Thursday, January 7, 2010

RTTT MOU: Novick

Can I just say here how weird it is to be attempting to blog something that I myself did in some sort of third person way? Here's what I'm going to do: I'm putting this in as a placeholder, and sometime in the next day or so I'll post what I actually said. Most of the time, I don't write up what I say ahead of time; this time I did.

Here's what I said:
Mr. Chair, many of the concerns expressed by this committee have been met with the assurance that we can always back out later.
Yesterday, at the state Leadership Summit, Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester said that he didn’t want districts to sign on to the MOU with the idea that they would back out later.
He wanted us to regard it “as a commitment.”
While there are many things on which Commissioner Chester and I disagree, I agree with him on this.
We are signing a legal agreement.
By signing, we demonstrate that we agree with the principles and policies of the MOU.

Further, in questions posed at forums in both Baltimore and Denver, the federal department of Ed said that any substantial dropouts after the funds were awarded would result in their reconsidering the awards made.

Mr. Chair, if we do not agree with the MOU, we should not sign on to the MOU.

As we are a budgetary and policy making body, we ought to consider this from both budgetary and policy directions.

As a matter of budget, we were told on Tuesday that Worcester’s award would be an estimated 1.2 to 1.6 million dollars for four years
Commissioner Chester yesterday assured us that federal Title 1G grants were not tied to our signing the MOU. While the state may grant further funds out of their half, we have no idea how much, when, and under what conditions. We have, therefore, to make our decision based on what we know:
1.2 to 1.6 million dollars each year for four years,
a bit less once we subtract the as-yet-unknown percentage taken by the city, perhaps as much as $48,000.
For all of this, then, we are looking a maximum of just over a million dollars a year.

Mr. Chair, this is a lot of work for a million dollars, but it would be worthwhile if we could use it for a piece of our budget we may well need to cut next year: books, or technology, or building repair, something that would last beyond the four years.
We know this is not possible.

From a policy perspective, the MOU is badly flawed.
It states that we will evaluate teachers and principals using “multiple measures of effectiveness.”
This is similar to the language in the Ed Reform of 1993 which states that we will use multiple measures of student performance.
Mr. Chair,some of us are still waiting for that.
I am not sanguine, therefore, that we will in fact be seeing such measures, given the state’s history.
It is far too easy to depend only on the MCAS exam.
The data to be analyzed, under the terms of the MOU, will surely include the MCAS.
It was the first thing put up on the screen yesterday in the state’s presentation.
The simple fact that if anyone truly is curious about a child’s progress has only to check with his teacher
who gives daily assessments of various kinds appears to have escaped the state.

Mr. Chair, the so-called turnaround model, is, however, the part that most concerns me.
This four part model comes to us straight from Chicago where it has caused enormous amounts of chaos.
It has not improved student achievement in the places it has been measured—
by and large, it has not been measured—and yet this is the model we are now to follow:
To close our schools, to fire our teachers, to turn our public schools over to private industry, or to further turn our schools over to the state.

The Constitution of the Commonwealth—which we just on Monday swore to uphold and defend— rightfully places public education under the province of the local government.
John Adams had good reason to mistrust decisions made far away from the people they most affect.
We would do right to likewise be mistrustful of a document which surrenders much of our authority while leaving us with all of the responsibility.

I will, Mr. Chair, be voting no.