Budget Amendment ID: FY2014-S3-31
Grade Retention-Reduction Commission
Ms. Clark and Mr. Tarr moved that the proposed new text be amended by inserting, after section 139, the following new section:-
"SECTION XX. Not withstanding any general law or special law to the contrary, there shall be a student progression, remedial instruction and grade retention-reduction commission established to improve the rates of student progression, ensure appropriate remedial services, reduce grade retention rates, and improve the education strategies for parents about their rights and responsibilities when a child is retained. The commission shall examine and make recommendations as specified in sections 1 through 8 below.
The commission shall consist of the secretary of education or his designee who shall serve as chairperson; the commissioner of the department of elementary and secondary education or his designee; the commissioner of the department of children and families or his designee; the commissioner of the department of youth services or his designee; the commissioner of the department of mental health or his designee; the commissioner of the department of early education and care or his designee; the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on education; the house and senate chairs of the joint committee on children, families and persons with disabilities; 1 member to be appointed by the speaker of the house; 1 member to be appointed by the senate president; 1 member to be appointed by the house minority leader; 1 member to be appointed by the senate minority leader; 1 representative from the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents; 1 representative of the Massachusetts Secondary School Administrators Association; 1 representative from the Massachusetts Association of School Committees; 1 representative of the American Federation of Teachers of Massachusetts; 1 representative of the Massachusetts Teachers Association; 1 representative of the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts; 1 representative from the Massachusetts School Nurses Association; 1 representative from the Massachusetts School Psychologists Association; 1 representative from the Massachusetts Chapter of the Academy of Pediatrics; 1 representative from the National Association of Social Workers; 1 representative from the Children’s Mental Health Campaign: 1 representative from Massachusetts Advocates for Children, 1 student to be appointed by the Governor, 1 person from the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy; 1 practicing child and adolescent psychiatrist to be appointed by the Governor; 1 representative from the Association of Elementary School Principals; and 1 representative from the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center.
The commission shall review available research on grade retention, being overage for grade in relation to achievement, attendance, discipline, and dropping out in the Commonwealth and nationally. The commission shall examine research on or evidence-based and "promising" practices for reducing grade retention and improving student commitment and school "holding power”. The commission shall understand Massachusetts school and district policies that may be contributing to disparate grade retention in different grades and districts. The commission shall identify school districts and schools with greater than three percent retention rates. The commission shall develop a model grade retention policy for Massachusetts schools, which shall include the following elements: the development of protocols that ensure children who are retained for academic delays have received referral for special education evaluation and are offered the appropriate remedial services; each school district with an annual grade retention rate of greater than 3 per cent shall develop a district-wide action plan to reduce grade retention and effectively track students; action plans shall include: interventions that will be used to identify students at risk for retention as early in the school year as possible, specific evidence-based interventions that will be utilized by the school district and how these plans will be monitored, and implemented; shall be submitted to the department of elementary and secondary education identifying a specific time-frame; strategies for communication with parents about their rights and responsibilities regarding their child’s progress; the technical assistance support available from the department of early and secondary education to gather and analyze data, assist in the development and implementation of action plans and enhance a district’s ability to meet the diverse needs of its student population. Technical assistance shall include research-based alternative options and strategies. The commission shall also establish a goal and timeline for reducing the statewide annual grade retention rates and shall examine developing early warning indicator systems (EWIS), currently being piloted, to identify students who are at risk of retention; and ensure appropriate referral for special education evaluation or other evidence-based interventions as identified by the commission. The commission shall estimate the fiscal impact of grade retention on the Commonwealth and its school districts.
The commission shall hold its first meeting no later than 1 month subsequent to the last member being appointed. The commission shall create a report of its findings and recommendations and submit that report to the chairs of the ways and means committees and the clerks of the house of representatives and senate no later than 6 months from the commission’s commencement."