Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Councilor Toomey is rising to (again) amend an item by Mayor Lukes, suggesting that we look at what we already have in the city.
From the Pittsburgh Promise website:
Currently, students who are eligible have the opportunity to receive a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise that would pay up to $5,000 each year for up to four years to help with expenses related to tuition, mandatory fees, books, dorm, and meal plan. Funds from The Promise will be used as “last dollar” scholarships. This means that Federal and State grants will be used first. The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship will be applied after the Federal and State awards. Students who already have scholarships to cover the total cost of attendance may be eligible for an award of up to $1,000 through The Promise.
To maintain eligibility while they pursue their higher education, students must earn a minimum 2.0 GPA to continue to receive yearly Promise funds.
Councilor Smith is now going on at some length about his...disappointment. "You can't cut and not give us any options to do anything about it...there's no 'I' in 'team' and the state is the 'I' here."
Monday, July 27, 2009
Educators use data for two major purposes: accountability and performance improvement. Accountability requires schools to prove something, while performance improvement is focused on improving student performance. The conversation in the media, at the state and federal levels, and often, in schools is focused overwhelmingly on accountability. In addition, we traditionally create assessments and collect data that measure accountability rather than identifying the factors that influence learning. As long as we continue to devote the majority of our energy, time, and resources to proving something, we will make less significant strides toward improving the education of each child.
We must be strategic in the questions we ask about quantitative data and ensure that we collect qualitative data to help identify and address causes rather than just dealing with effects. Stakeholders at all levels must use data to identify and address the factors that influence student learning. We assume that data lead to conclusions, yet they can only suggest what may have caused the result. Data rarely, if ever, identify cause and effect. When we focus on identifying the causes of both success and failure, data becomes not a dirty four-letter word but an essential ingredient in the recipe for educating the whole child.You can find more from them here.
The report is based on a one-year quantitative and qualitative study of six high schools: Progress High School for Professional Careers (Brooklyn), Urban Assembly for Careers in Sports (Bronx), Humanities Preparatory Academy (Manhattan), Urban Academy and Vanguard High School – both located in the Julia Richman Education Complex (Manhattan), and Lehman High School (Bronx).
None of these schools currently has metal detectors, although some used the devices in the past. Each employs alternative strategies to intervene with troubled students, and they generally enjoy long-term, positive relationships with school safety agents, NYPD civilian personnel assigned to patrol the schools.What I found most troubling was what is going on in the schools not participating in the alternative:
Since 1998, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani transferred school security responsibilities to the NYPD, the number of police personnel in the schools soared by 62 percent, from 3,200 to 5,200. The police force in New York City schools is now the fifth largest police force in the country—there are more police in New York City schools than there are on the streets of cities such as Baltimore, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington D.C.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg imported Giuliani’s “broken windows” policing strategy into the schools—cracking down heavily on minor disciplinary violations. Students, some as young as five, have been handcuffed, taken to jail, and ordered to appear in court for infractions such as tardiness, talking back, truancy, refusing to show identification, and refusing to turn over cell phones.
Bloomberg has also introduced such controversial practices as the “Impact Schools” initiative—which doubles the number of police personnel permanently assigned to certain schools and has police agents enforce a zero tolerance policy for rule infractions—and the “roving” metal detector program, which often subjects youth to bag searches and body pat downs on their way to class. The Department of Education now spends 65 percent more per year—an additional $88 million this year alone—than it did in 2002 on school safety, despite the fact that student enrollment has decreased over the same period.
The escalation of police activity in the schools has created a de facto zero tolerance policy in schools that serve the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In these schools, which often have permanent metal detectors, students can be suspended, expelled or arrested for any number of disciplinary infractions.
These punitive measures contribute to the school to prison pipeline, a system of local, state and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system. The pipeline disproportionately affects youth of color and youth with disabilities.More police in the NYC public schools than in all of Boston? Roving metal detectors?
I wish our federal secretary of education would pay attention to reforming things like this!
Friday, July 24, 2009
To be eligible to apply for money, a “state must not have any legal, statutory or regulatory barriers to linking data on student achievement or student growth to teachers and principals for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation,” according to a summary of the proposed rules.
The American Federation of Teachers says that it will be commenting during the 60 day period allowed. No comment, as yet, from the NEA.
From Duncan's post on this:
But the president and I want to send a message to everyone: governors and mayors, school board members and teachers, parents and students; businesses and non-profits. We all need to work together to win this race so that our students can outcompete any worker in the world.
To win the race, states have to have standards and tests that prepare students to succeed in college and careers. They’ll need to recruit and reward excellent teachers and principals. They must have data systems to track students’ progress and to identify effective teachers. They must identify their lowest-performing schools and take dramatic action to turn them around.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
The Manager will have a report for the council on recommended actions Friday (when the new Council agenda goes up for next Tuesday's meeting.)
The School Department did not assume passage of these items, so no changes there.
Tuesday, July 21, 2009
“We need a team of warrior principals to leave the easier places and go into the most underserved communities with a chance to build a new team,” Mr. Duncan said to the roughly 350 principals who are in Washington this week for the annual meeting of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Duncan said he would need to enlist about 1,000 principals a year, over the next five years.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Originally, the below mentioned IDEA and Title 1 money were going to expand programs (remember all that about training and technology?). Unfortunately, the state budget has cut back so severely that all of that money is going to simply maintain current services.
The federal money is largely going to maintain current services and do a bit of staff development. Beyond that, we are allow to hold some of it over for next year (and, to editorialize here, I'm glad that someone learned something from Joseph and the Egyptian famine: seven lean years, remember?), which the Administration has recommended, saving $8.1 million for FY11 (aka, the funding cliff). Also, the administration is already recommending that any money saved from anything this year be saved for next year (they'll need to juggle things to do so, as they can only carry forward stimulus funds. I think we can see below that this won't be a problem.).
If you want any more on where the money is going, let me know. I think it's been a pretty dense reading day here, already!
- The inflation factor (which is part of calculating the foundation budget, and thus everyone's contribution) is 3.04, as compared to 4.5 in the House and Governor's budget. This one reduction (this is pretty amazing, really) costs Worcester Public Schools $3.6 million.
- Charter school reimbursement is 90% this year, which costs WPS $285, 155.
- The City of Worcester, as we all already know too well, took a substantial hit in local aid from the state. That reduction in local aid translates to a reduction in the city's required contribution to the schools under the foundation formula. In this case, that loss is $117, 258 (that's a bit more than two teachers)
- Every district's aid is down by 2% from last year, but stimulus funding saves us there.
However, it's stimulus money to the rescue again here; here's how the money will be made up (you'll want to keep in mind here that there is separate stimulus money for special ed (which is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, thus IDEA) and for Title 1 (children who are poor, which includes all schools in Worcester but 3).
Here's how the money gets reallocated:
Instructional Assistants 850,000 from IDEA stimulus
Instructional Assistants 500,000 from Title 1 stimulus
Bus Monitors 100,000 from IDEA stimulus
Community Schools 206,574 from Title 1 stimulus
Special Ed Bus Drivers 199,015 from IDEA stimulus
Parent Liasons 162,671 from Title 1 stimulus
Math & English tutors 165,840 from Title 1 stimulus
Retirement 350,000 from IDEA stimulus
Health Insurance 795,140 from the regular stimulus funds
Health Insurancce 543,552 from IDEA stimulus
Personal Services 89,500 from IDEA stimulus
Staff Development 50,000 from Title 1 stimulus
So, how does that work?
The IDEA stimulus is picking up a lot of the cost of special education to the Worcester Public Schools (including teachers, bus drivers, and so forth). Each district is federally required to fund a portion of special ed themselves, so we're keeping our end up, while taking what we can here, so we don't have to cut elsewhere.
The Title 1 stimulus is funding Kindergarten Assistants, other aides, and parent liaisons at Title 1 schools. Those aides will reduced adult/child ratios in those schools. It will be used to fund community schools at four schools. It will also fund one English Language Learner position (hooray for that!).
Okay, so it looked like a looming, $4 million dollar hole, but whew! A save! Right?
NOT SO FAST.
This is the FY10 budget. You will note that the word "stimulus" is used a great deal above. And what happens next year? Very little stimulus. The project budget deficit right now is $26 million, based on the state having no regular stimulus to give us (they spent it already) and not fully funding foundation (like this year).
We have to start paying attention to this now, or we stand to lose 400 teachers.
Any other links that would be of help?
(taken from the NEA Insider; thanks, Kara!)
Currently, K-12 teachers can deduct up to $250 on their taxes for out-of-pocket classroom expenses. Both Titus and Kosmas have introduced bills that would double the deduction amount and make it a permanent part of the federal tax code. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) has also introduced legislation to double the deduction.
Meanwhile, Representative Larry Kissell (D-NC) has introduced a bill that would extend the deduction in its current form through 2011, while Representative Zach Space (D-OH) has introduced legislation to make the deduction permanent.
PURE letter in Ed Week
From Julie Woestehoff of PURE:
My letter on the truth behind the Duncan-Chicago myth is published in this week's Education Week.
In case you're not an online subscriber, here's what I wrote:
With billion of dollars and millions of children's lives at stake, Education Secretary Arne Duncan's claims about his record in Chicago merit special scrutiny, especially if federal education funds are tied to requirements that districts across the nation rapidly replicate the "Chicago model."
Advocates in Chicago have a special vantage point for this effort. We have been comparing Mr. Duncan's rhetoric with reality for several years, and finding significant factual errors and misstatements. His comments in "Start Over" fit this pattern.
For example, Ms. Duncan says, "Chicago success proves that we as a nation can expect dramatic and quick turnarounds in our lowest-performing schools." Yet the Rand Corporation (2008) and SRI International (2009) found that Chicago's new schools perform only "on par" with traditional neighborhood schools. Yet the traditional schools serve more low-income, special education, and limited-English proficient students.
Mr. Duncan states that "In every elementary and middle school we turned around, attendance rates improved." But state data for the 2007 "turnaround model," Sherman Elementary, show that attendance dropped from 91.4% the year prior to the takeover to 90.6% in the first year of the takeover. Attendance nearly recovered its pre-takeover rate at 91.3% in 2008. That's not a terrible record, but it's not an improvement.
Other post-turnaround data for Sherman are even more troubling. By 2008, the data show a 20 percent drop in enrollment, a 10 percent drop in the number of low-income children, and a 17% increase in the mobility rate.
Reality, not hype, should provide the context for considering Mr. Duncan's urgent call for bold and rapid change. Yes, our children need better schools, schools with more resources, more time, smaller classes, better-supported teachers, safer buildings, more participation of parents and community, and programs with a real track record of success. We fear that following Mr. Duncan's lead will send us at breakneck speed down a $5 billion-dollar path to privatization, national standardized tests, and loss of local control over schools, leaving our children even farther behind.
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Ms. Mullaney has opened the conversation for what the School Committee would like to do about this. The position has been posted, applications are coming in, Boone is waiting to see what the School Committee would like to do.
Lukes is back to who got what...wanting to know the legality of a School Committee member getting an opinion before the Superintendent got it. She wants a legal opinion on that. She also wants to know if there's a legal obligation the School Committee has.
Monfredo says, let's have her suggest someone for and vote 'em up or down.
Lukes says she sat in on interviews. She thinks there's a process by law.
Mullaney says she thinks it's a little different from what Lukes is referring to (which was the special ed director). She thinks we ought to excercise that little bit of authority state law allows the School Committee.
Lukes wants a policy for how School Committee hires the people they hire. Mr. Foley says he'd like Boone to get going on hiring CAO, and makes a motion to that end.
O'Connell says that Ed Reform only changed the hiring process for some positions in redrafting the lines, thus the difference among positions. He suggests that if a meeting is needed, the Mayor has the authority to convene such a meeting and should do so.
She wants to know, basically, if we're spending more money.
Brian Allen fields this one, and the answer is no, in fact, we are saving money, between saving money on health insurance and saving $500,000 from the administration. (did I get that right?)
Mr. Foley comments that this was a grant-funded program that was cut. He'd like to see this be part of professional development for teachers in all schools (so it isn't just one person). Will the training happen before the start of the school year?
(hat tip to Dr. Boone who is up in the "big chair" as superintendent (with her own sign) today for the first time)
She says yes, that it is happening on an ongoing basis.
Foley reminds us that there is a "social component" in the requirements under state law.
Quick exchange between Lukes and O'Connell, who wishes to have another motion (for looking at what sort of progress has been made over the course of this year). Okay, he got his motion.
He isn't willing to let this go.
(Mr. O'Connell has suggested that we follow up with their suggestion that they put it on their website.)
Now the "Public School Corner" as they are asking the Telegram and Gazette to establish. The T&G said no, so they want the WPS website to have a "Good News corner."
Item on parents volunteering in school improvements
And, ah-ha, the School Committee has one (adopted April 5, 1973; citing a MASC Code adopted in 1964), which is being passed around, ‘though Quinn says he will send some other samples. He says this should be part of assessing the School Committee.
Quinn talks about the Brode Center for Urban Schools: three times, two to four days, for School Committee training: developing board members, urban school renewal, policy development. $50,000. They’re working on this proposal for school districts around the country. “A great growth experience…never heard” anything otherwise. Lukes wants to know how we can apply; she says in going to meetings with other mayors, she walks away thinking “Worcester’s in good shape!”
Mass Association of School Committees, he recommends.
He says that continuity is key: superintendent and School Committee in place (he speaks here about winning the Brode Prize of $2 million; all districts that have won it have had the same people at the top, including School Committee, for 6 years. Oh, and Worcester isn’t eligible because we aren’t a big enough district.)
Quinn says that he sees a “bucket” of student achievement, whether they are ELL, extended learning, or at underperforming schools. Another one he sees is communication, transparency, and budget. “Third big chunk” has to do with defining success. Community partnerships is another.
O’Connell reviews how the School Committee evaluates the superintendent
Quinn gives a rundown of other systems of evaluation; says it should be a process not an event. Quarterly retreats, part of which should be related to performance. Self-performance should be part of performance evaluation, as how a supervisor relates to how those being supervised perform (?), he’s concerned about executive session and evaluating the superintendent (they can’t go into executive session for that). He recommends Charlotte-Mecklenberg as a success in evaluation (news to those of us who know anything about the Charlotte district). He doesn’t think that individual evaluations should be collected and put together for the final evaluation (and put out to the press and public). He wants a strategic plan in place so that she can be evaluated by that in her second year. (He calls this a hybrid of a “global and data” assessment.)
Brode offers a “senior advisor” for all superintendents they have. They also offer to “facilitate the evaluation” in year one for their graduates. They do it over two days: meet each School Committee member individually; three or more mentions of anything end up in the final report. They send that to her, she goes over/adds her own stuff, it goes back to the committee, and they check it over for the final report. The Mayor calls for discussion now; largely the committee feels they ought to do it themselves, the Mayor speaks of “being willing to experiment”…she’s like to have the experience. Speaks of having at least one, maybe more, new member on the Committee…”I don’t feel threatened at all by the Executive approach” It’s only free the first year...some back and forth over maybe meeting with a person, but not for evaluation. Lukes points out that colleges and universities have to be more involved; Boone says she is having good conversations with them; Lukes suggests coordinating w/ City Manager on that. Some talk about Pittsburgh having a community grant program for kids who graduate with a certain GPA.
Expectations six months out? is what they are to be thinking about over lunch.
Concerns and issues:
· Budget vs. service
· Technology & marketing
· Competition: impact on funding…diversity opportunities
· Core strategies for underperforming schools
· Expectations high enough across city: top-down vs. bottom-up: Boone speaks of a collaboration, but says “research is clear” that urban districts do best with a top-down until things improve, then control can be loosened.
· Monfredo speaks of getting kids on grade level (reading on grade level by grade 3), and he wants to look at curriculum; Mullaney wants to not only see kids as people who need to pass the tests; kids who are going to have no problem need challenges too; (dang, is she really not all that pro-MCAS?)….ah, “Worcester has been able to retain a middle-class, college-educated population...”other districts are freed up to focus on other things.
· Family involvement: embrace family involvement: “parents as key players”
· School safety: something about bullying programs
· Alternative assessment
· Next generation of leaders in Worcester Public Schools
· Hargrove: “What is success?”
· Foley wants leadership training for principals
· 25% of budget and population is special ed: how do we get them succeed? (Foley)
· Healthy Communities (Worcester is doing this as a city) (Foley)
· Professional development for teachers (Monfredo)
· Transparency in Title I budget (Monfredo)
· Mayor: maintaining services in underperforming schools during budget crunch: “making parents part of the solution...looking at reforms” Foley suggests having budget hearings of a sort early
· Extended Learning Schools: have they improved? What difference has it made, if any? (this from Hargrove)
· Math: what recommendations, what makes sense? (Monfredo)
· Listen to teachers’ concerns: CEO visibility (O’Connell)
· Collaborate with social agencies
· ELL students (look at how far down this is!)
Accountability and strategic plan
Benchmarks for student achievement
Mayor Lukes says that she’s heard good things on the retreat Boone ran last week with the leadership of the Administration. Boone has them energized to move forward and (according to Lukes) make changes that need to be made. Foley praises her having met with so many people during her visits with the community. She’s been appointed to at least three boards since she was appointed superintendent. And now just about everyone else is saying something nice about her, what’s she’s done, the presentation she’s made. Bogigian tells (Boone? Everyone?) not to be afraid of change…it’s why we went outside the school system…have this community with you, because perception is so important and your perception is one of strength.
(ooh, there’s a PowerPoint!) ;)
· Pre-entry (2/1/09-6/30/09)
· Entry (7/1/09-9/300/09)
· Action Plan Development (10/1/09-11/30/09)
Her five goals on entry:
1. Develop and ensure effective district governance through positive school committee-superintendent relations
2. Increase student achievement for all students & closing achievement gap (including opportunity gaps)
3. Improve public trust, commitment, and confidence
4. Increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency
5. Establish a supportive, positive, and effective district climate: improvement of student achievement and behavior
Quinn wants to go back to press…if someone calls you and wants to know your position…Lukes says it’s done individually. Hargrove says she didn’t have enough information to say something that would go out to the public. Boone is conducting a communications audit: “We’ve got to figure how we communicate…who are the key people?”
(Lunch just arrived from the Broadway)
Foley talks about executive session stuff saying “No comment” but beyond that, responding as individuals. O’Connell talks about educating themselves to educate the public through the media. Would we ever have a spokesman? No. Quinn didn’t know that there was no public relations department. He says they need to be “proactive about getting your message out” (exchanges of looks by reporters here)…”they’ll pick up on the negative” Foley on getting message out, advocating for superintendent being the point person. Monfredo thinks she could have a radio or TV show. Bogigian suggests adding point person to CAO position. She goes back to communication audit. Lukes agrees that she needs to be the person herself so she is known by the community.
· Be a good listener to constituent concerns; people want your view and want you to hear it
· Refer employee concerns to the point of the problem and/or their union rep. (avoids having to recuse yourself from a particular matter) Inform superintendent so she can ensure issue is handled properly. “And make sure we are responsive to the school committee around that problem”
· Refer constituent concerns or complaints to the point of the problem, and up the chain, to her, as necessary.
· If you believe it may require a committee policy change or is of a potentially serious nature, let her know right away.
· Information? Ask her office.
· School Committee electronic communications are public record. This includes your editorial comments on information forwarded to other members.
· “Maintain fidelity” to school committee members, policies, standards when communicating with the media. She goes back to the close vote example, wanting them to say “and we’ll move forward” after losing a close vote.
This is her list:
· Regular school committee meetings and committee work/study sessions
· Weekly written updates: the Friday letter, which she is restructuring (pull-out box of pertinent dates)
· Urgent calls or emails for events “that you may be alerted to through the media or community members” (aka: crisis management): those calls will come from Dr. Boone herself or from Dr. Friel
· Quarterly governance team retreats (check our process)
· Periodic phone check-ins
· Periodic one-on-one face-to-face meetings as needed
· Planning meetings with mayor/ chair
· Media advisories and press releases
· Information requested by any member will go to all members
T&G photographer just came in (10:16 am)
(This is particularly interesting in light of the conversations that had been going on over whether staff members could be expected to report to evening meetings, which would have to happen if the School Committee went to this model…assuming of course that they didn’t instead move their meetings to during the day.)
He suggests more from Jon Carter; he’s going to send them something to read
Mary Mullaney has just raised the issue again of individual board members, and he’s drawn a distinction between acting as a parent versus acting as a board member.
There’s a break here, during which a number of School Committee members mention that they’re not so sure about eliminating subcommittees.
Potential Pitfalls of Board Committees:
· Designed to help superintendent rather than focus on board business
· Diminish superintendent’s authority and accountability
· Board members rarely have time, experience or expertise to make sound decisions
· Provides opportunity for some members to become better informed than others, when all have ultimate responsibility
· Puts board in position of being lobbied by staff
· Puts staff in being directed by board
· Board members take on staff perspective and lose board perspective
Carter says there’s only one committee which is the committee of the whole (dismissal of subcommittees)
Four areas: board processes, indicators, means, board-superintendent relationship (only with superintendent…no other people that you’re going to) : Asks how we feel about policy manual. Answer is what policy manual? O’Connell references policy manual for students..but not one for School Committee, then something about manual from 1970’s (?) This obviously dismays the leader…”model policies on many different issues…you must have some internal guidance in place” “the fewer policies you have the better off you are in terms of the superintendent having the autonomy” to make decisions. Establishing guidelines, frameworks, monitoring outcomes
1. Board owns organizationon behalf of community.
2. Board employs CEO to whom it delegates day-to-day leadership and management of district
3. CEO is the only district employee who reports to and receives direction from the board
4. Board speaks with one voice or not at all. Individual members have no authority over district (reference here to Committee members who issue instructions to principals; exchange with Mayor who asks what should happen if it happens (which it does). Says that it will be Dr. Boone on the doorstep of Committee member)
5. Board prescribes the ends but stays out of the means to as great extent as possible.
6. Board holds CEO accountable for progress on Indicators of Success; performance is monitored against established criteria (reference to mayor of Detroit staging takeover of public schools, a favorable mention, one might say)
7. CEO recognizes board’s need for adequate an timely information
8. CEO responsible for engaging staff in planning and decision making
9. Bad and CEO are jointly responsible for effective communication
10. The only standing committee is the committee of the whole. (no standing committees)
1. United in service to children (these are the constituents of the politicians on School Committee): all discussions and meetings focus on what’s best for children (more important than teachers, parents (though parents are partners), etc): above all
Brode: “if we find the best and the brightest people, prepare them…if they stay in that position for three years or more, “ there is improvement…by year three, you can see significant results (they track test scores). He says we may even see it in 2, as Boone is one of their own instructors
Brode Prize won by districts that have “an effect governance team”…to often see a group of people who are dysfunctional…he doesn’t think it will take until 3
Jack Foley (his 10th year) “focusing our school committee meetings” “strategic, policy-centric”
Dottie Hargrove “passion for public schools” (she’s finishing her first term); she says she’s “new at this, never attended a retreat”
John Monfredo “make sure that I try to make a difference in the community” (after his retirement; he’s been on for four years): he’d like “to look at best practices”
Bob Bogigian (finishing his first term as well) “thought it might be a good thing for me to get on the other side of it” (after working as an administrator)…he owns a small stable of racehorses (who knew?)
Brian O’Connell gets a laugh by saying that he’s at his midpoint in his service on school committee (this is his, count ‘em, 26th year) ; he says he also is looking to coordinate with the superintendent on policies and goals that they set together
Mayor Lukes says that her approach to government is always that of questioning (due to her background); more openness, agenda should be “less public relations and recognitions, and more business related” should look at what they are filing and why they are filing them. Expectations “are not high” due to the City Council (need another retreat on the City Council)…now she’s going into having the retreat outside the city, saying the city is “unsophisticated”…says that having reporters and public there “blogging, taking notes…had a chilling effect on the conversation”
Dr. Boone: “perfect match for my philosophy that we can improve our public education accomplishments”: develop our roles and relationships to improve student achievement; “don’t allow dollars to drive…but make our choices for students and line up our” money accordingly
Presenter is from Brode Center on Urban Education
(reporter from T&G just came in)
Leading introductions now is Tim Quinn the presenter: former English teacher, moved up through administration (Green Bay, WI), college president, then started this business of working with school governance, then Brode center
110 graduates of the Brode center: most leading districts now
“governance team” is elected board + superintendent
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
I will be coming with my laptop, but, alas, the 9th floor of 19 Foster Street does not have wifi (this would have been a great time for a downtown wifi; I'm pretty sure that City Hall's signal doesn't reach that far), so I will not be able to liveblog it. What I will do is take notes, update on who-cester when I can, and keep my Twitter feed up-to-date.
And it's open to the public, of course!
Monday, July 13, 2009
20,000 alums in Worcester
1500 international students
Twitter and Facebook once again referenced in how colleges are using social promotion (rather than viewbooks). The Worcester Rocks video on YouTube, too.
worcestermass.org is the common calendar (that link isn't working for me...)
10,000 students annually spend 600,000 hours at 450 local organizations. He notes that the Worcester Public Schools are a large recipient of that time (some of whom are work-study): about 90,000 hours.
Challenges include a perception about lack of safety downtown, a common destination for students downtown, and the perception of Worcester from 290 (which is that of an old industrial city).
They're doing WOO card (item B) while the people are there.
(Councilor Toomey just literally introduced everyone in the room, including my children and Dawn Johnson, here for the CPPAC.)
"Everything is WOO-hoo here in Worcester!" is the quote of the report. There have been 12,000 Woo cards distributed in the past 12 months. They are now on Twitter (anyone have a link?) and on Facebook (where Councilor Toomey has just said that she will friend them).
What do we learn from this curriculum about science? Well, just ask America's kids. Researchers who have studied the stereotypical views of scientists held by American schoolchildren report that when they encounter real-life scientists who visit their classroom, the kids think someone's pulling their leg, because the scientists aren't anything like the big-screen version — mean, male, gray haired and mad. As one study author explained to the magazine Nature: "They might say the person was too 'normal' or too good-looking to be a scientist. The most heart-breaking thing is when they say, 'I didn't think he was real because he seemed to care about us.'"
Education spending at the state level is down 4.2% from FY09 (and do remember that next year's prices usually are higher; one generally needs a bit more money to keep the same level of services). Here's the important point on K-12 spending from the state:
The most notable aspect of the Legislature’s budget in the area of elementary and secondary education is the use of $167.6 million in federal Fiscal Stabilization Funds to ensure that each district receives sufficient aid to meet their Chapter 70 Foundation Budget, as defined in the budget. In FY 2010, combined state and federal Chapter 70 spending totals $4.037 billion, an increase of 2.2 percent over the FY 2009 level.
Aside from reliance on federal funds, the approach to Chapter 70 includes other important policy decisions. For one, the Legislature’s budget uses a new method for calculating the inflation adjustment for the Foundation Budget than used previously. Specifically, it excludes price data from the first quarter of the last fiscal year when making the inflation calculation, because the Legislature felt that the high cost growth of that quarter was anomalous. However, this method results in an inflation calculation that is substantially lower than the traditional measure (3.04 vs. 6.75 percent) and ignores cost growth experienced by school districts during the omitted quarter. To avoid Foundation Budgets permanently failing to reflect the effects of cost increases during the quarter that was not included, the FY 2011 budget will have to use a calculation of inflation that, in some manner, corrects for the quarter omitted in FY 2010.Add that to your list of reasons to be concerned about the FY11 budget.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
...the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision last month - that New Haven should not have scrapped the test - perpetuates profound misconceptions about the capacity of paper-and-pencil tests to gauge a person's potential on the job. Exams like the one the New Haven firefighters took are neither designed nor administered to identify the employees most qualified for promotion. And Ms. Torre's identity-politics sloganeering diverts attention from what we need most: a clear-eyed reassessment of our blind faith in entrenched testing regimes.
For more on this, you can find Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenting justices, here.
Next week the conversations will be in Texas, with Chicago following later this month.
As it is the Obama White House, I poked around to see if they were looking for online submissions, but I haven't found any such thing.
The School Committee retreat is scheduled for this Thursday, July 16, from 8 to 3:30. It will be held at the Mass College of Pharmacy at 19 Foster Street.
And, yes, it's a public meeting!
Friday, July 10, 2009
There is also a School Committee meeting next Thursday (July 16) at 4 pm. No agenda posted for that yet, but I do know there will at least be a budget update, now that the state has passed a budget.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
For now, the online collaboration will allow the four participating schools -- Holton-Arms, Harpeth Hall in Nashville, Westover School in Middlebury, Conn., and Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio -- to offer classes that would not have generated enough student interest or teacher support in any one school. When the classes open to the public a year later, the educators hope that students around the world -- including homeschoolers and girls at coed schools -- will be able to take part in a version of the girls' school experience. And they want to prove that single-sex online education works. They can't find anyone who has done anything similar.
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Friday, July 3, 2009
So I look forward today to hearing your voices—hearing what you have to say—hearing your ideas for improving American education. I encourage you to think boldly and courageously—to challenge me, challenge yourselves, and challenge each other.
But we must be willing to do more than talk. We all must be willing to change. As I said recently, education reform isn't a table around which we all talk. It's a moving train and we all need to get on board.(is he willing to change?)
You can find his full remarks here.
While Duncan was greeted with only a few boos (and no shoes) and largely with warm applause, his tone is not especially welcoming of real input. Challenged schools? We need to start with a clean slate. Union-negotiated contracts? Standing in the way of educating children.
He speaks of his own experiences here, and it's interesting the degree to which they obviously have shaped him. His adult experiences with education have been those of an outsider. He started a neighborhood school, and then took over the Chicago school system.
Outsiders can be great: new perspectives and new ideas are enormously helpful. The danger is always that of throwing out the good along with the bad. Teachers, for example, undergo (or are supposed to undergo) rigorous scrutiny prior to being granted tenure. If poor teachers are granted tenure, it isn't tenure that's broken: it's the scrutiny. He accepts that tests are not great evaluation instruments, but in the next breath he wants to include them in teacher assessment.
I wish we could stick him in a classroom with 25 fourth graders for a few months.
Wednesday, July 1, 2009
We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, "We are learning how to do good on the tests." They did not say they were learning to read.
It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content o f learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.
Reading is not a series of isolated skills acquired in a sanitized rote-learning environment utilizing "teacher-proof" materials. It develops through interaction with a knowledgeable, active teacher—through dialogue, and critical analysis. It also develops through imaginative writing and research.
It is no wonder that the struggle to coerce all students into mastering high-stakes testing is hardest at the upper grades. The impoverishment of learning taking place in the early grades naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school-based learning. This disengagement is often stigmatized as "attention deficit disorder." The very capacities that No Child Left Behind is trying to achieve are undermined by the way in which the law is implemented.
Worth reading the whole thing.
Weekend Edition Sunday this past weekend had an informative report from Claudio Sanchez on the teaching of English Language Learners, particularly under No Child Left Behind. You can find both the audio and the text of the report here:
"The research certainly has in the past shown dual language programs to be the most effective," says Nancy Rowch.
Rowch oversees instruction for English-language learners in Nebraska. She swears that building on a child's native language, rather than discarding it, has proven to be the best way to help kids make the transition to English — but that's neither here nor there, because the actual programs that schools use have less to do with research than with politics and funding.This matters enormously here in Worcester, where so many of our kids are ELL at some point in their school lives.