The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the January 22, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
January 11, 2019

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) will be on Tuesday, January 22, 2019, 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 8:00 a.m.) and should adjourn by 1:00 p.m. The Board is also holding a special meeting on Monday, January 14, 2019, from 5:00–7:00 p.m., at the same location; materials for the special meeting have been provided separately. If you need overnight accommodations or additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The agenda for our regular business meeting this month includes several charter school items: discussion and vote on two charter school matters in New Bedford and one in Boston, initial discussion of new charter applicants, and an update on a charter school in Holyoke. Other items on the business agenda for discussion are an update on high school accountability for 2019 and a review of the Board's annual report for FY2018.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Recap of January 14 special meeting. I will briefly recap two items that the Board discussed at the special meeting: the redesigned school and district report cards and automated test scoring. The third item, New Bedford charter school matters, is on our agenda for further discussion and action at our regular meeting.

  2. Family engagement. Family engagement efforts are an important component of the Department's core strategy to support social-emotional learning, health, and safety and help prepare all students for success. Here are updates on some of our ongoing work in this area:

    • Definition: The Department has a new definition of family engagement: The primary goal of family engagement is to facilitate shared responsibility that contributes to the healthy development, learning, and growth of children - from the earliest ages into young adulthood. Family engagement builds relationships between students, families, educators, and the community. These relationships over time develop into meaningful partnerships rooted in the strengths and assets of all. Effective family engagement is culturally responsive, collaborative, equitable, and respectful of diverse languages, norms, and values. Effective engagement strives to eliminate barriers to participation. These engagement practices take place in schools, in the community, and wherever students live and learn.
    • New position: The Department is seeking a strong and diverse applicant pool for a new Family Engagement Specialist. This contract position, to be posted in mid-January, will coordinate the Department's family engagement efforts, including building internal capacity to support districts and schools in engaging with families. The specialist will also support implementation of the Statewide Family Engagement Center Grant, described below.
    • Cross-agency framework: The Department is co-leading a state and local team to create a Prenatal through Grade 12 Family Engagement Framework this year. This work is supported by the Council of Chief State School Officers and includes a state and local coalition of stakeholders, including other education, health, and human service agencies.
    • Federal 5-year grant: To support implementation of the framework and to pilot research-based family engagement strategies, Massachusetts applied for and received a federal grant for a Statewide Family Engagement Center. This grant is led by the Federation for Children with Special Needs and will provide Massachusetts with nearly $4.5 million over 5 years (approximately $920K/year) to build state and local infrastructures that implement effective family engagement practices. Additional partners on the grant include the Collaborative Parent Leadership Action Network (CPLAN), English for New Bostonians (ENB), the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE), and the National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement (NAFSCE).

I look forward to reporting to the Board on our family engagement initiatives at a future meeting.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

Charter School Matters:

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

  1. Alma del Mar Charter School, New Bedford: Expansion Request — Discussion and Vote

    Alma del Mar Charter School in New Bedford has requested an amendment to expand its enrollment. I recommend that the Board discuss and vote on this matter at the January 22 meeting. Materials will be sent during the week of January 14.

  2. City on a Hill Charter Public School New Bedford: Charter Renewal — Discussion and Vote

    The Board will discuss and vote on the charter renewal application for City on a Hill Charter Public School, New Bedford. I recommend that the Board renew the school's charter and place it on probation with the conditions described in the memorandum under Tab 2.

  3. 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 February meeting. In October 2018, the Department received final applications to establish two charter schools. Under Tab 3 are a memorandum previewing these charter applications, executive summaries from each applicant group, and a description of the process for awarding new charters.

  4. Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School: Report on Probation — Discussion

    In January 2018, the Board renewed the charter of Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Holyoke and placed the school on probation, imposing eleven conditions related to enrollment, governance, and academics. The memorandum under Tab 4 reports on the school's progress in meeting these conditions. Because the Department is awaiting additional information regarding the school's viability, I plan to follow up with a recommendation for Board action in February.

  5. Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter School: Report on Probation — Discussion and Vote

    The memorandum on the Helen Y. Davis Leadership Academy Charter School reports on the school's progress in meeting its probationary conditions; summarizes two recent reports on the school from the Massachusetts Office of the State Auditor and Office of the Inspector General; and presents an update on the school's academic performance. I recommend that the Board vote on January 22 to maintain probation and impose new conditions on the charter.

Other Items for Discussion:

  1. 2019 Accountability for High Schools — Discussion

    I will update the Board on the Department's plan for handling the grade 10 assessment transition with respect to our district and school accountability system. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Associate Commissioner Rob Curtin will be available to answer your questions.

  2. Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Annual Report for FY2018 — Discussion

    The annual report covers the activities and initiatives of the Board and Department for FY2018. This year's report is a dynamic online version that highlights key agency activities as well as multimedia examples of work from districts. We will share the report with the Governor and the Legislature, all school district leaders and classroom teachers, and local media outlets that cover these districts. Helene Bettencourt, Associate Commissioner for Communication and Planning, and Jass Stewart, Deputy Chief of Staff, will present the annual report at the January 22 meeting.

Other Items for Information

  1. Legislative Report: Education-Related Laws Enacted in 190th Legislative Session

    This memorandum lists education-related state laws that were enacted in the last session.

  2. Chronically Underperforming Schools: 2nd Quarter FY2019 Progress Reports

    At our meeting on December 18, the receivers of three of the four chronically underperforming schools — UP Academy Holland and Paul A. Dever Elementary School in Boston, and John Avery Parker Elementary School in New Bedford - presented their progress reports. (In the spring, the Board will hear from Steve Zrike, receiver for Holyoke Public Schools and the Morgan Full Service Community School.) The written progress reports from all four schools for the second quarter of FY2019 are included under Tab 9 for your information.

  3. Substituting a Computer Science Course for a MassCore Mathematics or Laboratory Science Course: Courses and Criteria for Inclusion

    In June 2018, our Board and the Board of Higher Education voted to direct their respective Commissioners to identify the computer science courses to be included as substitutions for a MassCore mathematics or laboratory science course, and the criteria for inclusion, by December 31, 2018. The memorandum under Tab 10 updates the Board on our progress with this initiative.

  4. 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 January 22.