies and performance. According to the 2010 Quality Counts, Massachusetts' educational system was ranked #1 in the nation for its performance on improving students' opportunities to succeed ("chance for success"), #1 for K-12 achievement, and #3 overall for our educational system.

    Enclosed under Tab 12 is the Massachusetts highlights summary from the 2010 Quality Counts report. Accompanying the report is an article that showcases the approach that Brockton High School, under the leadership of principal Susan E. Szachowicz, has taken to improving teaching, learning, and student achievement.

Directions to the Meetings

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department's offices in Malden on January 25th and at the Malden Senior Center on January 26th.

Last Updated: January 21, 2010
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