DESE Update September 20th, 2019

1. Board to Meet:

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 24 at Taconic High School in Pittsfield. The agenda includes a Pittsfield educator diversity panel; a presentation by the Berkshire County Education Task Force; a discussion of Commissioner Riley’s goals for 2019-2020 school year; a discussion of 2019 student, school, and district MCAS and accountability results; a vote to solicit public comment on a proposed amendment to Competency Determination regulations, and an overview of the FY20 budget and the FY21 budget timeline.

The Department plans to stream the meeting online at

Picture of the Week:
September 19 was STEM Day at Fenway Park. With funding from CITGO, the Red Sox donated 500 tickets that DESE distributed to award-winning STEM teachers around the state and STEM-focused schools in Boston. These students from Hopkinton High School were among the group who attended with Douglas Scott, a 2019 finalist for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. (Photo courtesy of Mr. Scott)
Three high school girls stand in the Red Sox Kids Concourse holding a rally towell that says CITGO STEM Talent Pipeline and holding a paper with what looks like a STEM-related diagram. All three are smiling.
3. MCAS and Accountability Results to Be Released:
In preparation for the release of official MCAS and accountability results on September 24, DESE has made the following data available to districts in the Security Portal:
  • official embargoed MCAS student rosters and .csv data files (in DropBox Central),
  • official embargoed MCAS and MCAS-Alt student results (in Edwin Analytics), and
  • official embargoed accountability data for districts and schools.
Commissioner Riley and DESE staff will hold an embargoed web conference for reporters at 3:00 p.m. Monday, September 23. The embargo will lift at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, September 24. Official district and school MCAS and MCAS-Alt results and accountability results will be posted on DESE’s School and District Profiles website by approximately 9:00 a.m.
By the end of the day September 30, electronic MCAS parent/guardian reports will be available to districts in PearsonAccess Next, and printed parent/guardian reports will be delivered via UPS to district offices.
4. SIMS Early Childhood Experiences Data Element:

The Department’s Early Learning Team, in collaboration with the staff from the Education Data Services team, is providing technical assistance on the state’s Early Childhood Experiences data element (DOE050), which was added to the Student Information Management System (SIMS) in the 2018-19 school year. A webinar on the data element, along with technical assistance on how to collect the information needed to report in SIMS, will be offered on September 23 and 25 for early childhood coordinators, elementary principals and data administrators responsible for SIMS data collection.

Additionally, the Early Learning team will host office hours during the week of September 30 for districts who want to speak with staff individually about data collection efforts related to this element. Anyone interested in the webinar and/or office hours is asked to please register online.

5. Innovation Schools Annual Evaluation Now Overdue:

As mentioned in June, the Innovation Schools Statute requires superintendents in districts with innovation schools and/or academies to evaluate innovation schools at least annually. These annual evaluations must be submitted to the local School Committee as well as to DESE by August 1, 2019. To complete this submission, DESE requests that superintendents use the updated innovation schools annual evaluation template (download).

Please note that districts must submit an evaluation for each innovation school or academy in operation during the 2018-2019 school year. Districts that have missed the original deadline are asked to submit their evaluation(s) to Brenton Stewart via email by October 18. Please note that if innovation status has ended for any schools or academies in your district, the district should still complete all the applicable sections of the annual evaluation. Finally, include the date innovation status ended as well as any other relevant updates within the final section of the evaluation template.

For a list of districts that implement(ed) innovation schools or academies at any point in time over the past three school years, please see DESE’s School Redesign webpage. Submitting the annual evaluations is an essential step to fulfilling DESE’s obligation to submit an annual legislative report on innovation schools and programs.

6. Space Still Available for EWIS and VOCAL Training Opportunities:

The Department has limited space available in two of its data usage workshops. The workshops are entitled “Maximizing EWIS and VOCAL (Views of Climate and Learning) data in a Cycle of Inquiry“, and each session will cover the basics of the Early Warning Indicator System (EWIS) as well as an introduction to VOCAL school climate data. The following workshops have openings:

  • Holyoke Community College: September 24
  • Devens Commons Center: October 3

More information and registration is available online. Anyone with questions can email

7. MTEL Vouchers:

The Department is pleased to announce a request for responses (RFR) for organizations to apply for MTEL vouchers to support individual teacher candidates. Eligible organizations include sponsoring organizations with educator preparation programs, districts, collaboratives, approved special education schools, and community colleges. The application is posted online. Bids are due by noon on October 7.

8. Survey on Professional Development:

The Department is seeking to better understand the professional development decision-making process in districts across the state. To that end, DESE invites superintendents (or their designee) to complete the District Professional Development Survey by Friday, October 11. Districts’ perspective will help shape the approach and resources that DESE pursues to better support educator growth. This 5-10 minute survey should be completed by a district representative who is involved in decision-making related to professional development providers. For additional information, please email Meagan Comb

9. Changes in Reporting for Postsecondary Students in Chapter 74 Programs:

Every fall, DESE collects a Chapter 74 Vocational Technical Education Postsecondary and Postgraduate Report from districts and schools that includes the number of postsecondary and postgraduate students participating in Chapter 74 programs in secondary schools. In past years, the data collection protocol has not kept pace with other data collection changes that have streamlined processes and allowed for an increase in accountability and an understanding of student outcomes. This fall, we have initiated changes that include identifying individual student participation in these programs. Full instructions are available at Districts should complete the reporting by November 30.

The Office for College, Career, and Technical Education aims to work closely with districts and schools while implementing these changes. Anyone with feedback, requests or concerns regarding changes this year, is invited to email Jennifer Appleyard.

10. Charter School Applications:

The Department received proposals this summer from four groups seeking to open new charter schools in Lynn, Milford, and Westfield. The reviews of the prospectuses have been completed, and Commissioner Riley has not invited any of the groups to submit a final application this fall.  The commissioner’s determination is based upon a review of each prospectus against the application criteria or, in the case of one resubmission, the requirements necessary for proven provider status.

In addition to the prospectuses, DESE received a letter of intent from an applicant group seeking to establish a Horace Mann II charter school in Warwick in Western Massachusetts, and it is possible that DESE will receive an application from that group later this fall. Horace Mann II applications can be submitted at any time and seek to convert an existing district school into a Horace Mann charter school with school committee approval.

The Department continues to review three expansion requests from existing charter schools: Boston Day and Evening Academy Charter School (a Horace Mann charter school), Pioneer Charter School of Science II in Saugus, and Veritas Preparatory Charter School in Springfield (both of which are Commonwealth charter schools). Commissioner Riley will determine whether to recommend these requests to the Board of Elementary and Secondary for approval later this year.

11. Changes to ELA MCAS Test Design:

As part of DESE’s efforts to reduce testing time for students, the test designs for the 2020 English Language Arts MCAS tests in grades 3–8 and 10 have changed.  Changes include:

  • the elimination of one operational essay in each grade;
  • the addition of multiple choice items, including both language and reading items;
  • a small adjustment to reporting category percentages; and
  • a small reduction in the total number of points on the grades 6–8 and 10 tests.

In addition to helping reduce testing time, these changes are also intended to make the student testing experience on the grades 3–8 tests and the grade 10 test more similar.

12. For your info:
  • Rightfully Yours art competition: The National Archives is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s right to vote and is holding the Rightfully Yours art competition to invite students in grades 4-6 to think about the path to universal suffrage, consider how women’s suffragists failed and succeeded, and create a piece of visual art that answers the question “What does the 100th anniversary of women winning the right to vote mean to you and your community?” Entries are due November 5.
  • Prudential Spirit of Community Awards: The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards honor students in grades 5-12 for their volunteer work. The application is available online at and and is due November 5.