Saturday, July 20, 2019

What about state aid and reimbursements?

The following was in this week's Commissioner's update:
Due to the delay in the passage of the final FY20 state budget, the Department of Revenue has announced that it will make the July cherry sheet payments and assessments based on the amounts in the Governor’s House 1 budget proposal submitted in January. This affects Chapter 70 aid as well as charter tuition payments and reimbursements. Charter school amounts, in particular, may be significantly higher or lower when the final budget is enacted, so districts and charter schools are cautioned not to rely on the July payments as they finalize their district and school spending plans. As soon as there is a final state budget, DESE will provide districts with final Chapter 70 amounts and updated charter tuition estimates. The August cherry sheet payments will be adjusted to reflect any over- or under-payment in July.
Things I learned this week: 1. Chapter 70 aid payments are issued monthly BUT at the end of the month; 2. Thus the first fiscal year payment doesn't come out until July 31; 3. Circuit breaker reimbursments generally don't start until September (it varies a bit by district). 

With the news that we may finally, FINALLY be getting a state budget this coming week, we at least don't have to worry about what happens if we get into August.
We hope.

Friday, July 19, 2019

And what happened on Superintendent Binienda's goals?

Scott notes that only five of the committee were there: both Foley and Comparetto were gone. 

Well, this is hopeful

h/t to Yawu Miller at The Bay State Banner for getting something useful out of the Education Committee on where they're at with the funding bill, namely from Senate chair Jason Lewis:
“The Senate really sees this as an equity issue,” he said, speaking to the demonstrators in Nurses Hall. “Schools that serve low-income students and black and brown students are not able to provide the same level of resources as higher-income school districts that are predominantly white.” 
Lewis also said many legislators are concerned about attempts to increase mandates for testing and provisions for greater state intervention in struggling districts. 
“Just as important as what’s in this bill is what’s kept out,” he said. “The broader issue of new accountability systems is not something we’ll address with funding legislation. The main focus of the bill is to fund our schools.”
We can hope so. 

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Worcester School Committee: Doherty and vocational technical programs

Presentation on Doherty's proposed Chapter 74 programs
enrollment would be 1670 students at Doherty (currently about 1500)
calls for design to be complete in 2021; opening fall 2024
"number of programs would we would like to have"
current building is less than half the size new building is projected to be
community facilities are spread out
hired a consultant for a "public visioning process" (these are the three afternoon sessions that, it was widely observed, were very difficult to get to)
connectng students to outdoors, community, real world connections
strong community use, available to the academic and wider community
the strategic plan calls for greater integration of career pathways
"what is the economic pipeline showing us are job opportunities in the area"
additional 200 students in marketing, management, and finance
200 for programming and web development
200 for construction craft laborer
"reflects the demographics of the city and Doherty Memorial High School in particular"
then advanced academy in biotechnology: admission by test score
academic program has to be submitted to MSBA
Mayor Petty: "I know it's last minute, process has changed"
make it more attractive to that school
once this is done, all secondary schools save Burncoat and UPCS will have been built since 1990
McCullough: different opportunities than anywhere else (the construction craft laborer)
Monfredo asks about programming and web development
meeting workforce needs and interests of students

Monday, July 15, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The Worcester School Committee has their single July meeting this Thursday at 4 pm. You can find the agenda here.

For it being a summer agenda, it has some really important items on it (which one fears consequently will not get the attention they deserve). Most notably, Superintendent Binienda, who was evaluated by the School Committee back in December and never then had updated goals, is proposing her goals for I guess? the upcoming year; she also includes her self-evaluation from November; the full committee evaluation is posted at the first link above.
Goals are proposed by the Superintendent, but, just as with any educator evaluation in Massachusetts, are determined by the evaluator, in this case the School Committee. Those who are evaluated under this framework know that goals must be SMART: Specific and Strategic; Measurable; Achievable and Action-oriented; Realistic, Rigorous, and Results-oriented; Trackable and Timed. They also should be tied to the district (in this case) improvement plan and district strategic plan.
The goals proposed by Superintendent Binienda, along with some commentary based on the goals and benchmarks (in the link), are:
  • By June 2020, update and utilize the WPS High Quality Teaching and Learning Frameworks to align and increase academic relevance and rigor across all grades. 
Note what this and isn't: this is revising the frameworks by January and then "implementing it" by distributing it. Whatever the relative virtues of revising the benchmarks, there is literally NO implementation strategy or system described. It's this old cartoon in action: 

  • By June 2020, implement a comprehensive district-wide approach to monitoring, measuring, and improving student math outcomes.
What's this? New and continued district-level testing: STAR in K-9, enVision in K-6, quarterly "check-ins" in AP math are the first three benchmarks. There is what could be good professional coordination among teachers in the fourth item, but then there's just a new math program at two elementary schools, and then supplemental math for those with special needs.
Look, this isn't even a good goal or strategy if your only focus in on improving MCAS scores (which it pretty clearly is: note that no supplemental testing extends into high school if it isn't AP). As the classic line has it, weighing the pig doesn't make it heavier; if ALL you do is add the assessment, without their being anything beyond "analyzing," you don't FIX anything.
  • By June 2020, implement a district technology strategy that prioritizes and supports student learning and achievement through increasing the digital fluency skills of students, staff, and district administration.
There's a nod here, through a survey and then"begin(ning) research on best practices" to the ongoing issue of students simply not having home internet access, despite the push at the secondary level of all work being online. This section looks to me as though it has been written by the department that's been pushing everything online; note the giveaway "advocate" in adding positions: administration doesn't need to advocate, as they create the budget. Most of this is online technology training, with the budgeted switch to third party data management by the end of the school year. The data privacy (which needs to be much more pervasive, incidently) note is good, but this is largely adding positions and training for specific kinds of technology (it's not a coincidence that the keynote speaker for the beginning of school is coming from Google). 
  • By June 20202, identify and implement strategies to address social and emotional needs that impact student school performance.
Again, the goal is vague and then the benchmarks go in several different directions. Implementing a multi-tiered system of support was done several years ago (can we check that off or did it fall apart?). While the leadership institute dealing with student discipline could be promising--see here for who is being cited--that isn't supporting this goal, nor is the final item on analyzing disciplinary data. The culturally responsive classroom, likewise, could be useful (why only a handful of schools?), but isn't under this goal and doesn't involve further implementation. The bimonthly series on resilency could be more promising--one off training is notoriously difficult to follow-through on--but is is required of all?
  • By June 2020, develop a plan for staff recruitment and retention and implement strategies that will increase access to well-qualified diverse candidates.
Once the Chief Diversity Officer is hired--and note the deadline here of October is well after school starts--and the "Real Talk" network (this is intended to be a group for educators of color, currently being running by the English Learner manager) is expanded (how? by whom?), there are a few concrete items: 29 IAs for licensure, 25 IAs for continuing education. The only difficulty? The administration didn't budget for that, so where is the funding coming from? 
Also, the continued stress on the Worcester Future Teachers' program without supporting data on its relative success (or not) does us all a disservice. 
Note that the goal only "increase(s) access" to candidates; it doesn't actually diversify the teaching corps.
  • By June 2020, support the development of advanced and experiential learning opportunities for students to develop intellectual agility, (the ability to think and act well), social acuity (the capacity to communicate well), and personal agency (the ability to know yourself and the capacity to act towards specific ends). 
Someone read a book, I'm guessing? This is mostly specific "we're doing more dual enrollment, innovation pathways" etc catchall for a list. 

There is no goal that focuses on equity of discipline, access, graduation and the like.
There is no goal that pulls out the need for greater work with our English learners, the majority (at one time or another) of our students.
There is no goal that focuses on the over $100M owed by the state to the school district.
There is no capital goal. 
There is no mention of the growing number of schools that have dropped into the bottom 10% of schools in the state. 
We need to focus here.

There is also an update on implementation of the strategic plan, which doesn't seem to interelate with the Superintendent's goals (I also think it is supposed to be in color, if I understand the indicators of tracking correctly.) This probably also warrants its own post; in the meantime, the PowerPoint backup is pretty straightforward. 

There is a report of the Governance committee (on handbook language).
There are responses to FY20 budgetary motions. 
The annual review of innovation school plans (do we know if these are getting funded?) is on the agenda: 
The contracts of both school attorneys are up for renewal (proposed for three years; there is no backup given).
There is a 61 page report on the proposed Chapter 74 (that's vocational) program at Doherty. UPDATE: It was announced tonight that these new programs, which would add substantially to the enrollment at Doherty, are intended as part of the new building, and in fact the new building is being designed in part around these programs.
There is a request for acceptance of donations:
There is a request for acceptance of a career and technical grant for horticulture at Burncoat (why Burncoat? Does it actually involve the greenhouse? These grant backups are so weak). 
There is also request for acceptance of donation of musical instruments from Berklee School of Music. 
Items proposed by members include: 
Ms. McCullough would like to look at pickup and drop off policies. 
Mr. Monfredo wants (again) to know about cursive.
Mr. O'Connell suggests school supplies being used to pay parking tickets as is done in Las Vegas.
Mr. O'Connell asks for coordination around gas leaks (something which adminstration has already been doing for some time). 
Mr. O'Connell wants to offer "training in domestic skills' and personal financial management" through after school and summer programs.
Mr. O'Connell has also submitted the following:
Request that the Administration review “Creating the Will: A Community Roadmap to Achieving Educational Excellence for Latino Students in Worcester,” and to consider both progress made, and topics which require further attention, since issuance of the report in July 2011.
This of course remarkably overlooks that the Mayor's Commission--the group that issued the 2011 report--has been meeting for months and has been asked, at the request of both the Mayor and the School Committee to update the report in August.
More troublingly, that item is cosponsored by Monfredo, McCullough, and Biancheria. This level of disengagement with work on the plurality of students in the district is concerning.
Mr. O'Connell, with the same cosponsorship, also has requested:
interact with the Harvard Teacher Fellows Program, and Teach for America, as to placement of prospective teachers in the Worcester Public Schools.
I hope that I don't need to go into the issues with Teach for America; in any case, I have done so before (Yes, that's from 2012). Also, if one of the concerns of the district rightfully is the diversity of its teaching staff, let's note that TFA's relationship with the diversity of the national teaching corps is 
There is also an executive session (scheduled for after the meeting) for two grievances and a workers comp case.

Doherty building public session

There's a lot of schmoozing going on here
Hey! The presentation is posted here.
update on the Feasibility study and the site study so far
"we like the back and forth" we're told by Russ Adams (Worcester DPW)
and there's no way I'm going to be able to keep up with names
the principal architect is currently speaking
overview of project and schedule (starting with literal overview through drone footage)
MSBA building process: now in module three, the Feasibility first part
fall of 2024 for occupancy of school; "that's the best case scenario"
preliminary design program phase of project

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Bruce Baker in Connecticut

Professor Bruce Baker, on Twitter as SchlFinance101, speaking today at Trinity College in Hartford with a focus on Connecticut school finance

...who notes that he has a masters in ed psychology from UConn
"money translates primarily to human resources"
"running a good school takes good people and enough of them...and you've got to pay well...helping kids meet goals"
"it's a human resource-intensive process, for which we have not found" a substitution
even in charter schools, it's about smaller classes, longer days
private schools: the Harkness table, 12 around an oak table; spend double per pupil compared to public schools in their same area
during bad times, school spending stagnates or even declines, but it does not rebound (at least in recent cycles) during good cycles

Core principles (agreed to by most national reports, save EdWeek, where their "Quality Counts" report relates to nothing else):
  • proper funding is a necessary condition for educational success: competitive educational outcomes require adequate resources, and improving educational outcomes requires additional resources. Serving higher needs populations requires greater amounts of resources. 
  • Cost of a given level of quality varies by context: equal opportunity requires progressive distribution of resources, targeted at students and schools that need them most. "It costs more to achieve more."
  • adequacy and fairness are "largely the result of legislative choices." Good school finance policy can improve student outcomes. "It's very much if the states choose to spend on education or not." Bad policy can hinder outcomes. Twist when there is municipal fiscal dependance; some cities not putting forth the fiscal effort that they could. States like Colorado and Arizona "have dropped their schools under the bus."
equal dollar efforts
BUT adjust for "real resources" over geographic area (rural sparsity, higher cost of salaries)
equal opportunity to achieve a given outcome level (whatever it is); consider that children under certain circumstances require more resources than do others to achieve common outcomes
equal opportunity to acheive adequate outcomes: setting a bar
"minimum adequacy of real resources"
providing special education services, ELL support providing the resources to provide equal opportunity
"ought to be setting up a system that disrupts the relationship, at least probablistically, between where you come from" and your educational outcomes
"we ought to be able to provide the additional services to let your kid achieve as well as any other kid down the line"
transiency, the language issues

Money matters myths (read the book!) 

turns out there were detrimental effects on longer term outcomes during the recession
"have more data available" and can really tease out changes over time

nominal and adjusted per pupil spending; the "adjusted" is for LABOR costs, which is the largest cost for school districts (and the most meaningful adjustment)

We aren't really any different than where we were in 1993
wages as compared to college-educated nonteacher wages; may make up some ground during recessions, but don't retain that
high average spending states (like CT) but compared...the average may be doing fine, "but this case is about the rest of them" as a judge in Kansas once said

tracking funding against census poverty; the gaps are huge (and don't ever say we're "shoveling money" into these communities)

statisically it has been borne out: majority Black has slightly greater, while Latinx second cities is the strongest predictor of being one of the "screwed" cities
children per housing units compared to per pupil funding

in CT, went from progressive spending on schools to regressive spending
CT has a regressive overall tax system; "there's room to tax" on the higher end of these rolls
"Massachusetts and Connecticut are much more regressive" than states like New Jersey

Colorado and Arizona "race to the bottom"

need a funding formula that is tied about adequacy goals with "more aggressive need based targeting"
"we changed the outcome goals"
"higher outcomes cost more to achieve"

averages always conceal the disparities, and we have a concern ourselves with the disparities
ideally, looking at those disparities at the level of the student
"you shouldn't be only getting to the lower level because of where you came from"

salaries, infrastructure, public two year and four year colleges
how to better understand the full cost of providing community and four year colleges
"can we get it to 14?"
cites Sara Goldrick-Rab's "Paying the Price"

Milliken problem (in that the boundaries of school districts are something SCOTUS has found the federal government not able to push beyond for equity or desegregation
increased number of seccessions to reenforce segregation; tracking the resegregation efforts across the country

slides and video going up on Center for Hartford Engagement and Research at Trinity College