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School Redesign

2013-2014 Innovation Schools Back-to-School Memo

Superintendents, Principals, Grant Contacts for Innovation Schools
Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner
Sheika Edmond, Education Specialist for Innovation Schools
Ruth Hersh, Policy Coordinator, Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign
September 30, 2013


The beginning of the school year is always an excellent time to remind ourselves of why we do this important work. The purpose of innovation schools is to create in-district schools that operate with increased autonomy and flexibilities in six key areas: schedule and school year calendar; curriculum, instruction, and assessment; district policies; budget; staffing; and professional development, with the goal of establishing the school conditions that lead to improved teaching and learning. To date, there are 47 approved innovation schools across the Commonwealth serving approximately 17,000 students in 26 school districts. Eighteen innovation schools are located in Gateway Cities, and approximately one-third of Innovation Schools are level three schools that are using the model as a tool to improve student outcomes.

This memo will provide you with highlights from the 2012-2013 academic year, reminders about the grant closeout requirements for the 2012-2013 grants, an outline of programmatic priorities for the 2013-2014 academic year planned by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (Department) in collaboration with the Executive Office of Education (EOE), and FY14 funding opportunities.

Highlights from 2012-13 2013 Innovation Schools Annual Convening

Thank you for attending the 2013 annual convening and making it a success! Over 100 teachers, principals, and central office staff attended the daylong event and the feedback received was overwhelmingly positive. The convening was intended to provide innovation school educators and supporters with the opportunity to network, share ideas, gain additional knowledge regarding specific topic areas, and share best practices. We hope that by attending the convening, participants were able to return to their schools and districts with additional knowledge that will enhance the implementation of their innovation school plans.

Building on the momentum of the past two convening's, and a review of the thoughtful feedback provided, we have initially determined that a possible focus for this year's convening may be on implementation. We will provide additional information about the next convening in the coming months and will solicit your input in the planning process.

Innovation Schools Legislative Report

We are happy to announce that the FY13 Report to the Legislature: Implementation and Fiscal Impact of Innovation Schools is available. The innovation schools statute requires that the Department submit a report annually to the Massachusetts legislature. In addition to providing an overview of the model, this most recent report includes demographic data and performance profiles for each of the innovation schools in operation for one year or more. Thank you to those schools that were operating in 2011-2012 and were required to submit information for the report.

FY13 Funding Results

In FY13 we announced the Innovation Schools Enhancement Grant Request for Proposals (RFP) as a new funding opportunity for implementation in FY14. The purpose of this competitive grant was to provide a supplemental opportunity for innovation schools and innovation academies in participating Race to the Top (RTTT) districts to plan sustainable expanded learning time strategies by redesigning the daily school schedule and school year calendar, and/or provide targeted professional development activities aligned with the school's approved innovation school plan.

All grant applications received a comprehensive evaluation by the review committee which included a review of all submitted documents against a universal scoring rubric which was developed and prioritized in accordance to the RFP. Twenty-one grant applications were submitted, and due to the highly competitive nature of this grant cycle and funding restraints, only six submissions were awarded funding. A list of the recipients is posted on the Department's website and can be found at Grant Allocations & Awards webpage. As described in the section on FY14 Funding Opportunities below, we intent to conduct another competitive enhancement grant process later in FY14.

FY13 Grant Funds Closeout Information
The project duration for the FY13 Fund Codes 155 Next General Learning Models Implementation Grants, 202 Race to the Top Planning Grant, and 203 Race to the Top Implementation Grants concluded on August 31, 2013. All grant recipients must submit a Final Financial Form (FR1) to the Department no later than 60 days from the end of the grant program. Grant contacts are encouraged to work with your budget offices to ensure the submission of this required report. For your reference, the Department's Grants Management Procedural Manual, Section IV, and Final Reporting Process. Please contact Shay Edmond should you have any questions.

Programmatic Priorities for Academic Year 2013-14

In collaboration with EOE, the Department intends to provide continued support and guidance to innovation school operators, districts, and applicant groups. Through strategic programmatic and fiscal decisions we plan to address the evolving needs of the field as the initiative continues to grow.

Technical Assistance and Consultants

In response to thoughtful input from many of you over the years, and as we plan for technical assistance this year, we have developed a preliminarily list of identified areas of need. We intend to provide targeted technical assistance in the areas of: implementation strategies, mid-level district support, school day and calendar redesign, and model language regarding proposed waivers or modifications to collective bargaining agreements. In addition to the preliminary identified areas, we expect that the autonomies and flexibilities analysis discussed below will identify additional areas for targeted support.

Innovation School Network Events

Network events have been well attended and participants have found them helpful. During the 2013-2014 academic year, we will continue to schedule school visits and meetings for principles to gather and share experiences and best practices. This year we are launching a teachers' group to encourage and support the community of teachers in innovation schools. We hope that the newly developed teachers' group provides a forum for teachers to share ideas and best practices.

Based on the thoughtful feedback received during the 2nd Annual Statewide Network Convening, we are exploring the possibility of developing a mid-year convening in advance of the annual statewide network convening. We will solicit input and feedback as we continue to develop the structure and content of both events to ensure that we are addressing identified areas of need.

Please feel free to contact Shay Edmond at or Bridget Rodriguez at should you have any questions regarding Network events.

Autonomies and Flexibilities Analysis

As mentioned previously, the Department plans to conduct a comprehensive analysis of the autonomies and flexibilities currently in implementation at each of the established innovation schools. The comprehensive analysis will provide the Department with an enhanced understanding of the autonomies and level of flexibilities that are actively being utilized in the field. This will result in an increased understanding of the degree to which each school is implementing the educational program outlined in its innovation school plan.

We anticipate that the comprehensive analysis will commence over the course of the next few months and will result in a written report. We will update the field with additional information as it becomes available and look forward to working with you on this very important project.

Innovation Schools Coding

In an effort to streamline the data collection process, the Department is in the process of providing each innovation school (new and conversion) and innovation academy with a specific program code. Assigning a specific program code will allow the Department to collect and track student achievement data for all students enrolled in innovation schools and innovation academies through a systematic process. You will receive additional information as we finalize the process.

FY14 Funding Opportunities

Massachusetts State Budget

We are happy to report that due to the high leverage use of Massachusetts Race to the Top (RTTT) funds, a new innovation schools line item was approved in the FY14 Massachusetts state budget. This major accomplishment allows for the continued support at the state level to innovation school operators by providing additional opportunities for schools and districts to apply for competitive grant support.

During FY14, the Department will continue to issue RFPs for the purposes of planning, implementation, and program enhancement to operate new or conversion innovation schools or academies. As in past years, the grants will be awarded to schools and districts to support the development and operation of innovation schools.

We anticipate the release of each RFP as follows:

Grant OpportunityRFP Release DateProposal Due Date
1. Implementation Grant September 25, 2013
Fund Code 157: Competitive
October 21, 2013
2. Planning Grant Early October 2013 (estimated)December 1, 2013 (estimated)
3. Enhancement and Sustainability Grant Mid-Late October 2013
December 1, 2013 (estimated)
4. Leader Fellowship Grant November 2013
(estimated) January 2014

RFPs will be posted on the Department's Grants website.

  1. Implementation Grant
    The purpose of this one-time state funded RFP is to provide districts and schools support for the implementation of the approved innovation school plans during the 2013-2014 academic year. Districts and schools that intend to apply for this competitive funding opportunity must submit a non-binding letter of intent via email to by 5PM Tuesday October 8, 2013. Complete grant applications are due by Monday October 21, 2013 by 5PM. Important note: an information webinar is scheduled for Thursday October 3, 2013 from 3:30 pm- 4:30 pm. Eligible applicants will receive detailed information regarding this webinar in the coming days.

  2. Planning Grant
    The purpose of this one-time state funded RFP is to support the planning process needed to develop new and conversion innovation schools and innovation academies.

  3. Enhancement and Sustainability Grant
    The purpose of this state funded RFP is to both support the enhanced implementation of the autonomies and flexibilities identified in approved innovation school plans and develop the structures necessary to sustain change. Through this grant opportunity, districts and schools will provide targeted professional development activities that support an area of autonomy as identified in the innovation school plan during the spring of 2014, and will participate in thoughtful planning sessions during the fall of 2014 which will result in embedded professional development time in the school's calendar.

  4. Leader Fellowship Grant
    We are pleased to announce the creation of an Innovation School Leader Fellowship Program. The fellowship will commence in FY15 and has been developed to assist in the cultivation of "break-the-mold" innovation schools, and to provide the intensive support and planning time needed to develop a dramatically redesigned school model. The fellowship is intended to be a partnership between the Department, EOE, and the sponsoring school district. By committing to participate in the Innovation School Leader Fellowship Program, the district will agree to match a percentage of the award amount issued by the Department and release an identified member of its personnel to participate in an in-depth, yearlong new school development planning process.

A maximum of three fellowships will be awarded and will focus on the following three areas: 1) Blended Learning; 2) Year Round School Schedule; and 3) Early College/Multiple Pathways.

Outreach activities will be conducted by the Department in collaboration with EOE. We anticipate that outreach will take place through multiple modes, which will include information sessions, webinars, and email communication. We will update the field as information becomes available.

We wish you all well, and look forward to an exciting and productive school year. We hope that you find the information contained in this memo helpful. As always, should you have any questions or need any assistance please feel free to contact us at:

Last Updated: October 11, 2013
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