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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the March 23, 2010 Regular Meeting and the March 22, 2010 Special 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:March 12, 2010


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, March 23, 2010, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's 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.

Also, Board members have been invited to attend a meeting convened by the Department on Monday afternoon, March 22, from 3-6 p.m. at the Department's offices in Malden, to discuss the latest draft of the CCSSO/NGA Common Core standards with an invited group of K-12 educators and college faculty members. Given the level of interest in the proposed standards and the fact that at least six Board members are planning to attend, we are posting this as a special meeting of the Board.

If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Beverley O'Riordan at (781) 338-3118.


Please see the notes below about the special meeting on March 22. Our agenda for the regular meeting on March 23 leads off with an update and continuing discussion on the common core standards initiative and a presentation and discussion on the Children's Behavioral Health Task Force. The Board will discuss and take an initial vote to solicit public comment on proposed amendments to the charter school regulations and will discuss and take a final vote on the proposed regulation on placement of schools in Level 4 under the new school and district accountability and assistance system.

Special Meeting

Common Core Standards Initiative - Discussion with Invited K-12 Educators and College Faculty Members

The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) and the National Governors Association (NGA) released drafts of the K-12 Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English Language Arts on March 10, 2010 for a period of public comment that lasts until April 2. Copies of the drafts are enclosed. On March 22 and 23, the Board has the opportunity to review and discuss the drafts and inform the Department's comments to the CCSSO/NGA. For the special meeting on Monday afternoon, March 22, I have asked Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus to convene a group of K-12 educators and college faculty members to share their impressions of the draft standards in relation to our existing standards and answer questions from Board members. The Board will continue the discussion at the regular meeting on Tuesday, March 23.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and upcoming events. Please note that the next regular meeting of the Board, on Tuesday, April 27, will be at Nashoba Valley Technical High School in Westford.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Race to the Top. Secretary Reville, Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr, Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus, Boston Public Schools Superintendent Carol Johnson and I will be presenting our Race to the Top grant application to a panel of interviewers at the U.S. Department of Education in Washington on March 16. I will update the Board at our meeting on March 23.

  2. Legislative reports. The Department has filed the following reports with the Legislature, in response to directives in the FY10 budget and the General Laws. These reports are or shortly will be posted on our website at: Browse DESE Reports by Category: Legislative Reports.

    • Early and Adolescent Literacy (February 2010)
    • School-Based Nutrition and Child Hunger Relief Programs (January 2010)
    • Students with Disabilities Annual Report 2008-2009 (December 2009)
    • Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force: Interim Report (December 2009)
    • Kindergarten Development Grants
    • Intervention and Targeted Assistance
    • Expanded Learning Time
    • English Language Acquisition
    • Math-Science Professional Development
    • MCAS Academic Support
    • After-School and Out-of-School Grants

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Update on Common Core Standards Initiative - Continuing Discussion

    For the benefit of Board members who cannot attend the special meeting on March 22 as well as those who do attend, we will continue the discussion of the draft Common Core Standards at our regular meeting on March 23 with the panel of educators. As I outlined for you in the January memo on the Common Core process, we anticipate coming back to the Board for further discussion of the standards this spring after CCSSO and NGA have revised them in response to comments received from the public. The Board is not taking any action on the standards this month.

  2. Children's Behavioral Health Task Force and Related Initiatives - Discussion

    The Board has expressed interest in state initiatives to improve students' health and social and emotional wellbeing. This month I will report on the work of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Task Force, which I chair. The Task Force was established under a 2008 state law, the Act Relative to Children's Mental Health. The Task Force submitted a Behavioral Health and Public School Interim Report to the legislature in December 2009. Associate Commissioner John Bynoe and I will present an overview of the work of the Task Force and related initiatives. At an upcoming meeting we will continue the focus on students' health and wellbeing with a presentation on preventing and addressing bullying in schools.

  3. Proposed Regulations on Charter Schools, 603 CMR 1.00 - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    The charter school statute, Mass. General Laws chapter 71, § 89, was revised significantly by the education reform law that was enacted in January 2010. The Department has already implemented some key provisions. For example, the materials that we presented to the Board on proposed new charter schools at the February 2010 Board meeting met the new standards for transparency and accountability in the charter approval process. Other changes in the law, however, require amendments to the charter school regulations, on matters such as lifting the charter school cap in certain school districts and circumstances, new requirements that charter schools develop recruitment and retention plans and backfill some seats, and changes in the process for establishing in-district Horace Mann charter schools. We will send the proposed regulations to the Board on or about March 16. With the Board's initial vote on March 23, we will send out the proposed regulations for public comment and expect to bring them back to the Board for a final vote on May 25. Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Charter Schools Director Mary Street will be at our meeting on March 23 to respond to your questions.

  4. School and District Accountability and Assistance: Proposed Regulation on Placement of Schools in Level 4, 603 CMR 2.03(3) - Discussion and Vote

    In January 2010 the Board took an initial vote to solicit public comment on a proposed regulation on placement of schools in Level 4 under the newly amended statutes on underperforming schools and school districts and the new system of school and district accountability and assistance. That draft regulation, in modified form, was also included in the full set of proposed Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Schools and School Districts that the Board reviewed in February. On March 23 I will ask the Board to adopt the Level 4 regulation as revised based on our further review and public comment. Since the public comment period does not conclude until March 12, we will send the revised final regulation to the Board on or about March 16. Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr and I will be pleased to respond to your questions at the March 23 Board meeting.

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 memos reporting on the following matters:

    • I approved state grants under four competitive grant programs between February 8 and February 24, per the Board's vote in October 2008 to delegate grant approvals to the commissioner. The grants are for academic support and college transition services (summer programs), collaborative partnerships for student success (school year and summer programs), and K-12 literacy professional development partnerships. The Board's 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 February 2010, I notified the Board that I intended to approve the renewal of the charters of seven schools, Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School, City on a Hill Charter Public School, Francis W. Parker Charter Essential School, Hilltown Cooperative Charter Public School, Marblehead Community Charter Public School, MATCH Charter Public School and SABIS International Charter School. The Board chose not to discuss or vote on any of these proposed charter renewals. Consequently I have approved these seven charter renewals. Details are in the memo under Tab 6.
  3. Dropout Report for 2008-09 School Year

    Under Tab 7 is the dropout report for the 2008-09 school year, published on March 2, 2010. It shows real progress: less than three percent of our high school students dropped out of school during the 2008-09 school year, marking the first time the statewide dropout rate has dipped below three percent in the past decade. Annual dropout rates improved for African American/black, Asian, Hispanic, and white students. The dropout rate for Hispanic students statewide showed the biggest improvement, improving from 8.3 percent in 2007-08 to 7.5 percent in 2008-09. The full dropout report, including local district and school numbers, is accessible online at Statistical Reports: Dropout Rates.

    While the trend in the data is heartening, there is much work to be done to provide all students with the necessary supports to complete their education. The October 2009 report of the Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, Making the Connection, recommended, among other things: setting a goal and timeline for reducing the statewide dropout rate; further developing an early warning system for students at risk of dropping out; creating a dropout prevention recovery grant program; and considering whether to raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 18. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education continues to pilot an Early Warning Indicator System in 24 urban districts to help identify students who are at risk of dropping out of school, and we plan to expand that system to all districts in the coming years.

  4. Implementation Plan for An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, Chapter 12 of the Acts of 2010 (Updated)

    The Board and Department are fully engaged in planning and implementing the three key components of the 2010 education reform law: turning around underperforming and chronically underperforming schools and districts, revising standards and processes for charter schools, and fostering innovation schools. Under Tab 8 is an updated version of the chart that was in your informational materials last month, outlining the tasks and timelines for the Board and Department under the new law. We will continue to update the chart periodically 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 March 22 and 23.

Last Updated: March 22, 2010
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