Commissioner's Weekly Update - September 27, 2013
Impact of Potential Federal Government Shutdown:
We are watching the potential federal government shutdown. The federal government has not adopted a formal budget for federal fiscal year 2014. If Congress and the President do not reach agreement by Sept. 30, 2013, the federal government could shut down on Oct. 1, 2013. We will keep you posted as events unfold. If you have any questions, please contact ESE's chief financial officer, Bill Bell, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Update on Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plans:
In the August 23 update, ESE provided information on recent changes to the Massachusetts anti-bullying law (M.G.L. chapter 71, section 37O) and indicated that we would post an updated Model Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan. The updated Model Plan, which is located at http://www.doe.mass.edu/bullying/#1, reflects amendments to the Massachusetts anti-bullying law adopted as part of the Fiscal Year 2014 budget. Those amendments changed the definition of "perpetrator" to include "a member of a school staff, including, but not limited to, an educator, administrator, school nurse, cafeteria worker, custodian, bus driver, athletic coach, advisor to an extracurricular activity or paraprofessional." The amendments became effective July 1, 2013. Please note that the definition of "victim" has not changed. Only a student may be the victim or target of bullying under the law. ESE has posted two versions of the model plan, one of which contains new language highlighted in yellow for easy reference.
School districts and other entities covered by the anti-bullying law must amend their bullying prevention and intervention plans to conform to the new requirements.
Board Recap – Educator Evaluation:
Districts across the Commonwealth are making considerable progress in implementing the new educator evaluation regulations. The regulations provide for a staggered rollout for the new system. In response to concerns from the field about the challenges of implementation, this summer the Commissioner proposed modifications to the original implementation timeline. The modifications include delaying student and staff surveys and using 2013-14 as a pilot year for District-Determined Measures (DDMs). While many of the dates in the regulations have been met, some dates need to be modified. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this week voted to solicit public comment on a proposed amendment to the educator evaluation regulations that would allow ESE to adjust dates in the regulations for good cause, thereby providing appropriate flexibility to districts. To review the current implementation timeline, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=7640.
Board Recap – Criminal Background Checks for School Employees:
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education also voted this week to adopt proposed Regulations on Criminal History Checks for School Employees as emergency regulations. This change in law and accompanying regulations brings Massachusetts in line with all other states in requiring national criminal background checks for school employees. These national criminal background checks will be an important addition to the state criminal background checks (CORI checks) currently required of school employees, for the protection of children.
As required by law, the regulations provide that new employees will undergo the checks during the 2013-14 school year and returning employees will undergo checks prior to the start of the 2016-17 school year. Going forward, all newly hired employees will be subject to the checks. During the three months the emergency regulations will be in effect, ESE will seek additional public comment on them. The notice of public comment is located on ESE's website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/news/news.aspx?id=7729. For more info, go to http://www.mass.gov/edu/2013newsupdates/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-background-checks.html. As more information becomes available about the implementation plan, ESE will notify schools and districts.
Four Massachusetts Schools Named National Blue Ribbon Schools:
This week, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced the 286 schools that are 2013 National Blue Ribbon Schools. The U.S. Department of Education (USED) recognized the schools' overall academic excellence or their progress in improving student academic achievement. Congratulations to the four Massachusetts recipients: Jonas Clarke Middle School in Lexington, New Mission High School in Boston, Winchester High School in Winchester, and Worcester Technical High School in Worcester. For more info on the Blue Ribbon Schools program, go to http://www2.ed.gov/programs/nclbbrs/index.html.
October is SchoolSpeedTest Month in Massachusetts:
Throughout the month of October, ESE encourages administrators, teachers, staff, and students to test their school's network by participating in a quick, one-minute Internet speed test. The goal of the test is to inform planning and policy decision making as we build support for equitable access to digital learning across the Commonwealth. The data we collect will also support planning for the implementation of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests. To participate in the speed test, log onto a school computer and go to http://partners.schoolspeedtest.org/massachusetts.html. The more data we receive on each school, the more accurate report ESE will deliver back to your district once the test is completed. If you have any questions, please contact Andrea Kupps in the Office of Digital Learning at email@example.com.
For Your Info:
- Governor's Open Letter to Educators: On Sept. 20, Governor Deval Patrick sent an open letter to teachers, principals, and superintendents. To read that letter, go to http://www.mass.gov/edu/2013newsupdates/governor-patricks-open-letter-to-educators.html.
- 2014 TELL Mass. Survey – Coming in January: In Jan. 2014, ESE will launch the second TELL Mass Survey for Massachusetts public school educators across the Commonwealth. The online survey, which is voluntary, confidential, and anonymous, allows us to gather educators' perspective on working conditions in their schools, including around issues such as instructional practices, available time, facilities, resources, and community engagement and support. Last year, more than 42,400 educators participated in the 2012 survey and conveyed positive feedback about teaching conditions in classrooms statewide. Where at least 50 percent of educators participated, ESE was able to provide data back to districts and schools to foster collaborative conversations and inform decision making. The 2014 survey will remain open for a four-week period. ESE will provide additional details as we get closer to the launch date. Meanwhile, please visit http://www.tellmass.org/ to learn more about the survey and view the 2012 results.
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