The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the October 23, 2017 Special Meeting and the October 24, 2017 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
October 13, 2017

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, October 24, 2017, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. The regular meeting will start at 8:30 a.m. (coffee will be available at 8 a.m.) and should adjourn by 1 p.m. The Board will also hold a special meeting from 5-7 p.m. on Monday, October 23, 2017, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's offices at 75 Pleasant Street in Malden. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The special meeting on Monday evening is an opportunity for the Board to review and discuss the statewide results from the 2017 administration of the next-generation Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exams and school and district accountability status. No votes will be taken.

On Tuesday morning, the Board will provide an extended period for public comment on the commissioner search. The business agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday leads off with the election of the vice-chair, followed by an update from Chair Sagan on the commissioner search. We will have a brief recap of the Monday evening special meeting. I will update the Board on the issue we discussed in September relating to setting the interim standard for the competency determination for members of the high school graduating classes of 2021 and 2022. The Board's Budget Committee will report on its October 17 meeting and the Board will have an initial discussion of the FY2019 education budget proposal. Other items on the agenda for discussion are the first quarter FY18 report on the Level 5 schools and a report on educator license actions. Board member Margaret McKenna will join the meeting via video conference, using the protocol for remote participation that the Board added to the by-laws in May 2017.

Special Meeting

  1. 2017 Student Performance Results - Discussion
  2. 2017 School and District Accountability Determinations - Discussion

The Board's special meeting on Monday evening will be an opportunity to review and discuss student performance results from spring 2017: the first, baseline administration of the next-generation tests in grades 3-8 English language arts (ELA) and mathematics, and the legacy ELA and mathematics tests in grade 10, as well as science and technology/engineering (STE) tests in grades 5, 8, and high school, including a report on the progress of high school students toward meeting the state graduation requirements. Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel and MCAS Chief Analyst Bob Lee will join us for the discussion. Associate Commissioner Robert Curtin will join me in presenting an overview of the 2017 district and school accountability determinations, including decisions made for certain Level 4 (underperforming) schools. There will be ample time for questions. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities. We have invited members of the public to offer their suggestions about the commissioner search, including suggestions about the qualifications candidates should possess, during the public comment segment of the October 24 meeting. Under item 2 on the business agenda, Chair Sagan will update the Board on the commissioner search process.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Puerto Rico response team. The Department continues to plan for a possible influx of students from Puerto Rico because of the recent devastating hurricane there, and to consider what additional resources and assistance might be needed. Helene Bettencourt and Sarah Slautterback are heading up DESE's response team and working with other state agencies and with school and district leaders in communities that are likely to experience increased demand for educational services. Helene and I held a telephone conference with superintendents on October 12 to discuss our contingency plans.

  2. Leading the Nation celebration. While Massachusetts has always had a strong commitment to education, the Commonwealth's public schools have been recognized as national leaders on many fronts in recent years, reflecting an enduring bipartisan commitment that all students deserve an excellent education. To recognize next-year's 25th anniversary of the Massachusetts Education Reform Act, the Department's communication team, with guidance from a stakeholder steering committee, has been organizing the 2018 Leading the Nation campaign to celebrate the successes of our educational system, schools, and students. Events that are in the works include an ongoing media campaign starting in January that will involve extensive social media and outreach to news outlets; a State House event in March; and Leading the Nation Week from May 7-11, for which school districts and community partners will plan local events throughout the state. I will keep the Board updated as planning for the celebration develops over the coming months and we have a clearer sense of the level of participation from districts.

  3. Civics education. I met earlier this week with a bipartisan group of legislators who are drafting a bill to foster expanded civics education in our schools. The group, led by Senate Majority Leader Harriette Chandler and Representative Jay Kaufman, were very pleased to hear of the Board's interest in this subject and our current work to update our history and social science curriculum frameworks. They have invited the Department to provide suggestions on how the proposed legislation can be most helpful to this initiative.

Comments from the Secretary

Secretary Peyser will brief the Board on current issues and activities.

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Election of Board Vice-Chair - Discussion and Vote

    Under the Board's by-laws, the September meeting is the annual meeting of the Board, at which the Board typically elects its vice-chair. The Board deferred the election by a month because September was the first meeting for our new members. At the October 24 meeting, Chair Sagan will call for nominations from members and then conduct the election. The vice-chair presides over meetings when the chair is not available.

  2. Update on Commissioner Search - Discussion

    Chair Sagan will update the Board on the commissioner search and anticipated next steps in the process.

  3. Recap of October 23 Special Meeting: 2017 Student Performance - Discussion

    We will recap the discussion from the Monday evening special meeting.

  4. Update on Interim Standard for the Competency Determination for the Classes of 2021 and 2022 - Discussion

    At the September 26 meeting, I presented my recommendations for ensuring fairness for students seeking to attain their high school competency determination (CD) as we transition from the legacy high school MCAS assessments to next-generation assessments. I am recommending that the Board establish an interim CD standard for the classes of 2021 and 2022. At this month's meeting I will outline the approach we anticipate taking to establish the interim standard by amending the current Regulations on MCAS and the Competency Determination, 603 CMR 30.00. Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel and Lucy Wall of our legal staff will join us for the discussion.

  5. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education FY19 Budget Proposal and Report from the Board's Budget Committee - Initial Discussion

    We will hear a report from the Board's Budget Committee and discuss possible budget priorities and program initiatives that the Board may wish to propose for FY19. The committee is holding its first meeting on October 17 and will meet again in November. All Board members are welcome to attend the committee meetings. The Board will vote on its FY19 budget priorities at the November 28 meeting.

  6. Level 5 Schools: First-Quarter FY2018 Reports - Discussion

    Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Strategic Transformation, will join us at the October 24 meeting to present the first of four FY2018 quarterly progress updates to the Board on the four Level 5 schools, focusing on activities from July-September 2017. The memo and presentation also include a schedule for the Board to hear from the receiver for each Level 5 school and district, and an update on the receiver search for Southbridge Public Schools.

  7. Report on Educator License Actions - Discussion

    In June 2017, the Board voted to amend various sections of the Educator Licensure and Preparation Program Approval Regulations. The review of the regulations prompted some questions about the process for granting educator licenses and, in appropriate cases, revoking licenses or imposing other sanctions on license holders. This month we are presenting a report on the process the Department follows in investigating and resolving allegations of educator misconduct, including data on license revocation and other license sanctions. Chief of Investigations Quinton Dale, Legal Counsel Cathleen Cavell, and other members of the Department's Office of Professional Practice Investigations team will be at the Board meeting on October 24 to answer your questions.

Other Items for Information

  1. Report on Grants Approved by the Commissioner

    Enclosed is information on grants that I have approved since the last meeting, under the authority the Board has delegated to the Commissioner.

  2. Report on Scheduling of Comprehensive Audits and Reviews

    The memo under Tab 9 explains how the Department is addressing the provisions of G.L. c. 15, section 55A, regarding the scheduling of major reviews to reduce administrative burdens on schools and districts. The Board voted in December 2010 to delegate this scheduling task to the Commissioner, and I am submitting this report for FY2018 comprehensive audits and reviews to you in accordance with that vote.

  3. Update on School Breakfast Programs

    The Board and Department continue to support expansion of school breakfast programs, particularly for high-need students. The report under Tab 10 provides an update on our progress and opportunities to extend it further.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the meetings in Malden on October 23 and 24.