The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the November 28, 2017 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
November 17, 2017

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) will be on Tuesday, November 28, 2017, at the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's (Department) 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 adjourn by 1 p.m. The Board will not hold a Monday evening special meeting this month. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The business agenda for the regular meeting on Tuesday leads off with a presentation by Teacher of the Year Sydney Chaffee, followed by an update from Chair Sagan on the commissioner search. The Board will hear from Lawrence Receiver Jeff Riley and discuss next steps in the Lawrence Public Schools receivership. We will receive the report from the Board's budget committee and the Board will vote on its education budget priorities for FY2019. I will present two proposed regulatory amendments for discussion and a vote to solicit public comment: amendments to the competency determination regulations to set the interim standard for students in the high school graduating classes of 2021 and 2022; and amendments to the special education regulations to align them with new provisions of federal law concerning students in foster care. Other items on the agenda for discussion are virtual schools funding and an update on the Massachusetts curriculum frameworks.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities. Under item 2 on the business agenda, he will update the Board on the commissioner search process.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Milken award winner. Dan Adler, a sixth-grade science teacher at UP Academy Leonard, part of the Lawrence Public Schools, became the state's 44th Milken Educator Award winner on November 1 in a surprise ceremony at the school. With the school's student body looking on, Mr. Adler was presented with a $25,000 check from Milken, which is recognizing up to 45 educators across the country this year. Mr. Adler said the award was not about him but about "the incredible work all the scholars in this building do every day." We plan to have Mr. Adler attend an upcoming Board meeting. More information about the Milken Educator Awards is available online.

  2. Welcoming Students from Puerto Rico. At last count, close to 900 students from Puerto Rico had enrolled in Massachusetts public schools after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. While most of those students were in Springfield, Worcester, Boston, Holyoke, New Bedford, and Lawrence, students have also enrolled in many other districts in smaller numbers. These children's lives have been dramatically disrupted, but school can be a safe and stable environment. The Baker-Polito Administration recently released a memo summarizing state government's efforts to welcome and assist families and announcing that the administration will propose supplemental appropriations for the current fiscal year to support newly arrived students.

    DESE has sent guidance to districts' homeless liaisons and superintendents about enrolling students promptly and connecting them to services. In addition, we have received questions about how newly arrived high school students should meet the Competency Determination that is required to receive a Massachusetts high school diploma. The Department is working with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to determine when records will be available for incoming students, but in the meantime, districts should plan to administer the MCAS retest in November or March to students transferring from Puerto Rico who are in grades 11 and 12. We expect to issue additional guidance later this fall.

  3. New policy brief on teacher equity gaps. The Department recently commissioned a policy brief Download Word Document summarizing research on how much difference access to effective educators can make on student outcomes and analyzing Massachusetts data on the size and impact of teacher equity gaps. Inequitable access to effective teachers for low-income students increases achievement gaps in Massachusetts by up to three weeks of learning per year in mathematics and six weeks per year in English language arts. For more details, please see the Massachusetts Plan for Equitable Access to Excellent Educators, the 2017 Equity Plan Update, or either of two four-page Equity Playbooks that summarize this information.

  4. New England Secondary Schools Consortium. Massachusetts is joining the New England Secondary Schools Consortium (NESSC), a regional partnership that promotes innovations in the design and delivery of middle and high school education. The five current state members, Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, have been working together on strategies to close achievement gaps and promote educational equity and opportunity for all students. Areas of interest include proficiency-based graduation and personalized learning pathways. The Massachusetts Personalized Learning Edtech Consortium (MAPLE), a public-private partnership between the Department and the nonprofit LearnLaunch Institute, will host NESSC activities in the Commonwealth. MAPLE was established last year and includes 32 districts, whose schools will now have the option to join the League of Innovative Schools to share ideas, receive technical assistance, and pursue funding opportunities together. Membership in NESSC and the League of Innovative Schools is free, and NESSC respects state autonomy and decision-making. We look forward to this opportunity to learn with and from other New England states.

  5. PLESH litigation. Board members will recall that in August 2017 an association of Latino/Latina parents filed suit in federal court against the Holyoke Public Schools, the Board and the Commissioner, alleging that Holyoke was not meeting its legal duty to provide adequate translation and interpretation services to limited English proficient parents/guardians. The Department has been working with the Office of the Attorney General, Holyoke Receiver Steve Zrike, and plaintiffs' counsel to resolve the issues and we are making good progress. The parties provided a second status report to the Court on November 13, 2017. In the report, the parties indicated that they had identified broad areas of agreement, which led them to believe that the matter might be resolved without the need for entry of a preliminary injunction. Among other things, the parties have agreed on the terms of a notice to parents that the district will send regarding communications in the parents' and guardians' home language. The preliminary injunction hearing that had been scheduled for October 20, 2017 was postponed, and the parties will file a further status report by December 15, 2017.

  6. Pilot program to provide SEI training for vocational technical educators. As part of the Department's Rethinking Equity and Teaching for English Language Learners (RETELL) initiative, over 48,000 core academic teachers statewide have earned the Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Teacher Endorsement since 2012. Most earned the endorsement by successfully completing SEI Endorsement courses sponsored by the Department. Earlier this year, Commissioner Chester assembled a committee of vocational technical education leaders to consider whether vocational technical teachers who provide instruction to English Learners in programs such as automotive technology, cosmetology, and plumbing would also benefit from SEI training. Based on the committee's review, the Department is launching two pilot SEI Endorsement courses for vocational technical teachers this fall, one at Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational Technical School and one at Worcester Technical High School. We will use information gathered from these pilot courses to inform future recommendations to the Board regarding SEI training for vocational technical educators. In a related matter, the Department is reviewing the bilingual education reform bill that the Massachusetts Legislature approved and sent to the Governor on November 15. I will brief the Board further on these matters at the December meeting.

  7. Programme for International Student Assessment. Every three years since 2000, the United States has been one of the approximately 70 countries participating in the Programme for International Student Assessment, known more commonly as PISA. During each nationwide PISA administration, portions of several Massachusetts schools were designated to participate as part of the U.S. sample. In 2012 and 2015, in addition to having several schools selected to represent the U.S., Massachusetts elected to participate in PISA as its own "nation." In order to provide Massachusetts-specific data, 50 additional schools were sampled, and close to 2,000 students participated. Massachusetts has decided not to participate as its own nation in PISA's 2018 administration. However, several schools will still be selected in Massachusetts as part of the U.S. sample, with administration taking place in fall 2018. In addition, some schools and districts in Massachusetts have decided to participate in the PISA-based Test for Schools, a set of assessments and surveys adopted at the local level; participation in that program is not affected by the state's decision not to participate as a nation in 2018.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Sydney Chaffee, Massachusetts and National Teacher of the Year - Presentation

    We are delighted to welcome Sydney Chaffee, Massachusetts and National Teacher of the Year, to make a presentation to the Board and engage in discussion with you.

  2. Update on Commissioner Search - Discussion

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

  3. Lawrence Public Schools: Update from Receiver Jeff Riley; Acting Commissioner's Plan - Discussion

    Lawrence Receiver Jeff Riley will present his progress report to the Board, and we will discuss the next phase of the Lawrence Public Schools receivership - specifically, a new governance structure starting July 1, 2018. Triggered by Receiver Riley's decision to step down at the end of the current school year, the new governance structure will consist of a non-profit board that will oversee the district and oversee a new superintendent. The board will report to the Commissioner. Along with Receiver Riley, Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will join us at the November 28, 2017 meeting to answer your questions.

  4. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education FY2019 Budget Proposal and Report from the Board's Budget Committee - Discussion and Vote

    The Board's budget committee, chaired by Katherine Craven, will report at our November 28 meeting. Based on the committee's recommended priorities, the Board will discuss and vote on its FY2019 education budget proposal. Consistent with Mass. General Laws c. 69, § 1A, I will transmit the Board's recommendations to the Secretary of Education, who "shall then prepare and submit a budget request on behalf of the department to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on education, and the secretary of administration and finance."

  5. Proposed Amendments to Regulations on MCAS and Competency Determination, 603 CMR 30.00, for Classes of 2021 and 2022 - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    At the September and October Board meetings, 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. Consistent with our discussions, I recommend that the Board vote this month to solicit public comment on proposed amendments to the regulations that govern the CD for high school graduation, to establish the interim CD standard for the classes of 2021 and 2022. After the Department reviews the comments and determines whether further changes are needed, I expect to bring the proposed regulations back to the Board for a final vote in February 2018. Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel and Lucy Wall of our legal staff will join us for the discussion.

  6. Proposed Amendments to Special Education Regulations, 603 CMR 28.10, to Align with ESSA Foster Care Provisions - Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    I recommend that the Board vote to solicit public comment on proposed amendments to the Massachusetts special education regulations - specifically, 603 CMR 28.10 - pertaining to the assignment of school district responsibility for students with disabilities who are in foster care. The proposed amendments are intended to clarify programmatic and financial responsibility for the special education services of students in foster care and align our regulations with new provisions in federal law concerning students in foster care. With the Board's approval, the Department will solicit public comment on the proposed amendments. After reviewing the comments and making adjustments as needed, I expect to bring the proposed amendments back to the Board for final action in February 2018. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston; Teri Williams Valentine, Director of Special Education Planning and Policy; and Legal Counsel Josh Varon will be at the meeting on November 28 to answer your questions.

  7. Virtual Schools: Funding and Other Policy Issues - Discussion

    The memorandum under Tab 7 provides background information on virtual schools, along with my recommendation that the Board vote next month to increase the per pupil tuition rate for each Commonwealth Virtual School. Senior Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and Kenneth Klau, Director of our Office of Digital Learning, will be at the meeting to answer your questions.

  8. Curriculum Frameworks - Discussion

    1. History and Social Science Framework Revision Process - Overview and Next Steps
    2. Report on Implementation of English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering Frameworks; Plan for Review of Arts Framework and Comprehensive Health Framework

    Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and other members of the staff will present an overview of proposed revisions to the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework and outline anticipated next steps in the process. Your materials include a draft of selected portions of the proposed revisions, including new standards emphasizing civic education for grade 8. We plan to present a full draft of the revised framework to the Board in January 2018, anticipating that the Board will discuss it at the January 23 meeting and vote to invite public comment. The timeline calls for the Board to discuss and adopt the final revised standards in June 2018.

    The Board also is receiving an update on the support that the Department is providing for districts' implementation of the English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering curriculum frameworks, as well as our plan for revising the current Arts Curriculum Framework and Comprehensive Health Curriculum Framework.

Other Items for Information

  1. Report on School Climate Survey Pilot

    Under Tab 9 is information about the survey the Department conducted this past spring of students' perceptions of school climate from students in grades 5, 8, and 10. The surveys in grades 5 and 8 were administered after the MCAS Science and Technology/Engineering tests in April/May 2017, and the grade 10 surveys were administered after the MCAS Mathematics test in May 2017. The survey was optional for districts, schools, and students; 69 percent of eligible students statewide participated. The Department provided summary reports to districts in late October 2017. We are encouraging districts and schools to review the data along with other local data from students and parents, staff, and administrators and consider ways to maintain and increase areas of strength, and to address any areas of concern. We aim to support these local efforts through our strategic priority to support social-emotional learning, health, and safety Download PDF Document in schools across the Commonwealth.

  2. 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.

If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you at the meeting in Malden on November 28.