Thursday, April 30, 2009
Her certifications are not on the page.
The following page of the report, page 61, begins with the heading "Certifications." It leads off with Superintendent, and moves down through various other certifications. It is not otherwise labeled, and it's in a different font than the preceding page (p. 60 is sans serifs; 61 has serifs).
Is that page from a different resume?
I've heard from some in the city that they think it is, that the second page got stuck in behind the first page of Dr. Loughlin's resume, and it was photocopied in error.
If that's true, what we have is not an official lying about her certifications, but a Human Resources department that erred in its reporting in a huge and horrid way. Moreover, we have an administration so tone deaf as not to demand a retraction from Worcester Magazine or send out a clarification of the report.
Can someone over there please explain just what the heck is going on with the resumes in that report?
- Tracy Hassett, Chair: Vice-President, Human Resources, WPI
- Nicole Brown: Assistant Dean, Worcester State College
- Russell Vanderbaan: Vice-President, Human Resources, Morgan Construction
- Jose Vieira: Assistant Superintendent, Milford Public Schools
- Patricia Webb: Senior Vice-President, Human Resources, UMass-Memorial Healthcare
Superintendent Loughlin introduced the group, then turned the floor over to Mayor Lukes, who commented that the city has "suffered a black eye" from the current and ongoing flap around the schools' Human Resources department. The task force will conduct an "in-depth investigation" and report back to the Superintendent. She commented also that this is a "very professional and qualified group."
Mr. Bogigian and Mr. Monfredo were the other School Committee members there, and both briefly commented. Councilor Rosen also attended, as did several parents of special needs children, who spoke with both the press and the officials after the meeting.
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
In sum: we were doing better before it.
While math and reading scores have improved for 9 and 13 year olds, the improvement has significantly slowed. Also troubling is the lack of movement in the achievement gap between minority and white students:
Between 2004 and last year, scores for young minority students increased, but so did those of white students, leaving the achievement gap stubbornly wide, despite President George W. Bush’s frequent assertions that the No Child law was having a dramatic effect.
Although Black and Hispanic elementary, middle and high school students all scored much higher on the federal test than they did three decades ago, most of those gains were not made in recent years, but during the desegregation efforts of the 1970s and 1980s. That was well before the 2001 passage of the No Child law, the official description of which is “An Act to Close the Achievement Gap.”
“There’s not much indication that N.C.L.B. is causing the kind of change we were all hoping for,” said G. Gage Kingsbury, a testing expert who is a director at the Northwest Evaluation Association in Portland. “Trends after the law took effect mimic trends we were seeing before. But in terms of watershed change, that doesn’t seem to be happening.”
You can find more at:
USA Today , The Christian Science Monitor , and U.S. News and World Report's (4/29) On Education blog
11:30 am, 20 Irving Street
No word on if the scrutiny will include the superintendent herself.
This is a really clear distinction: you either have certification or you don't. You either applied for and received the acknowledgment of the state that you are qualified, or you haven't.
Saying that you have when you haven't is lying.
It also points out what we've done before, that the proposed budget breaks the law:
Together these districts would have received $168 million less than the amount they would need to meet the minimum requirements of the Foundation Budget formula. This would likely constitute a violation of the state’s constitutional obligation to ensure that every school district has the resources needed to provide access to an adequate education. While the state could adjust local and state contributions in several different ways to ensure that every district will spend the Foundation Budget amount, it can not, constitutionally, fail to ensure that every district can spend at the Foundation Budget level that is the minimum needed to provide an adequate education to the students in that district.
Both the House and the Governor use federal stimulus dollars to make up the lack, but remember: that isn't Chapter 70 money; it's a federal grant.
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Not a big surprise that an institution which calls itself the "Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice" might sponsor a study showing that vouchers improve schools, therefore. They do have a conclusion right there in their name! The study, released in February and covered fairly extensively at the time, was presented as a comprehensive study of previous research on the effect of vouchers on public schools, and concluded that they do the public schools only good. The foundation said that this study proved that vouchers do not, as previously presented, cream the good students off of public schools, and that they only improve public schools.
A closer look at the Friedman Foundation's report by the Think Tank Review Project by Professor Christopher Lubienski of the University of Illinois has found the Foundation's study has some important holes; to wit:
- a.. While it claims to reflect "all available empirical studies on how vouchers affect academic achievement in public schools," the majority of the studies cited in the report were produced by explicitly pro-voucher advocacy organizations, and almost all did not undergo peer review.
- b.. Lubienski describes a study that was misrepresented in the report. The report summarizes only the first part of the study, which merely replicated other research. But it was in the second part that the researchers explained why a different approach would be more rigorous. That more rigorous approach found no improvement in public schools from voucher programs; it was dismissed by the Friedman report as "unnecessary."
- c.. The report makes no serious attempt, where vouchers are found to be associated with improved public school performance, to test for alternative explanations, as would be required in credible research. Instead, it relies on a "black box" analysis that blindly attributes improved achievement to the presence of a voucher policy.
...studies show that inexperienced teachers tend to be less effective, especially in their first two years. That is when they learn to tame an unruly bunch into a class, prepare six hours of daily lessons and grade 25 homework assignments without working through dinner. The concentration of new teachers in low-income communities is "remarkably consistent" across the nation, said James Wyckoff, a University of Virginia economist. Many teachers leave jobs in low-income communities after a year or two. Their flight leaves openings in struggling schools, which are filled by more new teachers.
NCLB was supposed to force states to deal with this, but there hasn't been very much behind the requirement that the states take steps to fix it:
Margaret Spellings, who was education secretary under President George W. Bush, said she strove to make students, not teachers, the focus of federal policy. The more important issue, she said, was "how the kids are doing, not how qualified the teachers are." Spellings said seniority preferences in contracts, which allow experienced teachers to choose assignments, magnify disparities because "teachers tend to pick cream-puff schools."
(thanks for that, former Secretary!)
Despite strong words about transparency from the federal government surrounding the spending of stimulus money on education, it seems the spending isn't being made public quite as easily as that:
Although about $145 million in aid has been sent from the U.S. Department of Education to states and local districts so far, most states’ “recovery” Web sites contain only general information about the stimulus program and no information on the money that’s flowed into their states.
Recovery.gov, the federal government’s main online portal on the stimulus is still without any state-by-state information on money that’s already filtered down from federal agencies to the states, and most Education Department spending data are buried in Excel spreadsheets deep in the departmental Web site.Reportedly, federal officials are hosting an online forum this week on using the Web site to track money.They also have plans for further improvements.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Great charts here.
This continues to argue, as Geoffrey Canada is doing in Harlem, that getting kids at pre-school age is too late. This isn't a school problem; it's a societal one.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
As reported over at Daily Worcesteria, this week's City Council agenda has an item asking for the consideration of the merging of the HR departments for city and schools:
Request City Manager report on the feasibility and costs/savings of merging the school department’s human resources department with the city’s human resources office. (Lukes, Rosen, Rushton, Smith, Germain)It isn't as if this is a surprise; it was suggested much earlier this spring, and it's been brought up several times since. The citing of "feasibility and costs/savings" is interesting, as the focus on human resources on the school side this spring has largely been about competence and ethics rather than usefulness or cost. Any cuts to be made would largely, it seems to those I've spoken with, be management rather than rank-and-file, as the same number of people are going to be kept track of by human resources, whether it's one department or two.
Interesting list of councilors on the co-sponsorship, here, too.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
This is less about who has what now, as we knew that.
This is about who had what ever, which appears to be under dispute. Participating "in all requirements for Principal, Supervisor and Superintendents," as Worcesteria has it, is not the same as being certified. You have to fill out forms, get signatures, and get a piece of paper back from the Department of Education in order to be certified. Meeting the requirements to be certified isn't the same.
We appear to be having a bit of a problem over at the Admin Building with certification. It isn't optional. It isn't something one gets to decide one has. It is a state requirement and it is decided on by the state.
And, incidentally, while we may require that our administrators be certified or certifiable, we don't require that of our teachers.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
The company's bid for the next five year contract fell below the maximum bid $162,500,000 allowed by the Request for Responses (RFR).
"We have been very pleased with the work of Measured Progress to date, and I am glad that we will be able to continue our relationship," said Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester. "They are going to play an important role as we move forward in our development of the next phase of MCAS."
Under the new contract, the testing company will be responsible for supporting the existing MCAS testing program, as well as implementing improvements to the program. Among the program enhancements the company will be responsible for is a reduction in overall testing time for students and a reduced timeline for the return of student results from fall to the end of the academic year in which the tests are administered.
(the quote is from Friday's press release from the Department of Education)
Imagine what we could do with $146 million if we could spend it elsewhere!
Monday, April 20, 2009
There is one group that hasn't seen an improvement in the dropout rate: kids who haven't passed the MCAS. The difference in the dropout rate between kids who did and did not pass the MCAS has gone from 24.9% in 2006-07, to 27.1% in 2007-2008.
Last year the dropout rate for kids who didn't pass was 29.3%.
You'll often hear Department of Education officials dismiss this, pointing out that 60% of dropouts have already passed the MCAS. Sure, and 60% of men who are diagnosed with coronary heart disease don't smoke, but you don't hear a lot of heart surgeons telling you it's a good idea to light up. (I need to credit Professor Lou Krueger at Northeastern for the stats here.)
If it makes your chances of dropping out greater, than we should do something to cut that back.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Why should we care?
For one, dropouts are currently losing jobs at a greater rate than any other group.
(And while former Superintendent Caradonio has a point in the turnover in urban areas, it doesn't deal with why Ware and Royalston have such high rates.)
WRITE TO YOUR REP!
Mayor Lukes read "The Lamplighter" by Robert Louis Stevenson (if you have a copy, you can find it also in A Child's Garden of Verses), including the gloss that Leerie is the lamplighter's name, and that Stevenson was sickly as a child (thus the "But I, when I am stronger and can chose what I'm to do" line).
Superintendent Loughlin read "Sea Fever" by John Masefield (some of whose work her father set to music), the opening lines are the instantly recognizable "I must go down to the seas again/ to the lonely sea and the sky."
Some new information through: as I mentioned yesterday, the news from the state included cuts in education ('though not in Chapter 70 funding). Brian Allen went into more detail on this: among other things, the so-called "circuit breaker" funding for special ed looks like it's going to be funded at something more like 50-55%, rather than the 70% it is now. This could mean a $1.2 million loss for Worcester for FY10. They're still going through the House budget and running the numbers in the Business Office, so we'll get more information as they have it.
It would behoove us all to get in touch with the House delegation, however, and tell them how very NOT GOOD this budget is. I hasten to add, it isn't good for Worcester education, but the loss in local funding is really going to hurt the city. It also includes a substantial cut in regional system transportation funding, which is all those buses that get the Wachusett, Algonquin, Tantasqua, Quabbin, etc. kids to school. That's a HUGE hit for those communities.
Ms. Hargrove spoke of how she appreciated the work that went into the HR report.
Cheryle DelSignore, the president of the teachers' union, spoke against Mayor Lukes' proposal to add a line on the application asking if any relatives work for the school system. Many join the profession because they have seen the love their parents or other relatives have for what they do.
A teacher from Tech came to defend her reputation, as she'd been told she was on the list--as it turned out, she was not. She explained her particular circumstances, which had to do with the dates the Department of Education got back with her certification.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
Superintendent executes all contracts; she signs off on all hires.
Is anyone responsible for seeing that people are making progress toward certification (if they're on waivers)?
Yes, one of the administrators is.
Comments that the School Committee is limited to five positions which they hire and fire. "Our reputation has been severely damaged...if it's a priority, we have to live up to the obligations we are bound by."
Ask DoE for record on waivers..this is "clearly in error"
Asks how we treat people if they transfer areas
Luster comments that they checked their records against DoE
Comparing school to city side: conflict of interest question on the application. Schools don't ask. "An issue that was festering in the 1980's..why don't we address it?"
School Committee is notified if any admin is supervising a relative. Lukes asks that it be added to the application.
Conflict of interest "is a major issue"
don't have to deal with innuendo
have little patience with a double standard; here to correct a problem
Clear up some of these issues so we don't burden a new superintendent and do the best for our children.
"have been cited in the past in being alarmingly below the state average in the" number of people we have in our adminstration...asks for a letter comparing us to other cities.
O'Connell points out that most of the teachers who are teaching under waivers are long time employees, having been in the system for a number of years, who neither a license or a waiver. "cries out for our attention and for our concern...no excuse for having individuals with us who have been teaching with us for years..an embarrassment to us..people have let us down...individuals who need to take leadership...is a dysfunctional department..for the sake of the individual teachers..need to address this...this aspect of law and administration has not been carried out."
Mrs. Mullaney points out that some of the people hired may have been hired for jobs for which they were certified, but now are in a different position.
Luster comments that what O'Connell read off was not years in position but steps. "But again, Mr. O'Connell, you have misread this report."
Mr. Monfredo asks if we are talking about teachers who are certifiable, but haven't been certified. "They need to come forth and have that test passed." Teachers in today's paper are not being fired, but they are not having their contracts renewed IF THEY HAVE NOT PASSED THE TEACHER EXAM BY JUNE.
She is starting by giving us the rundown on how many teachers are hired each year, transferred each year, how much professional development is given, how many teachers have mentors, etc. All of this falls under the Human Resources Department.
A lot here about professional development
All new teachers who are not licensed are notified that they must either be licensed or be making progress towards licensure in order to retain their jobs. The State has become more and more stringent on their granting of waivers. A reminder here that teachers must not only the right courses; they have to pass a test.
Average of 59 waivers granted each year (!)
critical shortages in sped, math, science, English
Now talking about Eagle Hill, which is a teacher retention program for young teachers.
(I'm guessing the spin here is "see how much we do" 'though I have to wonder how many people we're employing to do this.)
Coordination of all evaluation of all teachers each year
Coordination of collective bargaining groups
CORI checks are done through parent resources: WAIT, WHAT? "A lot of principals are CORI-ing all of their parents up front."
We've got a HR director, an assistant HR director, staffing/mentor coordinator (all of who are doing a Congressional-testimony style lineup at the table in the middle of the Council Chamber), plus a head clerk, principal clerk, principal account clerk, principal clerk (this one for the assistant HR), CORI aide (yes, there is someone doing that full time), part-time clerk (and all of these people have their own slide). Proposed budget for FY10 of $565, 511 (of which about a third is the three executive salaries).
A chart up now of how many districts have how many waviers (we were in the top ten last year, not in it this year). Last year Springfield topped the list (with over 300!); this year Boston did (over 100!).
Now a chart of us going down over the past four years (always interesting to see how far apart the lines are on a chart, hmmm...).
Now a chart on how many teachers in each section are on a waiver, with the comment "Now this is a slide that I think is very important...we are where we should be for a district of our size."
"We should not look at the teachers who have not met these requirements as any different than those teachers who have never had to take an exam...these are master teachers, they can teach ANYthing...considered by the state 'not highly qualified'...continuous progress sounds very easy, but (it isn't)...we've terminated teachers every year...the only difference this year is that we've never done it in public before, and I think that's unfortunate."
- 15 teachers fired, of whom 9 are special ed, four of whom have been teaching for two years on state waivers
- 18 fired unless there's a position available for which they are qualified (as they are teaching outside their subject area)
- 78 teachers in the district are teaching on waivers
Are we a district that faults teachers for teaching outside of their subject area? Or are we a city that holds responsible those who did the hiring?
The various reports requested by the School Committee (and, not incidentally, the T&G) are on tonight's agenda. Rumor has it the Human Resources presentation--which will take up the Superintendent's Report portion of the meeting, usually a place to showcase what's happening in the schools--takes a full hour.
Having some mouse-related difficulties tonight, so it may be choppy.
There's an explusion hearing going on down the hall, so we're running close to 20 minutes late already.h
The House Ways and Means budget released yesterday uses a (mind-boggling) $489 million dollars less of the stimulus money than the Governor recommended. As it also does not include the increase in the meals tax to 6% or the sales tax for soda, candy, and alcohol, so it has $300 million less there.
It thus proposes a local aid cut of 32%, plus cuts in education (no word on what yet), human services, health care, and much of the rest of government.
You can find the Mass Budget and Policy Center's analysis here.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
"Oh no," my seventh-grader groaned Monday morning, recalling his schedule
for the upcoming day. "We have MCAS today . again."
By the time you read this, the seventh-graders will have had 10 hours of
MCAS (which stands for Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System)
testing, in writing and reading, over the course of seven school days. The
math MCAS tests come up in May. And believe it or not, seventh grade is
somewhat of an "off year" when it came to MCAS testing.
Sometimes a seemingly good idea can mushroom and expand until its original
intent is lost in its own enormity. It looks like this is the case with the
A product of the state's Education Reform Act of 1993, MCAS testing started
out as a good idea - a test of the school districts, not the students. The
original intent was to assess Massachusetts's public school districts to
make sure they were meeting certain baseline standards. In order to measure
their success, it was decided to test students in three key grades: fourth
grade, eighth grade, and 10th grade, in the two fundamental subjects:
English and mathematics. The Department of Education believed that certain
benchmarks should have been met in those two subjects by those levels. If a
district's results indicated that its students weren't performing as well as
their peers statewide, that district could then evaluate what wasn't working
and pinpoint areas to improve.
Since that time, however, the MCAS has somehow fed on its own success and
has expanded into a bit of a fire-breathing dragon, terrorizing students and
school staff alike.
English and math MCAS tests were implemented in other grades beyond the
three baseline grades. In addition, more tests were added in science and
social studies, the implementation of which has forced school districts
across the state to substantially modify their curricula to make sure that
certain areas are covered before the students in those grades take the MCAS.
Those curricular changes cost money and time. Is it really necessary, for
example, for every child to know the names of all the various rocks and
minerals in fifth grade rather than in sixth? The MCAS schedule takes much
autonomy out of school districts' own planning.
Then, enter the federal No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001, a
directive, with no funding attached, that demands the progress of all public
school students be measured annually for math and reading in grades 3, 4, 5,
6, 7 and 8 and at least once in high school. Some states had to scramble to
put together a reporting system, but Massachusetts already had the MCAS in
So much for toning it down.
Thanks to NCLB, kids across the country are now grinding away at
standardized tests so their states can report "progress" - a subjective
concept that surely cannot be determined by standardized test results alone.
And is it really necessary to test in all of those grades every single year?
Yes, the school districts get some nice statistical information, but they
also lose a lot of instruction time preparing for and administering all
More importantly, the tests have inevitably become about the kids, not their
school districts. Human beings can't and shouldn't be reduced to a grade on
a set of standardized tests. Each individual child is an amalgamation of
Standardized testing can't show artistic gifts, musical aptitude, athletic
prowess, or oratory talent.
Moreover, many children are audio learners and have a hard time - not a hard
enough time to merit special education services, but a difficult time
nonetheless - with lengthy written tests. Are the MCAS, or any standardized
tests, an accurate measure of those children's abilities?
When asked for two adjectives to describe the MCAS, my seventh-grader, who
is lucky enough to perform well on standardized tests, immediately offered
up these two: "tedious and boring." His words, not mine. As they say, "out
of the mouths of babes." And I think his is one of the more positive
Lots of kids experience fear and anxiety before the MCAS tests. A family
friend of ours, an elementary-school age child, was scared out of his wits
to go to school last year on the scheduled day of the MCAS. I'm sure that's
a scenario that's duplicated across the state. It's regrettable that stress
on a child is a byproduct of the MCAS, but it is, of course, inevitable.
If we want to test the school districts, let's try to do that without
terrorizing the children and making them dread going to school.
Calling on the state and federal governments to shorten and tighten up these
tests, and de-emphasize their importance, would be a good start.
Deborah Knight Snyder is a longtime correspondent for the Mansfield News,
Norton Mirror and Easton Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It isn't helping the kids.
The Civil Rights Project is reporting the release of a new report called "English Learners in Boston Public Schools in the Aftermath of Policy Change: Enrollment and Educational Outcomes, AY2003-AY2006."
(again, the link is the executive summary)
The biggest problem?
The dropout rate for EL students enrolled in mainstream classes in high school increased from 3.5 percent in 2003 to 12 percent in 2006.
The rest of the news?
- steep declines in the number of students identified as English learners, and thus a decline in the special services these students received, likely due to mis-assessment and mis-identification, in addition to mis-information provided to parents regarding their rights under Question 2.
- persistent gaps in achievement test pass rates between English learners and all other students in English Language Arts and mathematics, indicating that English learners have not made progress and in some cases have lost ground since the implementation of Question 2 in the district.
No good news there.
It's entitled NCLB's Ultimate Restructuring Alternatives: Do They Improve the Quality of Education?
(the link goes to the Executive Summary; you can proceed from there.)
The publicity campaign in Washington, D.C. is called "Rediscover DCPS" and is going to include a section on the school web site, a radio campaign, and early enrollment.
"Did you know," the announcer intones on the ads, which aired last month on WPGC (95.5 FM) and are scheduled to run again next month, "that the only school in D.C. to earn a national ribbon for excellence last year was a D.C. public school? Go public and get a great free education!"
Reportedly, it will cost $9000. D.C.'s enrollment has gone from 80,000 thirty years ago to 45,000 this year.
Richmond, Virginia is also rolling out a more expensive campaign, spending $50,000 on the print portion campaign called "Choice" which will start April 25. There is not yet an estimate on how much the rest of the campaign will cost. Richmond has 24, 000 public students in a district that has 35,000 school-aged children.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
It isn't the picking up the nomination papers that counts--anyone can do that. It's turning in signatures. To keep everyone up on the certified signature count, the Election Commission is now posting the signature count online!
(Plus, they're among those who lost workers, and they don't have enough people to answer the phone. This answers a frequent question.)
Nice job, guys!
Monday, April 13, 2009
Friday, April 10, 2009
Multi-age classrooms may be coming back up on Cape Ann!
The School Committee’s decision to support multi-age classrooms followed months of study by an eight-member focus group composed of school and elected officials, teachers and a parent.
The group began its research at the end of last summer. Members created a list of 20 questions they had about the multi-age educational philosophy. They then took turns visiting schools with multi-age classrooms in Rockport, Salem, Norwell and Bedford. The group’s final report is available on the district’s Web site at: www.gloucesterschools.com/
Most schools combine early grades, such as first and second or third and fourth, while keeping single age grades for kindergarten and in middle and high schools.
Although some group members were critical of multi-age classrooms at first, they were “wowed” by classroom visits.
“It was an ‘Aha!’ moment,” Gilman said. “It was terrific to see it.”While this will save money, the district has been quick to emphasize that it is not doing this for that reason.
And then, yes, please call your representative and senator in Boston!
No, really, it isn't just you: the question over what math curriculum is used by the local public school continues to be a hot issue across the country, as evidenced by this article from California:
Yet the Math Wars continue in California, as well as in New Jersey, Oregon and elsewhere. In Palo Alto, parent and former Bush education official Ze'ev Wurman is one of a group of parents who oppose the Palo Alto Unified School District Board's April 14 vote to use "Everyday Mathematics" in grades K-5. Wurman recognizes that the "fuzzies" aren't as fuzzy as they used to be, but also believes that state educators who approve math texts "fell asleep at the switch" when they approved the "Everyday" series in 2007.
The article has a few helpful links at the end.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
HOLYOKE, Mass. (AP) - Gov. Deval Patrick has announced $163 million in federal stimulus money will go to high-poverty schools in Massachusetts.
The governor said Thursday that the Title 1 federal grants, designed to help schools with high concentrations of low-income students, will go toward 258 school districts, regional technical and vocational schools, and charter schools.
The grants supplement the amount of Title 1 money Massachusetts already receives annually, which was about $233 million last year.
Officials say the first half of the money is scheduled to be distributed in July with the second half coming in the fall.
Through this funding, Holyoke's first half allocation is over $3 million. Other cities and towns receiving large amounts of money in July include Boston with almost $21 million, Springfield with $8.6 million, and Worcester with almost $4 million.Title 1 is low-income money; it goes to schools with a certain percentage of students on free and reduced lunch. All but three Worcester schools are Title 1 schools.
Washington D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee is holding a series of listening sessions with D.C. teachers as she plans to change the system by which they are evaluated. It seems that no one is particularly satisfied with the current system, but Rhee's suggestion, of adding student test scores, among other items, isn't popular, either:
Neither side is happy with the current teacher evaluation system, which involves a series of classroom observations by principals, who often have neither the time nor the expertise in subject matter to render a fair judgment on a teacher's effectiveness. Nevertheless, the system has been used to put at least 150 teachers on the so-called 90-day plan, which places them on notice to improve their performance or face dismissal.How trustworthy is the value added system?
But even experts who regard a value-added system as an improvement over current evaluation schemes caution that it comes with serious potential pitfalls. One is that the smaller the student sample, the more statistically unreliable the result. In other words, measuring test score growth across a school, or even a grade within a school, is more valid than looking at a single teacher and a class or 15 or 20 students.
The two schools Secretary Arne Duncan will visit today — Montclair Elementary and Bruce Randolph schools — have made intentional moves to free themselves from district and union rules. Duncan will be watching that kind of innovation as his department decides how to divide $5 billion in stimulus funds nationwide through a program called "Race to the Top."
"This allows the secretary to point to something tangible that should be rewarded in this new world order," said Joe Williams, director of Democrats for Education Reform. "People watched (President Barack) Obama run on a campaign of change. This is kind of an attempt to show people what that looks like on the ground."Wait, freeing themselves from district and union rules counts as innovation? Shouldn't we be at least a bit concerned about what difference it makes to the students? And that, at least in Denver, is still up for grabs: But at both schools, the reforms are in their infancy. One has had some modest success, but scores are still low.
At least nine states are likely to make cuts to pre-kindergarten programs including some of the biggest -- California, Florida and New York
Especially unfortunate when you consider the large number of students this will affect:
Currently, more than 80 percent of all 4-year-olds attend some kind of preschool program, according to the report. About half of those go to a public program, either state pre-K, Head Start or special education. The other half attend private programs.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
In schools where fourth graders had new playgrounds, 25 percent more kids passed the math MCAS. And that figure remained true after(researchers) controlled for factors such as demographics and the number of students receiving free or reduced-price lunches.
Really interesting little article. Take a look!
Maybe instead of spending more on tutoring and such, we should be spending more on playground equipment? And who was it that said that the schools weren't in the business of building playgrounds...?
The non-represented staff are taking at 25/75 split on health insurance (it happened in the city, so it happens in the schools).
And the health insurance is going up by only 8.5% instead of 10%. (That's the correction.)
You knew health insurance mattered!
Also, remember: the stimulus that's saving us this year only lasts for two years. We've got to start scrambling now to figure out what happens in 2012 when it runs out. If we don't, we're back to looking at those "hundreds of teachers" laid off that Councilor Clancy was warning about earlier in the year.
Tuesday, April 7, 2009
Possibly a liveblog, if the questions warrant it.
Monday, April 6, 2009
First, Mr. McFarlane appears to believe that this is all a setup to turn over certain functions within the WPS to the City. While that idea has been raised, it isn't as though the entirety of the uproar over the past few weeks has been manufactured in order to turn functions over. It also isn't as though the City Council is begging to take over running the school system. To believe, as Mr. McFarlane appears to, that these problems are so minor as to be ignored is imprudent. It's also not in keeping with what many inside the system say privately.
Second, the notion that the superintendent gets to dismiss some requests by the School Committee fundamentally misunderstands the role of each. The superintendent answers to the School Committee. A superintendent can dislike requests made, a superintendent can try to change requests made, but a superintendent cannot ignore those requests. Yes, Mr. McFarlane, even if it involves the donation of school buses to foreign countries.
This is a problem not only because of the business that may not have been transacted, but because it demonstrates a breakdown in accountability. You wouldn't catch the City Manager ignoring requests from the City Council, and rightfully so. So why does the superintendent get to ignore requests from the School Committee?
He or she doesn't, if their relationship is working effectively.
It hasn't been, and that has as much to do with the breakdown up on Irving Street as anything. It isn't just about hiring and salaries; it isn't even just about transparency; it's about who does what job.
Also in the room are Mary Mullaney, Gary Rosen, and Barbara Haller.
CFO Brian Allen is doing a brief presention on the FY10 school budget (as seen last week and avaliable online).
Sunday, April 5, 2009
For decades, education researchers have documented the disproportionately low academic performance of poor children and teenagers living in poverty. Called the achievement gap, its proposed sociological explanations are many. Compared to well-off kids, poor children tend to go to ill-equipped and ill-taught schools, have fewer educational resources at home, eat low-nutrition food, and have less access to health care.
At the same time, scientists have studied the cognitive abilities of poor children, and the neurobiological effects of stress on laboratory animals. They've found that, on average, socioeconomic status predicts a battery of key mental abilities, with deficits showing up in kindergarten and continuing through middle school. Scientists also found that hormones produced in response to stress literally wear down the brains of animals.And it gets worse:
McEwen also noted that, at least in animals, the effects of stress produce changes in genes that are then passed from parent to child. Poverty's effects could be hereditary.
A change in the funding formula, in an attempt to even things out.
Three years ago, the state adopted a change in the calculation for the required local funding (it's called the "Aggregate Wealth Model" should you see that anywhere). Previously, the calculation was based on property wealth. Now, it's split between property wealth and income wealth.
The Cape, for example, has property wealth: land that is worth a lot. Boston, for example, has a lot of income wealth: money being made. Previously, the communities that had property wealth got less in Chapter 70 aid, as the supposition was that they had more money coming in from property taxes. The shift has meant that communities that have other sources of funds--like Boston--are now going to need to turn to those sources, as their state aid gets cut and their local funding requirement goes up.
Unfortunately (sorry, Boston!) that probably isn't going to happen. Boston has received so much in Ch. 70 aid for so long and has used local funding that it is far above where it will need to be in local contributions. The city's going to cut that down closer to the requirement. Boston can cut nearly $80 million from its local budget and still meet the local requirement.
Worcester isn't affected by the calculation change.
So consider this an asterisk on the below. The question of whether one ought to be doing recalculation now remains.
As does that niggling $14 million in Ch. 70 aid that Worcester's missing. We're still supposed to be getting that!
Another citation here of the amazing Brian Allen who spends as much time these days explaining to all of us what the numbers mean as he does actually doing anything with the numbers. Thanks, Brian! If you have questions, know that Brian will be at the CPPAC meeting at 7pm Tuesday at the Worcester Public Library, PowerPoint at the ready and taking questions!
Friday, April 3, 2009
This is, with my emphasis added, is the slide that matters the most right now (thanks, Brian Allen for sharing it!). If you read the Boston Globe, you may have caught that some cities are unhappy about who is and who isn't getting stimulus funding, as you see Boston is not in the above.
We need to go back a step, though: the reason that Worcester is getting stimulus funding is that the state is leaving us $14 million in the hole on Chapter 70 funding. The Governor underbudgeted Worcester's Chapter 70 aid by $14 million dollars.
But it gets worse.
Look at the numbers under Boston.
Yes, Boston isn't getting stimulus money for education. It is, however, getting just over $23 million more from the state than is required under the foundation formula.
Worcester is $14 million underfunded and Boston is $23 million over?
I'd say the problem doesn't begin with where the stimulus funding is going. Let's go back to the state budget and fight our battles there. I urge you all to get this chart to your state legislators and ask them just what is going on here.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
Senator Moore's comments tonight were sobering. That $14 million is very much being counted on to fill the large hole in the FY10 budget, and if it doesn't come through, we are in some very serious trouble. Any money that we don't get from that gets added to the $1.2 million deficit that we're already heading into the budget cycle carrying.
As the Senator commented that we were probably not going to get the entire $14 million, we need to get on this at the state level. This is very much an active issue at the State House right now, and we've got to weigh in to save what we can.
It is, she says, "the least we can do....public schools are the foundation of the American dream."
She speaks of her own experience in public education, coming as an immigrant to the United States and attending public education.
The stain on the Worcester Public Schools is a serious one--if we are to convince the public [that we take this seriously, we] need a committee of outsiders...we have to encourage businesses to come here...convince them that we have the best services available."
We need to "respond in as quick and efficient a manner as possible."
"to have one of the stars in our crown tarnished...have to respond as soon as possible"
The Superintendent agrees, saying that such a task force is being assembled, and that she will welcome their recommendations.
Bogigian then submits this as a motion, which passes.
(After the meeting, there's a bit of a stir when he goes over and has an intense conversation with Stacey DeBoise Luster, the current Human Resources director.)
The list of departments being closely looked at includes Adult Ed, Assets Management (which used to be Materials), and Human Resources. In speaking on the Materials item, Mr. Bogigian, the lead sponsor, comments that, while he submits the item without prejudice, he is looking to see if there might be overlap in the functions of the school's department and the city's.
- School Committee now wants to see resumes of all teachers and administrators appointed "for informational purposes"
Mr. Monfredo talks about reform, and transparency...bringing credibility back. Now he's talking about grants.."we need to monitor" ...looking more closely at how they are spent. Where should we be putting additional funds?
- list of teachers under waivers
- list of teachers not licensed for their current position
He's asking that it be done as quickly as possible, and he refers to the administration. He has also asked for recommendations from the Superintendent; the Mayor asks that those items be split, so we can get the information first, and recommendations later.
compliments to Brian Allen: "more than 70 slides"
city of Worcester experienced some tremendous changes: "we are one city and one community...it impacts all of us...cuts on our side impact quality of life"
reminder of the joint meeting on Monday, jointly with the Education Subcommittee of the City Council
Foley now reviews the motions from last night: medicaid numbers, and how much will the grants costs, ELL teachers, special ed...
Senator Moore now is speaking on state aid: revenue projections were higher than what we're seeing, and local options aren't probably going to pass. Usually the Governor has the lowest budget; this year, the Legislature is cutting, as the new projections are coming in lower.
March was down $100 million from the projection...we could be looking at a $500 million shortfall for this year. We'll need to hit the rainy day fund again, and that will make it even lower. We're also looking at a big hole for next year.
Stimulus money is going to help cities and town, but the number for local aid could be lower by the time the money comes through. We don't want to give you a wrong number, he says.
The Mayor asks when we'll know. He says once the tax info for the year comes in. Mid to late April, he says.
What about the stimulus money, the Mayor asks; will we get it all? He says he doesn't know, as he doesn't know what the House will do.
The Mayor jokes that he shouldn't come back again.."your honesty is necessary as we plan this budget" She comments that we've already started amputating.
Senator Moore warns that we shouldn't add programs, as we will have money for only two years.
"I will never vote for four years of math."
"by junior year of high school, kids can determine whether they should take that fourth year of math, and that decision should be honored"
Mr. O'Connell rises to assure her that the committee is going into it with no preconceptions. He then goes on to defend the necessity of math.
5 year high school considered
flex schedule program for teachers: would there be interest?
JROTC at Tech or Doherty? are kids interested? (remember that this costs money...)
Math curriculum: forming a committee to examine best practices
consider increasing requirements of math to 4 years in eighth grade and high school
challenging courses during their entire time at school
dual enrollment: might we be able to have kids take classes at college during high school?
age 5 kindergarten: should kids be five when they start? (right now kids have to be 5 in December): is this hurting the kids who go early? (I've also heard the question of whether this drags down our test scores, as we have kids who are younger in each grade than most districts in Massachusetts)
recommend four full day preschools funded by IDEA
workshops for parents, review test results with parents in May and recommend kids staying back when necessary
As you might imagine, the slide show here at the meeting, the presentation has much more art in it.
There's an interesting gentle reminder here from the presenter that the arts in the WPS need money, teachers, and time (there's a problem it seems with middle school in particular). Some remarks on the use of both sides of the brain, and of the various careers available to those who excell in art.
The room, as a result, is packed!
The Washington Post interviewed Arne Duncan on the $100 billion for education. He speaks here again about watching how the states use the first round of funding before he decides on how to distribute the second round:
But we're going to keep billions of dollars here to really watch and monitor how states do in terms of implementing these reforms.
Duncan also speaks in the interview of extending the school year, merit pay, and NCLB.
Colorado, for one, has already started working on getting some of the second round "Race to the Top" money, as their legislature has filed a bill that includes "proposals to tie funding for at-risk students to classroom performance, study creating a charter boarding school for disadvantaged students and requiring freshmen fill out a College in Colorado form, to give them an academic and financial road map for reaching college."
The Detroit Free Press has a report on the conference call that Duncan had with governors yesterday:
“We really are going to hold states accountable for investing in children and using these scarce dollars to dramatically improve student improvement,” Duncan said.
It's a bit unclear on how we're going to do both of those things at once, and quickly. There's also some more in this article regarding the "Race to the Top" funds, for which states will have to apply.
The New York Times gives some coverage today to Duncan's announcement of the release of the funds, including the pledges that have to be made by governors in order to get funds. To wit:
The guidelines released today promote comprehensive education reform by receiving commitments from states that they will collect, publish, analyze and act on basic information regarding the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements, college readiness, the effectiveness of state standards and assessments, progress on removing charter caps, and interventions in turning around underperforming schools. Specifically, the law requires states to show:
- Improvements in teacher effectiveness and commitments that all schools have highly qualified teachers;
- Progress toward college and career-ready standards and rigorous assessments that will improve both teaching and learning;
- Improvements in achievement in low-performing schools, by providing intensive support and effective interventions in those schools.
- That they can gather information to improve student learning, teacher performance, and college and career-readiness through enhanced data systems that track progress.
And here's something that will be turning raising blood pressure locally:The DoE will release funds upon "receiving commitments from states that they will collect, publish, analyze and act on basic information regarding the quality of classroom teachers, annual student improvements, college readiness, the effectiveness of state standards and assessments, progress on removing charter caps, and interventions in turning around underperforming schools." (Emphasis added)
And where will the money be going? Education Week points out that some of the funds can be used for school construction, a hotly debated item. It also points out the restrictions around the rules: "The metrics for the four assurances proposed in Mr. Duncan’s letter will be subject to the public rulemaking process, but the Education Department will have the final say over their shape."
As for round two?
As a final request to states to use their funding wisely, Mr. Duncan repeatedly said in his conference call with reporters that any states playing “shell games” with stimulus spending would disqualify themselves for future funding. He singled out the $4.35 billion in discretionary money he has dubbed the “Race to the Top” fund.
Mr. Duncan said the first competition for that money, which is meant to scale up innovative programs in states and districts, will be held in June. Applicants will have to show demonstrable progress in all four of the assurance areas to receive the incentive funding.
“This is not a menu; this is not, ‘I’ll take two out of three,’ ” the secretary said. “These are states that are pushing the envelope in all four areas.”
A number of schools in Missouri are getting their kids walking to and from school safely by organizing walking school buses.
And by all means, send along requests if there are things I should be doing that I'm not. We take requests!
On the newly-revamped Worcester Public Schools' website, there is a link to job postings.
Here is what a bunch of them say under "requirements":
Bachelors Degree required
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education licensure preferred.
Also, we're starting by saying no experience required? We begin from there?
And we only prefer the state-mandated license?
This is a problem.
This is in addition to the school presentation on what is known so far on the school side. If you look at this, pay special attention to that "Tale of Two Cities" slide; it's a doozy and warrants much more publicity.
- The $14 million that going to (mostly) save the FY10 school budget isn't ours yet and there's some troubling rumblings coming out of the State House on where the money is going, how the votes are lining up, and how things are being allocated. If you don't want to see the city school budget get really awful really fast, SEND A MESSAGE TO YOUR LOCAL DELEGATE! (You can get in touch with them through the General Court site.)
- This year's budget is going to have lots and lots more in it, in terms of the information being broken down in various ways. Plan on some heavy reading!
- We've now had both the city and school sides present budgets that depend on the various unions accepting a zero percent pay increase and the 75/25 split on health insurance. Expect to hear arguments over balancing the budget on the backs of the workers, and over how these realities line up with what's happening elsewhere. I think we'll be seeing a lot of the numbers on how much money this involves, and consequently how many people will lose their jobs if this agreement is not reached between the city and the unions.
- MORE TO COME: The School Committee meets tonight! The joint subcommittees meet Monday! The Citywide Parent Planning and Advisory Committee meets for a presentation by Brian Allen on Tuesday! There are lots of opportunities to ask questions and get more information.
- And Brian Allen gets a tip of the hat for the fourth (by my count) literary reference of the week in terms of the city budget, in titling his comparison with Boston "A Tale of Two Cities"!