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Letter from Fellows to Massachusetts Department of Education on Final ESSA Plan

April 11, 2017

Dr. Mitchell Chester

Commissioner

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

75 Pleasant Street

Malden, MA 02148Malden, MA  

 

Dear Commissioner Chester:

We are writing to thank you and your staff, especially Rob Curtin, Assistant Commissioner of Data and Accountability, for taking the time to meet with us and hear our ideas regarding your recently completed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan.  As classroom teachers from public schools in Massachusetts, we appreciate the great work that DESE has done in the past year on our state accountability system in preparation for the implementation of ESSA.

We commend the department’s decision to make reporting more transparent and to include measures of a well-rounded curriculum, school climate, financial resources, and postsecondary readiness on the school report card. As educators who are truly committed to our students, we have the following recommendations moving forward as you implement the ESSA plan. 

1.       Make data accessible to all stakeholders

The DESE Office of Data and Accountability gathers an immense amount of data. DESE has made commitments to ensuring that the data is presented in a way that can be useful to community stakeholders through a revised report card.  We hope that DESE will prioritize sharing this data with stakeholders in an accessible and transparent format and engage educators and parents in developing the report formats. 

2.   Add measures of student discipline and teacher retention

The new report card has a wider variety of data than has traditionally been reported. We would encourage the state to add measures of student discipline data and teacher retention. This is data that already exists, and should be made more accessible to community stakeholders.  If schools focus on these measures we believe it will ultimately translate into keeping more students in school and ultimately more robust student achievement. 

3.   Use non-academic measures as part of the accountability system

The state has continued to uphold high standards of academic achievement for all students. Nonetheless, focusing on test data alone does not incentivize resource allocation in a way that addresses the underlying causes of the achievement gap among our most vulnerable and disadvantaged students. As we collect more data on these nonacademic, social emotional learning measures such as school climate surveys, we ask that you use your position to consider ways in which these measures can be used in meaningful ways as part of the accountability system.

 

We look forward to working with you as the implementation of ESSA moves forward in our state.

 

Sincerely, 

Krista Fincke of Excel Academy Charter School in Chelsea

Lindsey Horowitz of Eugene Wright Science and Technology Academy in Chelsea

David Jones of Boston Day and Evening Academy in Boston

Telia Kapteyn of Brooke Charter School in Roslindale 

Nathan Lewallen of Mary Lyon K-8 in Boston

Anne-Mary Riello of Allendale Elementary School in Pittsfield

Will Schwartz of Revere High School in Revere

Michael Titus of Collins Middle School in Salem