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Commissioner's Weekly Update - December 16, 2016

Commonwealth Commitment:

Governor Baker has a message for graduating high school seniors and their families: The state will help them save an average of 40 percent off the cost of a traditional bachelor's degree if students can attend college full-time and graduate within four and a half years. Through the Commonwealth Commitment, students start at one of Massachusetts' 15 community colleges, then transfer to a state university or UMass campus and continue full time. Students who enroll receive a 10 percent per-semester rebate, a tuition credit worth an average of $1,200, and a freeze on mandatory fees — leading to an associate degree and a bachelor's degree at an average cost of $28,618 before financial aid. Help spread the word!

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet Tuesday, December 20, 2016 in Malden. The agenda includes many items for discussion, but no scheduled votes. Topics for discussion include a progress report on Holyoke Public Schools, the state's PISA results, next steps in the state's work in response to the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, potential changes to educator licensure, and plans for next-generation MCAS assessments in high school.

New Application for Critical Shortage Waivers:

Massachusetts law provides for critical shortage waivers that in certain circumstances permit a school district to employ a retired educator beyond the retiree's post-retirement employment limits. The Commissioner and ESE review critical shortage waiver requests with great scrutiny and expect that both the district and educator have made all reasonable efforts to hire a non-retired licensed candidate or work within their post-retirement employment limitations.

School districts that are interested in hiring a retired educator to fill a critical shortage position must complete a Request for Critical Shortage Waiver application and provide the required supporting documentation showing that a good faith effort was made to hire a non-retired educator. The revised application features a new section entitled "Waiver Considerations" which allows the school district to declare exactly when and why the critical shortage waiver is necessary. In addition, the new application has updated language about additional school year critical shortage waivers along with a helpful guide to better address questions about the necessity of a critical shortage waiver. For more information about critical shortage waivers, please contact Donavin Bentley at or (781) 338-6624.

Seeking Public Feedback on Next-Generation MCAS Achievement Levels:

This fall, ESE convened educators to form a 14-member standard-setting policy committee to recommend achievement level names and descriptors for the next-generation MCAS tests. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will ultimately vote on new achievement levels, but prior to that, ESE is seeking public feedback on the committee's recommendations.

Information on the proposed achievement levels and descriptors and the link to the feedback survey are available online. The survey will remain open until January 27, 2017.

MAPLE Consortium Launch:

On December 14, 2016, Commissioner Chester spoke at the launch of the Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech (MAPLE) Consortium in Natick. The consortium is a collaboration among ESE, LearnLaunch, and other partners to support member districts as they use education technology to help personalize education. More information is available online.

New Grant Opportunity for STEM Educators:

The Department is pleased to share a competitive grant opportunity, Fund Code 150-B, for Massachusetts Mathematics and Science Partnerships aimed at improving student achievement in science, technology/engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Districts and institutions of higher education may apply to collaborate in intensive, effective professional development activities that focus on deepening educators' knowledge of subject matter standards, disciplinary practices, and student learning. Teachers from high-need districts as defined in the grant RFP must comprise a specific percentage of each partnership. Proposals for new partnerships are due by January 31, 2017.

For Your Info:

  • National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards: The President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, in partnership with other federal agencies, is seeking applications from after-school and out-of-school programs for the 2017 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards. Twelve applicants will receive $10,000. The deadline for applications is February 8, 2017.

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: December 19, 2016
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