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Commissioner's Weekly Update - October 14, 2016

2016-2017 U.S. Presidential Scholar Nominations:

Districts and high schools are invited to submit nominations for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program, which recognizes students from across the country for their strong academic performance, demonstrated leadership, school and community involvement, and promise of future success. The Presidentially-appointed Commission on Presidential Scholars permits each chief state school officer to nominate up 25 students, including up to 5 from career and technical education. In Massachusetts, districts are permitted to nominate up to two students for the Commissioner's consideration. Guidelines and forms to nominate a student can be found at: Presidential Scholars Information. Nominations are due to ESE by October 31, 2016.

Reminder: MCAS Mode Selections, Requests for Extensions, and Waiver Requests Due Today:

Superintendents should have received an On the Desktop message yesterday (Thursday, October 13, 2016) reminding them that decisions on the testing mode (computer-based or paper-based) for the spring 2017 MCAS grades 3–8 tests are due today, Friday, October 14.

Decisions for the district's spring 2017 testing mode are binding. Districts that do not respond to the survey will be assigned the same testing mode for spring 2017 that they used in 2016, and grades 4 and 8 will be assigned computer-based testing for English language arts and math.

Requests for an extension must be received by emailing ESE ( by 5:00 p.m., today, Friday, October 14, and extensions will be for only one week, until Friday, October 21.

In addition, waiver requests for districts unable to meet the minimum requirement for computer-based testing for grades 4 and 8 English language arts and mathematics are due today, Friday, October 14. Districts may submit a request for one or more schools, grades, or subject areas to be allowed to administer paper-based tests.

Anyone in need of additional information should contact the assessment office at 781-338-3625 or

ESE Resource Corner

Social and emotional learning page: The Department's website has a new page dedicated to social and emotional learning. The page includes core competencies of social and emotional learning, approaches to teaching those competencies, and information about ESE's work with the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning's Collaborating States Initiative.

Student Assessment Update:

The most recent Student Assessment Update is posted online and includes timely information about ACCESS for ELLs (Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners) as well as links to the transition plan for MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering tests and the statewide assessment calendar with test administration deadlines for the 2016-2017 school year.

The Department automatically sends the Student Assessment Update to principals, MCAS test coordinators, special education directors, and English language learner directors. Others can be added to the list by following the instructions in the "Subscriber Information" section at the bottom of the most recent update.

Global Assessment and Learning Network Opportunity:

Massachusetts has participated in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA), and districts and individual high schools have the opportunity to participate in the OECD Test for Schools, a global benchmarking tool that assesses a school's performance and students' problem solving and critical thinking skills. It also gives insight into student perceptions of learning and gives school leaders access to a global network of peers.

The global learning network links educators to a network of school leaders and other educators. For the first 25 Massachusetts schools that sign up, subsidies are available to help cover both the costs of the assessment and global learning network activities. These activities include a regional meeting next summer in Massachusetts and an international conference of the Global Learning Network in October 2017 in Washington, D.C. The Global Learning Network encompasses 446 schools across 32 states and over 1,000 schools globally. This opportunity is made possible through a partnership involving OECD, America Achieves, and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).

Participation is voluntary. The test is administered on a computer at the school's convenience and involves 50 to 85 15-year-old students. The total testing time is 3 hours and 15 minutes, including breaks and time for the student survey, and within six to eight weeks of the test being given, schools receive an in-depth, 150+ page report that includes data compared with international school systems.

For more information on how to participate, contact Rebecca Bennett at ESE or Brenda Wilson of Northwest Evaluation Association via email or at (503) 260-2574.

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: October 14, 2016
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