Massachusetts board to discuss student restraint – Education Week

Published Online: November 24, 2014

MALDEN, Mass. (AP) — The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has scheduled a pair of meetings this week.

At a special meeting scheduled for Monday, the board is expected to discuss new educator licensure policy and efforts to strengthen special education policy and practice.

At the regularly scheduled meeting on Tuesday, one item on the agenda is a discussion on proposed amendments to the rules governing how public school students can be restrained or secluded. Most of the students restrained in Massachusetts schools in the past two school years have been students with disabilities.

The department has heard concerns about the use of "prone restraint," which some people think should be banned.

The board will also discuss a progress report on Lawrence public schools on their second full year of receivership.


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Study looks at Massachusetts school punishment – Education Week

Published Online: November 19, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — A new report has found that a disproportionate number of minorities and students with disabilities are being are being punished by Massachusetts public schools, and in many cases the punishments are for minor infractions.

The report released Tuesday by the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice was based on data supplied by the state for the 2012-13 school year.

The study found that charter schools are more likely to punish students than traditional public schools.

Non-violent, non-criminal and non-drug incidents accounted for two-thirds of all out-of-school suspensions. A study co-author said that was concerning because out-of-school suspensions can be an indicator of dropouts and legal problems.

The state's out-of-school suspension rate was 4.3 percent, but many urban districts had much higher rates, including 21.5 percent in Holyoke.


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Gov. Patrick hoping to avoid school budget cuts – Education Week

Published Online: November 12, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Gov. Deval Patrick is hoping to avoid cuts in education aid to cities and towns as he drafts a plan to close an anticipated $325 million budget gap.

Patrick said Wednesday that everything else is on the table. He said his plan wouldn't dip into the state's rainy day fund.

Administration officials announced the budget hole last week. They said they would unveil their plan to close the gap within two weeks.

One reason for the gap is the fact that Massachusetts appears on track to meet the requirements triggering an automatic cut in the income tax rate from 5.2 percent to 5.15 percent in January.

That would cost the state $70 million in revenues in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

The state budget is about $37 billion.


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Massachusetts school demos ‘active shooter’ system – Education Week

Published Online: November 11, 2014

METHUEN, Mass. (AP) — School and police officials have unveiled a new system to detect and track a gunman that they say is the first in operation in a public school.

The Tuesday demonstration simulated a gunman entering a grammar school and opening fire.

The system's sensors automatically triggered alerts that reached all police officers and certain school officials within seconds of shots being fired.

The system then tracked the gunman as he moved through the building, sending alerts whenever shots were fired.

Police Chief Joseph Solomon said he believes such systems should be required in all public buildings.

School Superintendent Judith Scannell said she hopes the district can find the money to pay for outfitting its four other schools.

Shooter Detection Systems, the Massachusetts-based company that developed the technology, paid for the pilot project.


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Methuen to debut ‘active shooter’ system in school – Education Week

Published Online: November 11, 2014

METHUEN, Mass. (AP) — A city school will become the first in the nation to deploy an automated system to detect and track a gunman on campus.

City and school officials planned to attend a demonstration of the technology by Shooter Detection Systems, a Massachusetts-based company, on Tuesday afternoon at the undisclosed school.

Mayor Stephen Zanni, Schools Superintendent Judith Scannell, Police Chief Joseph Solomon and Congresswoman Nikki Tsgonas are among those who were expected to be on hand, along with police chiefs and police officers from across the northeast.

The demonstration will simulate an active shooter in a school building and show how police would respond using the new technology.

The "Guardian Active Shooter Detection System" is triggered by the sounds of gunfire, sending an alert to police within seconds.

Then, using smoke alarm-sized sensors installed throughout the school's classrooms and hallways, it can transmit audio recordings in real time, so that emergency responders can track the shooter and monitor other developments before, during and after the person enters the building.

School officials said the investment would dramatically improve current school lockdown procedures.

New England saw one of the worst school shootings in U.S. history when 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 elementary school pupils and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in December 2012.

Methuen school officials first announced plans for the system in July. They have said the system is being paid for by Shooter Detection Systems as a pilot program and not from city funds. The district hopes to install the system in other schools as well.

Shooter Detection Systems was founded in 2013 and is trying to market the systems to the owners and operators of malls, airports, government offices, schools and other public buildings. The system is based, in part, on those developed for the military.

Methuen is a city of about 47,000 residents about 29 miles north of Boston. It is located near the New Hampshire border.


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Obituary – Education Week

Published Online: November 4, 2014

Published in Print: November 5, 2014, as Obituary

Obituary

Thomas M. Menino, the popular mayor of Boston who had authority over the city's schools throughout his 20-year tenure, died Oct. 30 of cancer. He was 71.

Mr. Menino took office in 1993, two years after the 57,000-student district came under mayoral control. He announced last year that he would not seek a sixth term.

A commemorative page on the district's website credits the mayor with leading the transformation of the school system "from a failing school district to one of the most renowned urban public school systems in the country." It lists the district's achievements during his tenure, including the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2006, as well as gains in graduation rates and national assessment results.

Mr. Menino was diagnosed with advanced cancer in February, shortly after leaving office, and announced Oct. 23 he was suspending treatment and a book tour so he could spend more time with family and friends, according to the Associated Press.

Vol. 34, Issue 11, Page 5

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Many school districts choose PARCC over MCAS test – Education Week

Published Online: October 27, 2014

BOSTON (AP) — Changes are coming in standardized testing for many Massachusetts school districts.

According to data from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, 54 percent of school districts have opted to administer the English and mathematics PARCC exams to students in grades 3-8 next year, instead of the MCAS exams.

PARCC, short for Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, was developed as part of the national Common Core standards.

This was the first time school systems were given the choice of which test to administer in grades 3-8.

But MCAS isn't going away immediately. Passing the 10th-grade MCAS exams in English, math, and science and technology remain a graduation requirement. All school districts must also continue to administer the MCAS science and technology to fifth- and eighth-graders.


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2 Massachusetts schools placed on probation – Education Week

Published Online: October 22, 2014

MALDEN, Mass. (AP) — The state education board has placed two schools, including the first virtual school in Massachusetts, on probation for low achievement and other problems.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education said Tuesday that Boston Green Academy and Greenfield Commonwealth Virtual School have at least a year to show academic improvement. Failure to do so could lead to closure.

The headmaster at Boston Green Academy in Brighton said during public testimony before the vote that the problems at his school "will not and cannot happen again."

Officials at the virtual school said they were disappointed but have already addressed many of the problems, which were originally identified during a visit by state officials in June.

The online school teaches about 700 students from across the state.


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New England Schools Face Rash of Bomb Threats – Education Week

Published Online: October 14, 2014

Published in Print: October 15, 2014, as New England Schools Face Rash of Bomb Threats

News in Brief

School and law-enforcement officials in New England say they are dealing with an unusually high number of bomb threats that have forced the cancellation of classes just weeks into the new academic year.

Nearly a dozen schools and colleges in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire have received the threats, forcing evacuations and cancellations in many of the schools.

Local school and law-enforcement officials say they aren't sure if they're dealing with a coordinated effort or a number of copycats. But the sheer number of threats in such a short time raises concern, they say.

The FBI's Boston office said it is offering assistance as needed but leaving local officials to take the lead in the investigations.

Vol. 34, Issue 08, Page 4

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