Friday, May 29, 2015

"meant to mine votes rather than build acute minds"

Clive on Tuesday's WPS budget hearing:
The strength of the Worcester public schools has been the willingness of public officials to do what was necessary, rather than what was required, to provide young people with the best educational experience.
That willingness seemed to have waned during the past several years, but, notwithstanding Mr. Gaffney’s contrariness, the tone of the overall discussion on Tuesday night suggests that city and school officials are back to playing on that strength.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

WPS FY16 public hearing on the budget: UDPATED with slide screenshots

posting as we go
Economou: one of the things I ran on was trying to find a better working relationship between schools and Council
"it's starting to show the fruits of our efforts"
cut in fee on grants from city
"more pro-active working relationship"
"as we do progress forward as a group...a better working relationship between City Hall and here at the School Department"
think foundation budget needs to be changed; "when it came on, it came on outdated"
Foley: two items on the school side
one to consider items of joint interest, but also to consider the city's contribution for FY16 and years following
working relationship: "Great meeting yesterday"
"very positive, very collegial"
"what I heard yesterday was really about one city"
continuing to move the city forward positively
Councilors were talking about the need for students support
later in timeline than in past years
city has approved bottom line; committee has not reviewed ours yet

Allen: Fy15 current number: still in deficit by $3M
additional amount each year is decreasing, thus amount is cummulative
and there's a slide here that I really need to get; update with a screenshot (though the colors came out weird; the colors were nicer than this):




regarding transportation review: $1M identified if 7-12 transportation eliminated; would also reconstruct exisiting routing scheme, the sixth grade programs at the middle schools; all city-wide transportation to Worcester Tech, Goddard Scholars, Burncoat Arts Quadrant, alternative programs
plus all transportation to all students outside of 2 miles (much, for example, of South High's student enrollment)
"We are not recommending a switch to a different method of packaging to and from school routes."
(SBC report of January 2015)

enrollment:only in last three years does enrollment exceed that of 2004-05, which is when the first of eight schools were closed:

Note: the above is changes each year compared to 2004-05. The year-by-year changes look like this:



497 student increase; excluding preschool swing, nearly 700 students up
inflation factor: previous to five years ago, rate was closer to 3% change of actual budget

assumption in the foundation budget is that it will pay for contractual changes going forward
enrollment changes assumed to pay for needs of student populations that change
inflation factor "really putting a strain on the budget"
foundation budget going up by $14.6, driven by inflation ($4.7M), enrollment change ($5M), demographic change ($4.9M)
FY16 budget $318,793,113
majority of which is state aid
$300K is up and above the minimum
$723,062 going to transportation
budget is based upon $318M

total city budget is $598M
chapter 70 aid is $234M
city budget without state aid is $364M
of that $252M is city budget
$104M goes to WPS
$8M goes to charter schools


of residential tax rate of $20.07, $5.71 goes to WPS

elementary class size: if you simply phase out grade 6 and phase in projected K, increase projected of 579 students
for next year: elementary class size of (average) 22; 48 classes of 27-30 classes, citywide
plus all of this

outstanding budget challenges:
space for enrollment changes and deal with class size
no additional secondary electives (or their textbooks)
school adjustment counselors
capital equipment: "the $500,000 earmark we have for capital equipment simply isn't enough": turnover on buses, in particular is a concern
cost centers continue to exceed inflation
state budget: kindergarten grant, charter reimbursement still outstanding

Toomey: what school choice students? (you can look at page 84 for this answer)
what number are special needs? what are ELL?
"I know folks have wanted their kids in" the schools
possible to get a report?
regarding the books: focusing just on books? not online
Allen: math books on an annual repleshment cycle: hardcover book, plus consumables, plus online resources
Rodrigues: combination of manipulatives and durables
Toomey: cost savings due to hardcover?
Allen: in theory it's a savings compared to traditional way of getting supplies
Toomey: are we using online materials to the best of our ability?
Rodrigues: professional development for using online resources
Toomey: how are Caradonio Center program updated?
Rodrigues: curriculum renewal cycle for all students
at Caradonio, not only content, but supplies and teaching that goes on is language aquisition and content
program is infused with language acquisition as well content

Rosen: still love this stuff
"there's a lot of good news here...news is important to the whole city...how helpful it is to everything else that goes on"
commend good work that goes on
"pretty proud yesterday of the meeting we had...so positive"
"so glad to be there, so happy to talk about the changes in the schools"
asks if students are still put in back of class
Boone: no, don't do double duty in classroom
too many students who have more than one study hall in their schedule
Rosen: transportation: "we had to get students to school"
issue with chronic absenteeism: showing some of the things the schools are doing
"saving money, but not educating them, is not what our mission is"
Boone: programs that are drawing interest from many places are exactly the programs that would be eliminated were we to eliminate 7-12 transportation
"more than just dollars back into the books, but what do we do to those programs for that strong portfolio of options"
textbooks: 20 years and older
Allen: now five years from any major changes in major investment in the secondary schools

Economou: glad to see collaboration
"when parents ask me what I think of Forest Grove or Doherty, it's all good"
"we're going to do all we can with the resources available"

Foley: nice to have a budget where we're looking at an increase of teachers coming in
comment on transportation: "it's much more complex than that"
"significant choices to be made...[budget] is hundreds of choices to be made"
funding lags enrollment by one year: additional 600 students educated on existing dollars

Ramirez: thrilled to see a budget that doesn't require cutting teachers like last year
as we talk about transportation, remember the horrible weather: think of what it would be like for a young person to have to walk more
decisions made thoughtfully and carefully "and they're not quick"
"making those decisions with a wealth of information"
plans for the future

Novick: motion to letter to delegation to fund House number on kindergarten grant and fund charter reimbursement as much as possible (passes)
reference to capital budget to joint committee (to point that $500K is entirely inadequate and needs to be updated)
updated administration agreement? Allen: should be done by the end of the summer
update going to School Committee as well as to joint committee

Zalauskas: EAW president:
special recognition to city to try to close the gap
"I don't think it's adequate still...still a problem we face"
Lukes last night at meeting "she got it"
how much it takes to educate the student population when 6 or 700 students are dropped on your lap
checking enrollment more than once a year
"we need 4 or 5 millon dollars more from the cityside"
bothered by having police officers paid for by school budget: should be paid for by city, a city service
have community policing
"I know you're going to say 'he's pie in the sky again' but I mean it and I'm right"
"we need help, and other Gateway cities are facing the same thing"
poverty is the issue
"we have always had the can-do attitude and that's the attitude we have to have every day"
"I don't pretend to know all the numbers, but I know that we're woefully underfunded"

Foley agrees that having the state take a look at the foundation budget review commission is our best hope
tens of millions of dollars that would be generated
hope city would see need to at least incrementally change

Steve Power, teacher WPS: thank those who worked to increase the school budget
put a face on what happens when we face cutbacks: class of 36 and 31 students
"this is an almost impossible teaching situation"
in some case a three grade difference in their abilities
students who needed much more individual attention than I was able to give
"having larger classes there...students who really need more services...hurts me as a teacher to see that"
"would rather have an honors class" of that size
"very good support from the administration of the school"
"hope that going forward we can try to mitigate the effects of any decrease in the budget so these situations don't happen"
glad to hear schools thinking about mindfulness in general
bring attention to recycling program: "highly suspect that recyling is going on in the schools"
should be looked at

Monfredo: grant change?
to 2.5%
Foley: generate $165,000 back to grants
adjourn

Both parts of PARCC to be merged

By the way, the Board of Ed memo from last week about PARCC getting shorter was written ahead of changes going to the Governing Board. They eventually decided to merge BOTH sections of PARCC into a single test session each; the state has updated that information here.

Forest Mondays in kindergarten

Do go read about how this Vermont kindergarten spends their Mondays. Brilliant.

What does Mass General Law say we should be doing on testing?

I'm planning on putting this together at greater length and in greater detail for testimony before the Board of Ed, but Scott O'Connell called yesterday, so here's a start: 

If you read today's T&G article regarding the EAW's vote for a freeze on standardized testing, you may be wondering what I'm talking about here:
 Worcester School Committee member Tracy O’Connell Novick argues that trend is at odds with the state’s own laws, which prescribe a more broad-based approach to testing.
“That’s my issue – we’re not in line with Massachusetts General Laws, and we’re not going to be with PARCC, either,” she said. 

 Assessment is described in often-referenced (but seldom quoted) M.G.L. chapter 69, section 1l.  It begins the description with this (emphasis throughout is mine):
 With respect to individual schools, the system shall include instruments designed to assess the extent to which schools and districts succeed in improving or fail to improve student performance, as defined by student acquisition of the skills, competencies and knowledge called for by the academic standards and embodied in the curriculum frameworks established by the board pursuant to sections one D and one E in the areas of mathematics, science and technology, history and social science, English, foreign languages and the arts, as well as by other gauges of student learning judged by the board to be relevant and meaningful to students, parents, teachers, administrators, and taxpayers.
Given that MCAS and now PARCC have only ever been in ELA and math, plus science, we already are well off of what is called for. While periodically the Pioneer Institute calls for some sort of MCAS in history, the sort of broad-based assessment envisioned here is not something that has really ever been worked on.

But it gets worse:
The system shall be designed both to measure outcomes and results regarding student performance, and to improve the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction. In its design and application, the system shall strike a balance among considerations of accuracy, fairness, expense and administration.
..debatable, at best
The system shall employ a variety of assessment instruments on either a comprehensive or statistically valid sampling basis.
This in particular has never happened. We have no such variety of assessment instruments. We have this standardized test--acronym whatever it is--which is the single assessment instrument.
Such instruments shall be criterion referenced, assessing whether students are meeting the academic standards described in this chapter. As much as is practicable, especially in the case of students whose performance is difficult to assess using conventional methods, such instruments shall include consideration of work samples, projects and portfolios, and shall facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance.
The MCAS-Alt is that which is used "in the case of students whose performance is difficult to assess using conventional methods," and moves towards something close to a portfolio of authentically-assessed work. This, though, is much more of what is laid out here: "as much as is practicable," assessment is to "facilitate authentic and direct gauges of student performance."
The assessment laid out here isn't supposed to take students away from the work they're doing (and tie up computer labs and eliminate recess and gym and interrupt lunch classes); it's supposed to BE the work they're doing!

That isn't PARCC.
That isn't MCAS.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Let's hear from you!

Public hearing on the WPS FY16 budget
7 pm
Wednesday, May 27
Durkin Administration Building

Not-at-all liveblog: WPS budget before Council

Taken from my longhand notes, thus quite possibly less detail than usual; the Finance and Operations subcommittee (that's Foley, Ramirez, and me) joined Superintendent Boone and Mr. Allen at the table for questions this year