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Commissioner's Weekly Update - October 4, 2013

Federal Government Shutdown:

As you are aware, there is a partial shutdown of the federal government due to the lack of federal budget authority for federal fiscal year 2014 (Oct. 2013 – Sept. 2014). ESE does not anticipate that the shutdown will have a substantial impact on our current federal grants in the short term. The majority of ESE's federal awards for the current school year was appropriated in federal fiscal year 2013 (Oct. 2012 – Sept. 2013) and has been fully authorized in the federal G5 cash draw system. The only exceptions are the October 2013 installments for Title I, Title IIA, IDEA, and Nutrition awards. If there is a delay in receiving the October award letters, there will be a corresponding delay in ESE's ability to increase the current grants to districts to the full year amount. USED has announced it is prioritizing the obligation of the October installments and we are hopeful that districts will not experience a disruption of their full 2013-2014 school year awards.

Most districts have rollover funds from the FFY13 award and have received a percentage (10 to 25%) share of their FFY14 award already. Unless the shutdown lasts more than a few weeks, districts should have sufficient grant funding to maintain their current programs for the short term. There will, however, be a delay in processing school breakfast and lunch reimbursements until ESE receives the October Nutrition awards from USDA for FFY14.

We will keep you posted as the situation changes. In the meantime, if you have particular questions or concerns relating to your district's federal funds, please contact ESE's Chief Financial Officer, Bill Bell, at wbell@doe.mass.edu.

Level 5 Roundtable Discussions Next Week in Boston:

Last month, Commissioner Chester announced that four "underperforming" or Level 4 schools are under consideration for a "chronically underperforming" or Level 5 designation that would trigger state receivership. The four schools are Dever Elementary and Holland Elementary in Boston, Morgan K-8 in Holyoke, and Parker Elementary in New Bedford. The four were initially identified in 2010 and have completed three years under a district implemented turnaround plan. Before making a Level 5 designation, state regulations require that the Commissioner hear from members of the school community, including school, district, and municipal officials; a member of the school committee; a representative from the local teachers' union; a representative from the school's parent organization; and family members of students at the school.

Next week, Commissioner Chester will visit Dever Elementary on Oct. 9 from 6 to 8 p.m. and Holland Elementary on Oct. 10 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. At each school, the Commissioner will meet with an eleven-member roundtable to hear representatives from key stakeholder groups discuss what it will take to turn around those schools and dramatically improve student achievement. The public may attend and observe the roundtable discussions. Members of the school community may also submit written comments or questions for the Commissioner to consider prior to each meeting by emailing districtassist@doe.mass.edu.

ESE will announce dates for the Commissioner's visits to Holyoke and New Bedford next week. In the days following each school's roundtable discussion, Commissioner Chester will announce his determination on Level 5 status for the school.

New Resource for Educators of English Language Learners:

ESE has posted important, new guidance to support educators around key processes related to the idenfication, instruction, and reclassification of English Language Learners (ELLs). The guidance synthesizes several documents and provides support for using the ACCESS for ELLs (the Assessing Comprehension and Communication in English State-to-State for English Language Learners assessment) results to make instructional decisions to support ELLs. To view Transitional Guidance on Identification, Assessment, Placement, and Reclassification of English Language Learners, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/ell/guidance_laws.html. If there are ELLs enrolled in your district, we urge you to review this document and share the link with all building administrators, ELL administrators, and curriculum/instructional leaders.

Annual Dropout Data Ready for Review:

ESE has posted 2012-13 Annual Dropout data to the Security Portal for districts to review and make corrections to individual student data. Aggregate rates have not yet been provided. ESE will not accept corrections through email or over the phone. The only mechanism to make corrections to these data is through the October SIMS submission. ESE will make the final rates publicly available in January 2014 once the October 2013 SIMS data have been certified and the calculations have been completed.

Data are located under "Dropout Data Summary Report" on the Security Portal at https://gateway.edu.state.ma.us/. The application can be accessed with a username, password, and the SIMS Data User role. Should you or your staff have any questions on the correction process, please contact your District Support Specialist. A list of those individuals is located at http://www.doe.mass.edu/infoservices/data/fts.html. The deadline to correct these dropout data coincides with the October SIMS submission deadline, which is November 7.

For Your Info:

  • 2014-15 MCAS/ACCESS for ELLs Testing: The 2014-15 testing schedule for MCAS and ACCESS for ELLs is now posted. ESE provides notice of the testing dates well in advance to assist in your development of next year's school and district calendars and to ensure that priority is given to this testing schedule. As a reminder, state and federal laws require schools to make reasonable accommodations for the needs of students and employees who observe religious holidays. For a list of MA legal holidays and major religious observances, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/resources/holidaymemo.html.
  • Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Summit: As a reminder, ESE will host the sixth Annual Summit on Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment on Nov. 6 and 7 in Marlborough. District leaders received registration information this week. We are aware of a conflict with the MASC/MASS joint conference on these dates, and encourage superintendents to identify teams of representatives that can attend the summit and report back to colleagues in the district. We will try to avoid such conflicts in the future.
  • Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills: On Oct. 17 at 10:17 a.m., people nationwide will participate in the Great ShakeOut Earthquake Drills. The intent of these drills is to practice earthquake safety measures, including "Drop, Cover, and Hold On," and other aspects of emergency plans. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency is organizing the exercise across the Commonwealth. Participation is entirely voluntary, and districts and schools can choose the level of their involvement. For more info on participating, go to http://shakeout.org/howtoparticipate/.

Subscriber Information: Superintendents, principals, and charter school leaders will receive the update automatically. For others wishing to subscribe, send an email to imailsrv@list1.doe.mass.edu 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: October 7, 2013
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