Wednesday, September 19, 2018

September Board of Ed: in sum

You can find my Novick Reports over at MASC.
I also did a little post-meeting ranting over on Twitter, starting here:

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

September Board of Ed: Foundation budget review commission

backup is here

Wulfson: thought it would be useful to give you a quick refresher course on what the foundation budget is
Massachusetts one of first states to adopt such a budgetary plan
"one of the key measures of if we are meeting our constitutional obligation" to provide an education for all students
rises to the top of the list as it is a constitutional obligation
FY19: total foundation budget a little under $11B; a little over $11K per student
funded through a combination of state aid and required local contribution
excludes several significant items: transportation, construction, extraordinary sped costs, pensions
those run about $2.5B on top of foundation budget
pretty much untouched from its initial adoption in 1993
2015 commission established to review assumptions in foundation budget
"despite a lot of effort by staff in legislature and the conference committee...with a lot of support from our school finance office here...a major rewrite is quite an endeavor"

important to note "despite news coverage to the contrary, none of those discussions had anything to do with the current fiscal year"
fiscal year '20 budget isn't over: "it's just starting"

many districts choosing to spend over foundation
others held harmless well above the current foundation budget
an increase in the foundation budget for a particular district does not translate into a dollar-for-dollar increase in state aid and "in some, it may not translate to any increase in state aid"

Wulfson notes that "what tools and levels are we thinking about that will translate increased spending to increased student achievement" was discussed at the end of the Commission ('though he fails to note that those who wanted such things tied LOST)

Craven: important for Board to look at four issues and look at how their weighted
"the only one here that could be translated into achievement gap closure" is poverty
that...isn't true at all
"as a veteran of minimum aid"
Peyser: the districts that benefit are the ones that are spending right at that level" of foundation
"even if you're increasing a factor that effects all districts equally" in terms of state aid it leans most to districts that most lack local capacity
Wulfson: fiscal distress is two catagories: Gateways, where enrollment is growing; and rural districts where districts are tiny and shrinking
Craven: would preferred something that's more targeted
"I don't know how it helps achieve our goals over time" with the other issues isn't about that?
Peyser: how do we ensure those funds are being used to have a larger impact on student outcomes?
potential of thinking about other parts of the state finance system
Sagan: budget as a process that happens "to us"
Craven: generally think that anything that puts money into the system is a good thing, I do think that the Legislature will run out of money on this at some point, "that's a balancing act, as well"
Riley: unintended consequences: if the average municipality spends 20% above foundation, in theory districts can divert money to police and fire and stay above foundation
McKenna: sometimes I wonder if we're in a bubble
"there's highly documented data on how to attact the achievement gap...but that budget doesn't target those things"
high quality early childhood, full day kindergarten, summer learning
"we're not going to change the achievement gap until we target them"
Wulfson: money put into for programs mentioned are being put in for health insurance and special education which have to be paid for
Moriarty asks if the Medicaid reimbursement still goes back to the general fund
Wulfson: you're correct, there's no legal requirement that it go back

Bell: spending plan for this current year (FY19)
review process for administration and finance
implementation for spending this year
working with Commissioner for FY20 ask
no withholding, no vetoes, implementing budget as Legislature passed
have money for implementation for history/civics standards and assessment
FY19 just awaiting final approval for ANF on spending plan
"from a budgeting perspective, we're onto FY20"
federal side: "despite all of the last few years...Congress has pretty much continued to fund federal education programs at a baseline program level"

September Board of Ed: MCAS competency certification

backup memo is here
Wulfson intro's, praising the assessment group for all the juggling they've done
Stapel: update on MCAS and on competency determination
two years of next generation testing in grades 3-8 in English and math
this spring (2019) is first tests in grade 10
adding science as well in spring of 2020
participation rate (has a chart) "really happy to see that" rate over 99%
89% of students grades 3-8 tested on a computer
continued phase-in of computer-based testing: grades 3-8 in all three subjects; grade 10 in ELA and math; high school science in 2020
official embargoed data to districts on 25th
planned official release is Sept 27th
parent guardian reports get to superintendents on the 28th
Sagan asks if they only get their own results or get everyone's "so if they leaked it, it would only be their own results" which clearly takes many aback
been two decades since we've set a bar for high school
plan is to vote in winter of 2019-20 for standard beginning with class of 2023
"they will be entering high school next fall" so want to make that decision while they are still in their ninth grade year
advisory committee in summer/fall 2019 to inform that decision

West: hope competency determination could be informed by where kids end up
(aka after graduation)

On Science: (this is Katie Bowler) some of same considerations
which science tests are/have been taken: 75.8% in biology, 20% in physics, 3.3% in tech/engineering, 0.6% in chem
"definitely the sequence"
"the chemistry is usually a grade 10 or 11 tests...typically have already taken a biology test"
Tech/engineering "has just not increased"
Peyser: chemistry test-takers have already taken bio? Yes, most have already taken another
number is first time test takers: transfers or others missed, usually taking chem and others
Peyser: what would we expect those students to do?
bio or introductory physics still offered
Sagan: just following this: "we're not creating a cul de sac of failure for kids"
Peyser: is there a way of students to meet the competency determination that is sufficiently aligned and sufficiently rigorous by taking another test?
would like to keep that on the table
Wulfson: portfolio review is successful for most students
adding a mid-year physics assessment, so students entering will not have to wait until the end of the year
Peyser: computer science added "I think the next question people are asking is 'what's our assessment strategy?'"
interest in the exception to the rules; and what message is being set to the room
Morton: having portfolio reviews is going to be important
need to be figuring out how we're going to introduce kids to STEM earlier in life
ensure we aren't creating an unintended consequence
Wulfson (to question) engineering: "the built world rather than the natural world"
Matthews: when tests are phased out, I wonder if it's more cost effective if students would be expected to take tests outside of schools and would that be covered
Wulfson: this is being driven by budgetary considerations
"is it a good use of our limited resources" to provide a test for only a few students
"we certainly can't expect students to pay for something that's required"
ESSA requirement that we "give all students the same test"
argument to date is all are under the MCAS umbrella; same intention
McKenna asks about how hard it is to recruit good biology and physics teachers to high poverty schools
Riley: always in high demand

continuing to investigate ways to reduce the testing time
and turn around time on results; working to make that closer and closer "so while those students are still in that classroom, the teacher can have results"
lots of opportunities around computer-adaptive testing

September Board of Ed: arts standards update

the backup is here

Riley: revising arts frameworks which have not been touched since 1999
did put a 1.0 position in for an arts coordinator
there's a powerpoint here; I'll see if I can get it if it's needed
Ron Noble and Craig Waterman
"woe unto the state bureaucrat who follows Mr. Siddiqui"
notes Commissioner has long held that arts are part of a rich education
informed by feedback on state ESSA plan
Four goals:
  1. emphasizing importance of arts education
  2. include media arts and other emerging forms
  3. align to current research and resources
  4. align to structure of other frameworks
preparation was stakeholder outreach, panelist recruitment, and faciliator training, which went through May
now in writing and revising with panel meetings, content advisor input, and drafting of frameworks
intent is to be back in December or January with drafts to be released for public comment
intent is to be voted out in May

asked: what are elements of excellent arts education, current strengths and shortcomings of framework, suggestions for organization
standards should be specific and measurable
asked that discipline not be merged
identify common practices across disciplines
grade pairs in standards

had five full day meetings this summer: identified key learning, started with standards that needed revising, deletion, moved
final review meetings in September with feedback from content advisors
developing standards with an appropriate amount of time in mind
balance and options for districts
consistency to build across all frameworks
Stewart follows up on mention of arts position: it is Riley's intent going forward
How do you say everything is going to be a practice?
Noble: What we would ask a first grader to do, a fifth grader to do, a high school student to do...
what skills support these broad concepts
frequency and duration is also important; know that arts are an answer to improving schools
Moriarty: "this has always cut against the grain of the mindset of the subjects tested matter" as opposed to all disciplines on an equal footing
time is a resource as is money; merging arts into other subjects
is there any intent to use that, and if so, how?
Noble: standards across five disciplines that allow integration with content or just integration in the arts themselves
increase access to the arts even where we don't have time to do it
McKenna asks when they'll know about arts position; Peyser says next few weeks

September Board of Education: Commissioner Riley's goals

the backup is here; worth checking out

Riley: "we've done 25 years of education reform; there's been some good things, there's been some things that haven't been as good as we've hoped"
goals are reflective of that
day to day work
as well as assessing department as a whole
communication and outreach strategy to bring people under one tent to try to work together on a way forward
"I've asked that we take this year to celebrate and support our teachers"
"getting back to our bread and butter and focus on quality instruction"
"I'd be remiss if I didn't talk about the foundation budget and the needs of our students...we contine to believe that we need to do better by our students"
will be providing "whatever help we can" to Beacon Hill as it moves forward
"can support their work in coming to a good resolution"
coming from Lawrence, felt we didn't have the resources our students needed, particularly affecting the Gateway communities
40% our students are students of color; only 8% of our teachers are
"have to do a better job of attracting and retaining our teaching force overall, teachers of color in particular"

Stewart: particularly enthused by final note (on equity)
wonder about institutional racism; never seen any education institution take that on in any appreciable way
Riley: did work internally with Courageous Conversations
focusing exterally next
"typically a monitoring and compliance organization" this will be different
recruiting aggressively on college campuses; offering incentives

Fernández: on communication and outreach
need for multi-lingual and multicultural strategy
achievement gaps and focus in ways
Riley: I will put achievement and opportunity gaps

Craven: things we can do before FBRC (I think that's what she said)
Riley: waiting on this supplemental budget; it's a moving target at this point
"will have more opportunity as this budget passes"

West: feels it would be "stronger if tied to an explicit problem statement"
history/social science: development of assessment

Moriarty: saw early literacy "lurking in the lines," I think explicit would be better

Morton: have us come in to support

McKenna: model the behavior that you want others to follow
"having somebody who looks like you" not a bad thing to have when recruiting

Matthews: echo Morton on getting students getting involved
"in many cases, the answers are going to lie with the students"
foreign languages?
Riley defers to Peske: in process of reviewing standards
doing outreach to stakeholders (including students)
will not bring revised standards to the Board this year
last revised in 1999

Sagan: tweak the memo, send it back around
"as you know, we're from the government, we're here to help"

September meeting of the Board of Education: opening remarks

The agenda is here. The livestream is here. Posting starts at 8:30 or thereabouts

Meeting called to order at 8:34 by Chair Sagan
"Happy New Year, as several of you have said"
"I actually got one email from somebody saying, 'I can't wait til you're all back!'"
(laughter as Sagan denies that it came from a member of the Board or from his family)
Sagan welcomes Maya Matthews as the new student rep of the year
Sagan notes that this will be Riley's first full school year
goals not only for Commissioner's report card but also priorities that he wants us to focus on
have been talking to Early Ed and Higher Ed on "more evidenced-based policy making"
"great deal more data that will look" over a long period of time
"we're not really sure a lot of the time" when making policies
"look at some set of outcomes in a new way"
other states are doing this "and may even be ahead of us"
do an outside study on what else is going on in the country; will come back and let you know what we've learned
work with other boards in an interdisciplinary way
"link some of at least economic outcomes with what experiences you had and what schools you went to"

Commissioner Riley:
update on explosions in the Merrimack Valley
"could have been a lot worse...we did lose a student" could have been even worse
thank those who have contributed
Eversource went school by school and cleared the schools
shelters have been closing as families have been able to go home
"difficult week or so and a lot of work ahead to fix the problem"
update on case on Holyoke case on translation; optimistic on progress
school resource officer model MOU; being well-planned for all contingencies
superintendent, police chief, fire chief being coordinated with response to emergencies
MCAS results end of September
"asked Board to reserve judgment" on new accountability system

Peyser: pending supplemental budget (for FY18)
"turns out there were some additional resources available in FY18"
Governor has asked for "some significant new dollars" to be put towards education; $70M to school safety
of that $20M to physical plant; $40M to behavioral and mental health services
"to prevent the kinds of school shootings we've seen in other parts of the country"
$30M for targeted assistance; at discretion of Commissioner
"that's pending"
"this will happen over the next couple of weeks one way or another"
visits with Commissioner, Higher Ed to districts on early college high school
pathways programs: "expand careerways in comprehensive high schools"
Connecting activities has been part of Mass STEM at Work

Public comment: Emily Ruddock (?)
director of policy and public affairs for MassCreative
"so delighted to see there is an update on arts curriculum framework"
worked closely to ensure that arts participation "featured in that dashboard" on school and district report cards
"passion, professionalism, and dedication" of those reviewing updated standards
make sure all of this good work is actual implemented
need for staff person at DESE to coordinate professional development and implementation

Monday, September 17, 2018

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, but there's a report they aren't receiving

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday for their regular meeting--the agenda is here--but there is a report they aren't getting.
Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports was scheduled to meet last week on Wednesday, in which case it would report out this week, but the meeting was cancelled. And why is decidedly odd:
Earlier this week, the administration withdrew the plan for further review, and the standing committee’s meeting on Wednesday evening at which it would have reviewed the proposal was canceled.
That's from Scott O'Connell's coverage (and good catch, Scott) of the proposed middle school health curriculum update, which Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Monfredo then describe in what might be politely phrased as florid terms.
The curriculum, however, was never reviewed, because, as we read above "administration withdrew the plan" before the meeting and cancelled the meeting.
It certainly appears as if two members of a three member committee objected to an item on an agenda, let the administration know, and got the administration to withdraw the proposal all without ever holding a public meeting, a clear abbrogation of their responsibility as elected officials.
And if you think two members of a three member subcommittee somehow both called expressing the same concern that got the meeting cancelled, well...

The follow-up article, incidentally, does a much better job of characterizing what is a national model for sex education, something which Worcester is well overdue for updating, as the city's commissioner of public health points out:
Ms. Castiel sad the relatively high rate of teen pregnancies in Worcester is evidence that families cannot be expected to handle sex education in every case, however.
“It isn’t being taught at home,” she said. “I raised two kids myself – it’s a tough issue to talk about with your kids.”
Early adolescence is ultimately a critical period for teaching students about many seemingly adult issues like sex, drugs and relationships, she argues, because it’s when they start to become exposed to them on their own.
“All this stuff starts to happen when they are kids,” she said. “This kind of education has to happen at this age.”
More on this as I have it. Also, contrast with how Martha's Vineyard is tackling this conversation

As for the agenda items that do exist this week, it's a fairly light week. Beyond recognitions and congratulations, the report of the superintendent is on early college high school.
There are the usual beginning of the year retirements, transfers, and resignations.
There are a series of grants to be accepted:
There are also donations: 
-$446.13 from Lifetouch to Chandler Magnet School
-$385.06 from Lifetouch to Belmont Street Community School
-to support the Exhilarate Worcester Initiative at Woodland Academy:
  $800.00 from various donors
  $100.00 from the Specialty Sandwich Co.
  $250.00 from C2 Skin Bar
  $250.00 from Yoga Health Concepts Inc.
  $250.00 from Eagle Cleaning Corporation
  $500.00 from UNUM

Miss Biancheria would like a report on Manufacturing Day (October 5).
Mr. Comparetto is requesting a report on before-school care charges.
There is a single prior fiscal year payment of $71.

There is a posted executive session for "re: IUPE Local 135 and Worcester School Committee, American Arbitration Association No. 01-17-0005-2729 and related administrative agency litigation."