The latest announcements from the PTO Council and NPS...

Next generation MCAS

For Immediate Release
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Contact: Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Approves Path to Next-Generation MCAS

MALDEN – The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education today voted 8-3 to transition to a next-generation MCAS that would be given for the first time in spring 2017 and would use both PARCC and MCAS items, along with items developed specifically for the Massachusetts tests. The vote followed many of the recommendations that Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester made last week.

“Massachusetts is a national leader in education, and today’s vote gives our students, families and educators a better measure of student achievement while maintaining state control over our assessment system,” said Secretary of Education James A. Peyser. “I would like to thank my fellow Board members for the many hours they spent listening to public comment and reviewing materials over the last six months.”

“I am grateful to the Board for their thoughtful review of my recommendation and of all of the input and materials they received,” Commissioner Chester said. “Their vote paves the way to a next-generation assessment that will be a better reflection of student achievement and, at the high school level, of readiness for college and a career.”

For spring 2016, districts that administered PARCC in spring 2015 will do so again, and the remainder of districts will continue with MCAS unless they affirmatively choose to administer PARCC. The MCAS tests in spring 2016 will be augmented with a limited number of PARCC items in order to help make statewide comparisons easier and to offer students and staff the opportunity to experience PARCC items while the new assessment is being developed.

As a result of the vote, the state will:

  • Award a new MCAS contract to include a next-generation assessment for English language arts and math using both PARCC items and items specific to Massachusetts;
  • Commit to computer-based state assessments with the goal of implementing this statewide by spring 2019;
  • Remain a member of the PARCC consortium with access to high-quality assessment development, cost- sharing with other states and the ability to compare next-generation MCAS results with those of other states’ assessments; and
  • Convene groups of K-12 teachers, higher education faculty and assessment experts to advise ESE on the content, length and scheduling of statewide tests; testing policies for students with disabilities and for English language learners; the requirements for the high school competency determination (currently the 10th grade MCAS); and the timeline for reinstating a history and social science test.

Any districts that administer PARCC in spring 2016 will be held harmless for any negative changes in their school and district accountability levels, a policy which is a continuation of the state’s approach to districts that used PARCC in spring 2015. The Board also voted to hold all districts harmless on the basis of test scores in 2017, when all of the state’s districts would use a single test.

Massachusetts has just completed a unique two-year tryout of PARCC (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers), an assessment developed by a consortium of states of which Massachusetts is a founding member. The commonwealth’s participation allowed Massachusetts to pool its expertise with other states, share the costs of test development and realize economies of scale in test administration.

In spring 2014, approximately 81,000 Massachusetts students participated in field tests, and in spring 2015, more than 220,000 students in more than half of the state’s districts took complete PARCC tests. Parents of children who took PARCC in spring 2015 will receive their child’s test scores in late November or early December. The state will release accountability determinations for schools and districts in December.

For more information on Massachusetts’ two-year tryout of PARCC, please see

Newton Energy $avers program

Dear Newton PTOs,

On behalf of Mayor Warren and Green Newton, we are asking for your help on an important environmental initiative for Newton residents.

We announced the Newton Energy $avers program (NE$) in October to fulfill Mayor Warren’s vision for sustainability. With an ambitious goal of completing 1,000 Home Energy Assessments (HEAs) in 12 months, NE$ will save energy and money for residents, while protecting the environment for everyone.

An HEA is free, simple to schedule, and provides homeowners with three core benefits:

•Instant Savings Measures: Energy saving improvements, such as no-cost installation of energy-efficient light bulbs and water-saving devices on qualified fixtures.
•Health and Safety Checks: Test for toxic carbon monoxide, asbestos, mold, mildew, and fire hazards.
• A Customized Action Plan: Recommended next steps to save more money and make your home more comfortable and sustainable, such as weatherization measures, insulation or solar solutions.

Some of you may know of the very successful energy efficiency programs that have been implemented in the school buildings. We are now asking Newton’s PTOs to help bring the benefits of this approach to all Newton residents. We will work with you in any way that makes sense to you and we will support the efforts of participating PTOs with:

  • Fliers and other printed material
  • A web landing page for each school, to make it easy to schedule a home energy assessment
  • Information table with staff at events where you would like the school community to be able to schedule an assessment (e.g., Parent-teacher nights, principal’s coffee)
  • Supporting materials including business cards with address of landing page, talking points, phone call work sheets and other materials
  • Brief article for the PTO newsletter

Not only will your efforts help families benefit from energy savings and safety measures, and help slow climate change, but you can also help your PTO. Green Newton will make a $10 donation to your PTO for each completed HEA resulting from your outreach.

To get your PTO started with Newton Energy $avers send an email to us and the NE$ team at


Andy Savitz
Newton Sustainability Director

Marcia Cooper
President, Green Newton

Massachusetts Board of Education (BOE) Decisions Re: Standardized Testing

Next week, the Commissioner of the MA Board of Education, Mitchell D. Chester, “will ask the Board to discuss and vote on [his] recommendation for the future direction of the Massachusetts student assessment program”. This entails creation of “MCAS 2.0” which would incorporate PARCC ideas, but would be controlled by the Massachusetts Board of Education vs. a private company.

A final public hearing is being held in Malden on November 16th and the BOE vote will take place on November 17th.

For detailed information about these upcoming meetings, please access this link:

Please see these additional links for discussion, debate, and history pertaining to this topic:

From NPR’s Radio Boston

Other NPR stories…

From the Globe…

Other related news stories…

Book Discussion Invitation

October 23, 2015

Dear Newton Families,

As many of you know, college admissions has become an increasingly frenetic and pressured process. While our high schools in Newton have developed a college planning philosophy designed to support students and families, the energy, angst and resource devoted to the process can push some students and their families to the brink. What should we do about a phenomenon that can feel out of control?

New York Times columnist and best selling author, Frank Bruni, has written a compelling new book which offers a thoughtful perspective on college admissions. In sum, Bruni argues that where a student goes to college is far less important than many of us previously believed. The book offers a counter narrative for students and their families who feel that their future and self-worth depends on a “yes” or a “no” from a certain group of colleges.

I think Bruni’s perspective is especially timely given that we have seen a spike in stress and anxiety among our students. Since reading the book, I have a consistently quoted Bruni when the topic of college admissions comes up in conversation: “Where you go is not who you’ll be.” I hope this message resonates with others after reading his book.

On Wednesday, December 2nd, I will hold a superintendent/parent book discussion on Where You Go Is Not Who You’ll Be. It will give us an opportunity to talk about the book as a community and hear from a panel with extensive experience in the college admissions process. The panelists will include:

  •  Jennifer King, College Consultant and Retired Guidance Department Head, Newton
    South High School
  • Beth Swederskas, Guidance Department Head, Newton North High School
  • Ronne Patrick Turner, Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of
    Admissions – Northeastern University

Here are the details:
December 2nd (7:00 p.m-8:30 p.m.)
Newton South Library

Here is the link with further information about the book. We have also included articles written by Frank Bruni on the topic.
I hope to see you for what should be a lively conversation on December 2nd.


David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Video can be seen here: Video invitation

Election is November 3rd

The League of Women Voters Voters’ Guide, a resource on the candidates who are running for all the municipal offices on November 3rd, is available here.

Read short biographies of all the Aldermen, School Committee and Charter Commission candidates, as well as their answers to questions about issues concerning our community. Print copies will be available at Newton City Hall, the Newton Free Library, the Senior Center in Newtonville, and other locations around Newton. Click here for more information.

Verify your ward/precinct:
Check your voter registration status: