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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the September 22, 2014 Special Meeting and the September 23, 2014 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
September 12, 2014


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, September 23, 2014, 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 a.m.) and should adjourn by 1 p.m. The Board also will hold a special meeting from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, September 22, 2014, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The special meeting on Monday evening is an opportunity for the Board to review and discuss the statewide results from the 2014 administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams and school and district accountability status. No votes will be taken. Following that, we will discuss topics that the Board might be interested in scheduling for future special meetings this year.

The regular meeting on Tuesday morning begins with introductions of our newly appointed Board members, Chair Margaret McKenna, Katherine Craven, and Mary Ann Stewart, as well as Donald Willyard, the elected student member. We will recap the Monday evening discussion and then get an update on PARCC and a progress report on the current Level 5 schools. The Board will hear about and discuss an overview of career/vocational-technical education in the Commonwealth. I will present, for your initial review and a vote to solicit public comment, proposed amendments to the regulations on restraint and seclusion. The Board also will get a briefing on plans for the Foundation Budget Review Commission and will have an initial discussion on the process and timelines for the FY2016 state education budget.

Special Meeting

  1. 2013-14 Achievement and Accountability Overview - Discussion

    At the special meeting on September 22, I will present (1) the statewide results from the 2014 administration of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams, and (2) the updated accountability status of Level 4 (underperforming) schools. This year's release marks the 17th annual administration of MCAS. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

  2. Possible Topics for Special Meetings of the Board in 2014-15 - Discussion

    Chair McKenna suggested that we use the second part of our Monday evening meeting to brainstorm possible topics for the Board's special meetings from October 2014-June 2015. The Monday evening special meetings allow flexibility for the Board to have in-depth discussion on educational issues. In advance of the planning retreat that the Board will hold later this fall, it is worthwhile to spend some time on September 22 identifying topics that are of particular interest to the Board.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Margaret McKenna, Board Chair, will welcome the Board to her first regular meeting as chair. She will brief the Board on current issues and activities. We are going to defer until October the election of a vice-chair. Chair McKenna will appoint a budget committee at this month's meeting.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Lawrence Public Schools. By the time we meet, I will have accompanied two special guests on visits to Lawrence: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I will update the Board at our meeting on September 23. Later this fall, Lawrence Superintendent/Receiver Jeff Riley will present to the Board the progress report on the second full year of the Lawrence district receivership.

  2. Upcoming conference. Throughout the year, the Department hosts meetings and conferences that Board members are invited to attend. We will pass along information as it becomes available. One event that may be of interest is the Department's annual curriculum and instruction summit. The 7th Annual Curriculum and Instruction Summit will take place on October 27 and 28 in Marlborough. More information will be posted soon.

  3. ESEA waiver update. We continue to work with the U.S. Department of Education on various matters relating to waivers under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. I will provide you with up-to-date information on September 23.

  4. State Auditor's report. The Office of the State Auditor has been conducting an audit of the Department's administration of the charter school wait list and other provisions of the law. We expect the Auditor to issue the report shortly. I will keep you posted. Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Introductions: Chair McKenna and New Members

    We extend a warm welcome to newly appointed Board Chair Margaret McKenna of Boston and members Katherine Craven of Brookline and Mary Ann Stewart of Lexington, all of whom were appointed to the Board in August by Governor Patrick. They join a fourth new member, Donald Willyard, a junior at the Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett, who was elected in June by other high school students to chair the State Student Advisory Council and serve through June 2015 as a member of this Board. After Secretary Malone introduces the newly appointed members, they will offer their own comments.

  2. 2013-14 Achievement and Accountability Overview - Continuing Discussion

    We will recap and continue our discussion from the Monday evening special meeting.

  3. Update on PARCC - Discussion

    I will update the Board on how we are proceeding with the two-year "test drive" of new assessments under PARCC (the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). The Board approved the two-year review in November 2013. This past spring, the PARCC assessments were field tested in randomly selected schools and classrooms. In the spring of 2015, we will administer both the PARCC and MCAS tests, with districts having the choice of which test to administer so that we will have good comparative data. Joining us for the discussion at the Board meeting will be Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Bob Bickerton, recently retired senior associate commissioner who continues to assist us in the transition as a part-time consultant.

  4. Progress Report on Current Level 5 Schools - Discussion

    I will present the September 2014 quarterly progress report on our school turnaround work with the four Level 5 schools: Dever Elementary School and Holland Elementary School in Boston; Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke; and the John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford. The memo under Tab 4 includes the Quarter 1 report for each school, focusing on school launch efforts from July-September 2014.

  5. Presentation on Career and Vocational-Technical Education - Discussion

    At the September 23 Board meeting, staff from the Department's Office for Career/Vocational Technical Education and two members of the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA) will present highlights of our career/vocational technical education activities in Massachusetts, including a brief overview of the current state of career/vocational technical education and promising practices in various school districts. Later this fall I expect to bring recommendations for refining career/vocational technical education regulations to the Board.

  6. Proposed Amendments to Regulations on Restraint and Seclusion, 603 CMR 18 and 603 CMR 46 - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    We have been working with the Executive Office of Education, the Department of Early Education and Care, and other interested parties to update our 2001 regulations on restraint and seclusion to reflect current policy recommendations on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. This month I am presenting proposed amendments to the regulations to the Board for your initial review and a vote to solicit public comment. As required by the Massachusetts Administrative Procedure Act, with the Board's approval we will invite public comment on the proposed amendments, review the comments, and make any necessary changes. We expect to bring the regulations back to the Board in November for a final vote. Marcia Mittnacht, State Director of Special Education; Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston; and Deputy General Counsel Dianne Curran will be at the Board meeting to answer your questions.

  7. Report on Plans for Foundation Budget Review Commission - Discussion

    I will brief the Board on the upcoming work of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, established by the Legislature through a provision in the FY2015 state budget. The Commission is charged with reviewing the assumptions and factors used to set annual minimum spending levels and state aid allotments for every school district in the Commonwealth. Because of the importance of the state aid formula to school districts, I have included under Tab 7 some explanatory material and links to more detailed information on the Department's website.

  8. Process and Timelines for FY2016 Budget - Discussion

    Now that we have the FY2015 state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, it is time to begin planning for the FY2016 budget. At this month's meeting we will review the anticipated calendar of the state budget cycle and our state accounts. In October, we will discuss possible budget priorities and program initiatives that the Board may wish to propose.

Other Items for Information

  1. Legislative Report: Education-Related Laws Enacted in 2014

    Under Tab 9 is a summary of the education-related state laws enacted in 2014.

  2. Massachusetts Task Force Report on School Safety and Security

    In January 2014, Governor Patrick signed an executive order establishing a cross-secretariat Task Force on School Safety and Security, co-chaired by the Secretaries of the Executive Offices of Education, Health and Human Services, and Public Safety. The Task Force held meetings throughout the Commonwealth and heard from teachers, superintendents, parents, students, law enforcement, and a variety of experts. The Task Force presented its report to the Governor in July 2014. A copy is enclosed for your information, behind Tab 10.

  3. Newsletter from Valley Collaborative

    Under Tab 11 is the latest newsletter from the Valley Collaborative, one of about 30 educational collaboratives that provide special education and other services to school districts in their area. Some of you will remember the Valley Collaborative by its old name, the Merrimack Special Education Collaborative (MSEC). Several years ago, MSEC was embroiled in controversy and scandal as a result of its entanglement with a separate non-profit organization, the Merrimack Education Center (MEC). This prompted the Legislature to enact tighter controls over educational collaboratives, with an expanded oversight role for the Board and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Board adopted regulations in January 2013. Under the leadership of executive director Chris Scott, and with strong support from our staff, the Valley Collaborative has completed the painstaking process of disentangling its operation from MEC and transforming the collaborative into a strong, high performing resource for the member districts. A job well done!

  4. Report on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by the Commissioner

    Under Tab 12 you will find reports on grants and charter school matters that I approved since the last Board meeting, under the authority that the Board has delegated to me.

  5. U.S. Chamber of Commerce Report

    The U.S. Chamber of Commerce issued its periodic "Leaders and Laggards" report that grades states on their K-12 education system. Massachusetts received "A"s in several areas, including student achievement and addressing achievement gaps. The one failing grade that we received was for technology in our elementary and secondary schools. This is one area in which many states are outpacing us. I can only imagine the additional lift that our teachers and students would have if all of the Commonwealth's classrooms were up to 21st century digital standards.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on September 22 and 23.

Last Updated: September 25, 2014
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