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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the January 26, 2015 Special Meeting and the January 27, 2015 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
January 16, 2015

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, January 27, 2015, 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, January 26, 2015, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. In addition, the Board's Charter School Committee will meet from 3-4:30 p.m. on Monday, January 26, 2015, before the monthly special meeting. All Board members are welcome to attend the committee meeting. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


We extend a warm welcome to two new members to the Board this month: Secretary of Education James Peyser and Edward Doherty, who was appointed by former Governor Patrick to the labor seat formerly held by Harneen Chernow. All of us look forward to working with them.

At the special meeting on Monday evening, we will discuss two topics: school finance in Massachusetts, and the process for our ESEA flexibility waiver renewal application. No votes will be taken. The business agenda for our regular meeting on Tuesday morning leads off with a report and discussion on the state graduation and dropout results for 2013-14. That will be followed by several other discussion items: recent research on state education initiatives, a PARCC update, breakfast in the classroom, recommendations for schools on LGBTQ youth, and the monthly update on Level 5 schools. The business agenda concludes with discussion and votes on several charter school matters.

Special Meeting

We have two topics on the agenda for the special meeting of the Board on the evening of January 26. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

  1. Chapter 70 Overview and Foundation Budget Review Commission - Discussion

    The first topic we will discuss, per the Board's request at the December planning retreat, is the Chapter 70 school finance program. Chapter 70 is the Commonwealth's primary vehicle for funding elementary and secondary education, and it is the focus of the legislatively established Foundation Budget Review Commission, on which I participate. Joining us for the discussion will be four of the Department's school finance experts: Jeff Wulfson, Roger Hatch, Melissa King, and Tom Moreau.

  2. Process for ESEA Flexibility Waiver Renewal Application - Discussion

    The U.S. Department of Education is offering states the opportunity to apply for a three-year renewal of our Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) flexibility waiver. At the special meeting, I will describe the federal requirements for flexibility waivers, review the basic components of our school and district accountability system as approved under our flexibility waiver, and explain the rationale, process, and timeline for submitting a renewal request.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Margaret McKenna will brief the Board on current issues and activities. Chair McKenna also will invite Vanessa Calderon-Rosado, chair of the Board's Charter School Committee, to report on the committee's January 26 meeting.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Education Week/Quality Counts report on Massachusetts. Education Week has given Massachusetts the highest overall state grade in the publication's annual Quality Counts report. The grade takes into consideration a wide range of indicators, including family income, student achievement and education spending. In addition to being top overall, Massachusetts also ranked first in the report's "chance for success" index , which looks at everything from scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) to the percent of residents with steady employment.

  2. State Auditor's report on charter schools. Last month, I updated Board members on the release of State Auditor Suzanne M. Bump's performance audit of the Department's oversight of the charter school system (July 2009- June 2013.) The audit contained findings in four areas: charter school waitlist data, dissemination and replication of charter school best practices to other Massachusetts public schools, data accuracy and security, and criteria for charter school renewal decisions. I am working with Department staff to identify opportunities to strengthen our charter school oversight.

  3. Update on e-rate and funding for school technology. 14 school districts and 47 schools will receive a total of $5 million through the Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant. Financed by the technology bond bill passed last summer and administered by the Executive Office of Education, the Department's Office of Digital Learning , and the Office of Municipal & School Technology at Mass IT, the grant program provides $38 million in matching funds for K-12 technology infrastructure. Governor Patrick authorized release of the first $5 million of the grant funds to pilot the program in the 2014-15 school year. Based upon each community's ability to pay, the state will fund between 30 and 70 percent of each district's project costs. While the state money must be used for infrastructure, the local matching funds may be used for devices. The Department also is working closely with the Office of Municipal and School Technology to support districts with accessing federal E-rate discounts, in order to maximize the state's ability to leverage these federal funds for infrastructure upgrades.

  4. Rennie Center event and report, January 22, 2015. On January 22nd The Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy will hold the second annual review of the Condition of Education in the Commonwealth, featuring the release of its 2015 Data Report and new Action Guide. The release event includes a panel discussion with the three education department board chairs: Margaret McKenna, Jay Gonzalez, and Charles Desmond. The event will also feature remarks from Dr. Pendred Noyce, chair of the Board of Directors of the Rennie Center, and Massachusetts Secretary of Education James Peyser.

    The event is being held at the Omni Parker House Hotel, Boston. Breakfast and networking will begin at 8:00 a.m. The program will start promptly at 8:30 a.m.

  5. Holyoke district review. In light of ongoing concerns about the continued low academic performance in Holyoke Public Schools, I have requested a comprehensive review of the district to be conducted by the Department's Center for District and School Accountability. Despite substantial investment from the Department for over a decade, the district has not demonstrated progress in student achievement and growth, and in fact, overall student progress declined in 2014. The district review team will be onsite in Holyoke from January 20-24, and will return for a final day on January 28. I anticipate having an update on the district review at our next Board meeting in February.

Comments from the Secretary

We welcome Secretary Peyser to his first meeting as an ex officio member of the Board. Secretary Peyser will brief the Board on Governor Baker's education priorities and other current issues.

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. State Graduation and Dropout Results for 2013-14 - Discussion

    We are releasing state graduation and dropout results for 2013-14 this month. At our meeting on January 27, the Board will have the opportunity to review and discuss the data report and trends.

  2. Summary of Recent Research on Several Key State Education Initiatives - Discussion

    Over the past two years, the Department and other organizations have commissioned research projects to examine the implementation of several key state education initiatives, including the new curriculum frameworks, educator evaluation, and PARCC. Associate Commissioner Carrie Conaway will present an overview of the findings from the research at the Board meeting this month.

  3. Update on PARCC - Discussion

    Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and I will update the Board on PARCC and will review with you the timeline and process for the Board to make a decision on PARCC in the fall of 2015.

  4. Breakfast in the Classroom - Continuing Discussion

    The Board will continue a discussion of the "breakfast in the classroom" program. At your request, we provided additional information on eligibility and funding, school breakfast models, and student learning time. The Department conducted a survey with our Level 4 and Level 5 schools to gauge participation and the use of various models. A summary of the survey is provided with your materials under Tab 4.

  5. Recommendations from Commission on LGBTQ Youth - Continuing Discussion

    Last month the Board heard a presentation from the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, a joint initiative between our Department and the Massachusetts Commission on LGBTQ Youth. The Commission asked the Board to review and endorse a set of recommendations for schools. At your request, the Department has reviewed the proposed recommendations and, in consultation with the Commission, revised them so they are aligned with applicable policies and regulations. I am bringing the recommendations to the Board this month for discussion, in anticipation of a vote at the February meeting. Associate Commissioner John Bynoe and Deputy General Counsel Dianne Curran will be at the meeting to answer any questions.

  6. Update on Level 5 Schools and Level 5 District - Discussion

    This monthly report on Level 5 updates the Board about our work with the four Level 5 schools - Dever Elementary School and UP Academy Holland in Boston; Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke; and John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford - and also on plans to reorganize high schools in Lawrence, a Level 5 district. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will join us for the presentation and discussion.

Charter Schools:

Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and members of the Charter School Office staff will be at our meeting to present items 7-10 and respond to your questions.

  1. Information on New Charter Applicants - Initial Discussion

    By statute, the Board votes on the approval of new charter schools at its February meeting. In November 2014, the Department received final applications to establish four charter schools. This month we have included in your materials an overview of the process for reviewing and granting new charters and a summary of the charter applications that are pending.

  2. Proposed Amendments for UP Academy Boston Charter School, Salem Academy Charter School, Hampden Charter School of Science, and KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School - Discussion and Vote

    Under the Charter School Regulations, the Board must approve certain changes in the material terms of a school's charter. This year, the Department received requests from eight existing schools to change their maximum enrollment, districts served, and grades served. I recommend approval of requests from four schools - one Horace Mann charter school and three Commonwealth charter schools. The memo and attachments under Tab 8 include details on the charter amendment review process and the amendment requests from the four schools I am recommending: UP Academy Charter School of Boston, Salem Academy Charter School, Hampden Charter School of Science, and KIPP Academy Lynn Charter School.

  3. Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence: Report on Conditions and Commissioner's Recommendation for Probation - Discussion and Vote

    I recommend that the Board vote this month to place Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence on probation. This K-5 Commonwealth charter school is located in Springfield. The school has not met the academic conditions that the Board imposed upon its charter, and rather than demonstrating significant and sustained academic improvement, scores have declined over the past two years. My recommendation is based upon my continuing concern about the academic performance of this school.

  4. Boston Renaissance Charter Public School: Report on Probation and Commissioner's Recommendation for Renewal - Discussion and Vote

    I recommend that the Board vote this month to remove Boston Renaissance Charter Public School (BRCPS) from probation and renew the school's charter with one condition designed to ensure that BRCPS continues to achieve academic success. Details are included in the memo under Tab 10.

Other Items for Information

  1. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Annual Report for FY2014

    The annual report for FY2014 includes key data and chronicles the major decisions and actions of the Board from July 2013-June 2013. We plan to distribute copies to the Governor and the Legislature and post the report on our website.

  2. Legislative Report: Final Report on Education-Related Laws Enacted in 2013-2014 Legislative Session

    In the fall the Board received a close-to-final report on education-related laws enacted in the 2013-2014 legislative session. We have now filled out the report with a few additional laws that were enacted late in the session. The complete report is under Tab 12, for your information.

  3. Safe and Supportive Schools Initiatives under New Legislation

    Chapter 284 Acts of 2014, An Act Relative to the Reduction of Gun Violence, addresses public safety through new gun laws and the establishment of new school safety criteria. The memo under Tab 13 summarizes the school safety provisions, which include the appointment of school resource officers ("SRO"), strengthened school medical emergency response plans, the development of a "safe and supportive schools" framework, and the creation of an 18-member Safe and Supportive Schools Commission. The new law directs the Board to adopt regulations, which I expect to present to you in the spring.

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

    Under Tab 14 is a report on grants and charter school matters I have approved in the last month 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 January 26 and 27.

Last Updated: January 23, 2015
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