Wednesday, January 18, 2017

A hard read, but a necessary one

But what if we’re just plain wrong about schools being able to overcome poverty?
The View from Room 205: a year in a Chicago public school classroom

If you didn't watch the DeVos hearing

A few links:

And here's my thoughts from this morning:

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Worcester meetings this week

Up this week:
  • It doesn't appear to have been advertised anywhere, but there is a posted South High Building Committee meeting for tomorrow night at 6 pm in the school library. No idea what's on the agenda or where they are in the building project, as there isn't a folder or full list of topics anywhere I can turn up. 
  • The School Committee meets Thursday at 7 pm; you can find the agenda here. There does not appear to be a report of the superintendent. There are several retirements, resignations, and appointments. The enrollment report, already previewed in this weekend's T&G, comes back essentially as a budget preview (timely, as the Governor's budget comes out next Wednesday). It's worth noting not only did WPS break 25,000 students for the first time since 2003; while Worcester also remains the third largest district in the state, we're back within striking distance of Springfield (25,391 to Springfield's 25,633). The inflation rate squeaks in at !.1%, so at least this year, it's a positive number. Honestly, this probably needs its own post, but read the summary. Administration points out that having School Committee members add individual items to the curriculum is maybe not a good plan...and some schools sing the "Smiley Face" song already. There is response to a request on teachers on expired licenses. There will be a performance of the South High band (this is an agenda item).Mr. Monfredo notes the annual Worcester Historical Museum Valentine contest. Mr. Foley requests a budget presentation to the joint committee (on Education for City Council and on Finance and Operations for School Committee). Mr. O'Connell would like more on the 'no confidence' vote at Quinsigamond Elementary. There are also several recognitions and donations, plus grants of $10,000 for lacrosse at Doherty High and $14,000 for LIBRARIES(!) at Canterbury Street, Rice Square, and Worcester East Middle. PCBs and a grievance are on the executive session agenda for 6 pm. 
  • There is a Legislative Breakfast at 9 am on Friday at Worcester Tech, with a fairly extensive list of items: one would expect the Foundation Budget Review Commission, but there is also additional computers, preschool, kindergarten, MSBA, AP exams, and "a Compact to prioritize public education and coordinate efforts to firmly establish the Worcester Public Schools as the best urban school system in New England and beyond." 
If I can, I'll try to make the section on Thursday on enrollment, as it appears to be the only budget preview Worcester is getting in January. unless there's one that appears as backup for Friday.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

They keep moving the goal posts

It's from 2009, but an entirely relevant read from Professor Jack Schneider on how we got AP tests and how they're leading to diminishing returns among lower income kids.
However, perception of AP had begun to change. The programme had expanded so rapidly at the end of the century that some colleges and universities, concerned with questions about the credibility of the programme, began to re-evaluate the practice of giving preference in the admissions process to those who completed AP coursework. Further, as of 2000, ‘the general level of selectivity and [criteria regarding] test scores’ among 4-year private universities, ‘were higher than they had been previously’ (Breland et al. 2002)—an indication that more students were exhibiting strong academic coursework and test performance than they had previously. Simply put, having AP on one’s transcript no longer provided the measure of distinction it once did.

Here comes the FBRC bill(s?)

The Bay State Banner talked to Senator Chang-Diaz about her plans for a bill implementing the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations this upcoming session; bills are due January 20.
Chang-Diaz told the Banner that this latest bill would implement nearly all the FBRC recommendations, which include using a more accurate method to calculate employee health care costs and increasing funding allotments for the education of English language learners, special education students and low-income students.
 Do read the whole article, however.

This does leave some questions:

  • does anyone have any plans to do ANY kind of implementation for FY18? That would require language (and funding) in the budget to be considered this spring. The Governor's version comes out in two weeks; while we may or may not see anything there, do the legislators have a plan to do some implementation for FY18? They should.
  • how are the parts that were left unclear dealt with in Chang-Diaz's (and others?) bill(s). Low income wasn't specified, for example. 
  • are we going to continue with a special education formula that doesn't recognize real costs (the FBRC doesn't)?
  • while everyone acknowledges that "everyone is probably going to get something," is the Legislature (in particular) going to be able to recall and pass a bill that recognizes that equity is going to require greater resources going to greater need? 
Nonetheless, hopeful.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Detroit has an empowered, elected school board!

...for the first time in decades!

Push for the third way is coming

Today's Scott Lehigh column in the Globe sounded the opening bars of what's clearly going to be a push from the ed reformers: Third Way Ed is back. This is building on the Springfield Empowerment Zone (side note: has anyone seen actual results from that?), which, having now added Commerce High to it, is clearly a preferred option to the Commissioner.

Calling such institutions "empowerment zones" is rather like calling subdivisions "Forest Way," in that it represents what isn't there. The first thing that happens with an empowerment zone, after all, is the school committee votes to surrender its authority to a board elected by, and representing, no one.

Consider this a warning. As always, you aren't going to see this happen in the suburbs.