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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Proposed Revisions of Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics - Recommendation for Adoption

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
March 23, 2017

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At the meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on March 28, 2017, I will ask the Board to vote to adopt the proposed revised 2017 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy (ELA-literacy) and Mathematics. The motion to adopt the revised frameworks is attached. This will be the final step in the revision process that began in November 2015 when the Board authorized a review of the frameworks in conjunction with the development of the next-generation MCAS.

Background

The Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics that the Board adopted in December 2010 incorporated the Common Core State Standards, along with standards and other features unique to Massachusetts. During the past six years, educators throughout the Commonwealth have been using the frameworks. In November 2015, on my recommendation, the Board directed the Department to work with Massachusetts preK-12 educators and higher education faculty to identify any modifications or additions to the ELA-literacy and mathematics frameworks that would ensure the Commonwealth's standards match those of the most aspirational education systems in the world and prepare students well for college, careers, and civic participation. The Department launched the framework review process in 2016.

Recent years have seen a spirited, and at times contentious, debate over the Common Core State Standards. The debate has been a healthy one that has helped the educators on the ELA-literacy and mathematics review panels strengthen the Commonwealth's high quality curriculum standards developed here over the past quarter-century.

The commitment to ambitious standards and high expectations for all students is reflected in the revisions to the ELA-literacy and mathematics standards that I am now recommending for your approval. The revised standards presented here draw from the best of prior Massachusetts standards and represent the wisdom of hundreds of the Commonwealth's pre-K-12 and higher education faculty. The standards embody the Commonwealth's commitment to providing all students with a world-class education. These updated standards were developed by Department staff from the Center for Instructional Support collaborating with classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, and college faculty across the Commonwealth and with staff in Student Assessment Services. The documents for your review represent our collective efforts to maintain the highest quality curriculum standards in the nation, standards that we are proud to include in the 2017 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics.

In short, while many have expressed concern about the role that the Common Core State Standards played in developing our 2010 standards, I want to make it clear that the 2017 standards are the Commonwealth's own. The 2017 standards were developed by Massachusetts educators, draw from the best of prior Massachusetts standards, and represent the input of hundreds of the Commonwealth's PreK-12 and higher education faculty. The 2017 standards present the Commonwealth's commitment to providing all students with a world-class education.

The rest of this memo outlines key changes in the proposed revised frameworks; summarizes public comment the Department received on the proposed changes; and describes the Department's approach to implementation support and next steps, including how the revised standards will be incorporated into the Next-generation MCAS assessments.

Key Changes in the Revised Frameworks

The review process benefited greatly from the generous participation of Massachusetts classroom teachers, curriculum specialists, and college faculty who have become familiar with the current frameworks over the past six years. Based on our engagement with the framework review panels and our analysis of the comments we received on the drafts during the public comment period (see below), the Department has produced rigorous, clear, coherent standards and curriculum frameworks in ELA-literacy and mathematics that will support ambitious teaching and learning in our schools.

Highlights of the revised 2017 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy include:

  • Multiple cross-references among the Reading, Writing, Speaking and Listening, and Language standards to increase coherence;
  • Numerous new classroom instructional examples and samples of authentic student writing from Massachusetts classrooms to clarify the meaning of the standards;
  • New sections on determining the relative complexity of literary and informational texts based on qualitative measures such as text structure, vocabulary and sentence structure, and knowledge demands;
  • An explanation of how literacy instruction-particularly in the early elementary years-is intertwined with learning in mathematics, science, social studies, the arts, and other subjects of a well-balanced curriculum;
  • New and revised Guiding Principles and a new section on preparation for college, careers, and civic participation;
  • Revised and updated glossary, bibliography, and author lists.

Highlights of the revised 2017 Massachusetts Curriculum Framework for Mathematics include:

  • Stronger learning progressions for pattern recognition in the early grades, the measurement of circles in the middle grades, and ratio, rate, and proportions in the middle grades;
  • Revised language to clarify the standards, including the incorporation of footnotes into the standards, definitions of key terms, and examples to specify expectations for students;
  • A revised high school section with an explanation of the alignment between the Conceptual Category Standards and the Model High School course standards in the two model pathways (Traditional and Integrated);
  • Added guidance for making decisions about course sequences that includes pathways to calculus and other advanced mathematics courses;
  • New and revised Guiding Principles;
  • Revised and updated glossary and bibliography.

Public Comment on the Proposed Revisions

At the Board's meeting on November 28, 2016, the Board approved sending drafts of the two curriculum frameworks out for public comment through February 17, 2017. Overall, the majority of the responses to the drafts have been very positive. You will find more detail in Attachments 2-6. In the aggregate, between 85% and 90% of those who responded to the Department's public comment survey agreed we have improved or maintained the clarity, coherence, and rigor of both the ELA-literacy and mathematics standards. Many respondents offered comments and advice on how to make the standards even more useful. Department staff incorporated many of these suggestions into the new drafts attached here for your approval.

During the public comment period, the Department conducted outreach to discuss the proposed revisions and heard from approximately 1,700 educators, parents, students and others. We conducted an online public survey to which there were 997 responses, 88% of which were from pre-K-12 educators. We received correspondence from ten individuals and groups, including from professors of mathematics and literacy education at Massachusetts higher education institutions. Department staff held ten public regional meetings, attended by 473 participants, spoke with approximately 60 members of the State Student Advisory Council at its January 2017 meeting, and held four public conference calls with a total of 162 participants. Department staff reviewed all the feedback extensively and made additional edits to the frameworks, highlighted above and included in the attachments.

Next Steps, Including Transition of MCAS Tests to Align to Revised Standards

With the Board's approval this month, the Department will do any further copyediting that is needed and then transmit the new frameworks to the Joint Committee on Education, per state law, and disseminate them statewide. The Department will provide implementation support to districts, produce guidance documents, conduct in-person and virtual professional development sessions to deepen educators' understanding of the revised standards; and continue to design and implement regional networks to support implementation. The Department will gradually incorporate the new standards into the Next-generation MCAS.

This spring, students in grades 3 through 8 will participate in the first administration of the Next-Generation MCAS tests in ELA and mathematics; these 2017 tests are aligned to the standards in the 2010 curriculum frameworks. Should the Board vote to approve the proposed revisions presented here, the second administration of the next-generation tests in spring 2018 will align to the revised frameworks.

In 2017 and 2018, the legacy grade 10 mathematics tests will continue to be dually aligned to the 2000/2004 and 2010 Curriculum Frameworks, and the legacy grade 10 ELA tests will continue to be dually aligned to the 2001/2004 and 2010 Curriculum Frameworks. Both will transition to align with the revised frameworks when the next-generation grade 10 tests are given for the first time in spring 2019.

Recommendation

Massachusetts has been unwavering in its determination to provide standards that are clear, coherent, ambitious, and useful to educators, students and parents. The revised frameworks that I am presenting to you continue that tradition. I recommend that the Board vote this month to adopt the proposed Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks for English Language Arts and Literacy and Mathematics.

Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and staff from the Department's Center for Instructional Support will be available at the Board meeting to answer your questions.

Enclosures:

Download Powerpoint Presentation
Standards Review: English Language Arts (ELA)/Literacy and Mathematics
Download MS WORD Document
Full draft of revised 2017 Curriculum Framework for English Language Arts and Literacy
Download MS WORD Document
Full draft of revised 2017 Curriculum Framework for Mathematics
Download MS WORD Document
Summary of Grade-by-Grade Detailed Revisions in ELA/Literacy
Download MS WORD Document
Summary of Grade-by-Grade Detailed Revisions in Mathematics
Download MS WORD Document
Major Themes from Public Comment and Actions related to ELA/Literacy
Download MS WORD Document
Major Themes from Public Comment and Actions related to Mathematics
 
Comprehensive Public Comment Report (including all comments received)
 
Motion to adopt the frameworks


Last Updated: March 30, 2017
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