Public Policy Updates: February 2020 Board of Ed

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met Tuesday, February 25, 2020 in Malden. The agenda is here; the video of the meeting is here


The Board opened by taking public testimony on a number of issues: models of excellence in education and the need for greater resources in order to do what is needed to carry out what we intend; City on a Hill Charter regarding the recommended for probation; a parent speaking on her child's education; Boston Public Schools, from a graduate advocating for programs more like Boston Day and Evening, and from Mass Parents United, advocating for greater state intervention in the Boston schools, saying that there is a cycle of failure of Boston students.
The Commissioner noted that he has set up an advisory committee on the graduation competency standards which met for the first time on February 3. They will meet again in March and April and then will share recommendations.
The Commissioner reminded everyone that the U.S. Census is coming up, and "Statistics in Schools" week is March 2-6. There are resources available at the link for schools to use with students to work towards every child being counted in the Census. The Secretary added that the Census is still hiring, as well. 
The Board first took up the passage of emergency regulations to cover the Student Opportunity Act. Because the plans, per state law, are due April 1, the Department does not have the time necessary to do the sequencing of public comment before adoption. Emergency regulations can only be adopted for three months; these regulations are still out for public comment due April 10, after which the Board will then follow the regular adoption process, voting on the new regulations on May 19. It is expected that the first round of filing state plans will be reflected in the comments of the public and in the decisions of the Department. The Board asked how the Department plans to handle districts that cite their fixed costs in lacking the ability to fund new programs; Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston said that the state is emphasizing evidence based programs that really impact students. He said that districts have "our support in their messaging to their school committees and their teachers' associations" around what it is the Department has required. Johnston said we "don't want this to be a layering on effect,"that districts should be considering which practices they need to let go of if they are phasing new things in, "or perhaps this is a chance for districts to deepen existing practice." 
The regulations passed unanimously.

Next, the Board took up the proposed regulation changes to vocational education (note that this does NOT include any changes to the admissions policy), having sent it out for public comment. The regulations passed unanimously.

The Board next took, out of order, the changes to City on a Hill Charter School, which will be merging the New Bedford school back into its Boston school; the Commissioner is also recommending it for probation. There was a single question regarding the enrollment of the merged schools, which will be lower than each of the schools. The proposal passed as proposed.

Finally, the Board took up a proposed change to the state accountability system--but not the associated regulation--to add a third year to the measure of districts and schools. It is recommended that this then be:
20% 2018
30% 2019
50% 2020
While public comment is not required, as the regulations are not changing, public comment will be requested in March and April; the Board will be asked to vote in May. Member Marty West observed that with more years, "there's less riding on the current year." He suggested it would be easy for districts to "get further behind the eight ball." Associate Commissioner Rob Curtin said that this is the first time the state has faced a question of what to do with three years; last time the consideration of multiple years was done, there already were four years of data. He added that this will also be taken up by the Advisory Council on School and District Accountability and Assistance (AAAC) at their next meeting in March, and that the Department will be viewing public comment with interest.
As yet, this has not yet been posted for public comment.

The Board adjourned. The next regular meeting of the Board is Tuesday, March 31.