Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
Students & Families Educators & Administrators Teaching, Learning & Testing Data & Accountability Finance & Funding About the Department Education Board  

The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the September 26, 2016 Special Meeting and the September 27, 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
September 16, 2016


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, September 27, 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, September 26, 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.


The Board's special meeting on Monday evening will be the official release of 2016 MCAS/PARCC results and school and district accountability results, and will include a report on the progress of the Level 5 schools and districts. No votes will be taken. On Tuesday morning, the business agenda for our regular meeting leads off with the election of the vice-chair, per the Board's by-laws, followed by a brief recap of the special meeting and a presentation from the principal of the Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston on the school's turnaround work. I will update the Board on our plans to revise the Massachusetts school and district accountability system in accord with ESSA for the 2017-18 school year. We will discuss the action plan to revise the educator evaluation regulations relating to the student impact rating; the ongoing review of the English Language Arts and Mathematics standards as well as the History and Social Science standards; and planning for the high school competency determination standard as we proceed with the next-generation MCAS. The Board also will review the process and timelines for the FY2018 education budget.

Special Meeting

  1. 2016 Studenance Results - Discussion
  2. 2016 School and District Accountability Determinations - Discussiont Perform

The Board's special meeting on Monday evening will be the official release of 2016 MCAS/PARCC results and school and district accountability results. Department staff will present the report and there will be ample opportunity for questions and discussion. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will report on the progress of the Level 5 schools and districts, including assessment results, school accountability results, various activities that took place over the summer, and the start of the school year. (The Level 5 district receivers will be reporting directly to the Board at different meetings throughout the year.) No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities. He will introduce new Board member Nathan Moore, a junior at Scituate High School, who was elected chair of the State Student Advisory Council in June and will serve as a member of the Board through June 30, 2017. Chair Sagan will appoint members to three committees: the Budget Committee, Charter School Committee, and Commissioner's Performance Evaluation Committee. He will ask member Mary Ann Stewart to report on National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE) activities.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. ACT Results. Last month, ACT released annual results and announced that Massachusetts high school students in the graduating class of 2016 had the highest average composite score in the nation on the ACT test, an annual predictive measure of college and career readiness for many high school graduates. According to this year's ACT results, Massachusetts 2016 public and private high school graduates who chose to take the ACT (28% of students) had an average composite score of 24.8 out of a possible 36, up from last year (24.4). The national average was 20.8, which fell slightly from last year's 21.0. In addition, 53 percent of Massachusetts graduates who took the ACT met all four college readiness benchmarks, up from 51 percent last year and above the national average of 26 percent.

  2. Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching: Congratulations to the four Massachusetts educators who received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The Massachusetts recipients are: John Heffernan, a science educator, and Karen Schweitzer, a mathematics educator, both at the Anne T. Dunphy School in Williamsburg; Neil Plotnick, a mathematics educator at Everett High School; and Keith Wright, a science educator who worked at The Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield when he was nominated but who now works for the Hampshire Regional School District, which is based in Westhampton.

    Social, and Emotional Learning grant: The Department was selected by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to participate in their Collaborating States Initiative from this summer through fall 2017. The eight participating states are California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. The purpose of the project is to support states through efforts to adopt and implement clearly defined, research-based policies, guidelines, and/or standards to support statewide implementation of social and emotional learning. The Department welcomes this opportunity to learn with, and from, other states as we seek to develop policies and guidance to best support students in the Commonwealth. This work is embedded in the Department's efforts to revisit and refine our strategic priority to supporting the social, emotional, and health needs of students and families.

  3. 2016 back-to-school communications. Based on our recent reorganization and recommendations from the Parthenon group, the Department is close to finalizing a new strategic communications plan to build public understanding of the priorities and successes of our work with districts and schools. Some initial activities include a number of resources I shared with districts in August for the start of the 2016-17 school year. In the Department's back-to-school Download Video FileDownload Video File
    size: 187 MB
      Watch Video, I highlighted the successes in Massachusetts because of the hard work of educators and families. To augment this message, we also developed a parent flyer that explains the role of the state and the role of local communities in helping all students meet high expectations. In addition, we began a new series of conference calls with superintendents to discuss the Department's work, answer questions, and learn more about the concerns and on-the-ground work of districts and schools across the Commonwealth. The plan includes strategies for internal and external communications. I look forward to updating the Board further on this work as it develops.

  4. Department organizational update. In 2015, the Department experienced a significant reduction in staff, in large part due to the state's early retirement incentive program and the end of our federal Race to the Top funding. With the assistance of the consulting firm Parthenon-EY, I gathered input from Department staff and leadership as well as external stakeholders through focus groups and surveys. Parthenon also researched the organizational structure of other state education agencies.

    The resulting recommendations focused on integrating and aligning work across the agency, confirming the state's role in providing standards and instructional supports, strengthening internal and external communications, and combining related functions into a student and family support unit and a unit devoted to educational options. I have taken these recommendations into account as we redesigned DESE's organizational structure. I have enclosed a copy of the revised organization chart in your Board book.

  5. Approved special education schools. Reports involving at least one Massachusetts private special education school have appeared in various press outlets in recent weeks. Students in these programs are some of our most vulnerable, and the private programs that serve them need to provide strong educational opportunities in a safe, education-focused setting. The Department takes seriously the oversight responsibilities that we have under state and federal law. We are working with other agencies including the MA Department of Early Education and Care (the agency that licenses such schools with residential components) and the MA Office of the Child Advocate, to strengthen procedures and interagency coordination in relation to these schools. In addition, as part of our agency's internal improvement process, we are examining our own systems related to the monitoring of schools serving students with disabilities outside of regular public school environments. In our recent reorganization we shifted leadership and oversight for our Office of Approved Special Education Schools and we are currently interviewing to find a director for this office. I will keep you posted on our work in this area and would be pleased to provide additional information.

  6. Update on New Heights Charter School. One new Commonwealth charter school opened its doors to serve students this year: the New Heights Charter School of Brockton. During the summer, the school encountered obstacles at two different facilities on Main Street in Brockton that prevented it from starting school as planned in Brockton on August 26. The first facility required significant renovations that were identified in mid-July and were determined to be financially prohibitive. The school identified a second site within days but encountered delays to occupancy due to necessary construction and renovation for school use. The Department was in close communication with the school throughout the opening procedures and my staff received timely reports when each of these challenges surfaced. As a result of the shift in the proposed location, I approved a temporary change to the school's calendar for the first year of operation; on August 11, I approved a shift in the number of school days from 184 days to 180 days. This is not an unusual request and amendment for a new school that encounters challenges with facilities.

    As a result of the delays at the second site, on September 2 I approved the school's request to open temporarily at a facility in Norwood, which is outside of the school's region of Brockton, Randolph, and Taunton. Construction continues at the proposed site on Main Street in Brockton and the school is committed to resolving all challenges to occupancy in Brockton as soon as possible. My approval of the temporary location in Norwood is subject to a number of conditions, including occupancy in Brockton no later than January 3, 2017.

    My staff visited the temporary site in Norwood on the first day of school and will visit again on October 4. The Department is monitoring the school through frequent updates on enrollment, staffing, preparations of the Brockton facility for occupancy, and the school's financial position in light of the expenses associated with the facility in Brockton and the transportation of students to the site in Norwood. The school planned to enroll 315 students in grades 6, 7, and 8 this year. The school continues to make progress in reaching its enrollment goals; it has enrolled 298 students as of September 15, with 137 students on the waitlist and a total of 86 applications for a lottery in early October.

    There is precedent for a new charter school to open in a temporary site; this has happened in a few other cases. The Department will continue to closely monitor the school and I will keep you apprised of any significant new developments.

  7. Review of educator licensure regulations. In May and June, the Department held four meetings with the Working Group for Streamlining Licensure Regulations and Policies. The working group was made up of PreK-12 teachers and administrators as well as individuals involved in preparing new educators. One main reason for bringing this group together was in support of Governor Baker's Executive Order 562 to reduce unnecessary regulatory burden. I recently met with Department staff to review the potential regulatory recommendations that were discussed in the working group. The proposals focused on the requirements to obtain a temporary, preliminary, initial and professional license as well as proposals for license renewal. I have asked that staff continue to work with stakeholders on these streamlining proposals, which includes issuing a survey that will be accessible through our website and engagement with key stakeholders. I will continue to keep you updated, and will share the survey with you. Based on this next phase of the work, I anticipate presenting proposed regulatory changes to the Board at the December 20 meeting.

  8. Board planning retreat. A Board planning retreat has been scheduled for November 15, 2016, from 9:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m. The location is not yet determined. Based on input from Board members and Chair Sagan, the day will provide an opportunity for members to reflect on the Board's recent work and achievements. The second half of the day will focus on a review of tools available to the Board to leverage increased performance in our schools. My office will be in contact with you over the next month with additional details.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items For Discussion and Action

  1. Annual Meeting of the Board: Election of Vice-Chair - Discussion and Vote

    Under the Board's by-laws, the September meeting is the annual meeting of the Board, at which the vice-chair is elected. Chair Sagan will call for nominations from members and then conduct the election. The vice-chair presides over meetings when the chair is not available.

  2. Recap of Special Meeting: Student Performance Results and School and District Accountability - Discussion

    We will recap and continue our discussion from the Monday evening special meeting. Lindsa McIntyre, principal of the Jeremiah Burke High School in Boston, and members of her leadership team will present highlights from their school turnaround work. Burke was identified in 2010 as a Level 4 school, and in 2014 was the first high school to exit underperforming status.

  3. Every Student Succeeds Act: Update on School and District Accountability System - Discussion

    As we discussed at the March and June 2016 meetings of the Board, the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) establishes new requirements for school accountability and support, and presents the opportunity to reconsider the design of our school and district accountability and assistance system. At our meeting on September 27, I will update you on our plans to revise the Massachusetts school and district accountability system for the 2017-18 school year.

  4. Educator Evaluation: Action Plan to Revise Regulations on Student Impact Rating - Discussion

    In May and June 2016, the Board heard from panels of district and school practitioners, policy analysts, union leaders, and researchers on strengths of the current Massachusetts educator evaluation framework as well as some concerns. At our June meeting, member Ed Doherty requested that the Board consider in September whether to rescind the section of the educator evaluation regulations relating to the student impact rating. I am pleased to report that the Department has been discussing with stakeholders - including MASS, MTA, and AFT-MA - possible amendments to the regulations to address concerns about the student impact rating. More details are included in the memo under Tab 4. I plan to bring the proposed amendments to the Board in October for a vote to solicit public comment. Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and staff members will be at the Board meeting to respond to your questions.

  5. Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks: Update on Review - Discussion

    1. English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics
    2. History and Social Science

    The memos under Tab 5 update the Board on the process and progress of the review of the 2011 Massachusetts Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics and the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework. Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and other staff members will be with us on September 27 to answer your questions about the framework review process and next steps.

  6. Student Assessment: Update on Next-Generation MCAS and Planning for High School Competency Determination Standard - Discussion

    Work is continuing apace on the next-generation English language arts and mathematics tests which will be given in grades 3 through 8 starting next spring. The transition to the next-generation high school tests involves some additional considerations, as is explained in the memo under Tab 6. At this month's meeting we will have an initial discussion about extending the legacy 10th grade tests in ELA and mathematics for one additional year, to encompass the class of 2020. I am recommending that the Board vote on this matter in October. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel, and Associate General Counsel Lucy Wall will join us for this topic on September 27.

  7. FY2017 Budget Overview; Process and Timelines for FY2018 Budget - Discussion

    Now that we have the FY2017 state budget for the fiscal year that began on July 1, we are simultaneously dealing with a few fiscal challenges and also beginning to plan for the FY2018 budget. At this month's meeting Associate Commissioner Bill Bell will review the Department's budget picture. 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. The Board will vote on its FY2018 budget priorities at the November meeting.

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 since our last meeting, under the authority that the Board has delegated to me.

  2. Charter Authorizing Overview and Anticipated Schedule for 2016-2017

    Each year the Board is asked to take a significant number of votes related to its statutory role as charter school authorizer. 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, along with other related updates and a tentative schedule of charter school authorizing agenda items for 2016-2017.

  3. Adult Basic Education Update: High School Equivalency Exam

    Under Tab 10 is a report on the results of the Department's recent procurement process to select a test vendor or vendors to administer a high school equivalency assessment through adult learning centers and other sites in the Commonwealth for 2017 through 2020. Since January 2014, Massachusetts has used the HiSET test, a product of the Educational Testing Service (ETS), to assess high school equivalency. Our contract with ETS expires on December 31, 2016. Going forward, we expect to provide two testing options, through ETS and the GED Testing Service.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the meetings in Malden on September 26 and 27.

Last Updated: September 20, 2016
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact DESE