Novick Reports: November Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting

The Board of Ed opened with comments from the Chair and the Commissioner. There then was a significant public comment period, largely of parents and community members from the Mattahunt School in Boston, which the Boston School Committee voted earlier this month to close next year in response due to the Commissioner's letter of "concern," presaging a declaration of Level 5/state takeover status. Please note that the Mattapan community is largely a community of color, and there were multiple notes of the closings of rounds of schools in communities of color in Boston (as has been true across the country). The district plans to reopen the school as an early childhood center. The testimony was eloquent in the concern over the loss of a neighborhood resource and a space of learning and "home" for children, many of whom have faced significant trauma in their lives already.

The Board voted to send the revised ELA and math standards out for public comment. As yet, how to do that is not posted; I will share once it is.
Likewise, after an extensive discussion, the Board voted to send the revised educator evaluation regulations out of public comment. Note that this would also change the evaluation of administrators, also moving a student impact section into one of the existing standards (standard I for administrators). There is some significant disagreement among the Board members about the evaluation system as it stands, the role of student testing within it, and the relative importance of this. Most are deferring to member Roland Fryer regarding the research on this.

The Board then discussed the two schools "of concern," beginning with Commerce High School in Springfield. The Springfield Empowerment Zone voted to add Commerce in October. As MassLive notes in the above linked article,"Schools in the zone are independently governed," and thus are not under the governing of the School Committee. This vote satisfied the Commissioner, who thus did not recommend that Commerce be declared level 5.

The discussion of the Mattahunt largely centered around the amount of control the Board had at this point, with several comments (including two from the Commissioner) that they didn't want to "second guess the school committee." Two things that were news: the Boston Public Schools administration had internally discussed closing the Mattahunt last summer (it had seemed that this had only been motivated by this latest state action); the proposals put forward by the community to the Boston Public Schools administration were not shared with the Commissioner (to gauge reaction) prior to the vote of the Boston School Committee. The initial discussion concluded with no action taken by the Board; a later comment by member Ed Doherty that he was not satisfied with this led to the Commissioner's agreeing to Chair Sagan's proposal that he would speak with Superintendent Chang of Boston, informing him that the Board had heard impassioned testimony, were pained that the School Committee felt they had no other options than to close the school, and "remain open to what the district has to offer."

The Board briefly discussed their recommendation to the Secretary to inform the Governor's FY18 budget. While they may have discussed the foundation budget review commission in their budget subcommittee, it is mentioned nowhere in their recommendation. Do note, however, their recommendation of a new account for "reform/targeted assistance initiatives...leveraged to improve student learning."

The Board voted to send out for public comment proposed changes in the recovery high school regulations. They approved both amendments to charter schools (adding West Boylston to Parker Essential's region and adding 400 seats to Foxborough Charter).

The Board heard an update on standards setting on MCAS 2.0.
They also had a brief presentation on school discipline data from last year.