Public Policy Updates

MASC reports on Massachusetts public schools, education news, school committee issues and updates from the Department of Education.

This information has been compiled by MASC Field Director Tracy Novick.

Public Policy Updates: February Board of Education

The February meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education took place on Tuesday, February 27, 2018. In his opening remarks, Acting Commissioner Wulfson acknowledged the hard work of districts on two recent releases of good news for the Commonwealth. First, Massachusetts led the nation in the percent of the graduating class to score three or higher on Advanced Placement exams; Wulfson noted that this measurement not only rewarded high scores, but rewarded percentage of students participating and achieving them. Wulfson likewise noted the graduation data released earlier this week, marking the eleventh consecutive year in which Massachusetts increased the graduation rate; more was said on this topic later in the meeting. He also noted the first year of collected restraint data, cautioning that the first year of data, while important, was little to from which to draw conclusions.

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Public Policy Updates: January Meetings of the Board of Education

January brings the annual joint meeting of the K-12 Board of Education with the Board of Higher Education, which was followed by a regular meeting of the K-12 Board. This year, the meeting was held on Tuesday, January 23 at Bridgewater State University, the largest state producer of teachers in the Commonwealth. The agenda is posted online here

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Public Policy Updates: December 2017 Board of Education

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met for their regular meeting on December 19, 2017. You can find the agenda here
The meeting opened with comments from Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson. He reported that, pursuant to authority delegated to the Commissioner by the Board, he had renewed the charters for Four Rivers Charter, Boston Collegiate Charter, Foxborough Regional Charter, and Edward M. Kennedy Academy for Health Careers (Horace Mann) Charter. He reported that Massachusetts has now received over 2000 students from Puerto Rico from across the state. Please note that at last week's MASBO bimonthly, Associate Commissioner Jay Sullivan said that it was the intent of the administration to include funding for such students for this fiscal year in a supplemental budget filed at the same time as the FY19 budget. The Department has issued guidance on social-emotional learning. With mode choices now in for next spring's MCAS, which grades 4, 5, 7, and 8 are all required to take online, Wulfson said he was "very pleased by efforts of school committees and district staff" in making the technology available. Regarding the new early college effort, there have been 33 early college and 10 innovation pathways submitted to the Department at this time.

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Public Policy Updates: November Board of Education

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met on Tuesday, November 28. The agenda is posted here. 

The meeting opened with updates from Acting Commissioner Wulfson, who spoke of the recently signed LOOK bill on bilingual education. He commented that it was "designed to provide additional flexibility for English language learners," and he told the Board that they would receive a complete update at their December meeting. He also spoke of the results of the first school climate survey, which students took after completing the MCAS this past year. He said it was a "first attempt to quantify some qualitative measures." He noted that the influx of students coming from Puerto Rico not only has continues, but appears to have picked up, with the state having passed 1400 new students last week; the state continues to monitor that and is discussing what is to be done with and for districts both this year and next. Finally, he warmly praised East Boston's McKay School, which he recently visited and was among the schools positively profiled in a recent Boston Globe article.

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Public Policy Updates: October Board of Education

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met in Malden on October 23 and 24. The agenda of the meetings is here.


Monday evening's meeting focused on the results of last spring's MCAS test and the resulting school and district accountability levels. The presentation given on the MCAS results can be found here. Student achievement in the legacy high school MCAS remains similar to prior years, with 91% of students in ELA, 79% in mathmatics, and 74% in science achieving a score of proficient or above. Most of the discussion, however, focused on the new test taken by the younger students. Acting Commissioner Wulfson opened by commenting that the standards of the test in grades 3-8 were more rigorous than in previous years, and he and others reiterated that it was a single datapoint, which they regard as a good baseline. He warned of being "wary of jumping to too many conclusions" based on these test results. Much of the discussion focused on the gaps between different populations, particularly the results among ELL students and low income students. There is additional information for families and for educators on the Department's website. 

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