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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the November 16, 2015 Special Meeting and the November 17, 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
November 9, 2015


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, November 17, 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, November 16, 2015, in the auditorium of Malden High School, 77 Salem Street, 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 public comment on the state student assessment program - specifically, on my recommendation to the Board on the assessment approach for FY2016 and beyond. The business agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday starts with a review and discussion of the PARCC spring 2015 school and district results. The Board then will discuss and vote on my recommendation for the Massachusetts student assessment program. We will receive the report from the Board's budget committee and the Board will vote on its educational budget proposal for FY2017. The final item on our business agenda is an update on the Holyoke Public Schools.

Special Meeting

Student Assessment: Public Comment Opportunity on Commissioner's Recommendation

The Board's special meeting on November 16 will be the sixth public hearing on the state student assessment program that the Board has held since the spring. To accommodate the interest in this matter, we are holding the special meeting from 4-7 p.m. in the auditorium of Malden High School. No votes will be taken at the special meeting. Please note that since the Board is devoting three hours on Monday evening to public comments on student assessment, we will limit public comments at the regular meeting on Tuesday to matters on the agenda other than items 1 and 2.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will ask Mary Ann Stewart to report on the National Association of State Boards of Education annual conference that she attended on October 22-24. Mary Ann will join NASBE's board of directors as the elected representative of the Northeast Region in January 2016.

Chair Sagan will ask Penny Noyce, chair of the Commissioner's performance evaluation committee, to report on next steps in the evaluation process. Later in the meeting, the Board's budget committee, chaired by Katherine Craven, will report during item 3.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Foundation Budget Review Commission. In September I updated the Board on the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which was created by the Legislature in 2014 to review and make recommendations on the Commonwealth's school funding formula. The commission, chaired by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Alice Peisch, included representatives from a wide variety of constituent groups. Secretary Peyser and I were ex officio members. The commission released its final report on October 30, 2015.

  2. National Assessment of Educational Progress. On October 28 the National Center for Education Statistics released 2015 fourth and eighth grade reading and mathematics results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). The test is given every two years to a representative sample of students in each state. Massachusetts fourth and eighth graders once again scored among the top states in reading and mathematics on the NAEP exam. This year marks the sixth straight administration (2005, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2015) in which Massachusetts students have scored first or statistically tied for first place on all four NAEP tests. Massachusetts was alone in being first in fourth grade reading and tied for first among states in fourth grade mathematics, eighth grade reading and eighth grade mathematics. On all four tests, Massachusetts students scored well above the national average. More details are available on the NAEP website.

  3. Organizational review. I reported to the Board in September and October on the organizational review of the Department that I initiated in response to the Board's recommendation to use the funding and staffing challenges we face as an opportunity to think about strategic reorganization for cost-effectiveness and efficiency. Parthenon-EY is conducting the review at no cost to the Commonwealth, since the Boston Foundation is providing a grant to fund the consultative services. The review is nearing its conclusion. I will keep the Board informed as we proceed.

  4. ACLU report on student privacy. Board members have received the recent report from the ACLU of Massachusetts, "Back to the Drawing Board: Student Privacy in Massachusetts Schools." The Department is reviewing the report. We are aware that ensuring student privacy while encouraging educator and student access to emerging technologies is a work in progress. For the most part, policies relating to student use of technology are locally determined. The Department provides guidance to local districts and will continue to look for best practices and ways to improve school approaches to ensure student privacy.

  5. Fall Summit. The Department's 8th Annual Fall Summit took place on October 27 (repeated on October 28) in Marlborough. The theme this year was "Education Next: Supporting Student Learning." The conference highlighted new resources available from the Department and the work that districts, schools, and educators in Massachusetts are doing to strengthen teaching and learning. Department staff members collaborated with over 100 educators from K-12 and higher education to present 30 different breakout sessions showcasing promising practices and resources. One highlight was the display of student art work from Malden, Marlborough, Worcester and Brockton Public Schools as well as musical performances by students from Worcester and Marlborough Public Schools. Over 900 superintendents, assistant superintendents, curriculum directors, teachers, and other educators attended.

  6. Southbridge Public Schools. The Department concluded an onsite district review in Southbridge on October 19-22, 2015. Southbridge was initially identified as an underperforming (Level 4) district in 2004. Since 2012, the district has been operating under an Accelerated Improvement Plan. It has made limited progress. I continue to be very concerned about many aspects including low student achievement, high suspension rates, instability in key leadership positions, and overall governance of the district. Our staff will complete the district review report in the coming weeks and we will share it with the school district and the Board in December.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Regular Meeting

  1. PARCC Spring 2015 School and District Results - Discussion

    Last spring 752 schools in 194 districts chose to administer PARCC in grades 3-8, and 626 schools in 165 districts chose to administer grade 3-8 MCAS English language arts and math tests. In September we released MCAS results for the state, all high schools, and those schools and districts that administered MCAS. At our meeting on November 17 I will present an overview of the results for schools and districts that administered PARCC in spring 2015.

  2. Commissioner's Recommendation on Student Assessment for FY2016 and Beyond - Discussion and Vote

    During the past several months, you have had the opportunity to review numerous research studies, hear presentations from many experts, and hear a great deal of public comment on the state student assessment program. At our meeting on Tuesday, November 17, I will ask the Board to discuss and vote on my recommendation for the future direction of the Massachusetts student assessment program. Due to my unforeseen hospitalization, I will be emailing my recommendation to the Board later this week.

  3. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education FY2017 Budget Proposal and Report from the Board's Budget Committee - Discussion and Vote

    The Board's budget committee, chaired by Katherine Craven, has met twice since October and will report at our November 17 meeting. Based on the committee's recommended priorities, the Board will discuss and vote on its FY2017 education budget proposal. Consistent with Mass. General Laws c. 69, § 1A, I will transmit the Board's recommendations to the Secretary of Education, who "shall then prepare and submit a budget request on behalf of the department to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on education, and the secretary of administration and finance."

  4. Update on Holyoke Public Schools - Discussion

    Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, will present the monthly update on our work with the Holyoke Public Schools.

Other Items for Information

  1. Report on Grants Approved by the Commissioner

    Under Tab 5 is a report 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 Malden High School on November 16 and at the Department on November 17.

Last Updated: November 10, 2015
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