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Commissioner's Weekly Update - November 13, 2015

Assessment Recommendation:

After a two-year tryout of PARCC, Commissioner Chester announced November 12 that he is recommending that the state transition to a next-generation MCAS that would build from the extensive PARCC development that Massachusetts has been a part of and incorporate items specific to the Commonwealth. The new assessment would be given for the first time in 2017. His recommendation also calls for the state to move to computerized testing in 2019 and to convene groups of K-12 teachers, higher education faculty and assessment experts to advise ESE on the content, length and scheduling of statewide tests; testing policies for students with disabilities and for English language learners; the requirements for the high school competency determination (currently the 10th grade MCAS); and the timeline for reinstating a history and social science test.

Under Commissioner Chester's recommendation, any districts that administer PARCC in spring 2016 for the first time would be held harmless for any negative changes in their school and district accountability levels, which is consistent with the state's approach to districts that used PARCC for the first time in spring 2015. The commissioner proposes that every district would be subject to accountability levels in 2017, when all of the state's districts would use a single test.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote on the commissioner's recommendation at the Board's November 17 meeting. The Board is holding a public comment session on statewide assessments from 4-7 p.m. on November 16 at Malden High School.

Milken Educator Award:

Michelle Ryan, a social studies teacher at Randolph High School, has received a 2015 Milken Educator Award. Secretary James A. Peyser and Dr. Jane Foley, senior vice president of the Milken Educator Awards, presented Ms. Ryan with the award and a $25,000 check from the foundation this morning in a surprise assembly where she was cheered on by her students. Ms. Ryan is one of up to 40 recipients across the country this year. "I am only here in this school today because of these students," she said.

Update on Physical Restraint Regulations:

As noted in last week's Commissioner's Update, ESE is creating tools and resources that will support districts' implementation of the amended physical restraint regulations (603 CMR 46.00), which take effect January 1, 2016. Templates for data tracking and reporting will be released next week, and an online learning tool explaining the required changes to local policies and procedures will be available by mid-December. Links to these materials will be posted on the special education page of the ESE website.

District officials who have not done so already can join ESE for a webinar presentation at 11 a.m. Tuesday, November 17 for a review of the revised regulations and required practices. To join, log in on Tuesday at

For more information, contact Paul Bottome at or (781) 338-3376.

Hearings Scheduled for Five Proposed Charter Schools:

The Department has scheduled five public hearings to invite community members to comment on this year's five final applications for new charter schools. The hearings will be held on December 1-10 in Springfield, Brockton, Sturbridge, Lynn, and Fitchburg and are an opportunity for interested parties to provide feedback on the applications.

Members of the public can also submit written comments about the final applications through January 6, 2016 to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, c/o Charter School Office, 75 Pleasant St., Malden MA 02148 or

School and District PARCC Results:

The Department released school and district PARCC results November 9. Statewide, 777 schools gave PARCC in grades 3-8, and school-level results ranged from having very few students score in the Meeting Expectations range to having almost all students score in that range. Seventy-six schools had 80 percent or more of their students score in the Meeting Expectations range, and 31 schools did so in math.

While districts have access to their results through security portal, the results are available to the public on ESE's website in two ways: by going to a school or district profile in Profiles, clicking on the "Assessment" tab, and choosing, from the left hand column, either "PARCC Percent of Students at Each Achievement Level" or, in the blue box on the left, "School/District PARCC Results." The first calls up a box similar to the format of MCAS results, while the second brings up Excel workbooks.

Families in districts that used PARCC in spring 2015 will receive their child's scores late this month or in early December. Accountability results for schools and districts will be released statewide in December.

Secretary Duncan Visits Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston:

On November 12, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan spoke at Jeremiah E. Burke High School in Boston and called Massachusetts "the best place in America to receive a public education." He cited the Commonwealth's success as evidence that students benefit when educators and political leaders work together to raise expectations for students, create systems to deliver on that promise, and stay committed to change.

Jeremiah E. Burke High School became the first Level 4 high school to exit that status in Massachusetts in fall 2014, and their turnaround practices are featured in video on the ESE website.

On the Desktop E-mail Lists:

In response to feedback from district administrators, ESE has modified the distribution list for On the Desktop messages from Commissioner Chester. These messages include time sensitive information and are distributed to superintendents and charter school leaders. We have added assistant superintendents to the distribution list and when appropriate will also include school principals. The contact information is pulled from ESE's Directory Administration application that is accessed through the security portal. The Department recommends that administrators who are new to their district or have a new role in their district contact their district directory administrator to make sure that their information is up to date.

For Your Info:

  • Office of Nutrition, Health and Safety recognized: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently gave ESE's Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety a certificate of appreciation for the office's efforts to expand the Community Eligibility Program (CEP) in Massachusetts. The number of districts participating in CEP, which allows schools with high poverty rates to offer all students a free breakfast and lunch, has expanded from 22 districts in the 2014-15 school year to 48 districts in the current school year.

    In addition, the Worcester County Food Bank awarded the Office for Nutrition, Health and Safety a 2015 Harvester Award for the office's work administering USDA's Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Program, which distributes food and administrative funds to Massachusetts regional food banks.

  • ParentCamps: Last week, the U.S. Department of Education hosted 200 parents from across the country for ParentCamp USA. Over the coming months, USED is committed to hosting and participating in ParentCamps elsewhere. It will also gather and disseminate tools and resources that states, districts, schools, and families need to build meaningful partnerships.

Subscriber Information: 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) 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: November 13, 2015
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