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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the September 21, 2009 Special Meeting and the September 22, 2009 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:September 11, 2009


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, September 22, 2009, 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. The Board also will hold a special meeting at the Department's offices in Malden starting at 5:30 p.m. on Monday evening, September 21, to discuss follow-up to the Board's planning retreat and then focus on educator policy. A light supper will be available for Board members at 5 p.m. on September 21. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Beverley O'Riordan at (781) 338-3118.


Our special meeting on Monday evening will start with a brief follow-up to the Board's planning retreat in August and then focus on one important topic, educator policy. Since the regular meeting on Tuesday is the Board's annual meeting, the business agenda starts with a vote on the vice-chair. The agenda includes a presentation and discussion of 2009 MCAS results, an initial discussion of Race to the Top, and an overview of process and timelines for the FY2011 state education budget. On the topic of school and district accountability and assistance, we are presenting, for initial review and a vote to seek public comment, the proposed revision of the current regulations on underperforming schools and districts, to reflect the new five-level framework for accountability and assistance. On charter schools, the Board will vote on proposed changes to the Board's process for deliberating on charter school decisions, per the discussion at the August retreat. We are also presenting, for initial review and a vote to seek public comment, proposed amendments to the charter school regulations, to respond to recommendations from the chairs of the Joint Committee on Education and also improve the accountability system for charter schools. In addition, the Board is receiving the 2009 annual reports from the advisory councils and will consider appointments to the councils, to be voted on next month.

Special Meeting

  1. Follow-up to Board Planning Retreat: Priorities and Process - Discussion
  2. Educator Policy: Overview of Key Issues for FY 2010 - Discussion

We have two items on our agenda for the special evening meeting on September 21. First, Tom Fortmann will report back on behalf of the committee that met on September 8 to follow up on issues that the Board discussed at the August retreat. The larger portion of our meeting will be an opportunity for Board members to have an extended discussion - undoubtedly the first of many - on educator policy, one of the priorities that the Board identified at the retreat. Associate Commissioner David Haselkorn will make a brief presentation to tee up a few issues that the Board could use as starting points for the discussion.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and activities. She will also invite Jeff Howard to give an update on the work of the Proficiency Gap Committee.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. American Diploma Project. On September 10-11, Secretary Reville, Chair Banta, and I attended Achieve's 5th Annual American Diploma Project Team Leadership meeting. More than 200 state leaders from 33 states attended the meeting. The agenda focused on the four education reform "assurance" areas of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act: Standards and Assessment, Data Systems to Support Instruction, Great Teachers and Leaders, and Turning around Struggling Schools. I participated on a panel that addressed issues related to the development of common core standards. Achieve continues to play an important role in supporting states to design and implement effective educational reforms.

  2. Growth model. As you know, we have been working for the last several months to develop a measure of individual student growth over time on MCAS. We pilot-tested our measure, reports, and interpretive materials this spring and are on track to release the growth data publicly in late October or early November. We will present a summary of statewide results and our plans for supporting district and school use of these data at the October Board meeting.

  3. Mathematics standards for aspiring teachers. On September 30, we will co-host with the Department of Higher Education (DHE) a meeting to mobilize further efforts to strengthen the mathematics knowledge and skills of aspiring elementary and special education teachers. The day-long convening, to be held at Lesley University, reflects DHE Commissioner Richard Freeland's and my joint commitment to uphold the rigorous standards this Board has set for the Commonwealth's aspiring educators. Participants will include senior level administrators and faculty from both the arts and sciences and education programs of the state's institutions of higher education, as well as representatives from district and alternative route programs. Secretary Reville, Chair Banta, and Charles Desmond, Chair of the Board of Higher Education, will also address the conferees. Keynote and panel presentations will emphasize the urgency of this issue, and the successful ways that institutions in Massachusetts and across the nation have responded to the challenge of preparing educators who can help their students achieve high standards of mathematics achievement. Additional policy actions that our Department and DHE might take to assist in meeting this challenge will also be discussed.

  4. Institutional school teachers. On August 31, I gave "Back to School" remarks to the Department's institutional school teachers who provide special education services in over 80 institutional settings, including facilities of the Departments of Mental Health and Youth Services, the County Houses of Correction, and the Massachusetts Hospital School operated by the Department of Public Health. These state teachers, along with a number of vendor employed teachers, serve more than 700 students with disabilities each day. I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the members of our Special Education in Institutional Settings (SEIS) unit; they are the only Department staff who provide direct educational services to students. I told the SEIS teachers that I look forward to visiting them and their students during this school year.

  5. H1N1 flu preparedness. We are continuing to collaborate with the Department of Public Health to provide information to school superintendents, parents, and others about how to prevent and deal with H1N1 flu.

  6. Fall River Public Schools. On September 17, I will be meeting with the Fall River School Committee, at their request, to discuss the elements of an acceptable recovery plan for the school district. I will update the Board at our meeting on September 22.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Annual Meeting: Election of Vice-Chair - Discussion and Vote

    Under the Board's by-laws, the September meeting is the annual meeting of the Board, at which the vice-chair is elected. Chair Banta will call for nominations from Board members and then conduct the election. The vice-chair presides over meetings when the chair is not available.

  2. 2009 MCAS Results - Discussion

    We are pleased to be able to release MCAS results earlier this year than we have in the past. The 2009 statewide results have been published and we will be releasing MCAS results for schools and districts on September 16. This meeting is an opportune time to review and discuss the MCAS results and student Competency Determination attainment rates with the Board.

  3. Race to the Top: Planning for Federal Funding Competition - Discussion

    The $4.35 billion federal Race to the Top Fund will reward states for accomplishments in education innovation and reform and create incentives for future improvements. 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. This month we will have the first in a series of discussions with the Board about Race to the Top. This topic will be on every Board agenda through the end of the year.

  4. Process and Timelines for FY2011 Budget - Discussion

    Now that we have the FY2010 state budget for the state fiscal year that began on July 1, it is time to begin planning for the FY2011 budget. At this month's meeting we will review the anticipated calendar of the state budget cycle. By the October meeting, when we will discuss possible budget priorities and program initiatives that the Board may wish to propose, we should have additional information about the anticipated state revenue picture for FY2011.

  5. School and District Accountability Redesign:
    1. Proposed Amendments to Regulations on Underperforming Schools and School Districts, 603 CMR 2.00 - Initial Discussion and Vote to Seek Public Comment

      I am presenting to the Board this month, for initial discussion and a vote to solicit public comment, proposed regulations that reflect our redesigned accountability and assistance system. These regulations would amend the current regulations on underperforming schools and school districts. With the Board's approval, we will solicit public comment on the proposed regulations, in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. We expect to bring the proposed regulations back to the Board for a final vote in December 2009. Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr will present the proposed regulations and respond to questions.

    2. Scheduling of Comprehensive Reviews - Discussion and Vote

      The 2008 law on school and district accountability includes a provision regarding the scheduling of major reviews to reduce administrative burdens on schools and districts. It permits the Board to vote to allow more than one review of a school or district within a nine-month period, when necessary. We have two charter school reviews scheduled for this fall that would be covered by this provision. The school leaders have no objection. I recommend that the Board vote to allow the reviews for both of these schools, as the statute permits with Board authorization.

  6. Charter Schools: Policies, Procedures, and Regulations
    1. Authorization to Commissioner on Certain Charter School Matters - Discussion and Vote

      Based on the Board's discussion at the May 2009 meeting and the August 2009 retreat, I am recommending that you vote to delegate to the Commissioner certain charter school matters, specifically: charter renewals that do not involve conditions or probation, and approval of charter amendments other than grade span, maximum enrollment, or districts served. This would enable the Board to balance the time it spends on charter school matters with the Board's many other policy responsibilities. I would report to the Board on any such actions that I take under this delegation. The Board would maintain its direct authority for the award of new charters, renewals involving conditions or probation, revocation or non-renewal of a charter, and charter amendments involving changes in grade span, maximum enrollment, or districts served.

      Per the Board's discussion, I am also recommending as a procedural norm that charter school matters on which the Board takes action, including charter awards, renewals, and the types of amendments that would still be under the Board's direct authority, generally would be presented for discussion and vote at a single meeting rather than being held over for a vote at a second meeting. These matters typically are more operational than policy in nature. We would schedule these agenda items so that the Board has the option to hold over the matter until the following month, if the Board wishes to do so. For award of new charters, we would continue past practice of providing information to the Board in January for a vote at the February meeting, as required by statute.

    2. Proposed Amendments to Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.00 - Initial Discussion and Vote to Seek Public Comment

      The chairs of the Joint Committee on Education made several recommendations for changes to the charter school regulations, following their review of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School application process. In addition, we have identified some other provisions that should be updated. With the Board's approval, we will solicit public comment on the proposed amendments, in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. We expect to bring the regulations back to the Board for a final vote in December 2009. Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Charter School Director Mary Street will present both of these charter school agenda items and respond to questions.

  7. Advisory Council Appointments and Annual Reports - Discussion

    The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 established advisory councils to advise the Commissioner and the Board on matters related to improving public education and student achievement. The advisory councils are made up of volunteers who work with us to improve public education by providing advice and comment in specific program areas: Adult Basic Education, Arts Education, Community Service Learning, Educational Personnel, Educational Technology, English Language Learners/Bilingual Education, Gifted and Talented Education, Global Education, Interdisciplinary Health Education and Human Services, Life Management Skills, Mathematics and Science Education, Parent and Community Education and Involvement, Racial Imbalance, School and District Accountability and Assistance, Special Education, Technology/Engineering Education, and Vocational-Technical Education. This month I am presenting proposed appointments and reappointments of members to various advisory councils. If Board members would like to suggest additional names for consideration, please let me know. The Board will vote on the appointments at the October 27 meeting. Also enclosed are a compilation of the 2009 annual reports from each of the advisory councils and a chart listing recommendations that each advisory council made on the issues that Chair Banta and I asked them to address this year: the goals and priorities, the report of the task force on 21st-century skills, and the Readiness report.

Other Items for Information

  1. Education-Related News Clippings

    Enclosed are several recent articles about education.

  2. Report on Grants Approved by the Commissioner

    Under Tab 9 is a report on grants that I have approved, 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.

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 September 21 and 22.

Last Updated: September 17, 2009
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