Superintendent Advisory Council Meeting Minutes


September 27, 2017

Massachusetts International Academy

Superintendent Representatives– Bill Lupini, Andre Ravenelle (abs), Mary Bourque, Marty O’Shea , Judy Evans, Joseph Maruszczak (abs), John Doherty (abs), Peter Schafer, Julie Hackett, Carol Jacobs (abs) , John Lavoie, Mary Czajkowski (abs), Eric Conti, Barbara Malkas, Brad Jackson
Collaborative Representative– Colleen Dolan, EDCO Executive Director   (abs)
Meeting Co-chairs– Maureen LaCroix, DESE and Tom Scott, Executive Director, M.A.S.S
DESE Staff– Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfon, Helene Bettencourt, Judy Klimkiewicz, Rachelle Engler Bennett, Heather Peske, Rob Curtin, Bill Lee, Anne Gilligan, Jackie Reis


Members provided introductions. Maureen welcomed folks to the meeting and offered some words of reflection about the purpose of the meeting which is to provide open dialogue between superintendents and the Commissioner. She remembered Commissioner Chester and acknowledged his significant contribution to the work. She welcomed Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson.

Remarks Acting Commissioner

Jeff expressed his appreciation to the members for their support during this difficult time. He informed the group that the Board of Education has selected the Executive Search Firm of Korn Ferry to conduct the search. There will be a sub-committee from the Board who will screen resumes. The Board will seek input from the field. Paul Sagan, the Board Chair will oversee the process. He expects that the job will be posted in about one month. They would like to have the Commissioner selected by January but this timeline could be optimistic. The final appointment rests with Secretary James Peyser following a 2/3 majority vote by the Board.

Jeff informed the members that the new Board members include James Morton, CEO of the Boston YMCA, Amanda Fernandez who is Vice President of Latino Community Partnerships at Teach for America, and Hannah Trimrachi the student representative from Marblehead. Marty West from Harvard Graduate School of Education was re-appointed to the Board.

Jeff is not a candidate and is devoting his full attention to serving as Acting Commissioner.

The ESSA Plan has been approved. They are also working on adding the new assessment to the accountability system. He has begun the process of talking about the FY 19 Budget. They are continuing to work on the economically disadvantaged issue. He is concerned about the financial impact of a potential decrease in the sales tax. We are in a challenging place where trust in government is not high. We have to make the case that we have a great education system.

SAC Notes September 2, 2017 (2)

Members raised the question of the anticipated influx of students from Puerto Rico given the recent storms. Members thanked Jeff for the willingness to serve in his current role.

Tom asked the Acting Commissioner to speak about his interest in computer science. He responded by distinguishing this from digital literacy. They are looking at computer science as a career pathway. He acknowledged the current demand in the labor market for these skills. He acknowledged that this is a real “hands on” enterprise. Many folks in the business world have reached out to DESE. He wants to identify the barriers that exist and how DESE can be supportive in advancing this work.

2017 Accountability Reporting- Rob Curtin and Bob Lee ( a copy or their power point is attached)

The 2017 reporting does not constitute “business as usual”. The presentation focused on the reporting process for 2017. We have a two part system; one for high schools that will have an accountability rating and one for non-high schools which will have an accountability “pause” or reset. Schools that either took the next generation MCAS and did not meet their participation rate or had a low graduation rate will be placed in level three. Schools who are in levels four or five and who did not make progress will remain in that designation. The vast majority of the districts will not have an accountability rating. We are basically starting over for grades 3-8 with the new assessment.

There will be no change in the reporting system for those districts who administered the MCAS legacy assessment.


High school accountability will remain unchanged. The results from 2017 will be used in the growth calculation but may not negatively impact the 2018 results. The 2017 results will serve as the baseline for the new accountability system. They will include a participation requirement but as a multi-year variable. In 2018 the participation factor will include both 2017 and 2018 participation rates. They are still developing the details for this system pending the receipt of the 2017 data. They will run simulations based on the guidance from the Federal Government.

Jeff raised the issue of the long term plan. He has made it clear to Federal Office of Education that they need to engage the State Board and the Federal Government around the targets and the number of levels. They are operating on two planes; the reporting for the 2017 assessment and the plan for the new reporting system in 2018.

Rob reviewed the reporting calendar. He informed the members that this is a very ambitious timeline. Official embargoed MCAS data will be available in the security portal drop boxes on October 9th. The public release will take place on October 18th and there will be two conference calls with superintendents on October 17th. Rob will conference with the Urban Superintendents and Jeff conference with the remainder of the field.

SAC Notes September 2, 2017 (3)

The question was raised about assigning the district level based on the lowest performing school. They are now considering running the district data as one big school and thinking about the district “holistically”. They realize that the standard metric may not fit all situations. The group discussed the impact of the alternative school populations on the district data. Rob clarified that the ESSA Plan has always been about the 2018 results. Members voiced appreciation for this new approach. He reminded the group that DESE conducted a survey around this issue.

Members asked about the status of schools who are 7-12 and those schools who go through a grade re-configuration. If the school took the next generation MCAS then they will get a “re-set”.   They are hoping to eliminate the grade spans. This should help with any re-configuration.

Updates on the Next Generation MCAS- Bob Lee

They have tried to combine the best elements of the PARCC with the MCAS. The new standards are ambitious and directed as assessing that students are college ready. The 2017 participation rates reflect an increase. Bob acknowledged the efforts of the field to increase this participation.

In 2017 60% of all students in grades 3-8 took the test on the computer. A very small number of students experienced technology failures. This was much better than in other states. They want to be sure that the paper form of the test could be equated with the computer form. In PARCC there were no adjustments for mode. This year they will make a mode adjustment across the state to be fair to those students who had some difficulty with the keyboards. This makes the issue of keyboarding instruction as a relevant consideration for the future.

They engaged 120 experienced educators who worked on standard setting this summer. This is what gives meaning to the test. Standard setting takes place anytime there is a new test. In setting the standards they looked at the degree to which the student would be prepared for the next grade. These are high standards and could be reflected in initial lower performance scores. Jeff reminded the group that we have to decide if we want to remain where we are or strive to meet higher standards. We have the hold harmless and the deferral in the accountability status in 2017 to provide the time to close the gap which may be reflected in the 2018 scores.

Tom raised the issue of communication about these high standards and potential lower scores with the parents. The members advocated to have this communication regarding “raising the bar” issued from the Acting Commissioner. Members raised the concern that they could appear “defensive” when reporting these scores. Members also raised the issue that the purpose of the test has also been narrowed with an emphasis on the extent to which the student is prepared for the next school year. This could be especially of concern for those students who fall into the “partially meets” category.

Jeff reminded the members that there is a range of performance within each of the levels. He also acknowledged that we are very focused on the levels. Bob emphasized that the emphasis is on meeting

SAC Notes September 2, 2017 (4)

expectations. The standard setting group endeavored to reach consistency in the expectations across the performance categories and across the content areas. He compared the anticipated State 2017results with the NAEP results which still place Massachusetts as number one but only half of the students actually complete college. He expects that the majority of the grade eight students will reflect a lower performance score when compared with the 2016 scores. Members acknowledged that the districts will still be compared with like districts. Districts can also use student growth percentiles to present the results.

Members raised the question that we are comparing a new standard setting process with a mature test. We do not know the grade level rate of progress nor do we know the long term impact on the competency determination. Jeff’s recommendation to the Board for the Class of 2020 will be that the Board set the competency determination at a level that is comparable to the current determination. The Board will also determine the time interval that students will have to achieve a status of meeting expectations for around the new competency determination.

The goal of the DESE assessment committee was to place the focus on instructional practice rather than on student failure. Members discussed the wording around expectations for the next generation descriptors. Members raised the issue of communicating the commitment to raise student expectations to leverage the adoption of the Foundation Review Commission recommendations.

Bob explained that the scale now has 500 as the mid-point. This is similar to the SAT scale to encourage students to begin thinking about college readiness. Members addressed that this message needs to begin in the elementary grades. Jeff reminded the members that this is still a tenth grade test.

This test gives us the opportunity to look at students across multiple years. We will experience an implementation dip. This test reflects the belief that all students can learn. Members raised the possibility of multiple age/grade configurations. Jeff commented that this would move us to the competency based model.

It will be important for members to raise the potential issue of funding for support services given the wording in the partially meeting expectations and not meeting expectations achievement levels.


Tom raised the issue of the timing of the conference call webinars on the October 17th with the public release of the information on October 18th. Rob said that they wanted to have the webinar when the districts have their data. They anticipate that this data will be available to them on October 13th. DESE will re-think the time frame. Jeff is reluctant to push back on the public release date as we are already late in releasing this data.

Foster Child Transportation- Helene Bettencourt and Jeff Wulfson

This is a new ESSA requirement that concerns transporting children in foster care back to their home district. DESE has informed the legislators that this is currently an unfunded mandate although there may be some federal funds available in the future. Jeff feels that members should be at the table for

SAC Notes September 2, 2017 (5)

these discussions. He urged members to “save their receipts” in anticipation of future reimbursement. Members raised the issue of collaboration with DCF and asked when these guidelines will be released.


SBIRT Verbal Screening Tool- Anne Gilligan

The Governor’s legislation which was signed in March of 2016 included a requirement that all schools would complete a verbal screen to identify those students who are at risk for substance abuse problems. What DESE needs to know is who has not implemented this screening. DESE understands that the implementation is burdensome for some districts. Anne asked if districts have other processes in place that could fulfill this requirement.

The question for the members was if the $200,000 grant, awarded to the Department of Public Health (DPH), will be sufficient to implement this requirement. The issue for some of the districts is the perception that the tool is of limited value. They also voiced concern around the costs associated with the training and the issue of parental notification. Many districts are deferring the implementation. Some districts have integrated it within the nursing duties. DESE will afford districts some flexibility. Members recommended that we provide students with opportunities for conversation about these issues.

Tom asked what DESE legal is doing about this issue. Mike Long sent out an advisory in the summer. He acknowledged that the issue is subject to appropriation and DPH has the money. He advocated that we need an advisory from DESE. Anne distributed a report from the Franklin Regional Council of Governments outlining some best practices. Jeff reported that DESE will provide the guidance.

It was the consensus of the group that members want to embrace best practice to address this serious problem.

Leading the Nation Campaign- Helene Bettencourt

This is a statewide platform for Massachusetts Public Schools to showcase and celebrate student’s academic success. The campaign will include an event at the State House, a Leading the Nation Week, Regional Gatherings and Media Campaigns. DESE has provided a series of suggested school activities and community events. Helene will send out information from the tool kit to Tom Scott. Members recommended that we talk about success in very broad terms and not just limited to test scores. The members talked about the importance of community partners. Helene alerted the members about the website which is

Resources for Standards Implementation- Heather Peske ( a copy of these resources is attached)

She informed the members that the educator evaluation rubrics are currently under review and will include some embedding of SEI and aligning the rubrics with the new standards. Heather is very interested in presenting these resources at Roundtable meetings.

The meeting adjourned at 12:25 PM                 Next Meeting November 6, 2017

Christine L. McGrath, M.A.S.S

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