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Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)

Briefing for the October 29, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
Date:October 18, 2019

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) will be on Tuesday, October 29, 2019, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (Department) offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. The meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. (coffee will be available at 8:00 a.m.) and should adjourn by 1:00 p.m. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


Our agenda includes a presentation on two Department initiatives relating to strengthening instructional materials, followed by an initial discussion on planning for the competency determination (high school graduation) standard for the class of 2024 and beyond. We will also have an update on Department activities to assist school districts with the implementation of certain requirements of An Act Relative to Students with Dyslexia. We will also have an update on the school finance bill that is under consideration in the Legislature. In addition, the Board's Budget Committee will report on its October 11 meeting, and the Board will begin discussing its FY2021 education budget proposal.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

We welcome new member Paymon Rouhanifard to his first meeting of the Board. Paymon is the co-founder and CEO of the workforce development organization Propel America. He served from 2013-2018 as the state-appointed superintendent of the Camden, N.J. school district. Before that, he served as the strategy and innovation officer for the Newark, N.J. Public Schools, following his work in the New York City Department of Education's office of portfolio management. Paymon succeeds Margaret McKenna, whose term on the Board expired in June.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. STEM Week. The Baker-Polito Administration will hold the Commonwealth's second annual STEM Week from October 21 to 25, and I look forward to attending some of the events. In connection with STEM Week, the Executive Office of Education and the STEM Advisory Council are launching a public awareness campaign entitled "See Yourself in STEM" that is aimed at encouraging more young people to see themselves engaged in STEM fields and helping them understand the diverse job opportunities available.

  2. Boston Public Schools district review.

    The district review of Boston Public Schools in underway. Classroom observations began on September 30 and concluded on October 11. During this time over 900 classrooms in approximately 100 schools were observed. The onsite portion of the review will start on October 21 and I plan to have the report finalized in the winter of 2020.

  3. Supplemental budget.

    The House Ways and Means (HWM) Committee reported out the FY2019 close-out supplemental budget on October 15 and held debate on amendments on October 16. The House proposal includes increases to the following Department accounts:

    7035-0006 Regional Transportation$2,571,960
    7035-0008 Homeless Transportation$2,000,000
    7061-0012 Circuit Breaker$1,998,540
    7061-9010 Charter School Tuition Reimbursement$17,500,000
    7061-9408 Targeted Assistance$10,000,000

    In addition, HWM has also proposed $5 million in new funding for the 7061-0010 Mental Health and Substance Abuse Grant account that was not funded in the FY2020 General Appropriations Act (GAA). The Senate will likely take up the supplemental budget before the end of October, at which time the Board will receive information on final appropriations.

  4. Update on Kaleidoscope.

    The application for the Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning opened on Friday, October 4. We shared the announcement with the 497 schools, districts, and collaboratives that submitted letters of interest in the pilot over the summer. In addition, we announced the application to all superintendents, charter school leaders, and principals. To date, over 40 organizations have started the application process. The application deadline is November 15, 2019. We will notify applicants of who the finalists are on November 27. A finalist workshop will be held on December 3.

    Also, joining the Department this month is Kaleidoscope's Associate Commissioner Tera Carr. Early next month, Komal Bhasin, takes the helm of Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning as senior associate commissioner. Both Komal and Tera have served as classroom teachers, principals, and district leaders in Massachusetts and Oklahoma, turning around underperforming schools by leveraging deeper learning practices.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Strengthening Instructional Materials: Report on Two Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Initiatives — Discussion
    1. Curriculum Ratings by Teachers (CURATE)
    2. Middle School Science Curriculum Development (OpenSciEd)

    The Department is committed to helping districts make well-informed decisions about the curricular materials they provide to teachers, and ultimately, students. Your materials include a memo briefly describing two Department initiatives - CURATE and OpenSciEd - that promote this goal in distinct but complementary ways. At our meeting on October 29, Department staff (Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske, Associate Commissioner Ron Noble, Director of STEM Erin Hashimoto-Martell, Manager of Instructional Policy Rachel Bradshaw, and Instructional Policy Specialist Maria Hernandez), and Holly Rosa, director of K-12 science, technology, and engineering for Boston Public Schools, will discuss these initiatives and answer your questions.

  2. Competency Determination Standard for High School Graduation: Planning for Class of 2024 and Beyond — Discussion

    I will present my plan and anticipated timeline for arriving at a recommendation for a new competency determination (CD) standard for students in the class of 2024 and beyond. The memo in your materials includes background information and the proposed timeline. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson and Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel will join us for this discussion.

  3. Students with Dyslexia — Update on Department Activities to Assist School Districts

    I will provide an update on the ongoing work of the Department to implement certain requirements of An Act Relative to Students with Dyslexia, Chapter 272 of the Acts of 2018. The law was enacted in October 2018 and took effect on January 17, 2019. The Department has hired a vendor, Pivot Learning, to assist the Department and the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) in developing the Massachusetts Dyslexia Guidelines in consultation with stakeholders. The Department's communication with school districts and others has emphasized districts' continuing obligation to adopt and implement procedures and protocols pertaining to suspected reading disabilities and/or dyslexia. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will be at the Board meeting on October 29, 2019 to answer any questions you may have about this initiative.

  4. Update on School Finance Bill — Discussion

    The Massachusetts Senate passed its version of the school finance bill on October 3, and the bill is now before the House. We will update the Board at our October 29 meeting.

  5. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education FY2021 Budget Proposal and Report from the Board's Budget Committee — Initial Discussion

    The Board's Budget Committee met on October 11. Matt Hills, who chairs the committee, will present the committee's report on October 29 for discussion of possible budget priorities and program initiatives to propose for FY2021. The Board will vote on its FY2021 budget priorities at the November meeting.

Other Items for Information

  1. Report on Grants Approved by the Commissioner

    Enclosed is information on grants that I have approved since the last meeting, under the authority the Board has delegated to the Commissioner.

  2. Scheduling of Comprehensive Audits and Reviews

    The enclosed memo 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 FY2020 comprehensive audits and reviews to you in accordance with that vote.

  3. Charter Authorizing Overview and Anticipated Schedule for 2019-2020

    Each year, the Board votes on various matters under its statutory role as charter school authorizer. The enclosed memo summarizes the statutory framework for charter schools and the Board's responsibilities as the state's sole charter school authorizer. It includes a tentative schedule of agenda items related to charter school authorizing for 2019-2020.

  4. Chronically Underperforming Schools Quarter 1 Reports

    Enclosed for your information is the first of four FY2020 quarterly progress updates to the Board on the four chronically underperforming schools, focusing on activities from July-October 2019.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the meeting in Malden on October 29.

Contact Us

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906

Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370


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