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2022 Annual Report to BESE

2021-22 School Year: Recover and Reimagine

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) serves 400 school districts more than 75,000 educators, and over 900,000 preK-12 public school students. We also directly support the education of more than 20,000 adult learners.

During the 2021-22 school year, DESE focused on two overarching priorities:

  1. Recover, which led us to address districts' needs related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including ongoing COVID-19 health and safety guidance and real-time assistance, as well as academic and social-emotional supports for students; and
  2. Reimagine, which reinvigorated work we knew was needed even before the pandemic in order to transform education across the Commonwealth.

The accomplishments outlined below represent the work of both DESE and school communities across Massachusetts. As we better align technical assistance and supports and use our data capabilities to inform our work, schools and districts have enlivened our efforts, from deeper learning to the development of an innovative science assessment. Educators, students, parents, and community members are valued partners in our work to improve schools for every student.

The Department's 2022 Annual Report is below, with opening letters from Board Chair Katherine Craven and Commissioner Riley .

COVID-19 supports to districts and schools

We continued targeted COVID-19 response efforts, including maintaining the DESE Rapid Response Help Center to provide districts and schools with COVID-19 operational support and assistance with implementing health and safety guidance, mask requirements, testing and quarantine protocols, and strategies to keep as many students attending school in-person as possible. We also provided access to a comprehensive COVID-19 testing program to districts and schools across the Commonwealth, including "Test and Stay" testing for in-school close contacts of a COVID-19 positive individual, diagnostic testing, and pooled testing. We collected and reported COVID-19 case data, issued updates to statewide COVID-19 health and safety guidance and requirements in collaboration with public health agencies and DESE's medical advisors, continued ongoing two-way communication with school and district leaders and other key stakeholders, and bolstered bus driver and COVID-19 testing capacity through a collaboration with Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Implementation of the Acceleration Roadmap

The Department released the Acceleration Roadmap to districts and schools in May 2021, outlining critical practices to accelerate learning for all students. The Roadmap's priorities are: 1) fostering a sense of belonging and partnership among students and families (including robust social-emotional supports for students), 2) continuously monitoring students' understanding, and 3) ensuring strong grade-appropriate instruction with just-in-time scaffolds when they are needed. The Department offered targeted coaching for districts that requested in-depth support, delivered a learning acceleration training program for school and district leaders, and continues to offer monthly content-specific workshops for instructional leaders.

ESSER funding and guidance to districts and schools

The Department issued funding applications and guidance to promote effective use of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds and awarded all ESSER I, II, and III funds to districts and schools by the end of 2021. The ESSER III award represents the largest ever infusion of federal education funds into the Commonwealth (approximately $1.65 billion over 27 months). The Department aligned the evidence-based programmatic content offered in the ESSER III application with the program areas identified in DESE's Student Opportunity Act guidance.

Early College

The Department designated new Early College programs; expanded high-quality programs through competitive grant opportunities and technical assistance; and supported further innovation through two pilot programs: a Fifth Year Early College Promise Program in which students receive an additional year of Early College programming while remaining enrolled in high school and graduate with an associate's degree; and an Incubator program, designed to promote innovative approaches to early college models to broaden equitable access to students.

Improved IEP guidance to support students with disabilities

The Department has continued to revise its current IEP (Individualized Education Program) guidance, develop new data-driven, student-centered IEP forms, and identify resources to support successful implementation of the IEP process. The Department released the "Referral, Evaluation, and Eligibility Guide" as a digital learning tool. The Department conducted extensive stakeholder engagement sessions with groups of interested individuals representing the voices of families, school and district staff, advocacy organizations, and professional organizations to inform the development of these tools, forms and resources.

Early literacy

The Department continued its work to support the adoption and implementation of evidence-based early literacy instruction. That work included implementation support for the Mass Literacy Guide, a statewide effort to empower educators with evidence-based practices for literacy, including online courses that Massachusetts educators can take for free, and other resources. The Department also launched Appleseeds, the Massachusetts curriculum for foundational reading skills. The curriculum provides a systematic, explicit, and equitable approach to teaching foundational skills in the early grades and has been vetted by Massachusetts educators and content experts.

The Department's other supports included Growing Literacy Across Massachusetts (GLEAM), an intensive literacy program funded by a five-year, $19.98 million federal grant to support literacy in grades preK-12 and expand preschool literacy. The program is helping 17 districts. The Department reached 12 districts with the Early Grades Literacy grant and more than 60 districts and charter schools with the Accelerating Literacy Learning with High-Quality Instructional Materials grant, which is providing nearly $9 million in state and federal funds for districts to replace outdated literacy programs with high-quality instructional materials. Other supports included statewide early literacy tutoring that reached approximately 4,000 students over two school years with support from the federal Governor's Emergency Education Relief fund.

Future work is expected to include increased coordination with educator preparation programs. The Department's goal is that by SY2024-2025, all Early Childhood, Elementary, and Moderate Disabilities teacher candidates in Massachusetts are prepared, through coursework and opportunities for practice and high-quality feedback, in evidence-based early literacy as outlined in the Mass Literacy Guide.

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Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning

The Department launched the Kaleidoscope Cohort 2 within Boston Public Schools and launched a third cohort statewide, all to foster deeper learning instructional models that improve teaching and learning for students.

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Innovative science assessment

The innovative science assessment pilot in grades 5 and 8, which focuses on students applying science to real-life situations, expanded to over 100 schools, and DESE refined the performance tasks and provided PD to teachers involved in the initiative.

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Diversifying the educator workforce

The Department provided $3 million in educator diversification grants, continued a professional learning community on diversification, continuing pilots of Massachusetts Tests of Educator Licensure (MTEL) assessment alternatives, and continuing the Influence 100 fellowship.

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Districts requiring assistance

The Department provided targeted assistance to districts in the bottom 10 percent of the state's accountability system; worked with Boston on its Systemic Improvement Plan ; and supported the receiverships in Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge.

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Accelerated learning opportunities

The Department continued to promote accelerated learning opportunities, including Acceleration Academies focused on mathematics and expansion of the Biggest Winner Math Challenge, a summer program for gifted and talented students, with a focus on Gateway Cities.

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Improved resources for supporting English learners

The Department continued to promote the use of the interactive Blueprint for English Learner Success and related resources, such as planning and professional development tools and stories from the field.

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Career technical education (CTE) admissions

The Department provided support for implementing the CTE admissions language that the Board adopted in June 2021, including monitoring and collaborating with districts and offering targeted grant support.

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Action-oriented research for educational equity

The Department established components of the statewide research hub and launched the Massachusetts Education-to-Career Research and Data Hub (E2C Hub) using data from DESE, the Department of Higher Education and the Department of Early Education and Care.

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