A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

January, 2021
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Volume 5, Issue 14 - January 8, 2021

A Message from Associate Commissioner Elizabeth L. Bennett
I am entering this new year with hope: hope that the rollout of the vaccine will put an end to this pandemic and hope for our schools that they can return to some semblance of normalcy. But I am also saddened and dismayed by the recent events in Washington D.C. and the challenging task our educators may face in having to explain this to our students. This week we include a summary of resources compiled by DESE's History/Social Science Content Lead, Reuben Henriques, greetings from the CCTE team as we begin a new year together, and other news. Thank you for embracing challenges, and thank you for all you are doing for your communities and your students. Our next CCTE call will be on Monday, January 25 at 11:00am and a zoom link will be sent.


New Year Messages from CCTE
Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year, with gratitude for your work. -Ramona Foster

Viktor Frankl said at the center of humanity is the power “to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”  With folks in schools I have the pleasure to work with, particularly school counselors, I have been humbled by seeing this axiom in real time as adults serving students strive to serve students among the upheaval of a pandemic and a continued focus on equity and justice for all our kids. -Nyal Fuentes

I regularly brag about our students and our programs, our program advisory committees, and of course you, the people who put in the day-to-day work that makes programs shine and provides genuine, positive experiences for students. Thank you! Thank you for your commitment and passion!  May the new year bring healing and opportunity. – Marnie Jain

Hopefully you had a chance to recharge over the break, even if it was a bit. Wishing you all the best for 2021. Thank you for your dedication to our students across the Commonwealth! -Carrie Harrington

Hoping everyone got some rest and took a real break over the holidays - be honest, how many times did you look at your emails???   I so admire how hard you, the people on the front lines, are working to ensure our students are learning regardless of mode of delivery – in-person, hybrid or remote (and sometimes all three!).  With renewed energy let’s continue on together!  Happy, Safe New Year to all! -Lisa Harney

Wishing you all a happy and healthy New Year. Sending gratitude for your unwavering support of statewide initiatives. -Lisa Sandler

A New Year’s Wish to all that the struggles and challenges of 2020 bring about new possibilities and unimagined beauty in 2021. -Larry DeSalvatore

Thank you for your thoughtful work, and for your continued efforts to prepare all students for success in life. Wishing you the best in the coming year. -Jen Appleyard

Wishing everyone a happy, healthy, safe 2021. Thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. -Lisa Weinstein

While 2020 presented its unfair (!) share of challenges, it also reminded us of what matters most. I am grateful for the opportunity to continue partner with you in service to our mission of expanding high-quality educational options to the learners of the Commonwealth. Heartfelt wishes for a healthy 2021!
-Jennifer Gwatkin

To my educational hustlers-I am so grateful for your work and I am excited to partner in 2021. - Kerry Akashian

... and more from Dave Edmonds below!

News & Updates
“After Dark” Designation Applications Open
The next round of Chapter 74 Partnership Program (“After Dark”) designation applications are open Monday, January 4 through Friday, March 12 at 5:00 PM. Chapter 74 Partnership “After Dark” designation allows school districts offering Chapter 74 vocational technical education programs to partner with other school districts or with other schools within a single school district to provide Chapter 74 VTE opportunities during times outside the typical school day when vocational technical facilities are underutilized. Designation allows sending school districts, or sending schools within a single district, to report students as Chapter 74-enrolled and to receive any increases to Chapter 70 state aid that may result from such reporting. Visit the DESE After Dark webpage for more information, a link to the application portal, and other related documents.

Hate Crimes Prevention Grants Awarded
We are pleased to announce that the nine winners of the FY21 competitive state-funded Hate Crimes Prevention Grant ( Fund Code 794) have been notified. See details at DESE's Grant Allocations & Awards page. With this grant, $400,000 has been allocated. The purpose of this grant is to support districts' implementation of programs designed to prevent hate crimes and incidences of bias in public schools. Thank you to all of the applicants, which made for an extremely competitive applicant pool. We are hopeful that this grant may be offered again next year and encourage districts to apply then. 

VTE Frameworks Revision
Phase 3A of the VTE Framework Revision Project begins Saturday, January 9, 2021. We extend thanks to all applicants. During this phase, teams will be revising the following frameworks:

  • Biotechnology
  • Environmental Science and Technology
  • Information Support Services & Networking
  • Metal Fabrication
  • Programming & Web Development

CVTE Enrollment and Performance Data Tools 
As many of you know, there is currently a lot of interest in the topic of expanding equitable access to vocational programs, along with related data. The Department has been utilizing existing enrollment and other data, although not perfect, to inform these discussions. In an effort to support reflection on and analysis of this data to inform policy at the local, regional, and state levels, the Department has developed interactive CVTE trend tools. These tools provide longitudinal demographic and middle school performance data for students enrolling in CVTE schools that provide “wall-to-wall” Chapter 74 programs, including regional vocational/technical and agricultural schools and municipal vocational schools. These interactive CVTE trend tools are now available here: Career/Vocational Technical Education Reporting & Data Resources.

Vocational Technical Education Advisory Council
The council advises the Board and the Commissioner on matters related to Career/Vocational Technical Education across the Commonwealth. The focus for this year will include equitable access to CVTE pathways, Department monitoring and support systems and processes for CVTE programs, and program quality and alignment to business and industry. The next meeting of the VTE Advisory Council will be Monday, January 11, 2021 from 3:30pm–5:30pm. For additional information and to register go to this link

Resources for Discussing this Week's Events
From DESE's History/Social Science Content Lead, Reuben Henriques:

Dear all –
I imagine that many of you are watching the current events in Washington, D.C. with a mixture of emotions and reactions – and thinking, too, about how to address what’s happening with students tomorrow. As civics teachers, we can play a powerful role in helping students understand and process this historical moment, and I urge you to take advantage of the space your class offers for students to discuss it in whatever way you feel appropriate.

In a meeting of the Northeast region of the Civics Project Implementation network this evening, we spent some time thinking about what to do tomorrow—what do and can we say? what do our students need from us? what do we need?—and I want to pass on some resources and ideas that might be helpful to you as well.

How can we approach these conversations with students? Kira M. Newman's article "Nine Tips for Talking to Kids about Trauma" was written after the attacks in Paris in 2015, but some tips the author suggests that are particularly relevant to today’s events include:

  • Initiate the conversation. Asking students what they know, how they feel, and what they are thinking about can assure them that there is space to discuss current events openly. It’s also important to try to figure out what they need; some students may want nothing more than an escape from the news for an hour, while others might feel an intense need to understand exactly what is happening. Try to be flexible and responsive as best you can.
  • Find out what students know, and correct misconceptions or misinformation that they may have. We know that our students gain a lot of their information through social media, where truth and falsehood can mingle freely. Invite them to share what they already know and what they are curious about or wondering; answer questions that you can, and be honest about what we don’t yet know.
  • Encourage students to share their feelings, and share your feelings if you feel comfortable doing so. As appropriate, discussing your own thoughts and reactions can communicate to students that what they’re feeling is natural and normal, and empower them to speak more freely about what’s on their mind.
How can we equip students to combat misinformation? As misinformation about the election results and unrest in Washington continues to spread, a tool like this one from the News Literacy Project on "practicing good information hygiene" can help students navigate the news this week.

How should we discuss these issues with students without inappropriately "taking a side"? Ultimately, this is a question of your own professional judgment to which there is no easy answer. Some possible things to consider:
  • Civics teachers can and should defend civic dispositions and values and help students distinguish truth, opinion, and misinformation. In their book The Political Classroom, scholars Diana Hess and Paula McAvoy argue that "the political classroom is undergirded by values that promote a particular view of democratic life"; in particular, they identify the values of political equality, tolerance, autonomy, fairness, civic engagement, and political literacy as ones that are foundational to this work. They urge teachers to make instructional choices when facilitating discussion in ways that further these six aims—and they note that these values transcend partisanship and are fundamental to our democratic life.
  • As history teachers, we have skills that can help students understand how and why these events are happening by putting them in context. Using tools like Facing History's current events "explainers" can help us give students additional context about the history of things like political polarization, the transfer of power, and electoral unrest in this country. We have the ability to help students both understand the here and now as well as take the long view to see how it fits into the arc of our nation's history.

Finally, the #sschat Twitter network also had a discussion in which teachers crowd-sourced approaches and resources to address the day’s events with students; you can read the contributions here or see the compiled spreadsheet here.

This is a historical moment in which our work as civics teachers feels both particularly difficult and particularly important. Thank you for all that you are doing for your students.


Communications Survey
Clear communication is essential to bring us together and plan for a safe future. DESE is continuously working to improve communication with all those involved in and impacted by our public schools. Please take this two-minute survey to help inform DESE's communication efforts. Thank you!

Safety Corner - from Dave Edmonds, CCTE's Safety Specialist 
Happy New Year and I hope that one of your resolutions was continuing your commitment to your personal safety. Plan for this Year to be the safest ever for you. Awareness of personal safety is one of the three pieces of advice that I give to my Junior Operator students who are going off to college (the other two are to stay sober and to stay current with their reading). I remind them that safety is about making choices. Sometimes these choices involve deciding to change non beneficial habits (this is a big one for my Defensive Driving remedial students). Other times these choices are made because of a changing environment. This past year it was the environment that dominated our choices. It was difficult but we both individually and collectively found a way to navigate an unexpected health emergency. We worked hard to continue the safe education of our students. When the Pandemic has passed, I hope that you continue to be aware of those other issues that can affect your personal safety journey.
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office for College, Career and Technical Education
Copyright © 2021 Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, All rights reserved.

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