Novick Reports: December Board of Education

The Board of Education met in Malden on December 20.

Note that the Board of Ed not only is now being livestreamed during the meeting, but the meetings are beginning to be archived online.

In his opening remarks, Commissioner Chester noted the substantial number of proposed changes to regulations and standards that are currently out for public comment. I've posted all of those here.

Public comment included an early childhood perspective on ESSA, concerns about a proposed dropping of the instructional technology license, and grave concerns from MTA president Barbara Madeloni regarding the MCAS proposals. Madeloni asked the Board to "step back" from the increase of testing, saying "we've found ourselves in the smallest place of what teaching and learning can look like."

There was an update on the receivership of the Holyoke Public Schools, with a particular focus on the Morgan School, which went into state receivership a year ahead of the district. There was a particular emphasis on data updates and secondary pathways by student.

The Board then took public comment on the Mattahunt in Boston, followed by their own discussion of the school and future for its students. Several of the Board members clearly were concerned about what happens to the students being moved (with member Craven mentioning that they likewise had requested updates of what happened with the students of Dorchester Collegiate when it closed, which they have not received). There was also some concern about the community not having the same understanding of how the school was doing as the state did. The Commissioner, commenting that he had heard nothing in the last month to change his views about the school or decisions made, said it was time to move on.

There was a presentation on and a discussion regarding the PISA results which came out earlier this month. While there was some discussion of the stellar results of Massachusetts students, the Commissioner mentioned what he referred to as "very provocative" points on schools in China, Singapore, and Vietnam, which in some cases outperform Massachusetts in math, commenting that they have large class sizes of 40 or 45 students, but a low adult/child ratio, and teachers don't spend as much of their time teaching students.

There was a presentation on the state's plans for ESSA, particularly in light of the public sessions (one pager on that here) that took place in November and December. Additional indicators the public comment sessions indicated as important include school climate, access to the arts, and access to a well-rounded curriculum (one pager has them all AND acknowledges potential problems with them, as well). At this point, DESE plans to present again to the Board on this next month, with the plan before them in March, possibly to be submitted in the earliest window of April 3. All also acknowledge that no one at this point is clear of the plans of the incoming administration at the federal level.

There was an initial discussion about proposed changes to educator licensure. The changes, to my eyes, largely seemed about making it a more straightforward process.

There was an update on MCAS, specifically on the high school competency determination. The biggest change here is the proposed addition of a history assessment, which, as Secretary Peyser noted, is already in regulation and would thus require no change, just an implementation. Deputy Commissioner Wulfson commented that the state is "looking at all of our options: not tying ourselves to a pencil and paper or a computer based options" and was clearly open to inclusion of classwork, projects, and other assessment methods for this assessment.

There was a fairly lengthy presentation and discussion (of which I only have a hard copy) of early college high school ahead of next month's joint meeting with the Board of Higher Ed. Essentially, a substantial amount of groundwork has gone into possibly expanding such programming in Massachusetts.

While they had the recalculation of low income to economically disadvantaged on the agenda, there was no discussion of it.

As mentioned above, the January meeting is a joint meeting with the Board of Higher Ed, to be held at Bridgewater State.