The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the February 27, 2018 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
February 16, 2018

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will be on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 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 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 an update from Chair Sagan on the commissioner transition process. The Board will hear from Dr. Jeffrey Villar, our new receiver for the Southbridge Public Schools, and discuss Level 5 schools. Several charter school items are on the agenda for discussion and vote, including recommendations for a new charter school, expansion of an existing charter school, and renewal of a charter with probation and conditions. The proposed amendments to the regulations on MCAS and the competency determination, which the Board discussed in November, are on the agenda for a final discussion and vote. Other items on the business agenda for discussion are the 2016 - 2017 state graduation and dropout results and an update on the Governor's state education budget proposal for FY2019.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities. Under item 1 on the business agenda, he will update the Board on the commissioner transition process.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Arts framework revision update. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) has started the process to review the 1999 Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework Download PDF Document and is looking for educators interested in serving as facilitators, joining the review panel, or identifying opportunities to integrate the arts with other subject areas. More information, including application deadlines, is posted on DESE's website and new Facebook page. The Department is looking for diverse perspectives and encourages people from historically underrepresented groups to apply.

  2. Update on students from Puerto Rico. The Legislature has approved the $15 million supplemental appropriation proposed by Governor Baker to assist districts serving students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were displaced by last fall's devastating hurricanes. The Department will issue information on how the funds will be distributed shortly. The Department is also in the process of setting up a data exchange with the Puerto Rico Department of Education to allow high school seniors who may not qualify for a Massachusetts diploma to request and receive a diploma from Puerto Rico. More information is forthcoming.

  3. Data on schools' use of physical restraint. In December 2014, the Board approved amendments to the regulations regarding student restraints in order to reduce the number of restraints and to collect more information about how public and special education schools use restraints. The regulations took effect on January 1, 2016 and included additional reporting requirements. We plan to publish parts of the 2016 - 2017 school year data on our website in early March. The information will be for both public schools and approved private special education schools and will include each school's name, the total number of students restrained during the school year, the total number of restraints during the school year, and the number of student injuries. As we do with other data sets, small numbers will be suppressed to protect student privacy. While we recognize that the schools in this data set are not comparable to each other in terms of the student populations they serve, we felt it was important to share how restraints are being used statewide. This information can inform our discussions and ultimately help schools serve students better.

  4. Interagency collaboration to assist students with FAFSA. The Department of Higher Education and DESE worked together to develop new reports that for the first time will allow Massachusetts high school counselors and college advisors to monitor whether students have filled out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Counselors and other authorized school and college personnel will be able to see whether a student has submitted a completed FAFSA to the U.S. Education Department or whether counselors need to follow up with students to see if they need help completing the FAFSA. The reports will also allow counselors to monitor the overall FAFSA completion rates for their individual high school and district.

  5. Anticipated regulatory action. The Department is continuing to work on proposed regulations relating to English Learner education programs, consistent with the new state law known as the LOOK (Language Opportunities for Our Kids) Act, about which you received a report in December. We are also preparing proposed regulations for the new accountability and assistance system, most recently discussed at the January 23 Board meeting. I expect to present these proposals to the Board for initial review next month.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Update on Commissioner Transition — Discussion and Possible Vote

    Enclosed in your materials is Secretary Peyser's letter appointing Jeffrey C. Riley as the next Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, confirming the Board's selection on January 29, 2018. At the meeting on February 27, Chair Sagan will provide an update on the commissioner transition.

  2. Level 5 District and School Update — Discussion

    1. Southbridge Public Schools: Remarks from Receiver Jeffrey Villar and District Overview
    2. Level 5 Schools: Second-Quarter FY2018 Reports — Discussion

    Dr. Jeffrey Villar began his service as receiver of the Southbridge Public Schools on February 12, 2018. Dr. Villar and Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will make a presentation to the Board on February 27.

    Following the Southbridge discussion, Senior Associate Commissioner Johnston will present the second-quarter progress report from the four Level 5 schools: UP Academy Holland and Dever in Boston, Morgan in Holyoke, and Parker in New Bedford. The memorandum in your materials provides information on each school.

    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 February 27 meeting to assist with the discussion on all items relating to charter schools.

  3. Recommendation for New Charter School: Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School, Lawrence — Discussion and Vote

    By statute, the Board grants charters for new charter schools at its meeting in February. This month I am recommending that the Board grant one new charter, for the proposed Phoenix Academy Public Charter High School in Lawrence. Detailed information is enclosed.

  4. Proposed Amendment to Charter: Veritas Preparatory Charter School, Springfield — Discussion and Vote

    The Department received requests from four existing charter schools to change their maximum enrollment, grades served, or chartered regions. I provided you with an overview of the four amendment requests in a memorandum dated September 15, 2017. Of the four, I recommend that the Board approve an amendment request from Veritas Preparatory Charter School, a grade 5–8 school located in Springfield, to increase its enrollment by 108 seats. Your materials include details about the request and the basis for my recommendation.

  5. Proposed Charter Renewal with Probation: Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter Public School, Boston — Discussion and Vote

    For the reasons presented in the enclosed memorandum, I recommend that the Board vote on February 27 to renew the charter for Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter Public School in Boston and place the school on probation with specific conditions.

Other Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Amendments to Regulations on MCAS and Competency Determination, 603 CMR 30.00, for Transition to New Standard — Discussion and Vote to Adopt Final Regulation

    In November 2017, the Board voted to solicit public comment on proposed changes to the Regulations on MCAS and the Competency Determination, to ensure fairness for students seeking to attain their high school competency determination as we transition from the legacy high school MCAS assessments to next-generation assessments. As is detailed in the enclosed memorandum, the Department received three comments, none of which warrant any changes. I recommend that the Board vote on February 27 to adopt the proposed regulatory amendments.

  2. State Graduation and Dropout Results for 2016 - 2017 — Discussion

    The state graduation and dropout results for the class of 2016 - 2017 will be released in late February. Rob Curtin, Associate Commissioner will provide an over view of the results and will be available to answer any questions.

  3. Governor's State Education Budget Proposal for FY2019 — Discussion

    Item 6 is an overview of Governor Baker's elementary and secondary education budget proposal for FY2019. Bill Bell, Chief Financial Officer and Julia Jou, our Budget Director, will join the discussion with the Board

Other Items for Information

  1. Charter Schools — Charter Authorizing in Lynn under Net School Spending Caps

    This memo provides Board members with background information on how our charter school "net school spending" caps are calculated and used, and in particular how they impacted the applications for new charter seats in the city of Lynn this year.

  2. Fiscal Conditions in Rural Schools: January 2018 Report

    In January, DESE issued a legislative report on Fiscal Conditions in Rural School Districts Download Word Document. The report examines enrollment, staffing, and spending trends as well as local aid, school choice, and charter school tuitions to understand the challenges facing rural districts. The report documents the significant enrollment declines that have occurred over the last decade that have made it more expensive for rural districts to provide service,

  3. Report on Grants and Charter School Matters Approved by 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 at the meeting in Malden on February 27.