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Commissioner's Weekly Update - June 10, 2016

Understanding the Impact of Poverty on Student Outcomes:

The Department is pleased to announce the creation of an online interactive training module developed by ESE and guided by ongoing work with Low-income Education Access Project (LEAP) districts and collaboratives. The Low-income Education Access Project is a collaboration between ESE, participating districts, collaboratives and agencies to assess why low-income students are being disproportionally identified for special education and/or substantially separate placements.

The training module is intended to provide a fundamental understanding of the impact poverty can have on student outcomes and is intended for school and district use with groups or individuals. The module could be used as part of a back-to-school orientation for staff and/or during the school year for new hires. It is designed to be modified by the presenter to meet local needs and to promote discussion, and the module can be presented in sections or in its entirety.

Note about Spring 2016 PARCC and MCAS Data:

In 2015, the percentage of districts choosing MCAS and PARCC for grades 3-8 English language arts and mathematics tests was roughly even in terms of numbers and in terms of demographics, allowing ESE to create a representative sample of students from each group as a basis for statewide comparisons. This year's assessment choices, however, were distributed in such a way that makes it difficult for ESE to create a valid representative sample. As a result, ESE will not report aggregate results at the state level in 2016.

The Department will return to reporting aggregate results in 2017, when all students in grades 3-8 will take the next-generation MCAS.

Substance Use Prevention and Substance Abuse Education Policies:

An Act Relative to Substance Use, Treatment, Education and Prevention was signed into law on March 14, 2016. Section 15 of the Act amends Mass. Gen. Laws chapter 71, section 96, and requires each public school to "have a policy regarding substance use prevention and the education of its students about the dangers of substance abuse. The school shall notify the parents or guardians of all students attending the school of the policy and shall post the policy on the school's website. The policy, and any standards and rules enforcing the policy, shall be prescribed by the school committee in conjunction with the superintendent or the board of trustees of a charter school."

The statute directs ESE, in consultation with the Department of Public Health, to provide guidance and recommendations to assist schools with developing and implementing effective substance use prevention and abuse education policies. Each school district and charter school is required to file its substance use prevention and abuse education policies with ESE.

In the coming weeks, ESE will post guidance and recommendations to assist schools in developing (or updating) and implementing effective substance use prevention education policies. The guidance will be available on the ESE website, along with instructions for filing the policies as required by the statute. For further information, please contact Anne Gilligan at

Accountability and Assistance System Feedback Opportunity:

The federal Every Student Succeeds Act 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 the state's 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 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. It 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

Next-Generation MCAS Update:

Assessment calendar reminder: The Statewide Assessment Calendar for the 2016–2017 School Year is posted online and includes dates for the next-generation MCAS.

Traditionally, spring MCAS testing has been separated into two administration periods: an early window for English language arts and a later window for mathematics and science and technology/engineering. Beginning in 2017, grades 3-8 tests in English language arts, mathematics, and science and technology/engineering will be administered during one extended window for all subject area tests. This minimizes the number of interruptions during the school year and allows more time for schools doing computer-based testing.

Over the coming months, the Department will provide additional guidance on administering grades 3-8 tests, such as the number and length of test sessions, whether sessions will be generously timed, and whether there will be a prescribed order for testing.

Learning standards survey: The Department would like to thank the hundreds of people who have completed the survey about the Massachusetts English language arts and mathematics curriculum frameworks. While the survey will remain open through the end of June, ESE encourages educators, parents, and others to respond by June 17, if possible, in order to give staff time to compile the comments before the final meeting of the panel of educators who are reviewing the standards. Please consider sharing the survey link through social media and other communications.

For Your Info:

  • Summer meals: U.S. Secretary of Education John King and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack have issued a joint letter encouraging local leaders to provide summer meals to students at schools and community centers and share information about nearby summer meal sites. Nationally, 22.1 million students receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year, but just 1 in 6 of those students participates in summer meal programs. Other federal and state Summer Food Service Program materials are available online. For more information and how to apply to become a sponsor please contact ESE's Office for Food and Nutrition Programs at 781-338-6480.
  • World War I studies: The U.S. World War I Centennial Commission and National World War I Museum and Memorial are creating a bi-monthly electronic newsletter and corresponding web pages with resources and learning opportunities about World War I and are asking teachers to share created content that can be used in the classroom.
  • Website survey:, of which ESE is a part, is asking online visitors to take this survey that will help inform changes to

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: June 10, 2016
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