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Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)

2018-2019 Digital Learing Advisory Council Annual Report

  1. Introduction

    The 2013 virtual schools legislation (Chapter 379 of the Acts of 2012, An Act Establishing Commonwealth Virtual Schools1) created the Digital Learning Advisory Council (DLAC) to advise the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) and the Commissioner on:

    • The development of policies guiding virtual schools, supplemental online courses, education technology, and other matters related to virtual education.
    • The identification of best practices to encourage online education to complement classroom instruction in district schools.
    • The assessment of the appropriateness of the fee that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) may retain for the administration of the virtual school program

    The law specifies that the DLAC include representatives from various statewide education organizations, districts and schools including virtual schools (i.e., teacher, administrator, parent), higher education, and non-profit and technology companies. The current DLAC includes a broad range of experts who meet these criteria.

  2. 2018-2019 Work of the Council

    In FY19, the DLAC discussed the performance of the virtual schools in light of the finding that they are not performing at a level comparable to that of traditional brick and mortar schools, at least as indicated by the metrics used by the school and district accountability system for all schools. After a series of meetings throughout the 2018-2019 school year in which it discussed the results of accountability reviews for the school, the DLAC met with representatives of the virtual schools at its May 2, 2019 meeting.

    The virtual schools each had the opportunity to give presentations on the following topics:

    • What success looks like for their school and measures of that success;
    • Profiles of their most and least successful students;
    • A piece of student work they are most proud of;
    • Key priorities they are working on right now; and
    • The data the schools propose to use to measure success, and how they would gather such data.

    Participants also discussed competency based approaches (including the use of student portfolios) and moving away from the notion of grades; the utilization of "alternative" assessments to supplement state assessment data; strategies for increasing student engagement in the virtual classroom; parent/guardian outreach strategies, including communication between virtual schools and parents/guardians of prospective students; the provision of in-person student supports; the transfer of student information between virtual and brick and mortar schools; and the role of the learning coach, typically a student's parent/guardian, in ensuring student success.

  3. Council Recommendations

    1. State Assessment: DESE should investigate how MCAS administration can be improved for students enrolled in virtual schools.

    2. Student Growth: Virtual schools should agree on common growth measures.

    3. Wraparound Services: DESE and the virtual schools should consider the potential role of intermediary organizations, such as educational collaboratives, in serving as "wraparound" student support centers.

    4. Personalized Learning Plans: DESE and the virtual schools should investigate assessments that consider students' strengths as well as learning needs in order to develop personalized learning plans for students.

  4. Council Details

    Department Administrator: Kenneth Klau, Director, Director of Instructional Policy

    Chairpersons: Barbara Treacy

    Members of the 2018-2019 DLAC:2

    1. Amy A. Gracia, Teacher of English and Special Education, Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School

    2. Amy Michalowski, Dean, The Virtual High School

    3. Angela Burke, Director of Technology, The Collaborative for Educational Services

    4. Annamaria Schrimpf, Director of Education Technology, Minuteman Regional High School

    5. Barbara Treacy, Adjunct Lecturer and Digital Learning Consultant, Harvard University Graduate School of Education

    6. Elizabeth Tripathi, Education Policy Specialist, Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA)

    7. Fred Haas, Technology Integration Coordinator, Hopkinton High School

    8. Justin Reich, Executive Director, MIT Teaching Systems Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

    9. Kevin Bauman, Senior Director of Product Management, Penn Foster

    10. Kyle W. Shachmut, Project Manager for Accessibility at HarvardX, Harvard University

    11. Lynn McCormack, Software Engineer, Center for Applied Special Technology (CAST)

    12. Michael Horn, Author of Blended: Using Disruptive Innovation to Improve Schools and Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the World Learns; writer, speaker, and education consultant

    13. Robert Reilly, School Committee Member, Northern Berkshire Regional Vocational Technical / Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC)

    14. Sarah Kyriazis, Manager of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning, Worcester Public Schools

    Council Meeting Dates:

    September 14, 2018; December 6, 2018; January 18, 2019; March 12, 2019; May 2, 2019


2 Neither a parent of student(s) currently attending a virtual school in Massachusetts nor a representative of the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (MFT) served on the DLAC in FY19

Last Updated: January 14, 2020

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