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Commissioner's Weekly Update - April 1, 2016

Message on Statewide Assessments:

Earlier today, superintendents received a message from Commissioner Chester about statewide assessments and their importance to educators, families, and policymakers. A detailed discussion of the issue is available online.

Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council will meet from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at the Best Western Royal Plaza Hotel, 181 Boston Post Road West, Marlborough. The meeting will focus on the transition to the new federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and a next-generation MCAS and the potential implications these could present for Massachusetts' school and district accountability and assistance system in 2017-18 and beyond.

In addition to discussions with the Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council, ESE aims to gather input this year from a broad range of stakeholders who can inform potential modifications to our school and district accountability and assistance system. The agency will share more information about our stakeholder outreach efforts in the coming weeks.

Training Tool on Restraints:

The Department has developed an online learning tool to help districts address new requirements related to the use of physical restraint in schools. The tool is intended for school and district use with small groups or individuals allowing for direct instruction to school personnel about the regulatory requirements in the recently revised regulations under 603 CMR 46.00 Prevention of Physical Restraint and Requirements if Used. The training tool guides the user through the requirements of these regulations and can be used to partially meet the requirements for orienting new personnel during the course of the year, as well as for annual orientation of staff.

In addition to this tool, ESE's Office of Special Education Planning and Policy has developed additional resources, including:

Conference Calls for PARCC Schools:

The Department's Office of Student Assessment Service will hold two conference calls for schools administering PARCC this spring. The calls will be from 10-11 a.m. Friday, April 8 and from 1-2 p.m. Monday, April 25. Department staff will prepare a brief presentation with answers to frequently asked questions, and then there will be an opportunity for questions. Each call will continue as long as there are questions.

The first session will also include a review of instructions for the Student Registration/Personal Needs Profile (SR/PNP), since the deadline for updating information for computer-based testing is April 11.

To register, complete the online form. In order for ESE to send out slides and dial-in instructions prior to each call, we ask that participants register for the first session by April 7 and register for the second session by April 22. Please note that the conference call service is not toll-free and may result in long distance charges.

As always, schools and districts can contact Student Assessment Services at 781-338-3625 or during regular business hours for answers to questions.

Career and Technical Education Partnership Grant Posted:

The Department has posted a career and technical education (CTE) partnership funding opportunity designed to expand access to career and technical education opportunities to more students in the Commonwealth. The purpose of this federally-funded grant is to help regional and local partnerships plan how to expand or develop CTE programs or initiatives, primarily through more effective use of existing resources. The planning grant is the first phase of a two-phase process which will result in implementation funding for plans that will have the greatest impact on increasing student access to CTE programs.

Devices for Digital Learning: District Input Needed for K-12 Technology Pricing:

The Department is encouraging districts to complete an online survey to provide feedback about their school technology needs, particularly with respect to devices. The Commonwealth is interested in providing school districts with the opportunity to purchase bundled products and services from vendors listed on the state's Information Technology hardware contract (ITC47). While this contract already lets districts purchase devices and related services, the Commonwealth will be seeking special K-12 pricing for certain bundles.

In addition to technology needs, the survey also asks districts to pilot an online infrastructure needs assessment tool, asks whether they would like follow-up information on the subjects covered at the March 31, 2016 Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents/ESE Conference, and to provide feedback on the conference (for districts that attended). Materials from the conference are posted to the Office of Digital Learning website.

Please note that the data from this survey will be aggregated, and no information about specific districts will be shared with vendors. If, while completing the survey, districts have any questions, contact Mike Hamel, director of municipal and school technology at MassIT, or Kenneth Klau, director of digital learning at ESE. Please complete the survey by April 15, 2016.

Updated SAFIS Model Policy for School Employers:

The Department of Criminal Justice Information Services (DCJIS) has recently revised the Statewide Applicant Fingerprint Identification Services (SAFIS) Model Criminal History Record Information (CHRI) Policy for Non-Criminal Justice Entities, which applies to all Massachusetts pre-K-12 public and private schools. As with the earlier version, each district's governing body should fill in the appropriate information and adopt this updated policy to ensure compliance with Criminal History Record Information requirements. Please remember that before the start of the 2016-2017 school year, Massachusetts schools must have completed Criminal History Record Information checks of their current employees who may have direct and unmonitored contact with children.

Lead in Water Survey Reminder:

The Department of Environmental Protections (MassDEP) has asked ESE to remind all superintendents that responses to the lead in water survey they were sent at the end of January is due. More information is available online, and anyone who has questions or needs help in filling out the survey can contact MassDEP's Yvette DePeiza at or 617-292-5770.

Second Step Child Protection Unit Information Sessions:

In partnership with ESE, the Children's Trust is introducing the Committee for Children's new Second Step Child Protection Unit. The Second Step Curriculum integrates the Committee for Children's Talking about Touching sexual abuse prevention and bullying prevention curricula and includes organizational policies and procedures, staff training, highly engaging and interactive student lessons, and information for families.

The Children's Trust is offering workshops on Second Step, and registration and more information is available online. Please contact Tom Blackler at or 617-502-8752 with any registration questions.

School Library Equity:

In 2014, the Massachusetts Legislature passed a bill to form the Special Commission on School Library Services in the Commonwealth to evaluate the status of school library programs. The commission is charged with examining the status of school library services, staffing, and materials. In order to begin to evaluate the status of school library programs, a comprehensive survey has been developed by Dr. Carol Gordon (retired from Rutgers University) and Dr. Robin Cicchetti, school librarian at Concord-Carlisle High School in Concord. The Department is asking for districts' assistance in the commission's work, and survey information will be sent out in an On the Desktop during the coming week.

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 1, 2016
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