Superintent’s Advisory Council

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Minutes

November 6, 2017

Massachusetts International Academy

Superintendent Representatives– Bill Lupini (abs), Andre Ravenelle, Mary Bourque, Marty O’Shea (abs) , Judy Evans, Joseph Maruszczak, John Doherty, Peter Schafer, Julie Hackett, Carol Jacobs , John Lavoie, Eric Conti (abs), Barbara Malkas, Brad Jackson (abs) and Mary Czajkowski (abs)
Collaborative Representative– Colleen Dolan, EDCO Executive Director

TECCA Board President– Superintendent Peter Sanchioni

Meeting Co-chairs– Maureen LaCroix, DESE and Tom Scott, Executive Director, M.A.S.S
DESE Staff– Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Cliff Chuang, Judy Klimkiewicz, Keith Westrich, Ken Klau, Michol Stapel

Introduction

Maureen called the meeting to order at 9:40 AM and the members provided introductions.

Commissioner’s Update-   Jeff Wulfson

Jeff opened his remarks by informing the members about the search committee for the next Commissioner. The Board Chair continues to advocate for an appointment by January 2018 but this may be an overly ambitious timeline.

He also expressed his gratitude to the members for their support around the release of the MCAS 2.0. He introduced the topic of the re-design of a new accountability system. We are required to have this system through the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) but he is unsure how the metric can best work. The elements could be achievement test scores or growth scores. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is proceeding with this work but they are acknowledging that the new Commissioner may have a different perspective. He reminded the members that the ESSA plan has been approved but there is a process for filing amendments related to the achievement percentages in the future.

DESE will forego the PISA administration during the 2018-2019 school year due to the costs associated with the test administration and in recognition of the time and effort by DESE and districts on the “roll out” of the MCAS 2.0. He acknowledged that the Department is closely monitoring the enrollment of students from Puerto Rico and the accounting for these students within future Chapter 70 funds. He also reported that DESE will approach the Board in November with the initial draft of the Social Science Frameworks.

He informed the group about an upcoming announcement from the Governor about the opioid crisis. He informed the group that Recovery High Schools will now fall under the authority of DESE. He also discussed the State revenue picture and some pending changes in the override amendments.

DESE has released the climate survey and a State level summary will be developed. He is unsure about the validity of the data at this point. It is challenging to measure some of the content given the nature of

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the data. He is seeking member feedback relative to the usefulness of this data which in part is mandated by legislature in concert with the Anti-bullying Law.

He closed his remarks by commenting on the issue of teacher equity and the impact on student achievement. The qualifications of the teacher have a direct impact. The concern is that many low income students are not being taught by highly qualified teachers.

Discussion

Members voiced some concern about securing well qualified special education teachers. We need to work with higher education around this issue. The members acknowledged the positive presence of Jeff at the Joint Conference.

Chapter 74 Exploratory Program- Cliff Chuang

Cliff acknowledged that there had been a Task Force charged with studying the concept of Exploratory Programs. If you have five or more programs in the home district then the student would be required to explore programs in their home district rather than in another regional vocational technical school. This was a regulatory change in 2015.

Members informed Cliff that students often go to other regional vocational schools due to a waiting list in their own regional school. He raised the issue of replacing the non-resident regulation with a school choice model with a cost yet to be determined. At present there is an ongoing tension around the enrollment of students from non-member districts. The current regulatory language may not be the best model as it forces grade nine students to make certain choices without having the benefit of the exploratory experience. The other challenge is the unanticipated tuition costs. Members asked that if there is a change in the regulations, can it include the agricultural schools as there are currently certain inequities around tuition assessment.

If the model shifts to a school choice option there has to be some consideration given to transportation which is currently not included in the School Choice Program. They are also looking at the current vocational enrollment process. The members acknowledged that there are only a few schools that will be directly affected by any changes in these regulations. DESE is conducting a study about the number of seats that are available in the vocational schools in relation to the demand for these seats.

Massachusetts High Quality College and Career Pathways- Cliff Chuang and Keith Westrich

Cliff informed the members about two new pathways. Keith informed the members that there is a demand to expand these pathways. The Council of Chief State School Officers took this on and Massachusetts received both a planning and an implementation grant. The two new pathways are Innovation and Early College Pathways. There are five organizing principles and six components. They presently have 10 applications for Innovation and 36 applications for Early College Pathways.

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The Department has about 1.5 million dollars to fund this pilot. This is well supported by the Workforce Skills Task Force. Keith believes that this is a strong initiative with all of the requisite components.

Virtual Schools- Cliff Chuang, Ken Klau and Peter Sanchioni

Cliff reported that we currently have two virtual schools authorized and overseen by the State with separate laws, a separate structure and with an annual tuition of $6625.00. The Digital Advisory Council is reviewing the tuition structure and this new structure will be presented to the Board of Education. TECCA is the second and the larger of the two schools. The initial rate was set without the benefit of having a real sense of the potential operating costs. The rate was set in 2012 and was not adjusted for inflation.

The two virtual schools have continued to advocate for a tuition increase. The Digital Advisory Council wanted some assurance that the funds would directly benefit the students especially those who are low-income or have been challenged by some personal crisis. These students represent a high percentage of students on 504 and IEP plans. The faculty salary structure is significantly lower than in the “brick and mortar schools”.

They are proposing a new rate of $8190.00 to account for the individual needs of these students and for inflation. Peter informed the group that TECCA has been in existence for the past four years and has been most helpful to these students. He believes that this population will reach over 2,000 students in FY19. The request for funds is to provide a high quality experience for these students. Some of the students are olympic caliber athletes, others have medical needs while others are disengaged from the public schools and are at risk for dropping out of school. Any student in the State can choose to enroll in these schools.

The tuition increase would support lower class sizes, which averages around 50 students per core class, employ a Response to Intervention (RTI) model and tutorial support services as well as ESL support. The additional revenue is all student-centered and would be directed at raising student achievement. All management contracts must be approved by the Department. If the Board acts on this request in December then the new rate would be in effect for FY19. At present 330 cities and town enroll students in these programs and the greatest impact will be on Boston, Springfield and Worcester. The local school committee has the statutory right to restrict enrollment to 1% of their total school population.

Discussion

Massachusetts enrolls a much smaller percentage of students than many other states. Members inquired about the basis for the class size metric. The research of the class size is provided by Connections which is a national group. Members asked about the outreach for those students who are not attending the virtual school. There is a learning coach who monitors the log in time on a weekly basis and there is another person who will conduct home visits if necessary.

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Initially there was some concern around the quality of the services. The members commended TECCA for their work. The Board of TECCA is comprised of local educators and a parent. They researched models nationally and developed this model which is much more effective. Tom Scott offered that this model in many cases saves the district money.

The request for an increase in funds was initiated by both schools one of which is on probation and is not experiencing a growth in enrollment. If they were not to receive a tuition increase then we could be “sealing the fate” of this school. DESE will conduct another site visit to this school. DESE is also tracking the referral of certain students who may really require a private school placement.

There will be greater detail in the Board memo for their November meeting. Last year TECCA graduated about 100 students.

Proposed Changes in the Timeline for Changes in the Competency Determination- Michol Stapel

Note- the slides from her presentation are attached to these minutes to provide a complete picture of the many technical aspects of this Competency Determination process.

She is looking at how best to transition to the new competency determination in ELA and math. They will use some “try out” questions leading to the new determination in 2019. The past history included couple of years of test administration prior to setting the competency determination. There are multiple pathways to achieve the competency determination and there will be an appeal process. The actual standards will not be set until the summer of 2019.

Michol presented an Equipercentile Linking Model reflecting the cut scores for the former test and the model for the new score distribution based upon the MCAS 2.0 more rigorous assessment. Members requested that this graph (see slide 6) be prominently included in any press release for public communication. Jeff reminded the members that student performance did not decline rather the bar has been significantly raised. The intent is that for the first two graduating classes (2021 and 2022) there will be no significant change but for the class of 2023 and beyond, the bar will be raised. The Board will have to determine the incremental increase in this determination.

Members asked about the status of the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship. This is currently under discussion. Jeff is requesting that MASS support this plan as presented. Members voiced support for the interim plan.

DESE has more flexibility on the administration of the science assessment as this is not included in the ESSA plan. They are working on developing items and assembling practice tests. Every high school will be selected for either the math or ELA field test but they are welcome to do both and to include all of the grade ten students. The test designs for ELA and math will soon be released. DESE will allow the district to select the classroom for the grade ten pilot. The test items will represent an additional test session. Districts will need to plan for this additional test for grade 10 students. DESE intends to test

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25% of the current grade 10 population. DESE will entertain hardship requests for schools to be excused from participation in the pilot but will encourage all districts to participate.

Members raised the question about what colleges are really looking for in high school graduates. Jeff used the example of Amazon which is currently revising the retail industry and those types of positions. The reality is that the workplace demands are changing and other states are beginning to catch up with MA. The test represents a recalibration of the existing test and a recognition that some students were graduating without basic skills. We have now raised student achievement to the basic skill level, now we have to go beyond that level. Members asked if they should be administering the Accuplacer Test. Jeff hopes that the MCAS 2.0 will actually replace the Accuplacer Test.

Higher education is looking at the percentage of students who complete their degree. Members hope that higher education will be held to the same standard. Jeff reported that there has been an increase in the number of partnerships between school districts and community colleges. There is also a gap in communication between content departments and the education departments within colleges that presents a challenge.

Members raised the issue that a standards-based test, which is high stakes, should be carefully messaged. The test should not drive instruction, the frameworks should drive instruction. Members referenced a recent presentation by Bill Daggett around the best teaching and assessment practices. We are not taking advantage of the technology resources in the current assessment program. Jeff referenced the recent presentation by the Wakefield Schools at the recent Joint Conference and their use of multiple measures with many dimensions.

We have to step away from the practice of teaching to the test. We need to look at things like collaboration. It is very difficult to take something that is “home grown” and then move it to a state assessment. State assessments have to be uniform and mandated. Jeff defended MCAS 2.0 for what it is intended to measure. Members agreed that it is not the test rather it is the accountability system and the district comparisons. We could take on a growth system but the media will still publish rankings.

Members raised the issue that we have worked hard to infuse SEL into the public dialogue and now the pendulum is swinging back to focus on test scores. They expressed frustration and fear about current practice. There are factions out there who want to return to the past and the basics. They asked the Department to create a uniform communication plan so that we are all on the same page.

The new social science framework may provide a new opportunity for project-based assessment with certain competencies that can be compared across the State. Tom questioned if the Board and the Department are still working within a “box”. We stepped out of the box with the SEL work which has been reaffirming. It would be great to have the discussion about what is currently being expected of public education. This is an important question for the new commissioner.

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Districts have cut back on capstone projects and deeper learning to provide the time for preparing the students for the State test. We also have to account for the mobility factor in the urban districts. We also need to look at Mass Core and multiple pathways. Members also questioned if the Education Proficiency Plan could be a vehicle for demonstrating proficiency.

It was the consensus of the group that this was a very important discussion.

The meeting adjourned at 11:55.

The next meeting will take place January 17, 2018.

Chris McGrath

MASS

Recorder

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