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Commissioner's Weekly Update - May 27, 2016

Follow up on the First Annual Civics Literacy Conference:

Thank you to all who made the Office of Literacy and Humanities' first annual civics literacy conference a success. The conference, "Serving America: Promising Practices for Building Literacy and Civic Learning," took place on Monday, May 23, 2016 at the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the U.S. Senate in Boston. More than 250 educators and representatives from community organizations convened to focus on the role civic learning plays in maintaining our democracy and steps to take to increase civic knowledge and engagement among K-12 students. Following a welcome from Kennedy Institute President Jean MacCormack, Commissioner Chester delivered the keynote address. Workshop presenters included Rep. Alice Peisch, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education. Meira Levinson, professor of education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and author of "Making Civics Count" and "No Citizen Left Behind", made the case for building civic learning and engagement during her plenary presentation. The Department is grateful to all the presenters for sharing their expertise, to the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for their partnership in hosting the event, and to all who attended and shared their ideas.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Meetings:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education held a special meeting Monday, May 23, 2016 that included two panels giving their insights on educator evaluation. The first gave a national perspective and included Kati Haycock of the Education Trust and Ross Wiener of The Aspen Institute. The second featured representatives of local districts: Kate Fenton, chief instructional officer of the Springfield Public Schools; Shakera Walker, senior manager of teacher leadership and professional development for the Boston Public Schools; Gene Reiber, a teacher with the Hanover Public Schools; Mike Sabin, principal of McDevitt Middle School in Waltham; Michelle Ryan, a teacher (and Milken Award Winner) with the Randolph Public Schools; and Wakefield Superintendent Kim Smith. Each gave their perspective on the benefits and challenges of the educator evaluation process.

On Tuesday, May 24, the Board met at the Pioneer Charter School of Science for its regular meeting, which included an overview of the Springfield Empowerment Zone, an update on development of the next-generation MCAS, and an end of the year report from the State Student Advisory Council.

Next-Generation MCAS Update:

A procurement review team is evaluating the two proposals we received from vendors for the next-generation MCAS testing contract. The review team includes staff from ESE's student assessment, curriculum and instruction, and digital learning offices; three educators from Massachusetts school districts; one representative from the Department of Higher Education; and two faculty members from institutions of higher education.

Massachusetts is working with districts to expand their capacity to deliver digital learning, including online assessments. The Massachusetts Office of Information Technology (MassIT) recently received approval for $1.7 million in funding from the Universal Service Administrative Company, which administers the E-rate program on behalf of the Federal Communications Commission. The funds will partially reimburse school districts for wireless infrastructure work completed under the Commonwealth's Digital Connections Partnership Grant. Overall, Massachusetts school districts have requested a total of $48.6 million in E-rate reimbursements for this school year, of which $42.4 million has been committed and $16.7 million disbursed to date.

The Department has assembled a panel comprised of K-12 educators, curriculum specialists, and higher education faculty to review the English Language Arts and mathematics standards that the Board adopted in 2010. The panel will review the standards and comments received through our online survey and make recommendations to refine the 2010 ELA and mathematics standards based on lessons learned during Massachusetts' implementation over the past five years. In addition, ESE, in conjunction with the Executive Office of Education, has issued a request for proposals for an independent consultant to assist in the evaluation of the standards.

For Your Info:

  • Foster Care Transition Toolkit: The U.S. Department of Education has released a Foster Care Transition Toolkit to support youth in foster care who are pursuing college and career opportunities.
  • Emergency management virtual toolkit: The U.S. Department of Education's Readiness and Emergency Management for Schools Technical Assistance Center has created a virtual toolkit for people with roles and responsibilities in school emergency management. This toolkit is divided into three sections: developing high-quality emergency operations plans, engaging youth and the school community, and connecting with other emergency management practitioners.
  • President's Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring: Nominations are open for the President's Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring, which recognizes outstanding mentoring efforts that increase the participation and retention of students and early career investigators in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Nominations, including self-nominations, will be accepted until June 17, 2016. The National Science Foundation administers the awards.

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Last Updated: May 27, 2016
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