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Briefing for the October 19, 2015 Special Meeting and the October 20, 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
October 9, 2015


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, October 20, 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 4-7 p.m. on Monday, October 19, 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 further in-depth discussion of issues relating to student assessment, in preparation for the Board's vote in November on whether to adopt PARCC. The business agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday starts with a presentation by Receiver/Superintendent Jeff Riley on the Lawrence Public Schools and a presentation by Receiver/Superintendent Stephen Zrike on the Holyoke Public Schools. We will then continue the discussion of various aspects of student assessment. I will recommend that the Board solicit public comment on the proposed revised Science and Technology/Engineering Standards, which the Board discussed most recently in September. The Board will receive the FY2016 Quarter 1 report on the four Level 5 schools. I will present an updated response to the June 2015 recommendations from the Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement. The final item on our business agenda is an initial discussion of the Board's FY2017 education budget proposal.

Special Meeting

Student Assessment - Continuing 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, as we did in September, we will devote the Monday evening special meeting to in-depth discussions on various aspects of student assessment. On October 19, we will review representative questions from last spring's test, get a briefing on recent research projects conducted under the auspices of the Executive Office of Education, hear from Higher Education Commissioner Carlos Santiago about K-12 assessment in relation to college readiness, hear from Jeff Nellhaus, director of assessment at PARCC, Inc., about research that the PARCC consortium has conducted, and discuss other issues. 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 ask the chairs of the charter school committee (Roland Fryer), and the Commissioner's performance evaluation committee (Penny Noyce) to report on recent committee meetings. Later in the meeting, the budget committee, chaired by Katherine Craven, will report during item 7.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Federal grant for State Longitudinal Data Systems. I am pleased to report that the Department was recently awarded a federal State Longitudinal Data Systems grant of $7 million over four years. This grant allows us to expand our work in two key areas: fiscal equity and return on investment, and college and career readiness.

    Our goal in the fiscal equity priority is to develop district-, school-, and classroom-level reports that allow districts to determine how their people, time, and money are being used and enhance the ability to allocate resources for maximum benefit to students. Our aim is to increase the Department's capacity to produce actionable reports for districts and to support districts in using the information and resources developed under the grant.

    Our goal in the college and career readiness priority is to better use our existing data systems to promote readiness for all students, via three projects. First, we will expand our Early Warning Indicator System to predict students' readiness for postsecondary education. Second, we will link education data to workforce data to examine career outcomes for Massachusetts high school students. Finally, we will develop a comprehensive training program on Edwin Analytics, our state data reporting tool.

    As a result of this grant, Massachusetts school districts will know which of their students are on track for success in postsecondary education, in time to intervene if needed. They will have a first look at the career trajectories of their graduates, with information about their graduates' wages and industries of employment. They will have greater insight into how they are deploying their staffing and fiscal resources, how that compares to similar districts, and where they might make adjustments. And they will have access to a training curriculum and instructional materials to support more effective use of the tools available in Edwin Analytics. In short, they will be able to use SLDS data to improve college and career readiness and educational return on investment.

  2. National Assessment of Educational Progress. Late this month or early in November, the National Center for Education Statistics will release 2015 fourth and eighth grade reading and mathematics results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress. The test is given every two years to a representative sample of students in each state.

  3. Organizational review. As I reported last month, we have embarked on an organizational review of the Department by Parthenon-EY. The review is at no cost to the Commonwealth, since the Boston Foundation is providing a grant to fund the consultative services. The review responds to the recommendation in the Board's June 2015 evaluation of my performance: "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 expect to receive a report from the consultants by early November, and will keep the Board informed as we proceed.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Regular Meeting

  1. Lawrence Public Schools: Update on Receivership - Discussion

    Lawrence Public Schools Receiver Jeff Riley and members of his team will join us at the October 20 meeting to update the Board on Lawrence's renewed Level 5 District Turnaround Plan (included in your materials under Tab 1), the district's progress to date after three years of receivership, and next steps, including the high school redesign initiative and the expansion of enrichment programming for students.

  2. Holyoke Public Schools: Turnaround Plan - Discussion

    On October 1, Holyoke Public Schools Receiver Stephen Zrike, Jr. and I announced the release of the Level 5 District Turnaround Plan for the Holyoke Public Schools. The plan is included in your materials under Tab 2. At our meeting on October 20, Dr. Zrike will present an overview of the plan and respond to your questions. He will be joined by members of the Department's Holyoke team, led by Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston.

  3. Student Assessment - Continuing Discussion

    We will review PARCC scores and continue the assessment discussion from the Monday evening special meeting.

  4. Proposed Revised Science and Technology/Engineering Standards - Continuing Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    I will ask the Board to vote this month to solicit public comment on the revised Science and Technology/ Engineering (STE) Standards. This request follows refinements that we made to the standards in response to Board input at your meeting on May 19 and continued discussion at your September 22 meeting. With the Board's approval, we will invite public input through November, make any necessary edits, and then bring the final revised STE standards to the Board for adoption in January 2016.

  5. Update on Level 5 Schools: FY2016 Quarter 1 Report - Discussion

    Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will present the FY2016 first quarterly report 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 in January, April, and June.

  6. Updated Response to Recommendations from Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement - Continuing Discussion

    At the September 22 meeting of the Board, I presented my plan for implementing the recommendations of the Board's Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement. In that memo and in our discussion at the September meeting, I stated that I would be coming back to you with further details. I am pleased to present an updated response to the Board this month.
    Senior Associate Commissioner Brooke Clenchy will join us to respond to questions.

  7. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education FY17 Budget Proposal and Report from the Board's Budget Committee - Initial Discussion

    We will hear a report from the Board's budget committee and discuss possible budget priorities and program initiatives that the Board may wish to propose for FY17. The budget committee held its first meeting on October 8 and will meet again in November. All Board members are welcome to attend committee meetings. The Board will vote on its FY17 budget proposal at the November 17 meeting.

Other Items for Information

  1. Overview of Charter Authorizing and Anticipated Schedule for 2015-2016

    As in previous years, I am providing you with a memo summarizing the statutory framework for charter schools and the Board's responsibilities as the state's sole charter school authorizer. The memo under Tab 8 summarizes the charter authorizing process in Massachusetts and the anticipated schedule of charter school authorizing discussions and decisions for this year, including actions on applications, expansion requests, and charter renewals, and actions related to charter schools on conditions or probation. The Board will take a series of votes related to its statutory role as charter school authorizer in the coming months, culminating in new charter and expansion decisions 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.

  2. Report on Scheduling of Comprehensive Audits and Reviews

    The memo under Tab 9 explains how the Department is addressing the provisions of G.L. c. 15, section 55A, regarding the scheduling of major reviews to reduce administrative burdens on schools and districts. The Board voted in December 2010 to delegate this scheduling task to the Commissioner, and I am submitting this report for FY2016 comprehensive audits and reviews to you in accordance with that vote.

    If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the Department on October 19 and 20.

Last Updated: October 9, 2015
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