Thursday, February 11, 2016

Centro community forum on Worcester superintendent search

Present tonight: Mayor Petty, Councilor Rivera, Rep. Donahue, School Committee members Foley and Monfredo, along with parents and other community members. Names cited below if I know them.

Latino students are 44% of WPS students
how can we guarantee that the needs of Latino students are met?
Latino community has a "long history of activism in education"
1970's fight resulted in a consent degree around education of ELL students
1980's resulted in Latino Education Institute to close the achievement gap
history of leadership around education
gathered to make our voices heard
"perhaps not reflected in mainstream institutions"
five sets of values: equity, leadership, access, diversity, community
  • What is the candidate's experience in leading a large urban system?
  • management of disparate systems
  • student discipline in schools? dual language and other opportunities?
  • staffing to reflect community?
  • balance of power with local community? involvement of parents and community members?

"We're all in this together" until the education budget needs funding

Last night's comments by Worcester City Manager Augustus to CPPAC that Governor Baker had done a "pretty good job" putting the state budget together, and that schools and city were "all in this together," reminded me of the blowup at the local government meeting with Governor Baker the day before.
“The administration’s public focus is overwhelmingly on charter schools, and while our excellent vocational schools have also received your attention, the majority of public school students are not significantly helped by this budget,” King Phillip Regional School Committee member Patrick Francomano told the governor during a meeting with local officials. Francomano, the immediate past president of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, said the group is also concerned that Baker and his team “ignored” the recommendations of a 21-member Foundation Budget Review Commission, which held extensive meetings and suggested making formula changes to address the growing costs of the “two biggies” – health care and special education.
“Some of our constituents say that the administration’s commitment to true public education is disingenuous, while others say we are failing to fulfill our constitutional obligation. We are hoping very sincerely that we can continue to work together to assist and improve public education for all of the students,” Francomano said. 
To say that it wasn't well received by the Governor is putting it lightly, but what is telling is how fast the Mass Municipal Association--the group that represents city and town governments--was to back away from any agreement with MASC:
Massachusetts Municipal Association Executive Director Geoff Beckwith, both during and after meeting, sought to distance his group from the comments made by members of the Association of School Committees. 
“In no way do we question the administration’s support for public education,” Beckwith said.

Here's the thing: it's lovely that the Governor is increasing local aid by what he said he would. That in no way changes or removes the responsibility he has for the state's side of public education IN the actual cities and towns that the aid goes to. The state itself has issued a report---which came out of a commission on which the Governor was fully represented--that the education budget is undercalculated and underfinanced. The Governor, in his budget recommendation, chose to ignore it. That IS NOT supporting public education.
And that means it isn't supporting cities and towns, either. Education budget or no, we ARE all in this together.
We should act like it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

CPPAC: Mayor, Superintendent, and City Manager on budget and superintendent search

City Manager Augustus: appreciate all of your interest in the WPS
making sure your children's schools are reflected in the city budget and all the policies in play
have been and maintain a great love for the Worcester Public Schools
"so critically important"
rancor "has not happened since I've been City Manager"
have finite resources
ways we can work together, find economies, coordinate advocacy strategies
One City, One Library: fourth one will open in spring; Libby, Lilly traveling libraries
six after school sites: more than 200 kids showing up a night at Quinsig site
"none of that money is coming out of the Worcester Public Schools budget"
hope to continue to open in more sites in the city
importance of DPH working with WPS on flu vaccines
"not as us and them, but as one"
that's how we're thinking about the budget
"I have to think that I think the Governor did a very good job"
local aid has gone up, ch 70 has gone up
"there are bigger conversations going on about the foundation budget itself"
true cost of educating children in the Worcester Public Schools
based on Governor's budget: "I think we can assume the Governor's numbers are the floor and not the ceiling"
"those suggest the city of Worcester could reduce contribution to" WPS by about $700K
"makes no sense to me that we would do that"
"have made a commitment that we would do better than that"
will be something over minimum
have given $1M more than what was minimally required to WPS for each of past two years
(note: if the city gives $1M over required, and does so by not reducing the $600K or so allowed, that means the city contribution will only go up by about $400K for next year)
"now there's this other number, the net school spending number, and we're going to aim for: that's the North Star"
lots of other things we want; trying to balance all of these various things
city contracts: mid year 2% increases; increase in co-pays and deductibles
"way to try to balance things out"
WPS employees are "still paying old rates" (not true of all incidentally), could come up in contract negotiations
Q: if students are opting to other districts that fund well over foundation, why wouldn't you take the approach to fund beyond foundation?
Augustus: kind of the approach I've been trying to take; some think we should cut taxes
Q: recovery high school, but no transporation provided; limits access
could such funding happen? Rodrigues: affects more kids who live outside Worcester; only four are from Worcester
our students either drive themselves or we provide transportation

Rodrigues: school choice students leaving Worcester; not about asking city for more money
formula is so defunct right now, that we don't get the money that we need
state needs to make corrections to the formula, but billions of dollars
"our money is always one year behind; what drives the budget is the enrollment of the district"
FY17 is reflective of the students enrollment on October 1 (of this school year)
"no more students, no more money"
and inflation was zero
"we're going to start the year with the same income, but the expenses go up"
majority of budget is salary and benefits
typically about 1800 to 2000 students per grade level; layer by layer what services are needed
"always reinventing"
"if we have a gap in the budget, the money has to come from somewhere"
projecting enrollment for each school and each grade; needs by school
Q: is there anything in state budget that allows midyear growth?
Rodrigues: have projection of growth, "but realities is what we have"
this was the pothole account, which often doesn't get funded
Q: but how is it calculated?
Rodrigues: different layers of students provide different layers of money
Q: how much money do we lose to school choice? and can we end school choice?
Rodrigues: school choice is a state law: district can opt to take kids in, but we have no choice on kids leaving
Mayor: kids all leave for different reasons
Rodrigues: some parents choose Worcester because they work here; same scenerio
back and forth here about communication which led to people asking about the Twitter feed and Facebook page

Mayor Petty (on the superintendent search)
have asked if there's more money, to prioritize the schools
"I get more compliments in the last month in the communication"
City Councilors appreciate hearing every week
"we do so many great things out there, it gets lost"
"do a search internally...and not do a national search"
"lots of good people in the Worcester Public Schools"
public hearings last week, job description passed
job description went out internally today
Feb. 29, applications due; March 3, finalists selected
March 4 application materials will be publicly posted on website
March 7-11, finalists will be interviewed
March 14-16: meet and greet with finalists for public
can tell School Committee members what you think
"pretty much an open process"
March 17, selection of the superintendent
so next superintendent can start July 1
Q: can parents be involved, or is this going to be a closed process?
Petty: if it were going to be a national process, I was going to put a group together; with an internal process, there's just three or four people
Q: some question of if it meets equal employment opportunity regulations by being only an internal search?
Petty: will look at it tomorrow
back and forth here about appointments; all previous within recent memory were national searchs
Q to SC: why an internal search? "I was really taken aback...even if we have a really great viable candidate...what was the preciptating factor"
Monfredo: I didn't think we should spend $35,000, and if you look at the searches we had before, we had internal candidates, anyway
parent responds: how do we know we have the best candidates if we don't measure them against the best out there: "if we spend $35,000, and we have the best person here, great! But if we don't spend the money, we don't know that."

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The impact of school suspensions on racial achievement gaps.

The Atlantic covers a study published last month by the Oxford University Press on the impact of school suspensions on the racial achievement gap.
The study—which was authored by Edward Morris, a sociologist at the University of Kentucky, and Brea Perry, a sociologist at Indiana University—concludes that school suspensions account for roughly one-fifth of the white-black achievement gap. “Particularly for African American students in our data, the unequal suspension rate is one of the most important factors hindering academic progress and maintaining the racial gap in achievement,” Morris and Berry write, describing discipline patterns as an example of “hidden inequality embedded within routine educational practices.” During the 2011-12 school year, black children accounted for 16 percent of the U.S. student population but 32 percent of the students suspended and 42 percent of those expelled, according to Education Department data ; nationwide, black students are suspended at roughly three times the rate as their white counterparts.
What's also fascinating (and worrying) is there is evidence that suspension has an impact on the achievement of the student body--even those who haven't been suspended.

President's budget doesn't really increase Title I

Per both Politico and EdWeek, while there is an increase in the dollar amount proposed for Title I, it's essentially just the School Improvement Grant money merging over under the 7% set-aside called for under the new federal education law (and depending on how that works out, districts could get less, rather than even the same amount).
IDEA is frozen, as well.
There's an increase for Career and Technical Ed (up $77M), an increase for preschool development (up $100M), a new "Computer Science for All" proposal ($100M), PLUS Charter School Grants get a $17 million boost over current $350 million and Magnet Schools Assistance gets an additional $18M to bring it to $115 million.
Also, this on an ESSA outcome:
The president's budget is also expected to seek $500 million for the new block grant program in the just-passed Every Student Succeeds Act, into which a number of other programs were consolidated. 
The administration wants to put a twist on that program, though. Instead of having the money go out by formula to states and then districts, as it does under ESSA, it would first go by formula to states, who would then send it out competitively. And the grants would be at least $50,000. 
Under ESSA, districts that receive less than $30,000 from the block grant don't have to abide by the rules in the law for using it. But, if the grants are as big as $50,000 districts who get them would have to spend at least 20 percent on one activity that helps improve student health and safety, and another 20 percent on at least one activity that helps students become more well-rounded. And they couldn't spend more than 15 percent of the funding on technology infrastructure.
U.S. DoE memo is here.