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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the February 22, 2016 Special Meeting and the February 23, 2016 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 12, 2016

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The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, February 23, 2016, 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, February 22, 2016, 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.

Overview

The Board's special meeting on Monday evening will focus on the monthly updates on the Holyoke and Southbridge Public Schools receiverships, following which the Board will go into executive session to discuss strategy with respect to pending litigation. The business agenda for our regular meeting on Tuesday morning leads off with discussion and votes on charter school matters, including proposed new charter schools, amendments to existing charters, and two charter renewals. The Board will discuss and vote on renewal of a Commonwealth Virtual School and on the revised definition of College and Career Readiness, Incorporating Civic Learning. The Tuesday agenda also includes discussion of the Governor's education budget proposal for FY2017 and an update on student assessment.

Special Meeting

  1. Update on Southbridge Public Schools - Discussion

    The Board voted on January 26, 2016 to designate the Southbridge Public Schools as a "chronically underperforming" (Level 5) district. This month I will present the first monthly report on our work with Southbridge, including an update on the search process for an external receiver, setting up the Local Stakeholder Group, and family and community engagement strategies. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and other members of the Department's Southbridge team will be at the meeting to answer your questions.

  2. Update on Holyoke Public Schools - Discussion

  3. This month's report on the Holyoke Public Schools includes follow-up on the TIP-Peck program and an overview of the district's progress in implementing key actions and achieving benchmarks outlined in the Level 5 District Turnaround Plan. Holyoke Receiver/Superintendent Steve Zrike will join Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, to present the report and respond to your questions.

  4. Executive Session to Discuss Litigation Strategy

    This is an opportunity for the Board to discuss strategy with respect to pending litigation. As required by the Open Meeting Law, we will take a roll call vote to go into executive session. The Board will return to open session only to adjourn the Monday evening special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will brief the Board on current issues and activities.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Recent studies on curriculum and assessment. In the last several weeks, several studies relevant to current education policy issues in Massachusetts have been released. The Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University conducted a study on teachers' perspectives on new curriculum implementation in five states, including Massachusetts. Their results show that a large majority of educators in these states have embraced the new curriculum frameworks quite a bit or fully. More than three-quarters of teachers reported having changed at least half of their classroom instruction as a result of the new standards. Four in five mathematics teachers say they have increased their emphasis on conceptual understanding and applications of skills and knowledge, and similar shares of English language arts teachers have increased writing assignments that require the use of evidence and have increased the use of nonfiction in reading assignments. Further, in mathematics, the use of observations and feedback on the implementation of the new standards and the use of curriculum-aligned tests in teacher performance evaluations are correlated with higher student performance on those tests, suggesting that tying educator evaluation to implementation of the curriculum frameworks may be a promising strategy for improving student performance.

    A pair of studies conducted by the Fordham Institute and the Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) examined how well MCAS, PARCC, Smarter Balanced, and the ACT measure college- and career-ready standards. The studies convened review panels of practitioners, content experts, and assessment specialists to examine how well the assessments emphasize college- and career-ready content and assess a range of thinking skills called for by higher education and employers. In the Fordham study, the review panels found that at the elementary and middle school levels, the MCAS had a limited or uneven match to the criteria for content in both English language arts and mathematics, a good match on depth of coverage in English language arts, and an excellent match on depth for mathematics. The HumRRO study found that at the high school level, the MCAS had a limited or uneven match on both content and depth in English language arts and depth in mathematics, with a good match on mathematics content. With a few exceptions, PARCC and Smarter Balanced generally rated higher on these criteria across both studies, while ACT rated similarly to MCAS. The studies are available at: Fordham Institute and HumRRO.

  2. Eagleton School. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is working in collaboration with other agencies and closely monitoring the Eagleton School, a private residential special education school in Great Barrington. I will update the Board at your meeting.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

Charter Schools:

The first five items on our business agenda for February 23 relate to charter schools. Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and members of the Charter School Office staff will be at the meeting to present all the charter school items and respond to your questions.

  1. Report to the Legislature on Charter Schools - Discussion

    As required by the charter school statute, I recently transmitted the Department's Charter School Enrollment Data Annual Report to the Legislature. This year's report includes the legislative cap history and analyses of five key areas: enrollment requirements, demographic comparability in enrollment, attrition, backfilling, and waitlists. A copy of the report Download PDF Document  Download Word Document is enclosed under Tab 1 .

  2. Recommendations 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 2015, the Department received final applications to establish five charter schools. One application was subsequently withdrawn. In January, Board members received a memo summarizing the process for reviewing and granting new charters along with a summary of the four pending charter applications. At the meeting on February 23, the Board will discuss and vote on the two charters I am recommending, one for Libertas Academy Charter School in Springfield and one for New Heights Charter School of Brockton. You will find detailed information in the memo and accompanying materials under Tab 2.

  3. Proposed Amendments to Existing Charters - Discussion and Vote

    Pursuant to 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 nineteen charter schools and networks of charter schools to change their maximum enrollment and grades served. I recommend that the Board vote on February 23 to approve expansion amendments requested by the network of charter schools comprised of Brooke Charter School Roslindale, Brooke Charter School Mattapan, and Brooke Charter School East Boston (collectively "Brooke Charter Schools ) and for Neighborhood House Charter School in Boston, as well as an expansion amendment requested by Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett. The memos under Tab 3 provide detailed information.

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

    The Board placed Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School of Excellence (MLK) on probation in January 2015 and imposed conditions related to academic improvement and sustainability. In its tenth year of operation, MLK is also at the end of its second charter term and is coming to the Board for renewal of its charter. As is explained in the memo under Tab 4, I am recommending that the Board renew the charter of MLK but extend probation and require the school to demonstrate significant and sustained academic improvement.

  5. Boston Green Academy Horace Mann Charter School: Report on Probation and Commissioner's Recommendation on Renewal - Discussion and Vote

    The Board placed Boston Green Academy Horace Mann Charter School (BGA) on probation in October 2014 and imposed conditions related to finance, governance, and academics. In its fifth year of operation, BGA is also at the end of its first charter term and is coming to the Board for renewal of its charter. I am recommending that the Board renew the charter of BGA but extend probation and require the school to demonstrate significant and sustained academic improvement. Details are provided in the memo under Tab 5.

Other Business Items:

  1. Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School: Report on Probation and Commissioner's Recommendation on Renewal - Discussion

    Pursuant to the regulations for Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools, I recommend that the Board vote this month to renew the certificate for the Massachusetts Virtual Academy at Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School (GCVS) for an additional three years and that the Board extend probation with additional conditions placed on the school's certificate. The memo under Tab 6 provides information about GCVS as well as my reflections on the Commonwealth's experience with full-time virtual schools since the enactment of the Commonwealth Virtual Schools statute in January 2013.

  2. Revised Definition of College and Career Readiness, Incorporating Civic Learning - Discussion and Vote

    At the joint meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Board of Higher Education (BHE) on January 26, 2016, the two boards discussed the proposed revised definition of College and Career Readiness, Incorporating Civic Learning, and some possible amendments to it. The BHE subsequently voted to approve the revised definition, as amended based on that discussion. The definition that the BHE adopted is enclosed with the memo under Tab 7. I recommend that the Board discuss and vote on the revised definition at our February 23 meeting.

  3. Governor's State Education Budget Proposal for FY2017 - Discussion

    Enclosed under Tab 8 is an overview of Governor Baker's elementary and secondary education budget proposal for FY2017. Associate Commissioner Bill Bell, our Chief Financial Officer, will join the discussion with the Board.

  4. Update on Student Assessment - Discussion

    The Department is moving ahead to implement the Board's November 2015 decisions on the next-generation state student assessment program and related matters. I will update the Board at the February 23 meeting. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Senior Associate Commissioner Brooke Clenchy, Associate Commissioner Bill Bell, Assessment Director Michol Stapel, and other staff members will join the discussion and be available to respond to questions.

Other Items for Information

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

    Under Tab 10 is information on grants and charter school matters that I have approved under the authority the Board has delegated to me.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you in Malden on February 22 and 23.



Last Updated: February 18, 2016
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