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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the October 24, 2016 Special Meeting and the October 25, 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
October 14, 2016


The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, October 25, 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, October 24, 2016, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. In addition, the Board's Budget Committee will meet from 3-5 p.m. on Monday, October 24; all Board members are welcome to attend the committee meeting. 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 an opportunity for the Board to review and discuss the proposed revisions to the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks in English Language Arts and Mathematics. No votes will be taken. On Tuesday morning, the business agenda for our regular meeting leads off with a progress report by Southbridge Public Schools Superintendent/Receiver Jessica Huizenga. The Board will receive the first-quarter FY2017 reports on Level 5 schools. I will update the Board on our continuing discussions on educator evaluation. Following up on another topic we discussed last month, I am recommending that the Board vote on October 25 to extend the legacy grade 10 MCAS tests in ELA and mathematics for one more year, through the class of 2020. I will present a technical amendment to the regulations on accountability and assistance for districts and schools, for initial review and a vote to solicit public comment. The Board's Budget Committee will report on its October 24 meeting and the Board will have an initial discussion of the FY2018 education budget proposal.

Special Meeting

Proposed Revisions to Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics - Initial Discussion

Last month I updated the Board on the process and progress of the review of the 2011 Massachusetts Frameworks for English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics. (Also included in your materials for the September meeting was a memo about updating the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework.) Our special meeting on Monday evening, October 24, will be an opportunity for the Board to review and engage in more extended discussion about the proposed revisions to the English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics curriculum frameworks. Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and Department staff will present the proposed revisions and respond to your questions. We will devote one hour to each framework and provide ample opportunity for questions and discussion. No votes will be taken at the special meeting. Based on our current timetable, I expect to present the final draft of the proposed revisions to the Board at the November 2016 regular meeting for discussion and a vote to solicit public comment through January 2017.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities. He will ask Mary Ann Stewart to report on the annual conference of the National Association of State Boards of Education (NASBE). The Board's Budget Committee, chaired by Katherine Craven, will report during item 7.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Funding developments. I am pleased to report that Massachusetts has been awarded a $15.876 million, three-year federal grant to support new charter school start-up, strengthen accountability for charter school performance, and share practices for school success. The Commonwealth is one of eight states to be awarded the competitive grant by the U.S. Department of Education. I also am pleased that the recently enacted state supplemental budget includes an additional $8.7 million for the Department's student assessment program. The additional funds allow us to close the books on the second year of administering both MCAS and PARCC (spring 2016) and to continue our development of the next-generation MCAS that will be administered in spring 2017 for the first time.

  2. New Skills for Youth. In March 2016, Massachusetts was awarded a $100,000 planning grant to develop a career readiness action plan to help expand economic opportunity for young people across the Commonwealth. Massachusetts was among 24 states and the District of Columbia that secured grants for this work through phase one of the New Skills for Youth (NSFY) grant opportunity. The grants are part of a $75 million, five-year initiative that JP Morgan Chase developed in partnership with the Council of Chief State School Officers and Advance CTE. This initiative is aimed at increasing economic opportunity for young people by strengthening career-focused education starting in high school and ending with postsecondary degrees or credentials aligned with the needs of business.

    Massachusetts and other states awarded NSFY planning grants are now eligible to compete for funds during phase two of the initiative. The focus of this competition will be on what states have achieved during the six months of planning, and how well positioned they are to execute their plans to transform state systems of career preparation. Ten states will be awarded up to $1.9 million over three years if successful in phase two. On October 25-26, Secretary Peyser and I will join Jennifer James, Undersecretary of Labor and Workforce Development; Juan Vega, Assistant Secretary of Housing and Economic Development; Pam Eddinger, President of Bunker Hill Community College; and Sue Mailman, President of Coghlin Electric, in Washington D.C. to present to a review panel and answer questions to compete for phase two funds.

  3. School visits. On September 19 I visited Holyoke's Dean Vocational Technical High School with Receiver Steve Zrike. Dean's new principal is Jeff Peterson, former principal of the Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton. Principal Peterson has focused the start of the school year on transforming the school climate into a down-to-business, orderly environment and the school culture to one where relationships between and among students and adults are respectful and supportive. I spoke with students who echoed improvements in the culture and climate and who said they were engaged in more challenging work than previously.

    On September 30 I visited Revere High School with Superintendent Dianne Kelly and Principal Lourenco Garcia. Revere High School is a Level 1 school that enrolls approximately 1,900 students, many of whom are economically disadvantaged. I met with teachers, talked with seven students who are initiating a student senate, and observed several classes. Revere High is focused on preparing students to attend college. The school has built advisories into the school schedule each day, assists students with college applications, pays the cost for each student to take the PSAT twice and the SAT once, and takes students on multiple college visits.

    Later that day I visited Bentley Academy Horace Mann Charter School in Salem (270 students in grades K-5) with Superintendent Margarita Ruiz, Principal Marlena Alfonso, and Salem Mayor Kim Driscoll. The school is one of three schools that exited this fall from Level 4 status as a result of strong progress since being identified as underperforming. The school adopted three priorities for the 2016-17 school year: incorporating performance tasks in mathematics; improving writing instruction; and improving the school climate by focusing on mutual respect between and among students and adults. We saw evidence of each of the priorities in the two classes we visited. I also met with teachers to learn more about their family engagements efforts, student interventions and enrichment, and teacher leadership teams.

    On October 4 I visited Holyoke High School with Governor Baker and Secretary Peyser. During our visit to a U.S. History class that was reviewing the genesis of our current political parties, Governor Baker engaged the students in a discussion of the electoral college and distinctions between state-by-state election results and the national vote. We also met with a focus group of students, who shared their experiences in Holyoke and aspirations for life after high school.

  4. Advisory councils. The Board's advisory councils are charged with a policy matter or task each year and report to the Board at the end of the school year. Under Tab 9, in the Information section of your packet, is an update on the work of the advisory councils. We currently have vacancies on the Advisory Council on Vocational-Technical Education. If Board members would like to suggest any potential nominees for that council, please contact me.

  5. Review of educator licensure regulations. As I previously reported, the Department is developing a series of regulatory proposals aimed at streamlining and simplifying the licensure and license renewal process for educators. Our staff has been discussing various topics with the Working Group for Streamlining Educator Licensure Regulations & Policies, which includes representatives from K-12 and higher education, unions, and private day and residential special education schools. The Department is gathering additional feedback from the field through a survey. I anticipate bringing the proposals to the Board in December.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Progress Report on Southbridge Public Schools: Jessica Huizenga, Receiver - Discussion

    Southbridge Public Schools Receiver/Superintendent Jessica Huizenga will join us on October 25 to update the Board on the district's progress to date under the Southbridge Level 5 District Turnaround Plan and anticipated next steps. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Strategic Transformation, will join Dr. Huizenga at the meeting.

  2. Level 5 Schools: First-Quarter FY2017 Reports - Discussion

    Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Strategic Transformation, will present the FY2017 first quarterly reports for 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.

  3. Recap of Special Meeting: Proposed Revisions to Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics - Discussion

    We will recap the Monday evening special meeting and discuss next steps in the process of revising the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks for English Language Arts/ Literacy and Mathematics.

  4. Update on Educator Evaluation - Discussion

    The Board has discussed educator evaluation at each of our last three meetings in May, June, and September. In turn, the Department has been engaging with stakeholders - including MASS, MTA, and AFT-MA - to consider possible amendments to the regulations to address concerns about the student impact rating. We are continuing those discussions with stakeholders. I will update the Board at our October 25 meeting.

  5. Student Assessment and Competency Determination: Extending the Legacy 10th-Grade MCAS Tests for One More Year, through the Class of 2020 - Continuing Discussion and Vote

    Last month the Board had an initial discussion about extending the legacy 10th grade tests for one additional year, to encompass the class of 2020 - students who are in 9th grade this year. I am recommending that the Board vote on this matter on October 25, so we can notify schools and students in timely fashion. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel, and Associate General Counsel Lucy Wall will join us for this topic.

  6. Proposed Technical Amendment to Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Districts and Schools, 603 CMR 2.00 - Initial Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    I am presenting to the Board proposed technical amendments to the regulations on Accountability and Assistance for School Districts and Schools, for initial review and a vote to solicit public comment. The proposed amendments provide clarity to underperforming (Level 4) schools and chronically underperforming (Level 5) schools and districts regarding the length of turnaround plans, and conform to existing practice. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Deputy General Counsel Deb Steenland will be at the meeting to answer your questions.

  7. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education FY18 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 FY18. The committee is holding its first meeting on October 24 and will meet again in November. All Board members are welcome to attend committee meetings. The Board will vote on its FY18 budget priorities at the November 29 meeting.

Other Items for Information

  1. Report on Grants Approved by the Commissioner

    Under Tab 8 is a report on grants I have approved since our last meeting, under the authority that the Board has delegated to me.

  2. Update on Advisory Councils

    The Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 established advisory councils to advise the Board and the Commissioner on matters related to specific areas of focus. The councils are comprised of a wide range of diverse constituents. Advisory councils are charged with a policy matter or task and report to the Board at the end of the school year. Under Tab 9 is a memo summarizing the recent and upcoming work of the advisory councils, for your information.

  3. Report on Scheduling of Comprehensive Audits and Reviews

    The memo under Tab 10 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 FY2017 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 meetings in Malden on October 24 and 25.

Last Updated: October 18, 2016
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