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Commissioner's Weekly Update - March 10, 2017

Educator Evaluation Amendments:

On Tuesday, February 28, after collecting public comment since November, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 9-1 to amend the existing educator evaluation regulations. A detailed memo about the changes is attached to this update.

The most significant change in the regulations is the elimination of a separate student impact rating. Under the amended regulations, evaluators do not have to make a separate judgment about an educator's impact on student learning. Instead, student learning is embedded as an indicator within one of the evaluation framework's four standards.

What does this mean for teachers? First, the categories of evidence have not changed. Educators and evaluators will continue to use multiple sources to paint a full picture of educator effectiveness. Second, the process should feel more streamlined. Under the former model, looking at teacher practice and the teacher's impact on student learning happened separately because of the two-rating structure. Now, conversations about practice and impact can happen at the same time, reinforcing the connections between teacher actions and student outcomes.

Finally, the amended regulations focus on an overall evaluation in which professionals apply their judgment to a wide array of evidence to provide meaningful feedback and determine performance ratings. There are no formulas in the Massachusetts framework and no efforts to reduce the complexity of teaching to a number.

The Department is committed to supporting districts in implementing evaluation systems that help educators improve their practice through ongoing reflection and regular feedback.

Anyone with questions about educator evaluation, the amendments, or implementation should feel free to email

Early Literacy Institute:

On Monday, March 20, 2017, ESE will host a statewide early literacy institute, Using Data about Early Readers for Improved Teaching and Learning, facilitated by Dr. Nonie Lesaux, the Juliana W. and William Foss Thompson professor of education and society at Harvard University. This workshop will provide participants the steps for designing a comprehensive and efficient assessment system that will help improve instruction by integrating accountability requirements with developmentally appropriate practices. The institute is open to teachers, coaches, and administrators who serve students in kindergarten through third grade and will run from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Devens Commons Center at Devens. People interested in participating can register online. For more information, please contact Lauren McBride.

Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework Implementation Panel:

The Department is seeking 30-35 stakeholders to serve on the Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework Implementation Panel that will help districts implement the 2016 Massachusetts Digital Literacy and Computer Science Framework by making recommendations on licensing, professional development, and communications needs related to the plan. To apply to serve on the panel, please take this survey before Friday, April 7, 2017.

Panel members could be:

  • educators who teach computer science or digital literacy at the elementary, secondary, or collegiate level;
  • educators of students with disabilities or of English learners;
  • educators who have incorporated digital literacy or computer science into other subjects;
  • district and school administrators;
  • community members, parents, librarians, and others who help support students' computer science and digital literacy skills;
  • business representatives who hire and train employees in computer science and related fields; and
  • researchers in computer science and digital literacy.

The panel will meet for 10 full days in Waltham between May 2017 and April 2018, and up to seven of those days could be regularly scheduled school days. School district employees should ensure their administrator supports their participation before applying. Pending funding, panelists will be awarded professional development points, stipends for summer work, and reimbursement for substitutes and travel. For more information, contact Anne DeMallie.

Nominations Open for History, Math and Science Teacher Recognition Programs:

Nominations are open for both the history teacher of the year and for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST). For the history teacher of the year, ESE is

seeking outstanding K–12 teachers who find creative ways to bring history alive in the classroom and in their community. The deadline for nominations is March 31, 2017. More information, including how to nominate someone, is available on the website of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

The PAEMST honors mathematics and science (including computer science) teachers who work with students in grades 7-12. For more information or to nominate teachers, please visit The deadline for nominations is April 1, 2017.

Workforce Skills and STEM Pathways Announcements:

The Baker-Polito Administration recently made several announcements about grants and career pathways. Earlier this week, the administration awarded $11.8 million in Workforce Skills Capital Grants to 32 vocational schools, traditional public high schools, and community colleges to purchase vocational technical equipment and expand skills training programs for careers in growing industries. The administration also recently awarded a $750,000 grant to Project Lead The Way to help expand computer science and engineering education for students in grades 6-12 at 45 schools statewide, and the One8 Foundation awarded a matching grant of more than $300,000. Congratulations to all the schools participating in those grants!

In addition, the administration highlighted new companies that have agreed to participate in MA STEM@Work, an expanded initiative that connects high school students to science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) internships across the Commonwealth. The STEM Advisory Council is working with the Massachusetts School to Career Connecting Activities system to identify and develop STEM internship opportunities throughout Massachusetts. The goal is to place more high school students in STEM internships.

Pilot on Early Childhood Data:

The Department is looking for districts and schools to participate in a pilot program of a potential data element that would collect information on incoming kindergarten students' early childhood experience. The pilot will run from April through October and will help ESE determine the feasibility of including such an element in future Student Information Management System (SIMS) data collections. The Department has scheduled two hour-long conference calls for people interested in learning more about the data pilot and what participation would entail. The calls will be at 2 p.m. on Thursday, March 23, 2017 and 11 a.m. on Friday, March 24, and participants are asked to register in advance for the call they wish to join.

Anyone with questions can reach out to Jane Haltiwanger in the Office of Student and Family Support at or 781-338-6314.

Last Call on VISTA Surveys:

The Department will close the superintendent and principal VISTA surveys this evening and hopes to gather more responses before the deadline. Each response enables ESE to better align its supports with district needs. Superintendents and principals should have received an email with a link to the survey, and the Department encourages anyone who has partially completed the survey to return and finish where they left off. Any superintendent or principal who did not receive a link should contact Westat at

For more information on the 2017 VISTA survey project, go to VISTA 2017. To view all of the results from last year's survey, go to VISTA 2016. For more information, contact ESE VISTA Coordinator Shelagh Peoples at

For Your Info:

  • Free device and wireless service opportunity: Over the next five years, Sprint and the Sprint Foundation are providing free devices and wireless service to schools to connect 1 million low-income high school students who don't have home Internet access. To learn more about the program timeline and program requirements, visit and apply by April 30.

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: March 12, 2017
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