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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the February 28, 2011 Regular Meeting and Special Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
February 18, 2011


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Monday, February 28, 2011, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. The regular meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. (coffee will be available at 8) and will adjourn by 1 p.m. Following a lunch break, the Board will convene a special meeting to discuss educator evaluation. The special meeting will adjourn by 4 p.m. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call JC Considine at (781) 338-3112.


The regular meeting on Monday morning leads off with discussion and action on several charter school items, including votes on new charters and requests for major amendments to existing charters, a proposed charter renewal, and conditions met at two charter schools. The Board will then discuss the district accountability review process. After a lunch break, the Board will hold a special meeting on Monday afternoon on educator evaluation. This is an opportunity to receive and discuss the recommendations from the Educator Evaluation Task Force. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and upcoming events.

Comments from the Commissioner
  1. FY12 state budget for education. The Governor submitted his FY12 budget proposal late in January, and copies were sent to Board members. The Ways and Means Committees will hold a hearing on the proposed education budget on Tuesday, February 22 at UMass-Amherst. Secretary Reville and I will update the Board on February 28.

  2. New CFO. I am pleased to introduce Bill Bell, the Department's new Chief Financial Officer, who started work on February 10th. As our CFO, Bill will oversee Budget and Procurement, the Business Office, and Grants Management. Bill has had significant experience working in and with Massachusetts state government. Prior to his recent work with several consulting groups, including the Public Consulting Group, Inc., he was Assistant Commissioner for Administration and Finance/Chief Financial Officer for the Department of Transitional Assistance for 10 years. Before joining DTA, Bill held several financial positions in the Executive Office of Health and Human Services, including Budget Director. Bill earned a Master of Public Administration degree from the Sawyer School of Management at Suffolk University and a B.A. in political science from Bates College. His public sector management and experience with state and federal government programs and financial operations make him a very good fit for our agency.

  3. Advanced Placement performance and participation. The College Board recently released national results from the College Board showing overall gains in participation and performance by Massachusetts students on the 2010 AP exams. The results reflect the effort and dedication of students and educators throughout the Commonwealth, and we are proud of them. We are committed to preparing all students for challenging coursework that will lead to their success in college and careers. See Massachusetts Students Increase Performance and Participation on AP Exams for more details.

  4. Student learning time and 180-day requirement. The severe weather this winter caused many districts to cancel school for several days, which in turn prompted inquiries about waivers from the 180-day minimum school year requirement. As I notified school officials earlier this month, Student Learning Time: Guidance on the 180-Day Requirement memo, at this point in the school year it is premature to grant any waivers. There is still time for districts that had to close for multiple days to adjust their calendars to ensure that students do not lose out on valuable learning time. We are monitoring the situation as the school year progresses. In the meantime, I am urging school officials to build more flexibility into their school calendars, such as by starting school before Labor Day and considering alternative vacation schedules.

    The Board's Student Learning Time regulations (603 CMR 27) require school committees to schedule a school year that includes at least 185 days at each school, and to operate the schools for at least 180 school days in a school year. The 185-day calendar allows a buffer of five days for emergencies such as snow days. Given the experience this year, I may propose that the Board consider amending the regulation so that school committees would schedule a school year of more than 185 days, to provide a greater buffer that would help them plan for these contingencies and ensure the mandated minimum of 180 school days.

  5. Dates and topics for special meetings. The Board has expressed interest in continuing to hold special meetings - such as our January 24 special meeting on education of English language learners and our February 28 afternoon special meeting on educator evaluation - that allow for more in-depth discussions than is generally possible at our regular business meetings. Besides the special meeting on the afternoon of February 28, please note the following dates and tentative topics for special meetings through June 2011:

    • Monday, March 22, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: College and Career Readiness Initiative
    • Tuesday, April 27, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: Online Learning, Teaching, and Assessment
    • Monday, May 23, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: Special Education Policy Issues
    • Monday, June 27, 5-7 p.m., tentative topic: Recap of the Year; Connecting Agendas.

We will send additional details as the plans and meeting agendas are confirmed.

  1. Jeff Nellhaus. As Board members know, Deputy Commissioner Jeff Nellhaus will be leaving the Department early in April, after 25 years of outstanding leadership, to work with Achieve, Inc. in Washington, D.C. as Director of the PARCC (Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career) assessment consortium. We will pay tribute to Jeff at next month's Board meeting.

Comments from the Secretary

Secretary Reville will brief the Board on current issues and activities, including the proposed state education budget for FY12.

Items for Discussion and Action

Charter Schools:
  1. Request for Review: Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    In July 2010, the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (PVCICS) submitted a request to amend the school's charter to add 120 additional seats. For the reasons set forth in the memorandum under tab 1, I denied this request. Under the Board's charter school regulations, a school's board of trustees may request the state Board to review the Commissioner's denial of an amendment request. PVCICS's trustees have asked for a review, and so their request now comes to you for your consideration.

  2. New Charter Applicants and Requests for Major Amendments for Boston Schools - Discussion and Vote

    By statute, the Board votes on the approval on new charter schools at its February meeting. This year we received applications for 20 new Commonwealth charters and three new Horace Mann charters. The memorandum under tab 2 includes my recommendations with respect to each of these applications, followed by the detailed evaluation materials prepared by the Department's charter school office. In addition, we have three pending amendment requests for the expansion of existing Boston charter schools. These were deferred from the fall so that we could consider them in conjunction with the new school applications.

    Per the amendment to the Charter School Regulations that the Board adopted in December 2009 (603 CMR 1.04(3)(b)), Chair Banta will ask the Board members who attended each public hearing on a proposed charter school to report to the Board on the hearing.

  3. Charter Renewal Proposed for Seven Hills Charter Public School - Discussion and Vote

    This month, the Board will discuss and vote on the charter renewal application for the Seven Hills Charter Public School. Seven Hills was first chartered in 1996, and its performance since then, particularly in the area of academic achievement, has been disappointing. As described in further detail in the memorandum under tab 3, I am recommending that the Board place the school on probation and renew the charter with conditions.

  4. Report on Conditions: Conservatory Lab Charter School, Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    In January 2009, the Board renewed the charter of the Conservatory Lab Charter School with three conditions regarding implementation of its Learning Through Music program and ensuring a programmatically accessible facility. The school has met all three conditions, and I am recommending that the Board vote to remove these conditions from the charter. The second memorandum under tab 4 contains further information and a proposed motion for Board action.

    In January 2010, the Board renewed the charter of the Lowell Middlesex Academy Charter School with one condition regarding education of special education students. The school has met the condition imposed, and I am recommending that the Board vote to remove this condition from the charter. The first memorandum under tab 4 contains further information and a proposed motion for Board action.

    Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and staff from our charter school office will be at the Board meeting to respond to questions about charter school matters.

District Accountability and Assistance:
  1. District Accountability Reviews: Process and Next Steps - Discussion

    Deputy Commissioner Karla Baehr and Eva Mitchell, who leads our Center for School and District Accountability, will present an overview of the district accountability review process and the ways in which the Department is using district reviews to inform prevention work at Level 3 and intervention work at Level 4. The material under tab 5 summarizes the district review and reporting process, analyzes the Level 3 reviews conducted in the 2009-10 school year, and describes the Department's ongoing work to accelerate improvement in Level 3 and Level 4 districts. This should be an informative presentation and discussion on a topic of continuing importance.

Other Items for Information

  1. Education-Related News Clippings

    Enclosed are several recent articles about education.

  2. Reports on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by Commissioner

    Under tab 7 are three memos reporting on the following matters:

    • I approved federal grants under four federal grant programs between January 18 and February 1, 2011, 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.
    • 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. In January 2011, I notified the Board that I intended to approve the renewal of the charters of two schools, Amesbury Academy Charter Public School and Prospect Hill Academy Charter School. There were no requests for either renewal to be brought to the Board for review. The memorandum under tab 7 notifies you that I have approved these two charter renewals.
    • Charter schools require Board approval for any borrowing whose term exceeds the term of the charter. Under authority delegated to me by the Board, I have approved borrowing by the Seven Hills Charter Public School. The memorandum under tab 7 notifies you of this approval.
  3. Reports on State Graduation and High School Dropout Rates

    For the fourth year in a row, the state's four-year graduation rate increased in 2010, with more than 82 percent of seniors graduating within four years. Also, the annual dropout rate for 2009-10 was unchanged from the previous year, marking the second year in a row that fewer than 3 percent of Massachusetts high school students dropped out of school. This is the lowest dropout rate in the last two decades. While much work remains to be done, this is a great accomplishment for our students and educators. The press release and detailed reports on the graduation and high school dropout rates are included under tab 8 for your information. They are also posted online at Press Release: For 4th Consecutive Year, State's 4-Year Graduation Rate Rises.

  4. Research Report: Student Achievement in Massachusetts' Charter Schools

    At the January 2011 Board meeting, Professor Tom Kane provided you with a preview of the research study conducted by a team from Harvard and MIT, under the aegis of Harvard's Center for Education Policy Research and funded by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The final report has now been released and is included under tab 9. It can also be accessed on-line at Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University: News.

[Lunch Break]

Following the lunch break, the Board will convene in a special meeting to discuss educator evaluation. The special meeting will adjourn by 4 p.m.

Special Meeting

Educator Evaluation: Task Force Recommendations and Next Steps - Discussion

I have updated the Board frequently on the work of the Task Force on Educator Evaluation that you voted to establish in May 2010. This is a major initiative for the Board and the entire education community. Our topic for the special meeting on the afternoon of February 28 is educator evaluation, focusing on the recommendations from the Educator Evaluation Task Force and consideration of next steps. Deputy Commissioner Karla Brooks Baehr and Associate Commissioner David Haselkorn will present an overview and respond to your questions. There will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion by the Board at this special meeting and continuing at our regular meeting on March 22.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on February 28.

Last Updated: February 25, 2011
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