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Commissioner's Weekly Update - February 3, 2017

Commendation School Ceremony:

Congratulations again to all of the schools honored in a State House ceremony on February 1, 2017 for high achievement, high growth and/or narrowing achievement gaps! The schools were from all corners of the state and were recognized as 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools, 2016 Massachusetts Commendation Schools, or 2016 National Title I Distinguished Schools.

Governor's Letter on Immigration and Refugee Executive Order:

Governor Charlie Baker has sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly regarding the recent impacts on the Commonwealth from the immigration and refugee executive order and offered proposals for consideration when addressing future immigration reforms.

ESSA-Related Guidance on Students in Foster Care:

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) contains provisions under Title I, Part A to promote educational stability and success for students in foster care. All district and school leaders, foster care points of contact, and homeless liaisons should have received a guidance document in an email from ESE this week. The document provides information about initial steps towards implementation of the ESSA provisions. Anyone with questions can reach out to ESE's foster care point of contact, Elizabeth Harris, at 781-338-6310 or

Next-Generation MCAS Practice Tests Available:

Next-generation MCAS practice tests are being posted on a rolling basis to the new MCAS Resource Center. A student tutorial for the computer-based version of the test is coming soon to the same webpage. These resources let students try the testing platform, including the tools and accessibility features that will be available during testing. This is also an opportunity to become familiar with new technology-enhanced types of question. Since this is the first year of phasing in computer-based testing for MCAS, ESE strongly encourages schools to have all students view the tutorial and try practice tests.

To help schools and districts become familiar with these new resources, the Department will host an office hours conference call session from 10-11:30 a.m. on February 10. Schools may register for the session online until 5 p.m. February 8.

A list of other MCAS training opportunities is also available online.

Preparing for Summer Meals:

Summer is a long way off, but planning has already started for the 2017 Summer Food Service Program. More information, including a link to the February 8 kickoff event, is online.

VISTA is off to a Great Start!

The Department would like to thank those superintendents and principals who have already completed the Views of Instruction, State Standards, Teaching and Assessment (VISTA) survey over the last two weeks. Just over 20 percent of superintendents and almost 15 percent of principals have fully completed the surveys. When partially completed surveys are included, over one-third of all superintendents and over one-fifth of all principals in Massachusetts have participated. The VISTA surveys can be accessed multiple times, so educators do not need to complete it at one sitting. Feedback is important to ESE, so the agency encourages all superintendents and principals to participate.

For Your Info:

  • Phishing warning: The Internal Revenue Service is seeing a higher than normal rate of school districts being targeted by efforts to illegally acquire income and tax information and is warning districts to be on the lookout for efforts to illegally acquire income and tax information. More information is available online from the IRS.
  • Literacy and humanities opportunity: The Department is seeking a high-performing individual to assume the role of the director of literacy and humanities on the Center for Instructional Support team. The position offers an opportunity to make tremendous impact on the state's nearly 1 million students and 79,000 educators. The Department is seeking to build a diverse pool of candidates and find an individual who is deeply knowledgeable of literacy and humanities content, an experienced educator, and a strong manager of people and projects who can build an ambitious agenda and help the team meet its goals.

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 6, 2017
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