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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the April 25, 2016 Special Meeting and the April 26, 2016 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
April 15, 2016


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, April 26, 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, April 25, 2016, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. In addition, the Board's Committee on Student Assessment is meeting at 3:30 p.m. on Monday, April 25 (same location) and all Board members are welcome to attend. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The Board's special meeting on Monday evening will be devoted to the topic of Social-Emotional Learning. The business agenda for our regular meeting on Tuesday morning leads off with a presentation and discussion on the Low Income Education Access Project, an initiative to strengthen general education and reduce inappropriate referrals of low-income students to special education. The Board will receive updates on our work with the Southbridge and Holyoke Public Schools and the third-quarter report on our work with the four Level 5 schools. The Board will discuss and take an initial vote on the proposed rescission of several sets of obsolete regulations. Other topics on the Tuesday agenda include a report on the FY2017 education budget proposal from the House Ways and Means Committee and continuing discussion of the October 2015 recommendations from the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

Special Meeting

  1. Social-Emotional Learning - Discussion

    The special meeting on Monday evening is an opportunity for the Board to have an in-depth discussion on social and emotional learning, a topic of great interest for the Board and the education community generally. Social and emotional learning (SEL) is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. The Board will hear from researchers and school leaders who are engaged in this work, which is embedded in one of the Department's five core strategies: supporting the social, emotional, and health needs of students and families. We have invited the following presenters:

    To discuss policy and research:
    • Chad d'Entremont, Ph.D., Executive Director, Rennie Center
    • Linda Dusenbury, Ph.D., Research Consultant, CASEL
    • Ronald F. Ferguson, Ph.D., Professor and Achievement Gap Initiative Co-Chair and Director, Harvard University; Co-Founder, Tripod
    • Sara Bartolino Krachman, Co-Founder and Executive Director, Transforming Education

    To share examples of practice in Massachusetts schools:
    • Meg Mayo Brown, Superintendent, Fall River Public Schools
    • Dana Brown, Principal, Malden High School
    • Audrey Jackson, 5th grade teacher, Joseph P. Manning School; 2016 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year

    Commissioner Cliff Chuang and Rachelle Engler Bennett, Director of the Department's Office of Learning Supports and Early Learning, will join us. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will ask for reports from the Committee on the Commissioner's Performance Evaluation (Penny Noyce, chair), and the Committee on Student Assessment (Roland Fryer, chair).

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Welcome to Judy Klimkiewicz. I am delighted to introduce Dr. Judith Klimkiewicz to the Board on April 26. Judy joined the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education on April 4, 2016 as a senior advisor to the commissioner. She recently retired after 20 years as superintendent of the Nashoba Valley Regional Vocational School District, where she led one of the most successful vocational high schools in the state. Before she became a superintendent, Judy served as the state director of vocational education in the Department of Education (ESE's predecessor). In her part-time role, Judy will advise on strategies to provide more career and vocational education opportunities for Massachusetts high school students, and help to coordinate our activities with the higher education and workforce development communities.

  2. Eagleton School update. I have been keeping the Board apprised of the situation with the Eagleton School over the past several months. I am pleased to report that thanks to exceptional interagency teamwork, all of the students who had been at Eagleton have been relocated to other placements in a safe and orderly fashion.

    To recap: The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was notified in January that a law enforcement investigation was underway at the Eagleton School in Great Barrington, a private residential special education school serving almost 70 male students ages 9-22 with cognitive, behavioral, and autistic disabilities. Since that time, our department and other state agencies have been monitoring the program closely, including site visits. As the Board is aware, I placed Eagleton School on probation on February 17, 2016, in conjunction with sanctions levied by the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) the same day. Per state law, EEC licenses the school's residential facilities and our department (ESE) approves the special education program. On March 17, 2016, DESE withdrew the school's approval to serve publicly funded students, in conjunction with the order that EEC issued on that date revoking the school's residential group care licenses. Under DESE regulations, private residential special education school programs must be licensed by EEC as a condition of DESE approval. The agencies collaborated in conducting daily monitoring and site visits. Eagleton leaders asked the state for help to manage the closure of the school in an orderly fashion, and DESE contracted with the Center School, a Holyoke-based private special education service provider, to help manage the transition and maintain staffing at a level sufficient to care for the students as they prepared to leave Eagleton.

    An interagency team, coordinated by the Executive Office of Education, has been coordinating communication and placement planning. Representatives from ESE, EEC, the Department of Children and Families (DCF), and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) worked with Massachusetts school districts, and with school districts and agencies in other states that had placed students at Eagleton, to ensure the relocation of residents in a safe and orderly fashion. As of Friday, April 15, the final student has been discharged from the Eagleton School.

  3. Arts literacy conference. On April 4, the Department held a successful conference titled: Arts as Multiple Entry Points to Literacy: Constructing Knowledge, Making Meaning, Gaining Wisdom. Despite the surprisingly snowy day, over 300 educators from across the state attended the conference at Devens, participating in numerous workshops and plenary sessions about connecting the arts and literacy, sharing instructional units, and enjoying a fine performance by a middle-school student mariachi band at lunchtime.

  4. Review of the English Language Arts and Mathematics frameworks. As part of the next-generation assessment initiative, the Department is carrying out the Board's directive to convene panels of K-12 teachers and higher education faculty to review the 2010 Massachusetts curriculum frameworks in English language arts and mathematics and identify any modifications needed. We continue to invite educators, parents, and the public to submit comments through the Department's online tool. To date, 1,400+ individuals have logged into the tool, and 390 have completed their submission.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Special Education and School Improvement: The Low Income Education Access Project (LEAP) - Discussion

    At our April 26 meeting, I will provide you with an overview of the Low Income Education Access Project, or LEAP: an initiative to strengthen general education and reduce inappropriate referrals of low-income students to special education. The Department initiated LEAP as a result of key findings from the multi-year review of special education in the Commonwealth that I commissioned Thomas Hehir and Associates to conduct. Department staff will present on the strategic plan for LEAP and the ongoing work in 14 districts that have partnered with us in the first stages of the project. We have invited a representative from one of the participating districts to join the presentation. Russell Johnston, Senior Associate Commissioner for Accountability and Partnerships; Marcia Mittnacht, the State Director for Special Education, and Susan Fischer, LEAP Coordinator, will be available at the Board meeting to answer your questions.

  2. 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 third monthly report on our work with Southbridge, including an update on the Local Stakeholder Group, family and community engagement strategies, and development of the school district budget for 2016-17. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and other members of the Department's Southbridge team will be at the meeting to answer your questions.

  3. Update on Holyoke Public Schools - Discussion

    This month's report on the Holyoke Public Schools includes an overview of the district's progress in implementing key actions and achieving benchmarks outlined in the Level 5 District Turnaround Plan. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the Commissioner, will present the report and respond to your questions.

  4. Update on Level 5 Schools - Discussion

    The memo under Tab 4 provides the third of four FY2016 quarterly progress reports to 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. The report includes updates from each receiver and Superintendent Durkin on implementation of the school turnaround plans, focusing on activities from January-March 2016. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will be present to respond to your questions.

  5. Rescission of Obsolete Regulations: 603 CMR 3.00 (Private Occupational Schools); 603 CMR 6.00 (Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants); 603 CMR 38.00 (School Construction Grants), 603 CMR 45.00 (Agricultural High Schools) - Initial Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    The Department has been reviewing all the regulations under our jurisdiction in accordance with Governor Baker's Executive Order 562. Based on that review, I am recommending that the Board take an initial vote on April 26 to rescind four sets of regulations that are obsolete due to changes in state law and practice: 603 CMR 3.00 (Private Occupational Schools); 603 CMR 6.00 (Teacher Quality Enhancement Grants); 603 CMR 38.00 (School Construction Grants), and 603 CMR 45.00 (Agricultural High Schools). With the Board's approval, the Department would seek public comment on the regulatory actions, and I would bring them back to the Board for a final vote at your June 2016 meeting. The memo under Tab 5 sets forth the details.

  6. FY2017 Education Budget Proposal from House Ways & Means Committee - Discussion

    We will review the FY2017 House Ways and Means Committee education budget proposal in relation to the Board's budget priorities, as well as the outlook for federal education funding. Our Budget Director, Julia Jou, will join the discussion.

  7. Foundation Budget Review Commission Recommendations - Continuing Discussion

    Several Board members requested that we continue our review and discussion of the October 30, 2015 report and recommendations from the Foundation Budget Review Commission. The Board initially discussed the Commission's role in September 2015, and then discussed the Commission's report and recommendations at your December 2015 meeting. The Legislature created the Commission to review the Commonwealth's school funding formula and make recommendations to the Legislature and Governor. A copy of the report is enclosed under Tab 7. The commission was chaired by the co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education, Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz and Representative Alice Peisch, and included representatives from a wide variety of constituent groups. Secretary Peyser and I were ex officio members. For background information I have also enclosed a report on school finance that our Department published in 2013. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, School Finance Director Roger Hatch, and other members of our staff will be at our meeting on April 26 to respond to your questions.

Other Items for Information

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

    Under Tab 8 is a report on grants and charter school matters I have approved in the last month 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 meetings in Malden on April 25 and 26.

Last Updated: April 19, 2016
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