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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the February 23, 2015 Special Meeting and the February 24, 2015 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 13, 2015

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The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, February 24, 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 2 p.m. The Board also will hold a special meeting from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, February 23, 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, February 23, 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.

Overview

The Board's February 23-24 meeting agendas include several items from the meetings that were scheduled for January 26-27, which were snowed out, as was the February 3 make-up date. To eliminate the need to send duplicate materials, you will find guides within your packet to place January materials with the corresponding February agenda items.

We will welcome two new members to the Board: 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, the Board will discuss and vote on several charter school matters that were originally scheduled for a vote at the January 27 meeting. We will also have a discussion on the recommendations for new charter applicants, to be voted on Tuesday. 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, followed by discussion of the Holyoke Public Schools district review and possible next steps. We will discuss our plan for promoting breakfast in the classroom. The Board will discuss and vote on proposed new charter schools, and on amendments to the Vocational-Technical Education Regulations. Four additional discussion items are on the Tuesday agenda: the ESEA flexibility waiver renewal application, an update on PARCC, an update on Level 5 schools, and review of proposed action on recommendations to schools on LGBTQ youth.

Special Meeting

After introductions and opening remarks, we will begin the February 23 special meeting with Statements from the Public on the charter items that are scheduled for a vote that evening. Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and members of the Charter School Office staff will be at our meeting to present the items and respond to your questions.

  1. 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 1 in the special meeting section 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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 my memo.

  4. Recommendations on New Charter Applicants - 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. Last month, Board members received a memo summarizing the process for reviewing and granting new charters, along with a summary of the pending charter applications. At the meeting on Tuesday, February 24, the Board will discuss and vote on the charters I am recommending. We can begin the discussion of the proposed new charters at our Monday evening meeting.

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 that committee's February 23 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. In December, 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 and 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 22, the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy held the second annual review of the Condition of Education in the Commonwealth, featuring the release of its 2015 Data Report and new Action Guide.

  5. U.S. Department of Education Equity Plan. Secretary Duncan announced the Excellent Educators for All initiative in July 2014, designed to "move America toward the day when every student in every public school is taught by excellent educators." The U.S. Department of Education is asking states to develop a State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators (Equity Plan) as one of the key elements of this initiative. Our Department is currently in the initial phase of gathering ideas and stakeholder feedback for this plan. The Equity Plan, due June 1, 2015, will assess the access Massachusetts students have to educators across multiple measures and include steps we will take over the next several years to eliminate our state's equity gaps.

  6. Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education MCAS v. PARCC Report. The Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education has released a report comparing MCAS and PARCC as indicators of college- and career-readiness, "Educating Students for Success: A Comparison of the MCAS and PARCC Assessments as Indicators of College- and Career-Readiness." The business community is focused on ensuring students can meet the demands of life after high school, and on greatly reducing remediation rates at public colleges and universities.

    Among other findings, the report concludes that the proficiency bar on the MCAS high school test is too low based on high remediation rates and when compared to other indicators of college- and career-readiness; raising the proficiency bar would not compensate for the content of the MCAS high school tests not being targeted to college- and career-readiness; PARCC's proficiency standard will likely be considered higher; PARCC's content is considered to be of higher order; and PARCC will provide a gauge of student performance over time.

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 recently released state graduation and dropout results for 2013-14. At our meeting on February 24, the Board will have the opportunity to review and discuss the data report and trends.

  2. Holyoke Public Schools District Review Report and Possible Next Steps - Discussion

    In light of ongoing concerns about the continued low academic performance in Holyoke Public Schools, I 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 was onsite in Holyoke for several days in January and is completing its report. We will discuss the district review report and possible next steps at our meeting.

  3. Breakfast in the Classroom - Continuing Discussion

    The Board will continue its discussion of the "breakfast in the classroom" program. At your request, we have conducted a survey with our Level 4 and Level 5 schools to gauge participation and the use of various models, and have provided additional information on eligibility and funding, school breakfast models, and student learning time. I will present our plan for promoting wider use of the breakfast in the classroom program.

  4. Charter Schools: Recommendation for New Charter Schools - Discussion and Vote

    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. Last month, Board members received a memo summarizing the process for reviewing and granting new charters along with a summary of the pending charter applications. At the meeting on February 24, the Board will discuss and vote on the charters I am recommending. Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and members of the Charter School Office staff will be present to respond to your questions.

  5. Amendments to Vocational-Technical Education Regulations, 603 CMR 4.00 - Discussion and Final Vote

    I am tentatively planning to present to the Board this month amendments to 603 CMR 4.00: Vocational-Technical Education Regulations, for discussion and final vote pending approval from the Executive Office of Administration and Finance. In November 2014, the Board had an initial discussion and voted to solicit public comment on the proposed revisions to the regulations. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate Commissioner Patricia Gregson will be at the February 24 meeting to answer questions.

  6. 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.

  7. ESEA Flexibility Waiver Renewal Application: Overview and Process - 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 meeting on February 24, 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.

  8. Update on Level 5 Schools - 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.

  9. Proposed Action on Recommendations from Commission on LGBTQ Youth - Continuing Discussion

    In December, 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 in March. Associate Commissioner John Bynoe and Deputy General Counsel Dianne Curran will be at the meeting to answer questions.

Other Items for Information

  1. Legislative Process for Education-Related Bills

    The Board receives updates on pertinent legislation throughout the year. The 189th Session of the General Court (the Massachusetts Legislature) began on January 7, 2015. The enclosed memorandum provides Board members with an overview of the legislative and budget process and timeline.

  2. Report on Charter School Matters Approved by Commissioner

    Under Tab 11 is a report on charter school matters I have approved in the last month under the authority that the Board has delegated to me.

    I also want to draw the Board's attention to these informational items that were included with your materials for the January 27 meeting that had to be cancelled:

    • 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.

    • 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. The January 2015 report includes a few additional laws that were enacted late in the session.

    • 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. We provided a memo summarizing 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.

    • Report on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by the Commissioner

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on February 23 and 24.



Last Updated: February 17, 2015
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