Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hey, Pittsfield

Good coverage of a thing I did last night.
"The commonwealth of Massachusetts is not doing its fair share in making sure our children are having the best education," Council Vice President John Krol, an avid supporter of the city's school system, said of the current situation.
Here's the Berkshire Eagle
Speaking during public comment, School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said that Novick's presentation was a "beginning." "There are many issues we face in fulfilling our constitutional obligation to our students," Yon said. "Become involved."

And WAMC pulled audio from the meeting:
“And if you keep in mind that most cities are spending at foundation, that means that it’s towns across the commonwealth that in town meetings are voting themselves tax increases in order to fund schools at one-fifth above the minimum required. I think that is a pretty strong statement of where we are at,” O’Connell Novick says.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Worcester school meetings this week

Two meetings for Worcester schools this week:

The subcommittee of Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets today at 5:30. On the agenda is a review on AP programs (not the scores, if you look at the backup); a discussion of the possible $20-$30,000 per year funding of Worcester Tech membership in SkillsUSA; a report on last year's summer programs; yet one more report on wifi (citing actual science); a report on "day-to-day PEAK-like instruction" in WPS elementary schools (in response to a request that the PEAK gifted program be re-established); and a discussion of citywide wrestling.

The full school committee meets Thursday; you can find the agenda here. After recognitions, there is a report on the Worcester HEARS initiative. There are citizen petitions requesting public hearings on the FY18 budget (required by state law) and on standardized testing.
There is a report back on elementary summer programming (18 days, four hours a day, at nine schools); there is a note regarding the decreased funding available this year. The committee is being asked to approve the innovation plan for the Goddard school (the link isn't to the plan, but to a summary; the full plan isn't posted).  Administration is asking that dates be set for FY18 budget hearings (really, budget sessions, unless they change this to take public comment).
Among the recognitions being filed this week is year four of ASBO recognizing the Worcester Public Schools' budget with its Meritorious Budget Award.
Mr. O'Connell wants to request funding for the science AP exams from the state; to submit nominations for awards to MASC; to possibly file items with MASC for its annual Delegate Assembly; and to pass an FBRC petition.
Ms. McCullough requests that the No Live Lice policy be reviewed.
There's another round of schools receiving grants for Breakfast in the Classroom from the EoS foundation.
The committee is being asked to accept a donation from Scholastic to Woodland Academy, and from Andy's Attic to South High for marketing.
Mayor Petty has filed a plan on PCB cleaning (still no money mentioned).
Miss Biancheria wants an inventory of playground equipment.

There is also an executive session scheduled: PCB's, negotiations with the teachers (still), and a grievance from an HVAC worker.

No liveblog; I have a presentation on Thursday. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April Board of Education in sum

On April 18, the Board of Elementary and Secondary met in Malden for their monthly meeting. You can find the meeting agenda here. The video of the meeting is posted here.
The meeting opened with comments from Chair Sagan and Commissioner Chester. Chair Sagan began by announcing that member Roland Fryer has resigned. (Members of the Board of Education are appointed by the Governor.) Sagan also opened a discussion regarding remote participation by Board members, something the Board will be returning to.

Chester mentioned the recent Nipmuck High public forum he attended, of the upcoming civics literacy conference in May, and of an expected report from the Office of the Child Advocate regarding private special education services. He informed the Board that the Department had, as planned, submitted the state's ESSA plan to the federal government on April 3, that they had already taken some questions regarding it on long term goals and on measurements of interim progress, and that they expected a peer review in mid to late May. He spoke of the ongoing MCAS testing, and he updated the Board about negotiations with Rhode Island around their possible adoption of our state test (which they would call RICAS).

Public comments were made regarding civics education by a civics teacher who spoke from examples from his own practice, in particular of having students engaged meaningfully with administrators on school policy as legislators, and of the groundwork this lays for active citizenship. A panel spoke of the need for the development of educators of gifted students and the need for measurement of students beyond grade level, noting that one of the top resources in the country is at UConn, but Massachusetts alone among all states in measuring no dimension of giftedness.

The Board heard a report on civic engagement plan (note that the link is to a Word doc). The three prongs moving forward (to quote here from the report) are:
  • Develop a communications strategy about the importance of civic learning and engagement in students' success 
  • Increase visibility of civic learning and engagement offerings and highlight best practices using data 
  • Strengthen the teaching and learning of civics
There also was some engagement in the six working strategies from this "The Civic Mission of Schools" report. In particular, students need to discuss current, even--especially--controversial issues in the classroom. There also was agreement with earlier testimony on the need for active and meaningful engagement for all students in actual school governance not just "designing the prom." The example of Berlin-Boylson's global studies curriculum, developed by the district and running through the grades was discussed. Superintendent Ekstrom said, ""it's about being citizens"
This also involved a discussion of the timeline on redrafting the history and social studies standards, scheduled to be out for public comment next year. Secretary Peyser expressed concern about that becoming a long, drawn-out process, with member McKenna commenting that such reviews grow heated. Secretary Peyser also related this to the planned history state assessment (referring to it as a "test"), asking if it would be possible to be field-testing questions next year, concerned there would be "a loss of urgency." The answer (in sum) was no, with one panelist later responding, "in terms of assessment, I don't think there was any appetite on the task force for another test." Deputy Commissioner Wulfson later responded that the state would be looking at best practices in such assessments as part of the Department's FY19 budget planning process. Several members of the Board emphasized active civic engagement being the focus.

The Board heard an update on Level 5 schools, most specifically UP Holland in Boston, where they're focusing on deepening student understanding, working with students on managing their emotions, and increasing partnerships with parents and families. Asked for larger lessons from the Level 5 schools, Senior Associate Commissioner Johnston spoke of the focus on student improvement.

Finally, the Board was asked to vote on an amendment to regulations to allow for a year in which school and district accountability levels would not be impacted by test scores. This grew out of concerns over the multiplicity of test histories districts now have, given the past several years. The amendment passed unanimously, but not before an extensive, and later returned to, discussion not of this year, but of next year. In particular, the Commissioner proposes to have this year's MCAS scores be averaged in with next year's scores when setting the accountability levels after that round of testing. The Board vocally (and nearly unanimously) rejected this interpretation of their direction, which repeatedly has been that this year's scores will not harm a district (or school)'s level. After a recess, Secretary Peyser express concern that not incorporating scores from this year in some way with incentivize districts to score artificially low this year, so as to have room to move up in future years. This was not disputed, but the matter will be taken up again later once the Board has to set future years' leveling systems.

Finally, the Board received an update on the House Ways and Means budget.

The Board meets next on May 22; as is its practice at its May meeting, it will meet at the home school of their student representative, which this year is Nathan Moore, who attends Sciuate High School.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April Board of Ed: accountability reset

backup is here
Sagan: if we don't change the regs, all our talking will be meaningless since the Board said they wanted districts and schools held harmless with regard to test scores

April Board of Education: Level 5 (focus on UP Holland)

backup is here
Russell Johnston speaking: careful planning from teachers
emphasis on students persist with their learning
Tim Nicolette from UP is presenting

April Board of Ed: Civics education

backup for this is here
and the civic engagement plan is here
Student day at the State House where students role play parts of government

Three recommendations coming out of the task force today:
  • Develop a communications strategy about the importance of civic learning and engagement in students' success
  • Increase visibility of civic learning and engagement offerings and highlight best practices using data
  • Strengthen the teaching and learning of civics

Mass Board of Ed April meeting: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here.
I'm posting remotely today via the livestream, so please excuse any hiccups. 
Chair Sagan announces that Roland Fryer has resigned from the Board of Ed.