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Commissioner's Weekly Update - June 17, 2016

Ceremony to Honor Educators:

On June 15, 2016, Commissioner Chester Rep. Alice Peisch, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Education; legislators; educators and family members gathered in the Great Hall of the State House to honor 19 teachers who received the Commonwealth's top honors for educators.

"We should be ringing a bell and marching around Boston Common to celebrate what you do," master of ceremonies Josh Binswanger, a television journalist, told the teachers.

Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant:

Earlier this spring, the Commonwealth's Executive Office of Administration and Finance allocated $2 million to continue the highly successful Digital Connections Partnership Schools grant program in FY17. Administered through a partnership between ESE and the state's Office of Information Technology (MassIT), the grant is a competitive, matching state grant program that provides funding for school infrastructure projects such as internet connectivity and Wi-Fi.

The application window is expected to open at the beginning of August and close at the end of September. As part of the application process, districts will be asked to provide quotes for their proposed infrastructure upgrades, and those quotes should be based on walkthroughs from multiple vendors used for the state contract. Districts should consider scheduling these walkthroughs for a single day in August or September. Districts should remember, however, that vendors charge fees for walkthroughs, and there is no guarantee that all districts applying for the grant will be funded.

More information on the latest round of the Digital Connections Partnership grants will be available in late July or early August. Anyone with questions in the meantime can contact the Office of Digital Learning at

School Discipline Professional Learning Community:

On June 13, 2016, ESE released the list of districts and schools that will participate in a professional learning community to address inappropriate or excessive use of long-term suspensions and expulsions, including disproportional rates of suspensions and expulsions for students with disabilities and/or of students of color. This collaboration will also be an opportunity for ESE to understand the reasons why schools and districts suspend and expel students as well as how the agency can be helpful to and learn from schools and districts statewide around these issues.

Gender Equity in Career and Technical Education:

The U.S. Department of Education's Office for Civil Rights and Office of Adult, Career, and Technical Education have released a Dear Colleague Letter to make clear that all students, regardless of their sex, must have equal access to the full range of career and technical programs offered. (While the letter focuses on gender equity in career and technical programs, all educational opportunities must be open to students in a nondiscriminatory manner.)

The Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act requires states to meet negotiated targets for participation and completion rates of males and females in programs that are nontraditional for their sex. The Dear Colleague Letter clarifies districts' legal obligations under the civil rights laws and provides examples of issues that may raise concerns regarding compliance with these obligations. While the letter focuses on discrimination based on sex in career and technical education programs, the U.S. Department of Education is working with schools to ensure that their career and technical education programs are free from all forms of unlawful discrimination.

Changes to the PARCC Partnership Resource Center:

Through grant funding program and with the support of the PARCC consortium, educators in Massachusetts public school districts have had free public access to a suite of instructional tools and formative assessment materials on the PARCC Partnership Resource Center. After the grant funding expires on July 31, 2016, free access to the full range of materials will end. While many of the instructional materials, including PDFs of released PARCC questions, will continue to be available for free, other content, such as formative assessment materials, will not.

Any district with currently registered Partnership Resource Center users will receive notification from PARCC Inc. alerting them to the change and offering them the opportunity to continue access to the extended content, including the formative assessment materials, for a fee. Whether to continue access to the extended content is a local and voluntary decision.

ESE Resource Corner

Standards Review Webpage: As ESE and Massachusetts educators examine the state's curriculum frameworks, also known as learning standards, and consider possible updates, the agency has added a webpage to help explain the standards review process and keep the public informed of this work.

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 17, 2016
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