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Commissioner's Weekly Update - May 23, 2014

New School Redesign Grants Announced:

On Thursday, the Patrick Administration and the Department awarded more than $9 million in federal funding to accelerate turnaround efforts in six underperforming schools in Boston, Fall River, New Bedford, and Springfield. This is the fifth round of competitive federal grant funding to support the Commonwealth's efforts to implement school turnaround strategies that will increase student performance in the lowest performing schools. Schools receiving funding are John Winthrop Elementary and William Ellery Channing Elementary in Boston, Samuel Watson Elementary in Fall River, New Bedford High School in New Bedford, and High School of Science and Technology and Milton Bradley Elementary in Springfield. For more information, go to

Board Recap:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met on May 19-20 at Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School on Cape Cod. At its May 19 special meeting, the Board reviewed the New Bedford Educators Association's appeal of the Parker School (New Bedford) final Level 5 School Turnaround Plan. The Board adopted modifications to the plan on common planning time, early childhood education, and information technology. The Board rejected proposed modifications on a co-teaching model, the compensation system, and wraparound services. The Department is now revising the Parker School's final turnaround plan based on the Board's decisions. At its May 20 regular meeting, Dennis-Yarmouth Regional School District Superintendent Carol Woodbury and Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School Principal Kenneth Jenks officially welcomed the Board and discussed the district's accomplishments. The Board heard updates on Level 5 schools, PARCC, and the Fiscal Year 2015 budget. The Board heard about the Department's ongoing engagement with the field around major reform initiatives. Rob Powers, a social studies teacher at Apponequet Regional High School, and Ann McConchie, an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher at Nauset Regional Middle School, discussed the work of the Teacher Advisory Cabinet. Barnstable Public Schools Superintendent Mary Czajkowski, who is president of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.), and M.A.S.S. Executive Director Tom Scott talked about the work of the Superintendents' Advisory Council. Student member Dan Brogan presented a report of the State Student Advisory Council on digital learning. The Board reviewed the recently released grade 12 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results. Finally, the Board reviewed its proposed 2014-15 meeting schedule, which it will vote to adopt at its June meeting.

PARCC Outreach:

This week, the Department convened the first of seven regional forums on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) focused on two important aspects of the possible transition from MCAS to PARCC. First, a "Listening Tour" session provided teachers and other educators who administered a PARCC field test the opportunity to share feedback about their and their students' experience. Participants also provided the Department with recommendations on how to make PARCC administrations work better next year. Second, two presentations and discussion sessions took place to assist district and school administrators and school committee members in learning more about the choice that must be made in the near future about whether to administer MCAS or PARCC in their districts in spring 2015.

These forums provide an important venue for educational leaders and school committee members to gain insight into the opportunities and concerns that accompany this important decision. They also provide an opportunity for the Department to hear and learn from the questions and concerns of attendees. We encourage you to get the word out and promote the participation of educational leaders in your communities. For more information about the forums, go to For information on the Listening Tour, go to

DDM Implementation Plans – Due June 1:

As a reminder, school districts are required to submit their District-Determined Measures (DDMs) Implementation Plans by June 1. The plans will include a list of DDMs that districts will implement during the 2014-15 school year. Using the Department's template, districts should complete their plans and email them to At the time of submission, a district may request a one-year extension for specific grades/subjects or courses for which the district has yet to identify DDMs. The Commissioner will condition the granting of any extension requests on ongoing district progress toward implementing DDMs and a clear plan for how to utilize the extension. To submit a request, click on the "Extension Request" tab on the template. Additional information on the June 1 submission and extension request process is contained in the Commissioner's March 18, 2014 memo. If you have any questions, please contact Ron Noble at

Innovation Schools Network Convening:

The Department, in partnership with the Executive Office of Education, will host the 3rd annual Innovation Schools Network Convening on June 4, 2014, at Worcester Technical High School. Worcester Tech Principal Sheila Harrity, who is the 2014 National High School Principal of the Year, will provide opening remarks. Secretary Malone will deliver the keynote address. Participants will have the opportunity to network, exchange ideas, gain valuable knowledge around specific topic areas, and share best practices as part of breakout sessions. To register, go to

Commissioner's School Visits:

On Monday, Commissioner Chester visited Hudson High School in Hudson to participate in a meeting on PARCC with superintendents from across the state. On Monday evening and Tuesday, the Commissioner visited Dennis-Yarmouth Regional High School in South Yarmouth for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's monthly meeting. On Thursday, the Commissioner visited Northeast Metro Regional Vocational School in Wakefield.

For Your Info:

  • Curriculum Mapping and Alignment Project: The Department is seeking examples of curriculum maps or related templates, pacing guides, or other curriculum guidance documents to share with districts statewide as part of the Race to the Top work. Please send examples in the arts, English language arts, comprehensive health, foreign languages, history/social science, mathematics, science and technology/engineering, or career/vocational technical education subjects or other disciplines to Zach Smith of the Lower Pioneer Valley Educational Collaborative at, by June 4.

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Last Updated: May 27, 2014
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