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Commissioner's Weekly Update - February 7, 2014

Update on Background Checks:

The Commonwealth's new background check law (Chapter 459 of the Acts of 2012), which was signed by Governor Patrick in January 2013, authorizes a national criminal database check for all school employees and certain other individuals who may have direct and unmonitored access to children. This week, the new system to conduct national background checks, called the State Automated Fingerprint Identification System, or SAFIS, was officially launched in a small number of districts and schools that had volunteered to be the first to try it out. The initial locations are in Beverly, Boston, Bourne, and Pittsfield, with more locations coming in the months ahead. We expect to open the system to all districts and schools in late February or early March. Your designated point of contact will receive further information and instructions at that time. If you have not yet designated a point of contact to receive the background check results for your employees, please contact Sarah Daniels in the Licensure Office at

Upcoming Dialogue Tour for Principals:

The Department, in partnership with the Mass. Elementary School Principals Assn. (MESPA) and the Mass. Secondary School Administrators Assn. (MSSAA), will provide school principals statewide the opportunity to provide critical feedback on key state education reform initiatives. The program will consist of short presentations and updates from Department staff on PARCC, educator evaluation, District-Determined Measures (DDMs), and licensure issues, followed by dialogue with participating principals. We will hold three sessions to maximize the opportunity for principals to attend the location most convenient to them. Registration and coffee will begin at 8:30 a.m., and the session will run from 9 – 11:30 a.m. The three sessions are:

  • March 17 in Marlborough (MESPA office at 28 Lord Road);
  • March 20 in Springfield (Cedars Banquet Facility, 375 Island Pond Road);
  • March 21 in Franklin (MSSAA office at 33 Forge Parkway).

Governor Patrick Announces Innovation School Grants:

This week, the Patrick Administration announced the award of $90,000 in planning grants to nine potential Innovation Schools and nearly $500,000 in enhancement and sustainability grants to 17 existing Innovation Schools. Established under the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, Innovation Schools are in-district, public schools that use inventive strategies and creative approaches to education while keeping school funding within districts. For more info, go to

16 High Schools to Compete on High School Quiz Show:

Teams from 16 Massachusetts public high schools will compete on Season 5 of WGBH's High School Quiz Show. Beginning on Feb. 8, the show will air on Saturdays at 6 p.m. on WGBH 2 and at 11 p.m. on WGBX 44, and repeat during the week. The Department's curriculum staff has worked closely with the show's developers to review questions and ensure that they align to the state's curriculum frameworks in literature, history, and science. The 16 schools competing for the title of state champion this year are: Acton-Boxborough High School, Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School, Arlington High School, Chelmsford High School, Dartmouth High School, Dover-Sherborn High School, Hingham High School, Lexington High School, Longmeadow High School, Mystic Valley Regional Charter School, Nantucket High School, Newton North High School, Rockport High School, Sharon High School, Somerville High School, and Westford Academy. For more info, go to To learn how to play along at home, go to

For Your Info:

  • Commissioner Chester on PARCC: On Monday, the Commissioner appeared on Fox 25 Morning News in Boston to talk about the PARCC field test. To see the interview, go to
  • 2014 TELL MASS Survey – Reminder: The second TELL MASS Survey is currently open for all school-based, licensed public school educators, and will remain open through Feb. 18, 2014. If you are an educator who did not receive an access code for your school, please contact the Help Desk at 800-310-2964 or As a reminder, Race to the Top districts and schools are required to participate in the survey. To learn more about the survey and view additional resources including a district-by-district response rate tracker, go to

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Last Updated: February 10, 2014
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