The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the December 19, 2017 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
December 8, 2017

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) will be on Tuesday, December 19, 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 progress report on the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, followed by an update from Chair Sagan on the commissioner search. The Board will hear from the co-chair of the Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council and discuss proposed implementation of the new school and district accountability system. The tuition rate for Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools is on the agenda for continuing discussion and a vote. The final item on the business agenda is education for English learners, focusing on an overview of the new state law as well as a pilot program that the Department has launched for vocational technical educators who work with English learners.

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. Welcoming Students from Puerto Rico. The numbers continue to climb. As of December 8, our unofficial count stands at 1866. This week we issued guidance to school districts on how they can employ, with a minimum of red tape, licensed teachers who might also be arriving from the island.

  2. Social and emotional learning. The Department has updated its guidelines on implementing social and emotional learning curricula. These guidelines were first issued in response to the anti-bullying legislation enacted in 2010 (chapter 92 of the acts of 2010). The new guidelines, and other resources relating to social and emotional learning, are available on our website at Social and Emotional Learning in Massachusetts.

  3. MCAS computer-based testing. We remain on track to meet the ambitious goal set by the Board in November 2015 of full computer-based testing (CBT) implementation by spring 2019. This coming spring, virtually all schools will be using CBT for the MCAS English language arts and mathematics tests in grades 4, 5, 7, and 8. In grades 3 and 6, CBT is still voluntary, but I am pleased to report that 64 percent are electing CBT in grade 3 and 79 percent in grade 6. More information on schools' test mode choices is posted on our website at Testing Mode Decisions for the Spring 2018 Grades 3-8 MCAS Tests.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Progress Report on Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership - Discussion

    The Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP) is an innovative, voluntary partnership of the Springfield Public Schools and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, in close collaboration with the Springfield Education Association. The SEZP was created in 2014 to improve outcomes for Springfield's middle and high school students. It currently manages nine underperforming middle schools plus one high school. Your materials include a progress report on the SEZP. At the meeting on December 19, the Board will have an opportunity to discuss the report with Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston, SEZP Board Chairman and co-founder of Empower Schools Chris Gabrieli, and the SEZP Co-Executive Directors, Colleen Beaudoin and Julie Swerdlow Albino.

  2. Update on Commissioner Search - Discussion

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

  3. Report from Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council - Discussion

    Over twenty advisory councils have been established by law to advise the Commissioner and the Board on various matters relevant to education reform in Massachusetts. The School and District Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council (AAAC) advises on matters pertaining to the development and implementation of the school and district accountability and assistance system. In the past school year, the AAAC worked with the Department on the accountability sections of our state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act, as well as on assistance strategies for the lowest performing schools. The AAAC's 2016-2017 annual report is included in your materials. AAAC co-chair Valerie Annear, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum in the East Longmeadow Public Schools, will join us on December 19 to discuss the work of the advisory council.

  4. Proposed Implementation of School and District Accountability System - Initial Discussion

    Since the approval of the Massachusetts state plan under the Every Student Succeeds Act in September 2017 and the release of the 2017 student assessment results, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has been refining plans for the new district and school accountability system. At the December 19 meeting, we will discuss the implementation of the accountability system. The discussion will continue at the January Board meeting.

  5. Virtual Schools: Tuition Rate - Continuing Discussion and Vote

    At the November 28 Board meeting, the Department presented background information on virtual schools, along with my recommendation that the Board vote in December to increase the per pupil tuition rate for each of the two existing Commonwealth of Massachusetts Virtual Schools. I recommend that the Board vote this month to amend the certificates for each virtual school to specify a tuition rate effective for FY19, and delegate to the Commissioner authority to adjust this rate annually for inflation for the remainder of the schools' current certificates. Details are included in the memo. Senior Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and Kenneth Klau, Director of our Office of Digital Learning, will be at the meeting to answer your questions.

  6. Improving Education for English Learners - Discussion

    1. Overview of New State Law: An Act Relative to Language Opportunities for Our Kids (LOOK)
    2. Pilot Program for Sheltered English Instruction Endorsement Courses for Vocational-Technical Teachers

    The memorandum in your materials provides information regarding two recent developments that we believe will help to improve the education of English learners in the Commonwealth: (a) enactment of the "Act Relative to Language Opportunity for Our Kids," Chapter 138 of the Acts of 2017, commonly referred to as the LOOK Act; and (b) piloting of Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) Endorsement courses for vocational technical educators. At the Board meeting on December 19, Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske, Paul Aguiar, Director of the Office of English Language Acquisition and Academic Achievement, and other Department staff will discuss these matters with the Board. We will return to this topic at several Board meetings in 2018 as well.

Other Items for Information

  1. State Education Budget Transmittal Letter from Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

    Enclosed is my memorandum to Secretary Peyser transmitting the Board's FY2019 state education budget priorities, per the Board's vote at your meeting on November 28, 2017.

  2. Report on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by the Commissioner

    Enclosed is information on grants and charter school matters 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 December 19.