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Amendments to the Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for School Districts and Schools, 603 CMR 2.00

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
June 19, 2012


I am transmitting to you the proposed final amendments to the Board's Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for School Districts and Schools, 603 CMR 2.00. Following the Board's initial vote at the April 2012 meeting, we solicited public comment on the proposed amendments through early June. We are now bringing them back to the Board for a final vote at the June 26th meeting.

The proposed amendments are needed to implement the flexibility waiver that the U.S. Department of Education granted to the Commonwealth in February 2012. The waiver authorizes Massachusetts to discontinue using provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act that are no longer useful in identifying schools and districts most in need of intervention, and instead to create a unified accountability system that focuses on closing achievement gaps and turning around the lowest performing schools and districts.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education last amended these regulations in April 2010, shortly after Governor Patrick signed into law the Achievement Gap Act of 2010. The amendments we are proposing now would:

  1. Align the regulations with our approved flexibility waiver from USDOE related to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq. (ESEA);
  2. Align the regulations with evolving practice with respect to Level 4 and 5 districts; and
  3. Clarify in the regulations the status of districts that were declared underperforming pursuant to these regulations as they existed before April 2010.

You will find in your packet a "Summary of Proposed Changes to 603 CMR 2.00," (see Attachment 1), unchanged in substance since you received a very similar document in April. You will also find a copy of the current regulations in their entirety with the proposed amendments shown in tracked changes (see Attachment 2) and a clean copy of the regulations as they would look with the proposed amendments made (see Attachment 3). Both changes proposed before the public comment period and changes proposed on the basis of input during the public comment period are shown in the tracked changes; the changes proposed since solicitation of public comment are highlighted in yellow. Finally, you will find in your packet an "Analysis of Public Comments on Proposed Amendments to 603 CMR 2.00," which includes a description of the public comments received, the reasons submitted for recommended changes, and the Department's (ESE's) response along any change recommended on the basis of the comment. A handful of the changes to the regulations proposed since the April meeting came from within ESE; these were all minor and are all shown in tracked changes (and highlighting) in Attachment 2.

The following is a narrative description of the proposed amendments:

  • The proposed amendments remove all references to district and school No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability status and Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), and update the description of how districts and schools will be placed in Levels 1, 2, and 3 in accordance with our ESEA flexibility waiver.

  • The proposed amendments bring the regulations on Level 4 districts into alignment with evolving practice by clarifying that all districts with Level 4 schools are considered to be Level 4 districts (as described in our Framework for District Accountability and Assistance) and may be required to develop and implement an improvement plan, now called a "Level 4 District Plan." Under the proposed changes, the regulations no longer include the requirement that a district be in the lowest-performing 10 percent of districts in order to be placed by the Board in Level 4 because of "serious deficiencies relating to one or more district standards." Those deficiencies, however, must be likely "to have a substantial negative effect on student performance in the district," "if they are not addressed effectively and in a timely manner," thereby "putting the district at risk of being placed in Level 5."

  • The proposed amendments also simplify the process for removal from Level 4 of a district with a Level 4 District Plan, using that plan as the measure of readiness for removal rather than a separate set of exit criteria. The proposed amendments clarify that Gill-Montague, Holyoke, Randolph, and Southbridge, which were declared underperforming by the Board before the last revision of these regulations, are still covered by 603 CMR 2.00.

  • With regard to Level 5, the proposed changes include a modification to the required content of the Level 5 district turnaround plan. The changes require that the plan include a focus on district systems for school support and intervention. This is a critical component added to align with requirements for the turnaround plans for Level 4 and 5 schools.

These proposed amendments are necessary to proceed under our approved flexibility waiver related to ESEA and to continue our intensive work to improve district capacities to raise student performance and close achievement gaps for all students. Senior Associate Commissioner Lynda Foisy, Associate Commissioner Eva Mitchell, and I look forward to answering your questions and discussing these changes with you at the meeting on June 26th.

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Attachment 1: Summary of proposed changes to 603 CMR 2.00
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Attachment 2: Proposed changes to 603 CMR 2.00 (tracked)
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Attachment 3: 603 CMR 2.00 as it would look with proposed changes accepted
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Attachment 4: Analysis of public comments on proposed amendments to 603 CMR 2.00
Attachment 5: Motion

Last Updated: June 22, 2012
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