Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Go to Selected Program Area
Massachusetts State Seal
Students & Families Educators & Administrators Teaching, Learning & Testing Data & Accountability Finance & Funding About the Department Education Board  

RSS Feeds Available

Commissioner's Weekly Update - January 20, 2017

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will hold three meetings next week. The first will be a special meeting Monday, January 23, 2017 in Malden about the proposed state plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. On Tuesday, January 24, the Board will meet jointly with the Board of Higher Education at Bridgewater State University from 9-11 a.m. and will discuss the Massachusetts Early College Initiative and the next generation MCAS for high school students.

Starting at 11:15 a.m. Tuesday, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will hold its regular meeting, also at Bridgewater State. The agenda includes a recap of the previous night's discussion about the Every Student Succeeds Act; a report on New Bedford's John Avery Parker School, a Level 5 school; a vote on proposed expansions for existing charter schools in Boston; and other charter matters. The Board is not expected to vote on new charter school proposals until its February meeting.

The Board's meetings will be streamed live at

VISTA Survey Window is Open:

The survey window for ESE's 2017 statewide Views of Instruction, State Standards, Teaching, and Assessment (VISTA) surveys is open. Superintendents and principals should have received individual links to their respective surveys. The surveys give educators the opportunity to share their views on the implementation of five important 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 support. Information on the 2017 surveys is available on ESE's VISTA website for educators. Results from last year's VISTA surveys are available here. The Department will use educator feedback to improve implementation of initiatives, focus resources and supports, and inform policies. Superintendents and principals who have not received a survey are asked to contact the VISTA Study Help Desk at

Massachusetts FOCUS Academy Courses Open:

The application process for spring 2017 Massachusetts FOCUS Academy courses is now open to ALL districts. The courses are designed to help teams of educators build skills, knowledge, and instructional strategies to support inclusive environments. The Department is opening up available spaces in 10 ESE-sponsored, graduate-level on-line or hybrid courses that start the week of February 27 and end the week of June 12. Information about the courses and the application process are available online. Completed applications will be accepted through Friday, February 3. The Department strongly encourages teams of educators to take advantage of these courses.

Community Forum in Fitchburg:

The Commissioner will hold a regional town hall meeting from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday, January 31 in the Main Lounge of Fitchburg State University's Hammond Building, 160 Pearl St. Commissioner Chester will discuss the successes and challenges of the state's K-12 school system and how the state and districts work together. His opening presentation will be followed by a question-and-answer session. The event is free and open to the public, but people who plan to attend are requested to register online.

Mini-Grants Available for Healthy Eating Initiatives:

The New England Dairy & Food Council and New England dairy farmers are offering mini-grants to help support schools healthy eating initiatives. The Spring 2017 Mini-Grants will be awarded to schools who submit a winning proposal for up to $1,000 to implement either the Fuel Up to Play 60 Farm to School or Fuel Up Your Community. The deadline is February 15. More information is available online.

For Your Info:

  • Staff member appointed to national board: Carrie Conaway, ESE's chief strategy and planning officer, has been appointed to the National Board for Education Sciences (NBES). The Board advises the Institute of Education Sciences at the U.S. Department of Education and sets its research priorities.
  • U.S. Department of Education School Ambassador Fellowship: The U.S. Department of Education has extended the deadline for applications for the 2017-18 School Ambassador Fellowship to Monday, February 6. The fellowship is designed to improve education for students by involving educators in the development and implementation of national education policy.
  • Arbor Day Poster Contest: The Department of Conservation and Recreation is holding an Arbor Day poster contest for fifth graders, and prizes include a tree planting at the winner's school and certificates for art and science supplies. Posters must be submitted by March 15. A contest guide is available online or by contacting Mollie Freilicher at 413-577-2966 or
  • AMP it up! Video Challenge: MassDevelopment's AMP (Advanced Manufacturing Program) it up! Video Challenge invites middle and high school students to research a product manufactured in Massachusetts and create a three-minute video that explains how the product is made and why it matters.

    Individual students, classes, groups or clubs can all participate. The public will get a chance to vote online after a panel of judges reviews the submissions. The top three videos selected will each earn $5,000 for their school. Videos are due by March 30, 2017.

  • RMV has expanded language options: The MassDOT Registry of Motor Vehicles has begun offering the automated learner's permit knowledge test in 26 additional languages. Customers can take their passenger vehicle (Class D) and motorcycle (Class M) learner's permit tests using a new, automated, and web-based system which randomly generates the test questions and answers. Foreign language tests previously were offered in paper versions.

    The user-friendly touch screen saves customers time, allows for fast and automated test scoring, prevents cheating and fraud through question randomization, and offers ample data capabilities to assist with identifying future business improvements.

    This implementation is state-wide, with the exception of the Chicopee, Haverhill, Natick, and Roslindale Service Centers that do not offer permit tests. The RMV will continue to monitor customer requests and evaluate the need to add more languages to the automated testing system.

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 20, 2017
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact DESE