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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

School and District Accountability and Assistance - Proposed Regulation to Identify Level 4 Schools (603 CMR 2.00)

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:January 22, 2010

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Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010, An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, was signed into law on January 18, 2010 and took effect immediately. Its purpose is to foster educational innovation and turn around underperforming schools forthwith. Among other things, the new law makes sweeping changes to the statutes on underperforming schools and school districts, Mass. General Laws chapter 69, sections 1J and 1K.

Over the last year and a half, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has worked with a wide range of stakeholders, including the School and District Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council, to develop a framework for identifying and intervening in the lowest performing schools in order to bring about rapid improvements. This work puts us in a strong position to carry out our responsibilities under the new law.

We will have to revise the current Regulations on Underperforming Schools and School Districts, 603 CMR 2.00, to carry out the purpose and intent of the newly amended statutes and advance the new system of accountability and assistance for schools and districts. I expect to present the full set of draft Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Schools and School Districts to the Board at its meeting on February 23, 2010. In the meantime, the identification of Level 4 ("underperforming") schools is a critical first step in launching the Commonwealth's new school and district accountability and assistance system and achieving the bold promise of the new education reform law. For that reason, I am presenting to you at this month's meeting the proposed new regulation on placement of schools in Level 4, with my recommendation that the Board vote on January 26th to release it for public comment.

We plan to incorporate the proposed new regulation on Level 4 schools into the full set of draft Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Schools and School Districts in February. By releasing this section of the proposed regulations now, we can proceed to develop a rollout plan for identifying Level 4 schools. We want to provide early notice of the criteria and the list of Level 4 schools so that districts can begin as soon as possible to plan the challenging work required to launch school turnaround by September 2010. The criteria and the list of schools also will be central to the application we will be submitting to the U.S. Department of Education to secure for Massachusetts vital funding ($58.7 million over three years) under the Title I School Improvement Section G Grant. These funds are a critical component of the assistance that will allow districts to implement the necessary school turnaround work.

Statutory Framework

The proposed regulation is consistent with requirements of the new statute on underperforming and chronically underperforming schools, Mass. General Laws chapter 69, section 1J, as amended by Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010. In relevant part, the statute provides:

The board shall adopt regulations establishing standards for the commissioner to make such designations [of underperforming and chronically underperforming schools] on the basis of data collected pursuant to section 1I or information from a school or district review performed under section 55A of chapter 15. Upon the release of the proposed regulations, the board shall file a copy thereof with the clerks of the house of representatives and the senate who shall forward the regulations to the joint committee on education. Within 30 days of the filing, the committee may hold a public hearing and issue a report on the regulations and file the report with the board. The board, pursuant to applicable law, may adopt final regulations making revisions to the proposed regulations as it deems appropriate after consideration of the report and shall forthwith file a copy of the regulations with the chairpersons of the joint committee on education and, not earlier than 30 days of the filing, the board shall file the final regulations with the state secretary. Schools that score in the lowest 20 per cent statewide among schools serving common grade levels on a single measure developed by the department that takes into account student performance data and, beginning on July 1, 2011, improvement in student academic performance, shall be deemed eligible for designation as underperforming or chronically underperforming. Not more than 4 per cent of the total number of public schools may be designated as underperforming or chronically underperforming at any given time.

In adopting regulations allowing the commissioner to designate a school as underperforming or chronically underperforming, the board shall ensure that such regulations take into account multiple indicators of school quality in making determinations regarding underperformance or chronic underperformance, such as student attendance, dismissal rates and exclusion rates, promotion rates, graduation rates or the lack of demonstrated significant improvement for 2 or more consecutive years in core academic subjects, either in the aggregate or among subgroups of students, including designations based special education, low-income, English language proficiency and racial classifications. [Emphasis added.]

The proposed regulation also is consistent with the approach we have taken in the redesign of the school and district accountability and assistance system, as discussed with the Board and the advisory council over the past 18 months.

Board Action and Next Steps

I am submitting the proposed regulation for identifying Level 4 schools to the Board this month for initial discussion and a vote to solicit public comment. With the Board's vote, we will also send the proposed regulation to the Joint Committee on Education to launch the process set forth in the statute (quoted on page 2, above). I expect to present the full set of draft Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Schools and School Districts to the Board at its meeting on February 23, 2010.

Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr and I will be pleased to respond to your questions at the January 26th Board meeting.

Enclosures:

View HTML Page
Commissioner Chester's January 15, 2010 Memorandum to the Board
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Proposed Amendment to Regulations on Underperforming Schools and School Districts, 603 CMR 2.00


Last Updated: February 2, 2010
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