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Commissioner's Weekly Update - March 31, 2017

Board Adopts Revised English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics Standards:

On March 28, 2017, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted unanimously to adopt revised learning standards in math and in English language arts and literacy. The revised standards are unique to Massachusetts and embody the Commonwealth's commitment to maintaining the highest quality curriculum standards in the nation.

The approved revised standards and additional information are available through the online press release. The fully copyedited version of the frameworks will be available later this spring, and ESE will help districts implement the new standards starting with the 2017-18 school year. The next-generation MCAS will be aligned to the standards starting in spring 2018. Please e-mail with any questions. Additionally, ESE recently issued a competitive grant program to help districts support educators in reviewing and using the revised standards.

State to Subsidize STEM AP Exams for Low-Income Students:

The Baker-Polito Administration announced March 30 that the Executive Committee of the Governor's STEM Advisory Council has committed to providing a subsidy of $38 per Advanced Placement (AP) exam for low-income students (students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch) who are taking the AP exams in spring 2017 in science, technology, and math (i.e., biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, calculus, environmental science, and statistics). This is a one-time allocation of up to a total of $326,000 from the FY17 STEM Pipeline Fund. The allocation is designed to provide a bridge for districts to the 2017-18 school year, when districts will be in a better position to predict federal aid levels and appropriately plan for low-income students' continuing access to AP exams.

Anyone with questions can contact Meto Raha at or (781) 338-3548.

Next-Generation MCAS Update:

The testing window for the next-generation MCAS starts April 3, and many students will take the test on a computer. The following resources are available online:

Please note that the MCAS Service Center (1-800-737-5103, is handling technology support and troubleshooting during this test administration.

If any unexpected issues or outages arise related to the computer-based testing systems, ESE will notify schools and districts, the MCAS System Status page will be updated immediately, and updates will be posted to the status page on a regular basis until the issue has been resolved. At that time, a second email will be sent to schools and districts to communicate that service has been restored.

MCAS Participation:

Superintendents, principals and other school leaders should continue to refer to the commissioner's March 6 communication if questions arise about students refusing to take MCAS tests. Statewide tests provide valuable information to parents, educators, and policymakers. There is no opt-out provision. Students should not be forced to take the test against their will, however. If there is confusion about how to proceed if a student refuses to take a test, please note that the memo states, "Students who refuse to take the MCAS test may remain in the testing room as long as they are sitting quietly and are not interfering with other students." Students could, for instance, quietly read a book.

Board Approves Next-Generation MCAS Descriptors:

On March 28, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved descriptors for the next-generation MCAS tests. Scores will fall into four categories: Exceeding Expectations, Meeting Expectations, Partially Meeting Expectations, and Not Meeting Expectations. A brief description of each is included in the Board documents.

Massachusetts ESSA Plan:

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires states to submit a plan outlining the state's accountability system, and ESE plans to submit Massachusetts' plan on April 3. The plan continues Massachusetts' emphasis on measuring progress and achievement in literacy and math, but, in response to feedback from the public, Commissioner Chester has also committed to making a wider array of information about schools available, such as the whether a school offers a broad curriculum.

Registration Open for May 8 Civics Literacy Conference:

On Monday, May 8, 2017, ESE and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate will host the second annual civics literacy conference, this year entitled "Civic Engagement in a Connected World: Effective Practices for the Learners of Today and the Leaders of Tomorrow." The conference will explore how educators can help students navigate the challenges and opportunities of this age of digital revolution and global citizenship. Presenters will include K-12 educators as well as representatives from state, education, and community organizations. The event is free and will run from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Please plan to register early as space is limited.

Adult Basic Education Grants Coming Up:

The Department's Office of Adult and Community Learning Services is pleased to announce the upcoming availability of four-year grants to offer high-quality adult basic education (ABE) services in the 16 Workforce Development Regions in the Commonwealth. The purpose of these grants is to help adult students, particularly those with barriers to employment, progress along educational and career pathways toward economic self-sufficiency. The Department anticipates that the formal request for proposals will be issued in July 2017 with applications due in December 2017.

Interested applicants are invited to attend the 2017 ABE directors meeting in Devens on May 23, 2017 to learn more about grant priorities. Registration information will be posted at in April. General information on the request for proposals timeline is available online.

For Your Info:

  • Breakfast grants available: Action for Healthy Kids is offering grants of $500 to $3,000 to schools to support increased breakfast participation. Applications will be accepted until April 7, 2017.

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: April 3, 2017
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