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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on the Early College Initiative in Massachusetts

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
May 12, 2017

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Background

At the January 24, 2017 joint meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and Board of Higher Education (BHE), staff leadership from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the Department of Higher Education (DHE) provided a brief presentation and proposal to move the early college work forward. The presentation was informed by Parthenon-EY's research on the early college landscape in Massachusetts that was made possible with support from the Barr Foundation.

Following the discussion, both BESE and BHE voted on a joint resolution to establish a formal early college designation process and establish an Early College Joint Committee (ECJC) to oversee both the development of criteria and the application process for designating Early College High Schools. The five-member ECJC includes James Peyser, Secretary of Education; Chris Gabrieli, Chair, Board of Higher Education; Paul Sagan, Chair, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education; Margaret McKenna, Member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education; Paul Toner, Member of the Board of Higher Education; Mitchell Chester, Commissioner, Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (non-voting); and Carlos Santiago, Commissioner, Department of Higher Education (non-voting).

In addition to establishing the ECJC, the joint resolution specifies that approved designated early college programs in Massachusetts will align with the following five key design principles, as defined in the Massachusetts Early College Designation - Preliminary Outline of Key Elements: equitable access, guided academic pathways, enhanced student support, connection to career, and effective partnerships. Further, the ECJC will report back to the BESE and BHE on the proposed designation and grant procurement criteria by June 30, 2017. This memorandum summarizes the actions taken since the January 2017 joint board meeting.

Developing the Early College Designation Process and Criteria

Subsequent to the January 24, 2017 joint board meeting, and prior to the first meeting of the ECJC, a working group was formed consisting of staff members from DESE, DHE, and the Executive Office of Education (EOE). This group has met biweekly to draft criteria consistent with the Key Design Principles of a Massachusetts Early College, along with an application and review process for designating partnerships among public school districts and public or private institutions of higher education as Massachusetts Early Colleges.

At the first ECJC meeting, held on April 12, 2017, the ECJC reviewed and provided initial feedback to the interagency working group on the attached Massachusetts Early College Program Designation Process and Criteria - Preliminary Draft Document and a timeline for designation. Under the proposed plan, programs would submit an application for "preliminary designation" and, upon approval, would be invited to submit an application for "final designation." The ECJC discussed strategies for ensuring priority for students who are traditionally underrepresented in higher education and affirmed the importance of both identifying performance metrics at the outset and holding designated programs accountable to these metrics. In addition, the ECJC noted that the anticipated two-step application process will be beneficial, as there may be public and private funding available to support partnerships that receive preliminary approval.

Next Steps

This month the interagency working group is meeting with various stakeholder groups to solicit input on the draft designation criteria. On May 31, 2017, the ECJC will reconvene to review a revised version of the designation criteria based on this initial input. Anticipating the ECJC will direct the working group to share the updated draft of the early college designation criteria more broadly, immediately following the May ECJC meeting, we are planning to post the updated draft criteria to the ESE and DHE websites, with a request for review and comment to be submitted by June 13, 2017. The interagency working group will then summarize responses from the field in preparation for the presentation at the June board meetings. The BHE will meet on June 20, 2017 and the BESE will meet on June 27, 2017 to vote on approving the early college designation process and criteria, as recommended by the ECJC.

At the May 23, 2017 meeting of the BESE, Chair Sagan and Margaret McKenna, who serve on the ECJC, will report on the ECJC's approach to this initiative. Keith Westrich, Associate Commissioner for College, Career, and Technical Education, Nyal Fuentes, College and Career Readiness Coordinator, and Jennifer Gwatkin, Early College Coordinator, will be at the Board meeting to respond to your questions.

Enclosures:

Download PDF Document
Massachusetts Early College Program Designation Process and Criteria - Preliminary Draft Document


Last Updated: May 17, 2017
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