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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the September 21, 2015 Special Meeting and the September 22, 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
September 11, 2015

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, September 22, 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 will also hold a special meeting from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, September 21, 2015, 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 in-depth discussion of issues relating to student assessment, including a report on 2014-15 MCAS statewide results and the timeline for decisions on PARCC. The business agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday starts with a brief recap of the Monday evening discussion, followed by an update on the Holyoke Public Schools from Receiver Stephen Zrike and a report on school district assessment practices. The Board will discuss the draft revised Science and Technology/Engineering Standards, which have been edited based on input provided by the Board since the discussion at your May meeting. The Board will take a final vote on regulations creating an autism endorsement for educator licensure and on an amendment to the charter school regulations to enable better planning for school districts and charter applicants. I will present the Department's response to the June 2015 recommendations from the Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement. The Board will receive an update on the four Level 5 schools and on two school finance matters (the Foundation Budget Review Commission and the new metric for defining low-income status for K-12 education data), and will review the process and timelines for the FY2017 budget.

Special Meeting

Student Assessment - Discussion

The Board will vote in November 2015 on whether to adopt PARCC, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, as the statewide student assessment program for Massachusetts. In preparation for that vote, we will devote the Monday evening special meeting in September, and additional time at the October meeting, to in-depth discussions on various aspects of student assessment. On September 21, we will present an overview of both the MCAS and PARCC assessment programs, the initial results from the spring 2015 test administrations, and an update on districts' technological readiness for online testing. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and I will lead the discussion. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will appoint members to three committees: the Budget Committee, Charter School Committee, and Commissioner's Performance Evaluation Committee. He will ask Mary Ann Stewart and Donald Willyard to report on their participation in the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) conference for new state board members. Mary Ann Stewart is a candidate for the Northeast Representative seat on the NASBE board, and we wish her much success.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. ESEA reauthorization. In July, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate each passed bills to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). ESEA, which was initially enacted in 1965, was last reauthorized in 2001 as No Child Left Behind. Both the Senate (Every Child Achieves Act) and House (Student Success Act) bills shift authority from federal prescription to state discretion - most notably eliminating the Adequate Yearly Progress metric and instead granting states the ability to craft their own accountability metrics.

    There are substantial differences between the House and Senate bills, including the following:

    • While both bills maintain the requirement for annual testing in reading and math in grades 3-8 and in high school, as well as for science testing in certain grade spans, the House bill provides for parents to opt out of testing while the Senate bill does not.
    • The House bill requires the development of a school choice or tutoring program with Title I funds, while the Senate bill provides states full authority to determine appropriate interventions and supports for low performing schools.
    • The House bill includes a Title I "portability" provision, which allows states the option to allocate Title I funds to a district based on the number of low income students enrolled in that district's schools, rather than based on federal Census estimates of poverty within a city or town. The Senate bill includes no such provision. Under the House portability provision, eligible students who transfer out of a low performing school "take" their Title I allocation with them to their new school.
    • The House bill merges federal programs aimed at specific populations (i.e., migrant children, English language learners, neglected and delinquent children) with the Title I funding stream - the Senate bill maintains separate programs for these special populations.
    • The Senate bill creates a preschool program for the first time in the history of ESEA, while the House bill does not.

    Congressional leadership is optimistic that they can resolve differences in the two bills and have legislation on the President's desk sometime this fall. In late July, Representative John Kline (R-Minnesota) was named chair of the conference committee that will work on a consensus bill. Whether President Obama will sign or veto a bill remains to be seen. Among the concerns that the administration, as well as civil rights groups, have identified is that both bills remove the obligation of states to implement an aggressive agenda to turn around their lowest performing schools. I will keep you posted on any significant development in the reauthorization.

  2. State ballot initiatives. The Attorney General has certified two initiative petitions and one proposed constitutional amendment relating to education (these titles are provided by the sponsors of the measures):

    • Initiative Petition for a Law Relative to Ending Common Core Education Standards
    • An Act to Allow Fair Access to Public Charter Schools
    • An Initiative Petition for an Amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth to Provide Resources for Education and Transportation through an Additional Tax on Incomes in Excess of One Million Dollars

    In order for the initiative petitions to appear on the ballot, the following must occur:

    • Additional voter signatures are gathered. This year the requirement is 64,750. The signatures are filed with local election officials by late November and then with the Secretary of State by December 2, 2015.
    • If enough signatures are gathered, the measure is sent to the Legislature in January 2016.
    • The Legislature either: (1) approves or disapproves the measure; (2) proposes a substitute; or (3) takes no action.
    • Unless the Legislature has enacted the measure by May 4, 2016, the proponents gather more signatures. This year 10,792 will be required by early July 2016.
    • If enough signatures are gathered, the measure and any legislative substitute will be on the ballot in November 2016.

    The process is similar for constitutional amendments, except that they must go through two successive sessions of the Legislature and must get the approval of 25% of the legislators in each session. As a result, the proposed amendment to the Constitution of the Commonwealth to provide resources for education and transportation through an additional tax could not appear on the ballot until November 2018.

  3. Charter school matters. The 2015-2016 charter application and expansion cycle has begun. This summer, the Department received prospectuses from 10 applicant groups seeking to open and operate new charter schools. In mid-September, the Department will invite the new school applicant groups whose prospectuses show the most promise to submit full applications. The Department also received three letters of intent from groups planning to apply this fall to add a school to an existing charter school network or to create a network by adding a school. This month, the Department will notify those three as to whether they are eligible to participate in the one-stage process and submit a final application. In addition, 19 charter schools applied to expand their enrollment, including eight asking for 100 or more new seats. Full details about these submissions.

    In October, I will brief the Board on the anticipated schedule of charter school authorizing discussion and decisions for this year, including actions on the above applications and expansion requests, along with actions related to charter schools on conditions or probation and those applying for renewal. The Board will take a series of votes in the upcoming months, culminating in new charter and expansion decisions for districts near their caps, including Boston, at your February 2016 meeting. Throughout this period, the Department will be communicating with district superintendents and the public to solicit comment. The Board will also hold public hearings on new charter applications and will convene its charter school committee. Finally, please note that your Board package this month contains several informational items regarding approvals that I have granted pursuant to delegated authority or that do not require Board action.

  4. Special education: federal letter of determination. I am pleased to report that this summer we received a letter of determination from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Special Education Programs announcing that for the third year in a row, Massachusetts meets the requirements of special education under the federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. This is the highest determination level that USED/OSEP issues, and it reflects a review of both compliance and performance elements of our work. Kudos to State Director of Special Education Marty Mittnacht, Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston, Program Quality Assurance Director Darlene Lynch, and many other dedicated staff members here in the Department and in schools and districts throughout the Commonwealth for their good work.

  5. Massachusetts State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators. The U.S. Department of Education has approved the final version of our State Plan to Ensure Equitable Access to Excellent Educators, originally submitted on June 1. The Massachusetts plan is one of the first to be approved, and I participated in a press call about it on September 10 with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Tim Tichacek, a transition coordinator and special education teacher at Dighton-Rehoboth Regional High School. The plan aims to reduce gaps in student access to effective educators, particularly for low-income and minority students. I updated the Board in February and June on the federal requirement to develop an equity plan, as part of USED's Excellent Educators for All initiative. In developing the Equity Plan, Department staff engaged a variety of stakeholder groups, examined student and educator data, determined root causes of equity gaps, and identified resources and strategies to promote equitable access to prepared, experienced, effective teachers and principals.

    A key activity in our Equity Plan is to launch the Educational Equity Professional Learning Network (PLN). This PLN reflects our commitment to address persistent disparities in certain subgroups' access to effective educators and will provide opportunities for districts to partner with other districts and with the Department to develop and/or refine strategies to promote equitable access. We will monitor the outcomes of the plan's strategies and report on progress in meeting the goals.

  6. Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP). In our continuing efforts to strengthen teacher preparation and effectiveness, the Department, with the assistance of external stakeholders and a vendor, has developed the Candidate Assessment of Performance (CAP), as a requirement for program completion for teacher candidates. The purpose of the CAP is to assess the overall readiness of candidates to teach. The CAP assesses candidates' practice on key indicators as outlined in the Guidelines for Professional Standards for Teachers Download PDF Document  Download Word Document through a variety of measures and is aligned to the Massachusetts Educator Evaluation Framework. The CAP will be piloted this academic year by sponsoring organizations and will be fully implemented and required for program completion in 2016-17, replacing the existing Pre-service Performance Assessment (PPA). Sponsoring organizations with approved educator preparation programs will be required to participate in the CAP pilot with a minimum of ten teacher candidates; those who do not participate in the pilot will be required to complete the PPA. The Department released the CAP Guidelines Download Word Document on June 30 to all sponsoring organizations to support preparation for the CAP pilot this fall. To further support the pilot, the Department is developing training resources to be released later this fall.

  7. Organizational review. In my June 2015 performance evaluation, the Board noted: "This year brings a funding and staffing challenge with the end of Race to the Top funding and a wave of early retirements. The committee encourages the Commissioner to look at this challenge as an opportunity to think about strategic reorganization for cost-effectiveness and efficiency." I am pleased to report that we have embarked on this organizational review of the Department at no cost to the Commonwealth. The Boston Foundation has offered a grant to fund the consultative services of Parthenon-EY to support this effort. At my direction, in consultation with Secretary Peyser, the Department reviewed this offer with state procurement officials, who determined that it is in the form of a grant being offered to the Department to support educational advancement and not a public procurement. I want the Board to be aware of this generous offer and that we are proceeding with the organizational review. I will report to the Board later this fall on the outcome.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Regular Meeting

  1. Student Assessment: Recap of September 21 Special Meeting - Continuing Discussion

    We will recap the Monday evening special meeting and discuss next steps.

  2. Update on Holyoke Public Schools - Discussion

    Receiver Stephen Zrike will present his initial report on the Holyoke Public Schools. He will be joined by members of the Department's Holyoke team, led by Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston.

  3. Report on School District Assessment Practices - Discussion

    During school year 2014-15, the Department commissioned several studies to better understand assessment practices in Massachusetts public school districts, focusing on the purposes of the assessments, how much time is spent on district and state assessments, and how districts prepare for and schedule assessments. At our meeting, Carrie Conaway, Associate Commissioner for Planning, Research, and Delivery Systems, will share the findings from these studies and answer your questions.

  4. Proposed Revised Science and Technology/Engineering Standards - Continuing Discussion

    At the Board meeting on September 22, we will discuss edits made to the draft revised Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Standards based on input provided at the last Board discussion on the standards in May 2015. The draft revised standards are included in your materials. I anticipate asking the Board to vote to solicit public comment at the October Board meeting and adopt the final version of the STE Curriculum Framework in January 2016.

  5. Regulations on Autism Endorsement for Educator Licensure, 603 CMR 7.00 - Discussion and Vote

    A state law enacted in 2014 directs the Board to adopt regulations to establish a teacher license endorsement in autism in order to meet the unique and complex educational needs of students on the Autism Spectrum. In April 2015, the Board voted to solicit public comment on the proposed regulations. At the June 2015 Board meeting, the Board decided to defer until September final action to adopt the regulations, so that Department staff could address a few concerns that had been raised. Over the summer, the Department revised the regulations to address these issues; details are included in the memo under Tab 5. I recommend that the Board vote this month to adopt the revised regulations as presented. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will join us for the discussion.

  6. Amendment to Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.04(9) (Enable Better Planning for School Districts and Charter Applicants) - Discussion and Vote

    In May 2015, the Board voted to solicit public comments on a proposed amendment to section 1.04(9) of the Charter School Regulations. The proposed amendment is a narrowly tailored revision to the regulation that specifies the method for calculating the list of school districts that perform in the lowest 10% on statewide assessments, for purposes of the charter school statute. Under the current regulation, the list is calculated and published fairly late in the charter application cycle. The late availability of performance data creates considerable uncertainty for charter applicants and school districts. The proposed amendment would calculate the lowest 10% based upon data available at the start of the charter application cycle, to provide school districts and charter applicants the information they need to plan appropriately. During the public comment period, we received one comment in support of the proposed change, and no comments in opposition. I recommend that the Board vote this month to adopt the proposed amendment to the regulations. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang will be at the meeting to answer your questions.

  7. Response to Recommendations from Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement - Discussion

    At your meeting on June 23, Board Vice-Chair David Roach and members of the Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement presented their report, "Preparing Citizens: Report on Civic Learning and Engagement." The report includes six recommendations. The Board voted to accept the working group's report and endorse the recommendations, and directed the Commissioner to come back to the Board in September 2015 with a plan for implementing the recommendations. The memo under Tab 7 includes the recommendations and conclusion from the working group and my response.

  8. Update on Level 5 Schools - Discussion

    Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will update the Board on 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. We will present future reports on the Level 5 schools quarterly, in October 2015 and January 2016, April 2016, and June 2016.

  9. School Finance: Update on Foundation Budget Review Commission and on Redefining Low Income Metric for K-12 Education Data - Continuing Discussion

    At our meeting on September 22, I will update the Board on current discussions relating to the foundation budget. Last year the Legislature created a Foundation Budget Review Commission to review the assumptions and factors used to set annual minimum spending levels and state aid allotments for every school district in the Commonwealth. The commission is chaired by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education and includes representatives from a wide variety of constituent groups. Secretary Peyser and I are ex officio members. The commission issued a preliminary report on June 30, and will issue its final report later this year. One topic still under review is how to identify "low income" status for students. We discussed this with the Board initially at your June 23 meeting, and will present an update on September 22. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, School Finance Administrator Roger Hatch, Manager of Education Data Services Robert Curtin, and State Aid Coordinator Melissa King will join us at the September 22 meeting to answer your questions.

  10. Process and Timelines for FY2017 Budget - Discussion

    Now that we have the FY2016 state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, it is time to begin planning for the FY2017 budget. At this month's meeting Associate Commissioner Bill Bell will review the anticipated calendar of the state budget cycle and our state accounts. In October, with assistance from the Board's Budget Committee, we will discuss possible budget priorities and program initiatives that the Board may wish to propose.

Other Items for Information

  1. Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts and Mathematics: Background Information

    The enclosed paper, History of Content and Learning Standards in Massachusetts, presents background information on the adoption and revision of curriculum frameworks in Massachusetts over the past 20 years. It should be a useful resource for the Board and the public.

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

    Under Tab 12 you will find reports on grants that I approved since the last Board meeting, 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 September 21 and 22.

  3. Early Literacy Expert Panel Report

    The Early Literacy Expert Panel, chaired by Secretary Peyser and Dr. Nonie Lesaux (who now chairs the Board of Early Education and Care) issued its Year Two Annual Report in July 2015. Boosting third grade reading performance is one of our goals, and we are collaborating with the expert panel to promote effective strategies for improving early literacy.

Last Updated: September 17, 2015
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