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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the December 21, 2010 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
December 10, 2010


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, December 21, 2010, 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 JC Considine at (781) 338-3112.


Our December 21 agenda leads off with a discussion and vote on adoption of the new Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and for Mathematics, incorporating the Common Core State Standards. We will present an update on the ongoing work to revamp the educator evaluation system. The Board will take an initial vote on proposed amendments to regulations on special education and educator licensure; most of the changes reflect changes in statute. Several charter school matters are also on the agenda, including a discussion and vote on Gloucester Community Arts Charter School and two other schools that have been on probation, two charter amendments, and two charter renewals.


Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and activities. She will also present a citation on behalf of the Board to Heidi Guarino, who leaves the Department on December 17th after almost 10 years of service, most recently as chief of staff to the Commissioner. Heidi has been a consistent source of support and guidance to the Board as well as to the Department. Among her many accomplishments, she served with distinction as key staffer and writer for the Board's Task Force on 21st Century Skills and the Proficiency Gap Task Force. Heidi will be taking on a new professional challenge as a communications consultant for Education First Consulting, a national education reform consulting company. We all wish her the very best.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. NAEP grade 12 results for Massachusetts. In November we announced that the state's 12th graders led the nation on the 2009 Grade 12 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the nation's report card. The first-ever state-specific Grade 12 NAEP results showed that the Commonwealth's students tied for first in the nation on both the English and Math exams. Massachusetts was one of 11 states to participate in a pilot to receive state-specific grade 12 results. The other states are Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, New Hampshire, New Jersey, South Dakota, and West Virginia. More than 6,000 students from 94 high schools participated in the exams. Massachusetts students also ranked or tied for first nationwide in both grades 4 and 8 on the English and Math exams in 2009. According to the results, Massachusetts students had the highest scaled score in the nation on the reading test and tied for top performance with New Hampshire, Connecticut, Illinois, and New Jersey while outperforming Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Iowa, South Dakota, and West Virginia

  2. Race to the Top. We have produced both an informational booklet and a companion brochure on our Race to the Top initiatives as part of a statewide communications campaign. These have been developed with the general public in mind to ensure that parents, business leaders, educators and other interested parties will both understand how we are spending the money, and how the state's schools will be different in four years. We have distributed them to policymakers, school officials and elected officials, and professional organizations.

  3. Curriculum summit. The Department's third annual curriculum summit was held in early December. We held it over two days to allow more educators to attend, but still had to turn people away. The summit included presentations by Department and district staff on curriculum and instruction, with a particular focus on the transition to the Common Core State Standards. More than 800 educators from across the state participated, demonstrating once again the keen interest in and support for improving curriculum and instruction.

  4. Early warning system for dropout prevention. Earlier this month, for the first time ever, the Department sent every district a list of students at risk of dropping out at some point during high school. This Early Warning Indicator Index is something we have been piloting with about 20 districts for the past several years. We are confident that by flagging students in eighth grade as potential dropout risks, educators will be able to provide each student with the tools, resources and support they need to be successful in school. This information will also be useful as we implement the $15 million grant that Massachusetts received through the federal High School Graduation Initiative. This money will be used to support statewide and local efforts for high school dropout prevention, intervention, and recovery at 133 high schools throughout the Commonwealth that exceeded the statewide annual dropout rate of 2.9 percent in the 2008-09 school year.

Comments from the Secretary

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


  1. New Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and for Mathematics, Incorporating Common Core State Standards - Discussion and Vote

    I am pleased to present, for adoption by the Board on December 21, the new Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy, Incorporating the Common Core State Standards, and the new Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for Mathematics, Incorporating the Common Core State Standards. The Board voted in July 2010 to adopt the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) to replace the 2001 Massachusetts English Language Arts Curriculum Framework and the 2000 Massachusetts Mathematics Curriculum Framework and their 2004 Supplements, contingent upon our augmenting and customizing the Common Core within the 15 percent allowance specified in our agreement with the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus and other key Department staff members, and in collaboration with Massachusetts educators and curriculum experts, we have completed that task. The memo under Tab 1 outlines the history of the revision process for the frameworks, summarizes the public comment we received this fall, and describes the steps we will take to transition MCAS from our existing frameworks to the new frameworks over the next several years. The proposed new frameworks are included in your materials.

    Adoption of these new frameworks for English language arts and literacy and for mathematics is a major milestone for the Commonwealth. The standards contained in these documents are strong, comprehensive, and rigorous, reflecting the best thinking of educators in Massachusetts as well as nationally. They are the foundation upon which the primary work of our schools - curriculum and instruction - is based. Assuming the Board votes to adopt the new frameworks this month, we will complete any necessary copyediting, send the new frameworks to the Joint Committee on Education as required by statute, and disseminate them widely. Over the next year the Department will conduct professional development sessions about the new standards throughout the Commonwealth and will produce a variety of resources and tools to assist districts and schools to fully align curriculum and instruction to the standards by the 2012-2013 school year.

  2. Update on Educator Evaluation - Discussion

    At your October 2010 meeting the Board received an update on the work of the Task Force on Educator Evaluation that the Board established on May 25, 2010. Since that time separate work groups of the Task Force have been considering specific elements of the evaluation framework which the full Task Force will consider over the next two months as it formulates its recommendations to the Commissioner and Board. Enclosed under Tab 2 is a memo presenting some key issues, background information, and the timeline for next steps, including anticipated Board action in the spring of 2011 to amend the current (1995) regulations on evaluation of teachers and administrators. This is a major initiative for the Board and the entire education community, and I will be reporting to you monthly as the work proceeds. Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr and Associate Commissioner David Haselkorn will be at the December 21 meeting to respond to your questions.

  3. Proposed Amendments to Regulations, 603 CMR 28.00 (Special Education) and 603 CMR 7.00 (Educator Licensure), Per Federal and State Law - Initial Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    I am presenting to the Board this month, for initial discussion and a vote to solicit public comment, proposed amendments to 603 CMR 28.00, the Massachusetts Special Education Regulations, and to 603 CMR 7.00, the Educator Licensure Regulations. Most of the changes are required by federal or state law. Marcia Mittnacht, State Director of Special Education, Associate Commissioner David Haselkorn, and Attorney Dianne Curran of our legal staff will be at the Board meeting to answer your questions. With the Board's approval, we will solicit public comment on both sets of regulations and bring them back to the Board for a final vote in March 2011.

  4. Scheduling of Comprehensive Audits and Reviews for FY11 and Delegation to Commissioner of Future Scheduling Approvals - 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 several school or district reviews scheduled for this year that would be covered by this provision, and the school and district leaders have presented no objection. I recommend that the Board vote to allow the reviews for these schools and districts, as the statute permits with Board authorization. I recommend further that the Board vote to delegate to the Commissioner in future years the authority to approve these scheduling matters, with the understanding that the Commissioner would report to the Board on any such approvals granted. Both motions are included on the motion page accompanying the memo under Tab 4.

  5. Selected FY11 Priorities and Objectives for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education - Discussion

    At the November 12 planning retreat, the Board asked me to outline selected strategic initiatives for FY11 in the five focus areas that the Board identified: educator effectiveness; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; accountability and assistance; wrap-around supports and engagement for students and families; and school and classroom culture. I will present the document to you for discussion at the December 21 meeting.

  6. Charter Schools:

    We have several charter school items on the agenda for discussion and action this month. Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and members of our Charter School Office and legal staff will be present to respond to your questions.

  7. Reports on Three Schools Previously Placed on Probation - Discussion and Vote

    1. Gloucester Community Arts Charter School

    At its special meeting on October 1, 2010, the Board placed the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School (GCACS) on probation until December 21, 2010, and directed GCACS to meet 12 probationary conditions by that date. The Board directed the Commissioner to review and report on the extent to which GCACS has met the terms of probation and its charter. The Board further directed the Commissioner to recommend whether the school should retain its charter or if the charter should be summarily revoked. Enclosed is a memo listing the 12 probationary conditions and a description of the school's progress in meeting those conditions, based on documentation that we received as of December 6. Department staff are making a site visit to the school on December 10. At the Board's December 21 meeting, I will provide you with an updated status report and my recommendation to the Board regarding the school's probationary status.

    1. Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School
    2. Boston Renaissance Charter Public School

    Based on the schools' progress in meeting the conditions that the Board imposed when the charters were renewed, I recommend that the Board remove Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School and Boston Renaissance Charter Public School from probation. With respect to Boston Renaissance Charter Public School, I further recommend that the Board continue the enrollment condition and explicitly require the school to continue reducing its enrollment in accordance with the schedule that the Board set in December 2009. The memo under Tab 6 provides details on both schools.

  8. Charter Amendments Proposed for Two Schools - Discussion and Vote

    1. Lawrence Family Development Charter Schoola
    2. KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School

    Pursuant to the Charter School Regulations, the Board must approve major changes in the material terms of a school's charter. This year we received requests from seven existing schools for increases in their maximum enrollment and, in some cases, increases in their grades served. This high level of interest is due in part to the amendments to the charter school statute enacted last winter that increased the number of seats available in the lowest performing districts. I am recommending that the Board approve the expansion request from the Lawrence Family Development Charter School, and I am recommending partial approval of the expansion request from the KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School. These requests are described in detail in the memo under Tab 7. As is explained in the memo, I am deferring action on expansion requests from three charter schools in Boston and I am not recommending expansion requests from two other charter schools.

  9. Charter Renewals Proposed for Two Schools - Discussion and Vote

    1. Innovation Academy Charter School
    2. Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School

    This month the Board will discuss and vote on charter renewal for Innovation Academy Charter School (a regional charter school located in Tyngsborough) and Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter School (a regional charter school located in South Hadley). I recommend that the Board renew the charters for each of these two schools with conditions. Details are presented in the memo under Tab 8.


  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 10 is a report on grants that I approved under state and federal grant programs, 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. Also enclosed is a memo on a charter school matter that I notified the Board about in November under delegated authority; the school subsequently withdrew its request.

  3. FY 2012 Budget Update: Board's Budget Submission to Secretary of Education

    The Board voted last month to adopt recommended guiding principles for the FY12 state education budget. Enclosed under Tab 11 is a copy of our budget transmittal letter to Secretary Reville.

  4. Update on Race to the Top

    Enclosed under Tab 12 is a memo summarizing the status of our Race to the Top work with our participating districts. We have submitted the state and district scopes of work to the U.S. Department of Education and anticipate approval by the end of December. Upon federal approval, we will be able to release funds to districts for implementation of Year 1 plans.

  5. Update on Regionalization

    Greater use of regional school districts was one of a number of strategies identified by the Governor's Readiness Project to help the Commonwealth deliver educational services more efficiently and effectively. I am pleased to report that we have made great progress in regionalization efforts in 2010, with five new or expanded districts being approved this year. The memo under Tab 13 provides details.

  6. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Annual Report for FY 2010

    The annual report for FY 2010 includes key data and chronicles the major decisions and actions of the Board from July 2009-June 2010. It is an impressive record of some of our accomplishments in service to the students of Massachusetts. We plan to distribute copies to the Governor and the Legislature and post the report on our website.

    If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on December 21st.

Last Updated: December 17, 2010
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