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Commissioner's Weekly Update - March 28, 2014

Update on PARCC Field Testing:

The administration of the spring 2014 PARCC field test is underway. Through Thursday, more than 9,800 students in Massachusetts and over 156,000 students in the 15 PARCC states had logged on and completed at least one PARCC session. The early feedback we are hearing is positive. We are confident that the lessons learned from students and educators about their experiences will help to refine the test and will allow for an informed decision on whether PARCC is right for Massachusetts.

On Friday, Commissioner Chester and Higher Education Commissioner Richard Freeland visited the Paul Revere Innovation School in Revere with Superintendent Paul Dakin. The commissioners first met with two classes of 5th grade students who had completed online testing sessions earlier this week. Students told the commissioners they liked taking the test on the computer and thought it was a fair assessment of content they had learned in their classrooms. One student reflected that he and his classmates feel special to have the chance to test the test and help other kids take it in the future. Commissioners Chester and Freeland also had the opportunity to observe a group of 3rd grade students while they were taking a section of the English language arts assessment in a computer lab.

Board Recap:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met on March 24-25. At its March 24 special meeting, the Board discussed a newly released report from the Mass. Business Alliance for Education (MBAE). That report examines the state's education system and provides recommendations around what it would take Massachusetts to become the best in the world at educating students for informed citizenship and productive employment in the 21st century. Sir Michael Barber and Simon Day from Brightlines, the report's authors, presented to the Board along with MBAE Chair Henry Dinger and Executive Director Linda Noonan. At its March 25 regular meeting, the Board began a discussion on policies relating to program approval and enrollment in vocational-technical high schools. The Board voted to approve amendments to the charter school regulations. The Board voted to approve regulations on Commonwealth of Massachusetts virtual schools, a technical amendment to special education regulations, and a repeal of regulations on virtual innovation schools. The Board heard updates on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), Level 5 schools, and the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The Board also voted to approve an amendment request for Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School to allow the school to become a regional school and expand its enrollment.

Annual School Choice Vote – Reminder:

Every school committee must vote prior to June 1, 2014 about whether or not their district will accept school choice pupils in the upcoming 2014-2015 school year. The vote may also specify which grades and how many openings are available, although that information is not required and is not binding. Please summarize the results of the vote by letter or email and send to Roger Hatch in the Department's School Finance office at We publish this info on our website at in order to guide prospective students who are considering applying.

Educator Licensure – ELAR Enhancement:

The Educator Licensing and Recruitment (ELAR) System allows current and prospective Massachusetts educators to complete most licensure related transactions on the Internet. As part of ongoing efforts to streamline and enhance the efficiency of the licensure application process, school districts now have the ability to submit documents directly into an applicant's ELAR profile. This provides the option for direct upload rather than having to submit documents through the Drop Box. A district's Directory Administrator can assign the "ELAR-Upload Documents" function to authorized users who already have ELAR access. Once approved, a user would see this new feature via the "Administrative Inquiry" page (check on licensure status) in ELAR. Following a successful upload, the documents will appear instantly in the applicant's profile. Please contact the Commissioner's Hotline at 781-338-3065 or Sarah Daniels at with any questions.

Update on the Kindergarten Assessment System:

The Mass. Kindergarten Entry Assessment (MKEA) is a collaborative effort of the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education and Early Education and Care (EEC) that supports school districts in using a formative assessment tool to measure growth and learning across developmental domains during a child's kindergarten year. Based on feedback from the past two years, the following changes that may have an impact on your district will occur in Year 3:

  • All school districts in MKEA Cohort 3 will utilize the Teaching Strategies-GOLD System. School districts in Cohorts 1 or 2 using Work Sampling System (WSS) have the option to continue to administer it or switch to GOLD.
  • Instead of assessing in all domains, school districts in all Cohorts will have the option to focus on assessing children in only two development areas, Social-Emotional and Approaches to Play/Learning.
  • School districts in all Cohorts will focus on assessing children in full-day kindergarten classrooms.
  • A waiver will be included in the FY15 Quality Full-Day Kindergarten Funding Opportunity that provides districts with an optional, one-year waiver from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Accreditation or an alternative to accreditation.

EEC will continue to provide updated information about the MKEA initiative on its website at We hope these revisions will enable teachers to have more time to instruct and observe what young children show us through interaction, play, language and engagement about what they know and have learned.

For Your Info:

  • Student Safety – "Knowing My Rules for Safety" Posters: As April is Sexual Abuse Prevention Month, we are providing a reminder of the importance to take a proactive approach to keeping children safe through education and awareness. Chapter 377 of the Acts of 2000 required the Department to make available, upon request, to all elementary schools in the Commonwealth up to 10 copies of the posted, "Knowing My Rules for Safety." We encourage elementary schools to display these posters in classrooms and other common areas. Copies of the posters, which are available in 31 different languages, are online at If you wish to receive 10 free copies of the poster, please contact the Department at Thank you for all of your efforts to protect and preserve the health and safety of students.
  • 2014 TELL MASS Survey Results: Thanks to the 38,000+ educators from across the Commonwealth who participated in this year's TELL MASS survey. The Department will make survey results publicly available on Tuesday, April 29, 2014. Districts and schools that met the minimum participation rate (50 percent and at least five educators) will receive an email in early April with instructions on how to access their survey results.
  • Educator Recognition – PAEMST Nominations: The Department has extended the deadline to submit nominations for the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) to Tuesday, April 15, 2014. Teachers of grades K-6 mathematics and science are eligible for the 2014 Presidential Award. For more info, go to
  • MEFA Webinars: The Massachusetts Educational Finance Agency (MEFA) will hold free "After the Acceptance" webinars in April to provide step-by-step guidance to families on the college financing process. For additional information, and to register, go to
  • In the News: Recent stories of interest include a New England Cable News (NECN) story and a Lowell Sun article about the release of MBAE's new report on the state of education in Massachusetts, a Fox 25 Morning News interview with Commissioner Chester on the PARCC field test, and an Education Week op-ed by Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash about poverty and assessment.

Subscriber Information: 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) 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 31, 2014
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