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Commissioner's Weekly Update - February 24, 2017

Massachusetts Tops on Advanced Placement Exams:

For the first time, Massachusetts is the top state in the nation in terms of the percentage of the class of 2016 that scored a 3 or higher on an Advanced Placement exam, the College Board announced this week. In addition, Massachusetts had the nation's highest five- and ten-year growth in the percentage of graduates who scored a 3 or higher. This accomplishment reflects both strong participation – approximately 44.1 percent of Massachusetts' class of 2016 took at least one AP exam while they were in high school – and frequent success, with 31 percent of the overall class scoring 3 or higher out of a possible 5 on an AP exam.

The Department would like to thank Mass Insight Education for their work to expand access to AP courses and congratulate all of the educators and students whose work made these impressive results possible!

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet Monday, February 27 and Tuesday, February 28, 2017 in Malden. Monday evening's agenda includes votes on three proposed new charter schools and four possible expansions.

Tuesday's regular meeting will include a discussion of the latest graduation and dropout rates, a vote on what to call the scoring levels on the next-generation MCAS, a discussion of a possible one-year reset for many school and district accountability measures, a ¬discussion of proposed amendments to the educator licensure process; and a vote on proposed amendments to regulations concerning educator evaluations.

The meetings will be available via Livestream at

Preview of Next-Generation MCAS Score Release Timeline:

The Department has established a preliminary timeline for releasing scores from the upcoming spring administration of the next-generation MCAS to students in grades 3-8 in English language arts and math. Because the test is new, the timeline must include a standard-setting process in which teams of experts will set the thresholds for each achievement level. The Department hopes to release multiple-choice results to districts in June and full preliminary results to districts in August. Parents and students will likely see individual students' results in October.

Transgender Guidance:

The changes at the federal level this week have not changed the protections in place for transgender students in Massachusetts. States can issue their own guidance, which can exceed federal guidelines. The Massachusetts state statute, which predates the federal guidance, ensures protections for all students and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. An Act Relative to Gender Identity (Chapter 199 of the Acts of 2011), amended several Massachusetts statutes prohibiting discrimination on the basis of specified categories, including gender identity, and subsequently, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education issued guidance ( to school districts to implement the gender identity provision. Additional resources are available at

The Department is proud that Massachusetts was a leader in this area and that schools have worked constructively and without great controversy to support their students. Please do not hesitate to contact ESE's Safe Schools Program team at or 781-338-6319 if they can be of assistance.

Massachusetts 21st Century Community Learning Centers Grant Opportunity:

The Department will host an information and technical assistance session from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, March 3, 2017 at the Hilton Garden Inn at Devens Conference Center for anyone interested in applying for a Fiscal Year 2017-2018 (FY18) Fund Code 647-B1 Massachusetts 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant for new schools and new sites. This optional session will provide information to help guide participants through the application process. The agenda and registration details are available online, as is more information. Anyone with additional questions can email Karyl Resnick, coordinator of this grant.

For Your Info:

  • Town hall forum in Upton next month: Commissioner Chester will hold his third town hall meeting since the beginning of this school year from 6–8 p.m. on March 29 at Nipmuc Regional High School, 90 Pleasant St., Upton. The Commissioner will discuss the successes and challenges of the state's K–12 school system, how the state and districts work together, and the roles of learning standards and assessments in supporting teaching and learning. The event is free and open to the public, but people who plan to attend are encouraged to register online.
  • New college access and completion programs: The Department of Higher Education has awarded $1.25 million from its Performance Incentive Fund to a group of state universities and community colleges to spur innovation. The largest share of the money will be used to launch new programs to allow high school students to take college courses before graduating from high school.
  • Grant opportunity for cross-generational learning: The intergenerational organization Bridges Together is offering a grant for a Bridges curriculum that is designed to unite older adults with youth and includes the training and manual as well as any additional support needed. For more information, contact Julie Shaw at or 978-793-9509.

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Last Updated: February 25, 2017
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