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Testimony of David P. Driscoll, Commissioner of Education before the Senate Ways and Means Committee at the State House, Room B-1
April 14, 1999

Chairman Montigny, Vice Chairs Berry and Shannon, and members of the Committee, I want to thank you for the opportunity to testify on the Board of Education's Fiscal Year 2000 Budget Request.

For the record, my name is David P. Driscoll, Commissioner of Education.

The Board of Education's Fiscal Year 2000 Budget Request was adopted by the Board at the November, 1998 meeting and subsequently transmitted to the House and Senate Ways and Means Committees as required by Chapter 69, Section 1A. The submitted budget details the requested amounts for each state appropriation. While I will not focus on all fifty three appropriation requests, I would like to highlight our six top priorities.

1. Assessment

This past fiscal year marked the first administration of the state's new testing system called the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). 210,000 fourth, eighth, and tenth graders were tested last May in the areas of English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science & Technology. The results of the tests were reported in December and included detailed reports for parents, superintendents, principals and teachers. Schools have given us positive feedback about the quality of the reports, and their usefulness in diagnosing problems and planning for improvements.

We also learned a great deal from this first round of testing and have modified the testing system in several ways to make this year's tests more effective and efficient. This year's tests will require fewer hours to administer, are better packaged for ease of administration, and have had additional scrutiny by external content area experts for accuracy and developmental appropriateness. Moreover, we plan to report the results of this spring's tests sooner than last year.

An important component of the testing system is professional development. Last summer we involved over 700 teachers from across the state in the scoring of the long composition part of the English Language Arts test. Last fall we conducted MCAS Reporting Workshops for nearly 3,000 superintendents, principals and other school leaders on how to interpret the results of the 1998 MCAS tests. This spring we are providing over 1,400 teachers a two-day workshop entitled What does Proficient Look Like? Through these efforts we hope to build local educators understanding and support for the new, high standards for academic achievement called for by the Education Reform Law.

The Fiscal Year 2000 request represents a major increase from Fiscal Year 1999. The additional funding request will support the following changes:

  • Because of rising enrollments, we will be testing approximately 7,000 more students this spring than we did last year;

  • We have added History and Social Science tests to this springs program, increasing printing, shipping and scoring costs;

  • We have proposed to the Board several modifications to the testing program for the 2000-01 school year, including a series of MCAS reading tests in grades 3, 5, and 7, and a new mathematics test in grade 6. If adopted, these modifications will require development and field testing in FY 2000;

  • The demands of MCAS require us to expand professional development opportunities for teachers through expanded workshops, publications and better use of technology;

  • We plan on increasing our efforts to build and maintain public support for MCAS through new and more widely distributed informational materials;

  • Additional funds will be used to expand the Department's Assessment cluster, which is significantly under-staffed at this time; and

  • We plan to earmark a portion of the FY 2000 assessment budget to support the development of an automated student tracking system. The system will allow us to track students MCAS scores over time and will be critical to the implementation of the competency determination requirement in the year 2001.

In addition to these initiatives we plan to continue our efforts to develop alternate assessments for students with disabilities and ESL (English as a Second Language) tests for students with limited English proficiency. Last year, we tested 97% of all grade 4, 8 and 10 students. Our goal over the next several years is to develop fair and valid assessments for virtually all students and have reliable information to support a strong student and school accountability system.

2. Accountability

We must hold schools & districts accountable for student achievement. To move forward, we will establish a system of accountability and we will rate schools. We will expect all schools to improve. As we raise expectations for achievement, and give schools the tools, performance will rise to meet expectations.

In 1999, we launched a new program of expanded academic support services for students performing at low levels on Iowa, MCAS or other assessments. This program, as you know, was initiated by the Senate. We funded 304 proposals to 194 districts for a total of $15,140,013.00. Several more proposals will be brought to the April Board of Education meeting for consideration. We were able to provide technical assistance to a substantial number of districts to help design and plan programs for elementary through high school students.

We will complete this month the design of a comprehensive school and school district accountability system which will enable us to measure the progress of all schools and districts toward meeting state performance goals and will identify both schools that are exemplary and those that require state intervention.

We have developed and piloted a new district performance review protocol to assess implementation of education reform mandates, professional development, teacher evaluation, and school improvement planning.

In FY 2000, We will have in place the infrastructure for full implementation of our new accountability system. We will:

  • Conduct a pilot school inspection program, following the British model, to refine the inspection protocol and will be training a group of educational leaders to serve as inspectors of schools determined to be underperforming.
  • Complete Phase 1 of our Data "Warehouse" initiative to ensure ready access to information collected by ESE for use by internal and external decision-makers.
  • Implement the new expanded district performance evaluation in 70 districts in which we will conduct on-site reviews during FY2000.
  • Assess the first year of our Academic Support Services grant awards program for students performing below state standards in core subject areas, to provide technical assistance to assist districts in designing effective programs.

3. Teacher Quality

Strengthening our teaching force before we face the crisis of supply and demand is one of the most important tasks we must undertake now in order to support student achievement in the future. That is why Governor Cellucci signed into law Chapter 260 of the Acts of 1998 last August. The law, which I called the 12 to 62 plan, gives us an endowment to use for promoting teacher quality. We are the only state in the nation that has institutionalized our commitment to strengthening teacher quality through a permanent endowment. I am pleased that US Secretary of Education Riley recently asked us to provide background information as he intends to support this endorsement program as a model for other states.

The endowment interest from Chapter 260 provides about $3 million a year. The Board requested additional funds, and the Governor also requested additional funds, because $3 million distributed statewide will not be enough to accomplish the goals we intend to achieve.

In our first year of action to implement teacher quality initiatives, we accomplished a great deal, we:

  • Created 90 Future Teacher of America Clubs in middle and high schools statewide;
  • Tripled the interest in our Attracting Excellence to Teaching Program, from 300 applicants to 900, who receive $1800 a year for four years to relieve some of their college debt burden;
  • Received 800 applications representing 36 states and 4 countries, and will award the first 60 new teacher signing bonuses by the end of the month;
  • Increased the number of National Board certified teachers from 7 to 22 and awarded the first 19 of the so-called $50,000 veteran teacher bonuses, to the National Board certified teachers who have been serving as mentors; and have another 90 in the pipeline this year, and have started the process to attract another 300 into the pipeline for next year;
  • Issued a request for responses to a proposal to train 1000 mentor teacher at institutes this summer, as part of our commitment to support beginning teachers.

In FY 2000, with the additional support we have requested, we will be able to expand several of these areas.

First, we need to double the number of Future Teacher of America Clubs by June 2000. In the first year, I leveraged some of our national School to Work grant funds to support the clubs, but we need to rely on state funds as the School to Work grant ends.

Second, we need to meet the demand that we stimulated by promoting the Attracting Excellence loan forgiveness program. We need a supplemental budget of $318,500 to fully meet the demands for this year, and we need $1.2 million for next year.

Third, our new teacher signing bonus program caught the nation by storm. We will increase the number of bonus recipients to 150 next year, while maintaining the very high selection criteria, and we will need to expand our summer intensive training program to bring these people who are very strong in their content areas up to a good level of teaching ability.

Fourth, we need to continue toward the goal I set of 1000 National Board certified teachers by 2003, and will need to support the candidate fees and also create the network of mentors to help these candidates pursue their year-long application and assessment.

Fifth, we must make a major commitment to mentoring. The Board requested a $2 million new line item, and the Governor in House 1 requested nearly $6 million. We share a single resolve: that we must do a better job in supporting our teachers in their first year. We will have 3000 new teachers beginning jobs this September; in five years, the annual new hires may top 5000. Each of those new teachers must have support. We have designed a system of training mentors, and providing those mentors in a one-to-one relationship with the beginning teachers in a co-teaching capacity for one class a day. Research from Connecticut is clear: if we provide trained mentors who observe, coach, and assist beginning teachers to gain the skills they need to become better teachers, student achievement will improve. I want to repeat this fact. Connecticut's research in that state's "BEST" program shows that support for beginning teachers pays off in increased student achievement. We will pay for the training of 1000 mentors this summer. Additional stipends to reward effective mentors should be shared by the districts and the state. And we also recommend a cost-share between the state and district for the cost of the mentor's time in co-teaching a class, since that time otherwise would have been free time for the teacher who is now being asked to be responsible for a class.

I also want to assure this Committee that we believe the commitment to teacher quality enhancement must be shared by the state, the local districts, and also the federal government. That is why we are applying on April 16 for two new federal grant opportunities in Title 2 of the Higher Education reauthorization Act. We are seeking substantial federal funds to create a data collection system that will enable us to track educators throughout their careers, so we will be able to identify areas of need and shortage of supply, and finally correlate teacher training and experience with student achievement. We are also asking the federal government to support our teacher quality enhancement endowment by providing targeted support for us to recruit math and science professionals from other fields to become middle and high school teachers in our urban areas, where they are needed urgently, and to support the career development of those paraprofessionals who wish to become certified to teach in special education and bilingual education programs in our urban areas where they are also urgently needed.

4. Early Childhood

One goal of Education Reform is to ensure that young children come to school ready to learn. The Department is working with other agencies to develop a comprehensive, high quality system of early care and education that is accessible and affordable for all children and their families. The Community Partnerships for Children (CPC) program is the mechanism that has been created to encourage broad participation in developing local early care and education systems that build on existing programs and services and that are responsive to the needs of families, particularly working families. The program provides assistance for families earning less than 100% of the State Median Income so that their children can attend preschool programs and have access to additional services. CPC, funded at $78.5 million, is serving an estimated 18,137 preschool age children this fiscal year in Head Start, private child care and public preschool programs. This includes:

  • 3000 children being served with the additional $18.4 million that was allocated this year;
  • 60.5% attend full day/full year programs, with the remainder attending part day programs;
  • 1,068 children with special needs received programs and services that were beyond what was required by their IEPs; and
  • 2,283 kindergarten children attend enhanced or extended day kindergarten (funded with Phase I funds that allowed kindergarten services).

As part of the effort to enhance program quality, $2.7 million (3%) is being spent on professional development and training. Activities include college courses to assist family child care providers attain their Child Development Associate degrees; workshop series focussed on curriculum and other issues related to program accreditation; workshops and seminars for parents and teachers together.

The 167 Community Partnerships programs serve 330 of the 351 cities and towns in the Commonwealth. In addition to providing assistance to families for early care and education for their preschool age children, programs also provide a variety of comprehensive services:

  • 153 of the programs provide family education, such as parent support groups, play groups, parent resource centers, adult education and other related activities;
  • 143 programs provide family literacy programs, such as story hours, literacy conferences, and lending libraries for families; and
  • Additional services funded in some programs include home visits, social workers, screening and family outreach workers.

Goals for FY 2000: Priorities for the CPC program are to:

  • Expand preschool services in areas of high need;
  • Continue to develop a data collection/technology system at the state and local levels and in collaboration with the Office of Child Care Services (OCCS); and
  • Conduct an evaluation of program quality and the cost of care in coordination with the market rate study being done by OCCS.

If the enabling legislation could be amended, we would recommend:

  • Extending program eligibility to infants and toddlers; and
  • Allowing children who have participated in CPC as 4 year olds to continue in the program in the kindergarten year (CPC would provide wrap around services).

The Massachusetts Family Network (MFN) serves families with children birth through three and is open to all families in funded sites. Family Networks provide home visits, health and developmental screening, adult education, support groups, family and community activities, assistance with basic needs and leadership opportunities for parents. Each Family Network is designed to meet the needs of its community through the collaboration of existing programs and coalitions. This reduces duplication of services and provides a mix of services to meet the needs of the families in different kinds of communities.

MFN received $1 million in additional funding this year, bringing total funding to $4.4 million. With these funds:

  • 5 new projects were selected bringing the total number of projects to 30, serving 140 cities and towns; and
  • Approximately 17,000 families with 20,000 children will participate this year.

FY2000 Goals for MFN: We recommend:

  • Funding MFN in more communities and coordinating with other programs that conduct home visits;
  • Planning and initiating an evaluation, possibly in conjunction with the Children's Trust Funds' evaluation of its Family Resource Centers; and
  • Supporting Senate bill 270 (An act expanding outreach, education and support through the Massachusetts Family Network Project) to formalize the MFN program.

Kindergarten: An additional area that needs to be addressed along with other early childhood initiatives is expanding the number and quality of full day kindergartens. An additional recommendation is to fund a grant program to increase the number and quality of full-day kindergarten programs. School districts could apply for up to $18,000 per classroom for existing full day classrooms and/or for converting half-day classrooms to full day. An estimate for the first year would be $25 million.

5. Early Literacy Grant Program

The Department has requested a new $3,000,000 line item for an Early Literacy Grant Program. This program will be a bridge between the Early Childhood program for 3 and 4 year olds, and the Academic Support Services program, which serves primarily students in Grade 3 and above. It will also link with the new federal Reading Excellence Act grant program that the Department is applying for this spring. Funds for this line item include the $1,500,000 that is currently in the early childhood line item for individual tutorial literacy programs designed for short term intervention for children who are at risk of failing to read in the first grade; and $1,500,000 from the remedial education component of the Essential Skills line item to provide early literacy services for children in Kindergarten through grade three. Such services and professional development programs for teachers will be based on reading and writing instructional practices whose effectiveness have been documented by research.

6. Technology

Over the last few years, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has developed a series of bold technology initiatives that puts us at the forefront of on line agencies.

The centerpiece of the Department's technology efforts has been the Information Management System (IMS) (7061-7997). In its 3rd of five years, the IMS has completed the infrastructure and design phases and this year is launching a suite of "smart form" applications that automate data collection through the web, cutting the average cycle from deadline to report from eight months to 48 hours. Next year, the IMS will complete the development of smart forms and will roll out the first half of the Student Information Management System. In October, IMS field technicians will assist districts in their first transmission of individual student records to the state leading to the assignment of close to a million state assigned Identification Numbers. These state ID's will be used in all future MCAS test booklets and will make possible the data infrastructure for the accountability components of Education Reform.

Next year's IMS development costs are now projected to remain $5.5 million (up $2m from the Board's initial request). The Board's $2.5 million request for line item 7061-9200 is in addition to the IMS development costs. This line item funds the Department's annual operations of information technology systems. A detailed breakdown of these costs has been submitted to committee staff. Failure to fully fund this line item will substantially stress other programs to make up the difference.

The Department's other two technology-related line items address schools' and individual educators' needs for Internet access. MassEd.Net (7061-9615) provides every K-12 educator toll-free, dial-up access to the Internet, e-mail, personal web space, and premium quality technical support for $25 per year co-payment. The market rate for comparable service is $240 per year. However, the Department was able to aggressively negotiate a $80 price leaving the state's share at $55 per account. With over 23,000 accounts at this time, MassEd.Net is expected to reach 25,000 by the end of the fiscal year and 35,000 accounts by the end of FY'00. ($55/account * 35,000 = $1,925,000).

Mass Community Network (7061-8998) is scheduled to launch next fall. Whereas teachers use MassEd.Net to dial in to the Internet from their homes mornings and evenings, classroom access requires dedicated access to a local area network. The market rate for a fast (T1) connection is $2,700 per month. Though market aggregation and network optimization, Mass Community Network will reduce that cost to under $500 per month creating a total potential saving for the 3000 schools, libraries, and municipal office buildings of up to $80 million a year. $5 million of the $15 million needed to develop this network were appropriated last year. The Board is requesting the remaining $10 million to ensure that the network extends to all parts of the state.


As you can see, we have a lot to do. As I begin my first year as the permanent Commissioner of Education, the Board and I have established a most aggressive agenda that has to focus on accountability and results. While the increase for education has been incredible over the past several years, virtually all of those funds are distributed to local districts. I will be looking for increases for the Department and will be prepared to identify reductions in other areas to offset the additional monies.

Thank you. I would be happy to answer your questions.

Last Updated: April 14, 1999
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