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 - November 18, 2016

**Note: Due to Thanksgiving, there will be no Commissioner's Weekly Update next week.**

Messages from Commissioner Chester:

Commissioner Chester recorded a video about the work that all educators share and the importance of continuing that work together. In addition, his reflections on the election and on attending a recent symposium in Beijing were attached to the email version of this update. To receive a copy, please email Jackie Reis.

2016 School & District Report Cards Available for Distribution:

Updated school and district report cards, including assessment data and other indicators, are now available on ESE's School and District Profiles website. As a reminder, districts receiving Title I funds are required to distribute report cards annually to all parents or guardians of students enrolled in district schools. The Department asks that districts distribute report cards to families by the end of December. For more information, including details about electronic distribution, see our report cards website or contact ESE at or (781) 338-3550.

Understanding the Impact of Poverty on Student Outcomes:

The free online interactive training module developed by ESE and guided by ongoing work with Low-income Education Access Project (LEAP) districts and educational collaboratives has been updated. Participants can now use this tool to earn professional development points (PDPs), and a printable version of a certificate of completion has been included.

In addition, trainers from 12 educational collaboratives are available to support districts' efforts to deepen their understanding of poverty's impact on the identification, placement, and academic outcomes of students with disabilities. Trainers can help districts address these issues through appropriate systems and strategies in the classroom, school environment, and community. Please contact Susan Fischer, LEAP coordinator, at with any questions.

Voluntary Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Question Tryout for Grades 5 and 8:

As part of the STE transition plan to assess the new standards adopted in January 2016 and to transition to computer-based assessment, ESE is recruiting schools to participate in a voluntary test administration to try out new computer-based test questions for grades 5 and 8. Results will only be used to evaluate the questions administered and will not be used to generate student, school, or district results. The tryout administration window will be June 5–16, 2017, and the test session will take approximately 45 minutes. This tryout does not take the place of the regular MCAS administration. A survey to collect information from interested schools (i.e., number of students participating at grades 5 and/or 8) was emailed to elementary and middle school principals on Monday, November 14, 2016.

Schools interested in participating should inform their superintendents and complete the brief online form by 5 p.m. November 30. Anyone with questions can contact the Office of Student Assessment Services at 781-338-3625 or

Discipline Data Released:

On November 17, ESE released suspension data for the 2015-16 school year. It was the second year of data since a state law and regulations took effect on July 1, 2014 that aimed at reducing the amount of learning time students miss due to suspensions or expulsions. More student discipline information and resources are available online, including information about the Rethinking Discipline Professional Learning Network.

Charter School Hearings Scheduled:

The Department will hold four public hearings on four proposed charter schools in Plymouth, Westfield, Sturbridge and Lynn. In addition to the hearings, members of the public can submit written comments through January 6, 2017 to: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, c/o Charter School Office, 75 Pleasant St., Malden, MA 02148 or by email to

In addition to the proposals for new schools, ESE is also reviewing 13 expansion requests from existing charter schools. The Board will consider expansions at meetings from November through February.

Additional Money for Drinking Water Tests:

On November 15, 2016, Governor Charlie Baker and Treasurer Deb Goldberg announced an additional $750,000 from the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust to help fund efforts to test for lead and copper in public schools. The funds come after a $2 million award for the program in April. Water supplied to schools is generally free of lead, but lead can be introduced into drinking water through plumbing and fixtures, especially in facilities that are more than 20 years old. More information on lead in drinking water is available from the DEP.

ESE Resource Center: Science Ambassadors available

As districts transition to the 2016 Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) standards, we encourage administrators and educators to take advantage of ESE resources, including Science Ambassadors. The Science Ambassadors are a group of talented science educators from across the Commonwealth who are trained by ESE and the Museum of Science to provide one- or two-hour presentations on topics such as an overview of the standards, integrating science and engineering practices, and the standards' implications for curriculum and instruction. The Department follows up after each session to gather feedback and support next steps. (For a first-hand account from a Science Ambassador, read the most recent Teachers' Top Three from ESE.)

In addition to speaking with groups of educators in individual districts, Science Ambassadors also regularly present to conferences, regional meetings, Head Start Programs, informal science organizations, and after-school and summer programs.

To schedule an ambassador's visit, district science leaders can email with proposed date(s), time, and audience. In addition, ESE Science Education Specialists Nicole Scola ( and 781-338-3585) and Marianne Dunne ( and 781-338-3529) can answer questions about the 2016 STE standards or related resources.

Tool for Getting More Bandwidth on a Budget:

This week, the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway released the full version of Compare & Connect K-12, a tool that allows districts to easily compare their school district's broadband deals to those of school districts across the state. In addition, as part of the Digital Connections Initiative, EducationSuperHighway is holding two webinars in which Massachusetts district leaders can come together to view their own and other districts' broadband data on Compare & Connect K-12 and discuss strategies for increasing bandwidth. Space is limited, and interested people should register for the time that works best for them: Tuesday, December 6 at 1:00 p.m. or Tuesday, December 13 at 1:00 p.m. Anyone with questions can contact the Office of Digital Learning.

Next-Generation Test Designs and Other Information Now Available:

The 2017 next-generation MCAS test information for grades 3–8 English language arts and mathematics tests is now available. This includes the test design, number of sessions, question types, and other information related to the newly redesigned MCAS tests. More information about the next-generation MCAS and other assessments is available in the latest Student Assessment Update.

For Your Info:

  • Hour of Code: Hour of Code, organized by, is a one-hour introduction to computer science designed to demystify code and show that anybody can learn the basics. No experience is needed by students or teachers. Multi-language activities work on any modern browser, tablet, smartphone, or even with no computer at all. Computer Science Education Week is December 5-11, and educators can find activities for their class online that include ways to apply computer science to English language arts, music, science, and social science.

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: November 21, 2016
E-mail this page| Print View| Print Pdf  
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Search·Public Records Requests · A-Z Site Index · Policies · Site Info · Contact DESE