4-12-13 Field Memo

Commissioner’s Weekly Field Memo
Friday, April 12, 2013


 

Notes from Commissioner Gist


1.      States offered opportunity to apply for flexibility in allocation of federal funds 
 
2.      Central Falls chess teams reach the top ten in national competition
 

From the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE)


Assessments:


3.      Deadline for requesting student exemption from NECAP Science testing is May 24
 
4.      Reminder: Testing schedules due by April 26 ¬ - Action Item 
 
5.      PARCC releases draft grade- and subject-specific performance-level descriptors for public comment
 

Legal:


6.      Legal-decisions search engine back in operation
 

Network services:


7.      RIDE network services to shut down this weekend
 

Standards:


8.      Common Core Mathematics professional-development modules on fraction instruction available on RIDE website
 
9.      Next Generation Science Standards released
 

Training and webinars:


10.  EXCEED workshop for district-level users to be held May 1 
 

Grants and awards:


11.  RIDE awards $750,000 in grants for 21st-Century Community Learning Centers
 

Evaluations:


12.  RIDE provides reminder about evaluation-system reporting requirements
 
13.  Registration opens for summer evaluator workshops
 

Technology:


14.  RIDE moving forward with Wireless Classroom Initiative
 

School finances:


15.  Deadline for applying for reimbursement of indirect Medicaid costs is April 26
 

From the U.S. Department of Education


16.  President Obama releases education budget
 

From other organizations


17.  Grants available to support programs in social, emotional health
 
18.  Blended Learning conference scheduled for April 27
 

 Action Item Calendar

 
April 26: Spring 2013 testing schedules due 
April 26: Medicaid reimbursement applications due (see below)
May 3: Distinguished Educator nominations due
  

Notes from Commissioner Gist


1.      States offered opportunity to apply for flexibility in allocation of federal funds 

As you may know, federal law prohibits LEAs from carrying over to the next fiscal year any more than 15 percent of your Title I, Part A, allocation. As a State Education Agency, we can request waivers of this provision for LEAs, but no more often than once every three years. Concerned about the potential effect of sequestration of federal funds, Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education Deborah S. Delisle announced yesterday that states may apply for a statewide waiver of this carryover limitation for any LEA that needs more flexibility with carryover funds from Title I, Part A. Assistant Secretary Delisle notes that this flexibility would enable LEAs to conserve remaining Fiscal Year 2012 funds and use them in combination with Fiscal Year 2013 funds “to support activities that might otherwise be affected” by reductions from the sequester. We will review this opportunity to seek greater flexibility regarding use of Title I funds, and I will keep you informed about any developments on this issue. 
 

2.      Central Falls chess teams reach the top ten in national competition

Continuing a long tradition of excellence, the Calcutt Middle School (Central Falls) and the Central Falls High School chess teams both of which finished in the top ten this week at the Chess Super-nationals competition, in Nashville. Congratulations to all members of both teams and to their coach, Frank DelBonis! 
 

From RIDE

Assessments:

3.      Deadline for requesting student exemption from NECAP Science testing is May 24

All requests for state-approved special consideration or exemption from NECAP Science testing must be submitted online no later than May 24, via eRIDE
 
We strongly encourage all requests for exemption to be submitted as soon as possible rather than at the end of the testing window. Early submission of these requests will allow you sufficient time to test the student if the your request for exemption is denied. 
 
As a reminder, no exemption request will be processed until a signed copy of the “Form 1: District Assurances Form” has been faxed to RIDE (222-3605).
 
As in previous years, when superintendents and LEA testing coordinators log into eRIDE they will see the icon, “NECAP/RIAA Exemption Requests” and can use this to access the necessary online forms.
 
In addition, the “State-Approved Special Considerations for Statewide Assessments: Guidelines & Forms” document has been updated for the current school year to outline the policies and procedures for requesting student exemptions. This document is available on the NECAP Exemptions pages on this site and on eRIDE.
 
It is very important that you review the guidance document before attempting to submit requests through eRIDE. If you have any questions, please contact Dr. Kevon Tucker-Seeley by e-mail or phone at 222-8494.

4.      Reminder: Testing schedules due by April 26 – Action Item 

During the NECAP Science testing window (May 6 - 23), RIDE staff members will once again be visiting a random selection of schools across the state to observe the administration of the NECAP tests. These visits are necessary so that we can continue to improve the NECAP testing program for test coordinators, test administrators, and students and also so that we can monitor whether proper testing procedures and guidelines are being followed in school classrooms.  
 
We ask that all LEA testing schedules be submitted no later than Friday, April 26, so that RIDE staff members will be able to begin planning school visits during the scheduled times of testing. Each district is responsible for creating the testing schedule for all its schools so that each of the tested grades (4, 8, 11) has the same testing schedule (e.g., all 4th graders in the district are taking the science test on the same day at the roughly the same time). 
 
LEAs should take into consideration religious holidays and local events that may impact students’ ability to participate. While LEAs may opt to schedule around these dates, it is important that ample time must be incorporated into scheduling to allow time for make-up test sessions for those students who are absent for any reason (including absences for religious holidays) during regularly scheduled testing dates. Make-up testing may begin immediately following the scheduled administration of a test session. No student should be scheduled for a make-up session prior to the scheduled administration of that test session.
 
Please submit your testing schedules online via eRIDE using the eRIDE “NECAP Schedule Tool."

5.      PARCC releases draft grade- and subject-specific performance-level descriptors for public comment

The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) has released the draft grade- and subject-specific performance-level descriptors (PLDs) in English language arts/literacy (ELA) and mathematics for public comment. 

 
The draft grade- and subject-specific PLDs were developed by groups of PARCC stakeholders (state leaders, K-12 and postsecondary content experts) and were informed by the College- and Career-Ready Determination Policy and Policy-Level Performance Level Descriptors adopted by the PARCC Governing Board and Advisory Committee on College Readiness, which established five performance levels for the PARCC assessments. 
 
With the release of the draft grade- and subject-specific PLDs to the field, K-12 educators are able to better understand how students should be performing as measured against the Common Core State Standards, and educators will eventually be able to apply feedback from the PARCC assessments in their classrooms.  Furthermore, the PLDs provide yet another opportunity for both K-12 and higher education to come together to create an assessment that will serve the needs of educators in both sectors and will show whether students are on track to become college and career ready. 
 
The draft grade- and subject-specific PLDs will be posted on the PARCC website through May 8.

Interested parties can provide feedback through a survey posted on the PARCC website, by answering questions specific to the PLDs for both ELA/literacy and mathematics. The PARCC Governing Board and Advisory Committee on College Readiness will vote on the adoption of the final PLDs during their joint session on June 26. 
 
For more detailed information, FAQs, and to view the PLDs, visit the PARCC website.
 
Legal:

6.      Legal-decisions search engine back in operation


The search engine on our website that provides you with access to Commissioner’s Decisions is back in operation. We apologize that the search engine was out of order for a period of time. We have posted on our website a number of decisions that the Commissioner has issued over the past several months, including all decisions from to date from the current year:


 
Network services:

7.      RIDE network services to shut down this weekend

We learned this week that on Sunday (April 14), as part of the emergency-preparedness procedures here at the Shepard Building, the Facilities and Police Departments at the University of Rhode Island, Providence, will shut down all electrical services in our offices. Because of this procedure, we will need to shut down our entire network this weekend. Therefore, we will shut down all RIDE network services at 4 p.m. tomorrow (Saturday), and we will resume services on Monday (April 15) at 8 a.m. We are sorry for any inconvenience this shutdown may cause, but the shutdown of electrical services as the Shepard Building is outside of our control. 
 
Standards:

8.      Common Core Mathematics professional-development modules on fraction instruction available on RIDE website

We are pleased to announce the posting to our website of Building Coherence in Fraction Instruction in Grades 3 – 5, a series of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) Mathematics professional-development modules. This set of six modules, an expansion of the CCSS professional-development session Building Coherence in Fraction Instruction in Grades 3 – 5, is ideal for school-based professional development. Designed to be delivered as a series during successive common planning time or department or grade-level meetings or as afterschool sessions, these modules explore the progression of understanding for the CCSS standards in Number and Operations – Fractions. Teachers will gain the professional understanding necessary to deliver content-rich, conceptually based instruction in this domain. Highlights include connecting the fraction content standards to the Standards for Mathematical Practice, attending to precision through the use of a rich fraction vocabulary, and using the number line as a tool that is instrumental in transitioning from whole numbers to fractions.


9.      Next Generation Science Standards released


On Tuesday, a coalition of 26 states released the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a new set of rigorous and internationally benchmarked standards for K-12 science education. 
 
Rhode Island was one of states that worked together over the past two years with broad-based state teams, a 41-member writing team, and partners to develop the standards – a set of performance expectations that integrate science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. The NGSS identify science and engineering practices and content that all K-12 students should master in order to be fully prepared for college, careers, and citizenship. The NGSS were built upon a vision for science education established by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, published two years ago by the National Academies National Research Council.

 

More information on the Next Generation Science Standards  


Training and webinars:
 

10.  EXCEED workshop for district-level users to be held May 1 


RIDE invites EXCEED District Tech Administrators and District RTI Administrators to an EXCEED RTI work session on Wednesday, May 1, from 8:30 a.m. - 3 p.m., at the Northern Rhode Island Collaborative, 640 George Washington Highway, Lincoln 02865. Training will include basic functionality of EXCEED, including set-up of calendars and school years as well as configuring interventions and measures at both district and school levels. More advanced functionality will also be covered, including creation and use of screeners and uploading data into EXCEED. To register, contact Jasmine Rezendes (222-8256); District Tech Administrators and District RTI Administrators should register separately.

If you have any questions about the training, please do not hesitate to contact Lindsay Wepman (222-8254) or view a more detailed description on the RIDE Engagement Calendar
 
Before attending, participants must have EXCEED roles assigned through SSO and must be able to access the IMS. If you need help accessing EXCEED or assigning EXCEED roles through SSO, please contact Lee Rabbitt (222-8495) to get set up before the training.
 
Grants and awards:
 

11.  RIDE awards $750,000 in grants for 21st-Century Community Learning Centers


RIDE has awarded $750,000 in grants to run school-linked afterschool and summer programs, as part of the federally funded 21st-Century Community Learning Centers initiative.

We have awarded grants to: 

  • The Central Falls School District - $117,910
  • The East Bay Community Action Program - $121,995
  • The John Hope Settlement House - $97,948
  • The Met School - $128,124
  • The Pawtucket School Department - $159,626
  • The Woonsocket Education Department - $132,649
These grants are to provide before-school, afterschool, vacation-time, and summer programs for children and youth in high-poverty communities. The programs offer academic support, enrichment, recreation, and family-engagement services. There are 25 agencies in Rhode Island that operate 21st-Century Community Learning Centers that serve a total of 8 school districts. RIDE awarded the grants through a competitive application process. 
 
RIDE administers the 21st-Century Community Learning Centers program and provides technical assistance and professional development to the grant recipients to ensure that the programs are of high quality, that they are linked to academic achievement, and that they are aligned to the state standards for afterschool programs.
 
Evaluations:
 

12.  RIDE provides reminder about evaluation-system reporting requirements


Standard Six of the Evaluation Systems Standards establishes the expectation that LEAs report evaluation data to RIDE. We use evaluation data to inform on-going model improvements, for certification-renewal decisions, and for quality-assurance monitoring of evaluation systems. 
 
Last year, LEAs reported aggregate final effectiveness ratings for their school or district. This year, every LEA will report evaluation data elements for each educator (as opposed to aggregate data) to RIDE through the Educator Performance and Support System (EPSS). For the purpose of certification renewal, RIDE will expect a rating if the educator worked at least 135 days, because that is considered a year worked. If there are extenuating circumstances and a final rating cannot be calculated even though the teacher worked 135 days or more, the LEA will provide a reason through the end-of-year reporting.
 

Additional information about evaluation-system reporting requirements, including the data elements that will be reported to RIDE, can be found under "Announcements" on our Educator Evaluation page.

13.  Registration opens for summer evaluator workshops


Registration for the summer evaluator workshops will open this week for returning Personnel Evaluating Teachers and for returning Personnel Evaluating Building Administrators in all LEAs (Rhode Island Model and non-Rhode Island Model LEAs). The in-person workshop for personnel evaluating teachers will be offered 24 times between the weeks of July 8 and August 19, and the workshop for personnel evaluating building administrators will be offered five times between the weeks of July 17 and August 19. Both workshops will build on the 2012-13 trainings, and they are part of the ongoing educator-evaluation training continuum. As in last year’s Academies and Module trainings, attendance records will be tracked by RIDE and participation is expected as part of on-going training.  
 
For new evaluators, RIDE will be offering multi-day Summer Academies. The 2013 Summer Academies for new evaluators will mirror the trainings that were provided last summer.
 

Evaluators can register for a summer workshop on the eRIDE Workshop Calenda

Technology:
 

14.  RIDE moving forward with Wireless Classroom Initiative


The posting of the MPA of qualified vendors for the Wireless Classroom Initiative is getting closer. Word was received from the Division of Purchases today that MPA#482 will be posted by Tuesday (April 16) at the latest! There will be modification to both the LEA and Vendor Instructions at that time. If you have already downloaded instructions, please be sure to check our website on Tuesday and download the latest version.  
 
Work at RIDE is under way to establish a dedicated Microsoft Project Serve-SharePoint environment for this initiative. This implementation will support collaborative communication and project tracking with LEAs and vendors for the life of the program. We will keep you posted on progress and next steps when the site is ready.
 

We continue to schedule and conduct interviews with LEA IT Directors, setting the stage for determining the sequence of school-by-school implementation of wireless networking capability. To date, all LEAs have been contacted to schedule an interview and approximately one-third of all LEAs have been interviewed. If your IT Director does not have a confirmed appointment, please notify us by e-mail

School finances:
 

15.  Deadline for applying for reimbursement of indirect Medicaid costs is April 26


The Indirect Cost Rate Application package has been distributed to LEA business managers. Completed applications are due no later than Friday, April 26. As a result of changes to federal guidelines, the application documents have been modified. For questions or assistance, please contact Cindy Brown (222-4257).  As a reminder, the non-restricted rate is used in the last component of the Medicaid administrative-claim cost reimbursement and will increase the amount of your reimbursement.  

From the U.S. Department of Education


16.  President Obama releases education budget


On Wednesday (April 10), President Obama sent Congress his annual budget request, presenting his plan to invest in the true engine of America’s economic growth: a rising and thriving middle class. He also addressed the press in the Rose Garden, noting that, while our economy is poised for progress, we need to be smarter about our priorities as a nation. “To help workers earn the skills they need to fill [good] jobs, we’ll work with states to make high-quality preschool available to every child across America,” he said.  “And, we’re going to pay for it by raising taxes on tobacco products that harm our young people….We’ll reform our high schools and job training programs to equip more Americans with the skills they need to compete in the 21st-century economy.”  



The President is requesting $71.2 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, an increase of $3.1 billion - or 4.5 percent - over the Fiscal Year 2013 pre-sequester level.  “We must continue to build on the reforms already transforming classrooms across the country,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan stated. “Strategic investments in our educational system will not only provide more opportunities for millions of Americans, but they will also strengthen our nation’s workforce.”  

More information on President's budget

The cornerstone of the President’s education investments is expanding high-quality early learning opportunities to all four-year-olds from low- and moderate-income families. Studies show these children have less access to high-quality early education and are less likely to enter school prepared for success - creating an educational opportunity gap that can shadow them for the rest of their lives. The Preschool for All proposal would invest $75 billion over 10 years in separate, fully offset mandatory funding to create new partnerships with states and to provide high-quality preschool to more communities. The proposal also provides $750 million in discretionary funding to help states strengthen their early-learning systems and to prepare to expand access to high-quality preschool. 


Including Preschool for All, the President’s budget is targeted to strengthen the education pipeline from cradle to career, including:
 
  • furthering the K-12 reform agenda by investing in school turnaround efforts, STEM programs, and teachers and leaders, as well as increasing investments in what works;
  • redesigning the high school experience and increasing the career readiness of high school students and adult learners;
  • making college more affordable and improving quality by incentivizing states and institutions to do their part in controlling costs and providing value;
  • keeping schools and communities safe through an Administration-wide plan to protect children and neighborhoods from gun violence; and
  • providing ladders of opportunity to the middle class, through a robust Promise Neighborhoods program and investments in low-income communities.

From other organizations


17.  Grants available to support programs in social, emotional health

The Center for Research in Emotional and Social Health is offering grants up to $1,000 to support social- and emotional-health programs for children and families. The purpose of this funding is to support individuals and organizations working to implement new evidence-based social-emotional health interventions within a service setting. Teachers and school-district personnel are among the individuals eligible to apply for support. Applications are due May 10.
 

18.  Blended Learning conference scheduled for April 27


The Highlander Institute will hold its 2nd annual Blended Learning and Technology Conference, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Rhode Island College School of Management Building, in Providence. The conference will convene local, regional, and national experts to share their models, products, insight regarding blended learning and technology integration. The goal of the conference is to bring the concept of blended learning and its models and tools for implementation to teachers and administrators in Rhode Island and in the region.