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Commissioner's Weekly Update - April 29, 2016

Accountability and Assistance System Feedback Opportunity:

The new federal education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), will require Massachusetts to modify its school and district accountability and assistance system for 2017-18 and beyond. As a result, ESE has the opportunity to reconsider the principles of our current system, the data used to measure school and district progress, and the types of supports and assistance available.

The Department has launched an online statewide feedback form through which we aim to gather feedback from a broad range of stakeholders. The form includes a series of questions about various considerations for accountability and assistance systems and provides the opportunity for open-ended comments on a number of questions. The feedback form also includes a place to attach a letter or other written feedback instead of or in addition to completing the form. The Department welcomes all feedback and encourages district leaders to distribute the link widely so that as many community members and educators as possible participate. The form will remain open through June 17, 2016.

For more information about the form or to submit comments to ESE directly, please email

Save the Date: Inaugural Conference on Civic Engagement and Learning:

On Monday, May 23, 2016, ESE and the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate will host a civics literacy conference entitled, "Serving America: Promising Practices for Building Literacy and Civic Learning." The goals of the conference are to understand the role civic learning plays in maintaining our democracy, increase civic knowledge and engagement among K-12 students, and make the natural connections between this discipline and literacy. Presenters will include K-12 educators and representatives from state, education, and community organizations.

This event is free, and all Massachusetts public school educators are welcome to attend. Registration is not yet open, but interested people should plan to register individually online. Additional information is available online, and registration information will be posted on the same site. Space is limited, so plan to register early!

Help Testing for Lead in School Drinking Water:

Governor Charlie Baker and State Treasurer Deb Goldberg recently announced that the Massachusetts Clean Water Trust will provide $2 million to help public schools and publicly owned or operated early education programs test for lead and copper in drinking water.

During the week of May 2, 2016, the state Department of Environmental Protection and ESE will make a request for interest and associated form available to school districts, municipal officials, and others interested in participating. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will notify schools and districts through another On the Desktop message once the forms are available. More information about this program is available online.

Hold Harmless Policy for Scores, not Participation:

As a follow-up to the On the Desktop ESE sent to superintendents on April 1, 2016,ESE would like to clarify a point about students' participation in statewide standardized tests. Massachusetts' accountability system is set up to encourage high participation rates (if it weren't, the school's results would not reflect school-wide achievement). If fewer than 95 percent of a school's students take the statewide assessment, the school cannot be designated a Level 1 school. If fewer than 90 percent of a school's students take the assessment, that school, regardless of its test scores, can earn a designation no higher than Level 3. This is true whether a district takes PARCC or MCAS. The state's policy of holding schools harmless based on PARCC results in 2015-16 does not apply to cases in which participation falls below 95 percent. This is a change from last year, which was considered unique as the state's first operational year of PARCC testing.

The results from statewide assessments are not meant to tell the whole story about an individual student; the tests are one of several measures that illustrate how a child is progressing. Test scores should be used alongside in-class performance, report cards, and teacher reports to form a complete picture of a child's academic achievement. When families decide not to participate in statewide testing, they miss a part of that picture.

Notice of Bidders' Conference for Career and Technical Education Partnership Grant:

There will be a bidders' conference via webinar for the competitive Career and Technical Education Partnership Grant (Perkins fund code 405) on Thursday, May 5, 2016 from 1-2:30 p.m. The purpose of the first phase of this federally-funded planning grant is to support regional and local partnerships as they expand existing career technical education offerings and/or develop new programming that increases student access. Registration for this session is available online.


As the state completes the final year of no-cost sheltered English immersion (SEI) endorsement training funded through legislative appropriation, districts have continued to ask about their responsibilities after 2016 and what options incumbent educators will have for earning the endorsement after the 2015-2016 school year.

The Department's Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement sent a memo to all superintendents and RETELL liaisons on April 12, 2016 outlining the educator requirements before July 1, 2016; educator and district responsibilities as of July 1, 2016; district monitoring; professional development points requirements; and pathways to earning an SEI endorsement as of July 1, 2016.

If district central office staff have questions or concerns about the information in the memo, they should contact Bob Measel, assistant director of the Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement, at or 781-960-3885. Individual educators and building administrators should submit their questions or concerns through the online ticketing system in order to receive a timely response.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education heard from educators and researchers on April 25, 2016 about social-emotional learning and at the regular meeting the following day heard about the Low Income Education Access Project, which focuses on disproportionate number of low-income students identified as having disabilities; and updates on the Southbridge and Holyoke public schools and Level 5 schools. The Board also continued their discussions of the Foundation Budget Review recommendations.

Spring Convening Reminder:

The Department will host the fourth annual Spring Convening: Expanding Opportunities for Every Student, Every Educator, Every School on May 16, 2016 and repeat the program on May 17. Both days of the conference will take place at the Best Western Royal Plaza in Marlborough.

Registration is open to all educators, and there are no longer limits on how many team members from a district, educator preparation program, or statewide organization can attend. Each individual should register online.

The breakout session descriptions and agenda are available online, and topics include everything from early literacy to the disproportionate identification of economically disadvantaged students as having special needs. For more information, email

Eagleton School Update:

On Friday, April 15, 2016, the Eagleton School, a private special education school in Great Barrington, closed its doors after its final student transferred to another school. The closure came within two months of the announcement on February 17, 2016 that the Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) would revoke the school's residential group care licenses and ESE would remove its approval of the school's special education program. Both actions were the result of serious concerns about students' safety. Both ESE and EEC would like to thank the districts who worked quickly to find new placements for their students.

For Your Info:

  • "Knowing My Rules for Safety" poster: As part of Child Abuse Prevention and Sexual Assault Awareness Month and as required by the Jeffrey Curley Law, the Baker-Polito Administration is encouraging schools to share the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children's "Knowing My Rules for Safety" poster with students and the adults who care for them.

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 29, 2016
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