Monday, August 31, 2009
Friday, August 28, 2009
Heads up, people: this is money, this is targeted at Worcester, and if it plays out the way Duncan's looking at, it will dramatically change things!
The money, $546 million in the fiscal year 2009 appropriation and an additional $3 billion from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), will go to states that receive Title I funds, who in turn will offer subgrants to local districts that apply and meet requirements stated.
The states need to divide their Title I-eligible schools into three categories:
Tier I - The lowest-achieving five percent of Title I schools in improvement, corrective action, or restructuring in a state, or the five lowest-performing Title I schools, whichever number is greater.
Tier II – Equally low-achieving secondary schools that are eligible for, but do not receive, Title I funds.
Tier III – The remaining Title I schools in improvement, corrective action or restructuring that are not Tier I schools in the state.
Ah, but what does one have to commit to in order to get the funds? Schools have to commit to one of four models for change:
Turnaround Model or what I'm calling the "Duncan model" if you remember the high rate of firing he's been proud of in running Chicago– This would include among other actions, replacing the principal and at least 50 percent of the school's staff (that means firing them), adopting a new governance structure and implementing a new or revised instructional program.
Restart Model – School districts would close failing schools and reopen them under the management of a charter school operator, a charter management organization or an educational management organization selected through a rigorous review process. A restart school would be required to admit, within the grades it serves, any former student who wishes to attend. aka: turn them into charters
School Closure – The district would close a failing school and enroll the students who attended that school in other high-achieving schools in the district. close them
- Transformational Model – Districts would address four specific areas: 1) developing teacher and school leader effectiveness, which includes replacing the principal who led the school prior to commencement of the transformational model, 2) implementing comprehensive instructional reform strategies, 3) extending learning and teacher planning time and creating community-oriented schools, and 4) providing operating flexibility and sustained support. Note that this starts with the "fire the principal" model, then changes the curriculum. "Operational flexibility" tends to mean moving away from having it be a district-run school and moving away from unionization.
This is punitive, however.
The notion that somehow a principal is completely responsible for the failure of a schools is insane. Coming in and firing half the teachers could be considered a "shakeup" or it could just be disruptive. The ongoing push to charterize (is that a word?) education misunderstands the weaknesses of charter schools ('though at least here they have to admit any student who formerly was there; will they, however, have to keep them? Charter schools have been known to push out students who need special services.). And closing failing schools doesn't really solve the problem.
Comments are open!
Recognizing the large amounts of research that tie student success to parental involvement, the plan is designed to increase parental involvement.
From my largely anectotal experience, this is one that Worcester both succeeds and fails at entirely at the school level. There are principals (and it does seem to have everything to do with principals) who welcome parents in the building, want their assistance, keep them well-informed, and otherwise do all they can to get parents involved and keep them there. And then there are those who are, shall we say, less welcoming.
The Plan has a checklist for how welcoming schools are of parents as well as four versions of partnerships, which goes from parents not being welcome to parents being full partners in education.
I'll post when it's online.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Sorry for the abysmal editing on this entry: I ran out of battery power partway through this discussion. In essence, this item was to be sure that the nurse positions funded for FY10 are filled as close to the start of the year as possible. Mention was made, yes, of the swine flu.
She's got a much more active style than either of the previous two superintendents. Interesting to see.
This is also in keeping with some of the conversations during the retreat about how and where things should be referred.
Boone points out that we need to have families implementing this (going back again to ground-up implementation)
I heard someone suggest that school should just be held off for a month until we have enough vaccine on hand, as, if we go forward, we may well be in the thick of the worst of it just as we are getting enough vaccine (which takes two weeks to work).
O'Connell refers this to a subcommittee, but the superintendent would like to bring it back to the entire School Committee. Mullaney agrees that it should come back to the full committee.
Item on the agenda to be sure that parents and students know that this change is in effect this year
Mullaney wants to know if the School Committee is one of the circles in a diagram in moving things together: what is their role? The Committee should set a few high-priority goals that really drive the core work of the city.
Foley speaks of focusing on outcomes, results, not process. It's not a top-down model, it's a teacher-based model. Columbo says we have some of the most talented educators in the state in the Worcester Public Schools. People are eager to get to work on this. District has given them a framework to work within..."limited autonomy" He also feels the word needs to get out more and better on this.
Hargrove has been eagerly awaiting this presentation. She also wants to know how School Committee members can support this. Communication is critical.
O'Connell asks how we can work on kids who are moving within the school system (aha! The above point!), while retaining that school autonomy? The early reading curriculum is a help: bounded autonomy again. Much discussion here between Boone, Columbo, and O'Connell about how to get that district consistency while still allowing school-level autonomy. Also schools get more autonomy as they make progress, according to Superintendent Boone. O'Connell then asks how we continue to do this as the budget gets slashed next year. Making decisions around the instructional core...priorities...then seeing what's left.
Bogigian "I think we're on the right track"...teachers have to buy into any program in order for it to succeed. Uses his own experience to talk about teachers who have their own way of doing things...not forcing things...collaborating with teachers.
Lukes is "truly relieved and encouraged" that we have a plan to improve the schools that "have been failing for far too long.'
"to go deeper into this work, as well as accellerate our progress"
Joe Columbo from Focus on Results is going to presenting
"instruction for best practices"
understand and share...all of us have to have a focus on student improvement in the district
Columbo now speaking:
take what are already very good schools and figure out how to make them better than before
"to provide and support high quality teaching and learning in every classroom, for every student, every day"
(Boone told the story of the janitor at NASA who said his job was to get a man on the moon; everyone needs to be involved)
What does this look like?
- Identify a schoolwide instructional focus (you've seen these on the boards outside the schools); the schools did this internally themselves.
- Teachers get time in the school day to collaborate to improve teaching and learning. (wow, there's one that costs money!); there's also a school-based leadership team of teachers
- Evidence-based teaching practices to meet the needs of each students (identify, learn, and use); consistent throughout the school (but, hmm, not even the focuses are throughout the district, and with a high mobility rate...)
- Targeted professional development that builds on best practices
- Re-align resources to support focus (money, staff, time, energy)
- Engage families and community in supporting the instructional focus
- Internal accountability system growing out of student goals to promote measurable gains
Demonstration of how this works out within the various schools so that students are understanding the school focus and how it applies to them: photos in the PowerPoint
Contrast between a results system and a non-aligned system, with an emphasis on internal control and a minimal number of focuses (so that it isn't scattered).
And what's happened so far?
MCAS has grown in 10 out of the 14 grades the past year
first growth in 8 years in gr. 3 reading
This year: increase urgency (to get out of priority district status), discipline of execution, relentless communication (both internally and externally)
The Mayor asks here about priority schools and priority districts (for those who might be watching and not know how this works)
You'll see that there are a number of personnel changes to approve (now with salary noted). Other than that, items include an "Improvement Strategy" from the Superintendent, and a number of items having to do with applying for various grants.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Education There’s a lot of focus on the interest rate deduction that is embedded inside a mortgage. I think the most obvious embedded option inside a mortgage that isn’t discussed is the option to educate your children at the local school district. If sending 3 kids to a private high school at your old houses costs $5,000/year, and if the new house’s public high school is free and equally good then taking a $60,000 bath on the house is break-even. Completely rational.
The value of this option has increased, both with the returns to education but also with a general worry about the robustness of our educational meritocracy. The amount of money and energy that goes into securing access to high-end education has skyrocketed over the past decade, and part of that budget, though it isn’t treated as such, is in your house. And though we often think of educational inequality as a function of a Kozol-narrative of the poorest against the richest, this bidding may be most driven by inequality between the middle and the highest parts of the inequality curve. I’d really like to see some hard research into how much our desire to educate our children in the best way possible has driven subprime and the housing bubble.There's undoubtedly a great deal of merit here; even within Worcester, even with school choice, there are people who choose their neighborhood based on the local school. How many people took out questionable morgages in order to get their kids into a better school?
You can email them at WorcesterCEO@gmail.com
Sunday, August 23, 2009
... On Aug. 9, "Kids Count" released data showing that the number of children living in poverty in Minnesota grew by an astonishing 33 percent from 2001-2007. Right now, 2,700 children are homeless, 40,000 do not have health care and at least 112,000 children and counting are living in poverty. These numbers and the challenges they create for our schools -- as revealed in the recent No Child Left Behind reports -- should be jolting Minnesotans into action. We need to act to broadly change the future for our children...
The first step is to accept that if we are serious about closing the achievement gap, we must begin to help long before these children arrive for the first day of school. The beginning point is adequate prenatal care for mothers, followed by information and training for parents on fostering their children’s good health and social and intellectual growth from birth. The period from birth to age 5 is critical in determining a child’s long -range educational success.
Most parents want to do the right thing for their children, but far too many simply do not know how. This outreach and involvement with parents in the poorest communities will require the coordinated efforts of social service agencies, neighborhood health clinics, community organizations, and schools.
It's remarkable how much this sounds like the Harlem Children's Zone as put together by Geoffrey Canada. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I wish this administration was doing more to create more models of that and doing less with the proposals under Race to the Top. We know what works. We just aren't doing it.
"We find this top-down approach disturbing; we have been down that road before with the failures of No Child Left Behind,"the union wrote in its comments, "and we cannot support yet another layer of federal mandates that have little or no research base of success and that usurp state and local government's responsibilities for public education."
They also raise the issue of charter schools, citing their mixed results.
For all of Secretary Duncan's repeated profession of wishing to work with the teachers, most of his proposals so far have been very far from reflecting that. I'm glad the NEA got on this.
And have you weighed in on RTTT yet?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Friday, August 14, 2009
- Philadelphia on Sept. 29
- New Orleans on Nov. 3
- Baltimore on Nov. 13
You can watch Sharpton and Gingrich discuss it on this morning's Today show here.
So far, Gingrich is being cited praising Duncan's "openness" on charter schools, and Sharpton is talking about the achievement gap.
And the news isn't good:
Colleges and universities should get ready for the children of the No Child Left Behind by beefing up their remedial education departments. Despite a heavy emphasis on reading and math these past seven years, many students are still ill-prepared for college work. They have met state standards by official legerdemain. And given the federal government's exclusive focus on reading and math, most will enter college poorly educated in history, literature, science, geography, civics or almost any other subject one can think of.
- Yes, it should be the main factor.
- Yes, it should be one of many factors.
- No, it should not be a factor.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Hat tip here to Councilor Toomey who once again is heading up the Set for Success Backpack program to get supplies for kids whose families cannot afford them.
The program kicks off with a press conference at 3pm on Monday, August 17th at Friendly House (a collaborator). From the announcement:
Last year, this successful program, through the generosity of individuals and corporations, enabled over 1,400 students to start the year off on the right track with the tools they need to do well in school. In addition to the students who were designated homeless, there is also a great need for support for students whose families may have a roof over their heads, but do not have the means to provide the school supplies and backpacks.
This program was also able, through the generosity of donors, to meet emergency needs
during the school year when the request from a school principal was received at Friendly House to assist a student or family.
The Worcester Public Schools have identified a total number of 2,467 students officially
designated as homeless according to State and Federal Guidelines. A significant number of these students, 654, are living in foster homes.
Donations of school supplies (including backpacks) can be dropped off at:
Worcester Public Library, Main Branch, Greendale Branch and Great Brook Valley Branch
Webster House Restaurant
City Hall, Second Floor Lobby by the Clerk’s Office
Worcester Police Department Lobby
Worcester Fire Headquarters on Grove Street
Congressman McGovern’s Office, 34 Mechanic Street
Fiddler’s Green Restaurant and Pub on Temple Street
The drive runs through September 18.
Monday, August 10, 2009
- Dealing with the Quinn Bill outfall $1.6 million: the Manager has two suggestions on making this work. We can either renegotiate the contract with the police officers' unions (there are two), or we can raise taxes to make up the half that the state cut. He's keeping option C, cutting the work force (in particular, police) more, off the table (or, as he says, "last resort") for safety reasons. It will be interesting to see where this one goes.
- Local option taxes $1.7 million: This is the hotel and meals taxes, which will raise meal taxes by 3/4% and hotel rooms by 2%.
- savings from the lack of a preliminary election: $150,000: largely poll workers and police overtime
- reduction of the 9C reserves for next year: $250,000
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
The $4.35 billion in this fund is an amount unprecedented in American history. We've never had so much money avaliable to education. A great opportunity, as both Secretary Duncan and President Obama have said. The money was passed as part of the larger American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, or what the rest of the universe is calling stimulus funds) with few strings; it's a pot of money to be handed out at the Secretary's discretion.
I wish I trusted that disgression more.
Secretary Duncan said that when he was superintendent of Chicago's public schools, he "did not always welcome calls from the U.S. Department of Education." He explains that this is because the federal DoE is "a compliance-driven agency," with little money and even less power.
Now, I'm not clear why he then would not welcome calls from the fed; presumably, he could largely ignore them if he chose to. I know that locally, Worcester spends a bit of time on federal regulations, due to funding of Title 1 and special ed, for example; I would imagine that Chicago would be the same. This is the "carrot and stick"setup of much federal regulation (the old 55 mph speed limit tied to federal transportation funds, for example), and it isn't clear to me that he's doing anything other than attempting to sympathize with those in his former position.
This is where it gets truly weird, though: Race to the Top is, as was said by others first, a lot of stick, and little carrot. Taking that amount of money, and spreading it out the way that he plans to, it isn't going to go so far. Meanwhile, though, for any state to even have a chance at the funds, they must do the following:
- eliminate caps on charter schools
- allow teacher evaluation to include student test scores
- improve (or create) data monitoring
- subscribe to national education standards
I've said, I think, quite a bit on the first two (as have several of my readers, as have the Legislative branches of the states, per yesterday's post): charter schools are not a cure-all, and tying teacher evaluation to standardized test scores continues to overvalue standardized tests without including the enormous number of other factors that create those scores.
As for data monitoring, yes, tracking how a particular child is doing from year to year is a great and wonderful thing. Dare I ask if that's really what's going to happen, however? What data is going to be tracked? Isn't this going to be just another excuse for data that fits nicely into a graph (which, if you'll pardon an English teacher for a moment, essays, for example, cannot do)? And are we going to track students, or data? The temptation is always to see districts as "improving" or not, when we are talking about individual students.
National education standards? I'd say I approach them with caution. Are we going to ensure that our science standards are not set by those with little understanding of science? Whose history are we teaching? And where, in all of this, is special ed? I also do wonder where all of this falls constitutionally: it would seem to me that this falls under the Tenth Amendment of reserving all other powers to the people and the states.
Comments on Race to the Top are open. I'd urge you to get them in.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
And for those of you wondering, Worcester Public Schools will continue to require a seven day at-home period for any child who has a fever and other symptoms. Line up those sick days now...
UPDATE with some helpful links from a commenter:
MA health blog http://publichealth.blog.state.ma.us/h1n1-swine-flu/
Info for schools
on younger children and poverty:
NCSL further recognizes that we cannot continue to treat family conditions as a matter separate from education and that such a focus is particularly important for younger children. Programs to support parents and family members as the first teachers of their children should be promoted and strengthened in both public and private sectors.
on charter schools (and Race to the Top funds):
Numerous states have included charters as one element in their overall mix of school reform and restructuring plans while other highly regarded state reform efforts have not included charters. The lesson learned by state policymakers is that charters can have some positive benefits beyond closing the achievement gap but are neither inherent nor essential to implementing successful state-wide reforms.
Despite the mixed results indicated by the body of research, the U.S. Department of Education is considering a plan to evaluate state charter school laws, rewarding states that meet whatever quota of charters is determined in Washington, DC and punishing states that fail to meet the quota. And while some will defend this position by emphasizing the 'voluntary ' nature of using federal funds to reward 'good' behavior, the withholding of any federal stimulus funds (in this case the "Race to the Top" funds) is a stick, not a carrot. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 established four clear goals for states to focus their education reform efforts. However, ARRA does not dictate the processes for achieving these goals. The Department of Education's emphasis on charter schools as a means to improve struggling schools is a regulatory step that goes beyond the legislative intent of Congress. This action could have the effect of usurping state chartering authority and preempting state constitutions. It is also beyond the limits of the language creating the Department, but for what end? If a medicine were discovered that helps 17% of people, doesn't do anything for 46% and hurts 37%, would the Food and Drug Administration approve and encourage that medicine for all?
on NCLB and national standards
Recent discussions and proposals to create a system of national educational standards are generally based on two assumptions: the first that NCLB is generating test results with no comparability of academic scores from one state to another. The second is that states are lowering standards (or re-defining ‘proficiency’) to avoid the negative consequences of federal adequate yearly progress (AYP) calculations.
Supporters of national standards point to the incomparability of state AYP results as a rationalization for their cause. However, comparability of state results is not critical to the potential success of NCLB nor is it a goal of the law. NCLB is supposed to be about improving individual student performance—a rising educational tide that raises the performance of all while closing the achievement gap.
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on No Child Left Behind, the primary problem with NCLB is that AYP falsely and arbitrarily over-identifies failure and prescribes punishments—driving states to broaden the definition of proficiency and/or relax standards. In this situation, states are reacting rationally to an irrational metric and the obvious action is to fix the metric...Federal funding increases in NCLB are exhausted by the compliance costs of NCLB, leaving states with little or no funding to raise the proficiency scores of struggling students through remediation known to have an impact on performance. The current federal role then, is strong on monitoring procedural and administrative compliance and weak on successful interventions and rewards encouraging enhanced student performance.
Federal statutory construction in the legislation creating the U.S. Department of Education prohibits federal involvement in a national test. Similar language in NCLB prohibits federal involvement in standards, assessments and curricula. These protections against federal involvement in state and local issues should be adhered to and continued. It is the position of the National Conference of State Legislatures that there is no legitimate or constructive role for federal involvement in national academic standards or a unified national test, especially while the structural flaws of NCLB remain unaddressed.
on federal funding of education
on overhauling NCLB:
- Incorporate the recommendations of the NCSL Task Force on No Child Left Behind, which range from the need for a revitalized state-federal partnership to specific recommendations for overhauling Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), to amending the state plan approval process to make it more transparent, less arbitrary and less subject to the whims of political influence, to changing the sequence of consequences for under-performing schools.
- Follow the concept of incentive-based programs as opposed to the coercive, punitive system at the heart of NCLB.
- Acknowledge state constitutions and state elected officials as well as basic principles of federalism.
- Avoid any reduction in federal K-12 funding for any state that can show continuous improvement in student achievement, and/or a closing of the achievement gap in that state, using any legitimate metric that is incorporated into state policy.