Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Kindergarten Readiness Gap Narrowing

A recent study published in AERA by Sean Reardon of Stanford University, finds a surprising turn in the kindergarten readiness gap.  While academic achievement gaps between White-Black and White-Hispanic students decreased in the 1970s and 1980s, there has remained a persistent plateau in achievement gap throughout the 1990s, until the early 2000s.

Reardon's research reviews kindergarten readiness indicators (e.g. academic achievement, self-control, students' approaches to learning, etc.) from students entering kindergarten in 1998-2010, to earlier cohorts of students (1970s-1998).  While the income achievement gap continues to increase, the kindergarten readiness gap decreased between these racial/ethnic subgroups.  Reardon does not know the cause of the narrowing readiness gap, but believes it is likely due to an increase in the quality and availability of early childhood education, as well as an increase in parent engagement, particularly among low income families.  An earlier study (Magnusson, Waldfoggel & Ruhm, 2004) links preschool attendance with kindergarten readiness factors, including higher math and reading achievement in elementary school, and narrowing achievement gaps between racial/ethnic and income level subgroups.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Preliminary Accountability Data Released

Preliminary Accountability Data:
Yesterday, August 26th, ESE provided all districts and schools with embargoed access to their full preliminary 2016 district and school accountability data via the Accountability Data application in the Security Portal.

 Superintendents, charter school leaders, or other district leaders must be assigned the security role "Accountability (District Level)" to access district data. Principals or other school leaders must be assigned the security role "Accountability (School Level)" to access school data. Each district’s Directory Administrator is responsible for assigning security roles to the appropriate district staff members.

 School and district leaders should review the preliminary accountability data and contact ESE at or 781-338-3550 with any questions or concerns. Preliminary accountability results do not reflect discrepancies reported during last week’s MCAS discrepancy reporting window and are subject to change. The Department is working to address the reported discrepancies for the official accountability release in September. 

One-hour webinars are scheduled to support districts in understanding their preliminary data on the following dates:
Monday, Aug 29th at 3pm
Tuesday, Sept 6th at 12pm
Thursday, Sept 15th at 10am

Registration is required using the following link:

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

EWIS Reports Now Available!

EWIS for 2016-2017 school year are now available in Edwin, as well as the new Postsecondary EWIS report (EW602).

MA DESE will be holding webinars introducing the new Postsecondary EWIS reports on Tuesday, September 13 at 2pm, and Friday, September 16 at 10am.  Use the link below to register for one of these webinars...

Friday, August 19, 2016

Next Generation MCAS Update- Vendor Selected

MA DESE has signed a 5-year contract with Measured Progress in the development and administration of Next Generation MCAS assessments.  Measured Progress is the existing vendor for MCAS, and was one of two vendors to respond to ESE's RFP.  Measured Progress will subcontract with Pearson Education for supporting services, specifically online testing.

ESE notes that "department staff will continue their long-standing practice of contributing to and overseeing all aspects of work on the construction, production and administration of the new assessments, and Massachusetts educators will also continue to play a significant role in the development process."

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

MA to Participate in PISA

Program for International Student Assessment (PISA):
As you may know, Massachusetts is participating in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s (OECD) Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) for our state and in December OECD will announce how the state performed compared to the rest of world. 

Districts and individual schools have the opportunity to participate in the OECD Test for Schools, a global benchmarking tool that will provide you with a powerful assessment of your school’s performance and students’ problem solving and critical thinking skills; insight into student perceptions of learning; and access to a global network of peers. 

OECD details:
·          Voluntary participation;
·          Support to help you sign up and administer the test;
·          Online test administration;
·          Year-round scheduling at the school’s convenience;
·          A small sample of students participate  (85 15-year old students);
·          Total testing time is 3 ¼ hours, including breaks and time for the student survey; and
·          Within 6-8 weeks of administration, schools receive an in-depth, 150+ page report that includes data compared with international school systems.

The global learning network will link you and your team to a network of school leaders and other educators. For the first 25 Massachusetts schools that sign up, subsidies are available to help cover both the costs of the assessment and global learning network activities. These activities include a regional meeting next summer in Massachusetts where you and your team will get a briefing on your results and then participate in an international conference of the Global Learning Network in October 2017 held in Washington, DC. The Global Learning Network  encompasses 446 schools across 32 states and over 1,000 schools globally. This opportunity is made possible through a partnership involving: the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), America Achieves, and Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA).

For more information on how to participate in this opportunity, you can contact Rebecca Bennett ( on my staff or Brenda Wilson, of Northwest Evaluation Association, at (503) 260-2574 or

Friday, August 12, 2016

Next Generation MCAS Update

MCAS tests for grades 3-8 in English language arts (ELA) and mathematics will continue to be untimed in spring 2017. The computer-based version will be administered in Grades 4 and 8. The Department’s Office of Digital Learning will provide consultation and support for schools that anticipate difficulty. The plan for computer-based MCAS phase-in can be found on the Department’s website. 

ELA tests for grades 3-5 will be administered across three sessions for the equivalent total amount of time as in the past.

Monday, August 8, 2016

MA to Participate in Development of Social-Emotional Standards

The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was selected by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to participate in their Collaborating States Initiative this summer through Fall 2017. The eight participating states include California, Georgia, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Washington. 

The purpose of the project is to support states through efforts to adopt and implement clearly defined, research-based policies, guidelines, and/or standards to support statewide implementation of social and emotional learning (SEL). We will update you on future opportunities for stakeholders to provide input. Massachusetts welcomes this opportunity to learn with, and from, other states as we seek to develop policies and guidance to best support Massachusetts' students.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

U.S. Education Department Provides Assessment Guidance

President Obama has directed the U.S. Education Department (U.S.E.D.) to review its policies to address any places where the Administration may have contributed to the problem of overemphasis on testing burdening classroom time. Last Spring the U.S.E.D. released a Testing Action Plan, setting forth principles for fewer and smarter assessments and a set of actions to reduce over-testing. The plan proposes assessments should be:

  • Worth Taking 
  • Fully Transparent to Students and Parents
  • High Quality 
  • Just One of Multiple Measures
  • Time-limited 
  • Tied to Improved Learning
  • Fair 

Along with this plan are several case studies that share how states and districts are working to make assessment practices meaningful for students, parents, and educators. The Massachusetts model is among those presented because it ensures that growth in student learning is included in a meaningful way, balanced with other factors. In a statement that accompanied the release, Education Secretary John King said, “Done well, assessments are tools for learning and promoting equity. Done poorly, in excess or without clear purpose, they take valuable time away from teaching and learning, draining creative approaches from our classrooms.”