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Commissioner's Weekly Update - January 29, 2016

Training Opportunity on Social Emotional Learning and Approaches to Play and Learning:

The Collaborative for Educational Services (CES) is accepting registrations for a free, two-day training of trainers introductory course on the Massachusetts Preschool and Kindergarten Standards for Social Emotional Learning and Approaches to Play and Learning. The course is co-sponsored by the Department of Early Education and Care and ESE and will be presented in February and March in three locations:

  • February 22 and 26 in Holyoke,
  • February 25 and March 8 in Worcester, and
  • February 29 and March 4 in Malden.

Early childhood educators, administrators, and family engagement specialists from public schools, Head Start programs, community-based early education and care programs, and family child care programs are encouraged to apply by February 3, 2016. Participants are eligible to receive one continuing education unit or 10 professional development points. See the online registration form and application for full details.

E-rate Update:

The window for filing E-rate applications for Funding Year (FY) 2016 will open at noon February 3, 2016 and close April 29, 2016. The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC), which hosts the E-rate application portal, has informed the Federal Communications Commission that a projected $1.9 billion in unused funds from previous years will be available in 2016. Combined with the annual $3.9 billion cap (plus inflation) set by the FCC last year, up to $5.8 billion in E-rate funding will be available for 2016.

The best way to support a district's successful filing of an E-rate application is to start now with the district's account and user information. Districts can set up their account in the USAC Portal, assign user rights, and establish or update their profile. For more information on how to complete the tasks mentioned above, visit the USAC website or call USAC at (888) 203-8100. For state-specific tools and resources, visit ESE's E-rate website.

The Universal Services Administrative Company is in the process of migrating to a new computer system and asks that early filers provide them with feedback on their experience by contacting USAC at (888) 203-8100 or

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met on January 25 and 26, 2016 and took action on several items, including designating the Southbridge Public Schools a Level 5 district, adopting revised science, technology and engineering standards, and soliciting public comment on proposed digital literacy and computer science standards. The science, technology and engineering standards will also be posted on ESE's Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics page. For more information, please contact STEM staff.

They also met jointly with the Board of Higher Education to discuss civic learning and early college initiatives.

Educator Evaluation Data:

The Department released aggregate educator evaluation data for all schools and districts this week. This is the first year in which all districts were expected to evaluate all educators. "Meaningful evaluations help educators improve and inform efforts to ensure that all students are taught by skillful, effective teachers," Commissioner Chester said.

Refusals to Take an Assessment:

As the spring assessment administration nears, please keep in mind that participation in statewide assessments is required of all students enrolled in public schools in the relevant grade levels. The state assessments provide important feedback to families, teachers, administrators, and state policymakers as to where schools are succeeding and where schools and districts need to enhance their efforts.

In some instances, a student may refuse to take a test, either of his/her own volition or at the direction of a parent. In these cases, we ask principals to encourage parents to rethink their refusal and remind them that the assessments are a valuable gauge of their student's and school's progress. We ask principals and test proctors to handle refusals with sensitivity. Students should not be pressured to take the test, nor should they be punished for not taking the test. They may sit quietly and read in the testing room, but if they are distracting others in the class who are taking the test, it would be appropriate to have them move to another location in the school with adult supervision. There is no requirement to provide formal or informal instruction to these students during the test period; having them do homework or read a book is sufficient, provided that the material is separate from the content being assessed in the testing room.

For students who refuse to take MCAS paper tests, no special reporting is needed. If no answer form is submitted for a student or if a blank answer form is submitted, the student will automatically be considered absent. For students who refuse to take the PARCC test on paper or on a computer, the test administrator will need to go into PearsonAccessNext to manage the student's account and mark them as Not Tested, Absent, for each test they refused to take. Additionally, if the student started an online test session before refusal, that test will need to be marked complete by the test administrator. The Department strongly suggests that the test administrator document the student refusal and keep it on record at the school in case questions arise later about the school's participation rate.

Information Session on Additional Time Grant:

The Department is holding a Grant Information Session on Tuesday, February 9, 2016 from 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. at Devens Commons to share information and answer questions about the anticipated Fiscal Year 2016-2017 (FY17) 21st Century Community Learning Centers – Supporting Additional Time Grant Funding Opportunity (Fund Code 647-B1). This federally funded grant will support new out-of-school time and expanded learning time programming. More information is included in the online registration form.

Preliminary Census Estimates for SY2016-17 Title I Funding:

The federal Census Bureau has released preliminary census data for Massachusetts school districts. When finalized later this year, the data will be used to calculate Title I, Part A district allocations for the 2016-17 school year. These preliminary, unadjusted estimates provide an early indication of possible changes to district Title I allocations and may be helpful for planning purposes. District officials who believe there is a discrepancy in the preliminary census figures should contact the Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) Branch of the Census Bureau at (301) 763-3193 or by March 8, 2016. More information and guidance on the census estimates and challenge procedures are available on the SAIPE website. Individuals can also contact ESE's Title I office at or (781) 338-6230 for further clarification.

Lead Awareness:

Attached to this email is the Massachusetts Lead Contamination and Control Act letter, which is sent out to all schools, programs, and early education and care facilities every five years by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP). The letter provides updates to the Lead Contamination and Control Act program, includes links to the 2016 LCCA Checklist and to the LCCA webpage on MassDEP's web site, and requests that school leaders complete a checklist showing their facilities' status in implementing the Lead Contamination and Control Act program. The checklist is also available as an on-line form.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education works closely with MassDEP to help districts understand and implement recommendations of the Lead Contamination and Control Act and strongly encourages schools, programs, and districts to participate in the program.

School leaders can seek assistance from MassDEP, ESE, the Department of Early Education and Care, the Department of Public Health, the Massachusetts Board of Plumbers and Gas Fitters, local public water suppliers, local boards of health, and their local plumbing inspector.

For Your Info:

  • Student Government Day registration deadline extended: More than 170 schools have registered for Student Government Day compared to 110 schools this time last year, but in response to requests to extend the deadline, organizers will accept registrations until 6 p.m. February 5, 2016. Please click here to register students today.

Subscriber Information: Superintendents, principals, and charter school leaders will receive the update automatically. For others wishing to subscribe, send an email to with the following information in the body of the email: subscribe ESEUpdate Your Name. (Example: subscribe ESEUpdate John Smith) To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with the following information in the body: unsubscribe ESEUpdate Your Name. (Example: unsubscribe ESEUpdate John Smith)

Last Updated: February 1, 2016
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