Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
Office of Literacy and Humanities
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February 2021 Newsletter

Located on the new DESE Arts webpage, this Featured Resource promotes culturally responsive teaching in the arts through emphasis on the study of culturally diverse artists and their artworks. The guidebook is designed to highlight art made by people with racial identities that historically have been and continue to be marginalized. 

This document strategically features artists and artworks who share the racial backgrounds of a growing population of students of color in the state of Massachusetts. It offers a variety of case studies educators may adopt directly into their curriculum, or reference as examples in the refinement of their own curriculum to be more culturally responsive.

Black History Month Subject Spotlight

Since 1990, the National Council of Teachers of English has sponsored the National African American Read-In, a groundbreaking effort to encourage communities to read together, centering African American books and authors. Learn more about hosting a read-in of your own here -- or jump straight to their list of texts they love from Black authors.
How can we teach a more complete Black history this month? Learning for Justice (formerly Teaching Tolerance) challenges teachers to go beyond "slavery, segregation, and oppression" this month. In this article, Coshandra Dillard offers resources that help educators teach about black liberation movements, black civic engagement, intersectional black identity, and black literature.
This month, explore some notable Black artists to include in your instruction. Check out biographies of sculptor Meta Warrick Fuller, ragtime musician Scott Joplin, ballet dancer Janet Collins, playwright August Wilson, or multimedia artist and photographer Lorna Simpson.


Get to know the revised WIDA standards!
Dates vary - see below
Join us for a two-webinar series of 90 minutes each, hosted by DESE and offered by WIDA, to: (1) learn how the 2020 WIDA English Language Development Standards components work together to support multilingual learners’ equitable access to high-quality learning opportunities and (2) explore how the Framework supports instructional planning and collaboration. Prior to the start of the eWorkshop, participants will receive information on learning activities that present learning opportunities between the two webinars.

These sessions are being repeated three times for your convenience, but seating is limited, so register today!
  • SESSION 1: Webinar 1: 3/5/2021 (Friday); Webinar 2: 3/11/2012 (Thursday); Time: 2-3:30pm both dates
  • SESSION 2: Webinar 1: 4/16/2021 (Friday); Webinar 2: 4/22/2021 (Thursday); Time: 2-3:30pm both dates
  • SESSION 3: Webinar 1: 4/20/2021 (Tuesday); Webinar 2: 4/27/2021 (Tuesday); Time: 2-3:30pm both dates   

Mass Literacy Getting Started Series
First webinar February 25 | 3:30-4:15
Join us at a series of sessions this spring to learn how to use the evidence-based information and resources for grades PreK-3 featured in the Mass Literacy Guide in your schools and classrooms. Each session will feature an experienced educator speaking to their use of evidence-based practices.

Our first session will be on February 25, 2021 and focus on Foundational Skills. Future webinars will focus on topics like engaging with complex text, supporting students experiencing reading difficulties, and developing skills for early reading like fluent word reading or language comprehension. Register for one or more of these sessions here!

Launching student-led civics projects this spring?
First session February 11 | 3-4 PM
As part of our Civics Projects: Implementation 101 network this spring, DESE is hosting a series of virtual support forums hosted by Civics Project Fellows, classroom teachers with experience facilitating student-led civics projects. These forums will help answer questions about everything from project logistics to contacting stakeholders to assessing project outcomes. See the full schedule of forums and register here!

Are you an arts leader seeking peers to support your work?
March 18 and June 10 | 3:30-5:00
A working group formed as part of DESE’s Arts Leaders Network is now establishing a statewide colleague-sharing consortium that offers a support system for you. The “Arts Administrators and Teacher Leaders Consortium” premiere events are two virtual spring convenings for all interested Massachusetts Arts Administrators & Teacher Leaders to attend. RSVP now for one or both sessions! 
  • Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion in the Arts (March 18, 3:30-5:00). RSVP by March 9.
  • Lessons Learned in the Arts during the Pandemic (June 10, 3:30-5:00). RSVP by May 5.

A New Era of Civics: What, Why, and How
Tuesday, February 9 | 6-7:30
In this interactive workshop from Tufts’ Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement, researchers will share what we know so far from the first study of Massachusetts civics after the new HSS Framework and civics law have been passed—including the current status and the potential drivers of high-quality instruction. They will also share key practical implications for the classroom aimed at teachers and education leaders. The workshop goal is to work with the participants on what equitable implementation of civic education and teacher professional development can look like in your school or district for the coming year. Register today!


Are you a teacher passionate about civics education? 
Apply to become a Civics Curriculum Teacher Advisor! In order to expand access to quality civics curricular materials for the new Grade 8 civics course, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Rennie Center are convening a panel of Civics Curriculum Teacher Advisors. Teacher advisors will meet to review evidence of curricular materials’ alignment to Massachusetts content and practice standards, cultural responsiveness, and usability. This is a great opportunity to make a positive impact across the Commonwealth while connecting with peers from other districts and deepening knowledge about quality curriculum. Panel meetings will take place from March - June 2021. Teacher advisors receive a $1000 stipend for the successful completion of the Advisory Panel. Apply by February 24th!

Growing Literacy Equity Across Massachusetts (GLEAM) Grant
DESE is expanding grant support over the next five years using federal Comprehensive Literacy State Development (CLSD) funding for ELA/literacy under the grant program name GLEAM, Growing Literacy Equity Across Massachusetts. GLEAM grants will support deep and lasting improvements in programming across the Commonwealth through a multi-tiered system of support for ELA/literacy, as well as expanded access to high-quality preK.

GLEAM K-12 program grants are coming soon! The anticipated posting for these program grants is mid-late February; all of those interested in applying please keep checking the GLEAM website for updates. Eligible districts applying for GLEAM grants need not have applied nor received the Collaboration and Preparation grant in order to apply for the K-12 program grants. Any questions about GLEAM can be sent to

Pilot Opportunity for Grade 8 History/Social Science Assessment
The Department is developing a new grade 8 civics assessment based on the 2018 Massachusetts History and Social Science Curriculum Framework, incorporating performance-based tasks and computer-based test items. We would like to invite grade 8 students in your school to participate in a voluntary pilot of this assessment in spring 2021, to help us evaluate new performance tasks and new types of computer-based questions. In the pilot, schools have flexibility about the topic covered by the performance task, as well as whether to implement it in-person or remotely. If you are interested in piloting this assessment, please complete this form by today, Friday, February 5.

Emerging America workshops on historical inquiry 
Emerging America is offering a set of spring workshops to support history and social science teachers with inquiry-based instruction. These workshops are largely self-scheduled and participants have the opportunity to earn PDPs or graduate credit from Westfield State University. Upcoming workshops include:


Check out DESE's new Arts Web Page!
DESE has just launched an arts-specific page on its website! Be sure to bookmark the Arts Webpage for future reference to easily find the most current Massachusetts arts education information available. Resources and opportunities will be regularly uploaded to the site, so be sure to check back often. 

Mass$aves Presents Financial Literacy Grants and Curricula
Finding the time and resources to integrate financial literacy into lesson plans and curricula that are already turned upside down by CoVID and online learning takes an heroic commitment. The Massachusetts Jump$tart Coalition invites teachers to visit them at and take advantage of their inaugural teacher programs:
  • Grants of up to $500 to help teachers get resources and training  to bring personal finance to life - with a simple, open-ended application process.
  • Recognition for those teachers who have been bringing personal finance to students statewide.
  • A national clearinghouse of curricula and programming — including quick-start recommendations to help first-time personal finance teachers make that leap.
Soon, the website will add training programs, including partnerships with organizations like NextGen personal finance, and networking and community-building opportunities to help teachers share new ideas and best practices. 
On the Calendar...
Tuesday, February 9, 9-12: Elementary Literacy Leaders Network (Email Susan Kazeroid for more information)

Wednesday, February 10, 3-4: Civics Project Support Forum - Project Logistics and Planning (Register)

Thursday, February 25, 3-4: Civics Project Support Forum - Communicating with Parents and the Community (Register)

Thursday, February 25, 3:30-4:15: Mass Literacy Getting Started Series - Foundational Skills (Register)

Thursday, March 4, 9-12:30: History/Social Science Leaders Network (Email Reuben Henriques for more information)

Thursday, March 4, 3:30-4:15: Mass Literacy Getting Started Series - Engaging with Complex Text (Register)
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Literacy and Humanities