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Commissioner's Weekly Update - January 13, 2017

New Skills for Youth Grant Announcement:

On January 11, 2017, Commissioner Chester joined Governor Baker, Secretary Peyser, Higher Education Secretary Carlos E. Santiago, Labor and Workforce Development Secretary Ronald L. Walker, II and representatives from JPMorgan Chase, the Council of Chief State School Officers, and local industry at Bunker Hill Community College to announce that Massachusetts is one of 10 states that will receive $2 million over three years from CCSSO and JPMorgan Chase for career education. The grant is part of the New Skills for Youth initiative that JP Morgan Chase developed in collaboration with CCSSO and Advance CTE and comes almost a year after Massachusetts received a $100,000 planning grant from the same initiative.

Massachusetts Teacher Named Finalist for National Teacher of the Year:

On January 9, the Council of Chief State School Officers announced that 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee is one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. Ms. Chaffee teaches ninth grade humanities at Codman Academy Charter Public School in Dorchester. The National Teacher of the Year will be announced this spring. Congratulations on becoming a finalist, Ms. Chaffee!

Teacher of the Year and History Teacher of the Year Programs Open for Nominations:

On a related note, nominations are open for the 2018 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and the 2017 Massachusetts History Teacher of the Year programs, and information is available at the preceding links. Please consider nominating teachers for one or both programs, and forward this email to colleagues. The Department would especially like to increase diversity in our nomination/application pools for these programs and asks individuals to keep that in mind when nominating teachers.

Instructional Support Convening:

The Department's Center for Instructional Support annual convening, "Ensuring Every Student Succeeds: Setting Ambitious Expectations," will be held February 14 and repeated on February 15 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, 181 Boston Post Road West, Marlborough. (Participants should only attend one of the two days.) Registration will start at 7:30 a.m., and the program will begin at 8:30 a.m. both days. Each person must register individually, but districts are invited to bring a team of four, including school leaders, district leaders and other individuals of the superintendent's choosing. Statewide organizations are also invited to bring a team of four, and educator preparation programs are invited to bring a team of two. More information and registration are available online. Registration closes January 18.

Registration for High School MCAS Tests and Retests:

High schools will be ordering student test materials via the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP) process in PearsonAccess Next. The SR/PNP process for these two test administrations must be completed between January 12 and 26, 2017.

All high school principals, including those of schools that have no students participating in the March retest administration, must go online to PearsonAccess Next to complete the SR/PNP for both the March retest and the grade 10 administrations. In addition, superintendents must ensure that educational collaboratives and approved private special education schools order materials via the SR/PNP process for their students in out-of-district placements. Schools and placements with students taking the March retest and/or Grade 10 ELA and mathematics tests should have received a memo this week with additional information.

VISTA Survey:

The 2017 Views of Instruction, State Standards, Teaching, and Assessment (VISTA) surveys are about to launch. The 2017 VISTA survey gives educators the opportunity to share their views on the implementation of five statewide initiatives: Massachusetts curriculum frameworks, educator growth and development, the role of educator evaluation in educator growth and development, social and emotional learning, and ESE supports.

All superintendents and principals will be invited to participate in the survey, which will open on January 16. The surveys have been pre-tested and will take respondents 20 to 30 minutes to complete.

The commissioner strongly encourages educators to share their voice with the state by participating in this important initiative. Educator feedback will be used to improve statewide implementation, better target program office resources and supports to Massachusetts educators, and inform current and future policies. For more information on the 2017 VISTA survey project, please view our webpage (VISTA 2017). To view the results from last year's survey, please click on the following link (VISTA 2016).

Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council will meet from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Friday, January 20 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, 181 Boston Post Road West, Marlborough. Topics for discussion include Massachusetts' Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) state plan, accountability and assistance under ESSA, and accountability reporting for 2017 and beyond.

Early Literacy Institute:

On January 30, ESE is hosting a statewide early literacy institute, Using Critique to Promote Learning Literacy, at Devens Commons in Devens. This hands-on workshop, facilitated by Ron Berger, chief academic officer for EL Education, will examine how critique can be used to build strong readers, writers, and learners. Using samples of student writing from pre-K through second grade and video from classrooms, participants will practice protocols and consider the conditions that make critiques effective. The institute is open to educators, coaches and administrators and will be followed by regional meetings. Space is limited, and registration is open online. For more information, please email Lauren McBride.

E-rate Invoice Deadlines Approaching:

The process for submitting E-rate reimbursements has lengthened, and missing deadlines in February can result in lost funding. The Universal Services Administrative Company (USAC) administers E-rate and now only disburses reimbursements electronically. Therefore, districts must first file a Form 498 to register their banking information. The Form 498 approval process can take several weeks. The Online Form 472 is the only way to request reimbursements, and districts must have a PIN to login. If districts have lost or forgotten their PIN, the process for getting a new PIN can take one to two weeks.

For districts who requested extensions to the October 30, 2016 invoice deadline for FY2015 (2015-2016) Category 1 services (Internet, phone), the hard deadline for submitting reimbursement claims is either February 25 or February 27, 2017. Massachusetts Districts that have not yet filed a reimbursement claim for Category 1 requests must file an Online Form 472 BEAR form. Districts with outstanding reimbursement claims for Category 1 and deadlines in February should start preparing their Form 472 BEAR reimbursement requests immediately.

The deadline for submitting Category 2 (internal connections/Wi-Fi) reimbursement claims for the FY2015 (2015-2016) year is January 30, 2017 unless the award was made late last in last year's cycle. Districts that have not filed a reimbursement claim for their funding request must file an Online Form 472 to claim reimbursements for 2015-2016 or file a request for a 120 day extension before the deadline. Districts that need to file Category 2 reimbursement claims but have not yet submitted their Form 498 or do not have a working PIN should request a one-time extension of 120 days.

Advanced Placement Exam Fee Subsidies:

Because of changes at the federal level, the process for obtaining Advanced Placement (AP) exam fee subsidies is different for spring 2017 and spring 2018 than it has been. The dedicated federal fee subsidy grant (approximately $900,000 annually for Massachusetts) is no longer available to states. A new federal entitlement grant, Title IV, Part A (budgeted at $7.9 million to Massachusetts), available in the 2017-18 school year, can be applied toward spring 2017 and spring 2018 AP exam fee subsidies (in addition to other uses). More information will become available closer to the spring. In the meantime, districts should communicate to each school about this change, consider this need in Title IV, Part A planning, and send any questions to William Bell, senior associate commissioner for administration and finance.

Student Government Day 2017:

There has been a significant increase in registrations for Student Government Day. In response to requests to extend the registration deadline for student delegates, the deadline is now February 17. Please register online.

In addition, the Student Government Day team is looking for three to four students who are attending on April 7 and are interested in a special assignment. Specifically, the team is looking for students who are interested in journalism or the media. Districts with interested students should e-mail and indicate the district (no need to submit the student's name at this time).

For Your Info:

  • Eos awards for school breakfast participation: The Eos Foundation is accepting applications for its $500 Healthy Start Award recognizing schools in Massachusetts that have high rates of school breakfast participation. To qualify, Massachusetts schools must reach and maintain 80 percent or higher participation in their school breakfast program for at least two months in the 2016-17 school year. School principals, in partnership with their district school nutrition director, are invited to apply by completing an application form available from by 5 p.m. February 14. For more information, please call 508-430-8130.
  • We the People competition: The Massachusetts We the People: The Citizen and the Constitution Program and We the People: Project Citizen state competition will take place from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday, January 28, 2017 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute at Columbia Point in Boston. We the People invites teachers, school administrators, and civic education non-profit organizations to attend and witness students' civic learning. The winning class will go on to represent Massachusetts at the national finals in the Washington, D.C. area. For further information and to inform the organization of plans to attend, contact Roger Desrosiers, president of the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education at 508-728-4733 or
  • Peer reviewers needed for ESSA state plans: The U.S. Department of Education is seeking highly qualified individuals to be peer reviewers of state plans as required under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The multi-disciplinary peer review teams will include educators, state and local educational agency personnel, and researchers. Applications are due January 27, and more information is available online. Please email with any questions.

Subscriber Information: Superintendents, assistant 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) Leave the subject line blank. 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: January 14, 2017
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