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Massachusetts Charter Schools

Updates for Charter Schools from ESE

To:Massachusetts Charter School Leaders and Board Chairs
From:Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner
Date:December 18, 2013


This memo contains several follow-up items from my October 28, 2013 memo; information about renewals; a brief report on the Charter Leader Meeting: Access, Equity, and Excellence; a reminder about the new discipline statute and a related grant opportunity; Charter Dart; the financial dashboard, and new schools development. Please review it carefully and pass on the information to others as appropriate. Warm wishes for a restful holiday.

Access, Equity, and Excellence Charter Leader Meeting Follow-Up

It was great to see many of you at the event held on October 30, 2013, in Marlborough, MA. As many of you know, we brought together leaders from almost all of the public charter schools in the state, as well as advocates and other interested parties for a day of learning, and reflection about access and equity issues facing charter public schools. In an ongoing attempt to be responsive to feedback, we compiled and summarized information about the event, in a post-event report. The report summarizes the overall findings of a brief paper-and-pencil, as well as on-line post-event survey of the overall meeting, as well as the breakout session feedback forms administered after each of the 8 breakout sessions. Respondents rated the quality, relevance, and utility of the overall event and breakout sessions. This report as well as other materials from the day are available at The Access and Equity Working co-sponsored with MCPSA is also continuing to meet to determine appropriate next steps for guidance and training.

Proposed Amendments to the Charter School Regulations – Public Comment Opportunity

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) voted to solicit public comment on the proposed amendments to the Charter School Regulations, 603 CMR 1.00, now posted at Public comment will be accepted at through January 24, 2014. Final action by the Board is anticipated at the March 25, 2014 meeting. Please contact Ruth Hersh at 781-338-3211 or with questions.

New Discipline Law Update

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education discussed the new discipline law, Chapter 222 of the Acts of 2012, An Act Relative to Student Access to Educational Services and Exclusion from School, at its December 17 and reviewed a cost study in anticipation of regulations to be presented to the Board for initial discussion at its January 2014 meeting. The Act created new section 21 of G.L. c. 76, which requires school districts and charter schools to ensure that students who are suspended or expelled from school continue to have an opportunity to make academic progress through educational services provided by their district or charter school. The Act also adds procedural and reporting requirements for student suspensions and expulsions, and requires schools to have a pupil absence notification program and a process for outreach to students before they withdraw from school. All these provisions take effect on July 1, 2014. They are outlined in the enclosed memo, dated November 28, 2012, that I sent to superintendents, principals, and charter school leaders, Information about the new law was also discussed in a breakout session at the Oct. 30 Access, Equity, and Excellence event, and the Department will continue to work with charter school leaders to provide guidance regarding the implementation of the law and regulations. Finally, please note that applications for the second round of the Safe and Supportive School Action Plans Grant, Fund Code 335: are due Friday, December 20, 2013. This grant may support your school's efforts to proactively address some of the issues that may be raised by the new discipline law.

Financial Dashboard – Final Prototype Now Available for Review

The Charter School Financial Dashboard is a data tool that will provide an easy-to-understand visual snapshot of a school's financial health over a 5-year period using standard financial indicators. We now have a prototype available for final review. Instructions for how to access this tool for review and provide feedback will be sent under separate cover. Please take the time to use the tool, review the data, and provide comments and feedback by January 10, 2014. We anticipate posting a finalized dashboard to our website containing financial data from 2009-2013 in January 2014. If you have any questions or wish to provide feedback please contact either Joanna Laghetto at or 781-338-3221 or James DiMaio at or 781-338-3228.

Charter DART – Preliminary Prototype Now Available for Review

The Charter Demographic Analysis and Review Tool (DART) is a new data tool that will provide multi-year and multi-school demographic comparison data in a visual format in three categories: 1) enrollment percentages by subgroup; 2) attrition percentages by grade level and subgroup; and 3) student indicator statistics, including suspensions. We appreciate the feedback from this year's Access & Equity Working Group (jointly convened by the Department and the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association) in helping to refine the tool. Currently, the tool presents a charter school's historical data in comparison to schools in its region, the median of these comparison schools, the state average, and for enrollment data, a statistically-derived comparison index. A preliminary working prototype is now available for review. Instructions for how to access this tool for review and provide feedback will be sent under separate cover. Please take the time to use the tool, review the data, and provide feedback by January 17, 2014. We will then do another round of review before finalization. We anticipate posting a finalized version on our website (including updated data from Oct. 1, 2013 SIMS) in February 2014.

Accountability – Renewals

This year, ten charter schools have put forth applications for renewal. All renewal activities and resulting documents have been aligned to the Charter School Performance Criteria v. 3.0. After examining evidence from the charter term, the Commissioner will make a renewal recommendation or determination for each school in January or February of 2014. Renewal determinations for unconditional renewal or renewal with conditions have been delegated to the Commissioner. Renewals with probationary conditions or a non-renewal recommendation require Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) deliberation and vote. Please see our renewal webpage for more information. If you have questions regarding the renewal process, please contact Alison Bagg at or 781-338-3218.

Staff Welcomes

We have three new staff members who have joined the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign during the past several months:

  • James DiMaio, Analyst, is the technical architect behind our new data tools under development (see information above), including the Financial Dashboard and Charter DART. He also provides general administrative and accountability support.
  • Sara Schnitzer, Accountability and Finance Specialist, is providing accountability oversight to her cohort of schools and finance oversight for all charter schools. Prior to coming to the charter school office, Sara obtained an MPP at Harvard Kennedy School and worked as a math teacher at the Brooke Charter School. She has also worked in teacher support and development for Teach for America.
  • Brenton Stewart, New Schools Development Specialist, is providing support to new schools' processes as well as the processes for charter major amendments. He will also play a key role in developing and piloting new charter school performance tools. Most recently, Brenton completed a comprehensive review of Cambridge Public Schools' Controlled Choice Plan and is currently a Doctoral Candidate of Educational Leadership and Development at the School of Education at Boston University.

Ongoing Communication

We are committed to ensuring open lines of communication with charter school operators. Please feel free to contact us ( with your questions or concerns. If you are unsure whom to contact, you can email and your inquiry will be forwarded to the appropriate staff member. The person listed as "charter school leader" and "charter school board chair" in the Directory Administration should have received this message. If for some reason they did not, please ask your school's directory administrator (see to update this contact information within Directory Administration. Your directory administrator can contact Lee DeLorenzo at or 781-338-3227 for assistance. Others can also subscribe to receiving this information by contacting Lee.

Last Updated: December 18, 2013
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