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Commissioner's Weekly Update - September 9, 2016

Planning for Computer-Based Testing in 2017:

As part of the transition to statewide computer-based testing that was announced in June, students in grades 4 and 8 will be expected to take computer-based MCAS English Language Arts and Mathematics tests in spring 2017 (with some exceptions). Districts should begin planning for computer-based testing by registering for the September 19 conference call on computer-based testing readiness and by reviewing the technology specifications for the next-generation MCAS. Districts will receive a survey on September 16 to register their testing mode decision (computer-based or paper-based) for grades 3-8 and will have until October 14 to determine the mode and request a waiver, if necessary. Please direct any questions regarding computer-based testing or the waiver process to

Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant & Loan Program - Application Posted:

Application materials for the Digital Connections Partnership Schools Grant & Loan Program are posted, and applications are due Friday, October 7, 2016. The $2 million in state bond funds available through this program are to cover project costs that are not discounted under the federal E-rate program. Local matching funds are required and can come from other public or private sources, such as the $10 million in loans available from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Local matching funds must be provided to the Massachusetts Department of Information Technology (MassIT) before the project starts, and all project costs that use state bond funds must be completed by June 30, 2017.

The Digital Connections Initiative provides tools, assistance, and funding to bridge the digital divide that exists in some schools across the Commonwealth and to strengthen 21st century teaching and learning. The initiative is a partnership between ESE's Office of Digital Learning, MassIT, and the nonprofit EducationSuperHighway. If you have any questions, please contact ESE's Office of Digital Learning.

Technology Funding for Charter Schools, Educational Collaboratives, Approved Special Education Schools, and Nonprofits:

MassDevelopment, an economic development and finance agency established by the Massachusetts legislature, offers guarantees on bank loans or tax-exempt bonds for financing the acquisition, construction, or renovation of leased or owned facilities. MassDevelopment has loans available to cover up to 100 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing technology, including new or used telecommunications and information technology equipment and software. To learn more, call (800) 445-8030 or visit the MassDevelopment website for a listing of regional offices.

Save the Date: Boston Future Ready Summit November 14-15:

The Boston Future Ready Summit, an opportunity for district teams to align digital learning strategies with student learning goals, will be held November 14-15 at the Education Development Center, 43 Foundry Ave., Waltham. District teams committed to fostering personal learning using effective digital strategies are invited to attend! The keynote speaker will be Eric Sheninger, senior fellow at the International Center for Leadership in Education.

The summit is free and open to any district team that has not yet participated in a Future Ready Summit. Before registering, interested people should review the summit expectations and objectives.

The Department, through the Office of Digital Learning, invites superintendents to take the Future Ready Pledge. Those who do gain access to free Future Ready Schools resources including a framework to help district leadership teams talk about Future Ready planning with uniform language, a quick way to assess a district team's readiness, a five- step planning process, hundreds of research based resources and partner materials, and opportunities to network, learn and share through in-person summits and workshops and virtually.

For Your Info:

  • Letters about Literature: The Massachusetts Center for the Book invites readers in grades 4-12 to reflect on their reading and write personal letters to authors as part of the Letters about Literature program. Administered by the Center for the Book in the Library of Congress, the national contest is sponsored in Massachusetts by the Massachusetts center for the Book. Cash prizes are awarded at the national level in each of three grade-level categories. For more information, see the link above, email, or call (617) 872-3718.
  • U.S. Education and Justice departments issue letters on school resource officers: The U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department's Office of Community-Oriented Policing Services (COPS) have released letters to states and districts emphasizing the importance of well-designed School Resource Officer (SRO) programs and Safe, School-Based Enforcement through Collaboration, Understanding, and Respect (SECURe) rubrics on state and local policy and local implementation.
  • Additional learning time grants announced: The Department recently announced $1.7 million in 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants for additional learning time. Through this federally funded grant program, approximately 3,500 students in 17 schools will benefit from additional learning time, either in the form of a longer school day or through programs outside of school hours.

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Last Updated: September 9, 2016
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