Novick Reports: September 27 meeting of the Board of Education

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met in Malden. This meeting followed Monday night's release of the 2016 state testing results and accountability levels, followed by the Monday night meeting on those results.

The meeting opened, as usual, with comments from Chair Sagan, Commissioner Chester, Secretary Peyser, and the public. Sagan rarely speaks at any length; he read a prepared statement regarding his donation to the charter cap lift ballot campaign. He commented that he was "a dedicated supporter of all our public schools," but that none of the Board members "is called on to renounce our position as a private citizen." His statement was praised by Peyser. Chester gave updates on several issues--766 schools, ACT scores, work in Southbridge and Holyoke--and further commented that he felt that press coverage of his visit to Brockton hadn't covered all that had happened there.
Public comments dealt with arts education, Minuteman Vo-Tech's relationship with Belmont, and the engagement of parents in ESSA planning.

The Board re-elected James Morton as vice-chair, and Chair Sagan reappointed the three subcommittees.

The test score and district accountability section focused on a presentation from the Burke school in Boston. There was, however, a discussion afterwards on accountability levels, largely focusing on Boston Latin's drop to a Level 2 school due to non-participation. Latin was hardly alone. It's worth noting that DESE took the higher participation rate of the 2015-16 testing and the aggregate of 2015-16 and 2014-15 for subgroups, schools, and districts, making declarations of changes only on the basis of the higher rate. Sagan commented that he saw no reason that the Board would overrule the Department on this measure. Ms. McKenna expressed concern that the Board had not spent nearly as much time on the Dever school last night as on the Burke school today, 'though the Dever is in state receivership and "we are their school committee."

The Board also received a report about steps forward under the Every Student Succeeds Act. The department stressed that it maintains the annual assessment requirements, requires the 95% participation that came in with NCLB, requires a system of "annual meaningful differentiation" for all public schools," and requires states to establish "ambitious state-designed long term goals" and measures of interim progress for all students and subgroups. They also were clear that "substantial weight" is required on what we might think of as the standard measures, "much greater weight" than school quality or student success measures. Right now, the department is working off the stakeholder groups they held earlier this year to put together some preliminary (my word) plans to then take back out to the public. This round will include public sessions, something which was met with enthusiasm from the Board. If you're interested, please do take a look at this section, as I've included where they're starting from, what they're looking for, and where they're going next. MASC will update you as we hear more of this.

There was a brief conversation about teacher evaluation, specifically around dropping the impact on student learning measure, which has been met with concern (and stronger) from superintendents, teachers, and others. The department will be coming back to the Board with proposed changes in regulation at their next meeting, which the Board would vote out to public comment.

There was an update on the new MCAS, specifically on the competency requirement (or what's required for graduation). At this point, the proposal is to extend the current MCAS to the class of 2020 (currently, it goes to the class of 2019). There was a longer discussion about what sorts of considerations should be included in the changeover of the high school test (including content and grades).

There was an update on the curriculum framework review, specifically on ELA and math, with some discussion around not only the standards being considered, but also the accompanying material.

Finally, there was a budget update, which included the news that the department has a request for funding for the new assessment that they hope to see go through as part of the upcoming settling of the FY16 budget. September's numbers will determine if there are further cuts necessary this year; FY17 is predicated on 4% growth over last year. They're also expecting that federal grants for next year will, in aggregate, be flat.