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Commissioner's Weekly Update - July 12, 2013

Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Update:

Governor Patrick today signed into law the Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 General Appropriations Act. The $33.6 billion spending law contains $4.875 billion (approximately 14.4 percent of the total state budget) for ESE. This represents an increase of $155 million above ESE's FY 2013 budget. Among the highlights of the budget are a $130 million increase for Chapter 70 state aid to $4.301 billion, a $10.6 million increase in the Special Education Circuit Breaker program to $252.5 million, and a $6 million increase for regional school transportation costs to $51.5 million.

ESE has posted the final Chapter 70 minimum local contributions on its school finance page at http://www.doe.mass.edu/finance/chapter70/. Please keep in mind that the cherry sheet numbers issued by the Department of Revenue (DOR) for charter school tuition, school choice tuition, and transportation reimbursements are only estimates. ESE will calculate actual receipts and assessments next year following submission of final information from districts.

Planning for Transition to PARCC:

As you know, Massachusetts is one of 21 states working to develop the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC), which are next generation assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and anchored in the knowledge and skills students need to be ready for college and careers. PARCC will assess the standards contained in the 2011 Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks in English Language Arts and Literacy Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document and Mathematics Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document, which incorporate the CCSS, and will provide a signal to higher education regarding whether students are on track to enroll in credit-bearing college coursework. PARCC will also deliver innovative technology-based items and performance-based tasks that will allow us to assess a broader range of the skills that we value and employers report are necessary for students to be successful after high school.

ESE envisions a transition period to move from our legacy MCAS assessments to PARCC. This will give our teachers and schools the time they need for implementation of the new Curriculum Frameworks in ELA and Mathematics. It will also allow us to continue to hold students, schools, and districts accountable for results while providing time for students and teachers to become acclimated to the new assessment system prior to its full-scale implementation. Later this fall, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will discuss and vote on a transition plan with the understanding that, as the Governor and Commissioner have committed from the outset, the state will only adopt PARCC if it proves to be as good as or better than our current MCAS assessments.

Looking ahead to the 2013-14 school year and beyond, there are some important updates to share at this time:

  • PARCC Resources: A range of resources is currently available to prepare staff and students for the new PARCC assessments. First and foremost, by ensuring that your district's curriculum is aligned to the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, you are preparing students for the PARCC assessments. Secondly, on the PARCC website (http://www.parcconline.org/), you will find a range of resources, including sample items. Later this summer, PARCC will release additional sample items. This fall we anticipate that a PARCC practice test will be available.
  • 2013-14 PARCC Field Test: Administering a field test, which involves a secure tryout of test items given to a representative sample of students and schools, is integral to the launch of any new testing program. PARCC will administer a field test in spring 2014 to a representative sample of about 10 percent of Massachusetts students in grades 3-11. Next month, ESE will notify schools selected to participate in this spring 2014 field test. Over the next few weeks, we will share additional information related to testing windows, technology requirements, a paper-and-pencil option, and other details.
  • Technology Requirements: We are working with legislators, the Mass. School Building Authority, and federal e-rate authorities to secure funds to upgrade the technology infrastructure across the Commonwealth's schools. By creating 21st Century classrooms, we provide our educators and students with access to digital learning resources and opportunities, as well as permit online administration of assessments. We will have further announcements about technology requirements and opportunities this fall.
  • CD Requirement for the Classes of 2014-2017: It is imperative that prior to any wholesale changes in the Competency Determination (CD) requirement as a result of transitioning to PARCC, we allow students and teachers adequate lead time to adjust to any changes. Accordingly, at least through the class of 2017, the current MCAS high school graduation requirement in English Language Arts (ELA), Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) will remain in effect. This means that students in the classes of 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017 must continue to pass the grade 10 MCAS tests and/or retests in ELA, Mathematics, and STE in order to meet the state's CD requirement. High school students in those classes will take MCAS (rather than PARCC) to satisfy the CD requirement.

    As a reminder, PARCC will only assess ELA and Mathematics. Therefore, we anticipate the current MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering tests will continue even as we implement PARCC. As the development of PARCC continues in the coming year, ESE will provide additional updates on any changes to the CD requirement for the classes of 2018 and beyond.

ESE recognizes that students, educators, school and district leaders, parents, and others will have many questions about PARCC - from what the new testing experience will look and feel like, to how the time commitment and testing window will compare to MCAS. While such concerns and questions are understandable, we are truly excited about the promise and opportunities that a next generation assessment system will bring for the Commonwealth's students and educators, and are confident that those benefits will far outweigh any complications or inconvenience posed during the planned transition period. We are committed to continuing to provide answers to these questions and to share useful resources to help everyone develop a clear, informed understanding of PARCC and the utility of this new assessment system. In the meantime, should you have any questions, please email ESE at parcc@doe.mass.edu.

The Commissioner will provide further detail about PARCC at next week's Mass. Association of School Superintendents (M.A.S.S.) Summer Institute.

2013-14 Superintendents' Checklist:

Each year, ESE publishes a checklist of key tasks that local school districts must complete throughout the school year. We have now posted the 2013-14 Superintendents' Checklist at

http://www.doe.mass.edu/commissioner/checklist.html. While the majority of activities remain the same from the prior year, there are several key additions to this year's checklist, including:

  • Submit list of District-Determined Measures (DDMs) the district will pilot (including the 5 minimum areas laid out in the Commissioner's April 12, 2013 memo) during the 2013-2014 school year (Due: September 30, 2013);
  • Report final plan for determining Impact Ratings based on the DDMs for all educators by the end of the 2015-16 school year (Due: February 21, 2014);
  • Inform teachers, administrators, and other professional staff of the requirement to renew their Professional license if it is up for renewal by June 17, 2014 (Beginning no later than February 2014).

The Commissioner will provide further detail about the timeline and deadlines for educator evaluation, including those related to DDMs, at next week's M.A.S.S. Summer Institute.

Update on National Background Checks:

The Executive Office of Public Safety and Security is in the process of selecting a vendor to handle the fingerprinting, and the Legislature is working on technical amendments to the law needed to access the federal database. For now, you should continue your hiring for the next school year using the existing Massachusetts CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) process. We will let you know when we have a firm timetable for implementing the fingerprinting process.

Expanded Learning Time Issue Briefs:

We have posted three new issue briefs on expanded learning time prepared for ESE by Abt Associates Inc., which also had previously conducted the evaluation of the Commonwealth's Expanded Learning Time (ELT) initiative. The briefs summarize the findings and implications for school districts who may wish to implement certain elements of the ELT program. The briefs include:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Time Use in Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Schools
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Enrichment in Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Schools
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Collaborative Planning in Massachusetts Expanded Learning Time (ELT) Schools

For additional research, evaluation, and data products from ESE's Office of Planning and Research, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/research/reports/topic.html.

For Your Info:

  • 21st CCLC-ELT Grants: Using the flexibility granted in Feb. 2012 from certain provisions of the No Child Left Behind Act, ESE has recently awarded competitive FY 2014 21st Century Community Learning Centers - Expanded Learning Time (CCLC-ELT) grants to five schools in three districts. The schools will use these funds to support inquiry-based, hands-on teaching and learning, in both core academics and enrichment activities, during an expanded school day and/or year. For more info on the awards, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/Grants/grants14/awards/647B1A.html.
  • Teacher contract database: Teacher contracts for all Massachusetts districts are available through ESE's online, searchable database. You can access contracts for particular districts or search for contract subjects. We hope you find this a useful resource. To access the database, go to http://educatorcontracts.doemass.org/. If you have any questions, please contact Simone Lynch in our Educator Policy, Preparation, and Leadership unit at slynch@doe.mass.edu.

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Last Updated: July 17, 2013
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