Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What works on school safety

...or what doesn't.
The survey responses are consistent with a federally funded 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University that concluded there was “limited and conflicting evidence in the literature on the short- and long-term effectiveness of school safety technology.” 
The schools that have experienced gun violence consistently cited simple, well-established safety measures as most effective at minimizing harm: drills that teach rapid lockdown and evacuation strategies, doors that can be secured in seconds and resource officers, or other adults, who act quickly. 
But fear has long dictated what schools invest in, and although campus shootings remain extremely rare, many superintendents are under intense pressure from parents to do something — anything — to make their kids safer.
To read before the next public testimony/budget vote on school security apparatus.

Particularly of interest as Massachusetts devotes $7.5M of last year's budget surplus to "school security" spending. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This is happening in Worcester tonight!

Worcester parents/guardians/interested denizens, and Central Mass in general: this is happening tonight at Clark! 

Colin Jones from MassBudget is coming out to present, I'm saying a word or two, AND there will be organizing for further action! 

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The agenda, it appears, did not make the inital posting of the new website (go look!), so I couldn't do this until this morning.

There are recognitions.

While the superintendent's report is her end-of-cycle goals, there is no backup posted, so there isn't any way for anyone to evaluate what is being reported.

There is a returning report on head lice, in which the district is aligning with best practice. 

The School Committee is being asked to consider and pass 2019-20 and 2020-21 school calendars (not a great copy, but if you scroll down, the dates are spelled out).

Mr. Monfredo is bringing forward a resolution that has been passed by several other committees regarding the foundation budget.
--Can we talk about this resolution for minute? As is readily apparent from this blog and elsewhere, I am fully in on passing an update on the foundation budget. But as a Worcester parent, I have some major issues with this resolution. First, it depends on model 4 of MassBudget's report of July; Model 4 has minimum per pupil aid. What that does is A) nothing for Worcester, and B) drives up expenses by ensuring that EVERY DISTRICT SEES INCREASES. Why would Worcester drive up the costs of the proposed solutions to the problem that keeps Worcester hundreds of teachers short every year? Further, this resolution, out of frustration with inaction, sets a date of May 1 for solutions. This will not happen. This is a new legislature; they will need new committees; they will not pass bills until those new committees have heard them. In short, this is a resolution that poorly serves Worcester AND sets itself up for failure.
I hope the Committee heavily amends this one before they consider it.---

Mr. Monfredo wants grade 3 reading set as a priority (doesn't the School Committee plan to set goals after the superintendent's evaluation? Why is this here?).
Mr. O'Connell wants staff to be able to use laptop computers in school (an item which clearly has more going on than posted).

The $2M in federal emergency impact aid for the students displaced by Hurricane Maria has come through and is being recommended for allocation to the salaries for 24 teaching coaches.

Miss Biancheria is asking for a list of Ch. 74 programs and for the process for changing bus stops.

There is also two prior year payments for approval: $697.50 for transportation, and $32.50 to a custodian.

And there are donations:
  • $347.50 from Dogfather Vending LLC/Mark Gallant to WTHS 
  • $1,000.00 from Gomez Enterprises LLC/McDonald’s to Roosevelt Elementary School
  • $1,000.00 from Gomez Enterprises LLC/McDonald’s to the Worcester Public Schools to be used as a scholarship to a deserving student
  • $2,000 from the Pappas Scholarship Fund to be divided equally to a student at South High Community School and another at Worcester Technical High School
The Committee also has an executive session posted for 6 pm clear posted reason.

Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 MASC Delegate Assembly

You can find the resolutions being considered here
Resolution 1: Arming of Educators
Resolution 2: Small and Rural Districts
Resolution 3: Elimination of the Federal Department of Education
Resolution 4: Regional School Transportation
Resolution 5: Reporting and Accountability Standards
Resolution 6: Reproductive Health
Resolution 7: Gender-Identity Inclusive Athletic Participation
Resolution 8: Sports Wagering
Resolution 9: Access to Information for Parents of Special Education Student

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Commissioner Riley takes questions

...who jokes that for the next three hours "we're going to review the rules and regulations of the department"

first question: Baker has pledged no new taxes; how are you going to pay for it?
Riley: last year, the state found a billion dollars in revenue they hadn't expected
"the economy is booming; if it keeps up, we'll have funding to apportion for education"
"the Governor is not a guy, as a Republican, who is in favor of new taxes, but I live in Boston, and I see the cranes going up all the time"
"if this continues, I have to advocate to advocate for funding to go towards education"

Q: what role does global education play in your thoughts?
Riley: when you look at the LOOK Act, the seal of biliteracy
"I think you're starting to see the realities of a more global perspective"
"I think MCAS has done a decent job...I welcomed the advent of that testing, but it only takes us so far"
" there are other skills...harder to assess"
on seal: trying to ensure that we have kids who are truly bilingual
Q: any openness to other "seals"?
Riley: like the Boy Scouts? Let me think on that for awhile
moving from class to class in 45 minutes "and it can be soul numbing"
"we're losing a generation of boys"

Q: "I know we're in a fist fight over Chapter 70..." what about early childhood?
not seeing this Governor raising taxes
"not always about the money, sometimes about how you use the money

Q: love what I hear about MCAS not bringing us all the way; anything new on collaboratives and vo-techs?
Riley: "playing nicely together in the sandbox"
"more kids get into the school"
working with the vocational school on kids that maybe were at risk "and we figured out the money"
versus this continued civil war

Q: assessment on civics education?
Riley: what could an alternative assessment look like that isn't necessarily a bubble test?
committee put together on that
"we've asked people to think outside the box on what an alternative assessment could look like"
testing taking too much time: have to figure how to take less
"adaptive testing"
"now there are item bank issues and other things we need to work on"
Note from group: unevenness in funding on technology
Riley (defers to Mary Bourque of Chelsea on where the funding came from...not the state)
Bourque notes ACCESS tests as well, and that students who are ELL take longer on MCAS tests

Q: teachers of color; MTEL doesn't show any indication of how good a teacher will be
Riley: I know some state people who would disagree with that
Q: pipeline of potential future teachers?
Riley: 40% of our students are children of color, only 7% of teachers are
(26% of adults are)
Lawrence did it by training paras; went after kids who had graduated from Lawrence High
morgage assistance for those working
"we have to have incentive programs for them"
"have to change the perception of teaching in this country"
MTEL: persistence rate issue
those of color who don't pass the test the first time are less likely to take the test again
"we're going to go look at that right now"
"working to recruit this spring"

Q: accountability on attendance
Riley: doing a survey on this accountability system
was in process when he came in
"one of the things I hear about is students with real medical issues"
"We're going to be looking at that"

Q: LOOK bill; unfunded mandate
Riley: more options
"just because you have the freedom, doesn't mean districts will necessarily take that freedom" and not all programs are good for kids

Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley at the MASC MASS Keynote

blogging from the Wednesday night Keynote address at the MASC/MASS Joint Conference in Hyannis, where Commissioner Riley is keynoting

"Personal relationships matter. Kids are always watching."
Have done nearly every job in public education...really orient myself first as a parent
often talks about his daughter, who has special needs but has had amazing teachers
His daughter has demanded equity, so he'll speak tonight about his son
"after about question 17, I would start making things up" when his son was three
grass is green because the leprechauns come every night and paint it
"that went on and on until I started to get in trouble with my wife and the day care providers"
"no matter how smart kids are, they need to be taught"
"no matter how bright people are, people are still capable of making mistakes"
Twenty-five years of education reform, "we've done good things, we've done some not-so-good-things"
have left many kids behind"we have to do better by them"
"need to put down our partisan swords, come back under the tent, and make some plans for the next twenty-five years"
pendulum has swung a bit far
focus on classroom instruction
"kids learn through play, yet we beat that out of them by second grade"
"high school...we send them from box to box and have them do worksheets"
"I believe in Massachusetts exceptionalism in a deep way: we have the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, the Bruins and the teachers of Massachusetts"
"change happens and change is do we get our kids there"
"we need to delve deeper on supporting kids' mental health needs"
"I think it's time that we started talking about the reality: the school funding system is broken"
was superintendent of a district that was shorted between $8 and $10M a year
"in the past, commissioners have not taken on an advocacy role: I am not going to be one of those commissioners"

And the Commissioner closes with "Three Letters from Teddy" by Elizabeth Silance Ballard (as he often does)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

To read Election Night

Charlie Pierce is watching the midterms from the elementary school you know from Brown v. the Board of Education: 
Dick and Francine, two poll workers, were talking about all the people who'd been through during the morning hours, and about how great they felt working at this particular polling place on this particular day. "When you think of what began here," Dick said, "you feel like there's something special to coming here to vote."