The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Briefing for the March 26, 2019 Regular Meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeffrey C. Riley, Commissioner
March 15, 2019

The next regular meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) will be on Tuesday, March 26, 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. If you need overnight accommodations or additional information about the schedule, please call Helene Bettencourt at (781) 338-3120.


The agenda for our regular meeting this month leads off with a presentation on some of the Department's family engagement initiatives, followed by progress reports from the receivers for the Lawrence, Holyoke, and Southbridge school districts. The Board will discuss and vote on renewal of a virtual school certificate. Several issues relating to student assessment are on the agenda for discussion, along with a vote on the achievement level descriptors for grade 10 English language arts and mathematics, and science and technology/engineering. Other items on the agenda for discussion are charter schools in relation to school finance, and potential modifications to the district and school accountability system.

Regular Meeting

Comments from the Chair

Chair Sagan will report on current issues and activities.

Comments from the Commissioner

  1. Kairos: Mapping our Way Forward. I will report on the statewide education conference the Department is sponsoring at U.Mass.-Amherst on March 19.

  2. Legislative hearings. Secretary Peyser and I are attending the Ways & Means Committee hearing on the FY20 education budget on March 18, and the legislative hearing on school finance/Chapter 70 on March 22. We will update the Board at the March 26 meeting.

  3. New Bedford-Alma del Mar Charter School Partnership. I will report to the Board on the status of this collaborative effort.

Comments from the Secretary

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

Items for Discussion and Action

  1. Family Engagement Initiatives — Discussion

    Family engagement is an important focus area for the Board and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. At the March 26 meeting, we will discuss three of our family engagement initiatives, as outlined in the memo under Tab 1. The Board will hear from Associate Commissioner Rachelle Engler Bennett and Donna Traynham, the Department's Early Learning Team Leader; Maria Campusano, Family Partnerships Manager for the Lawrence Public Schools; and Eva Kelly, director of enrollment and family engagement for the Fitchburg Public Schools, who is a member of the Board's Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council.

  2. Chronically Underperforming Districts: Updates from Receivers — Discussion

    Each of the receivers for the chronically underperforming districts will update the Board on their district's overall academic progress to date. John Connolly, Chair of the Lawrence Alliance for Education (LAE) will present on behalf of the Lawrence Public Schools (joined by Cynthia Paris, Superintendent for the Lawrence Public Schools), Stephen Zrike will present on behalf of the Holyoke Public Schools, and Jeffrey Villar will present on behalf of the Southbridge Public Schools. Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Lauren Woo, Director of the Department's Office of Strategic Transformation, will introduce the panel.

  3. Greenfield Virtual Commonwealth School: Renewal and Report on Probation — Discussion and Vote

    I recommend that the Board vote this month to renew the certificate for Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School for an additional three years, the minimum permitted by statute. I further recommend that the Board remove probation from the school's certificate and continue conditions on the school's certificate to address concerns related to academic results, the school's academic program, and issues related to access and equity for all students. The memo under Tab 3 provides the rationale. Alison Bagg, Director, Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign, and Senior Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang will be at the meeting to assist.

  4. Student Assessment Updates:
    1. Next-Generation MCAS Tests and Standard Setting for Grade 10 English Language Arts and Mathematics — Discussion
    2. Next-Generation MCAS Achievement Level Descriptors for Grade 10 ELA and Mathematics, and Science and Technology/Engineering — Discussion and Vote
    3. Planning for the Competency Determination for the Classes of 2023 and Beyond — Discussion

    At our meeting, we will review several aspects of the state student assessment program. The first topic is the next-generation grade 10 MCAS tests in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics—which will be given for the first time this spring—with a focus on the standard setting that will take place in August 2019. Second, I will ask the Board to vote to extend to the grade 10 ELA and mathematics tests and the science and technology/engineering tests in grades 5, 8, and high school, the next-generation MCAS achievement levels and descriptors that the Board adopted in 2017 for ELA and mathematics in grades 3–8. Third, we will discuss the proposed process and timeline for establishing the Competency Determination standard for students in the classes of 2023 and beyond. Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Associate Commissioner Michol Stapel, and Chief MCAS Analyst Bob Lee will join us.

  5. Charter Schools and School Finance — Discussion

    In response to a request from member Mary Ann Stewart for an opportunity to discuss charter schools in relation to school finance in the Commonwealth, Chair Sagan asked the Department to provide a framework for the discussion. On March 26, Deputy Commissioner Jeff Wulfson will present an overview of the structure and operation of Massachusetts law with respect to the awarding of charters, funding of charter schools, and school finance generally. Senior Associate Commissioner Cliff Chuang and General Counsel Rhoda Schneider will be available to assist.

  6. District and School Accountability System: Potential Modifications — Initial Discussion

    In September 2018, the Department released the first year of results under the new district and school accountability system. Since then, we have been reviewing those results, soliciting feedback from stakeholders, and considering changes that could improve the system. At this meeting, Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Associate Commissioner Rob Curtin will present some potential changes to the system for 2019 reporting and review the timeline for next steps.

Other Items for Information

  1. 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 March 26.