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Commissioner's Weekly Update - ESSA Plan Approved, Board to Meet, Supporting Students in Military Families - September 22, 2017

State ESSA Plan Approved:

The U.S. Department of Education approved Massachusetts' ESSA plan on Thursday, September 21, 2017. In a press release announcing USED's approval, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said, "I want to thank Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Governor Charlie Baker and all the stakeholders that contributed to Massachusetts' plan. This plan also serves as a testament to the leadership of the late Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who remains greatly missed. I look forward to seeing how these words on paper translate to classroom action that meets the unique needs of the students across the commonwealth."

Acting Commissioner Wulfson said, "Massachusetts is proud of the achievements of our K-12 student population, but like most other states, we still have a lot of work ahead to close persistent achievement gaps. Our ESSA state plan provides a framework for accountability and targeted assistance and builds on a system that has helped improve schools for Massachusetts students."

The state's plan under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) will be one of the topics the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will discuss at its meeting on September 26.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, September 26 in Malden. The agenda includes an update on the commissioner search, a report from the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students, a discussion of Massachusetts' ESSA plan, an update on the next-generation MCAS, and a discussion about future adjustments to the high school competency determination.

Supporting Students in Military Families:

As a member of the Military Interstate Children's Compact Commission (MIC3), Massachusetts and the Department are committed to providing support for military-connected students who experience high mobility, often resulting in educational interruption. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and existing state law require districts to collect and report to ESE information families voluntarily share about military status. Guidance and resources are available at: Superintendents and principals are asked to share this link with guidance counselors.

Special Education Leadership:

The Department's long-time state special education director, Marcia (Marty) Mittnacht, retired at the end of the last school year. Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson recently sent a memo to the field about how ESE's special education office is now organized and who to contact about particular subjects. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston is serving as the new state special education director, and the directors of four special education-related units (the Office of Special Education Planning and Policy, the Office of Public School Monitoring, the Office of Approved Special Education Schools, and Special Education in Institutional Settings) report to him.

Digital Connections Initiative: K-12 Upgrade Webinar:

In partnership with the national nonprofit EducationSuperHighway, ESE is working to help all districts connect to affordable, high-speed broadband. At 1 p.m. Tuesday, September 26, EducationSuperHighway will have a webinar and share tips and best practices on how to run a successful E-rate Category 1 procurement and optimize funding opportunities. Topics will include free technical assistance from EducationSuperHighway, tools and resources to help districts upgrade, and state funding for your E-rate Category 1 upgrades. More information is available online or by scheduling a call with the EducationSuperHighway team for Massachusetts.

Competitive FY18 Safe and Supportive Schools Grant:

The Fiscal Year 2017-2018 (FY18) Safe and Supportive Schools Grant Program (Fund Code 335), funded through state line item 7061-9612, is now accepting proposals. The primary goal of the grant is to support districts and their selected schools to organize, integrate, and sustain school and district-wide efforts to create safe and supportive school environments and coordinate and align student support initiatives informed by the district's use of the Behavioral Health and Public Schools Framework and Self-Assessment Tool.

For more information, see the FY18 fund code 335 RFP. Applications are due October 13, 2017. The Department has scheduled grant information sessions on September 29 and October 3 to share information and address questions about this grant and its application process.

Online Course for Early Childhood Educators:

Early childhood educators are encouraged to consider registering for the facilitated, online version of the Introductory Course on Massachusetts Pre-K and Kindergarten Standards for Social Emotional Learning and Approaches to Play and Learning. The course will be offered across five weeks from October 3-November 12 by the Collaborative for Educational Services, which developed the course collaboratively with ESE and the Department of Early Education and Care. The fee for each participant is $100, and the course is limited to 20 participants. Registration and further information are available online.

Social and Emotional Learning Professional Development Opportunity:

The state Department of Public Health and ESE invite first and second grade teachers to participate in a free, one-day professional development opportunity about a social and emotional learning program called the Good Behavior Game that is sponsored by the Department of Public Health. Participants will learn about the Good Behavior Game, and the materials needed to implement it will be offered at no charge. Implementation supports, including follow-up, will be offered through a webinar and telephone support.

For more information, contact Kathleen Herr-Zaya at the Department of Public Health ( or 617-624-5143). Please use the following link to indicate your school's interest by October 8, 2017. Schools can send a team of first and/or second grade teachers, administrators, guidance professionals, social workers, special education staff, and classroom instructional assistants. This team will be expected to implement the Good Behavior Game in its first and/or second grade classrooms for the remainder of the 2017-2018 school year.

Openings on Arts Education Advisory Council and the Racial Imbalance Advisory Council:

Two advisory councils, the Arts Education Advisory Council and the Racial Imbalance Advisory Council, have seats open for educators and others interested in advising ESE and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education. The arts advisory council will discuss topics such as the relevance of the current Arts Curriculum Framework, the need to maintain high standards in arts involvement, and the ongoing process of arts standards revision. The racial imbalance council will discuss topics that advance the Massachusetts Plan for Equitable Access to Excellent Educators, which includes cultural proficiency practices for maintaining high standards among all students.

Both councils meet three or four times a year. Interested candidates should submit a cover letter and résumé to Lurline Muñoz-Bennett, Ph.D. at or L. Muñoz-Bennett, Ph.D., Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, Center for Instruction and Support, 75 Pleasant St., Malden, MA 02148 by October 27, 2017. The Department particularly encourages individuals representing diverse communities and students who have been historically underserved by the educational system to apply.

Elementary Principals Network Meetings:

During the last school year, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Elementary School Principals Association (now part of the Massachusetts School Administrators' Association), ESE's Early Learning team co-hosted six regional focus groups of elementary principals from across the state. Discussions focused on practices in preschool through grade 3, and specific topics included social and emotional learning, the role of play in learning in the early grades, retention of young children, collaboration with community-based providers, and professional/leadership development. From those focus groups came a request for continued opportunities for elementary principals to network on topics related to preschool through grade 3.

In response, ESE, in collaboration with the Massachusetts School Administrators' Association, will host three rounds of regional network sessions for elementary principals on early learning topics in November. Elementary school principals can register online for one of the sessions and are encouraged to share the information with other elementary school principals.

ESE Resource Corner:

Quick reference guides to the 2017 Mathematics Curriculum Framework: The Department recently released additional resources for implementing the 2017 English Language Arts/Literacy and Mathematics curriculum frameworks, including two two-page quick reference guides (QRGs) to the 2017 Curriculum Framework for Mathematics: "Fractions Learning Progression in Grades 3-5," which describes the learning trajectory from the conceptual foundations of fractions to fluency with fractional operations, and "Standard Algorithms for Addition and Subtraction," which summarizes the progression of standards related to developing a conceptual understanding of the standard algorithms for addition and subtraction. Additional quick reference guides will be released throughout the school year.

Subscriber Information: To sign up to receive the Commissioner's Weekly Update, go to and sign up for the "Commissioner's update to school districts."

Last Updated: September 22, 2017
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