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Commissioner's Weekly Update - September 30, 2016

Blue Ribbon Schools:

The U.S. Department of Education has named three Massachusetts schools Blue Ribbon Schools for closing gaps or exemplary high performance: Morris Elementary School in Lenox and Merrymount Elementary School in Quincy were recognized for closing gaps, and Daniel Butler Elementary School in Belmont was recognized for high performance. Each of the schools was also a Massachusetts Commendation School. Congratulations to all!

2016 Assessment and Accountability Results Released:

The Department publicly released 2016 PARCC and MCAS results and school and district accountability designations Monday. As part of that announcement, ESE designated 49 schools Commendation Schools in recognition of their high achievement, making strong progress, and/or narrowing proficiency gaps between groups of students. (The list is in Table 2 of this chart.)

The state also announced that three Level 4 schools are exiting that status: Bentley Academy Horace Mann Charter School in Salem, which serves kindergarten through fifth grade; Spark Academy in Lawrence, which serves grades 6-8; and William N. DeBerry Elementary School in Springfield. More than 60 percent of Level 4 schools that have been eligible to exit that status since the state first made Level 4 designations in 2010 have now exited including the three mentioned above that will exit this year after assuring the state that there are measures in place to continue their improvement.

"This year's accountability and assessment results are a testament to the Commonwealth's drive to improve an already strong statewide public education system," Commissioner Chester said in the press release. "As we build the next-generation MCAS that all students in grades 3-8 will take next spring, I'd like to thank in particular the educators from across the Commonwealth who are working with us to ensure we have a high-quality assessment system for many years to come."

School- and district-level student assessment results are available on ESE's website in several ways. For district or school data, either go to a school or district profile in Profiles and click on the "Assessment" tab or go to "PARCC Achievement Results" or "MCAS Achievement Results," both of which bring up statewide data for individual grades and subjects. Statewide results for 10th grade MCAS and fifth and eighth grade science tests are also available online, as is more information on PARCC results, including PARCC and MCAS concordance tables.

Broadband Help:

EducationSuperHighway, a national nonprofit, is partnering with ESE, MassIT, and the Governor's Office to provide broadband consulting services to Massachusetts districts free of charge. The EducationSuperHighway team has been working hard and has launched 13 projects so far. The Department encourages district representatives to register for the Massachusetts Computer Using Educators (MassCUE) Conference on Oct. 19 at Gillette Stadium and learn from several state agency leaders as well as EducationSuperHighway about the funding and resources available to secure more affordable broadband options and get high-speed fiber to those schools that lack the infrastructure.

Pre-K and Kindergarten Screening Survey:

In coordination with the Executive Office of Education, ESE and the Department of Early Education and Care are conducting a survey to understand how preschool and kindergarten children (ages 2.9 to 5 or 6 years old) are being screened for educational and health needs. The survey, sent to all public school early childhood coordinators on September 29, 2016, includes a list of specific early childhood screening tools and questions about how those tools are used. The Department is asking participants to please submit their responses by October 7. Districts are asked to respond once to this survey, which will be confidential and will help improve early education screening policies, practices, and professional development. Any data reported from the survey will be reported in the aggregate. Anyone with questions is asked to email .

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met Monday and Tuesday this week and discussed the assessment and accountability determinations, initial thoughts on revising the state accountability system in light of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, an update on the review of three sets of frameworks: English language arts/literacy, mathematics, and history and social science; an update on the next-generation MCAS; and an update on the educator evaluation program.

Student Government Day:

Student Government Day is not until April 7, 2017, but student delegates and alternates are traditionally elected on Election Day (November 8 this year), which is just around the corner. More details are available at the link above.

For Your Info:

  • Federal charter school grant: Massachusetts will receive almost $16 million over three years to support the creation of new charter schools, the U.S. Department of Education announced this week. The money is from the federal department's Charter Schools Program, and Massachusetts has been awarded grant funding through that program several times since 1995. Massachusetts is one of eight state education agencies to receive funding, and ESE will award sub-grants of the money to new charter schools and to support dissemination efforts.
  • Workforce skills grants: The Baker-Polito Administration's Workforce Skills Cabinet announced the opening of a $12 million workforce skills capital grant round to provide workforce training equipment to high schools, community colleges, and community-based nonprofits. Earlier this month, the administration announced it had awarded $2.6 million in Workforce Skills Capital Grants to seven high schools, community colleges, and an educational collaborative. Congratulations to the recipients!
  • Update on charter school proposals: The Department has invited four charter school applicant groups to submit final applications by November 1. The Department will announce a schedule of public hearings on the proposals after receiving the full applications.
  • History –social science specialist: The Department is looking to hire a strong history/social science specialist to manage the revision of the state curriculum framework for social science and other projects. Please share the posting with your networks.

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: October 3, 2016
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