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Commissioner's Weekly Update - January 4, 2013

Happy New Year!

Federal Fiscal Update:

President Obama this week signed into law the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which postpones for two months the automatic spending cuts under sequestration. The sequester is now scheduled to take effect on March 1, 2013, giving Congress more time to work on a plan to prevent the automatic cuts. As we've previously noted, most federal education programs are forward funded, so that any funding cuts enacted this year would affect school districts' FY14 grants. A notable exception is the federal impact aid program, which provides current-year funding to a small number of Massachusetts districts. If funding reductions are made to this program, they have the potential to affect districts' FY13 funding.

So while potential federal education funding reductions are still likely, the exact impact is still yet known. ESE will continue to monitor the situation and keep you posted on any new developments.

Update on Edwin:

Massachusetts and Ohio have chosen Thinkgate as the vendor to develop an instructional improvement system (IIS) for both states in support of Edwin Teaching & Learning.

ESE has scheduled three "Get to Know Edwin" webinars to introduce some of the functions of the platform, with a focus on Edwin Analytics.

Gov. Patrick Signs Virtual Schools Bill:

Governor Patrick has just signed Chapter 379 of the Acts of 2012, "An Act Establishing Commonwealth Virtual Schools." This new law provides the state with the necessary oversight to ensure that virtual schools provide students with a quality program of instruction. Approval from the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will now be required to establish a virtual school serving students from more than one district. Further information will be released later this month on the application process.

Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge:

ESE is launching the Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge to challenge each school district to increase student participation in school breakfast programs by 35% over the next two years. The Challenge's website, located at, was established in partnership with non-profit nutrition organizations and the MA Dept. of Agricultural Resources and debuted this week to help school districts focus on breakfast and to participate in this challenge. On this website, you will find a collection of tools and resources, including funding opportunities, to assist schools in starting or expanding their breakfast programs. School districts will compete for recognition based on increased participation from Jan. 2013 to Dec. 2014. For more info, visit the website or contact ESE's Office of Nutrition, Health, and Safety at 781-338-6462.

This Week's School Visits:

Commissioner Chester visited the Essex Agricultural and Technical High School in Danvers.

For Your Info:

  • New ESE Research Update: To view an update on ESE research and on research related to MA education policy, go to
  • School Improvement Grant (SIG) Funds: This month, ESE will submit a new application for federal SIG funds to help serve the state's persistently lowest achieving schools. Our notice of intent to apply for a waiver of certain SIG requirements is posted online at If you wish to submit comments, please do so by sending an email to by Jan. 14.
  • MCAS Test Materials: Principals may order test materials for the March 2013 MCAS ELA and Mathematics Retests and the spring 2013 MCAS tests beginning on Jan. 7. For more info, go to
  • JROTC Program Instructors: ESE has received inquiries regarding the qualifications of Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (JROTC) program instructors, who are retired Navy, Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard officers and enlisted personnel who have satisfied the qualifications and training of their respective military branch. ESE does not offer a JROTC credential nor is any MA educator license required to be employed in the role of a JROTC instructor. ESE advises districts to ensure instructors have a proper, active and valid certificate from their respective branch. For more info on JROTC programs, go to
  • Hurricane Sandy Assistance: The Mass. Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) will hold a series of Applicant Briefings regarding the availability of federal funding for six counties (Suffolk, Bristol, Plymouth, Barnstable, Dukes, & Nantucket) affected by the Oct. 2012 Hurricane Sandy. For more info on the Applicant Briefings, go to


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Last Updated: January 4, 2013
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