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Commissioner's Weekly Update - August 8, 2014

Preliminary 2014 MCAS Results and Accountability Data:

This week, ESE provided districts and schools with embargoed access to their full preliminary MCAS results in English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering via the Security Portal. The Department plans to provide districts and schools access to preliminary 2014 accountability data on Tuesday, Aug. 12. As a reminder, all MCAS results and accountability data are strictly confidential and embargoed until ESE officially releases them in mid-September.

The intent of sharing preliminary results is to assist district and school leaders with educational planning and to allow for the reporting of potential data discrepancies. The MCAS discrepancy reporting window will close at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 14. It is essential that principals and school leaders review their preliminary results before that time or delegate this task to a designee. The Department will not be able to correct discrepancies reported after the deadline in time for the official public release of results in September. The online MCAS discrepancy reporting tool is available at, as are detailed instructions for reporting discrepancies. (They can also be found in the MCAS 2014 Data Drop Box in the Security Portal.)

The Department has also posted aggregated student participation results to each district's MCAS 2014 Data Drop Box. Participation rates can impact accountability and assistance level designations for districts and schools, so ESE strongly encourages school and district leaders to review these participation results during the reporting window and alert ESE to any apparent discrepancies via the MCAS discrepancy reporting tool by 5:00 p.m. Aug. 14. If you have any questions about accountability reporting, please e-mail or call (781) 338-3550. If you have any questions about MCAS results, please e-mail or call (781) 338-3625.

New Board Members Appointed:

On Tuesday, Governor Deval Patrick made three appointments to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. Margaret McKenna, who is a former president of Lesley University, a former president of the Walmart Foundation and a former deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Education, will become chair. Her appointment fills the vacancy left by Board Chair Maura Banta, whose term expired in June. McKenna is a member of the Boston School Committee and will step down from that position before joining the state Board.

Katherine Craven, chief administrative officer of Babson College and former executive director and CEO of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, will fill the business seat on the board and replace Beverly Holmes, who stepped down last year. Craven lives in Brookline.

Mary Ann Stewart of Lexington will fill the Parent Teacher Association vacancy left by Board member Ruth Kaplan, whose term expired in June. Stewart is former president of the Massachusetts PTA and has served on its board since 2005.

The Department is grateful for all the work the departing Board members did on behalf of students and looks forward to welcoming the new members.

Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) Data Update:

The Department anticipates releasing the 2014-15 school year Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) data via Edwin Analytics by early September. The EWIS identifies students in grades 1-12 as being at low, moderate, or high risk of not meeting an upcoming education milestone. The data may be used to help to systematically identify students who may need additional supports to meet key academic goals. To learn more about EWIS, please see the EWIS website:

To ensure that your district receives its 2014-15 EWIS data on time, please: 1) certify all student data collections (i.e., SIMS, SCS, and SSDR) according to the schedule posted at, and 2) complete the student claiming process by Aug. 22 for all students who are new to your district or who are in a new school within your district. If you have any questions, please contact the Edwin Analytics team at

The Department is offering a daylong workshop on Sept. 23 on how to use EWIS data thoughtfully and cohesively in conjunction with other initiatives and data sources throughout the school year. All participants will receive a copy of a new EWIS guide at the workshop. More information and online registration is available at

Provision of Instructional Supplies, Including Tablets or Computers:

The Department has received a number of questions related to whether Massachusetts public schools may require students to purchase tablets or computers. Generally speaking, public schools may not charge a fee for students to enroll or to participate in required or elective courses given for academic credit. Under Chapter 71, Section 48 of the Massachusetts General Laws, school districts must purchase at public expense textbooks and other instructional materials and supplies intended for use and re-use over a period of years. Districts then in turn "loan" those instructional materials free of charge to students, who must return them at the end of the school year.

The exception to this general rule is consumable supplies - those supplies that students typically use up during the course of the year. Schools may ask students to supply their own notebooks or binders, papers, pencils, pens, and tissues. The Department does advise schools to keep these types of consumable materials on hand so that students who do not have such supplies will not miss any instruction.

In contrast, costly tools such as a tablet, other computer or graphing calculator fall in the category of instructional materials and supplies that, similar to textbooks, are intended for schools to purchase and use and re-use over a period of years. If such technology is required, the school may encourage each student to purchase these devices. Students are likely to do so, because they may need those devices for future classes and other use outside of school. We advise schools to be prepared to provide such devices free of charge to students whose families do not choose to buy them or cannot afford to do so. If students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments, schools must provide that access.

For Your Info:

  • Directory Administration: District leaders should review and update information within Directory Administration. The Department frequently uses Directory Administration to communicate with districts on various topics, such as RETELL, MCAS, and PARCC. Please submit any new email address to your District-Level Directory Administrator, who is the person in charge of submitting and updating contact information to the Department. To view a list of Directory Administrators, go to

Subscriber Information: 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) 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: August 12, 2014
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