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School and District Accountability and Assistance - Proposed Regulations 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 15, 2010

This memo provides an update on the Department's work to identify Level 4 ("underperforming") schools in light of the education reform legislation that was passed this week. We are still analyzing the final legislation, An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, in relation to the school and district accountability system. After we complete the analysis, we will send draft regulations related to school and district accountability to the Board by January 22, for discussion and an initial vote to solicit public comment at the Board meeting on January 26.

Adopting regulations for identifying Level 4 (underperforming) schools is a matter of urgency. The federal application for $58.7 million of Title I School Improvement Section G funds is due by February 8, 2010 and requires that we outline how we will identify our "persistently lowest achieving" schools as well as provide a list of the lowest performing 33 schools that would be eligible to receive the highest levels of funding. Under Title I-G Massachusetts will receive $105 million over four years to support school improvement. The program is targeted primarily at each state's lowest performing 5% of Title I schools. Level 4 schools will be eligible to compete for Title I-G grants of up to $750,000 a year for three years. The grants will support implementation of one of the four intervention strategies outlined both in Race to the Top and Title I-G requirements.

Having a clear picture of how we expect to proceed with Level 4 schools will be important for our Title I-G application to be approved by the US Department of Education. ARRA funding makes up $49.7 million of this sum, and ARRA requires that the money be spent within a quick timeline. In addition, providing districts with early notice of the schools that will receive priority for this funding is necessary to support effective planning and action.

The new state legislation, in Section 3 (amending General Laws c. 69, s. 1J (a)), includes the following language outlining the process for the Board to adopt these regulations:

The board shall adopt regulations establishing standards for the commissioner to make such designations [underperforming or 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. By taking an initial vote to solicit public comment on the proposed regulations at the January 26 meeting, the Board can start the regulatory process that is outlined in the new legislation, and enable the Department to file our application for the Title I-G grant by February 8. If we end up revising the proposed regulations based on the public comments and legislative review opportunity, we would be able to amend the application with the US Department of Education. In order to secure funding by early spring, I hope to minimize any need for revisions and submit a close-to-final proposal by the February deadline.

At the December 2009 Board meeting, we presented the criteria for selecting Level 4 schools that we were then considering. By January 22 we will translate the criteria into draft regulations that are consistent with the new legislation, and send them to the Board. I expect that the draft regulations will be similar to the proposed regulations reviewed by the Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council that the Board released for public comment in September 2009. I will ask the Board to vote at the January 26 meeting for its approval to send the draft regulations out for public comment. We will bring them back to the Board for a final vote in the spring.

Last Updated: January 21, 2010
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