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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Development of College and Career Web Portal

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


For the past several years, education stakeholders from across the state have been engaged in an ongoing discussion about college and career readiness, and multiple strategies have put into place to have all students graduate from our high schools ready for college and career success.

One key strategy is the development of a college and career web portal, a free, online site that would enable students to research colleges and apply for admission and financial aid all in one place. Through a partnership between the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) and the Department of Higher Education (DHE), a committee was formed to research what has worked in other states, and to develop a plan for a portal that would meet the specific needs of Massachusetts students.

In 2008 Governor Patrick announced his support for the project and asked the Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) to dedicate nearly $2 million over three years to this effort and to take the lead in its development. Later that year the DESE received a two-year $1.7 million federal College Access Challenge Grant, dedicated to the portal's development and marketing. Since then the ESE, DHE, MEFA and Executive Office of Education have worked in partnership on the portal's development.

After a competitive RFP process, Boston-based ConnectEDU was hired in Spring 2009 to develop the portal, and this month a pilot of will be launched in 22 high schools across the state.

What the portal will do

The state's web portal is being designed to streamline and simplify the application process for students, high school guidance counselors and college admissions officers. Specifically, the portal will allow for the electronic transmittal of college applications, transcripts, letters of recommendation, and financial aid applications (FAFSA). In addition, the portal will:

  • Provide each student with an individual profile and account that will be linked to the school's student information system, and track their course taking and academic performance
  • Auto-fill basic profile information on college applications and financial aid forms
  • Provide access to reliable information on colleges nationwide and careers
  • Help students think through career options with a career and interest assessment tool, and then suggest colleges based on their interests and academic achievement
  • Provide tools for guidance counselors to use to help students explore career options and set academic goals
  • Provide test preparation tools for MCAS, SAT, and other tests

High schools that have signed up for the pilot program will be the first to have full access to the portal's capabilities. Administrators and guidance counselors from each of the schools (see attached list) have participated in training sessions and focus groups over the past several months, and will participate in monthly meetings to provide feedback to the portal's development team.

Implementation phases

The portal will be phased in over the next several months for the schools in the pilot program, and then launched in full statewide in Spring 2010. This phase-in approach will allow the developers to get feedback from the pilot schools, make adjustments as needed, and address problems as they arise. The phases will include:

  • Phase I (October 2009) will focus on student tools, and will include online college matching for students; student self-assessment functions; online application processing; online student portfolios; online college profiles and campus tours

  • Phase II (Fall/Winter 2010) will focus on financial aid and financing, and will include a tool to allow students to fill out the FAFSA and apply for financial aid online; administrative tools to streamline advising for guidance counselors

  • Phase III (Winter 2010): Test preparation module; tool to allow guidance counselors and parents to track student progress toward meeting state graduation requirements; administrative tools to streamline advising process; career and college interests, skills and inventory tools; comprehensive resources for career pathways; employment resources.

  • Phase IV (Summer 2010): Additional enhancements will focus on early career motivation, and will include middle school career development tools that will be available for teachers to use with students.

Leadership of the portal

The development of the web portal is an example of collaboration among multiple state agencies. Although MEFA is responsible for the portal's day-to-day management, a leadership team made up of representatives from the ESE, DHE and EOE meets monthly to receive updates on the project, provide feedback to proposals, and make decisions on next steps. The agency representatives include DESE Chief of Staff Heidi Guarino, DHE Associate Commissioner Aundrea Kelley, and EOE Policy Director J.D. Larock.

MEFA Executive Director Tom Graf, a representative from ConnectEDU, and members of the leadership team will be at the October Board meeting to demonstrate the portal's capabilities and to answer any questions you may have about this initiative.

Schools participating in the pilot launch of YourPlanForTheFuture

  1. Agawam High School
  2. Bartlett Junior/Senior High School, Webster
  3. Blackstone Valley Regional Vocational Technical School, Upton
  4. Burncoat Senior High School, Worcester
  5. Central Catholic High School, Lawrence
  6. City on a Hill Charter School, Roxbury
  7. Claremont Academy, Worcester
  8. Clinton High School
  9. Doherty Memorial High School, Worcester
  10. Everett High School
  11. Gateway Regional High School, Huntington
  12. Holyoke High School
  13. Longmeadow High School
  14. Media and Technology Charter High School (MATCH), Boston
  15. Milford High School
  16. Monson High School
  17. North High School, Worcester
  18. Salem High School
  19. Somerville High School
  20. South High Community School, Worcester
  21. Stoneham High School
  22. Tri-County Regional Vocational Technical High School, Franklin
  23. Worcester Technical High School

Last Updated: October 21, 2009
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