Thursday, December 31, 2009
Wednesday, December 30, 2009
Here's his report on their meeting last week, and the conversation they had around Race to the Top.
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Just last week, Mr. Klein had announced the closing of the last remaining public high school in the city. The DOE had been closing more and more "underperforming" schools, with students from each one flooding the few non-charter schools that were left. It is unclear just where the 253,763 students from Alfred E .Neuman High School in Queens will go next year, but the chancellor had a reassuring message for concerned parents. "The good news," said Mr.Klein, "is that with virtually no schools left, the high school application process has been considerably simplified."(and yes, these are in jest. We think.)
It turns out the School Committee swears to uphold the US and MA Constitutions in the oath of office. I'm certainly familiar with the US version ("We the People of the United States...") but I must admit to a lack of familiarity with the state version.
As you might expect from John Adams (who wrote it), there is some great stuff in there! Besides the quotation from Chapter V that you will find at the bottom of the page, in which Adams makes Massachusetts the only state to include education in the original constitution, there is this:
The body politic is formed by a voluntary association of individuals: it is a social compact, by which the whole people covenants with each citizen, and each citizen with the whole people, that all shall be governed by certain laws for the common good. It is the duty of the people, therefore, in framing a constitution of government, to provide for an equitable mode of making laws, as well as for an impartial interpretation, and a faithful execution of them; that every man may, at all times, find his security in them.A bit of a different way than most of us think of government, most of the time, I think.
Now the state just has to come up with somewhere else to cut $18 million...
All comments to the Massachusetts DESE on the state's Race to the Top plan are due next Monday, January 4. Read through the PowerPoint
School Committees and superintendents (and teachers' unions, come to that) around the state are considering the state's MOU. Signatures are due January 13. Worcester's new constituted School Committee will meet next Tuesday at 5:30 pm in the Durkin Administration Building. This is an informational meeting to answer the questions the School Committee had regarding the MOU. It is on the agenda for a vote at the January 7 meeting (7pm, City Hall). Consider getting in touch with your committee members with your thoughts on the MOU.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Note, by the way, that Florida's MOU is different than that of Massachusetts, particularly in its language around teacher contracts.
Could a state get Race to the Top dollars and have no districts on which to spend it?
I was reading this analysis of states' chances for Race to the Top funding yesterday when it occurred to me: since when did Bill Gates become an educational guru?
The column in essence says (and I've read this elsewhere) that if your state didn't get funded by the Gates Foundation to pull together your application, well, then your state's chances of getting funding aren't good.
Since when was this country's educational system run by Bill Gates and his foundation? When exactly did he and those he's hired become the top educational experts in the country?
As far as I can tell this (like much else) has to do with who has enough money to boss other people around. There are supposed to be other values in a democracy.
And the irony of the man who was sued by the federal government for a monopoly now endorsing competition in public education hasn't escaped me, either.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
new money coming along with additional requirements
"not a lot of dollars"
holding to Jan. 7 meeting
"concerned there won't be many answers forthcoming"
won't know how many schools are Level 4 or 5 until MOU is coming in?
how much time do we have before we have to take the actions required here (as the state is now providing support on underperforming schools rather than punishing them)?
students that stay in our schools for a period of time do well
possible of dollars coming in for some of student steps
agree with some points of Race to the Top; don't agree with others (mention of charter schools)
When would we get the money? for next year?
Boone thinks so.
What takes precident: MOU or collective bargaining? MA has developed language saying that the MOU doesn't override contracts.
If we have no choice on January 7, we need additional dollars, but need additional dollars.
"crucial that we look this gift horse in the mouth very carefully"
quotes Commissioner Chester on "difficult conversation"
mentions of webinar again tomorrow.."raises a number of concerns"
"crosses the Rubicon" in a way that would not be in the best interest of our students
commitment to an as yet undevelopment plan
consequences if we don't care out the plan
key factor of what happens to Level 4 and 5 schools...1 of 4 school plans
refers to the models as "draconian"
How much money is this really going to provide us?
What sort of (I paraphrase) mess are we going to end up with in reorganizing schools?
We don't know. The state hasn't told us. We may not have any level 5, but may have as many as 13 Level 4 schools.
"Certainly don't support signing anything tonight..."
Frustrated by the lack of information..."nobody gives you this kind of money without strings attached"
What does the performance mean? for teachers she asks..."need firmer answers to a ton of questions..."
"What specifically will we do with this dollars that we haven't been done before?"
if the union doesn't buy into it, it's a moot point.
And when will we have a meeting that gets into the specifics?
(mentions the number of people here, and that it's the mayor's prerogative to take comment)
borrowing this $4 billion "from China"
enthusiastic round of applause from the crowd
going through the four core areas: assessment of teachers, use of data, recruiting teachers, turnaround schools...
forgive me for the parts of this you've seen before
MA eligibility up to $250 million "that's could be"
funds cannot supplant state funding, may only supplament
at least 50% to districts under Title 1
remaining funds may be distributed or may be retained by state for their work
States apply, submit plans to fed
signing the MOU does not ensure that they will receive funds; districts must align with state plan
(MOU as received yesterday?)
"by 2020 we aspire to have a public education system where all students recive a world class education and graduate ready to succeed in the 21st century and those most in need of additional support accelerate to meet that standard"...from the state's MOU
graduate ready for college and career
cutting-edge instruction aligned with standards
lead by teachers and admins of quality
Five core MA areas:
- P-12 teaching and learning system
- increase college and career readiness
- improve teacher and principal effectiveness based on performance
- ensure effective teachers and leaders in every school
- turnaround schools
- teacher and princpal effectiveness
- effective teachers everywhere
- use of data
- REQURIED OF Level 4 and 5 schools--priority schools are no longer called that (what number of change is this?)--have to use the four change models (turnaround model, restart model, school closure, transformational model)
- may opt in to a statewide p-12 teaching and learning system
Districts have to submit the MOU by Jan.13 if they want to participate
State application due Jan. 19
Grants announced April 2010
Specific grant applications including scope of work due July 2010
School committee must decide tonight if they want to vote on this now or vote on this on January 7.
Specifics on Worcester proposal have not been determined as yet.
"We don't have an option anymore to not improve student achievement...whether we do (these other things), that's the journey that we're on"
The Mayor runs through the numbers and asks "Isn't reform a way to avoid the supplant issue?...probably I shouldn't even ask this in public...is it possible that this issue of supplanting is avoided if we do the reforming that the state is asking for?"
We won't have the sustainability on these funds, ssys the superintendent. "In four years we won't have these funds; these won't be there."
The meeting started with an amazing rendition of the Star Spangled Banner by the Doherty madrigals.
In order for Worcester to apply for Race to the Top funds, the superintendent, the chair of the School Committee, and the president of the teacher's union all have to sign this memorandum. In doing so, they are agreeing that Worcester will do several things.
While the item on the agenda is a superintendent's report (recommended action: "accept and file"), whether or not the School Committee actually votes tonight on the MOU is anyone's guess.
Here's what's in the MOU:
- Worcester agrees to "improve teacher and principal effectivenes based on performance." At base, this means some sort of (unspecified) assessment system, which pays "significant attention to student growth." Also, our professional development programs have to be based on this model.
- Worcester agrees to ensure effective teachers and leaders in the schools. The state is working on some sort of "pipeline" for this; Worcester largely is agreeing to use it.
- Worcester agrees to turn-around lowest achieving schools....let's come back to that one, shall we?
- Worcester agrees to use data to improve instruction. This talks about getting data (they don't specify; one assumes MCAS) to teachers in a timely fashion, and letting the state have data from the district to study (not sure about legal ramifications there).
- Worcester agrees that, if the MOU is signed, the state can "take appropriate enforcement action" if they feel Worcester isn't meeting goals, timelines, budgets or targets. This means that they can demand that Worcester pay money back out of local funds or can deny Worcester further funds. Unilaterally.
- replace 50% of staff. That means, in plain English, fire at least half the teachers.
- restart model. That means close the school, fire all the teachers and the principal, and make everyone reapply under new leadership, which could also mean turning the school into a charter.
- close the school. Period.
- "transform" the school, though districts can only use this option for more than half their schools if they have more than 9 schools underperforming. This means fire the principal and then have "other interventions."
These policies have caused great disruption in Chicago: neighborhood schools have closed, teachers who knew their kids have been fired, parents have been in an uproar. (And remember, they don't elect their school committee in Chicago, so they don't have much recourse, either)
in summer 2009, CPS "turned around" Fenger, firing all personnel incuding teachers with long-time relationships with students. Most who really knew the students and their families are gone, creating more instability and internal displacement... parents are very concerned becaue these same policies are now part of the national plan for education.
The state says that it's requiring these models of "level 4 or 5" schools, 'though just how they're measuring that isn't clear. We can safely assume, however, between the subgroups, the level of poverty, the level of ELL students...we're covered here in Worcester. This is going to be required of us if we sign.
If any part of this bothers you AT ALL, get in touch with school committee members, current or future, TODAY. It's on tonight's agenda, but they may hold the vote until January 7.
With a decision of this magnitude, we need to consider fully just what we are signed up for.
This isn't free money.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
But basing the entire structure of how we evaluate everyone on such an exam presupposes that the exam is a good instrument of evaluation, that it accurately tests skills and knowledge rather than anything else.
I've spoken of this before, but I bring it up now, because what is on the exam, and how it is presented, has everything to do with results. Take a look, for example, at this from New York's Regents exam.
Someone decides not only what is going to be on the test, but how it is going to be tested. Those decisions are not politically neutral. And, as those decisions about the test are made by the enormous testing companies that most benefit from the millions of dollars (are we up to billions yet? Probably) sent to them by states, are those decisions made on the basis of educational accuracy or on the basis of making more money?
Let's at least ask this question, shall we?
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Councilor Toomey says this needs to be an ongoing conversation...$26 to 28 million looming deficit...Boone meeting with groups of councilors..."as a body need to be working in a public fashion, being very transpartent" Need to "see a collaborative approach with each other" Meeting didn't accomplish anything in answers
Mayor thinks should have a meeting every month
Motion for City Clerk to contact School Committee clerk for a meeting in January
Toomey says "for several hours" ..."open communication...know that some of my colleagues" don't think it's necessary
Clancy rises for clarification. Doesn't want a new meeting yet..."our side was a very clear presentation; their side was all educational gobbledegook..." wait for answers before having another meeting..wait for those reports back from school department" (his questions are here)
Mayor says they are waiting for Governor's budget
Amended to wanting the answers prior to the January meeting
The City Manager says that with the large number of staff cuts, grant writing is very much a "cross training" endeavor.
It's coming in on time and should be opening for fall of 2011. (I had this wrong last night)
Councilor Clancy wants to know who decides on the "add-ons" for the school; Commissioner Moylan says that he makes the final decision, keeping it "on time and on budget."
Clancy cites the Tech School, and six "other grammar schools" that have been rebuilt recently.
Councilor Palmieri wants to know if there are any other significant changes that will be taking place at North High. Moylan says no.
Staying within budget for FF&E; if there is more needed, it will need to be raised within the school budget or private funding. (Furniture, Fixtures, and Equipment)"They have to go out and identify" other source of funds.
Says it's "almost 25 years late."
Germaine is holding the charter change item, on what happens if a district councilor leaves midway through a term, under personal privilege.
Eddy is speaking on the item, anyway, but it's officially off the table until next week.
He points out that running for at-large and school committee is significantly different than running for district councilor.
It will be the first item next week.
The federal government is weighing whether local unions sign off on district approval of Race to the Top plans: more union president signatures count in the state's favor. Some states have explicit language in their MOUs regarding teacher evaluation by student test scores.
While Massachusetts does not have that in their MOU (it's more vague on that point), it does have, in those four ways of dealing with underperforming schools, some models that won't rest well with the rank and file (I'd think; I should note here that I know nothing of what unions are thinking on this; this is me riffing as a former teacher). As those will only impact districts with schools deemed underperforming (mostly urban), there may be a split along those lines.
I don't know about you, but I am getting sick of the rhetoric of the Race to the Top, as it implies the very opposite of "equal educational opportunity." But "equal educational opportunity" is so...yesterday, so now we shall all "race to the top," to see who can get there first. Who can privatize the most schools? Who can close the most public schools? Which district can replace the most public schools with charter schools? Who can compel their teachers to focus intently on those pesky math and reading test scores? Who can boot out the most teachers whose students didn't get higher scores than last year? Who seriously believes that this combination of policies will produce better education?Well, I don't.
Monday, December 14, 2009
For a January 13 deadline.
If this were your every day, average, nothing new MOU, then I can see perhaps having it up on an agenda the week before the due date with the expectation that it will just pass. Maybe.
But for something like this? That commits the WPS to all sorts of actions around assessing teachers and principals, using data, taping into a teacher pipeline, and, most important for Worcester, radically changing the way that we deal with schools deemed chronically underperforming?
Not to mention has an expectation that we are going to do all of this with short-term, limited funds that run out in four years?
More time is needed. Badly.
Alaska, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, and Washington
What I want to know is: what is the thinking in our New England neighbors of Rhode Island, Vermont, and Maine in deciding to skip it? Are they going for round 2 or just not participating at all?
Let's see...Maine is applying in round 2
Vermont may be sitting it out
I'm not sure what happened with Rhode Island.
UPDATE: It seems Rhode Island, North Carolina, and Michigan are also in.
Sunday, December 13, 2009
So, by that logic, we just should have let all of the financial sector collapse last year, because that would have caused necessary reform? Or would it, perhaps, just caused the collapse of the economy?
I know what laying off several hundred teachers last January would have done, and I don't think anyone would call it reform.
Saturday, December 12, 2009
If you haven't yet gotten in touch with your rep (and you're represented by a Democrat in the House), DO SO before Wednesday! If they have concerns to raise, this is their chance; you need to let them know your concerns about the bill before they get there.
A few concerns of mine that you might share:
- it lifts the cap on charters in underperforming districts (for which one might well read "urban districts"). This is being presented as "better than having no cap at all" while we all run screaming from the threat of a ballot question on charters. This is no way to make law. Also, this directly penalizes the districts most at risk already; does anyone really think that Worcester can afford to lose 19% of their annual budget to charters? We already know that charters are actively discouraging parents of students with special needs from applying and staying in charters; the attempt made by the Legislature to reverse this, while commendable, has no more teeth than the rest of the requirements currently ignored by many charters (that their teachers be certified or pass state tests, for example).
- this continues the aggregation of power by the Commissioner of Education who answers to...who, exactly? The governor? Chronically underperforming schools would be answerable in their turnaround to the Commissioner, who is far away from the schools. Moving decision-making power away from the community in question is the wrong direction.
- this continues the direction of using the MCAS as either the sole or most important method of evaluating students. Until we get away from this, we are going to have "underperforming" (or insert most recent lingo here) urban districts.
- it puts the superintendent, an employee, in the position of negotiating contracts with other employees. As most superintendent contracts contain language that give them comparable benefits with other employees, this is a conflict of interest.
You might have your own concerns; feel free to add them in the comments. Whatever you do, make sure your rep hears from you!
What does the district sign up for in return for its $102 or so per student?
- a different evaluation system for teachers and principals, yet to be designed, using "multiple measures of effectiveness including significant attention to student growth." (Yes, the student growth is on MCAS.) They further have to use those evaluations to inform professional development, then measure that professional development, then report the date from all of that.
- use timely data to improve instruction...this would mostly seem to mean getting MCAS scores out to teachers sooner, and also includes the above on teachers and principals.
- turn around the lowest-achieving schools. This is the one that makes the biggest change. The MA MOU requires that lowest-achieving districts that take this RTTT money use the Duncan four choice turnaround model. These would be the same models we saw in Chicago--replacing 50% of the staff OR turning charter OR closing the school OR replacing the principal with other interventions.
Districts need to sign--or not--by January 13. That means all districts are going to be looking at this over the next few weeks. If you have an opinion, you'll want to express it NOW.
This will be on the Worcester School Committee agenda on this coming Thursday, December 17.
Friday, December 11, 2009
Request the City Council and the School Committee meet in a joint session at City Hall to discuss the latest information regarding the school budget. Said meeting should be scheduled as to provide sufficient time for questions and answers. (Toomey, Smith, Haller)
Assuming that Massachusetts is awarded Race to the Top funds, and assuming that Massachusetts gets as much money as it possibly can, $200 million, how much would the education of each of the 980, 459 public school children in Massachusetts get?
(higher in some communities, lower in some, depending on Title 1 status)
UPDATE: It's been called to my attention that this supposes that the state doesn't keep any money for "administration." They're allowed to keep up to half, in which case we're looking at more like $102.
(I'm also on a number of list-servs.)
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Nothing could dim the fact that those kids were all colors and creeds, all jazzed about their schools. And the schools looked ready to launch them on the right path.Read it. Good stuff.
I was at North High today for a visit, and I was, as I always am, amazed at the huge variety of kids we're educating every day. Sure, there are kids that look like and have been raised like mine: white, middle-class, Worcester girls. And then there are the boys I met in the office from Kenya, talking about their first snowball fight.
While K-12 education was made universal because it seemed important that every single potential citizen be well-educated if democracy was to flourish, we have substituted the idea of democracy with the idea of the "marketplace." The less regulated, the better—ditto for charters. "Good" charter states are those considered by their allies to be those that are least regulated. Does it sound familiar?
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
(oh, dear heaven, the handout quotes Henry Kissinger: "Leaders must invoke an alchemy of great vision.")
Superintendent describes the circles as a wedding cake: the "mandated non-negotiables" are the top layer that we set aside, uncut; the other layers we have to carefully cut to make things fair for everyone
Mr. Monfredo says we could, for example, have a low teacher ratio in the primary grades.
He'd also like a breakdown of all professional staff positions,including which ones are grant-funded; the mayor would like it broken down by building/ salary/ responsibilities for a point of reference (amended)...is it on the website, Mr. Foley asks?
FY10 budget does, Brian Allen says.
Mayor says that she doesn't recall it being specific; Mr. Foley says it's specific, may need a more cursory look for updating.
Mr. O'Connell: 5 areas (this bears a close resemblance to what he said when he was asked during the campaign, incidentally): classroom instruction (What do our students truly need...low teacher ratios, supplies and materials, libraries, technology, virtual instruction); staff development; special needs education (including gifted kids); buildings and maintenance; student wellness (nutrition, art, music, fitness...can be neglected if we focus on academic achievement)
The superintendent applauds his "big picture feel" and says that (basically) this is what we're looking for
The mayor didn't understand what direction he was going in; he explains that those are his priorities; the committee asks that they be read back
Mr. Foley: 5 attributes: teacher/pupil ratios (esp. in primary grades); professional communities (peer professional development, common planning time); relationships with teachers; high expectations for students/academic rigor; keeping a broad view academically (not only ELA and math; arts mentioned)
the administration urges further input: "you don't have to have five"
Monfredo: says that parents distinguish us from others
superintendent urges that they call or email her with further input
I'd also urge anyone who has an answer to this to either email the superintendent or a school committee member (or two or seven)
The administration is asking the School Committee to:
- "give voice to the diverse ideas of what quality teaching and learning" is in Worcester
- "historical perspective and context" from school committee
- "affirm priority outcomes" (what does that mean?!)
- caution is to stay at the outcomes level; not "in the weeds" of particular processees; "stay on the balcony" of "outcomes"
- "can generate a lot of emotionality" (you could just say "emotion"...urgh)...not the final decision
- What attributes matter most to students/parents/teachers/community in schools?
- What makes us different?
freezing special ed tuition is going through: could be $500,000 in savings
pension schedule adjustment we might have a chance at
Superintendent says "don't hold out hope" that the new charters won't go through (reminder: write in to the DoE about Worcester charter applications!); moving fast in January
Mr. Foley says "not that logic should ever play into this whole thing"...asks why the inflation rate applied to out-of-district tuition should be different than that applied to the foundation formula (this is recognized as a rhetorical quesiton by Allen)
Allen says any new charter school requires 100% funding from state; that's a danger; the state may not fully fund the 100% reimbursement rate (this is ch. 46 reimbursement, BTW)
Mrs. Mullaney wants a bottom of the range that we're in danger of being in the red--best case scenario: $10 million deficit
That's the best case scenario (Let's say that again--the BEST case scenario)
the Mayor wants to know his "drop dead date" for having a budget
priority session with students, central office, principals, now with School Committee (did anyone ask the teachers?)
the Mayor points out the teachers' contract is being negotiated; how does that work out?
the budget was based on status quo in health insurance and zero percent raise (60% of those covered by health insurance in WPS are at 75/25; not having the other 40% at 75/25 costs $3.3 million)
Mr. O'Connell asks about Race to the Top funding: are we going after it? how are we spending it? do we need time to approve?
the superintendent mentions at the Dec. 17 meeting, there will be a draft MOU; intial presentation to School Committee then (though the mayor has already seen it, as has the president of the teachers' union, in a "state-led" meeting)
state will file an application under the 4 areas; if MA gets it, the districts have 90 days for a specific plan to access money; currently have general plans for how Worcester would use money, not specific
fiscal update from Brian Allen:
a review of the slides from October
can't address a $26 million gap by going line-by-line
we began this year (FY10) with a $24 million deficit
state has unfunded ch.70 by $15.9, ch.70 is down $3, city contribution is down by $1.3, grant charges are up (which means we lose) $900,000, state grants are down $1.5, federal grants are down $1.2 (all million unless otherwise noted)
FY11: revenue change of $15.5 million, plus expenditure increase of $10.4 million; luckily the money is UP at the state level
state still has somewhere around $150-170 million of stimulus money; we thought they would have used it already, but they haven't. 82% of that is earmarked for education, not the rest.
This year is different; we can't predict our revenue and our costs like previous years. Our budget model assumes a positive inflation level (right now it's NEGATIVE; they're still talking at the state about what to do about that), a level funded ch.70, a fully funded foundation budget (charter school reimbursement and other grants may be in jeopardy; sped has probably reached the floor, as the state is facing maintanance of effort questions from the fed).
Looks like the state will redistribute ch. 70 to get urban districts to foundation (note that this will hurt suburban districts)
THINK THAT THE NUMBER WILL BE LOWER THAN $26 million, as the state is going to work to get urban districts up to foundation. As we're 3/4 dependent on state revenue, our budget depends on theirs.
"We think that the state is going to try, through the governor's budget, to get us to foundation" BUT it has to get through the House and Senate first, and that change would hurt other communities
DANG. That's big news!
This is a joint presentation from Boone, Mulqueen, and Allen; Boone begins.
FY11 budget session
dismisses the idea of any discussion of which mandates we have to fulfill (our responsibilities) (in other words, we just have to do them all)
what priorities do the School Committee have?
"the big bucket items"
grants are part of this conversation, too
"everything is a possibility when we look at a zero based budget"
city council wants to know the numbers; numbers are shifting..."going to be wise for us to hold off on a specific presentation until" the governor's budget in January
"ready us for that direction"
"have to think about where we put our resources"
This session is more of a dialogue than a presentation
Students tell her that they want to pass the MCAS sooner rather than later, so they can move forward
Mr. Foley says it makes since it makes sense to talk about this first; budget will focus on achievement of these goals
part of the question is where do they start, even in kindergarten? Front-loading literacy...especially in large class sizes moving forward into FY11
curriculum now all under CAO; early childhood now part of same curriculum as the rest of the district; seamless approach to the curriculum, says the superintendent
Mr. Foley comments on the high success of Head Start kids; partnerships with families and pre-K programs
Mr. Monfredo trend in primary grades--70% of kids needing improvement--something needs to be done. Head Start and preschool needs to expand; reaching out to not only parents, but teachers. "somehow or other" talking to staff to get them on board
Mr. O'Connell refers to "the compact which you've proposed for our consideration" (!: was it for their consideration?) says it's achievable, parents base decisions on whether their individual child is doing well (not MCAS scores) starting at teacher level
cultural issues within the school: are teachers setting as high standards as they can and should? are we supporting those who do? are the principals and admin supporting those teachers?
if day begins and ends with a level of excitement and children are excited about learning, the scores will follow (interesting theory...or do the two work against each other?)
"good plan, a good direction"
"You've just captured what we know makes a difference" --successful relationships--engagement with teachers(we then should make sure that keeping those teachers and keeping their excitement level up is central to what we are doing)
Ms. Hargrove: highest rates of illiteracy is in prison (? is that right?)
professional development of teachers talking to teachers, rather than a speaker coming in preschool and K development; critical time
interface with our service providers
How much do we have to say about what happens in our critical schools? A great deal, the superintendent says. MOU coming in January; "allows us to develop a plan for those schools...to support and develop our plan" (that'd be RTTT $) Someone from the state sitting in on our "leadership team meetings" (the administration meetings)...state partner at the table with us on a regular basis...a lot of latitude on what we do. Ongoing professional development
School committee will see plan for critical schools at January meeting
Mr. Bogigian "you have instilled confidence in the ranks and in the public...never said 'I don't think we can maintain the status quo, nevermind move forward' People...will fall in line."
Mayor asks what we do with this item: she says it's setting the stage for future work...superintendent reports will be under this catagory
Underperforming schools under a superintendent report: "this is a road map for us"
Mr. Monfredo asks how we're going to change what's going on with our primary grades (in MCAS scores); wants a report
Mr. O'Connell wants to approve the plan in concept; report back to SC at its disgression and as needed; asks that this plan be forwarded to CPPAC, SpedPAC (and I didn't catch who else)...approved
Superintendent says that this will be a foundation to evaluate her
Ms. Hargrove wants a very structured phoenics program in the lower elementary grades (from the national reading panel); this will be in the instructional audit
engage district in development of accountability/ strategic plan
benchmarks "outside of MCAS" for student achievement
building relationship with School Committee (not mentioning the high turnover in a month)communication plan
instructional and operational audits
establish accountability dept
FY11 budget that reflects district's alignments and community's values in education
"the status quo is not acceptable" (from CREW)
"Focus, will and courage will lead our steps for the rest of the journey to become a great school system"
Delivering on high expectations and outstanding results for all students:
- 100% of students guaranteed a rigorous core curriculum resulting in measurable gains in student learning
- By 2012, 80% of 3rd graders proficient in reading and math (repeats oft-repeated notion that states use this to determine # of prison beds); 80% of 8th graders proficient in reading and math...are we going to do anything other than make them "proficient"?
- By 2013, 100% of graduates successfully complete high school coursework (does this mean she intends to eliminate high school dropouts? entirely?); that's this year's 9th graders
Jumping right into the meeing--there is no flag in the conference room, so we couldn't pledge allegiance, anyway. Taking out of order the superintendent's report, as she's using that as a setup for the budget talks that will form the major part of the meeting.
She's reporting on her progress this fall in meeting her goals under her entrance plan:
list of meetings over the course of the fall
"huge goal of school committee": greater parental involvement
meeting quarterly with Worc Interfaith
"never finish reviewing" practices, programs, resource alignment
districtwide communication plan: how do we tell our own good news?
redesign of monthly principal meeting for leadership improvement
"held most accountable" in issues around student achievement
governance practices--future retreats with School Committee
Current state of WPS:
19 of 44 schools designated as underperforming based on 2009 MCAS results (Jim Collins: Good to Great)
13 are priority schools
39 of 44 schools failed to meet AYP benchmarks for 2009 (again by MCAS results)
benchmarks go up every year (ELA is 90%; math is 84% pass rate)
2008-09 dropout to 5.1 from 4.7%
50% of students met growth targets on MCAS for 2009; good news and bad news
Let's note for a moment how many of these things have to do with MCAS as a measure of the schools. Aside from the mention of dropouts, there is no other measure of success used here for WPS.
MCAS comparison chart over past 3 years (note that this is comparing three succeeding classes):2007 33% ELA proficient or above; 2008 30% proficient or above; 2009 35% proficient or above
(then several succeeding slides doing the same thing or 4,7,8. 10th grade MCAS scores...no mention that these are different kids, much talk of "showing growth...direction we want to be going in...progress")
make sure that the 10th grade improvement isn't as a result of the dropout rate (those kids leave and the grades go up)
"moving from a compliance system to a performance based/results system
"doing what we ought to be doing and checking those things off...compliance isn't enough anymore; have to get the associated results, some of which we just reflected on"
cohesive leadership team "so the public has confidence in choosing the Worcester Public Schools
"working through how we work together as a team...still a work in progress
seeing our efforts within standing committees to move forward pending agenda items; "to clear the slate"
increase student achievement while closing achievement gap...ultimate goal...ongoing report...superintendent reports at every meeting
focus on common framework for improvement
improve public trust:regular and ongoing meetings with various stakeholder groups
key reports on WPS website to improve "understanding around the thought processes we're engaging in"
climate focused on improving student achievement (continuous improvement model):leadership and learning (gets everyone involved so everyone knows what we're doing)
contract with the Leadership and Learning Center (each department to move forward with student achievement): this is a hired consultant, apparently (website is sort of boilerplate; I'll keep poking on this)
Remember, this meeting starts at 5 in the Durkin Administration Building, 4th floor conference room.
I know it's not a nice night to leave your warm house, but this is on the BUDGET.
The Center on Education Policy released a study on Monday that took a look at the restructuring that has been taking place under NCLB. After looking at 23 districts and 48 schools in six states, they found that NCLB did little to help schools that were trying to improve. This led Jack Jennings, the Center's president, to wonder if the restructuring plan under Race to the Top was based "on a hunch rather than evidence" in the four plans for restructuring schools under NCLB.
(take a look at Catherine Gerwertz's very good coverage here and summary here)
As versions of the four models required under Race to the Top have not been proved to work, Jennings (and, I think, many of us) are concerned that we are now requiring an unproven system for our most at-risk students. Much of the argument for RTTT is "you guys blew it; now you have to do it our way" but it isn't clear that "their way" is anything that has worked in the places it's been tried.
This is why we need to have state and local officials having a real conversation about IF this is something for which we want to sign up. The race to Race to the Top is denying a chance to have real conversation about signing away local control, changing working condition, and subjecting our kids to systems that in some places have been shown not to work, and in some places have not given clear results. But the push to have applications for districts in by early January and the state in by mid-January is denying that opportunity. (See the Time principle)
As for Worcester? It's not on this week's School Committee agenda. I've heard the superintendent say in passing that they are putting an application together, but unless it is on the December 17 agenda, the School Committee won't have a chance to fully vet this before approving or not. As this is a budget and a policy issue, that's a problem. This isn't just any grant.
Tuesday, December 8, 2009
If school is on, the clinic is on.
If school is cancelled, the clinic gets moved to Thursday.
Here's the part that confused me, and so I called to figure it out: if school is delayed, what happens? It says the clinic goes on "as scheduled."
Well, it means just what it says. If your child is scheduled to go at 8 or 9, and school is delayed, the clinic still starts at 8 or 9.
THERE IS NO DELAY ON THE CLINIC.
I wish this were a bit clearer.
UPDATE: Then we got a phone call saying that the clinic is postponed to next Tuesday.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Read them, and add yours!
And if you haven't read Cody's Five Good Assumptions about School Change, you should.
Overall, public schools continue to outperform charter schools. The public schools' performance is significantly better overall and in cities, and among students who are not eligible for free or reduced-price lunch (the federal measure of poverty in school data). Among other groups—those eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, whites, blacks, and Hispanics—the test scores of public schools and charter schools are not significantly different.
Style section...charter schools...hedge fund managers? Enough said.
In a city with 60% of kids on free and reduced lunch, how many do you think have broadband internet at home?
The digital divide has narrowed dramatically in the past decade. About two-thirds of American households report using the Internet at home, according to the U.S. Census. In affluent Washington suburbs, the numbers are higher; more than 90 percent of Fairfax households with children have home computers, according to a recent survey by the school system.
But even in Fairfax, the digital divide lives on in the study carrels of the Woodrow Wilson public library in the Falls Church area. Most afternoons, it is crowded with students from low-income or immigrant families using the computers. Although they live in one of the richest counties in the United States, these students recount skipping lunch to work at school labs or making long journeys to the public library after school.
(come to think of it, we should ask)
Friday, December 4, 2009
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the National Organization for Women is bringing the film Consuming Kids to the Worcester Public Library next Tuesday.
Tuesday, December 8 at 6 pm
Worcester Public Library, Salem Square
A special guest will be Josh Golin, Associate Director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, who will lead a discussion afterward.
Consuming Kids is billed as throwing "desperately needed light on the practices of a relentless multi-billion dollar marketing machine that's selling kids everything from junk food to violent video games."
Thursday, December 3, 2009
(That means the date, time, and place are all different than usual!)
Starting early to talk about the budget!
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Our public schools were never perfect. There was never a golden age when everyone graduated high school and learned to a high standard of excellence. Improving education and expanding equality of opportunity have been the slow, steady work of generations.
Yet now, we live in an age when it is the custom to bash the public schools, not to thank them for helping to build our nation. It has become commonplace for the president, the secretary of education, and the leaders of the business community to lament the terrible state of our schools and to demand radical, one might even say revolutionary, changes. We live in an age of data, and the data (they say) are awful. They look at NAEP test scores, international test scores, graduation rates, and anything else that is measurable, and they demand solutions, now.
Note that they never speak of the state of learning, nor even the state of education, because those words connote many intangibles that cannot be measured and converted into data. The politicians and business leaders do not speak about whether young people read in their spare time, whether their reading consists of good literature and non-fiction, whether they know how to write an engaging essay or a well-constructed research paper, whether they can engage in an informed discussion of history, whether they are knowledgeable about our governmental system, whether they perform volunteer service in their community, whether they leave high school prepared to serve on a jury and vote thoughtfully.No, instead what we now hear from our business leaders is that the schools must be redesigned to function like business. They conveniently overlook the fact that business practices and the ruthless pursuit of a competitive edge nearly destroyed our national economy a year ago.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Yes, this is short notice, but it seems they didn't exactly get it out in good time. This landed in my inbox this morning (from two directions).
The survey follows the basic outline of the four areas RTTT is looking at (if you read this often, you're familiar with them). Don't let the ed lingo throw you: assessment is testing, data gathering means those charts they put out on MCAS, and the questions about curriculum are generally looking at a top-down approach to formatting. There are questions regarding using student scores to evaluate teachers, private takeover of public schools, and a basic fallback on standardized testing so READ CAREFULLY.
But do fill it out, especially the parts that let you fill in an answer!
Thursday, November 26, 2009
- MA DoE is setting a due date for regional proposals of January 8. The state then has until January 19 to get the state application in.
- Half of the state's grant (for Massachusetts, if the state gets it, would get between $150-$250 million) would go to districts. Take either number and divide in half and then divide that among all of the cities and towns. Not a high number...
- Only districts that sign a "Memorandum of Understanding" will be able to apply to the state. The state will release its memorandum of understanding in mid-December. Anyone want a legal opinion on who signs that? Very interested in what that will say.
If you're looking for more on RTTT, you can find the DoE's FAQ online, as well as the Executive Summary, which on page 2 gives us the all-important 500 point scale (note the 15 points in the final section for including math and science ["STEM"] of which states get all or nothing). I'll be doing a ten minute overview on RTTT at the CPPAC meeting on Tuesday night (7pm at the Worcester Public Library); I'll post my notes here closer to the day.
The Boston Globe is reporting that the Robert M. Hughes Academy, a Springfield charter school, is under investigation:
...yesterday, the state announced that it has launched a formal investigation into possible irregularities in the school’s administration of the exam, as well as additional allegations of mismanagement and fiscal improprieties that have subsequently surfaced.
In addition to a great deal of pressure being placed on the principal to pull up MCAS scores, it seems there is some investigation into conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement. The school has also had a shocking rate of turnover. Charter schools do not have the same degree of checks and balances built in that the traditional public system does (anyone know if charter schools' boards sign warrants to pay bills? is the charter board subject to open meeting law?), making the principal's remark compelling:
“The kids will never get what they need when these people have their hands in the pot,’’ Henry said in an interview yesterday. “Their corruption needs to end.’’
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that new teachers in New York City will be evaluated using student test scores. While Bloomberg does have oversight of city schools, such a radical change in working conditions usually would have to go through the teachers' contract; I assume we'll be hearing more on this. Also note the interesting response and then clarification from Secretary Arne Duncan.
And Governor Rick Perry of Texas has said that Texas will not be a part of any joint standards. He argues this as a "local control" issue. The Dallas Morning News correctly notes that this does NOT disqualify Texas from Race to the Top funding in this first round (it would seem to disqualify them from the assessment round), as that assessment piece is worth only 40 of the possible 500 points. Kudos to DMN for catching this nuance; they're doing much better than the Boston Globe which continues to insist that lifting the cap on charters and other things are "required" to apply. It's more complicated than that.
No word here on whether Texas is out or in on applying; it would make a difference, as if the bigger states are contenders, the awards given after theirs would consequently be smaller (or fewer).
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I found particularly compelling some of what Steve Peha had to say:
For example, high-stakes testing ironically sends education backward toward the
old paradigm with more force than its “new paradigm” data-driven nature can
propel us into the future. Why? Because high-stakes testing policies don’t take
into account the preternaturally risk-averse tendencies of education culture.
High-stakes testing works only at first, when the fear factor is at its maximum
and most schools are performing so poorly they have little to lose by trying
something new. After this period, however, high-stakes testing renders teachers
and administrators increasingly less tolerant of innovation. Why? Because for
every unit of progress they make out of fear, the more they fear losing the
progress they have made. Instead of moving briskly forward with the next change
initiative, they hunker down and become ever more averse to what now seems like
the irrational risk inherent in innovation. At this point, the desire to
conserve progress precludes the ability to progress much further.
The House will probably take up debate on the bill during the first week of January, so consider December your chance to get in touch with your representatives.
Monday, November 23, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
So, yes, a public official can have a blog, can blog on public issues, can accept comment (even from other public officials) provided the issues commented on have been voted on in open meeting.
So if it's on Thursday's agenda, I can't blog on it on Tuesday, other than to say it's up. And if it gets tabled on Thursday for a vote in two weeks, no comment here.
Otherwise, we're good!
Thursday, November 19, 2009
OH! And I should mention: if you're there after 5 or so, you need to go to the door by the parking lot and buzz to get in. The building's locked and that's the only way in (and it isn't obvious).
Lincoln Street also needed some work done
put in one grant for both which came in for $101,082
According to the woman from Lowe's this one of 25 such grants around the country awarded
volunteers from the local Lowe's stores will also be helping out with work on the project
Amy Olaes (co-chair of SpedPAC) would like qualifications of teachers available to parents, would increase public and parent trust.
Currently, parents can have that written into a child's IEP, but even then it doesn't necessarily happen.
"what was a difficult episode in WPS was resolved with reason, was resolved with professionalism" according to Mr. Bogigian.
Mr. O'Connell is most concerned, he says, with the licensure obligations. "We're at the beginning of this process," he says. "Do we hire the very best people avaliable, or do we hire the people who know" people?...beyond the scope of this task force. "Hiring based on merit, quality...do we de-politicize the process as much as possible for public employement?"
Mr. Foley cites this as a "great example of how non-profit and business entities" can help out WPS. In eliminating the teachers involved last year, "we cut two great teachers" and incurred unemployment costs. Hiring strong people more quickly ("though that point may be moot for FY11")...motion to admin to compare our HR to ours..."on our administration side, we are lean across the board"
Ms. Hargrove "said last April that we had a very competant HR staff...we do have a very good school system"
Mayor Lukes "collectively grateful to you for undertaking" this task. Calls this medicine "to cure what ails us...good guidelines to follow" Have to dispell those perceptions..bring transparency to the process. Most important is to move forward with this..."will hear over and over again 'we need reform' " She'd like to see the task force stay around "and tell us whether we've passed or failed"
The task force is here this evening, doing a presentation of their report, followed by next steps from Superintendent Boone.
Focus on licensure, waivers, hiring and recruitment, professional development
Both of the superintendents, all of HR, 3 principals, tech involved
Changes in licensure during 1993 and since then. 1.7% of WPS educators are working under waiver.
On licenses and waviers, recommendations:
- automate licensure and waiver process in HR
- train principals and supervisors on licenses and waivers
on hiring, recommendations:
- formal procedure manual
- hiring year round
- current employees tracked into recruitment pool (promote from within)
- "multi-faceted recruitment strategy"
- redesign website (FAQ, etc)
- HR annual report
- increase involvement with professional associations
on technology, recommendations:
- more fully use systems that are in place for information sharing
- HR and IS should meet to plan and review
- combine databases into one
"Human Resources is professional, competent, and commited to adhering to regulations, policices, and procedures while providing quality service to all employees of WPS."
Much praise now for Boone and for HR
The big news is the Human Resources panel comes back tonight with their report. I have not yet seen it (member-elect does not rate you that!), but I will be there and liveblog it!
It is "not often the case that we realize how well thought of we are" around the country and internationally
Last year, Chester said
- support teacher development
- support curriculum and instruction
- accountability and assistance
- student and family supports
are his priorities and those of the state department. He's impressed at how well those four line up with the priorities of the Obama administration under RTTT (notable exception: no mention in RTTT about student and family supports)
He calls RTTT an "unprecendented opportunity" from the fed; "dollars are substantial, potentially substantial"
He says he's "recruiting YOU" (superintendents and school committee members) to get on board with this--money will not flow as entitlements, has to be earned
"you are going to have to make a commitment" (at which point I heard muttered, "where's your commitment to us?")
Measures of "effectiveness" rather than qualifications of teachers--qualifications aren't a good predictor. "very interested in looking at test scores when we have them" also "principals rating teachers, superintendents rating principals, and, in high schools, students rating teachers"
(yes, you read that last part right)
part of an improvement strategy
not all districts have to participate; more money for the rest
"to be treated as professionals is to get honest feedback," he says, using himself as an example of someone who is a professional who gets honest feedback
Leaves us with this proverb: "when the water hole goes dry, the animals start to look at one another differently"
Reville begins by lauding the work done by superintendents, school committees, teachers, principals to make us number one in the country, but we still have "gaps as large or larger" than other states. The "future of the economy and society" depends on fixing it this; they plan to do "with urgency" and do it in cooperation with the education field. After 16 years of ed reform, what we are doing isn't "wholly adequate."
We want for our students "success in life," "as life-long learners," "as citizens"
The Readiness Project was designed to "deliver on the promise" keeping in mind that accountability and choice in education "are here to stay."
That said, he "understand(s) the pain and drain"of charter schools on budgets (explains that charter schools strictly limited under bill passed by Senate)
"unprecendented flexibility and autonomy" in districts to "challenge the mainstream" = the readiness schools
Reville said that the Ed Reform bill was not only about "getting an opportunity to get federal dollars," that it was "as much a moral rationale" as a financial one
Suggests that the Gates foundation might follow RTTT dollars with money of their own (they recently donated $10 million to the KIPP charters)
fears a referendum proposed by charter proponents that would lift the cap entirely (let me interject here briefly that he mentioned this several times now and later. Why he assumes such a referendum would be won by the charter proponents--they say it would, but, then, one assumes they would--and why we should be governing based on threatened referenda escapes me)
On to the budget!
comments that education has been a high priority to the Patrick administration, that when they cut the budget, they did not cut foundation funding (except Worcester lost all foundation funding from the state, which was supplanted by stimulus money. The state did not hold Worcester harmless.)
the state is hoping to avoid further 9c and ch. 70 cuts for this year; working with unions to cut back there instead
six readiness centers are opening around the state to "systematically improve the quality of teaching" and to do the "joint work of setting expectations" and integrating...
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Worcester's magnets were originally constructed as a desegregation effort; they don't have the scope of Boston's METCO program, but they do a similar thing.
After examining the nation's eight remaining desegregation programs that enable disadvantaged students to cross school district boundary lines to attend more-affluent, suburban public schools, the researchers conclude that the programs are "far more successful than recent choice and accountability policies at closing the achievement gap and offering meaningful school choices."
It's a fascinating conclusion that runs counter to most of the methods and strategies at work in public education right now to close the achievement gap. The authors acknowledge that the programs--in Boston, East Palo Alto, Calif., Hartford, Conn., Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Rochester, N.Y., and St. Louis--are "out of sync" with current practice. Except for the program in Minneapolis, all have been in place for at least two decades, and all the programs stem from court rulings and legislation meant to create equitable educational opportunities for disadvantaged students.
The Queen's annual speech to Parliament took place in London earlier today. (For those not up on their British government, the Queen presents "Her Government's" plans for the year in a speech to both houses of Parliament. In this case, Labour is in power and thus is presenting its plans for the year.) It included this line which has caused a bit of a fervor:
Legislation will be brought forward to introduce guarantees for pupils and parents to raise educational standards.The question here is whether one can indeed "guarantee" a quality education. Is this opening school districts to suits from parents who feel that their child has not received one? And what is the responsibility of the national government?
The redrafted policies, tacked onto a bill that senators said was the most significant education reform bill since 1993, were not available during debate. It will take some time for the House and for legislative clerks to sort through the many changes made to the bill.
Here's what I do know:
- the charter cap is lifted
- contracts have to be negotiated for 30 days before going to arbitration
- Horace Mann conversion is subject to a building teacher vote
- an adequacy study is included
It now goes to the House, which from the various pieces I've read, has little appetite to take it up today. Tonight, the Legislature recesses until January.
Good time to get in touch with representatives!
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
For those of you who haven't followed the national press on this, Arne Duncan became Secretary of Education under President Obama after running Chicago's public schools. Duncan was appointed by Mayor Richard Daley (yes, Chicago's schools run on the "strong mayor" model) as CPS Chief Executive Officer. Duncan was a big part of implementing the "Renaissance 2010" program, which has, to say the least, been controversal. Duncan has closed numerous schools (22 have closed since 2001, 'though not all of that was under Duncan), fired teachers and principals, and thrown neighborhoods into turmoil.
Has it done any good?
Not so much, it seems.
- When it's announced that a school will close, student test scores go down.
- Once a school has closed, student achievement returns to what it was prior to the announced closing.
- Student improvement, long term, depends entirely on the sort of school the student ends up in (and most students, in the Chicago study, ended up in schools that mirrored the schools from which they'd come).
Monday, November 16, 2009
- The bus contract is up for renegotiation. There's an amazing level of detail in the bus contract. A few things I learned tonight: we're starting off by paying $3 a gallon for gas (but it goes up and down with the market). We've got video cameras on the buses (we're now looking for a more modern system as part of the new contract). All buses to be used can't be more than ten years old. Oh, and no, that driver should not be on his cell phone: it's against state law.
- The budget, or rather two. Business committee gets an update on where we are on money, so FY10 is part of the program. We've hired eight additional teachers (for class size, scheduling, or special ed reasons) since the budget passed. We saved some money over the summer on air conditioning. We lost funding (through 9c cuts) for some school nurses (it's a 50% reduction in the EHS grant, for those who follow this) but they're scrambling to pay for it some other way. And here's an interesting point: the federal and state legislature has extended unemployment benefits, however, city and state governments are not reimbursed for that. So we are losing some substantial money there. As for FY11, you've seen the list (but the business office would like you to be able to recite it in your sleep, so I'll give it to you again): charter school funding formula change; extended the retirement schedule; eliminate private and parochial school transportation requirements; freeze out-of-district tuition rates. This is what the administration would like to see happen on Beacon Hill; if it all did, it would add up to $5.7 million in savings for WPS.
So just how much money could Massachusetts get?
Massachusetts falls in Catagory 3, which is $150-$250 million.
Sounds like quite a lot until you realize that the Worcester Public Schools budget last year was more than that. Divide that up among the cities (figuring in the Title 1 angle), and you're not looking at much more than 5-10% of Worcester Public Schools' budget.
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Dear Senators Chandler and Moore, and Representatives Spellane, O'Day, Pedone, Fresolo, and Binienda:
I am writing to urge you to vote against the Education Reform Act of 2009.
The original proposal has been a negative one for Worcester from the beginning; as you may know, lifting the charter cap in Massachusetts and thus allowing two more charter schools in Worcester would cost the city $5 million next year. As the school budget is projected to be running a $26 million deficit next year already, this is not going to help.
It also has had a sketchy at best relationship with teachers, as it has moved away from the contractual relationship our unions have had with districts. Though the claim has been that such a new "flexibility" is necessary, the variety of working conditions that teachers in Worcester have under contract shows that not to be so.
For both of these reasons, I went into the State House to testify against the original three bills in September.
The bill's evolution while in the Joint Committee on Education has only made it worse. It now strips teachers' unions of arbitration, a basic right allowing the unions to represent for their members. It strips School Committees of the power to negotiate with unions, centralizing that power in the superintendent, and further removing the power of the purse from the people (whom the School Committees are elected to represent). The bill pushes us down a road to greater privatization of public schools, giving very vague outlines for the sequence by which schools would be declared "chronically underperforming" and be privatized. It also allows for privatization of the bottom 20% of schools, and there is always a bottom 20%, even if all schools are performing well.
All of this from the progressive state of Massachusetts, the home of public education?
This bill, if passed would be a disaster for Worcester. The charter school cost I've mentioned above, in particular, will add to an already difficult situation. Worcester is also bound to be hard hit by the privatization plan, as we have schools that are declared "chronically underperforming" under some of the rules of No Child Left Behind (Ieading, in some cases, to schools being praised by the state and criticized by the fed, or vice versa). This will not improve our relationship or negotiating position with the teachers' union, to say the least. Taking the power of negotiation from School Committees, moving it farther away from the people, is moving in the wrong direction.
I ask you to please, please vote against this bill.
President Obama's message throughout the campaign was a reiteration of the concept of the "common good," at a time when we were experiencing the impact of a society built around "the more I get, the better." But I agree with you, Diane. What we're hearing now is rather different than what we expected. Neither Education Secretary Arne Duncan's failure in Chicago, nor the mayor's in N.Y.C., nor Michele Rhee's in Washington, D.C., are on the table; it's as though we can sweep that inconvenient evidence under the rug by a constant repetition of good PR.
Producing schools that do right by all children AND by the nation is, in fact, more complex than rocket science. It means, for example, concerning ourselves with the children in that other ward across the levees, not just our own. Democracy works most easily when our personal short-term interests and the interests of the least advantaged match. But democracy can't depend on that.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I just found an alert to MTA members which covers the collective bargaining/termination end.
Keep those calls and emails going. I hear there still could be amendments going in on Monday. It's going to need significant amendment to be fixed!
Here are a few key points to consider (and pass along):
1. It is percentage-based system that can lead to significantly expanded privatization of a key public resource, our schools. The 20% of lowest-scoring schools and 5% percent of districts are "eligible" to be declared "underperforming" based on MCAS reading and math scores. By one estimate I've read, an estimated 70% or more schools in MA will not make that threshold by 2014.
The steps from "underperforming" to "chronically underperforming" are subjective...and once a school is there, it can be privatized.
And remember: there is always a bottom 20%.
2. The new RTTT rules count lifting the charter cap as only 40 out of a possible 500 points in an application. Even if we (the state of Massachusetts) want to apply from RTTT funds (something which I'd like to see more debate on, frankly), we don't have to lift the charter cap to do it.
And this bill doesn't do enough, still, to ensure that charters are quality institutions, that only good charters are granted (the administration has a questionable history on this), that charters truly serve all in the community, etc.
3. It centralizes authority, moving authority to bargain with unions, close schools, and make declarations the sole province of the superintendent as overseen by the MA Commissioner. It moves us away from the classic Massachusetts model of local control (answering to the local community) of local schools. This is the centralized model that has, for example, just been declared a failure in Chicago. We do not want to go there.
4. Did I mention it would cost Worcester $5 million next year?
You can get your reps info here:
And if you're in Worcester: contact the whole Worcester delegation!