The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the January 23, 2018 Joint Meeting with the Board of Higher Education, the Regular Meeting and the January 26, 2018 Special Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
January 12, 2018

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, at Bridgewater State University, Rondileau Campus Center, Large Ballroom, 19 Park Avenue, Bridgewater, MA. We will begin by meeting jointly with the Board of Higher Education, starting at 9:00 a.m. (coffee will be available at 8:30 a.m.) and then convene our regular meeting starting at 11:15 a.m. and adjourning by 3:00 p.m.

The Board also will hold a special meeting from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 26, 2018 at the Omni Parker House in Boston. If you need overnight accommodations or any additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The Board's special meeting on Friday, January 26, starting at 9:00 a.m., is devoted to interviewing finalists for the commissioner position. No votes will be taken. On Tuesday morning we will hold a joint meeting with the Board of Higher Education, starting at 9 a.m., to discuss three topics: the Massachusetts Early College Initiative, educator preparation, and increasing access to computer science in high school, with a proposed vote by each board to direct the respective commissioners to develop a specific proposal regarding computer science. Our Board will convene our regular monthly meeting at 11:15 a.m. The business agenda leads off with an update on the commissioner search, followed by continuing consideration of the revised draft History and Social Science curriculum framework and a vote to solicit public comment on it. The Board will continue its discussion from last month on proposed implementation of the new system for school and district accountability. I will update the Board on how we are working with Massachusetts schools to address the arrival of students from Puerto Rico. Several charter school items are on the agenda: information on new charter applicants, plus discussion and vote on waiver of a regulation as requested by Bentley Academy Charter School (Horace Mann) and on recommended probationary renewal for Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School.

Special Meeting

Interview Finalists for Commissioner - Discussion

At the special meeting of the Board on Friday, January 26, the Board will hold public interviews of the finalists for the commissioner position, selected by the preliminary screening committee. No votes will be taken at the special meeting.

Regular Meeting

I. Joint Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education (9:00 a.m.-11:00 a.m.)

  1. Update on Massachusetts Early College Initiative - Discussion

    We last held a joint meeting with the Board and Commissioner of Higher Education in January 2017. These meetings are an opportunity to review and discuss some of our cross-sector initiatives to create a seamless pathway from K-12 to higher education and the workforce. The first topic for our meeting this month with the Board of Higher Education and Commissioner Carlos Santiago is an update on the Massachusetts Early College Initiative - picking up on the joint resolution that the two boards adopted in January 2017 to establish a 5-member Early College Joint Committee of the two boards and the Secretary of Education to oversee this work. Staff from our Department and the Department of Higher Education will briefly present the progress report, followed by an opportunity for the boards to discuss it. Your materials include background information.

  2. Update on Educator Preparation - Discussion

    The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Higher Education collaborate on educator preparation issues, particularly when the state universities are involved, to ensure educators are well prepared to promote college and career readiness, access, and success for all students in the Commonwealth. Our two departments are also working together to identify scalable strategies to diversify the educator pipeline in Massachusetts. The memorandum under Tab 2 for the joint meeting provides an update on this work.

  3. Increasing Access to High School Level Computer Science - Discussion and Possible Votes by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Higher Education

    Interest and opportunities in computer science are growing rapidly. At our joint meeting, following a brief presentation, the boards will discuss ways that we might advance opportunities for all students in the Commonwealth to become literate in computer science skills. Commissioner Santiago and I recommend that each board vote on a joint resolution to move this initiative forward in Massachusetts. Your materials include a memorandum and the proposed joint resolution, which would direct the two commissioners to convene a working group that would develop a specific proposal to: (1) map out a long-term strategy to enable many more students graduating from Massachusetts public high schools to study computer science/computational thinking, and (2) increase the number of students interested in pursuing computer science as a field of study in postsecondary education. If the boards adopt the joint resolution on January 23, we anticipate bringing the specific proposal on computer science back to both boards for approval by June 30, 2018.

II. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Regular Meeting (11:15 a.m.-3:00 p.m.)

Comments from the Secretary

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Leading the Nation celebration. Massachusetts is a national leader in K-12 education. To recognize this 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, students, and teachers. The Department of Higher Education has been a strong partner, including serving as a key member on the steering committee, celebrating the K-12 educators who are prepared by public institutions of higher education in Massachusetts, and connecting college campuses to local event planning. The plans include an ongoing media campaign starting this month, involving extensive social media and outreach to news outlets; a State House event on April 5; and Leading the Nation Week from May 7-11, during which school districts, public colleges and universities, and community organizations will host local events throughout the state. We will keep you posted, and welcome your participation.

  2. Update on the 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 agreed on the contents of a notice to parents/guardians regarding the intention of the Holyoke School District to communicate in the language they understand and asking parents/guardians to designate that language for the district's records. That notice has been distributed to families, and all but one school has collected 100% of the responses. The parties are also reviewing a draft of written procedures for the Holyoke School District staff to use in communicating with limited English proficient parents/guardians. The parties will provide a status report to the court by January 31, 2018.

  3. U.S. Department of Education grants 1 percent waiver request. The Department recently applied for and was granted a waiver from the federal requirement that would limit the number of students in the state who take alternate assessments in the current (2017 2018) school year. This waiver, granted by the U.S. Department of Education, enables Massachusetts to take a measured approach to reduce the number of students who participate in the MCAS-Alt while meeting the requirements of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) and laws relating to students with disabilities.

    Generally, students with significant cognitive disabilities are given alternate assessments because they cannot participate in standard assessments, even with accommodations. Under ESSA, absent a waiver, states must limit the total number of students who take alternate assessments to no more than 1 percent of assessment-eligible students.

    Massachusetts currently assesses 1.6 percent of its eligible students on the MCAS-Alt. We anticipate making some progress in the next year to lower the percentage of students taking the MCAS-Alt, but reaching the target set by ESSA would likely take several years. In pursuit of this goal, the Department has posted guidance on this topic. We will continue to promote awareness of the need to appropriately assess students with disabilities and will provide additional training and oversight and assist individualized education program (IEP) teams to make informed assessment decisions for students with disabilities.

  4. Peer review of state assessment system. On December 22, 2017, the Department's Office of Student Assessment submitted the required documentation for the U.S. Department of Education's peer review of state assessment systems, for the next-generation MCAS tests in grades 3-8. Peer review ensures that states are meeting statutory and regulatory requirements under Title I for implementing valid and reliable assessment systems. The submission consists of evidence/documentation and a narrative in support of all aspects of the MCAS program for those grades. The review is conducted by experts in the field of educational standards and assessments, as well as assessment peer reviewers with strong technical expertise and practical experience. The review is expected to take place in the first quarter of 2018.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Update on Commissioner Search - Discussion

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

  2. Draft Revised History and Social Science Curriculum Framework - Continuing Discussion and Vote to Solicit Public Comment

    At our meeting on November 28, 2017, the Board reviewed and discussed an abbreviated draft of the proposed revisions to the 2003 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework. At the meeting on January 23, Senior Associate Commissioner Heather Peske and other staff members will present an overview of the full draft of the revised framework and I will recommend that the Board vote to send it out for public comment. Your materials include the full proposed public comment draft as well as a "highlights" document. Following the Board's vote, the Department plans to invite comments on the draft, review the comments and revise the draft framework as needed, and then present the final version to the Board for further discussion and a final vote in June 2018.

  3. Proposed Implementation of School and District Accountability System - Continuing Discussion

    At the December 2017 Board meeting, we discussed the overall design of our state's new district and school accountability system. At the January 23 meeting, we will continue that discussion, with a focus on the weighting of the indicators within the accountability system. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Associate Commissioner Rob Curtin will join us to respond to your questions.

  4. Update on Students from Puerto Rico - Discussion

    As of January 5, 2017, Massachusetts public schools have enrolled 2,440 students from Puerto Rico impacted by Hurricane Maria and districts continue to welcome students. As outlined in the enclosed memo, the Department has provided guidance and support to districts and is continuing to work with the Governor's office and other state agencies to identify resources to assist the students and their families. At the January 23 Board meeting, Chief of Staff Helene Bettencourt will update the Board and answer your questions.

    Charter Schools

    We have several charter school items on the agenda this month. Cliff Chuang, Senior Associate Commissioner; Alison Bagg, Director; and Alyssa Hopkins, School Development Manager, will be at the January 23 meeting to assist with the discussion on all items relating to charter schools.

    Please note that the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has requested again to increase its enrollment and I am not recommending it. In February 2017, the Board discussed and voted against PVCICS's request to increase its enrollment. Insufficient time has passed for the school to adequately address the concerns the Board raised last February, and in this year's request to expand, the school did not provide sufficient evidence to address them. The Board outlined four primary areas of concern in 2017 that remain concerns this year: (1) the school has not yet reached its maximum enrollment of 584 students, (2) the school's waitlist demonstrates insufficient demand, and (3 and 4) the school's enrollment and attrition data indicate it needs to enhance its recruitment and retention efforts for specific subgroups. I have instructed the school to implement targeted strategies over the next 2-3 years and we need to see the results of school action in these areas before acting on any expansion request. The school's board of trustees may pursue an appeal to the Board regarding my decision, as the school has done twice previously. If an appeal is filed, the Board must consider it no later than our June 2018 meeting.

  5. Information on New Charter Applicants; Overview of Process for New Charters - Initial Discussion

    By statute, the Board grants charters for new charter schools at its meeting in February. In November 2017, the Department received final applications to establish two charter schools, including an application to replicate an existing school. The memo under Tab 5 provides a preview of these charter applications and includes executive summaries from each of the applicant groups. Also enclosed is a memo describing the process for awarding new charters.

  6. Waiver of Regulation Requested by Bentley Academy Charter School (Horace Mann) - Discussion and Vote

    The charter school regulations specify that a charter school's accountability plan is a material term of the school's charter, and changes to such plans require the Commissioner's approval. Under the regulations, a Horace Mann I or III charter school must get approval from the local collective bargaining unit and local school committee before the school submits an accountability plan amendment request to the Department. Bentley Academy Charter School (BACS), a Horace Mann charter school in Salem, received approval from the Salem School Committee for its accountability plan and received notice from the Salem Teachers Union that the union has "no statutory mandate to approve the plan" and would take no action on the matter. Consequently, BACS is asking the Board to waive the charter school regulation that requires approval by the local collective bargaining unit. For the reasons presented in the memorandum under Tab 6, I recommend that the Board vote on January 23 to waive the regulation in this case.

  7. Report on Conditions for Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School and Recommendation for a Probationary Renewal - Discussion and Vote

    This month, the Board will discuss and vote on the charter renewal application for Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School, located in Holyoke. I recommend that the Board renew the school's charter and place it on probation with the conditions described in the memorandum enclosed under Tab 7.

Other Items for Information

  1. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Annual Report for FY2017

    The annual report for FY2017 includes key data and chronicles the major decisions and actions of the Board from July 2016-June 2017. We plan to send copies to the Governor and the Legislature and post the report on our website. We will distribute the annual report at the meeting on January 23.

  2. Legislative Report: Education-Related Laws Enacted in 2017

    The enclosed memo lists education-related state laws that were enacted in 2017.

  3. Safe and Supportive Schools Commission: Recommendations on Integrating Student Supports

    The Safe and Supportive Schools Commission, co-chaired by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, was created by statute in 2014. This month the Commission is submitting a written report to the Board with its preliminary recommendations regarding ways to promote principles of effective practice for integrating student supports through schools and other organizations, using the safe and supportive schools framework and self-assessment tool. We will schedule a Board presentation and discussion for a future date.

  4. Dual Enrollment in Massachusetts 2008-2015 (December 2017 report)

    The Department has posted a new report about dual enrollment Download Word Document on our website, and it is included in your informational materials this month. Overall, 7 percent of Massachusetts high school students (over 5,000 per year) take coursework in a postsecondary institution while in high school, and this number has about doubled in the last decade. The most prevalent courses were social studies and English language arts, and 70 percent of the students dual-enrolled at a community college. Dual-enrolling students were more likely to earn degrees from two-year colleges, and they tended to earn them earlier. Please see the report for more details.

  5. Progress Report on State Efforts to Upgrade School Technology Infrastructure

    Since the 2014-15 school year, the Department has been working with the Executive Office of Technology Services and Security to help schools upgrade their Wi-Fi networks for next-generation learning and teaching, and both agencies have worked with EducationSuperHighway, a national nonprofit, to help districts gain access to high-speed broadband. The memo under Tab 12 reports on these state efforts to upgrade school technology infrastructure.

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

    These memos inform the Board about grants and charter school matters that I have approved under the authority the Board has delegated to me.

    If you have questions about any agenda items, please call me. I look forward to seeing you in Boston on January 26 and at Bridgewater State University on January 23.