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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

School and District Accountability and Assistance System; Proposed Amendments to Regulations, 603 CMR 2.00

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:September 11, 2009

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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.

Background on Proposed Regulations

Attached are the latest versions of the Accountability and Assistance Framework (Attachment 1) and the flowchart depicting how districts and schools enter and exit Levels 3-5 accountability status (Attachment 2). The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has reviewed and discussed the framework and flowchart at various stages over the last year. Attached also are proposed regulations that translate the framework and flowchart into specific roles and responsibilities for improving student achievement (Attachment 3). These proposed regulations would amend the Regulations on Underperforming Schools and School Districts, 603 CMR 2.00.

All of the above reflect the current statutes on school and district accountability. Governor Patrick has filed legislation on Readiness Schools that would revise some of these statutes. The Legislature will consider the Governor's bill this fall. If the bill is enacted, most of the regulations proposed here would not change. The primary changes required if the bill is enacted relate to expanded authority for the Commissioner and Board to require changes in district and school practices at Levels 4 and 5.

We need to move ahead with proposed amendments now because the current regulations are not consistent with the 2008 law that eliminated the Office of Educational Quality and Accountability and brought all school and district accountability responsibilities into the Department. Moreover, the current regulations do not reflect the framework that has been developed over the past year in close consultation with the Board and key stakeholders. Without regulations consistent with current law, the Board and Department are limited in the actions we can take with respect to district underperformance. Any changes that the Legislature enacts can relatively easily be reflected in further amendments to the regulations if necessary.

In order to be consistent with current law and to reflect the framework, the proposed regulations make major changes from the current regulations. Of the five sections in the current regulations,

  • 2.01 (Authority, Scope and Purpose) and 2.02 (Definitions), have been revised and expanded.
  • 2.03 (School Accountability) and 2.04 (Underperforming School Districts) have largely been replaced. Two notable exceptions are
    • o 2.03(1) on the accountability system (MCAS, AYP, etc.), now in revised form at 2.03(1)-(5), and
    • o 2.04(1) on district improvement planning, now in revised form at 2.04(4).
  • 2.05 (Low-Performing Mathematics Programs), is maintained in revised form, covering all schools rather than middle and high schools only, in the proposed regulations at 2.08.

Notable Aspects of the Proposed Regulations (section numbers refer to proposed language)

  1. Charter schools: Charter schools are not covered by the proposed regulations (see definitions of district or school district and school in 2.02), because they have their own system of accountability in the charter renewal system.

  2. Conditions for school effectiveness: The eleven conditions for school effectiveness have been incorporated into the proposed regulations at 2.04(3)1. These conditions, with additional detail, will be incorporated into the district indicators referred to at 2.04(2)(a).

  3. Placement of schools and districts in Levels 4 and 5: Under the proposed regulations, the commissioner places schools in Level 4 on the basis of quantitative data (2.06(2)), and, on behalf of the Board, places those schools' districts in Level 4 (2.06(1)(b)). We anticipate that the number of districts placed in Level 4 would be a function of the resources available to assist districts' and schools' improvement initiatives. The Board may also place districts in Level 4, on the commissioner's recommendation, based on serious deficiencies shown by a district review (no particular quantitative or qualitative requirements) (2.06(1)(a)). On the commissioner's recommendation, the Board may also place districts and schools in Level 5 (2.07(1) and (2)).

  4. Placement of schools in Level 5: Under the proposed regulations (2.07(2)), a Level 4 school may be placed in Level 5 only if it has failed to meet the benchmarks in its intervention plan. The first time it could be placed in Level 5 would be one year from the approval of its intervention plan, if it had failed to meet its one-year benchmarks with the result that it appeared unlikely that it would meet its two-year benchmarks.

    The reason for limiting placement of schools in Level 5 in this manner is to accord with M.G.L. c. 69, § 1J, which provides for declaration that a school is chronically underperforming if it has failed "to demonstrate significant improvement as dictated by its remedial plan within twenty-four months after the approval of its remedial plan . . .." On the other hand, there is no such statutory provision for districts, and proposed 2.07(1)(a) lists six bases on which the Board may place a district in Level 5.

  5. Powers of the receiver: After the commissioner, on behalf of the Board, appoints a receiver for a Level 5 district (2.07(3)(a)), the commissioner defines the scope of the receiver's powers "up to and including all of the powers of the superintendent and school committee" (2.07(3)(b)). This is consistent with M.G.L. c. 69, § 1K. This provision allows the commissioner to provide for the sharing of district-wide responsibilities between the receiver and the superintendent or school committee, or to provide for a receiver's powers to relate only to certain schools within the district. Proposed section 2.07(3)(b) also provides for the commissioner to modify the receiver's powers from time to time.

  6. Approval of intervention plans: Intervention plans are required at both Level 4 and Level 5 (2.06(5) and 2.07(5)); at both levels they are to be approved or disapproved by the commissioner (2.06(6) and 2.07(6)).

  7. Reporting to Board: The commissioner is to report annually to the Board on the progress made by districts in Level 4 (2.06(7)) and is to report regularly to the Board on the progress made by each district in Level 5 (2.07(7)).

  8. Removal of schools and districts from Levels 4 and 5: The proposed regulations provide that the criteria for schools and districts to be removed from Level 4 or Level 5 are tailored to the individual district and its schools by means of the intervention plan (2.06(8) and (9); 2.07((8) and (9)).

    The removal of schools and districts from Levels 4 and 5 is to be done by the commissioner; this accords in the case of removal from Level 5 with M.G.L. c. 69, § 1K, which provides for a district's petition to the commissioner (with review by the Board in the case of an adverse determination, and right of judicial review of the Board's determination) to modify or eliminate extraordinary measures at a chronically underperforming school or modify or eliminate a receiver in a chronically underperforming district.

  9. Placement after removal from Level 4 or 5: The proposed regulations provide flexibility to determine what level the district or school is placed in when it is removed from Level 4 or Level 5.

Recommendation

I recommend that the Board review the proposed regulations and vote at this month's meeting to send them out for public comment. Following the public comment period, we expect to bring the regulations back to the Board in December 2009 for a final vote.

Enclosures:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD DocumentFramework for District Accountability and Assistance
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD DocumentDistrict Intervention at Level 3 through 5
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD DocumentProposed Regulations to amend Regulations on Underperforming Schools and Districts, 603 CMR 2.00
View HTML PageCurrent Regulations on Underperforming Schools and Districts, 603 CMR 2.00

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Last Updated: September 21, 2009
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