Friday, August 22, 2014

Back-to-school facilities update!

Today's Friday letter is a back-to-school facilities update! In brief:

  • Chandler Magnet is coming back to new windows! ("substantially complete" by the first day)
  • Columbus Park is going to have all boarded up windows done by the start of school; the rest will be finished during second shift work this fall. (Another hold-up at the window factory) The new ramp is in, but it won't have a handrail for the start of school, plus it needs to be clear with Boston before use. The new boilers are in, and the vestibule and bathrooms will be done by school opening.
  • Remember those massive Worcester East Middle School boilers? They have been quite a project! Thus that project is behind schedule. The call on whether the school is put on a temporary boiler for this winter will be made by September 20. And MSBA hasn't gotten back to us yet on the rest of the work there: windows and the interior electrical/plumbing/heating.
  • Worcester Arts Magnet is getting their windows delivered in late September; they'll be installed second shift. The bathroom and vestibule work will be done for back to school.
  • Tatnuck Magnet, likewise, will get their new windows in late September, and they'll go in during second shift. Note that this is expected to impact the branch library there. 
Send along questions if you've got 'em! 

Worcester Public Schools bus routes for 2014-15 are POSTED!

Go check them out! 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Discipline policy

Boone: sent out in advance of the agenda
consultation from the City Solicitor, as well
as a result of Legislative action as it relates to suspension and expulsion
Rodrigues: two specific areas that needed to be refurbished: Code of Conduct, and Due Process
to be sure we didn't have any conflicting messages
 Novick: refer whatever is passed to Governance for ongoing community conversation
request quarterly reports to Governance from administration on implimentation
update to language for next year based on experiences
concerns around timeline and process, due to state timelines
PreK-grade 3 suspension should not be happening at all
O'Connell: does not want to make changes:
  • of eliminating "zero tolerance" language; believes this has legal implications; concern with federal civil rights statute
  • Rule 9:excessive tardiness (which administration has recommended eliminating)
  • Rule 10: repeated violations (which administration has recommended eliminating)
Boone: ahead of the curve since 2009, we can maintain "zero tolerance" for certain behavior, we cannot have a one-size-fits all policy. "It is the veil of zero tolerance that has gotten us to this point of overuse of suspension." School Committee has heard previously of students put into court pipeline through "disruption of school assembly" charges. Every charge must be investigated fully individually.
Rodrigues: removal of zero tolerance language is consistent with guidance from US DoE and DoJ. "continued process of this in our handbook may open us up to litigation"
class missed two or more times (or late two or more times) must notify parents per attendance policy now
Ramirez: thank for putting a lot of thought into this in a quick manner
happy to see language from zero tolerance being changed
concern with using "obey" rather than "follow" rules of conduct
extremely happy to see excessive tardiness being taken out; students walk a long distance to get to school
concerns that we may not have answers yet: Gateway City, have many languages, need translation services
what are the options for education (for students suspended)?
Boone: concern on translators has been discussed with principals; shortened time frame challenge, as well
ongoing education: opportunities in place, as we are a larger district, will provide to school committee, both in and out of district
Rodrigues: once a student is suspended for ten consecutive days or more, then alternative education deployed then; through collaboratives, in district, and tutoring
Biancheria: great deal of information here, twelve additional questions, at least here
questions, principals have questions
"the law is the law is the law, and we have to work with it, but let's get it to standing committee"
Foley: support motion to send it to Governance, an awful lot of work to be done here
reflect on the fact that we have reduce our suspensions
"embrance what Mr. Robarge said today about reflecting on these issues"
take a look at the languages and our policies
let's not leave the vague language in there that has caused some of the problems in there
Monfredo: only the first step, has to be the first step
don't want to leave it to the end of the year to make changes
O'Connell: don't want to make changes tonight, but make that part of consideration at subcommittee
vote on O'Connell's motion to retain language on zero tolerance and rules FAILS
vote to approve, as well as send then to Governance PASSES
motion to suspend the rules to reconsider PASSES; reconsideration FAILS
aka: we're going with what was recommended

Secondary class size report: held

report on class size average by teacher at secondary level
Boone: additional questions directed through Dr. Friel?
Biancheria has done so, moves to hold pending additional information

Teacher survey results (TELL-Mass)

to collect perception data on the condition of teaching in the schools
administered initially in 2012
at least 50% of school-based licensed educators in order to access data, and Worcester met that
WPS had 56.3% participation; the state had 48.1%
You can find the results here
"we can draw some generalizations" due to high participation
very good news in nearly every category
facilities "have done some investment and need to continue to invest"
several items related to access to technology
"this year teachers will have a full year of quality technology"
concerns around facilities: "a lot of investment" in these
"one area where the district did not meet or exceed state" level
keeping community involved in student learning
parental engagement: "learning more about what teachers are considering involvement in schools"
88% of those asked in Worcester say their school is safe
teacher leadership "validating teacher leadership and teacher voice"
"how deeply the practices are in getting to the classroom"
Petty: for people who took the survey; was every school over 50%? No. Individual schools get individual data if they're over 50%.
Glad to see teachers and administrators think things are going in the right direction
technology "put funds aside to address that"
parent involvement "you're going to try to see what is going on with that?"
Boone: constant, "great variety of economic diversity in our schools, perception of how parents can best support their children and their individual learnign styles"
immigrant population: in many other countries, educators are regarded as the experts and education happens at school
work at what that means and what that looks like
a number of partners who have are supporting that
Petty: school leadership, seems to be going in the right direction
"overall, it's a good report"
O'Connell: have made progress and are moving in the right direction
have some areas that we can focus on in a very constructive way
technology worries me "spending significant on technology"
need to be aggressive as we can to make the broadband access
parental decision making: "even though we have site councils"
involve teachers as extensively as we can
"have made progress...can make it better still"
Foley "very pleased with the numbers...a place for people with issues to bring up to bring them up"
"always room for improvement in any district"
"have professionals that are working together"
curious on how we do relative to other urban districts: Boone
Novick: professional leadership in particular impressive, when we hear teachers nationally saying that they aren't listened to; respected and listened to locally is important
parent having a role in decision making: site councils are a welcome and needed voice
technology spending necessary and overdue; supplies need more spending as well
Biancheria: principals have access and can relay to their staff (either of building level data or of district data)
technology portion of this: "what we're doing across the city due construction" wiring going in
"are we seeing improvements as the months go by of the machines working correctly and being on?"
Boone: new machines largely coming in after the survey was taken
readiness for school year? absolutely. Most were done before the end of last school year
will be part of opening of school report
Biancheria: have now made investments in technology, hope to see impact
Monfredo: thank admin, positive report
"it's only as good as the follow-up"

Innovation Schools renewals

Boone: sharing progress of initial five innovation schools at that time in May
schools fully review plans, tweaks or adjustments
Rodrigues: data analyze data so far
see if intended goals have made it, or changes that need to be made
questions to principals at length
Novick: sorry, I took the floor first, and I had a bunch of questions; I'll write them up later
O'Connell: is the lottery a change? (for Goddard Scholars, on whose innovation board he sits)
short version, no
O'Connell: gifted and talented practices changes (on Goddard Scholars)
Ryan: past three years, attending
consultants from UConn; "use their model for how it fits our program"
included a lot of guest speakers and college trips
enrichment clusters "deepen our use of Renzuli learning" to further student interestes
there is a service project component at the end of the year
O'Connell: give innovation schools a chance to develop their programs
deference to schools
"in the end decision left up to the schools"
"shining lights of what our schools have to offer"
Boone: "how do we build a preK-12 pathway"
retention of families and children in schools
Monfredo: five schools of eight in the city here tonight; Worcester has more than anyone
professional development as part of the plan
"ask the parents"
"adding in some of the schools a full day preschool program" (note: pending funding)
"let's develop or consider developing another model such as Goddard Scholars"
Biancheria: "not being just an independent unit...'part of a larger community'"
community responsibility, community involvement, positive attitudes
look at the focus of how we move forward as a city and as a community
hearing of best practices and bringing forward to administration
Foley: "school starts next week...want to be sure everyone's ready to go"
"two factors I want to highlight: strong leadership in these schools...what people don't talk about enough is the strong engagement of the faculty"
"I think that's how our schools are successful"
innovation school plan updates approved

States can ask to wait a year on using student test scores to evaluate teachers

Secretary Duncan says they can apply to wait. As this is a ridiculous system to begin with, even setting aside the test switch, it would be a start.
UPDATES: Here's the letter announcing the change. Also, here's Duncan's blog post on this, which talks at length on overtesting, and also opens the possibility of further flexibilities.