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Commissioner's Weekly Update - December 6, 2013

MA Students Score among World Leaders on 2012 PISA:

The Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, is a triennial international survey designed to assess how well 15-year-old students can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in school to real-life situations. For the first time in 2012, Massachusetts and two other U.S. states participated as international benchmarking systems to receive state-level results to compare to other participating systems. According to the 2012 PISA results, Massachusetts students performed best in reading literacy and tied for fourth worldwide, trailing only students from Shanghai-China, Hong Kong-China, and Singapore. In mathematics and science literacy, Massachusetts students tied for tenth and seventh, respectively, among the 65 participating countries and education systems. Students from Massachusetts outscored students from the other two participating states, Connecticut and Florida, as well as the national average in all three subjects. For more info, go to

Update on Homeless Education:

This fall, the Commonwealth has experienced an unexpected uptick in families seeking assistance from the state's homeless shelter program. This has in turn resulted in significant out-of-area placements, which can create logistical and financial challenges for school districts. ESE appreciates the efforts of the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) in working to return these families to their hometowns as quickly as possible. ESE staff met recently with colleagues from DHCD to discuss the issues created by these placements and review protocols for ensuring that the state keeps districts informed on a timely basis. Sarah Slautterback is ESE's state coordinator for homeless student education issues. Please contact Sarah at or 781-338-6330 if you need assistance regarding general policies or specific student placement issues.

Upcoming Virtual School Public Hearing:

ESE has scheduled a public hearing to invite community members to comment on this year's lone Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual School final application. The public hearing will take place at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 75 Pleasant Street, Malden, on Monday, December 16, 2013 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Interested parties who are unable to attend in person and wish to provide comment may do so through Google Hangout. The one proposed virtual school is the Massachusetts Connections Academy of Learning Excellence @ TEC Commonwealth Virtual School. For more info on the public hearing and the proposed application, go to

2013 School & District Report Cards – Now Available for Distribution:

The updated school and district report cards, which this year includes a new two-page overview, are now available in Profiles at As a reminder, districts receiving Title I funds are required to distribute report cards annually to all parents/guardians of students enrolled in district schools. ESE has extended the previous October distribution deadline (which appeared in the Superintendents' Checklist) for report cards to the end of December. For more info, see the Nov. 22, 2013 memo or contact ESE at or 781-338-3550.

Safe Schools Update:

Since 1993, ESE has worked closely with the Massachusetts Commission on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth to create safe and supportive learning environments for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth (LGBT). Recently, ESE and the Commission entered into an agreement to locate Commission staff and consultants with ESE staff in Malden to support the Safe Schools Program for LGBT students. Anna Siembor will be the Commission's primary contact at ESE and will work in Malden each week from Monday to Thursday. Please contact Anna at 781-338-6311 or email should you wish assistance.

Video of the Week:

The Data Quality Campaign recently produced a video that showcases the Commonwealth's Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS). EWIS is a free tool that every public school district in Massachusetts may access to help identify whether students are likely to persist and meet relevant academic goals throughout their academic trajectory. EWIS is part of the suite of tools that ESE makes available to all educators through the Edwin Analytics system. To view the video, select control and click on the image above, or go to

For Your Info:

  • Next BESE Meeting: The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet on December 16-17, 2013, in Malden.
  • New Education Research Briefs: ESE's Office of Planning and Research has recently published three new education research briefs, which explore current issues in education policy in Massachusetts. The new briefs include a study of the demand for and effectiveness of Boston charter schools, a study of income-based inequalities in educational outcomes over time, and a study of the impact of the Adams Scholarship on college enrollment and completion. To access these and other research briefs, go to

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Last Updated: December 9, 2013
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