Thursday, April 29, 2010

Sixth restructuring meeting: April 28, Roosevelt Elementary

And because I know there are lifelong Worcesterites who don't know, let me add that Roosevelt is the school at the south end of Grafton Street which mysteriously has no sign.

Mulqueen is in blue, community comments in orange (we're back in the North quadrant here), my comments in black italics

Maybe 60 or more at Roosevelt Elementary, possibly 20 teachers (?)
Mulqueen here, presenting

Mulqueen cites 2 Level 4 and 29 Level 3 schools (we still don't know which schools are Level 3 or above, BTW)
"you may have heard that charter schools are in the new legislation...just had a new one approved...we have to compete now about
the choices parents have for their children...when I was teaching...was like a capitive audience"

(I think this ignores the huge role that Catholic schools in particular have played in education in the city of Worcester; WPS has always had competition)
"state and federal funding may be tied more to" assessment
"how do you compete for the money? You show that your kids are doing better every year...may be tied to a more competitive structure"
"standards are very rigorous, very challenging"
"I can't even imagine what the homework is like for all of you, because it was pretty challenging ten years ago for me and my wife"
data is a new driver in the system
"sense of urgency so we can generate good thinking...we've gotta do somethings differently to get to the next step"
" that we were no longer under threat from charter schools"
"partnership meeting..certain partners hadn't met with each other before"
"every student prepared for college and career...want every student to have the choice"
speaks of hierarchy of tracks
"you have to be smart in everything you do, no matter what you do"
"these are the ideas that have been coming up on the standing committee on the School Committee for a number of years..items that hadn't been addressed seemed that since we had to start thinking about how to with your feedback, we could
start thinking about which ideas had potential and which did not"
"so we could outcompete people based on the strengths we have already in the city"
"if you had some high-interest areas, it might be a hook for some kids"

(how does this work with the curriculum being citywide,which has been a city concern?)
Mulqueen cites the city he currently lives in, where they moved so his son could go to a high school associated with the art museum
grade patterns: "every grade pattern you can think of"
"there are no changes coming for September in grade patterns...I think that was even in the newspaper"
concept is "there would be a cost savings affliated with that" ; cites subcom agenda again
"if that's something you feel very strongly about one way or the other, then write that down, so I can take that back"
equity, excellence, to which we "now are adding choice"
"haven't paid attention to until they were under threat, like a charter school"
(really? then why do we have magnet, community, and other options in Worcester?)
"providing levels of choice in the system, so they don't need to wait for a charter school and they don't need to go outside our system"
"it's not to make your kids go to school longer, or on Saturdays, or during the summer"
"if I were a student, could I choose to do some learning outside of my regular school day" week or year
"today book learning is not enough; you really have to apply your learning to real life situations" "the horror stories from the parents I hear whose kids are in college...a really expensive kind of a life decision" if they change their minds
areas of high interest that run right through the system
Mulqueen notes that people are already writing as he talks about school grade reconfiguration
"with Level 3 and 4 schools being identified, we don't want to be caught short"
Opens the floor to questions
"the idea is to get your good ideas and hear what is meaningful for you"

a mom whose son is on the cusp of middle school: "one of my biggest concerns is conduct issues, right now for me, East Middle is not an option"
Mulqueen: "all of this is tuned to exactly what we are talking about...working with principals to make those improvements..some of them can be made pretty easily"
"maybe in a quadrant there might a leadership track...a whole school might have a leadership're exactly's a high interest area for me"

a mom wants to know if we're "going to have to fight to get kids to go to a different school" (she cited Forest Grove, and Mulqueen explained an out-of-quadrant placement, which is based on space avaliable)

another mom: "after you read all of these surveys, do we get asked to come back, after you may have a plan?"
Mulqueen says there's going to be surveys online "more formal than these" and an email bank "ideas or feedback for your particular things"
plan "to give us some pushback about"
"again, when we do that part, it's not THE PLAN that we're going to implement"
"to fine tune a plan to what would really work here in Worcester"

"is it the future of the next few years for sure things are changing?"
waiting for Level 3 schools. "We'll need to make sure we're on the right track for year coming up, September through June...that following year, we'll have made some decisions about what we're going to do"
Level 4 schools, getting it together for September
more time for Level 3 schools

another mom: "you also talked about anxiety here; it's coming from all the rumors. Rumor here is that Grafton would be K-2, Roosevelt would be 3-5, East Middle 6-8..."
Mulqueen: "we have no plan for..." that..."I can't even tell you what the grade configurations were we were playing with"
she wants to know what the savings would be..."not possible if we do a small number of schools" level out class sizes at 21..could bump teachers around the system according to the number of rooms, could re-allocate teachers in the system
$1 million in grade reconfiguration, $1 million in transportation
"will have to be looked at for a broad scale of things"
"will all due respect, there's going to be a huge loss of market share if that happens"

21st century standards for special needs...did you take into account their choices for all of this?
Yes, "we want to provide the adequete resources to do it"

Is there going to be something to do with the discipline for the junior high?
"it's a phenominal education, but because of the discipline" not planning on sending kids to WEM
Mulqueen: "it's middle school...elementary is the cutoff point...not something I came prepared to talk about tonight...I know it's something that's on your mind"
mom says "my child would end up in private school, instead of in high school, in middle's unfortunate, but that's what it would be"

Question: what's the root cause of the low performance and has there been study done about that?
Mulqueen: what we've been accustomed to in education, is that when something didn't work, we'd bring in a program, and if that didn't work, we'd bring in another program, but we've found that didn't work (this is the first I've heard of that being the root cause of low performance)
"human capital development...when we are more effective at what we do, we get better results"
Focus on Results...teachers and principals are very focused on particular strategies that we're doing
principals are tracking MAP data across the system across time
for the first time this year, all of the MAP data was middle of the road (with one grade exception)
"starting to get traction for of the most significant pieces of data we're seeing"

Question: so if we're seeing improvement, shouldn't you give it another couple of years to have it continue?
Mulqueen: if we continue at this pace, we wouldn't be making enough progress
"have to align the system to support that in new and different ways"

Question: why all of the schools, rather than just the schools that are just in danger?
"schools that are currently a high-performance school would have more autonomy"
"even in those 29 schools that are Level 3, some are in more danger than others...focus on some schools more than others...high performance schools would be the last on the list"

"if we're making progress, why change it?"
Mulqueen: depends on how much progress how fast

"what is the benefit of letting tutors go?" (I wish I'd gotten over to the person who said this: please come to the budget hearing on May 12!)
Mulqueen: budget question: calculate how to keeping a comprehensive school system (cites keeping art and music)
"at the end of the day we have to meet our budget"

"toxic at Worcester East Middle...look hard core at where your problems are...pushback is falling on guys are looking at a lot of the wrong places here..where is the wellbeing and safety of children? I believe in public education...families need to step it up...I might as well read them a story, put them in their jammies and put them to bed and keep them as my're worrying people with rumors"
Mulqueen "not my ideas, have been on the table for years" (They've been on the subcommittee agenda for years; that's not common information)
"history is that we're going to have a fluffy forum and in 2012, we're going to hear that this is a community decision and this is our need to reach out and grab the have to go hardcore for family engagement..if you don't like that your kid got suspended here, you hightail it over there...we have families move multiple times in a year"
Mulqueen asks that they write down what's on their mind
she wants to know why the state is withholding Level 3 schools
(the short reason is that nobody knows)

parent is confused about "higher level performance schools that aren't going to be touched because they're performing well, the other hand you're talking about" changing programs for schools that might be performing well
"you said it's the city or how are you going to leave some schools untouched if you're doing it citywide?"

You had to look across the whole system, Mulqueen says, 'though some schools would not need to be touched
"you're talking out of both sides of your mouth"
Mulqueen: reconfiguring some schools to get a saving out of it...that took into account the whole city...if a school is high-performing, we'd leave a school to continue the good work
"yes,and that's what I was trying to get to...not trying to give you doubletalk"

"I'm one of the dinosaurs that had prep, college, standard...are we uping the lower performing standards or are we lowering the bar for the highest performing kids?"
Mulqueen: heterogeneous/homogeneous groups "I'm not talking about mixing all of those together...not anything I've thought about at all"
shouts from the crowd.."but that's what you said/it said"
"but if you level everything off, that's integration"
she says "if you took kids from Union Hill and brought them over to Flagg Street, you'd be integrating two different worlds!"

(crowd's getting much more agitated)

instructional aide says: "99% percent of kids were 4 years old in September..with the hour of literacy tutors a day...and, I'm sorry, hiring a data specialist, rather than having people in the classroom" makes no sense

"giving my chilren seventeen pages of homework isn't going to improve the parents who aren't spending time with their kids"
(Dianna Biancheria is here and she points out that the superintendent is not here, for the second time on the east side)

"how do we pay for this?" (how could we have more partnerships if we don't have more money?)
"I'm not knocking volunteers, but unless you offer them some value, they are not going" to show

"my main, main concern is Worcester East Middle..I've lived in Worcester 10 oldest is in first grade, since she's been born, I've had anxiety about that school. Who is thinking about changing...what's going on inside? Financially, I can't afford private school...why should I have to think about "what I'm going to do
Mulqueen suggests that we have a Worcester East Middle meeting

a father points out that the kids from Roosevelt go to Worcester East Middle; his son "was scared to death" about going to WEM; (that it's the same kids, only older)
they need to know that these schools are our schools
"if it's a million dollars for every school, that won't help" if we don't know if it's the parents, kids, or teachers; suggests that the principal meet with school community to figure it out

Mulqueen: each of those schools has a unique community

mother says "you want to focus on the academics, but we're worried about violence"
CPPAC meeting cited: "gives a great range of what parents expect"

there's your resource (research has already been done); also SpedPAC
Worcester Community Connections: where the parents go

asks what it means for the substantially separated students
"my teacher is so undersupported"; if you want my son to do well, support his teacher, so he can perform better on the MCAS

"everyone's against it; are our voices going to be heard?"
"if this already started because we already wanted to get the money and we were afraid we would not, is putting these kids into all different schools going to make their MCAS scores go up?"
Mulqueen "just bringing it here for feedback"
"what's the benefit here?"
Mulqueen cites that UPCS has a K-12 and is doing well, "so the idea of reconfiguring for grade levels" came from there
parent "a salad's a salad; you put it in the spinner, it's going to come out the same every time"
notes that K-2 does not have MCAS, so it can't be a Level 4 school; once they hit MCAS, then you'll have a different result
(she wondered if that's why they'd do that: to avoid a number of schools being Level 4. I hadn't thought of that; Mulqueen says they won't "game the system")
parent asks if there are other things going on in that school? Yes
going to Clark for free is incentive for neighborhood school

parent asks if the survey will be going out this year: June, he says, parents will be told through Connect-ED, notices home, etc; need to work out details
parent asks if there are any non-structural changes for this fall
a PE buffer at the beginning of the day, maybe, for example
when will parents know about those changes? will come through principals

are the changes for the program quality review going to be implemented for this fall? Yes, we're on a strict timeline

Concern with four year olds entering kindergarten (gets a round of applause) says that should rollback entrance to kids who are five for August

(note that it is now 7:30 and the questions are still coming)

parent says this is the second meeting on the east side and the superintendent is not here; leaves a bad taste in his mouth
Mulqueen: "my standing committee sent me to conduct these meetings; this is my responsibility...very rigorous schedule"
Parent points out that she was at Doherty
(for those who are curious, I believe she was here)

"this is robbing Peter to pay Paul..the data is're not talking to us...this is just to throw out the water and test it and see how hot it's going to get...the bottom line is we know the schools are in jeopordy put all this in front of us...this information you're talking about is five to seven years old...we shouldn't be talking about stuff that was data-driven five to seven years ago"
"why are we still talking about when 134 teachers or whatever it is are going to lose their jobs?"
"I know you have a history with people like me coming to talk to you and doing whatever they want...not everything will cost us money"
he asks why we are talking about this if we don't have resources to do this
"what are these standing committee talking about it they're doing it month after month when we don't have money to do" what we have to do it
asks that the superintendent come to any other meeting: "if she can't come to the east side once, what does that tell us?"

parent wants to know why extending the school day is on the survey if he said he didn't mean extending the day; but it's on the survey
he explains what he means by extended day: extracurricular programs, internships, music classes
who are the people doing that? one parent asks
"am I in favor? I don't know what the heck I'm in favor for...also, who are the highly-qualified people coming in that door?"

(this exchange is continuing at some length and rather a bit of hostility; several parents have left, most without turning in a survey)

"I take it you haven't been in Worcester long" round of laughter "People like you come and talk to us, and then the next thing we know, we open up the Telegram & Gazette, and here what you're going to do to our children"
He agrees that he doesn't know the history
listening, trying to reverse that:"I'm going to keep doing that"
he's now allowing people to leave

parent points out there aren't nearly enough people of 600 with this many parents"we really need to speak up" (in fact, this is a quandrant of several thousand elementary school children, so it's more than that)

Mulqueen cites that his wife did most of the "parent involvement"; some parents aren't here, because they have to work

Question: if you're going to move the kids, how is that going to improve the scores?
Balancing class size across the city would help

Questions about preschool: preschool is continuing this year, "we're trying to continue every year"

much sentiment that parents don't want to drive from place to place to drop off and pick up various kids

(8 pm, room has emptied a bit, but the questions are still coming)
Mulqueen says he's "looking to you to generate ideas"
a lot more meetings and community input if there were restructuring

has anyone spoken to the students about why kids are underperforming? Kids taken out of class for suspension
"find out why the frameworks don't ask what's on the MCAS"
"there is so much in the city, but you have to dig to find's not given to you...dig it up, start giving it to the parents"

That's a wrap: there's three more meetings next week if you have yet to make one!


Nicole said...

I'm 31 and *I* would be scared to go to East Middle.

T-Traveler said...

hate almost of all of the rhetoric in the presentation, in particular the "market share" stuff when we mean students and families and resources that follow them

Tracy Novick said...

Me, too, T.

Neil and Joan said...

Tracy, there is a root cause document which the previous administration created during our participation with the Harvard Exel Project. Perhaps it would behoove Dr. Mulqueen to take a look at that since we worked with Harvard faculty and a district level coach to develop it. For some reason, this new administration outright ignores anything that has been done in the WPS during the past 5 years. What a shame that the two head positions, both total outsiders, have not taken the time to learn a little history about the district!

Unknown said...

Why is everyone ragging on Worcester East Middle? Learn the facts and get your information correct before you start to spout off how 'bad' the school is. Just for the record, East Middle has been recognize for it's PBIS program from Iceland to Harvard and we have made the most gains of all the Middle schools in Worcester. It would behoove Dr. Mulqueen to help dispel false rumors about the schools under his authority rather then perpetuate them.