The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Level 5 Schools

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
April 17, 2015

This memo provides the April monthly update to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education about our work with the four Level 5 schools - Dever Elementary School and UP Academy Holland in Boston; Morgan Full Service Community School in Holyoke; and John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford. In this memo, I am reporting on:

Level 5 Schools State Testing Information

Three of the Level 5 schools (Dever Elementary School, UP Academy Holland, and Morgan Full Service Community School) are administering MCAS this spring, while Parker Elementary School is administering PARCC. I wanted to remind you of this so that we can collectively anticipate the type of results we will have from each school next fall.

SchoolTestTesting Schedule
Dever Elementary SchoolMCASELA: March 23 - April 13
Mathematics and STEM: May 4 - 26
UP Academy Holland
Morgan Full Service Community School
John Avery Parker Elementary SchoolPARCCPerformance-based Assessment: March 23 - April 13
End-Of-Year Assessment: May 11 - May 29

Administrative Changes at Dever Elementary School

I am sorry to inform the Board that Keith Mills, Principal of Dever Elementary School, has had to leave his position due to unforeseen health concerns. His last day at the Dever was Friday, March 27th. I want to thank Mr. Mills for the leadership he provided during this critical first year of Dever's Level 5 turnaround plan, and wish him well.

While a situation like this is always challenging for students, families, and staff, the Dever is fortunate to have two of its top administrators, Kim Willingham, Assistant Principal, and Kate Allen, Literacy Director, agree to serve as Interim Co-Principals for the remainder of the school year. I am confident that they will guide and support all of Dever's students to finish the year successfully.

To help facilitate the leadership transition for families, Blueprint held an open house at Dever School on April 2 to provide all interested family members with an opportunity to talk with the Interim Co-Principals in person and to provide input regarding the vision and plans for Dever moving forward this year and next. Blueprint also arranged for additional staff to be available at the school in the days immediately following Mr. Mills' departure for any students needing support.

UP Academy Holland's Training towards a Trauma-Sensitive School

During this school year, UP Academy Holland (UAH) recognized that a significant number of students have experienced trauma and have noticed the effect these experiences are having on learning. As a result, the school hired an experienced social worker who has been trained in trauma-sensitive approaches and treatment. Additionally, the school partnered with the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative (TLPI), a collaboration between Massachusetts Advocates for Children and Harvard Law School, to help UAH become a trauma-sensitive school. To begin the process of becoming a trauma-sensitive school, the entire school staff received training from TLPI focusing on the following topics: what trauma is, its impact on childhood development (socially, emotionally, academically, behaviorally), its manifestations in school, how interactions between adults and students in schools can serve as triggers for some students, and utilizing more trauma-sensitive techniques. This spring, the school and representatives from TLPI will develop a task force, made up of administrators, teachers, and mental health providers that will examine the school's practices and make recommendations on how the practices can become more trauma-sensitive. Recommendations will be shared with the school's Leadership Team and implementation of changes will likely take place next school year, depending on the depth and scope of changes.

School Year 2015-2016 Level 5 Schools Budget Planning and Receiver Services and Associated Costs

DESE representatives are continuing to collaborate with the three operators, Boston Public Schools, Holyoke Public Schools and New Bedford Public Schools leadership to finalize the budgets for the four Level 5 schools for school year 2015-2016. This process will conclude at the end of June when both local budgets and the state budget are finalized. In addition, the three operators have recently submitted initial work plans for the services they will provide in fiscal year 2015-16 and the costs associated with those services. During the upcoming weeks, DESE representatives will review the proposals from the three receivers and negotiate any needed changes to ensure that services are well aligned for the next fiscal year.