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Commissioner's Weekly Update - February 17, 2017

Good News on School Breakfast:

The Food Research & Action Council recently released their 2016 national School Breakfast Scorecard and ranked Massachusetts second for growth in school breakfast participation! The Commonwealth is one of only four states that had double-digit growth, and this is the third year in a row that Massachusetts has been among the top 10 states in terms of growth in participation. Congratulations and thank you to everyone who is helping students have a nutritious start to their day!

Districts can continue this trend by celebrating National School Breakfast Week March 6-10 with promotions of their breakfast programs and events celebrating the importance of a healthy breakfast. Visit the Massachusetts School Breakfast Challenge's website for more ideas on how to promote breakfast programs.

Commissioner Recommends Three New Charter Schools:

On February 16, 2017, Commissioner Chester announced that he is recommending that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approve three new charter schools at the Board's February 27 meeting. The schools are Hampden Charter School of Science – West, a regional charter school that would be based in Westfield and have a math and science focus; Map Academy Charter School, a regional charter school that would be based in Plymouth and serve students who have dropped out of school or who are at risking of dropping out; and Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School, a regional charter school that would be based in Sturbridge and offer daily access to museum resources at Old Sturbridge Village. The Board will vote on February 27.

Also at that meeting, the commissioner will recommend that the Board approve four schools' expansion requests: Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford (an increase of 90 seats), Community Charter School of Cambridge (an increase of 60 seats), Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (an increase of 452 seats), and UP Academy Charter School of Dorchester (a temporary increase of 70 seats). UP Academy Dorchester is a Horace Mann charter school, and the school and the Boston School Committee requested the seats to address unanticipated higher enrolment.

Teacher Pipeline Partnership Grants Announced:

On February 15, ESE announced almost $270,000 in competitive grants for seven partnerships between public school districts and educator preparation organizations. The Elevate Preparation: Impact Children (EPIC) Partnership Innovation grants are designed to advance innovative, evidence-based approaches to recruit, place, develop and retain new teachers, particularly in some of the hardest-to-fill roles.

VISTA: Educator Voice Matters:

Did you know that in 2016, 87 percent of principals agreed (including 62 percent who strongly agreed) that common assessments are a useful part of teacher evaluations? The Department shared this VISTA data with superintendents when consulting with them on ESE's educator evaluation regulations. In 2016, over 80 percent of principals strongly agreed that the Standards of Mathematical Practice in the Curriculum Framework for Mathematics deepen student's understanding of mathematics. With that in mind, ESE's Center for Instructional Support is developing new resources to help teachers embed mathematical practices into their instruction. These are just a couple examples of how ESE uses educator feedback from the annual VISTA survey.

Time is running out, however, for superintendents and principals to provide feedback to ESE through this year's survey. High VISTA response rates help ensure that administrators' perspectives are accurately considered when ESE develops policies and makes decisions about resources, grants, and supports for districts and schools. Results from last year's VISTA surveys are available online. Superintendents and principals who have not received a link to a survey should contact the VISTA Study Help Desk at

For Your Info:

  • Annual convening: On February 14 and 15, hundreds of educators attended the annual convening that ESE's Center for Instructional Support held in Marlboro. The theme this year was "Ensuring Every Student Succeeds: Setting Ambitious Expectations." The Department would like to thank everyone who made the event a success, particularly the two teachers who gave the keynote speeches: 2015 Massachusetts Milken Educator Michelle Ryan and 2017 Massachusetts Teacher of the Year and National Teacher of the Year finalist Sydney Chaffee.
  • Educational and research institutions awarded $39 million in capital grants: On February 16, Governor Charlie Baker and the Massachusetts Life Science Center announced $39 million in capital funding for research centers and life sciences training facilities at colleges, universities, middle schools and high schools across the Commonwealth.
  • After-the-bell breakfast opportunity: The Eos Foundation is offering up to $10,000 per school to launch after-the-bell breakfast in the classroom programs in high-poverty schools across Massachusetts. This one-time grant is intended for schools interested in rolling out programs in the 2017-2018 school year. Once up and running, such programs significantly boost breakfast participation, which in turn helps make the program self-sustaining. Applications are available online and should be sent to Magdalena at by 5 p.m. on March 28, 2017.
  • Senior Associate Commissioner joins Chiefs for Change: Russell Johnston, senior associate commissioner of the Center for District Support at ESE, has been named to the second cohort of Chiefs for Change's Future Chiefs program. The program's goal is to build a diverse pipeline of future education leaders.

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: February 17, 2017
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