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Commissioner's Weekly Update - Blue Ribbon Schools, Board Meets, Welcoming Students from Puerto Rico - September 29, 2017

National Blue Ribbon Schools:

The U.S. Department of Education announced this week that Heights Elementary School in Sharon, White Street Elementary School in Springfield, and Old Post Road School in Walpole have been named National Blue Ribbon Schools! The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program recognizes schools where students achieve at very high levels or make significant gains in closing achievement gaps between groups of students. Heights and White Street elementary schools were honored for narrowing gaps, while Old Post Road was honored for high achievement. Congratulations to all!

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Meeting:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met September 26, 2017. Two new members were sworn in: Amanda Fernandez, CEO and co-founder of Latinos for Education, and Martin West, an associate professor of education at Harvard University. Dr. West is finishing the term of Roland Fryer, who resigned for personal reasons, and Ms. Fernandez was appointed in place of Penny Noyce, whose term had expired. In addition, Governor Baker reappointed Board Vice Chair James Morton.

The Board meeting included updates on the next-generation MCAS and on the state plan that Massachusetts submitted as required by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The Board also heard moving testimony from transgender youth and their parents as part of a presentation by the Safe Schools Program for LGBTQ Students.

A video of the meeting is available at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/5UUhHjb7V6r.

Welcoming Students from Puerto Rico:

On September 27, Sarah Slautterback, ESE's homeless education state coordinator, sent a message to district homeless education liaisons about welcoming students from Puerto Rico whose families have fled the devastation of Hurricane Maria and moved in with friends or relatives in Massachusetts. While these children's lives have been dramatically disrupted, school can be a safe and stable environment. Under the federal McKinney-Vento Act, the definition of homelessness includes doubling up due to loss of housing. Please keep the following points in mind:

  • Students who have lost their housing must be immediately enrolled in school, even if they do not have documentation with them.
  • Students may not be held out of school for lack of documentation including academic records, medical/immunization records, birth certificates or guardianship records.
  • Schools should take prompt steps to determine a student's educational needs and ensure access to services for which students are eligible.
  • Homeless education liaisons should provide verification of students' homelessness to food service directors to ensure prompt access to free school meals.

More information is available in guidance that the U.S. Department of Education released (see Section B-6 starting on page 10 in particular). The U.S. Department of Education's Office of Safe and Healthy Students will host a webinar to discuss the guidance from 2-3 p.m. October 5. Anyone with questions for ESE on this subject should email compliance@doe.mass.edu.

"I Came Here to Learn":

At 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, October 3, ESE and its research partner on the GradNation State Activation Initiative, the Center for Promise, will present a webinar about "I Came Here to Learn: The Achievements and Experiences of Massachusetts Students Whose First Language is Not English". The Center for Promise team will briefly present the research and lead a moderated discussion with respondents including Chelsea Public Schools Deputy Superintendent Linda Breau, Boston Newcomers Academy Principal Tony King, and a senior from Boston Newcomers Academy. The webinar will conclude with an opportunity for questions from online attendees. Registration is available online. Please contact Marissa Cole at the Center for Promise or Nyal Fuentes at ESE with any questions.

FY18 Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant Webinars:

The Department and the Massachusetts Office of Technology Services and Security (EOTSS, formerly MassIT) are pleased to announce the availability of approximately $1.7 million in matching state funds to help districts upgrade their digital infrastructure.

The state will fund up to 100 percent of the infrastructure costs. The local match (between 30 and 70 percent of the total project cost, as determined on a sliding scale) may fund any combination of infrastructure, devices, assistive technology, professional development, or managed services.

The Department and EOTSS will hold informational webinars from 2-3 p.m. Tuesday, October 3 and from 10-11 a.m. Thursday, October 5. Both webinars will cover the same information. Applications will be due at 5 p.m. Friday, November 10. Anyone with questions about the program can contact the Office of Digital Learning.

Community Forum in Abington:

Abington Superintendent Peter Schafer will host a regional community forum on K-12 education with Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson from 6:30-8 p.m. Wednesday, October 11 at Abington High School, 201 Gliniewicz Way. Registration will start at 6 p.m., the commissioner's presentation will start at 6:30 p.m., and a question-and-answer session will follow. The event is free and open to the public, but attendees are asked to register online.

Districts' Testing Mode Decisions Due October 13:

As ESE and districts prepare to administer next-generation MCAS tests again in spring 2018, superintendents are reminded that they need to inform ESE via an online survey about the testing mode choice for their grades 3-8 schools. Schools are expected to administer computer-based tests in grades 4, 5, 7, and 8. Districts planning to request a full or partial waiver from the computer-based testing expectation must indicate that on the survey and follow the instructions. All districts must respond to the survey by the October 13 deadline.

Please also remember to inform and prepare the school community, including parents and guardians, about these decisions.

Computer Science-STEM Opportunity:

The Department and Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) seek educator teams from up to six districts to participate in the second year of a National Science Foundation-funded computer science and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) integration and collaboration program. The program is focused on integrating computer science with science and mathematics education in grades 1-6 and aims to create new models for teaching and learning through innovative curriculum and class materials. More information and the application are available online. Applications are due October 20.

Advanced Placement Results:

The College Board released Advanced Placement (AP) results this week for all students who took the tests last year (not just the graduating class). Massachusetts students' participation in AP exams continues to grow among all students (up 5 percent from 2016 to 2017) and is growing faster among underrepresented minority students (up 11 percent from 2016 to 2017). The number of Massachusetts students taking AP exams in science, technology, engineering or math has is also rising faster among underrepresented minorities (up 10 percent in the last year) than overall (up 5 percent in the last year).

Two Charter School Proposals Move to Next Phase:

Earlier this week, ESE invited the founders of a proposed Commonwealth charter school and the leaders of an existing charter school network to move to the next stage of the 2017-2018 charter school application process and submit a full application for the new charter schools they have proposed. Equity Lab Charter School in Lynn would serve up to 640 students in grades 5-12 and would open in 2018. Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School would serve up to 250 students in grades 9-12 from Lawrence, Haverhill, and Methuen and would also open in 2018.

Final applications are due by November 1, 2017, and ESE will announce the schedule of public hearings on the proposals after receiving the full applications.

Subscriber Information: To sign up to receive the Commissioner's Weekly Update, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/resources/newsletter-signup.aspx and sign up for the "Commissioner's update to school districts."



Last Updated: September 29, 2017
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