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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

District and School Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council Annual Report to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

June 2012

I. Introduction

The 15-member Advisory Council on School and District Accountability and Assistance (AAAC) advises the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on matters pertaining to the development and implementation of the Commonwealth's School and District Accountability and Assistance system. The Council reviews and advises DESE and the Board on the policies and practices of the Centers for Targeted Assistance and School and District Accountability. In the 2011-12 year, the Council continued to advise on Level 3 and 4 school and district planning, planning for the first Level 5 schools and districts, and targeted assistance strategies.

II. Work of the Council in School Year 2011-2012


This year, much of the work of the Council reflected the current context in which DESE is focused on implementation of accountability and assistance efforts, rather than on the comprehensive redesign of these efforts. The Council helped to identify important questions and considerations relative to implementation of various initiatives.

Priority areas of focus centered on helping DESE to refine practices and policies that that the Council has been helping to develop over the past several years, including:

  • District Reviews
  • Level 3 District Assistance Efforts
  • Level 4 Schools Identification and Assistance


The Council met five times since SY 2011-12. Topics of discussion included:

  1. Level 5 District Planning Process for Lawrence Public Schools.
  2. District Review Planning
  3. Level 4 District Accelerated Improvement Plan Process
  4. Changes to Accountability Regulations
  5. Level 4 Schools
    • Learning from Year 1
    • Identification of 2011 Level 4 schools
  6. Level 3 District Assistance
  7. Level 5 Schools Planning

III. RecommendationS

The Council offered specific input on the various topics outlined above. Recommendations included the following:

  • Accountability Regulations. The Council made recommendations relative to updating DESE's accountability regulations, specifically with regard to clarifying the ways in which a district can be designated Level 4 for significant district-wide deficiencies.
  • ESEA Flexibility Waiver. The Council offered recommendations relative to the ESEA waiver application, specifically relative to goal-setting (halving proficiency gaps), classification of schools and districts in levels (e.g., considering whether some schools would have "no level"), and the use of the high needs group.
  • District Reviews. For the fourth year since a 2008 law eliminated the Office of EQA, placing responsibility for accountability via District Reviews with ESE, the Council is again disappointed and concerned that effective funding for accountability overall and District Reviews in particular continues to be reduced by the legislature. The mandate from the 2008 law of 40 District Reviews a year has not been realized in any subsequent year and faces further reduction to a handful of reviews (less than 10) in FY13. This continual backsliding in the number of District Reviews affects all aspects of accountability and effective application of targeted assistance and now threatens to strip DESE of the staffing needed to maintain skills and minimal capacity to conduct reviews. The Council offered recommendations for how DESE can continue to conduct meaningful District Reviews given increasingly limited resources. Specifically, the Council recommended that DESE explore alternatives to the Comprehensive District Reviews, including Targeted and/or Streamlined District Reviews. DESE is actively developing proposals that reflect this recommendation, with ongoing input from the Council. The Council has also recommended that DESE continue to prioritize reviews of the lowest performing districts by reserving 75% of its capacity for this purpose, while at the same time ensuring that some number of higher performing districts is also reviewed annually as a way to capture learning from those districts and ensure statewide accountability.
  • Educator Evaluation Implementation. The Council recommended that DESE consider leveraging the new educator evaluation system as an organizing initiative around which to coordinate other DESE initiatives, including integrating it into the PARCC work and being deliberate about helping districts understand how major DESE initiatives fit together.
  • Report on Emerging Practices in Level 4 Schools. The Council offered recommendations for making this preliminary report more useful to district and school leaders, such as incorporating specific and practical examples. The final version of this report reflects the Council's input. DESE will continue soliciting feedback from the Council on ways that lessons learned from Level 4 schools can inform ongoing accountability and assistance efforts.
  • Level 5 Schools Planning. After hearing preliminary plans for Level 5 schools intervention, including options for school management models, incubation of restart operators, and considerations for implementation in 2013-14, the Council offered recommendations relative to the way in which DESE can present this information as it gets further developed.

IV. Advisory Council Information

DESE Administrator: Lynda Foisy, Senior Associate Commissioner, Division of Accountability, Partnerships, and Assistance

DESE Council Liaison: Erika Alvarez Werner, Level 3 and 4 District and School Assistance Coordinator

Chairperson: Joe Esposito, Retired CFO, Solid Works and Former EMAC Board Member

Members of the 2011-2012 District and School Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council

  • Beverly Miyares, Professional Development Specialist, Massachusetts Teachers Association
  • Julia Bowen, Executive Director, Berkshire Arts & Technology Charter Public School, (MA Charter Public School Association representative)
  • Elizabeth Freedman, Principal, Greater Lawrence Technical High School, (Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association representative)
  • Jeff Thielman, President, North Cambridge Catholic High School, (MA Association of School Committees representative)
  • Tari Thomas, Assistant Superintendent, Mahar Regional Public Schools
    (Massachusetts Elementary Principals Association representative)
  • Linda Noonan, Executive Director, Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education
  • Anne McKenzie, Executive Director, Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative
  • Dr. John Portz, Chair, Political Science Department, Northeastern University
  • Dorsey Yearley, Executive Director, The Education Collaborative
  • Laura Perille, Executive Director, EdVestors, BPS Parent
  • Dr. Susan Therriault, Research Analyst, American Institutes for Research
  • Andrew Churchill, Assistant Director, Center for Education Policy, UMass/Amherst
  • Ms. Margaret Doyle, Principal, Thorndyke Road Elementary School, Worcester; (MA Elementary and Secondary School Principals Association Representative)
  • Mr. Matthew Malone, Superintendent, Brockton Public Schools (MA Association of School Superintendents representative)

Council Meeting Dates in 2011-2012:

October 5, 2011
December 14, 2011
February 8, 2012
April 4, 2012
May 31, 2012

Last Updated: June 3, 2012
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