A message from the
Massachusetts Department of
Elementary and Secondary Education

February, 2021
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Volume 5, Issue 18 - February 5, 2021

A Message from Associate Commissioner Elizabeth L. Bennett
Thank you for all you do for our students. Stay warm this weekend! Our next CCTE call will be on Monday, February 8 at 11:00am and a zoom link will be sent.


U.S. Presidential Scholars Program
The purpose of the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program is to recognize and honor outstanding high school seniors and thereby to encourage high attainment among all students by recognizing students whose performance demonstrates excellence. The Presidential Scholar program allows each state’s commissioner to nominate up to 20 students for its “General” student category, and additionally, up to five Career Technical Education students (enrolled in Chapter 74 or Non-74 CTE programs) based on their accomplishments in CTE fields. Schools may choose to nominate students for the general category or the CTE category. The 25 student candidates from Massachusetts are posted on the USED website

Congratulations to the five CTE Massachusetts Candidates:    

  • Julie Canuto-Depina, Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical HS 
  • Nicholas Giannino, Nashoba Valley Regional Vocational Technical HS 
  • Ruby Martinez, Joseph P. Keefe Technical High School  
  • Andy Morales, Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational Technical HS 
  • Rechelly Paula, Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational Technical HS 
MASCA Executive Director Robert Bardwell, School Counselor of the Year Jessica Descartes, and nominator and MASCA Emerging Leader, April Brunelle

Updates & Reminders
Counselor of the Year Announced
Massachusetts School Counselors’ Association (MASCA) recently awarded the 2021 Massachusetts School Counselor of the Year award to Jessica Descartes of TechBoston Academy, part of the Boston Public Schools. Ms. Descartes is a counselor for students in grades 6-12 who are in sheltered English immersion and students who have had limited or interrupted formal education. Congratulations Ms. Descartes, and thank you to all of the school counselors for their work during the pandemic!

STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity
Later this month, join DESE staff and representatives from VHS Learning to learn more about the STEM Advanced Placement Access Expansion Opportunity, a statewide initiative designed to generate greater equity in STEM AP course-taking. We are focusing on schools that traditionally have not had the capacity or resources to offer classes, and within those schools, we are focusing on students who have been historically underrepresented in STEM. Schools prioritized for participation in the initiative received an email notification from DESE.​

These webinars are geared toward school and district leadership, guidance staff, and STEM department heads from schools identified as eligible for participation in the initiative. There are two sessions planned:

  • Monday, February 8, 2021, from 3-4 pm
  • Tuesday, February 23, 2021 from 3-4 pm 

To receive login information, please register at​ Please contact Jennifer Gwatkin or David Baird with any questions.

Perkins V Reminder
For those accustomed to Perkins requirements through the year, February is often a time for submitting Improvement Plans, and March is a time for preparing Annual Reports. These are opportunities for districts to reflect on performance on the core indicators across the subgroups and develop plans to improve these over time, especially where a district fails to meet 90% of the performance level. Due to the transition to Perkins V, these will not be collected this winter. However, it is still a valuable exercise! This is a great time for districts to refer to their Comprehensive Local Needs Assessment for self-reflection and improvement. For more on Perkins Accountability and related resources, please refer to the  Performance & Accountability section of the the Perkins V Manual online, and see data resources for program improvement on the CVTE Reporting/Data page.

It's CTE Month! 
February is CTE Month! We invite districts to celebrate CTE, an education that directly prepares students for high-wage, high-demand careers. See resources at ACTE for ideas! 

CTE Month Fun Fact:
The program with the highest student participation across the state is Health Assisting, with more than 3200 students in Chapter 74-approved programs, and more than 700 students in Non-74 Approved programs this year. Health assisting is also related to a labor market in high demand across the state. See the Massachusetts Regional Labor Market resources for more.  

Increasing FAFSA Completion
For last year’s seniors, enrollment in higher education dropped by 10 percent this past fall compared to the previous year, and by 20 percent among economically disadvantaged students. COVID is clearly exacerbating already persistent college going gaps, particularly for low income, African American and Latino students.
For this year’s seniors, Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) completion has dropped compared to this time last year by over 9 percent statewide, with larger drops in populations with historically low college going rates. FAFSA completion is a strong indicator of college-going, and this drop may be an early indication of further drops in college enrollment in September 2021.
Overcoming the financial barrier to higher education is critical. To help mitigate this potential crisis in college going, DESE, in partnership with Mass. Dept. of Higher Education, Mass. School Counselors Assn. (MASCA), Reach Higher, and GEARUP are sponsoring two FAFSA completion webinars to help illustrate the FAFSA completion situation, demonstrate FAFSA reports on Edwin Analytics, and hear from a few practitioners to explain how they are “getting it done” despite the pandemic.
While these sessions are particularly aimed at high school counselors and district and high school administrators, all are welcome. Please register for one of the sessions ahead of time. These sessions will be offered via Zoom. After registering at one of the links below, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

Increasing FAFSA Completion (session 1) Feb 9, 2021, 3:00 PM
Register in advance:

Increasing FAFSA Completion (session 2) Feb 10, 2021, 10:00 AM  
Register in advance:

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 
Buying into safety, at every level, is required for establishing a safe working environment. During a past District Program Review, while interviewing Program Advisory Committee members, I was asked by a parent why a student had to take OSHA training if they were not going into the construction trades. I asked the parent if they expected their student to have a job someday. They answered, Yes. I told them that OSHA training would prepare their student for a safe work life. I said that OSHA training, or any safety training, is a life skill. It will help to prepare students for the variety of work and personal experiences that they will have. I suggested that they look up the contents of the OSHA-10 Program to see its value. 

Safety, Health and Accessibility Training is not just for CTE students. It is skills training that will prepare any student for success after high school. Ask yourself, am I preparing my students to participate in a safe working world? For a general understanding of student safety, I recommend reviewing Strand One of any Chapter-74 Framework.  Be safe!
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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