Thursday, September 30, 2010

Creative writing online

Wondering how creative writing works in the online universe? You can see what one class in Paris, Illinois is doing here.

And while you're at it, check out the progressive view that the principal at that school has on technology use.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Innovation in subcommittee

I didn't know this but apparently the TLSS* subcommittee is meeting next Tuesday at 5:30 pm to talk about the possibility of innovation schools in the South quadrant.

*as the remarkable number of acronyms in education has recently (again) been brought to my attention, that's Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

4100 students can't be wrong...

...but it turns out Bill Gates can be.

So, did you notice anything missing from today's big New York Times article on the success of Brockton High?
  • While it specifically cited the Gates foundation as being a big (former) funder of small schools,  it doesn't mention that Gates looked only at test scores, and that research has shown (see here and here, for example) other gains associated with small schools. Nor does it mention that the lack of gains on test scores that the Gates foundation found was already common knowledge in the educational research community before they started the small schools research!
  • MUCH MORE IMPORTANTLY, did you notice how the school went about improving? Did it fire the principal? Fire the teachers? Extend the school day? Bring in millions of dollars of extra funding? Have the administration create new high-powered committees to weigh in on what was needed?
Ah, no, actually. They gave the teachers the ability to fix it.

When a teacher noticed the problem and diagnosed it, she had the ability and the support (or at least, didn't face opposition) in creating a fix. The teachers created the committee. The teachers did the professional development. The teachers got each other on board, and helped each other as needed.

And the teachers raised the test scores.

Further (and more importantly, in my mind), they did it within the curriculum without turning the entire school into an MCAS-prep-lab.

SO, front page of the New York Times! The reporter missed the story...will everyone?

Monday, September 27, 2010

He beat me to it

Chris sent me these excellent photos over the weekend from the mercury spill cleanup over at Grafton Street School. I didn't get them posted, but he's got them up today. Go check them out!

Sunday, September 26, 2010

SAVE THE DATE!! Ravitch at Clark!

Diane Ravitch is coming to CLARK on December 1!!
From her website: 
December 1, 2010 (Worcester, MA): Clark University, Higgins University Center, Tilton Hall, 4:00 p.m. (open to the public).

Friday, September 24, 2010

Don't cut food stamps to raise school lunch money

...literally taking little kids' dinner money to increase their lunch money...
The move afoot to increase school nutrition money by taking it out of food stamps is as bad an idea as funding the education jobs bill by, yes, taking it out of food stamps. In the case of child nutrition, you're in many cases taking dinner money away from the whole family to give more money for the kids' lunches. (The income eligibility requirements for school lunches are higher than that of food stamps, so kids whose families do not qualify for food stamps may qualify for free or reduced lunches.) In many cases in Worcester, the schools are feeding kids two of their three meals a day--it's important--but we'd like to be sure they get dinner, too.
Congressman McGovern's got this one absolutely right:

“I want to pass a child nutrition bill. I am committed to the first lady’s campaign. I want to be helpful. But I won’t vote for a bill that robs Peter to pay Paul. The White House needs to work with us to find a better way to offset the cost.”
--'though perhaps it's more like robbing Peter's dinner to pay for Peter's lunch.

School Committee blogging

I should note that our neighbor to the west, Leicester, now has not one but TWO blogging School Committee members! Jim Gonyea has been blogging for sometime; he's recently been joined by fellow member Scott Broskey.
Well done, gentlemen!

Oh, the irony

The same week that Vanderbilt University released a major study demonstrating pretty clearly that merit pay--giving teachers bonuses for improved student test scores--doesn't work, 22 schools in Boston and Springfield are getting $27 million of federal money...for merit pay.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Got girls around interested in science?

This event  on Saturday, October 9th looks cool.

On remembering what the numbers mean

At last night's State of the Schools address, the exchange I found most interesting was one only partly covered in today's paper. A gentleman asked, in effect, are we going to make it? No Child Left Behind requires that all children be performing at or above proficient on their state tests by 2014; is Worcester going to be there?
Now the reporter didn't entirely miss it--Superintendent Boone was undeniably positive in her answer, reviewing increasing test scores, the work done at various schools, and so on. But the most telling part, I thought, was this, which didn't make the paper.
No one thought we were going to be there.
Now, she's absolutely right*, that anyone who has any real familiarity with the enormous assortment of kids served in our schools (locally or nationally) did not think that every single one of them--and I'm thinking here of some of the severely disabled, or kids who are just not up to grade level, or just got here from somewhere else--were going to be taking and achieving proficiently on state tests in 2014. But back in 2001, 2014 felt really far away, and leaving "no child" behind lent itself nicely to 100%.
The states dealt with this different ways. The first, for the states that didn't already have statewide testing, was to create an easy test. You get your numbers up nice and high to start with, you can easily keep them there, and maybe this will all go away by the time you start to get close to 2014 and somehow have to make this 100%.**
The requirement, however, was that states, districts, schools, show "adequate yearly progress" towards that 100%. So if you started out with 80% of kids making the mark, you had to show the feds that you were getting that higher: to 81, 85, and so forth.
The states were allowed to set their year-by-year goals, however, which led to another way that states dealt with this: they made different curves. Assuming, again, that this would all go away as we started to get to 2014 and people started to notice that the numbers weren't near 100, many states set low, achievable goals for the first few years, and showed a graph with amazing gains in the years closer to 2014.
You may have noticed that 2014 is fast approaching.
If you don't hit your goals for a certain number of years, you've got an "underperforming" school. Plenty of states have had relatively few underperforming schools for a number of years. If you've got an easier test and a nice low curve, you can hit AYP for plenty of years.
We're starting to hit a steeper part of the curve, now, though, and nationwide, the numbers are going up.

Now, Massachusetts was an exception on both counts. We already had the MCAS, which, whatever its faults, isn't an easy test, and our state education officials opted for a steady increase on the AYP chart. We've had larger numbers of underperforming schools for longer because of the way the state has chosen to implement NCLB. What was considered "adequate" in Massachusetts isn't what was "adequate" elsewhere. Our numbers are continuing to go up, too--I heard a DESE official estimate that we could be as high as 70% underperforming statewide possibly next year. When we talk about "underperforming" or "level 4" or whatever the latest term is, it helps to remember that this all has to do with how you've stacked the deck on NCLB...which had a goal that no one thought we were going to reach, anyway.

*and, in fairness to Superintendent Boone, I should note that she added, "but it made it possible for us to aim for 80%" per the Worcester Compact
**and ESEA comes up for renewal every few years, anyway, so there's a good chance the rules will change. They usually do.

$100 million is a lot of money

about a third of the Worcester Public Schools' annual budget

The news that Mark Zuckerman, co-founder of Facebook, is reportedly donating $100 million towards (note the preposition) the Newark Public Schools has lit up the blogsphere. The donation will be made (where else?) live on Oprah. On Friday...the day The Social Network, which is apparently rather unflattering in its portrayal of Zuckerman, opens in at the New York Film Festival (it opens nationwide next week).
A few things to note in this:
  • the money isn't going directly to the Newark schools. It's starting a new foundation which will work with the schools
  • while there's ties between Governor Christie and Mayor Booker of Newark on standardized testing (pro), charter school expansion (pro), and tying teacher evaluation to student test scores (pro)--your basic "edeform" package--Newark is different from many of the pushing-for-school-control strong mayor cities in that Newark has been under state control for 15 years (with, by most accounts, no improvement). Christie is giving Booker more of a say in the public schools, while not at all increasing public control.
  • there's some talk they may hire Michelle Rhee when/if she leaves D.C.
Eduwork looks at political ties.
Jim Horn quits Facebook.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any weirder

...it appears that the Gloucester charter school intends to open today in defiance of the DESE and Commissioner Chester. Chester may convene a special meeting of the state Board of Ed to revoke the school's charter.
(I've updated the link; school started there at 8:30 this morning)
Staff, parents, and 85 children today defied state opposition and began the new school year at the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School, which the state contends does not meet standards for charter schools.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

WPS by "level"

I wasn't going to do anything with this, but since I've been asked...

You all probably saw this in the T&G, but should you not have, here's the list of WPS schools by "accountability and assistance level" according to the state, post 2010 MCAS scores.

Level 1: Tech, UPCS, Clark St, Flagg St, Heard St, May St, Midland St, Nelson Place, WAMS, West Tatnuck

Level 2: Doherty, Jacob Hiatt, Tatnuck Magnet, Thorndyke Rd

Level 3: every other school in the city save-

Level 4: Union Hill, Chandler Elementary

Cavet: this is, of course, based entirely on MCAS scores. It is also predicated on NCLB which says that EVERY SINGLE CHILD must be proficient by 2014.

AP

more girls than boys taking AP's by a large number, particularly in English, points out Mullaney
Perda says borne out nationally and around the state
Mullaney requested the survey to say students' perspective on the courses; questions from parents regarding rigor of courses
motion that results of surveys be forwarded to principals and teachers of APs
question of kids being supported and how well they did, how well they were prepared: give that to teachers
question of asking students' opinions of teachers
missing piece for students that get scores of 1 and 2

O'Connell: "a magnum opus in many ways"
goal to increase number of students taking APs (back in Caradonio's day)
O'Connell concerned with kids getting low scores
number of kids taking course vs scores of kids
still have courses that have only one kid getting a 3,4,5
some in which lots of kids are getting 3,4,5

some question here as to what scores we've got here...2009?2010?
2009

Mullaney points out that not all school systems require kids to take the AP; those districts scores reflect that
kids discouraged from taking exams if they can't achieve highly
we, on the other hand, require the tests
more metritorious for kids to take the test for the sake of having taken it

Novick: do we have a way of paying for kids who can't afford the AP test?

getting kids prepared for APs tracing back to grades 7 and 8: vertical alignment to be sure kids can manage it in their schedule, and that kids are academically prepared

O'Connell asks about AP in the Tech school (something fell through the cracks last year)
interested in the Saturday sessions: many students found it helpful
motion: refer the recommentations to TLSS for further study

Biancheria (bonus points for showing up for a committee to which she is not assigned): are we looking at additional science classes for the new North High School?
refer that question to TLSS

accoutability plan

David Perda, Chief Accountability Officer:
process of rolling out feedback over the course of the fall
"big piece of Dr. Boone's vision for improvement"
task force of "key members of the WPS community"
school improvement plan
Worcester Compact
aligned focus in Worcester
"district performance indicators"
ILTs going through training with Focus on Results
work in co-ordination with school site councils
DAB: departmental based accountability plans
indicators can't tell you the whole story
school and department plans due to Accountability office on October 29th
"expected there will be some involvement of school site councils"
question on tracking conversations of ILT (which are faculty) and site councils (which include parents and

community members)
proposal to train site council members during October
Community Accountability Task Force: has formed itself
were members of the group that drew up the document: "different model for accountability"
groups involved in WPS might agree to a set of frameworks for those involved in Worcester Public Schools to see

how this aligns with the general direction of the Worcester Public Schools

Brian O'Connell: parallel issues with that level of involvement
asked to ratify or rubberstamp something that was already produced
"I've seen radically different approaches from schools"
tie from parent involvement into level of student success

question about this item: speaking to this item
Perda is suggesting a first draft of district indicators to go to school committee
data of AP, honors level, going to college
Perda: public requests for information

Novick: concern about number of parents involved in actual committee, of parents' concerns reflected
much on academics, how involved are parents though: what about parents thought principals being accessible, or

kids being safe, or community access
as it rolls out to schools, pulling in the other issues (that might not lend themselves as easily to charts)
site councils that do operate as rubber stamps, if they operate at all

O'Connell suggests a balance of goals per school
alumni involvement: not reflected in list

Novick: no social studies and history
what about health of students?
being given much time and passed responsiblity from state and fed on this one

question on indicators :
"what the family engagement plan would be...is that something that happens at the school?"
happens at the school: plan done at the school

Mullaney: "we set policy, they carry it"
"we pay them to their best work, to give us their best finding, and make our decision based on that"
O'Connell: "data is the bedrock on which our policy is formulated"

Parent involvement plan: policy on family
"good base to work from"
motion: report to School Committee quarterly on implementation
consider adding: math AP, science AP, alumni involvement, social studies, student health

Congratulations to the United Way

...for being among 21 successful applicants for federal "Promise Neighborhood" grants!

Not waiting

I haven't seen Waiting for Superman.
I didn't watch Oprah yesterday.
As such, there's only so much I can say about either.

For those who did watch Oprah, or plan to see the movie, may I suggest the following?

Read this and then this about the misleading comments and outright lies told in the show yesterday. (I hadn't, for example, been aware of Rhee's history as a teacher. Also, as one who earned tenure, let me assure you: it's not automatic, and you can still be fired.)
Read this (for starters) on the movie. (You could also read Deb Meier, for good measure.)

Monday, September 20, 2010

Assessing the assessments

Susan Engel, of Williams College, in an op-ed in today's New York Times:

AS children, teachers and parents sprint, slink or stumble into the new school year, they also find themselves laboring once again in the shadow of standardized tests. That is a real shame, given that there are few indications that the multiple-choice format of a typical test, in which students are quizzed on the specific formulas and bits of information they have memorized that year, actually measures what we need to know about children’s education.

There is also scant evidence that these tests encourage teachers to become better at helping individual children; in fact, some studies show that the tests protect bad teachers by hiding their lack of skill behind narrow goals and rigid scripts. And there are hardly any data to suggest that punishing schools with low test scores and rewarding schools with high ones improves anything. The only notable feature of our current approach is that these tests are relatively easy to administer to every child in every school, easy to score and easy to understand. But expediency should not be our main priority when it comes to schools.

She goes on to make a series of observations regarding assessment and how it ought to work. One can only hope that those designing the new assessments based on the Common Core are reading.

Guess what can make kids smarter?

Gym class.

Worcester's not on here

It looks like the segregation report compiled by Northeastern doesn't include Worcester.

Why you should let your child walk to school

how about on October 6th?

Excellent commentary yesterday in the New York Times on what parents fear--and what they ought to fear:
the five things most likely to cause injury to children up to age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, are: car accidents, homicide (usually at the hands of someone they know), child abuse, suicide or drowning. And what are the five things that parents are most worried about (according to surveys by the Mayo Clinic)? Kidnapping, school snipers, terrorists, dangerous strangers and drugs.
The best statistic in the article? This one:
British writer Warwick Cairns, author of “How to Live Dangerously,” has calculated that if you wanted to guarantee that your child would be snatched off the street, he or she would have to stand outside alone for 750,000 hours
That's eighty-five and a half years.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010 School Committee retreat: balance and more to come

balancing state/federal requirements with local goals and desires
Boone suggests a work session School Committee meeting to set goals for the district (as we're running out of retreat time)
support for urban districts
RTTT applications: what we are able to live with and what we are able to sustain
conversation around what we as a district want to move forward with

so expect that one of the agenda for October will be a work session on establishing district goals, particularly with regard to balancing federal/state requirements with local district needs/desires

And that's it!

2010 School Committee retreat: recognitions

recognition of students, teachers, staff, and community members: could we create a monthly or quarterly meeting, perhaps held at a high school, for recognitions only? rather than done at School Committee?
Mullaney suggests that there be some standards for recognition
Monfredo: "anytime we can find some way to recognize students, we should"
O'Connell: maybe we need two levels; for some we just send a letter
Biancheria: I always thought that was what we were supposed to do (aka: recognize people)
concensus around having it at City Hall, having it at meetings, having some level of regs
some formal citation from School Committee...in the mail, suggested by the mayor
Friel recommends spreading out items so as not to overbook any one night
filer recommends a letter or coming into City Hall; superintendent then reviews that
Mullaney: for staff, faculty, or community members must related to our mission
Biancheria: can it come from all the members? Can it be on joint stationery, signed (electronically), by all members?

While it's not in my notes, the decision was made to try to spread out recognitions, so as not to overwhelm any one night; to allow for recognitions by certificate with a letter signed by all members; and to self monitor on what warrents which.

2010 School Committee retreat: agenda items

Conversation around items filed that are on an agenda that isn't dealt with or responsed to: do they time out? When? How is it dealt with?
If it's sitting on a subcommittee, contact the chair that the item be put on an agenda
If it's set to administration, there's a list that the clerk has, can be sent around to members to see
after 24 months, times out ON AN AGENDA...School Committee members see and can respond, refile, or contact those needed...can be filed
Item on superintendent visits to schools (filed by Biancheria): where has she been and in what capacity?
Mayor encouraging members to contact clerk on items and concerns

2010 School Committee retreat: consent agenda

There was quite a bit of discussion around the idea of a consent agenda; the upshot was to try it..
Effective meetings:
we don't create the solutions, we approve them and install them
get to the root cause of what the problem is before you can solve them
ensure agenda items are relevant, they link to goals; some will be referred to policy
x, y axis of governance/operations; low/high impact on student achievement
system looks at things and the communities knows that it's being discussed and attended to
consent agenda: "a few items that don't need discussion, they're routine and generally get unanimous consent"
for example: approval of minutes, final approval of policies & reports, staff appointments, reports for information, receipt of donations
Mullaney: how is that list generated?
Gilbert: "all it takes is one member to say...objects to an item on the consent agenda...you can pull that item"
all items on consent agenda are then approved as a block
Mayor recommends that consent agenda is generated by clerk, members notify her if they'd like to move them off, may also move off from the floor
Mullaney asks what the advantage is
Gilbert: no individual motion and vote, a time saver
Monfredo asks if it's fair to the taxpayer or voter
Foley suggests that the reports coming back would be one item
Boone: gets to the heart of meeting efficiency
Biancheria: are we saying that when people make donations, we wouldn't read their names
there are murmurs that it wouldn't save any time, really
Biancheria: concern that we wouldn't hear people's names for donations, also around discussion of reports coming back
Mayor: we could try it, don't see the harm to it
O'Connell says we're close to that right now; minutes approved quickly, personnel approved quickly...possible exception of donations
Gilbert: is it important that it be acknowledged that they be broadcast on television, or that they be acknowledged?
Overwhelming sentiment that it be acknowledged on television (as well as written)
Monfredo: if it take a little longer, so what? We've been elected to serve
Boone: we have very few staff presentations...so we aren't just there for the sake of time; how do we have an effective meeting, that moves things forward?
"point of order" can ask the chair to remind the speaker that he's gone over time and gone off agenda
"a meeting held in public, not a public meeting"
"leave your kids and neighbors at home"...Mullaney asks what that means
Gilbert says some people bring their kids or a neighbor to speak to a topic, usually not in big districts
"what's the vision, what's the strategic plan...got to move from the election process to the governing process"
Biancheria: "each person has a constituency base and you have a responsibility to respect that member's participation"

2010 School Committee retreat: discussion on roles

Mayor: "some operational checks and balances of the absolute power of the superintendent...a critical process...expulsion of students...grievance process..to provide some check on that...some role to play to provide some checks on the process..for fairness"
Gilbert: where that fits, is in policy (for check and balances). "through policy you give the superintendent direction, you also give them some leeway"
Monfredo: "we as a body, we have to work as a team"
Gilbert: "sometimes a grievance is about interpretation of the contract...sort of judge and jury around two different interpretations...disciplinary grievance can only be sent onto arbitration (based on conflicting case law)"
Biancheria: "we are here because we were voted in...to represent the students of the city...where does that fit it?...that vote got you here...where is it here?"
Gilbert: "you can bring anything to the board, but if the board doesn't have the authority to act"...you can't do anything.."you don't provide constituent services...you have no authority to act other than if the power is given to you by the board...explain the chain of command to them"

(I think it's debatable how much this plays out in fact...)

2010 School Committee retreat: Michael Gilbert, MASC

I was grabbed after Thursday's meeting and asked, "Where are the notes? I've been waiting!" Here you are!

The first part of the morning was a presentation by Michael Gilbert from the Mass Association of School Committees on administration and school committee roles and responsiblilities (you might remember that this was a request at the Superintendent's annual review in June).


Michael Gilbert, field director for the Mass Association of School Committees
reminders about open meeting law and rules on executive session
Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Pat Lencioni
"what are those areas that you really need to build on to become an effective and cohesive team"
pyramid: base, absence of trust
creating trust requires "multiple instances of follow-through and credibility"
2nd level of pyramid, fear of conflict
"debating the issues, not the personalities"
3rd level of pyramid, lack of commitment
4th level of pyramid, avoidance of accountability
point, inattention to results
"prioritize results of team over individual needs"

Roles and responsibilities of School Committees
1. establishing mission and district goals
2. budget
3. collective bargaining
4. policy

"establish and peridocially review education goals and policties for the schools in the district, consistent with the requrements of law"
superintendent presents policy options, and informs SC of what implemenation of policy would entail
policy: "what needs to happen"
brief, broad
School Committee owns the "what"; Superintendent owns the "how"

Budget: review and approve a budget for education; oversee expenditures
"work to ensure that necessary funds are appropriated"

Hiring and fire: superintendent and district legal counsel
on rec'd of superintendent: ass't superintendent, special ed director, business director, nurses & doctors, supervisors of attendence
(there's some conversation here around whether, and how, the Worcester School Committee hires the nurses, or approves the hiring of the nurses, and what has happened in the past)
also, the School Committee owns job descriptions: the School Committee may rewrite the job description, however
also, "you as an individual have no authority" (to the School Committee)

"essentially set compensation for everyone in the district...how you do that may vary"

collective bargaining: School Committee is employer of record for collective bargain
"my advice is never have your superintendent as your lead negotiator"
the superintendent and the union president need to day-to-day manage the contract

"establish, upon the recommendation fo the superintendent, the perfomance standards of teachers and other employees of the school district"
"principles of effective teachers" (and "effective leadership") from the DESE
(Gilbert suspects that this will be coming back due to RTTT)
evaluation of superintendent (due to the Whalen case) has changed: individual School Committee members make notes, discussion based on the notes from members, minutes of that meeting "should sufficice" as a public record
members need to be blunt, Gilbert also recommends individual school committee members meet with Superintendent afterward for anything else that needs to be said
"self-evaluation of the committee's effectiveness"
MASC working with DESE to develop an evaluation for underperforming districts (also already have one, requested by members here, now)

superintendent ensures that staff is evaluated and develops evaluation instruments

SC adopts a professional development plan; "generally done by budget process"
superintendent implements the prof development plan, makes PD avaliable
(there's some conversation here around whether, and how, this is happening in Worcester...do we get a plan, what is a "plan," and how is it provided. Note also that now grants come through will be spelled out specifically to School Committee in terms of how it will be spent)

SC reviews an annual school improvement plan for each school in the district
"provide and encourage resources for school council professional development programs that will enable council members to have the knowledge and skills required to effective educational leadership"

advocacy on behalf of students and their schools and promote the benefits of a public school system to the community
"advocate not only on behalf of the parents who vote for you, but their kids, who can't"

curriculum: SC approve major adoption or revision of curriculum and textbooks upon recommendation of the superintendent
adoption of new programs, major changes, or any changes that involve policy changes
Boone: "programs often get substituted for curriculum...we know that 85% of Common Core is in the MA Frameworks" (something which is disputed, incidentally)...working on curriculum fit

we want to be heliocopter School Committee members (not an airplane, and not on the ground)

It's over: no Gloucester charter

The Commissioner of Education has just pulled the plug on the Gloucester charter school:


"I am deeply concerned that the GCACS Board of Trustees has failed to manage the opening of the school effectively and in compliance with state law," Chester wrote. "The Office of the Attorney General, at the request of the Inspector General, examined and this week concluded that the procurement processes employed by GCACS to secure the Cape Ann Medical Office Building in Gloucester and the temporary modular structures on that site were in violation of state statute.

"The school's repeated delays in opening, when coupled with the recent findings of the Attorney General's Office and allegations about the school's actions ... leave me with no confidence that the GCACS board can satisfy its obligations under state law and under its own charter before the charter expires on Friday, Sept. 24.

As a result," Chester wrote, "I no longer believe that GCACS is viable."

One assumes that this will mean the end of the lawsuit, as well.

Coming up this week

  • Superintendent Boone will be making her first "State of the Schools" address at Tech at 7 pm on Wednesday. All are welcome.
  • The Standing Committee on Accountability and Student Achievement is having its first meeting on Tuesday at 5:15 pm; the agenda is here. Two items on the agenda: the AP report, and the draft accountability plan for the district. If you have thoughts on either, please come!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A few clarifications on my notes tonight

  • This is the real news of the evening.
  • The innovation item is in TLSS subcommittee. Watch for it to show up on that agenda. If there are updates to share from tomorrow's School Committee letter, I'll put them up here over the weekend.
  • The vocational education item also went to subcommittee.

BMI reports

did not have the actual BMI information on it
(at least in many cases)
If anyone kept their copy, the superintendent would like to see it.

asking for number of kids receiving free and reduced lunches

Biancheria looking for a report by school
referral to F&O as well as TLSS
Boone points out that this would leave out the mayor only, so perhaps it ought to come back to the entire committee
ask further what she's looking for

EMT services donated

...for all home games for the football season from St. Vincent's.

Innovation school ad-hoc committee

Monfredo "need to make sure the voices of our teachers are being heard"
TLSS referral
Boone thinks it's an appropriate place for that conversation to occur

Transportation

...which was the original report..
Biancheria asks who does the work on planning out transportation
"entirely the Worcester Public Schools staff" that plans the transporation
"we assume all costs" for doing that work (says Allen)
Biancheria says an average of seven stops for elementary school buses
"why we would have an average of seven stops per school"
"two in particular that have 24 stops...I do have a problem with students who are getting on their bus at 7 am and getting off at 8:30...they're on a bus for an hour and a half"
asking if we could have a timeframe for when this is resolved
"we have to come up with a result...this is elementary school, they're little...not for an hour and a half on the bus"
funding for charter schools and the impact it has on infastructure, says Boone, does challenge us
possible one adjustment, says Allen, as of the five buses that serve the school (a citywide magnet), three start at the fartherest corners of the city
he adds further, that this time last year we'd have three more buses to add...we're using those for the Spirit of Knowledge students "at the cost of our own students"
Biancheria is asking for "no more than one hour"
Allen agrees that it's our goal to get them on time, no more than one hour
Biancheria asks for communication to parents telling them how the issue is resolved
"a drastic difference"

a student rep choses to speak to the issue: asks if we could combine stops, or we could suggest to parents that the kids could go closer to their home
Allen says they looked at combining stops, but there aren't a lot of possibilities in terms of student safety

Student Enrollment at Spirit of Knowledge

...heading to the Commissioner, Secretary of Ed, Governor, Lt. Governor, and our legislative delegation

more on vocation ed

...some discussion here on kids that can't get into Tech who would be great carpenters, plumbers, etc, and are getting "bumped" by kids with higher grades...

Vocational education

Biancheria: ch. 74 classes at comprehensive schools
"hope we are now looking at what we are doing" for vo-tech programs at North High
Increased funding for vo-tech programs

Boone: "we have been in conversation on where we are with ch. 74"
Coordinated Program Quality Review
"early conversations around college and career readiness and also about early college programs.."
"what it would take the have an expanded college and career pathway"

motion to keep on progress with this as we move forward
"have it as a selling point as we are looking at a selling point with the new North High School"
referral to TLSS

report on enrollment changes by quadrant

..heading to Accountability for further conversation and investigation

O'Connell on MCAS

"parents are looking for a quantifiable data"
"that misses the issues that are pertient of what is the best school for the child"
"the best school for a particular child may not show up on any list of what might be best"
"on the whole very optimistic, positive data"

Mayor on levels

Mayor questions the MCAS scores as lined up with the accountability and assistance level
"how can a school like Columbus Park be commended for high levels and then be classified as a 3?"

Boone: "success shouldn't be determined by a single set of scores provided annually"
four areas create the assistance levels over time


"Let me clear: Level 3 schools are not failing schools; we have to redouble our efforts to be sure that doesn't happen"

Superintendent on district MCAS

There will be more on this at our next meeting...

recognizes the success and the elignment
all schools throughout the state identified by level

we got MCAS scores, growth data, school levels

10 of our schools have been designated as Level 1
4 as Level 2
27 as Level 3
(this is the level of intervention and support by the state)
We will continue as a Commisssioner's district (having any Level 4 would do that automatically)

Grade 3 literacy has been a focus and concern, as we had flatlined
9% gain in grade 3 proficient or above on ELA: "that's real growth and that's substantive growth"
"still have some work to do in that area..saw some significant growth in that area"
"all of our grade levels showed improvement, which the exception of 10th grade"

nine of our schools made AYP in both ELA and math
12 made it in ELA alone
6 in math alone
an additional 20 schools were within 5 composite points of where they needed to be for meeting AYP

"our student growth performance continues to be pretty much were we were before"...about half and half

"outpaced expected achievement rate in ELA and math" Burncoat High
Nelson Place and Heard Street have moved off of the list of concerns
"Commended schools"--a first this year--that have shown a great deal of progress
Clark Street, Elm Park, Heard Street, Jacob Hiatt, Nelson Place, Roosevelt, Tatnuck Magnet, Burncoat Middle

"beginning to pay huge dividends"
"sobering data on the science and technology data"
narrowing of focus on math and ELA, now "science is becoming an indicator"
"to be commended for fine work in 2009"

Mayor responds

...now as we face the most challenging times since the Great Depression...we the members of the Worcester School Committee have requested the appointment of a mediator
..as of tomorrow morning we will be filing for mediation with the state

Len Zalauskas, EAW president

"We are proud of the accomplishments of the Worcester Public Schools...teachers don't deserve all the credit, teachers don't deserve all the blame..."
teachers on Level 4 schools: hours in their classrooms this summer, professional development..."they take pride in their profession"
"We are working without a contract..teachers no further ahead than we were when we started bargaining...we are told we are far too big..we work in an honorable profession...we do what we do because we believe in it...depends on a capable and educated workforce...competent teacher in a safe environment"
"orderly environment...best teachers in the state.."
"We want to be at the table and to make policy with the policymakers"
"this process needs to move forward, and we want to move forward as partners"
"We are eager to participate in the solution, but we don't want to take a pay cut in order to do so"
"that our hard work be recognized in our pay, our working conditions, and in the respect that is shown to us as professionals"
And the crowd stands to leave

Worcester School Committee meets tonight!

The Worcester School Committee will meet tonight in the Esther Howland chamber at City Hall. You'll find the agenda here.
I'll liveblog what I can!

...until the morale improves

Michelle Rhee weighs in on the D.C. election.

The mystery of the wall


So I am alone in having wondered why it was that City View Elementary was enclosed by what was clearly an old, well-constructed, stone wall?
I asked Mr. Ganem, the principal, about this when I visited today, and he solved the mystery. City View is built on what was the Worcester Normal School, aka Worcester State College/University, which was, as you can see here, a lovely Victorian building:
(h/t to WorcesterMass.com for the photos above)
The Worcester Normal* School moved to Chandler Street in 1932, the same year it became the Worcester State Teachers College.
The stone wall has stood the test of time:



And this also, of course, explains the name of the street that runs along the bottom of St. Ann's hill:




*there's some disagreement about the term. It might be from the "norms" that they were setting for teachers. There's also the French École Normale which means something like "model school" as the student teachers would have an actual school in which to practice teaching.

Gloucester Charter school

...is still not open.

...in his letter, Chester struck a stern note and signaled that he would not give Gloucester Community Arts an extension to open beyond the 19-month deadline given each charter to open after it is granted.

"I am concerned that, at this late date, the school is still not open," Chester said. "I want to be clear that the school must open in a safe and appropriate facility at the earliest possible opportunity and no later than Friday, Sept. 24, 2010. If the school has not opened by that date, which is 19 months after the charter was granted, the charter expires."

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two things from yesterday

Sorry, off for the primary yesterday...

While I was off, two things of educational import happened:
  • the President gave his start-of-school address to students. You can watch it here or read the text. (Note that you can also watch it on the Worcester Public Schools website: nice one!) Note that the choice of location of Masterman was not without controversy. Obama was very directly speaking to students this year about working hard in school. I wish he were a bit less focused on the "America is going to succeed in the 21st century" message..once in awhile, it would be nice to acknowledge these students as the future citizens of America, not just the future workers.
  • the 2010 MCAS results by district were released. The WPS site is linking to a useful tutorial for parents from the state. Note that individual student results will be out in a few weeks.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Spirit of Knowledge by the numbers

There are some fascinating charts in the backup to this week's School Committee meeting regarding the new Spirit of Knowledge Academy that's opened in Worcester this fall. You might remember that this charter school has opened under the new requirements; it must reflect the population of the Worcester Public Schools. So, how's it doing?


The Worcester Public Schools, according to Title 1 numbers (free and reduced lunch), is 72% low income. SoKA is less than half low income.

Twenty-seven percent of Worcester Public School students are English Language Learners. Seven percent are ELL students at Spirit of Knowledge Academy.
One in five students in the Worcester Public Schools are students with special education requirements. Eight percent at Spirit of Knowledge are on IEPs.

The big way that Spirit of Knowledge will of course be measured will be by their MCAS data. So what sort of kids are they starting the year with?

Nearly sixty percent of the the students attending SoKA this year attained advanced or proficient on their math MCAS for 2009; a full 65% attained advanced or proficient on their ELA MCAS for 2009. So that's where they're starting from in educating these kids: two out of three are already in good shape on the MCAS exam.

About the only place SoKA does appear to be close to reflecting Worcester is in ethnic demographics:
...more students of African-American and Asian profiles, fewer of Hispanic, about the same on whites.
How does that line up with serving the under-served populations in Worcester?

(UPDATE: you might also find relevant my notes from the Board of Ed approval in January, and the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, which lays out the requirements of attraction and retention of various student groups. See Section 7, subsection e.)

Worcester School Committee meets this week

The Worcester School Committee will meet this coming Thursday, September 16 at 7 pm. You'll find the agenda posted here.
Of note:

  • The president of the EAW, Len Zalauskas, is using his (indeed, any member of the public's) right to petition the committee. He'll be addressing the committee at the beginning of the meeting.
  • There is a continuation of the sizable number of summer transfers.
  • There are a number of communications from the administration coming back--vo-tech education, transportation (of which more anon), bullying, and student transfer rates.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Thursday, September 9, 2010

School Committee retreat

The Worcester School Committee will be having a retreat this Saturday, September 11. It will be held at the Mass College of Pharmacy, 9th floor conference room. It will start at 8:30 and go until 2:30 in the afternoon.
You can find the agenda here. It includes a presentation on the roles and responsibilities of School Committees by the Mass Association of School Committees, discussion of meeting efficiencies, and setting of committee goals.
As it is a meeting of the full committee, it is a public meeting.

The Old Classical High

It recently occurred to me that I, as a School Committee member, sometimes see things that other people don't get to. Here's the first of what I hope to make a regular feature of photos of places you may not have seen.

If you're around Worcester long enough, you're sure to hear references to Classical High School. I didn't realize this until recently, but the "old Classical High" is the current Durkin Administration Building. There's plenty of people who never have reason to set foot in the building--it's that brick Queen Anne style building up on Crown Hill--and it retains much of what was clearly a lovely building of its era.
Here's a photo of one of my favorite parts of the building, the second floor auditorium:
This shot is of the front of the room with the stage.
Here's a (not great; taken by phone) shot of the balcony that goes across the back (which is the front of the building) on the third floor. The room is open to the third floor.
The building (much like Commerce High, now an office building) demonstrates that when they built them in the 1800's and early 1900's, they built well!

Best opening speech of the school year?

I'm nominating Charlotte Hummel.

Despite the national and state political movements which purport to improve education – movements I think of as being based on the idea that “the beatings will continue until morale improves,” I have come to firmly believe that those of us who know what public education is really about – like those of us in the William Penn School District family – those of us in this room, others who work for the students in the district, the parents, students and community – must adopt and live by our own philosophy, a new approach to how we approach public education and that is: “We are wearing our own Ruby Slippers.”

Of course, where national and state policy and practice make sense we should embrace it; but where it doesn’t make sense -- like funding schemes that ensure apartheid education and community disintegration, the turning of children into data generators, teachers into script readers and test proctors and administrators into Pavlovian competitors for the next race for the money – in those instances, we should and will speak up, point out that the emperor has no clothes and take the rational albeit radical path of resistance.

We must not, as they used to say in the civil rights movement – participate in our own oppression. So it’s a good thing that WPSD has one of the most radical superintendents and school board presidents in the state when it comes to speaking truth to power. We are wearing our own Ruby Slippers and you’d better not be stepping on our toes.

Way to speak it, Ms. Hummel!

More on national assessments

Here's more on the national assessments.

AUGUST TO JUNE: bringing life to school

I just got a notice of this upcoming film.



You can find out more about the project here.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

And on last night's Council meeting

You'll remember that there were two items of school interest on the agenda:
  • On the request to create a new revolving fund for Foley Stadium, it was sent, per motion by Councilor Clancy, to the Municipal Operations subcommittee.
  • the North High status report was filed.
Plus, Councilor Petty had an item asking for a list of how the $44 million in capital funding was going to be spent. That came out of last week's School Committee meeting, and the mayor passed on the list to all the councilors. You can find it here, starting on page 40.

Preschool



Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Recess summary

(which is really interesting, BTW...hearing what people saw and heard happening...)
parents talking about no implementation plan, mentioned only one time in the wellness plan
mention of kids who aren't eating their lunches, chomping at the bit to get outside
mention that the wellness policy isn't in the student handbook
speaking of winter recess inside in space limitations

INTERNATIONAL WALK TO SCHOOL DAY IS OCTOBER 6th!

CPPAC is getting a website!

resource, conversation, links
It's not live yet, but it will be cppac.org (I'll put up a link once it's online)
It'll link up from Worcester Public Schools, too.
You will be able to sign up for communication from CPPAC
also minutes, agenda
possible a blog?

suggestions

having City Councilors come to meetings (note the conflict of meeting time)
get more parents on CPPAC
get more parents on site councils


...which brings up nominations for co-chair

CPPAC last year

...a rundown of speakers (a year ago they welcomed Boone in her first month)...events (the roundtable in January)...successes (working on the community meetings on tone and content)..and what comes next...

What do you think and what do you think we ought to do?
Site councils...legal mandates: "there are others where we have to get the parents who want to do it but don't know how"
accountability: "I don't think most schools are even aware of how their implicated in all of this"
"how do we engage the community in the role of parents on site councils"
Biancheria says that she spoke with parents who had no idea what they were supposed to be doing with site councils: asks that a definition of site councils be sent to the schools...would be a tremendous help
(I should perhaps mention that Monfredo and Biancheria are here as well as myself)

very informative trainings: cooperation with district and Worcester Educational Collaborative

fall push on site councils
spring parent institute

community advocacy on local and state leve: "it's moving, it's out there, and at this point, it's a fight that will always have to be fought"

"what does it mean to be in Worcester, to be in a city that has so much education...but what about our schools, when we barely live above foundation? A subcommittee to organize around funding issues...I don't know what the solutions are, but I feel like it's time...we can't keep whittling down and whittling down"
"it's not just for the survival of our children, it's for the survival of our city"

Boone takes questions

are you also looking at APs (in the accountability system)?

Yes

"we may find a school that is still making AYP but has pockets of children who are not performing up to the bar"

"as part of our data dashboard..how do we close some gaps around content exposure?"

question on capital improvements: making buildings more accessible: can we please make sure that the improvements we're making will make the buildings more accessible?
item last week on School Committee on just that, looking at our compliance with the accessibility

are there plans for adding programs for advanced learners?
looking at how we address gifted learners, how do we identify gifted learners
NCLB looked at it from a deficit model: who isn't making it? social/emotional needs of gifted learners, dropout rates of gifted learners "is staggering"
budget items to support such programs? Not in FY12
engineering pipeline, arts magnet...enrich programs
any progress on libraries being open? concern had been with elementary librarians..."conversation that principals engage in on a regular basis..a number of suggestions and a number of ways that parents ensure that students have access to books"

what parents should expect the next step in the conversation around restructuring?
"we're still collating the volumes of information that we got"
"very clear message around restructuring of elementary grades...I don't anticipate us coming back and addressing the K-2, 3-6...but I do have to say that at some point we've got to talk about our facility needs in terms of space...still start this year with at least 4 schools with large class sizes because they had no more physical space in their buildings...where are the pressure points and how can we relieve those pressure points? Elementary enrollment is increasing and physical spaces are stretched...definitive proposals coming back in the later fall..continuing conversations around innovation schools in the South quadrant"

question wisdom of placing programs (preschool at a school that's at capacity): what as a parent group could we do going forward to advocate for my schools in my community? How could we help?
"how do we begin to frontload success...preschool is a long term investment..slightly different funding stream"
enrollment increases in elementary..don't translate into dollars today
"recognizing that the FY11 funding stream represents the floor for me as superintendent...to go below, will begin to significantly impact quality...enrollment, difficult to see any way to close any doors, nearly 100 percent at capacity plus...FY11 funding stream is exactly what we have to do..stimulus dollars did exactly what it was supposed to do..economy not going to be enough to make up for the 8.2 million dollars...negative inflation factor...net school spending level for the city is just above minimun...study to examine the foundation formula (that's the adequacy study)...the will to address...we don't need another study on the shelf, we need the action"
(as a total aside, one might also note that Worcester contributes no more than minimally required to education)

Boone at CPPAC

Speaking of the "Comprehensive Accountability System" now, as she says, being implemented throughout the city
Also of Massachusetts' Race to the Top money: teacher and principal evaluation tied to stduent achievement, use of growth model, college and career readiness.. "opportunity to shift our outcomes and align with college and career readiness"
"that's the change in the round 2, they didn't see how Massachusetts would be any different after the Race to the Top funding" (the one change in the application was the acceptance of the Common Core)
enrollment up at both Chandler El and Union Hill
"can't go away from the table without talking money"...able to balance the budget
setting the stage for FY12: no stimulus money
"huge challenges going forward...10.2 million dollar" deficit to start
$44 million in capital investment over the next five years
New North this time next year

It's back!

Bridging Differences is back from the summer break!

What will the new test look like?

For those wondering what the new tests being designed by the PARCC consortium will look like, New York will be an early pilot state.

The new state test will be designed with four separate parts that students take over the course of the full school year, Suransky said. The first two parts, which students will take earlier in the year, will be shorter assignments that cover material the students should have learned up to that point. The third assignment will be longer and more complex. The fourth will be a comprehensive exam measuring a year’s worth of learning and will be given at the end of the school year.

And the consortium intends to dispense with much of the multiple-choice testing that students currently sit through, Suranksy said. Instead, the assessments might take the form of a research paper or long-form math problems, for example.

“Those kinds of assignments are actually closer to the kinds of tasks that teachers are using in classrooms anyway,” Suransky said. “These will function as a way to test some of the new, higher-order skills that are in the common core standards.”

They are to be ready for a full roll-out in 2014.

CPPAC: you should come!

If you are a parent or guardian in the Worcester Public Schools, you should come to the Citywide Parent Planning and Advisory Council (hitherto: CPPAC) meeting tonight at 7pm at the Worcester Public Library!
Why?
  • Is there another time when you're going to have the superintendent of schools in a room of less than thirty people updating you on the Worcester Public Schools and (possibly) taking questions?
  • Compare notes with parents at other schools!
  • Organize with said parents!
  • Get an update on what happens at School Committee meetings without attending or watching them!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

MCAS: in or out?

There's some confusion swirling around just what the participation of Massachusetts in the creation of new assessments mean, to wit: would this supplement or replace the MCAS?

From Governor Patrick's campaign:
“Governor Patrick remains firmly committed to the MCAS as a graduation requirement, and as an accountability measure to ensure the success of our students."
From the federal government:
"These more advanced assessments will replace tests currently in use and shouldn’t result in more time devoted to testing."

Commissioner Chester and Secretary Reville are quoted in the above Globe article as saying that, while Massachusetts may participate in developing the new tests, the Commonwealth won't adopted them unless the test is "more rigorous than the MCAS" (withholding comment here on rigor of the MCAS)...which is pretty much what they said about the Common Core standards and the Mass Frameworks, right up until they adopted the Common Core.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Council's back

..and there are two school-related items on their agenda this week:

Friday, September 3, 2010

Obama's back to school address

President Obama will be addressing the nation's students during his annual back to school speech on September 14.

Meeting wrapup

Due to the length and vigor of the conversation on recess, it was all that got coverage today. Before you utterly despair from this article, note that there is a draft policy that principals have been asked to implement. They also are to come back with reflections on how it works on the ground. This, thus, is where the groundwork takes place: what is recess like for your kids (meaning your children or your students)? Has it been changed in response to this policy? Should it be?
If it hasn't been, you've got grounds for asking about it at site council, faculty meetings, PTO.
The superintendent also pointed out that it is CURRENT POLICY that WPS K-6 has recess for 30 minutes a day (incorrectly, as it turns out; see comments below), outside when possible. If that isn't happening, let's start asking about it.

And we really do want to hear back from EVERYONE on this. (I don't get nearly enough letters from students, for example, and that's one reason it was excellent to have student reps speaking last night.)

The big news--really!--last night was the passing of $44 million in capital expenditures. The mayor referred to it as "unprecedented" which I think is accurate. There's going to be lots and lots of repairs made to schools over the next five years. Look for them!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Uniform policy at Union Hill and Chandler Elementary

current Worcester Public School policy requires that there is a vote of the site council and a 2/3 majority of parents
what we have is a letter from principals that mentions that parents were "overwhelmingly in favor" at meetings
Boone says parents wanted it because of a sense of pride in their school
Novick runs through the research: it does nothing other than improve perception of student behavior and that's it
Biancheria asks if we can hold this item until the 16th (she notes that there are only seven school days until the 16th)
motion to hold supercedes, is voted first, goes four/two, Biancheria and Novick against
motion to carry forward pending parent signatures and site council approval:five/one

Mullaney on summer administration

"I think we have to do a better job of keeping our schools open, especially on the administrative level..there are times you need certain documents..and no one's there..this doesn't happen in the neighboring school districts'
"nobody there all summer long: it's a ghost town"
"I know there are financial implications...we have to do a better job of providing services in the summer"
Novick makes a motion that the report coming back include "a budget neutral manner" due to the upcoming funding cliff.
Boone says that one of her surprises when she got here was that the principals do not work year 'round, then adds that principals put in many hours over and above.
Biancheria reads "implement a plan to increase"...and asks for a suggested plan coming back to the committee; Boone says that this was her intention.

Summer course access

Mullaney: requesting that our students get their student schedules online during the summer
"think it would cut down on some of the poor scheduling that the computer kicks out on the first day of school...a backup plan to make sure that kids actually start getting their classes on the first day of school"
Our system can do this; she's just asking that this be done.

Biancheria: have some concerns that we might implement without going to subcommittee; asks that it be referred to the subcommittee "before we have a new way of doing business"

Mullaney accepts the amendment and so it is sent to Finance and Operations
Another student comment: notes that Worcester Tech has course selection sheets with carbon copies, teacher makes recommendations based on work done, "that's worked extremely well"

School is open

...and otherwise the Superintendent "in deference to the hour" defers her report on school opening until our September 16 meeting.
At which Foley notes that the Patriots are in the fourth quarter

Finance and Operations report

Year end report: note that it came out nearly even
South High pool: subcommittee recommends that $26,200 to find out how much it would cost to repair the pool
grant list
$44 million in capital improvements: recommend approval
grant approval process
revolving fund and policy on advertising at Foley Stadium
(the ban on political items causes the mayor to do an "aw-shucks" snap of his fingers)

Mullaney is reluctant to spend money on the study of South High pool
O'Brien replies that the city is trying to create a citywide aquatics plan. "it might be in the interest of the city, if we could spend potentially less money... to have a pool open year 'round"
"would work partnering with the city council, potentially working with them to put it in the city capital budget"
O'Brien says he'd be willing to hold for a week to talk to the City Manager to see about cost sharing

Monfredo mentions that a number of trees are being planted at city schools this fall.
O'Brien mentions that a teacher at Union Hill said she walked in and all she could say is "wow." The kids feel like they're in a transformed school.

O'Connell doesn't want to see the pool report rise or fall on the basis of the City Manager's answer.."represents a failure of aspirations back" when it was built in the '70's
He mentions that Worcester Academy's pool was built in 1915
"let's keep the issue alive"

The mayor mentions that we have to take a roll call vote on the $44 million in capital improvements.."the largest investment in school upgrades and repairs in our history"
"this is really a big thing" and notes the irony of there being (actually three) very few people here
He asks that it be on the website prominently, that it be forwarded to site councils
makes a motion that we maintain it: how do we evaluate the work of custodians, asks for a report
Foley notes that Nelson Place is first on the list to be rebuilt
Novick: motion to share with custodial staff

Recess draft policy passes

and the crowd leaves...

Boone

..."if there's a need to revise the language in the 'recess policy' we can address that"
(by which she's referring to the wellness policy)

Mullaney:

policy has to passed by School Committee in order to be a policy that is promulgated
and adds that she could accept the policy as amended

O'Connell sticks to it

O'Connell says superintendent can come back with proposal as part of the wellness policy already in place
and extends invitations in several directions

Boone

"what does it take to be a healthy district"
"I am seeking a point of clarification...already have a policy"
"I would like to avoid us having a redundant policy, rather than have a repetitive"
"this is our first run if you will"

Student jumps in

"it depends on each school's schedule"
"I think a lot of time recess are rushed, so they should have extra time"
I should note that we RARELY have students comment on things, so this is GREAT that they've commented.

Student jumps in

"always feel that after the transition time, I'm ready to re-focus"
alternatives on recess during wintertime

Hammering out the differences

inserting the word "rarely" before "taken away from students as a form of punishment/consequences"
.."shall include a break at mid-day at lunch"
"recess shall occur outside weather permitting"

Mullaney: a second time

"I meant no offense. I was pointing out the absence of principals at that subcommittee meeting."
Edith Morgan: would just give really practical advice
"no one's opposed to wellness"
I should perhaps say that I've deferred my comments until after the others...I'm not being passed over

Pressure of MCAS...break during the morning
"Just my ideas...that's their job...I think we've all come to that conclusion"
"as far as the legalities of this..there's nothing in this that says 'policy'"
"have to find a balance here"

Biancheria: recess

Biancheria: "we did follow every procedure, an item that has been up for more than a month, two months, three months...perhaps people are accustommed to items sitting for one year..this is moving appropriately"
Body Mass Index
"the Regional Environmental Council..worked diligently to get the word out...we have to more cautious of the students in our schools"
"we asked for feedback, we discussed a timeframe, we went with a December timeline"
"let's do things a little different, let's give it a shot, let's see how it works"
"activities always matter"

Foley: recess

Foley: "we suffered through math wars for several years; now we're living in recess wars"
"the data (on health) is frightening"
"we have got to make some changes now...I come from that perspective"
Part of the problem we're facing is the loss of physical education
"additional demands of time on learning"
"caught between principals and principles"
"if it's a guideline, it's less important..."
"recess is important...we've hearing from parents that recess is not being held..recess is important for child development"
"recess should not unnecessarily be withheld from children"
"have to have a good balance there"
"commonsense approach to the weather"
"I support the idea of site-based management"
"learn more about what happens in the schools...any ideas that you have to make it work better...talk about it with the site council..what's working, what won't work in the schools"
"Struck by the before school activity...maybe that can be blended into the school day"

O'Connell: recess

O'Connell: pitch a conversation at a very high level, wealth of information

respond to comments of Mrs. Mullaney, "almost a gratitious slam...not pushed through...not the dogdays of summer..pending since last February, refered to subcommittee...March 15, discussed at that subcommittee meeting...was not pushed through...taking a comment like and believing that there is truth behind it"

statements of some of our best principals

"pilot program...we didn't, and I believe it was deliberate, implement a policy...the vote asks for a formal policy"

Policy brought back in December 2010

(after consultation with site councils)
"but we are asking that the administration be given the opportunity to draft a pilot policy"

Monfredo: recess

"who would have thought that recess would generate a dialogue of over an hour?"
"Let's keep in mind the importance of wellness"
"continue to have these sort of discussions"
Trouble-free Playground program
"recess as an extension of the classroom"
"has never been a mandated program...never taking the discretion of the principals..."
"evaluation of that school..need to have a common sense approach"
"Let's step back be flexible...not be so stubborn as to say we're not going to do it"

O'Brien: recess

O'Brien: thanks people for being here
good discussion to have..when you come to issues like this, you go to people who are knowledgable about this stuff: staff on hospitals
"state of childhood health in this city"
"have a role to play in that...somehow, we've got to figure out how we do better"
"this is a piece of it...kids don't get enough PE in school (one a week for 20 minutes in elementary school)"
"I don't think it's a bad idea that we think that kids should be active for 30 minutes a day"
filings on this item were not trying to constrain principals
"we should be trying to figure out, and gather some of our data, try to do that in some schools over some period of time...get some data"
"obviously some room where that can be negotiated"
"a good conversation...how do we get..set some goals"
"I do want to be respectful of the challenges they face"

Mullaney: recess

thanking the School Committee for holding the item for a week
on the committee since 1994, "site based management"
"principals, in cooperation with their faculties, site councils"
proposal aired..."without one iota of input of those most impacted by the policy, namely teachers and principals"
(not kids, represented by parents?)
"principals who are stunned by what is proposed"
"not asking for input from principals"
"I do not oppose recess...oppose this policy"
oppose the notion that the denial of recess cannot be used
recess before or after lunch "which frankly is not a hill I want to die on"
"why hasn't it been universally adopted?"
"you should have been at the subcommittee meeting, but it wasn't handled in a democratic way"
"this should be a very commonsense issue"
"we all believe in the value of recess..it should happen daily and outside if at all possible"
"I think it is either necessary to pass a different policy tonight or recommit it to subcommittee"

Valentin Goins: recess

"too many times it's 'you're talking, so recess gets withheld'"
"it's not the norm anymore...there is a need for there to be a district expectation for that need"
"it does say that principals have no discretion"
"one of the problems I've had with the wellness policy is there are no operationals in it"
"we cannot wait for all the evidence to come in...'promising practices'"

parent of Midland

"it doesn't matter what I think as a kid"
"recess is not about fun, per se, it's about wellness...by taking away recess, you're taking wellness"
were a minimum of three days of PE when he was in school
"pretty much our only physical wellness for our kids"
"separate two things as well..displines for actions on the playground during recess, that is absolutely a time where there should be more drastic consequencees...discipline by taking away recess for classroom disruption..you're taking away wellness for a consequences unrelated to that wellness"
"it is certainly not the only solution"

Brindisi: Heard Street: recess

many of us do have an outdoor recess in the morning (he's counting here the time BEFORE the school day)
"we did change to an indoor recess" midmorning
"fits in nicely with our math and ELA blocks in the morning"
"we're talking about instruction time, time on learning"
if temperature were implemented would put children outside less than now
"would never put children in harm's way"
"very effective way to" discipline
"some kind of consequence..."
"would handcuff us a bit...would be in the best interest of the committee to ask that we go back to our site council"
perfect topic to raise with our site council

Sheehan: recess

from Hunger-free and Healthy
pilot set of recess guidelines
reduction of food waste primary result
"food served in WPS is of a very high quality...nutritious quality of school lunches"
"this time of year there's a good chance that they come from a local farm"
"for a child to finish every last bit of food on his or her tray is a great thing...they may get as much as 2/3 of the food from school"

recess: Soldi

Steve Soldi, principal of West Tatnuck Elementary
"to slow down this process a bit, and maybe bring this back to our schools"
wants to bring it back to school site councils, PTAs, teachers
behavioral consequences
(I should perhaps mention that Mr. Soldi is my children's principal)
having that time at recess...a real productive time, real opportunity to use this in a productive way
"Up there on the hill at West Tatnuck, we could be getting two or three inches of snow, downtown they're getting rain"

Kearney: recess

public comment from Kevin Kearney, who runs through his creds
You can find the main article he's citing by E.A. Bergman "The relationship of meal and recess schedule to plate waste in elementary schools" cited a lot on line, but I can't find the primary source.
He's running through the consumption of kids who have recess before lunch rather than after lunch: 17% more carbohydrates, 18% more protein, 9% more calories, 18% less vitamin C, 15% more iron, 35% more calcium
The research we had last week pulled out some of this, he's giving the rest, and also thinks that the 17% more carbohydrates may put kids to sleep.
"let's let them try it and see how it works..."
(which is the proposal)

O'Brien asking questions

O'Brien: "how many minutes of recess do your kids have right now?"
15 minutes at lunch outside, 15 "break" at midmorning
(this is Allen responding)
"at some of the larger buildings, difficult to get the kids downstairs from the third floor"
O'Brien: align that with what we're trying to do

Recess: Allen

Allen, principal at Norrback Avenue
timeline of the policy and the chance that we've a chance to see what this means
our schedule was set already...
"this sort of addition would shake our foundation a bit at this point"
"the part that is additionally concerning to me as a principal"
not sure that taking recess should be a consequence for inappropriate behavior
"we all know that if we've lived in Worcester for awhile..depending on the playground..." (in reference to the weather)
"that families are concerned that we're using the policy inappropriately"

Recess policy: Boone

Boone references the wellness policy, adopted 2006.
"Since we have a policy that addresses recess, that what we have is a set of guidelines...I feel we wouldn't necessarily need a separate policy, as we have a policy that addresses recess"
30 minutes of recess: "whether or not we would still need to meet our structured learning time requirements...the DoE requires a minimum of 900 learning hours...it appears that we are pretty much at that 900 hour minimum...anything beyond 15 minutes would require us to extend our school day in order to meet the state requirement"

School Committee starts shortly

School Committee starts shortly....

Race to the Test

Did you remember that there was another section of Race to the Top still to go?
Released today are the winners in the Assessment section of Race to the Top; both the PARCC, with 26 member states, and the SMARTER, with 31 members, consortiums of states won funding (h/t to SMARTER for the better acronym; Massachusetts is a member of PARCC. And before you get too confused, let me point out that some states are a member of both groups). PARCC has won $170 million, SMARTER $160 million to develop new tests. According to Secretary Duncan:
As I travel around the country the number one complaint I hear from teachers is that state bubble tests pressure teachers to teach to a test that doesn’t measure what really matters...Both of these winning applicants are planning to develop assessments that will move us far beyond this and measure real student knowledge and skills.

The PARCC assessments will :
test students’ ability to read complex text, complete research projects, excel at classroom speaking and listening assignments, and work with digital media. PARCC will also replace the one end-of-year high stakes accountability test with a series of assessments throughout the year that will be averaged into one score for accountability purposes

..while the SMARTER assessment will:
test students using computer adaptive technology that will ask students tailored questions based on their previous answers. SMARTER will continue to use one test at the end of the year for accountability purposes, but will create a series of interim tests
No word yet from the state on this.

What to do with STG principals?

And it seems New York City has run into the same difficulty faced by any district looking for federal turnaround money--what to do with the principals.

Standardized assessment on the Emily Rooney show

You can find Monday's episode of "The Emily Rooney Show" online here. That episode was a conversation of MCAS, standards, and assessment reform, featuring Monty Neil from FairTest and Mass Board of Education member Ruth Kaplan.

As other countries imitate us, whom are we imitating?

The following passage from today's New York Times story on the new "education city" rising in South Korea struck me as telling:

By inviting leading Western schools, the government is hoping to address one of the notorious stress points in South Korean society. Many parents want to send children abroad so they can learn English and avoid the crushing pressure and narrow focus of the Korean educational system. The number of South Korean students from elementary school through high school who go abroad for education increased to 27,350 in 2008 from 1,840 in 1999, according to government data...

Lee Kyung-min, 42, a pharmacist in Seoul whose 12-year-old daughter, Jeong Min-joo, attended a private school in Canada for a year and a half, said she knew why families were willing to make sacrifices to send their children away.

“In South Korea, it’s all rote learning for college entrance exams,” Ms. Lee said. “A student’s worth is determined solely by what grades she gets.” She added that competition among parents forced their children to sign up for extracurricular cram sessions that left them with little free time to develop their creativity. “Children wither in our education system,” she said.

So Min-joo’s parents believed that exposing her to a Western school system was worth the $5,000 they paid each month for her tuition and board, 10 times what they would have spent had she studied at home.

So South Korea is now inviting western schools to open outposts in South Korea...to avoid over-dependence on standardized test, which they see as "wither(ing)" their children, while at the same time, the United States, citing foreign competition, is now...depending on standardized tests.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

And speaking of buses...

There's a conversation going on over at Free-Range Kids on how kids get to and from school.
h/t Brendan
And remember, if you care about this, there's an item on the Worcester School Committee agenda on walking on Thursday!

They're back




Watch out for the buses out there today! Many of them are learning their routes, too.
Welcome back, everyone!
Look for the rest of the Wormtown Fleet "Salute to Jeff Barnard" links here.