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Commissioner's Weekly Update - July 15, 2016

Superintendents' Checklist:

As a service to superintendents, each year we provide a checklist of key tasks local school districts must complete throughout the year. Additionally, the Commissioner highlighted important milestones and upcoming activities. Superintendents and assistant superintendents received the checklist in an On the Desktop message this week. Please see the Commissioner's page for more information:

Summer Meals Month:

Last summer in Massachusetts 2.7 million meals were served across the Commonwealth, yet only 15 percent of eligible youth participated in the Summer Food Service Program. For the second consecutive summer, the Baker-Polito administration declared July "Summer Meals Month" in Massachusetts. In an effort to increase participation in this valuable program, numerous stakeholders in Massachusetts are collaborating to intensify their outreach efforts.

Additionally, the Department, Project Bread, and numerous other partner organizations are providing grant funding and outreach support to help grow programs across the state. To learn more about the program or to locate a site:

  • Visit
  • Download the free app "SummerEats" on iPhone and Android
  • Text the Text4Food hotline at 617-863-MEAL (6325)
  • Call Project Bread's FoodSource hotline at 1-800-645-8333

MA Selected to Participate in the CASEL Collaborating States Initiative:

The Department is pleased to announce that our state was selected by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to participate in their Collaborating States Initiative this summer through fall 2017. The eight participating states include California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington.

The purpose of the project is to support states through efforts to adopt and implement clearly defined, research-based policies, guidelines, and/or standards to support statewide implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL). We will update you on future opportunities for stakeholders to provide input. Massachusetts welcomes this opportunity to learn with, and from, other states as we seek to develop policies and guidance to best support Massachusetts' students.

New Skills for Youth Career Readiness Initiative:

Massachusetts was recently chosen to participate in a national career readiness initiative lead by the Council of Chief State School Officers called New Skills for Youth (NSFY). A central goal of NSFY is to help states expand access to career pathway programs that lead to careers in the high-skill, high-demand sectors of our economy.

The American Institutes for Research (AIR) is assisting Massachusetts to conduct a needs assessment of our current career pathways and career development education systems in high schools throughout the state. To assist these efforts, AIR will be conducting an online survey of high school principals, starting next week. All high school principals will be sent an email invitation from AIR containing instructions, the survey, and a link to respond online. I am taking this opportunity to alert you to this effort and to request your help in making it a success. Thank you in advance for your participation.

Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) Release Update:

Districts/Educators will have access to a new student level report in the next release of the Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS), the EWIS Postsecondary Readiness model. The new model is being developed by ESE, with funding from the US Department of Education, to provide risk levels for high school students related to meeting postsecondary outcomes. The expanded EWIS will use data on the higher education outcomes of students who previously graduated from high school in the Commonwealth. For more information on EWIS, please visit

The release of all EWIS models and reports is scheduled for August 26th. Please remember that to be included in the EWIS calculations all of your district's statewide collections (SIMS, EPIMS, SCS, and SSDR) must be completed. Districts that do not report these data by the due dates will not have EWIS data in the initial release in Edwin Analytics for the beginning of the school year.

Grant Assurances Document:

The Department has posted the Fiscal Year 2017 Grant Assurances Document, which covers the requirements for the following three programs: the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Improvement Act (Perkins). Applicants must sign and submit the assurances document to Elizabeth Celata at ESE by Friday, July 15, 2016 in order to receive funds from ESEA, IDEA, and/or Perkins. We understand that the majority of superintendents are currently at a conference; please send in the assurances as early as possible next week.

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA):

As you may know, Massachusetts is participating in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for our state and in December OECD will announce how the state performed compared to rest of world.

Now, each of you has an opportunity for your districts and even individual schools to use a global benchmarking tool to benchmark the performance of your school or district with rest of the world - and receive an in-depth report with useful information given your academics and results from a student survey

This is a global benchmarking tool for any high school that can be used as a catalyst and a guide for igniting change and generating school commitment to accelerating academic excellence.

Based on the international PISA exam, the OECD Test for Schools (1) assesses students' problem-solving and critical thinking skills, and (2) gives insight into student perceptions of the school environment and attitudes towards learning.

Administration of the test is completely online. Scheduling happens at the school's convenience and involves a SAMPLE of 85 students who are 15-year olds. Total testing time is 3 ½ hours, including breaks and time for the student survey. Once responses are scored and analyzed, schools receive an in-depth, 100+ page report that provides data on how they are performing compared with international school systems. The OECD is currently working on a District report that will provide comprehensive information on a particular District and benchmark that District against international school systems as well.

A foundation will cover the cost for the first 20-30 schools that sign up. Without the subsidy, the cost is approximately $5,000 per school.

Participation is voluntary. The test not only provides participants with in-depth knowledge and actionable data on their schools, it links participants to a learning network of schools (domestically and globally) that are interested in improving their practices and student learning as well as passionate about and committed to sharing these practices so that other schools can fully realize educational excellence for their students as well. Over the past four years, this network has grown to encompass 446 schools across 32 states - as well as hundreds of schools globally. These school and district leaders can choose to participate in a variety of activities including conferences, webinars, etc., to further unpack, analyze and plan for action based on their results.

To learn more about the assessment, and read case studies from schools who have participated, please visit

If you are interested in the assessment, contact Rebecca Bennett at DESE ( and Rehva Jones via email at

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: July 19, 2016
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