In partnership with the Departments of Early Education and Care (EEC), Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), Higher Education (DHE), and the University of Massachusetts (UMASS), the Executive Office of Education (EOE) is advancing actions and initiatives that will improve achievement for all students, close persistent achievement gaps, and create a 21 st century public education system that prepares students for higher education and success in a global economy. This document provides information about ongoing efforts of the EOE and its partner agencies with regard to core priorities of the Patrick administration.
Turning Around Low-Performing Schools
The passage of An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, the groundbreaking education legislation that Governor Patrick signed in January 2010, and the availability of a significant amount of federal funding give Massachusetts the unprecedented opportunity to provide educators, students, and families with new rules, tools, and supports to decisively turn around our low-performing schools.
- ESE identified 35 Level 4 schools (located in 9 districts across the state) this spring, and developed a process to support intervention efforts at both the school and district levels. ESE staff members are providing significant support to educators to develop turnaround plans that address instructional, professional development, governance, and other strategies - but in keeping with Governor Patrick's vision for providing truly comprehensive support to students, they also include the provision of critical wraparound services to students and their families.
- In February, ED finalized regulations for the use of competitive grants to intervene in each state's lowest performing schools. Massachusetts will be awarded $57 million over three years to provide competitive grants to districts.
- A district can apply for $500,000 or more per year for up to three years on behalf of each of its Level 4 schools.
- Districts developed school redesign plans with stakeholders by choosing one of four federally prescribed intervention models and demonstrating their capacity to implement models effectively; applications were submitted to ESE on Wednesday, June 28 th, and grants will be awarded in August.
The Innovation Schools initiative, also authorized by An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, provides educators and other stakeholders in all districts across the state with the powerful opportunity to create new "Innovation Schools," in-district and charter-like schools that will operate with greater autonomy and flexibility with regard to curriculum, staffing, budget, schedule/calendar, professional development, and district policies. These public schools will be able to implement innovative strategies to improve student achievement while keeping school funding within districts.
- The Paul Revere Innovation School, the first in Massachusetts, was established by unanimous approval of the Revere School Committee in late May, and will open its doors to approximately 350 K-5 students this September.
- The Pathways Early College Innovation School was established by unanimous approval of the Ralph C. Mahar Regional School Committee in late June. This school will be located at Mount Wachusett Community College, and starting in September, will provide 11 th grade students from the Mahar Regional School District and 20 surrounding districts with an alternate pathway to higher education.
- With the assistance of ESE and external consultants, the EOE provided on-site technical assistance to school districts during the 2009 - 2010 year to establish Innovation Schools, and intends to provide ongoing support during the 2010 - 2011 school year. In addition to developing guidance documents and providing updated information as necessary, the EOE convened meetings for teachers, school and district leaders, school committee members, union representatives, and other community members to discuss the approval process for establishing Innovation Schools, share information about innovative practices and models, and support the development of innovation plans.
- This initiative has generated a significant level of interest on the part of educators and other community members across the state. As noted above, the EOE will continue to provide support to the first cohort of school districts; in addition, the EOE and ESE are responding to inquiries from communities across Massachusetts, and are providing guidance and support to these potential applicants and their partners. The following communities (among others) are engaged in the development of Innovation Schools that could open in September 2011:
- Worcester Public Schools and Clark University (these partners will establish an Innovation Zone that includes multiple schools);
- Boston Public Schools;
- Ashburnham-Westminster Regional District;
- Salem Public Schools; and
- North Adams and Adams-Cheshire Regional District.
- Massachusetts' RTTT budget includes $1.5 million for planning and implementation grants to establish and support the operation of Innovation Schools respectively. The EOE is also working to secure additional funding to support this initiative.
Additional information about the Innovation Schools initiative is available at the following EOE website: http://www.mass.gov/edu/innovationschools.
Charter School "Smart Cap"
As described in An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, Massachusetts has demonstrated its national leadership by strategically lifting the cap on charter schools in the lowest-performing districts to provide high-quality educational opportunities for students most in need.
- The statewide cap that limits the total charter school population to 4% of the general student population has been removed; the state's spending cap for charter schools has been increased from 9% to 18% in the state's 10% lowest-performing districts (the increase is phased in over time, with an increase to 12% occurring in FY 11 followed by a 1% increase each year to 18%).; and, the reimbursement to school districts has been adjusted as follows: 100% in year 1 and 25% for the next 5 consecutive years.
- In order to be eligible to apply for a new or expanded charter in one of the 10% lowest-performing districts in the state (as measured by the MCAS), an applicant must have a record of operating at least one school that has demonstrated academic success and organizational viability while serving students from among selected subgroups including, among others, lower-income students, English Language learners, and students receiving special education services.
- The EOE expects that a record number of charter school applications will be submitted by proven providers; upon approval by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, these schools will provide additional seats to students in some of our neediest communities.
Governor Patrick's Education Action Agenda included a recommendation to establish Readiness Centers, multipurpose and collaborative centers focused on improving the quality of teaching across the education continuum and across the state. The two core functions of the Readiness Centers are as follows: 1) provide high-quality professional development and instructional services to educators in early education and out-of-school-time programs, K-12 schools, and institutions of higher education; and 2) convene regional stakeholders to collaboratively address key education priorities, leverage resources, build statewide capacity, and increase integration and coherence across the education continuum.
- Six centers were established in October 2009, and they are currently being operated by over 40 regional partners including institutions of higher education (all institutions within the state university system, most community colleges, the UMASS campuses, and private institutions); K-12 institutions and networks; early education and out-of-school-time programs; educational collaboratives; non-profit organizations; and business and community partners.
- Governing boards that include representatives from multiple sectors have been established in all six regions, and new partners are being added.
- Several Readiness Centers have offered professional development and instructional services related to increasing students' access to college and educator evaluation strategies, among other priorities.
- Several Readiness Centers are conducting inventories of existing programs and assessing local needs through surveys and other data collection methods.
- The Readiness Centers are convening stakeholders to discuss educational priorities such as increasing college readiness and the implementation of RTTT initiatives.
- The Readiness Centers Network (which is comprised of all the regional partners plus representatives from the EOE, EEC, ESE, DHE, and the State Universities Council of Presidents) is developing a website to share information about the Readiness Centers initiative with educators across the continuum, other community members, and regional partners; build stronger partnerships both within and across regions; and develop strategies that can be implemented across the state.
- Massachusetts' RTTT budget includes $3 million in implementation funding for the Readiness Centers, which will significantly enhance the capacity of the centers to execute their core functions.
- The Readiness Centers are an essential component of the statewide architecture for addressing key educational priorities, and they are adding value by:
- Increasing the effectiveness of educators across the continuum and across Massachusetts by improving the quality, alignment, and coherence of professional development/instructional services;
- Maximizing the power of collaboration and convening local, regional, and state stakeholders to address critical issues in education;
- Building new mechanisms for sharing information about best practices and effective models; and
- Building local, regional, and statewide capacity to create a truly coherent and seamless education system in Massachusetts.
Additional information about the Readiness Centers initiative, including more detailed information about current activities and initiatives, is available at the following EOE website: http://www.mass.gov/edu/readinesscenters.
School Readiness and Early Literacy
EEC has developed a Quality Rating and Improvement System (QRIS) to assess, improve, and provide information about the level of quality in early education and care and after-school programs. The standards in selected categories will be customized for early education and care centers as well as school-based, family child care, and after-school/out-of-school-time programs. EEC has initiated a pilot program, and pilot participants will receive initial QRIS ratings in December.
EEC, ESE, and the EOE have been involved in efforts to improve reading proficiency for children from birth to grade 3. Commissioner Killins, Commissioner Chester, and EOE staff members contributed to the development of a report that was commissioned by Strategies for Children, and authored by Dr. Nonie Lesaux at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The report highlighted achievement gaps among Massachusetts children with regard to reading proficiency (for example, 43% of third graders do not read at grade level), and also offered policy recommendations for producing measurable success in reading outcomes (the report is available at the following Strategies for Children website: http://www.strategiesforchildren.org/0reading.html).
- Secretary Reville; the commissioners and board chairs for EEC, ESE, and DHE; and leadership from UMASS will meet this summer to address the recommendations and develop cross-sector strategies for improving reading outcomes for all children in Massachusetts.
DHE and the Board of Higher Education have launched the Vision Project, a comprehensive and systemic effort to establish benchmarks for assessing the impact of our state and community colleges on key outcomes: 1) college-going rates of high school graduates; 2) graduation and student success rates; 3) alignment of degree production with key areas of workforce need; 4) academic achievements on campus-level and national assessments of learning; and 5) comparable learning outcomes among different student population groups.
- The goals of this project are as follows: 1) to increase visibility for the public higher education community in Massachusetts; 2) increase transparency; 3) promote continuous assessment and improvement; 4) increase accountability to students, their families, and the general public; and 5) ensure that Massachusetts will produce the best-educated citizens and workforce in the nation.
- The Vision Project will achieve these goals by:
- Highlighting important contributions of our campuses related to specific educational and research outcomes;
- Annually reporting our standing among the 50 states with respect to these outcomes; and
- Implementing targeted and sustained efforts to achieve and maintain national leadership with respect to core outcomes.
STEM Advisory Council
The STEM Advisory Council, established by Governor Patrick in October 2009 and chaired by Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray, is actively working to increase student interest in and improve their preparation for careers in STEM fields. A wide array of stakeholders in these districts - including parents, community-based organizations, and local and state social service agencies - are working with educators to develop robust plans that will decisively address the conditions that are contributing to chronic underperformance.
- The members identified five goals for the next five years: 1) increase student interest in STEM; 2) increase STEM knowledge and skills among all students; 3) increase the percentage of students who are STEM college-ready; 4) increase the number of STEM college graduates; and 5) increase the number/percentage of STEM classes that are taught by qualified teachers.
- Six subcommittees (Public Awareness, Teacher Development, Infrastructure, Data Collection, Curriculum Framework and Standards, and Diversity) were convened during the spring, and they submitted preliminary reports to Lieutenant Governor Murray on June 30 th. Recommendations will be presented to Governor Patrick in September.
Race to the Top (RTTT)
Massachusetts has taken advantage of this historic opportunity to increase student achievement and catalyze bold reform initiatives. Our Phase 2 application is strong and competitive, and reflects a rigorous process and policies that are rooted in and build upon, the principles and record of accomplishment that have made us a national leader. We welcome the opportunity afforded by the federal government - and there is much about RTTT that is consistent with our reform agenda - but we operate under the secure belief that local input and decision-making are critical to the continued success of our students. A good example is our deliberate approach, outlined below, regarding the Common Core Standards. Through such processes, and in acknowledgement that the job of education reform is not complete in Massachusetts, we have engaged in RTTT and our other priorities in the spirit of continuous improvement.
- On Tuesday, July 27 th, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced that Massachusetts is one of 19 finalists for the competition (34 other states and the District of Columbia submitted Phase 2 applications); a five-member team will present our application to a panel of ED reviewers on Tuesday, August 10 th. Awards will be announced in late August or early September (Massachusetts could receive $250 million).
- In response to the feedback that we received from the reviewers as well as local partners, we substantially improved our proposal by:
- Focusing on outcomes and results, and how our public education system will be even stronger in four years as a result of implementing initiatives in all districts across the state;
- Providing detailed information about the implementation of a statewide educator evaluation system that will include multiple measures of student achievement/growth to assess the educator effectiveness and reflect core principles that have enabled high levels of success in Massachusetts;
- Re-emphasizing our STEM agenda and our robust network of partners (Massachusetts received the full 15 points for the STEM competitive priority in the Phase 1 proposal); and
- Emphasizing the significance of An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, the landmark education reform legislation that Governor Patrick signed in January.
- Massachusetts was penalized in Phase 1 for not adopting the Common Core Standards prior to their release in June. We indicated in our Phase 2 application that the state would consider the recently released standards by the August 2 nd deadline, but only after they were submitted to the exhaustive process described below.
- In keeping with our commitment to implement bold and innovative reform strategies with - not to - the field, we worked tirelessly with stakeholders including union representatives, school/district administrators, and business and community partners to develop the Phase 2 proposal.
- The Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) supported the proposal.
- 276 school districts, a greater number than in Phase 1, signed on as participating districts (these districts include 1,375 schools, represent 74% of all K-12 students, and serve 88% of students living in poverty).
Additional information about the RTTT proposal is available at the following ESE website: http://www.doe.mass.edu/arra/?section=2.
Common Core Standards
Given the quality and rigor of our standards, Massachusetts served as a leader in the development of the Common Core Standards, and our experts continue to inform this important work. Per public statements made by Governor Patrick, Secretary Reville, and Commissioner Mitchell Chester, adoption of the Common Core Standards was contingent upon proof that they met or exceeded the rigor of our current standards. The state followed a lengthy, comprehensive, rigorous, and transparent process to review and assess the Common Core Standards.
- Curriculum experts at ESE assessed the content, quality, and rigor of the final Common Core Standards relative to Massachusetts standards in collaboration with K-12 educators, representatives from institutions of higher education, and other state and national experts.
- ESE convened two panels of curriculum experts from K-12 and higher education to review the English Language Arts (ELA) and mathematics standards in accordance with the following criteria: 1) content; 2) focus; 3) depth of understanding; 4) vertical alignment; 4) measurability and clarity; and 5) teachability. These panels presented their findings and recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Wednesday, July 21 st.
- ESE utilized the expertise of partners such as WestEd, a noted education research and development agency, and used independent analyses to further assess the content, quality, and rigor of the Common Core Standards.
- Members of the public were invited to comment on the proposed standards, and ESE incorporated the feedback received into its assessment of the standards.
- In a memorandum to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education dated Friday, July 16 th, Commissioner Mitchell Chester recommended the adoption of the Common Core Standards based on their added value in both ELA and mathematics with regard to content and rigor. However, he emphasized that his recommendation was contingent upon the addition of Massachusetts-specific elements that would increase the quality and rigor of the Common Core Standards.
- The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education unanimously voted to adopt the Common Core Standards on Wednesday, July 21 st.
- Later this summer, Commissioner Chester will reconvene the curriculum framework review panels for both ELA and mathematics; the members will be charged with identifying the Massachusetts elements that should be added to strengthen the Common Core Standards. Recommendations will be presented to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this fall for review and approval.
- The outcomes of this work include the adoption of national standards that will better ensure that all students in all states are held to the same high expectations as our students, the opportunity for Massachusetts to continually improve our standards and assessments, and other benefits including collaboration with other states and sharing expertise and resources.
Common Assessment Consortia
Massachusetts is a member of two multi-state consortia that submitted proposals for RTTT funding to support the development of common assessments that are aligned with the Common Core Standards. The state will continue to administer the MCAS (an assessment that is highly regarded as one of the best in the nation) to measure student success, and students will be required to pass the MCAS to graduate from high school. Our participation in these consortia will allow us to guide national discussions and research about the development of the next generation of assessments, strengthen our current assessment program, and benefit from sharing expertise and resources across states.
- The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers consortium will develop rigorous assessments to better measure and document students' college and career readiness.
- The State Consortium on Board Examination Systems consortium will develop assessment systems that will utilize internationally benchmarked examination systems to provide students with multiple pathways to college and career success.
Information provided by the Executive Office of Education. Created: August 3, 2010