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The Massachusetts Board of Education

Briefing for the October 26, 2009 Special Meeting and the October 27, 2009 Regular Meeting

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:October 16, 2009


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, October 27, 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, October 26, to discuss the Race to the Top application. A light supper will be available for Board members at 5 p.m. on October 26. 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 focus on the process and content for our federal Race to the Top application. The regular meeting on Tuesday morning leads off with the report of the Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission, followed by a presentation on the College and Career Web Portal. October 27th is the day we will release the first state report on the growth model, which we will present to the Board at the morning meeting. We will recap the Board's Monday evening discussion on Race to the Top, discuss next steps in the state budget process for FY 2011, and present advisory council appointments and reappointments for a vote.

Special Meeting

Race to the Top Application

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.

We are working with the Executive Office of Education on the application. The Bridgespan Group, funded by the Gates Foundation, is assisting us with strategy development, stakeholder engagement, and proposal organization. Carrie Conaway, our director of planning, research, and evaluation, is leading our Race to the Top planning, working closely with me and members of our senior staff. Kirk Kramer, the project manager from the Bridgespan Group, will join us for the special meeting. Your materials include an overview of the federal priorities, requirements, and selection criteria. This topic will be on every Board agenda through the end of the year.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta anticipates that she will not be able to attend the meetings on October 26th and 27th. Vice Chair Harneen Chernow will chair the meetings. On Tuesday morning, she 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. Common core standards initiative. In September, the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices and the Council of Chief State School Officers released the first draft of the college- and career-readiness standards for English language arts (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and mathematics. They can be viewed at These standards identify the skills and knowledge that students need to learn in order to be prepared for entry-level, credit-bearing, academic college courses, and represent the work of the first phase of the Common Core State Standards Initiative. The public has an opportunity to comment on the standards by October 21, 2009. The Department provided feedback on an earlier draft of the standards at the end of July, and we plan to provide a second round of comments by the October deadline. We are pleased that Board member Sandra Stotsky has been appointed to a Validation Committee for the Common Core Standards Initiative. The committee will be reviewing and verifying the standards development process and the resulting evidence-based college- and career-readiness standards.

    The next phase of the Common Core Initiative is the development of K-12 standards in ELA and mathematics, describing the grade by grade progression of skills and knowledge that students will need to learn in order to meet the college- and career- ready standards. Development of the K-12 standards is already underway. I anticipate that the Department will review and provide feedback to early drafts of those standards over the next several months. The CCSSO and NGA expect to complete first official drafts of the K-12 standards early this winter.

  2. STEM summit. Secretary Reville and I will update the Board on the October 20th STEM summit meeting.

  3. Adams scholarships. Earlier this month we notified more than 17,500 students from the class of 2010 that they have qualified to receive the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, the state's largest merit-based scholarship program. In total, 17,575 students in the class of 2010 earned the scholarship, an increase of more than 100 students since last year. Students become eligible for the scholarship based on their performance on the grade 10 MCAS English Language Arts and Mathematics tests. To qualify, a student must (1) score Advanced on one exam and either Proficient or Advanced on the other, (2) rank within the top 25 percent of students in the district, and (3) be a permanent, legal Massachusetts resident. This scholarship entitles the recipient to four years of free tuition at any Massachusetts public college or university, but does not cover the cost of fees or room and board.

  4. MTEL case dismissed. I am pleased to report that on October 13th, the U. S. District Court (Judge Harrington) dismissed the Alston case, which was an action brought under state and federal law challenging the Massachusetts Tests for Educator Licensure (MTEL). The plaintiffs, three former Boston teachers, filed suit against the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Boston Public Schools, and the testing company, claiming that the MTEL had a disparate impact on them and on all minority and non-native-English-speaking test takers. The court dismissed each of their legal claims, noting that the MTEL "prescribes minimal standards of language and learning" that are required qualifications to teach in the public schools and that "minimal standards are as necessary to the teaching profession as they are to the legal and medical professions." The court opined that it would be preferable for unsuccessful test takers to "ameliorate their scholastic deficiencies rather than seek to undermine the standards." Since the case was dismissed in part on procedural grounds and the court did not hear oral argument, further litigation may ensue. We will keep the Board informed.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission Report - Discussion

    The legislatively-mandated Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery Commission will issue its final report shortly. Secretary Reville chairs the commission and Secretary of Labor and Workforce Development Suzanne Bump and I co-chair it. At our meeting we will distribute copies of the report for discussion, and Secretary Reville and I will review the key recommendations with you.

  2. College and Career Web Portal - Discussion

    The college and career web portal is a free online site that would enable students to research colleges and apply for admission and financial aid all in one place. We have been working with the Department of Higher Education, the Executive Office of Education, and the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) to develop the portal for the benefit of Massachusetts students. At our October 27th meeting, MEFA Executive Director Tom Graf, Heidi Guarino from our Department, and other partners will demonstrate the portal's capabilities and respond to questions about this promising initiative.

  3. Growth Model: Statewide Report - Discussion

    As we have reported to the Board previously, the Department has 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 on October 27th. We will present a summary of statewide results and our plans for supporting district and school use of these data at the Board meeting.

  4. Race to the Top - Continuing Discussion

    At our Tuesday morning meeting we will recap the discussion from Monday evening and identify next steps in preparing the Race to the Top application.

  5. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Budget Proposal for FY 2011 - Initial Discussion

    At last month's meeting we reviewed the state budget cycle calendar and Chair Banta appointed a budget committee, which will meet on October 20th and report at our October 27th Board meeting. By that date we should have additional information about the anticipated state revenue picture for FY2011, and we will discuss development of the Board's budget recommendation.

  6. Appointments and Reappointments to Advisory Councils to the Board - Discussion and Vote

    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. At our September meeting the Board reviewed proposed appointments and reappointments of members to our 17 advisory councils. You also received a compilation of the councils' 2009 annual reports and recommendations. The memo under Tab 6 notes a few changes and updates, some in response to Board members' suggestions, to the list of proposed appointments that you received in September. I recommend that the Board vote on the appointments and reappointments this month.

Other Items for Information

  1. Education-Related News Clippings

    Enclosed are several recent articles about education.

  2. Data Report on Trends in Student Enrollment

    In response to inquiries from Board members about trends in student enrollment in Massachusetts public schools, we have prepared a state map and data tables that show the percent change in district enrollment between 1999 and 2009.

  3. 2009 NAEP Mathematics Results, Grades 4 and 8

    We are all pleased to note that Massachusetts 4th and 8th grade students ranked first in the nation in math for the third time in a row last year, according to results from the 2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Math exam. Our press release and summary information from the NAEP report are included in your materials under Tab 9.

  4. Report on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by the Commissioner

    Under Tab 10 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. The Board also delegated authority to me to approve extended loan terms for charter schools, a routine administrative matter. I approved two such extended loan terms, for Innovation Academy Charter School and Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School. Details are set forth in the enclosed memo.

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 October 26th and 27th.

Last Updated: October 22, 2009
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