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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the February 23, 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:February 12, 2010


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, February 23, 2010, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education offices at 75 Pleasant 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. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Beverley O'Riordan at (781) 338-3118.


Our agenda for February 23rd leads off with review and discussion of the proposed new Regulations on School and District Accountability and Assistance. We also have several charter school matters on the agenda including a vote on new charters and a vote on a charter renewal and a charter amendment.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and upcoming events.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. FY11 state budget for education. The Governor submitted his FY11 budget proposal late in January (see materials under Tab 7). The Ways and Means Committee hearing on the proposed education budget is scheduled for Monday, February 22nd in Amherst. Secretary Reville and I will update the Board on February 23rd.

  2. Implementation plan for An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap. At last month's meeting Secretary Reville presented an overview of the new state education law that was signed on January 18th as Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010. We are fully engaged in planning and implementing the three key components: turning around underperforming and chronically underperforming schools and districts, revising standards and processes for charter schools, and fostering innovation schools. Under Tab 8 is a working draft of the tasks and target dates for carrying out our responsibilities under this ambitious new law.

  3. Common Core Standards Initiative. As we discussed in January, the Council of Chief State School Officers and National Governors Association are supporting a state-led initiative to generate Common Core Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics for grades K-12. Department staff have been working with a team of Massachusetts educators and scholars to review and comment on various drafts of the standards over the past several months. We anticipate that a near-final draft will be released to the states for public comment early in March. I plan to set aside time to discuss the public draft at the March 30th Board meeting.

Comments from the Secretary

Secretary Reville will brief the Board on current issues and activities, including the proposed state education budget for FY11.

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Proposed Regulations on School and District Accountability and Assistance (Amendments to Regulations on Underperforming Schools and School Districts, 603 CMR 2.00) - Discussion & Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    I am presenting for the Board's initial review proposed Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Schools and School Districts. These new regulations are based on the newly amended statutes on underperforming schools and school districts and are intended to advance the new system of accountability and assistance for schools and districts. They would replace our current Regulations on Underperforming Schools and School Districts, 603 CMR 2.00. In January, I presented to you one section of the proposed new regulations, on identification of Level 4 (underperforming) schools. That regulation is included in the full set of regulations I am presenting this month. With the Board's approval, we will solicit public comment on the proposed regulations. I expect to bring them back to the Board for a final vote in April or May 2010. Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr and I will be pleased to respond to your questions at the February 23rd Board meeting.

Charter Schools:

  1. New Charter Applicants - Discussion and Vote

    Last month I provided the Board with an overview of the process for reviewing and granting new charters and a summary of the six charter applications that were pending. I will send you my recommendations under separate cover, during the week of February 15th. In accordance with the recent amendments to the charter school statute, "[a] comprehensive written summary of all materials prepared by the department or its administrative subdivisions, which evaluates or recommends approval or disapproval of a charter application must be delivered to the members of the board, the applicant, in support of, or in opposition to, the school submitted not later than 3 days before any board vote on the charter application." Mass. Gen. Laws c. 71, § 89(h), as amended by Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010, § 7.

    Per the amendment to the Charter School Regulations that the Board adopted in December (603 CMR 1.04(3)(b)), Chair Banta will ask the Board members who attended each public hearing on a proposed charter school to report to the Board on the hearing.

    Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Charter Schools Director Mary Street will be at the Board meeting to respond to questions about charter school matters.

  2. Lowell Community Charter Public School: Action on Renewal Request - Discussion and Vote

    At our January 26th meeting, representatives of the Lowell Community Charter Public School made a presentation in response to my recommendation that the charter for this ten-year-old school should not be renewed based on the school's failure to ensure that its students make sufficient academic progress. I made clear at the January 26th meeting that the only acceptable alternative to non-renewal of the charter would be for school's board of trustees to take decisive action that will address its serious performance deficiencies. I will send the Board my recommendation under separate cover, during the week of February 15th.

  3. Proposed Amendment for Advanced Math and Science Academy (AMSA) Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    The board of trustees of Advanced Math and Science Academy (AMSA) Charter School requests approval for a charter amendment to increase the school's maximum enrollment from 828 to 966 students, an increase of 138 students, and to change the school's grade span from 6-11 to 6-12. Under the Charter School Regulations, the Board approves major changes in the material terms of a school's charter. These decisions remain the province of the Board and have not been delegated to me. The school opened in 2005 and the charter was renewed in January 2010. AMSA has a demonstrated track record of academic achievement. The addition of grade 12 is consistent with its original charter application. The request for amendment meets the criteria in the regulations, and I recommend your approval.

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 6 are three memos reporting on the following matters:

    • I approved federal grants under the Perkins vocational-technical education grant program on January 28, 2010, 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 January 2010, I notified the Board that I intended to approve the renewal of the charters of five schools, Advanced Math and Science Academy (AMSA) Charter School, Community Charter School of Cambridge, Holyoke Community Charter School, Lawrence Family Development Charter School, and South Shore Charter Public School. The Board chose not to discuss or vote on any of these proposed charter renewals. Consequently I have approved these five charter renewals. Details are in the memo under Tab 6.
    • The third memo, which will be sent to you under separate cover during the week of February 15th, is a recap of the actions taken on charter school matters since July 1, 2009, including those that were delegated to me at the September 2009 meeting of the Board.
  3. FY11 State Budget Information

    Enclosed are a memo and spreadsheet on the education sections of House 2, the FY11 state budget proposal that the Governor filed late in January and a summary of the steps in the annual state budget process.

  4. Implementation Tasks and Timelines for An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap

    At our January meeting, Secretary Reville presented an overview of the new education reform law. Its major provisions cover intervention strategies to improve underperforming and chronically underperforming schools and districts, charter schools, and innovation schools. The Board and Department have significant new responsibilities under the new law, and we have begun to map out the tasks and timelines. Enclosed for your information is the current working draft of the chart, which we will update as we proceed with the work.

Directions to the Meeting

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 February 23rd.

Last Updated: February 19, 2010
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