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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the November 17, 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:November 6, 2009


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, November 17, 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. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Beverley O'Riordan at (781) 338-3118.


Our November 17th agenda leads off with discussion of the Gloucester charter school matter, following up on the special meeting that the Board is holding in Gloucester on November 7th. I will update the Board on our work in preparing the Race to the Top application. The Board will hear from its budget committee and vote on the education budget proposal for FY 2011. Nine charter school amendments are being presented to the Board for a discussion and vote this month. We will have an initial discussion of proposed changes to graduation rate standards for accountability and reporting purposes; specific recommendations will be presented to the Board for a vote in December. The November 17th agenda also includes a vote on an additional advisory council appointment to fill a recent vacancy.

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. Teacher contract data base. Earlier this month we launched a new searchable database on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's website that contains every public school teacher collective bargaining agreement in the Commonwealth. Each school district and charter school now files with the Department a copy of its current personnel contracts and collective bargaining agreements annually, per state law enacted in 2008. The database we have created makes it possible to review, compare, and analyze teacher contracts, and is a big step forward in our efforts to increase transparency and add value to the work of our schools and districts. We plan to update the database quarterly as new agreements are signed and submitted.

  2. Curriculum summit. Our Department conducted the Second Annual Summit on Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment on November 3rd and 4th. Over 600 educators attended, including superintendents, curriculum coordinators, special education administrators and directors of English language learning. The summit showcased a wide range of resources and tools that we have developed to assist school and districts, such as the Guide for Professional Learning Communities, Characteristics of a Standards-based Mathematics Classroom, and the Resource Guide to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for Students with Disabilities. Discussions covered such topics as aligning curriculum to state standards, tiered and differentiated instruction, benchmark assessment, teaching literacy through science, family literacy, and mathematics for ELL students. Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Family Literacy, provided the keynote address.

  3. Massachusetts Teachers' Domain. As part of a year-long partnership between the Department and the WGBH Educational Foundation and WGBY in Springfield, last month we jointly launched a new online resource that provides teachers with free access to more than 2,200 classroom-ready media tools. Massachusetts Teachers' Domain (MTD) is a localized edition of Teachers' Domain, a nationally used database of digital resources for educators. It contains lesson plans and media clips that align with the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks. The MTD content is pulled from a variety of public television programming including Nova, Frontline, Design Squad, and American Experience as well as from government agencies, museums, libraries, and academic institutions. Most segments contain a multi-media resource, such as a video clip, animated chart or PowerPoint slides, as well as classroom instructions and student assignments. MTD is linked directly to MassONE, the state's existing online portal for educators, which offers web-based tools and resources to support and connect teachers across the Commonwealth. This is the first of several projects we are working on with WGBH/WGBY. I intend to invite their CEO Jon Abbott to a future Board meeting to discuss our partnership.

  4. Memo on 180-day school year. Just a few months into the school year, three schools have already had to close temporarily due to the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus. We are continuing to work with the Department of Public Health (DPH) to provide school officials with up-to-date information and guidance about preventing the spread of H1N1, and have strongly encouraged superintendents and principals to monitor absentee rates and make closure decisions in consultation with their local boards of health and DPH. We have also reminded district leaders that the Student Learning Time regulations require school committees to schedule at least 185 days in each school year and to operate the schools for at least 180 days a year, maintaining a minimum of 900 hours of structured learning time each year in elementary schools and 990 hours in secondary schools. I am relying on district leaders to make smart choices to protect the health and safety of their students. When temporary closures are required, I expect them to adjust their schedules to make up the lost time so that student learning is not cut short. To that end we have issued guidance as we did last spring, to clarify when and how districts are expected to make up lost time and the limited circumstances under which we would consider waivers.

  5. Annual report for FY 2009. We are completing production of the annual report for FY 2009 and will distribute it to the Board at or soon after the November 17th meeting. The report includes key data and chronicles the major decisions and actions of the Board from July 2008-June 2009. It is an impressive record of some of our accomplishments in service to the students of Massachusetts. After the Board receives the report, we will distribute copies to the Governor and the Legislature and post the report on our website.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Gloucester Community Arts Charter School: Follow-up to November 7th Special Meeting of the Board - Discussion

    The Board has convened a special meeting in Gloucester on Saturday afternoon, November 7th, to hear from and talk with Gloucester officials and representatives of the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School and an outside consultant, and to reach a common understanding of the options available to the Board with respect to the charter that has been granted. On November 17th we will review that meeting and the consultant's report and identify next steps.

  2. Race to the Top - Continuing Discussion

    At the Board's October 27th special meeting, senior staff members and I presented an overview of the approach we are taking to the federal Race to the Top grant competition. As we discussed, 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.

    The Board's feedback has been helpful as we continue to work on the application with the Executive Office of Education. I will update you on November 17th about our progress.

  3. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Budget Proposal for FY 2011 - Discussion and Vote

    The Board's budget committee is meeting again on November 6th and will report at our November 17th Board meeting. We are continuing to work on the budget documents based on the committee's deliberations and the information we are receiving from the Administration about the state's fiscal situation and budget planning for FY 2011. I will distribute the updated budget proposal to you when it is ready. The Board will vote on the budget at the November 17th meeting. Per Mass. Gen. Laws c. 69, § 1A, as amended in March 2008 by the education reorganization act, I will transmit the Board's recommendations to the Secretary of Education, who "shall then prepare and submit a budget request on behalf of the department to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on education, and the secretary of administration and finance."

  4. Charter School Amendments for Nine Charter Schools - Discussion and Vote

    I am presenting for the Board's approval this month proposed amendments to the charters for: Amesbury Academy Charter Public School; Martin Luther King, Jr., Charter School of Excellence; Mystic Valley Regional Charter School; Prospect Hill Academy Charter School; Sturgis Charter Public School; Academy of the Pacific Rim; Boston Preparatory Charter Public School; Codman Academy Charter Public School; and Edward E. Brooke Charter School. Each school has requested an amendment to increase its maximum enrollment and/or grades served. Under the Charter School Regulations, the Board approves major changes in the material terms of a school's charter. These decisions remain the province of the Board and have not been delegated to me. The nine requests meet the criteria in the regulations, and I recommend your approval. If granted, all of these amendments would be implemented starting in the fall of 2010, with expansion taking place over several years.

  5. Proposed Changes to 2010 Accountability Reporting: Graduation Rate - Initial Discussion

    The U.S. Department of Education requires states to establish a statewide graduation rate goal and to set annual targets to reach that goal. Graduation rates are one of the factors used in determining whether a district is making adequate yearly progress. The Board approved the 2009 graduation rate targets in March 2009. We are preparing a recommendation for our long-range state goal and for the intermediate targets for the 2009-10 and subsequent school years, and will present the recommendation to you for your approval at the December Board meeting.

  6. Appointment to School and District Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council - Discussion and Vote

    At last month's meeting the Board approved appointments and reappointments to the advisory councils. This month I am proposing that you approve appointment of an additional member to fill a recent vacancy on the School and District Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council. Details are in the memo under Tab 6.

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 the Commissioner

    Under Tab 8 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 has delegated authority to me to approve extended loan terms for charter schools, a routine administrative matter. I have not issued any such approvals since my report to you in October 2009.

    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. I have sent notice to the Board about three such approvals that are pending. I will update the Board at our November 17th meeting.

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 November 17th.

Last Updated: November 13, 2009
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