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Commissioner's Weekly Update - March 21, 2014

Update on SAFIS – Now Open to All Districts:

The Statewide Applicant Fingerprint Identification Services (SAFIS) sites are now open to all school districts, charter schools, and private schools to begin scheduling fingerprinting appointments. Districts' points of contact, previously designated by each superintendent, have received instructions by email. If you did not receive instructions, please contact Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson at jwulfson@doe.mass.edu.

Currently, the MorphoTrust USA IndentoGo™ enrollment centers are available in the following communities: Beverly, Boston, Bourne, Brockton, Leominster, Pittsfield, Springfield, and Worcester. Additional details on the locations, including hours of operation, are available on the registration website, which is located at http://www.identogo.com/FP/Massachusetts.aspx. The Commonwealth is working with our fingerprinting vendor, MorphoTrust, to set up an additional 25 enrollment centers across the state over the next few months.

Message from the Commissioner on the PARCC Field Test:

Next week marks a significant milestone for the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. Beginning March 24, more than 81,000 students across Massachusetts will join over 1 million students in 14 other states in taking a PARCC field test. Given that we are rolling out a new test, PARCC, using an online testing platform that is new to our schools, it is important that we set realistic expectations.

PARCC is an ambitious project, one that utilizes online administration in a depth and a breadth of manner that was not previously attempted. The administration allows schools to use multiple devices for administering the test online, including desktop computers, laptops, and tablets. The use of digital technology allows us to utilize some very innovative test item types. It allows us to incorporate audio and video as part of the item prompts. It allows students to manipulate objects on a computer screen, such as graphing in mathematics. An online administration will allow us to turn around results to teachers and schools much faster than we can in many of our existing programs.

The field test is part of the process to refine and improve upon the test questions and technology platform before the test becomes operational next year. Some schools administering the online version of PARCC this spring may experience glitches. In fact, it would surprise me if this is a perfect, bug-free administration. It is my hope that when glitches do arise – and they are inevitable – that you will get timely support. This is why we do a field test, so we can figure out what is working and what might need addressing before the test counts.

We all have a vested interest in PARCC and its refinement. This is a great opportunity for our students to have a first-hand experience in building an excellent test that is worthy of administering in Massachusetts. We expect and need every student selected for this spring's PARCC field test to participate. For more info, please go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/parcc/. If you have questions, please contact parcc@doe.mass.edu.

Update on Educator Evaluation – DDMs:

The Department recently provided an update to superintendents and Race to the Top charter school leaders regarding expectations for submitting District-Determined Measures (DDMs) Implementation Plans in June 2014. That memo from Commissioner Chester detailed the information that districts will submit when requesting a one-year extension, including the specific grades/subjects for which an extension is needed, the plan for engaging educators in the DDM identification process during the extension year, and the status of collective bargaining. A template for the June plan submission, including the extension request form, is available on the Department's DDM resources page. If you have any questions, please contact Ron Noble at rnoble@doe.mass.edu or 781-338-3243.

Commissioner's School Visits:

On Thursday, Commissioner Chester visited Easthampton High School and West Springfield High School. On Friday morning, the Commissioner met with school principals at a meeting hosted by the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators' Association.

For Your Info:

  • Board to Meet: The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet on March 24-25. To view the agenda, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/docs/fy2014/2014-03/.
  • In the News: Recent stories of interest include a Daily Hampshire Gazette story on Commissioner Chester's visit to Easthampton High School, a Lawrence Eagle-Tribune story on a tentative contract agreement reached between the Lawrence Teachers Union and Receiver Jeff Riley, a National Public Radio – The Takeaway segment on educators implementing the Common Core State Standards, MTA President Paul Toner's op-ed in Real Clear Education about teachers' unions leading change in education reform, and a Worcester Telegram & Gazette story that President Obama will visit Massachusetts in June to deliver the high school graduation address to Worcester Technical High School students.



    Last Updated: March 25, 2014
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