News from Commissioner Mitchell Chester & the  MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Commissioner’s Weekly Update – February 5, 2016

 ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 Deadlines:

On January 7, 2016, Massachusetts began administering the ACCESS for ELLs 2.0 assessment, which included a choice of online or paper test delivery for schools. About 45 percent of English language learners in Massachusetts are taking the test online for the first time, with the remainder taking the paper-based tests.

The Department is aware that schools administering the computer-based tests have experienced technical and other issues that have affected test administration. We appreciate the patience and perseverance of school and district staff in administering the tests under these circumstances and will continue to provide feedback to WIDA and Data Recognition Corporation (DRC), the ACCESS for ELLs test vendor, about improving the technical issues and assistance from their respective service centers. The Department is confident that future testing will operate more smoothly.

Schools administering paper-based tests, and the vast majority of schools administering computer-based tests, are expected to complete testing on or before Wednesday, February 10 and ship all completed test materials from schools no later than Friday, February 12.

However, if a school anticipates that it will be unable to complete the testing of its ELL students due to technical and/or service-related challenges, principals have been directed to email a request for an extension of the testing window to by Tuesday, February 9 with the number of students that will need to continue testing after February 10. Schools granted an extension may continue testing through Friday, February 12 and resume testing for up to three additional days on February 22-24 before shipping test materials no later than Friday, February 26.

Please address any additional concerns and questions about ACCESS for ELLs test administration to Assessment Services at (781) 338-3625 or

DART: Staffing and Finance Update:

The DART Staffing and Finance database has been updated to correct a data error. Districts are encouraged to re-run any recent reports they may have done as part of their budget planning process.

For Your Info:

· Guide to finding and using PARCC questions: PARCC has published a guide to finding and using released PARCC test questions. It is designed to help educators improve instruction and to give parents a better understanding of the kind of work their child should be prepared to do.

· Free online high school course on African-American history: In celebration of African-American History month in February and Digital Learning Day on February 17, the Office of Digital Learning wishes to highlight EverFi’s free, online African-American history course for high school students. Click the links to view a video demo and course overview.

· Library of Congress summer programs: The Library of Congress is accepting applications for its week-long summer programs for K-12 educators through February 29, 2016. Held at the Library, the professional development provides educators with tools and resources to integrate primary sources into classroom teaching with a strong emphasis on student engagement, critical thinking, and construction of knowledge.

Subscriber Information: Superintendents, principals, and charter school leaders will receive the update automatically. For others wishing to subscribe, send an email to with the following information in the body of the email: subscribe ESEUpdate Your Name. (Example: subscribe ESEUpdate John Smith) To unsubscribe, send an email to the same address with the following information in the body: unsubscribe ESEUpdate Your Name. (Example: unsubscribe ESEUpdate John Smith)

Jacqueline Reis
Media Relations Coordinator
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office: (781) 338-3115
Mobile: (781) 605-4419

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