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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the December 16, 2013 Special Meeting and the December 17, 2013 Regular Meeting

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
December 6, 2013


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, December 17, 2013, 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 should adjourn by 1 p.m. The Board will also hold a special meeting from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, December 16, 2013, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. In addition, on Monday, December 16, 2013, the Board's Proficiency Gap Committee is meeting at the Department from 3-5 p.m. and the Board will hold a virtual school public hearing for the single application we received for the proposed TEC Connections Academy Commonwealth Virtual School from 3-4:30 p.m. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call JC Considine at (781) 338-3112.


At the special meeting on Monday evening, we will discuss two topics: digital learning and a progress report on integrating college and career readiness. No votes will be taken at the special meeting. The business agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday morning leads off with a discussion of the PISA results for Massachusetts. We will have a report on the Department's support to districts to integrate curriculum frameworks and educator evaluation, and a discussion and vote on a technical amendment to the Educator Evaluation Regulations. We will update you on implementation of the new law on background checks for school employees and the Board will discuss and vote on final adoption of those regulations. The Board will take an initial vote to solicit public comment on proposed amendments to the Charter School Regulations and the new Virtual School Regulations. We will discuss the student discipline law that takes effect next July and review the cost study that the Department recently filed with the Legislature. Our business agenda concludes with votes on two charter school matters.

Special Meeting

  1. Digital Learning - Discussion

    We will devote the first hour of the December 16 special meeting to an update on digital learning in Massachusetts public schools. The presentation will include: (a) comparative data on districts' technology infrastructure, and information on our efforts to bring all schools and districts up to standards; (b) a demonstration of some digital tools and resources currently being used in our schools, with participation by teachers and students; and (c) an update on the implementation of the new virtual schools law. The update will serve as background information for the Board's discussion and initial vote on virtual school regulations at the regular meeting on Tuesday. Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and Luis Rodriguez, Director of our Office of Digital Learning, along with representatives from schools that are engaged in this work, will join us for the discussion.

  2. Integrating College and Career Readiness: Progress Report - Discussion

    We have been making steady progress implementing the recommendations in the Task Force Report for the Integration of College and Career Readiness (ICCR). Former Board member Gerald Chertavian chaired the task force. In the second hour of the December 16 special meeting, Associate Commissioner Pati Gregson and Keith Westrich, Director of College and Career Readiness, will present the progress report and anticipated next steps. We will also demonstrate a new data tool that the Department has made available to districts to help them better understand their students' trajectory toward college and career readiness: the DART (District Analysis and Review Tool) Detail for Success after High School.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Banta will report on current issues and activities. She will also ask the Board's Proficiency Gap Committee to report on its December 16 meeting.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Level 5 schools. I reported to the Board last month on the process and anticipated next steps for the four Level 5 schools: the Dever and Holland in Boston, the Morgan in Holyoke, and the Parker in New Bedford. Our work with these schools is proceeding. Since our November meeting, all four schools' Local Stakeholder Groups (LSGs) have convened: Holland, Morgan, and Parker on November 21, and Dever on November 22. All four schools' LSGs will have additional meetings in December. Each LSG is to provide recommendations that I will consider in my development of each school's turnaround plan. I expect to receive those recommendations in early January, and look forward to reviewing each group's input.

    In January and February, after considering the recommendations from each LSG, I will draft a turnaround plan for each school. Based on the particular circumstances in each school and district, I will decide with whom I will work to implement the turnaround plan, in time for that person or organization to have input into developing the turnaround plan. I will continue to update the Board as this work continues.

  2. PARCC update. The interest in the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is growing rapidly across the state. The Department continues to reach out to statewide educational associations and their members to better inform them about how the PARCC assessments are being developed to support the teaching and learning of our new college and career ready standards. As of December 6, our selection of schools that will participate in the spring 2014 PARCC field test includes nearly 1,100 schools and 76,000 students. Students selected for PARCC this spring will take a field in either English language arts or Mathematics, and not both subjects. The Department provided districts the opportunity to avoid double testing of students by allowing them to exempt students in grades 3-8 selected for the PARCC field test from having to also take the MCAS test in that same subject. Interestingly, we have heard back from roughly 60 percent of districts participating in the field test, and nearly three-quarters of those districts will elect to administer both MCAS and the field test to students selected for PARCC. I will continue to keep the Board updated as we round out our sample of schools and students that will participate in the spring 2014 PARCC field test.

  3. High school equivalency credential. At our October 22 meeting, the Board received a brief report on the Department's work, through our Office of Adult and Community Learning Services, to oversee the administration of a high school equivalency assessment through a network of 28 local testing centers, located in adult learning centers, community colleges, and public schools. We are in the process of finalizing the contract with the selected provider and expect to make an announcement shortly.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. PISA Results for Massachusetts - Discussion

    PISA (Program for International Student Assessment) is a triennial international survey designed to assess how well 15-year-old students can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in school to real-life situations. At our December 17 meeting, I will present the results from the 2012 PISA, in which Massachusetts students exceeded the national average and scored among the top performing education systems worldwide in reading, mathematics, and science literacy. Senior Associate Commissioner Robert Bickerton will be at the meeting to discuss the results, review some samples of released PISA test items, and respond to your questions.

  2. Educator Evaluation: Support to Districts to Integrate Curriculum Frameworks and Educator Evaluation; Technical Amendment to Educator Evaluation Regulations, 603 CMR 35.00 - Discussion and Vote to Adopt Final Regulations

    Aligning curriculum and instruction to the 2011 curriculum frameworks and implementing the new educator evaluation framework are two important and worthwhile endeavors - and we know it is challenging for districts, schools, and educators to implement these and other initiatives simultaneously. At the Board meeting, we will discuss steps the Department is taking to support districts in integrating the initiatives into a coherent approach, and by providing flexibility through a technical amendment to the Educator Evaluation Regulations with respect to timelines. I recommend that the Board vote to adopt the technical amendment to the regulations, on which we received no comments during the public comment period. Deputy Commissioner Alan Ingram, Assistant Commissioner Jonathan Landman, and Associate Commissioners Heather Peske and Julia Phelps will join us at the meeting.

  3. Background Checks for School Employees: Progress Report and Adoption of Regulations, 603 CMR 51.00 - Discussion and Vote to Adopt Final Regulations

    In September 2013, the Board adopted emergency regulations to implement the new statute requiring fingerprint-based checks for any school employees with direct and unmonitored access to children. Under the Administrative Procedure Act, emergency regulations are in effect for three months and, as required, during this period we solicited public comment on the regulations. We have made some revisions based on the comments, and I am presenting the regulations to the Board this month for final adoption. The memo and attachments under Tab 3 explain the key points in the regulations as well as the changes we made in response to the public comments. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate General Counsel Lucy Wall will be at the Board meeting to update you on implementation of the law and answer your questions.

  4. Proposed Amendments to Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.00 - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    The Board last amended the Charter School Regulations in May 2010, shortly after the charter school statute was significantly amended by the 2010 Achievement Gap Act. The regulatory amendments I am proposing this month are comprehensive and reflect the experience of the Department since 2010. The revisions align the regulations with current guidance and policy, address inconsistencies, and strengthen aspects of the charter school accountability system. I recommend that the Board vote this month to solicit public comment on the proposed amendments. I expect to bring them back to the Board for a final vote in March 2014. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang will be at the Board meeting to respond to your questions about this item and other charter school matters.

  5. Proposed Regulations on Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools (Adoption of 603 CMR 52.00, Repeal of Regulations on Virtual Innovation Schools, 603 CMR 48.00, and Technical Amendment to Special Education Regulations, 603 CMR 28.00) - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    I am presenting to the Board this month proposed Regulations on Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools for discussion and a vote to solicit public comment. These proposed regulations implement the Act Establishing Commonwealth Virtual Schools that was signed into law in January 2013. The law authorizes the Board to oversee the establishment and operation of publicly funded, high quality virtual schools in the Commonwealth. It is responsive to the position the Board adopted in 2011 that there should be a stronger oversight and consumer protection role for the Commonwealth than the one provided by the innovation school statute. As part of this package, the Board would repeal the regulations on virtual innovation schools and make necessary technical amendments to the special education regulations to conform to the new law on virtual schools. With the Board's approval, we will solicit public comment on the proposed regulations and bring them back to the Board for a final vote in March 2014.

  6. Student Discipline Law Effective July 2014: Cost Study and Overview of Next Steps - Discussion

    Effective July 1, 2014, Massachusetts law will require school districts and charter schools to follow specific procedures for student suspensions and expulsions and provide to students who are suspended or expelled the opportunity to make academic progress through educational services provided by their district or charter school. The law requires the Department to submit a report to the Legislature on the costs of implementation, which we have done. It also directs us to promulgate regulations, which I will present to the Board for initial review in January. At this month's meeting, Associate Commissioner Carrie Conaway, Associate Commissioner John Bynoe, and Deputy General Counsel Dianne Curran will present an overview of the law and the cost study, and discuss next steps. The materials under Tab 6 include the cost study and other background information.

  7. Amendment Proposed for Lowell Community Charter Public School - Discussion and Vote

    Pursuant to the charter school regulations, the Board must approve certain changes in the material terms of a school's charter. I recommend that the Board approve Lowell Community Charter Public School's request to expand its grade span and increase its maximum enrollment. The school's request is described in detail in the memo and attachments under Tab 7.

  8. Report on Conditions for Mystic Valley Regional Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    I am reporting to the Board this month on conditions that were placed on the charter of Mystic Valley Regional Charter School in February 2013. The conditions require the school to address concerns related to governance practices. Based upon the evidence presented, I am recommending that the Board extend the conditions on the charter and add two additional conditions pertaining to enrollment. The memo under Tab 8 provides details.

Other Items for Information

  1. State Education Budget Transmittal Letter from Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

    The Board voted last month to adopt budget priorities for the FY 2015 state education budget. Enclosed is a copy of our budget transmittal letter to Secretary Malone.

  2. Education-Related News Clippings

    Enclosed are several recent articles about education.

  3. Report on Grants Approved by the Commissioner

    Under Tab 11 is a report on grants I have approved under the authority that the Board has delegated to me.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on December 16 and 17.

Last Updated: December 11, 2013
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