Sunday, September 30, 2012

On instructional assistant placements

I know there are conversations going around about this, and I've gotten several calls, so...

Instructional assistants for kindergarten are placed as follows:

  • every school gets one.
  • schools with the highest number of kids per class get additional IAs, in order. Thus, the two classrooms of 30 at Chandler Elementary meant that school got another IA. Then the Quadrant Managers go through all of the classes of 29, all of the classes of 28, and so on down the line until we run out of IAs to place. WPS does not have enough IAs to have one in every kindergarten class..
Note that this means a couple of things:
  • as always, we're only as good as our most recent information. We can only shuffle so often (I think we only shuffle once, but I'm checking on that), and if a class that was 23 suddenly gets four more kids, then yes, there may well be a class of 27 out there that is still sharing.
  • this is done without regard for need. Thus, it may be a class of 24 kids with five with particular needs: that doesn't figure in. Nor does poverty level, nor does school level (aka: Level 4, Level 3, and so forth). 
I suspect this will come up at the Worcester School Committee meeting on Thursday--Mr. O'Connell has put in an item regarding Union Hill--so expect more discussion.

And by all means, keep the calls coming! We're only as good as our information!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

New Hampshire puts a moratorium on charter schools until they fund what they have.

Wait, what? Someone actually considered funding before they granted new charters?
Yes, and it was our neighbors to the north:
New Hampshire's state board of education has taken the highly unusual step of placing a moratorium on the creation of new charter schools, arguing that the legislature has not adequately funded them and that their costs are poised to balloon in the years ahead.
Board members voted this week deny all applications it receives to open new charters in the state until more funding is provided for those schools.
In a letter explaining the decision, board Chairman Tom Raffio said the panel "continues to be supportive of charter schools." But he noted that the board has approved eight new charter schools over the past two years, increasing the state's costs by $5 million. Without additional funding, he said, "it would be inappropriate to approve any new charters schools at this time."
It seems that this sufficiently freaked out the state legislature such that they are considering (and this in fiscally conservative, to put it lightly, New Hampshire) increasing ed funding by $4.9 million.

Would someone please alert the Massachusetts Board of Education that charter schools costs money and that our Legislature has not increased education funding to keep up with the charters they've authorized? They appear not to have noticed.

I would like to read more principal's letters this honest

Mr. Sternberg, hats off!

One significant issue as we move into this new school year is that we will, at times, find it difficult if not impossible to teach authentic application of concepts and skills with an eye towards relevancy. What we will be teaching students is to be effective test takers; a skill that does not necessarily translate into critical thinking – a skill set that is necessary at the college level and beyond. This will inevitably conflict with authentic educational practice – true teaching...
 Of additional concern to me is the relationship between children and their teacher as we move into an era where teacher job status is based upon student assessment scores. Guess what, some children will become more desirable than others to have in class! And, conversely, others will be less desirable. There, I wrote it! That concept is blasphemy in our school where teachers live to prepare children to be productive learners and members of society. 
Not so incidently: Mr. Sternberg was the New York State Principal of the Year for 2009.


Exam/IB school committee upcoming dates

First up, the public hearing dates:

Wednesday, October 10: Quinsigamond Community College, Harrington Learning Center, Room 109B
Monday, October 15: Holy Cross, Hogan Center, Suite A
Monday, October 22: Worcester State, Student Center, Blue Room
Monday, October 29: Clark University, Grace Conference Room

All hearings start at 7 pm, with the exception of October 15, which will start at 8 pm. There will be a brief presentation of the programs and the research we've reviewed thus far, followed by time for public comment.  Please plan to attend! We are most interested in any member of the public's--parents, teachers, business owners, community members--view of both or either program and why.


The committee is also visiting a number of schools and programs. We'll be visiting the Abby Kelley Foster international baccalaureate program during the second week of October. We're visiting to exam schools in Boston: John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science on Tuesday, October 9, 2012 and Boston Latin School on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. We're hoping to see one of Boston's IB programs that afternoon, as well. 
I will keep you posted!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Meetings next week

Hugely behind on posts...fighting a flu this week...

There is a meeting of the Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports subcommittee on Monday at 5:30 (4th floor of DAB). You can find the agenda here. Under discussion:

The full Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday at 7 pm at City Hall. You can find that agenda here.
After some honors (including Thorndyke's playground committee!), the report of the Superintendent is on the innovation schools, year one (worryingly without a backup, as yet).
We're hearing about the new children's gallery at the Worcester Historical Museum.
We've got both the TLSS and the Governance and Employee Issues committees reporting out.
We have a response back on JROTC programs.
Several requests for recognitions, publications, and reports are going in.
Two grants: 
  1. $95,716 for Kindergarten Assessment Entry testing (largely to be spent on materials)
  2. $421,715 has come in for Burncoat Prep's Level 4 grant. You will remember that this is the money that is contingent on a number of things, including the replacement of the principal.
Also $13,274.44 in prior year invoices (for natural gas).
And we're getting a recommendation that finalists for the special education position be interviewed on October 18.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Reality check on school nutrition regs

It seems appropriate to take the opening of today's front page story in the Telegram on the results of the Body Mass Index screenings to do a quick reality check on the new federal school nutrition regs. You may have seen that the House has a bill before it that would reverse the calorie limits in the new regulations.
Among those sponsoring the bill is Representative Steve King of Iowa, who is in a tough re-election battle with none other than Christie Vilsack, perhaps best known as the wife of US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack...who oversees school nutrition regulations.
(I won't get into the ins and outs of who's getting money from whom, but everyone's getting money from Big Ag.)
Also, the calorie limits aren't a scheme to put the nation's children on a diet; they are those recommended for various ages of children by the Mayo Clinic.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Norrback Ave library

Another in the occasional series of photos of places you may not have seen in the Worcester Public Schools.

Here are the constellations on the ceiling of the library at Norrback Avenue Elementary School.

Yes, the starts really light up! It's really a lovely room, and I will post more photos of it soon!

Exam/IB meeting tonight!

Yes, you read that right: the stalwart crew of the Mayor's Ad-Hoc Committee on an Exam/IB School is meeting on a Friday night!
We're meeting at 6 pm at the Durkin Administration Building (the 4th floor conference room).
I will post notes afterward. Tonight, we'll be receiving some information back from administration, sharing a bit more information from committee members, cleaning up our presentation for public hearings, and sharing dates of upcoming events.
Please feel welcome to attend!
Notes to come ('though not a livelblog!)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Questions from the Committee

Monfredo:
asks if a student leaves the country, does he count as a dropout? Yes, if we cannot account for enrollment elsewhere
O'Connell:
raises the standard, not lessens them. Achievable standards
"wide range of factors brought to bear in that calculation...this is a standard they can meet...one we expect them to meet"
Union Hill's challenge of absorbing new students
Novick: I'm giving you answers and comments here, rather than my questions
Student Growth Profile: the achievement profile is determined not only by test scores but also by demographics of students
Not clear yet on how the state is working on changes in test as we shift to Common Core and further as we shift to a different testing system
allocation of Title I funds: parents concerned about loss of after school programs, needed for assistance with homework
Boone mentioned already history and science: o
Biancheria:
committee brought together on reallocation of Title I: who is on it?
after school programs: Boone comments "continuous results model"
need to document (increased test scores?) why we chose the intervention that we did
how is administration determining priority schools? Level 3 schools are our first set of priorities
Boone "have some ability to provide services beyond our Title I schools" if they need it
"concerned that our non Level 3 schools will not receive assistance"
(Note: if you're wondering what "level" your school is, you can find the list on the last page here.)


NCLB waiver report

The PowerPoint isn't working but you can find it online here.
posting as we go
Boone: "what the changes are within the state, what they mean for us..."
waivers allowed to be submitted to NCLB this year
no reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as of yet
"that gives credit for the fine work that's going on in our system"
"current" as it has not been reauthorized or redacted
100% of students proficient by 2014
AYP was determination for schools and districts
MA had rigorous standards, making excellent progress, yet not making bar
waiver granted (as it has been for all but six states)
reduce proficiency gap by 50% by 2016-17
"takes into consideration the progress that schools are making"
No more AYP
Progress and Performance Index: PPI
greater focus on subgroups
2011 is our baseline year for targets going forward
AYP gave no recognition for student growth
multiple years of data, rather than one year of data
this is partial credit model (no longer if you didn't hit one, you didn't hit it at all)
students no longer counted multiple times: everyone counts in aggregate, but there's a SINGLE "high needs" subgroup, where a student may count again; no more than that
movement beyond proficiency is now rewarded
"advanced proficiency is really what we should be targeting"
"haven't abandoned attendance" but no longer part of calculation
What is in PPI?

  1. CPI (ELA, math, science)
  2. MCAS growth (ELA, math)
  3. cohort graduation rate
  4. annual dropout rate
These last two for high schools only
Maximum number of 700 points, but points by school vary as elementary schools do not have all indicators (elementary schools have no more than 400)
Needs Improvment and Failing have two options: Low and High (different numbers of models)
new system expects 51-59 student growth percentile points OR 10-14 percentile points in growth OR if the number not proficient decreases by 10 percent
reduce by at least half the gap between a perfect score and the 2011 CPI score
dropout is that we cannot account for their enrollment elsewhere
WPS dropout rate is 3%: bring it to less than 2% in the next six years
graduation rate: the state has set federally approved targets for state to hit
Levels of schools: 
Commendation schools: high achieving, high growth, gap narrowing (all are Level 1 schools)
Title I funds: 25% of funds reserved on a sliding scale to address identified needs of lowest performing schools
Needs of lowest achieving students in lowest performing schools
"uneven performance in mathematics...revised frameworks in the Common Core"
Columbus Park had high performance but could not make AYP




Worcester School Committee will start...

soon...
Excellent rendition of the National Anthem by the South High Community Band!
Also, recognizing International Walk to School Day on October 3! Walk or bike to school on that day (and any day!)
And thanking the DCU for collecting instruments for the Worcester Public Schools through Barry Manilow's effort!

And for my friends to the east

...if you're stuck getting most of your education coverage from the Boston Globe, oh, you will want to read this one. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Bullying reporting

Posting because the only thing that makes me more furious than a little kid getting beaten up is the people who are supposed to help him not doing so.

Massachusetts now requires all school districts to have a bullying plan, and what is required within it is very specific.
You can find the information regarding bullying right off the main Worcester Public Schools page (scroll down). That brings you to this page with all the information, including an introductory letter from Superintendent Boone.
The Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan (in English) spells out what the district does to prevent bullying, and what it does should bullying occur. The district's responsibilities in response to a bullying report are (from page 8):

  • to ensure the safety of the target.
  • to notify parents or guardians (and, as needed, other school districts, and, only if needed, law enforcement)
  • to investigate all reported cases of bullying within twenty-four hours of the report being received. This will involve interviewing all those involved and witnesses.
  • to make a determination that must, if bullying is found to have occurred, ensure that a plan is put in place that is "reasonably calculated to prevent recurrence and to ensure that the target is not restricted in participating in school or in benefiting from school activities."
  • to notify parents of target and aggressor of the determination and plan within twenty-four hours of the investigation. 
Disciplinary action follows this.

The bullying report is here (in English; it is also available in SpanishPortuguese, Albanian, and Vietnamese). 
Anyone may file a report: a student, a parent, a guardian, an after school provider, a teacher, a neighbor. It can even be filed anonymously, though no disciplinary measures will follow from an anonymous report.

It need not be filed with the school principal; you can send to the School Safety office and they will investigate it. 


You do not have to "wait for it to happen again."

You do not have to "establish a pattern of behavior."

This is serious business, and if, for any reason, you feel that something is taking place that should not, turn it in.
And please encourage others to do the same. 

MCAS scores (by school) are out

The statewide MCAS results were released today at Columbus Park School in Worcester. You can find the state's press release here and the Worcester Public Schools' press release here. The full results are up online here. 
Should it be of interest, the report of the superintendent at tomorrow night's Worcester School Committee meeting is on the No Child Left Behind waiver, which necessarily will include information on this year's MCAS scores.

Monday, September 17, 2012

You can watch anytime! ...with a bit more on enrollment

I really need to stop assuming people "just know" things...Charlie, this one's for you.

So, you don't live in Worcester, or Charter just let you down,* or you're someone who does not actually get local cable: yes, you can still watch the Worcester School Committee live! During the meeting, go to the Channel 11 tab on the main Worcester Public Schools website, scroll down the Channel 11 page, and click on the arrow to start the livestreaming.
So, you were out of town last week, or had to watch something else, or were engrossed in a book, and you're now wondering what happened at the Worcester School Committee meeting last week: yes, you can watch the archived meetings! On that same Channel 11 page, click on "archived programs." The third option on that page is "School Committee meetings;" choose the meeting you'd like from the list.
Note that you can jump ahead in the meeting (helpful if you're looking for something late in the agenda), and you also have the option of creating your own clips, if there's a certain piece you want to keep or pass on elsewhere.

_________________________________________

With that in mind, last Thursday's meeting (September 13), included Superintendent Boone's opening of school report (a personal favorite). Included in that were our preliminary enrollment numbers. The official count is October 1, and then we allow time for chasing down free/reduced lunch forms, change of address, and the like. This unofficial count of last week has us at about 750 students more than last year.
...which is a lot. It's even a lot by our standards of growing every year.
Last June; thanks to much work by many (from parents to the City Manager to those who sharpen pencils), we were able to hire ten additional elementary teachers and nine additional secondary teachers.
This was excellent and badly needed. Not only do we need the teachers just for class size, we've also got curricular holes in the secondary schools that need support as well.
And we needed those teachers just for the kids we knew we were going to get.
Those added teachers, though, are going into a system that isn't staying the same size; it's growing. And this year, it's growing at a rate above and beyond!
Besides that, our students aren't enrolling in any sort of evenly distributed fashion. We have 33 elementary schools, and kids enroll in all of them. Three kids in one school may send a class to 29, whereas five in another may only bring that number to 24. Unless we eliminate parent choice from the system--which I don't think anyone is willing to do--we are never going to have an even distribution of students.
Add to that the fact that we are bumping our head against the roof, so to speak: the Worcester Public Schools had fewer children enrolled when we closed schools than we presently have enrolled now. Even if we had the money to hire even more additional teachers--and we don't--and even if we could evenly distribute kids--which we can't under current policy--we don't have rooms to put those newly formed classes in. We're out of space: down to seats, not rooms.
Thus, class sizes that are still, in some places, large.
This is something that everyone, from the School Committee and Superintendent Boone, to principals, is acutely aware of. It's a multi-faceted challenge, though, and it's part of the balancing act with making sure we have enough buses and we get supplies to classrooms and we figure out how we're going to use the new testing regime without a major technology infusion...and so forth.
Let's see how those October numbers shake out, and start having conversations about space.



*unless you have them as an internet provider, too. Sorry, no help here.

Still going...

The Chicago teachers' strike entered its sixth day today and now will go at least through Tuesday. Yesterday, the Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegations declined to vote to end the strike, wanting to give the teachers they represent sufficient time to read the proposed contract language. When this led Monday morning to aldermen zinging the teachers for not getting back to work, there were some pointed references to the Board of Aldermen not reading contract language themselves. Sunday night, Mayor Rahm Emanuel filed for an injunction ending the strike, on the grounds that the teachers were striking for reasons other than salary and benefits (the only reasons allowed under Illinois state law), and further that the health of children was being compromised by the strike. Today, the court refused to hear the order on an emergency basis; it will be heard Wednesday morning, after the House of Delegates meets again on Tuesday afternoon.
And today's Chicago strike Revolutionary War history tee-shirt.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates votes Sunday

The Chicago Teachers Union House of Delegates is voting Sunday afternoon on proposed language, according to numerous sources on Twitter, livetweeting coverage of the news conference. According to CTU President Karen Lewis, the delegates will vote only once they've seen the actual contract language: "You've heard of teachers? They like to read."

Chicago strike sign of the day



And, after the jump, a weekend video bonus:

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Homework

I've gotten this question a number of times lately, so a bit on homework:
The Worcester Public Schools do have a homework policy. It can be found in the Student Policy handbook on page 65. (The handbook is online in various languages here.)
There's quite a bit here on theory and process (not bad reading), but here are the numbers:

  • K-grade 2 is to be an "introduction to homework. Students might be asked to finish papers that were started in school or rehearse early reading skills and math skills."
  • grade 3 is when formal homework is begun: "Students are assigned between 15 and 30 minutes on a daily basis."
  • grade 4 students "are assigned between 45 and 60 minutes of homework on a daily basis."
  • grade 5-6 students "are assigned between one and one-half hours of homework on a daily basis."
For secondary schools--which includes middle schools--the expectations rise to:

The combined minimum daily homework for academic assignments from middle school teachers should be 120 minutes. The average minimum daily homework assignment from the high school teachers should be 45 minutes per academic subject.
(shared without commentary or links to relevant research. We'll get there.)

School-parent compact

...is required by Title 1 (who knew?)
"request that parent input be a strong part of the process"
Monfredo: "compact serves as a clear reminder...to provide the best possible education for our students"


Crossing guards and crosswalks

You can find the list here.
...which we got from DPW.
Miss Biancheria points out that there have been a lot of paving projects that have gone on over the summer, and not all crosswalks have been repainted.


Something I learned about transportation tonight

If we were to change the limit at which we bus secondary students from 2 miles from school to 1.5 miles from school, it would add 16 buses, for 800 students, costing us another $1 million.
FYI

Worcester School Committee: opening of school

Opening of school report now posted (and posting as we go here)
Superintendent Boone
"we've had a very successful and very good school opening"
thanks to central admin...and everyone else (including bus monitors and cafeteria workers, IAs, teachers, principals...)

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Mosquito-borne illnesses

Worcester's mosquitoes are testing low for EEE and West Nile in their weekly tests ('though we're a "high risk" community). At this point, Worcester Public Schools sports played at home are going forward as scheduled, but sports played in high risk communities are being moved back to daytime hours.

Note that it is older adults, not children, that are highest risks for this, so it's more the grandparents watching than the kids on the field of highest concern.

Chicago strike sign of the day



from the Other 98%'s Facebook page.

Worcester School Committee meeting this Thursday!

The Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday at 7 pm at City Hall. We're off our normal first and third Thursday schedule due to last week's primary.
You can find the agenda here
First up, we have one of my personal favorites, the opening of school report. No back-up on this as of yet.
We have a citizen petition on transportation (it's a request for an additional bus stop).
We have the new appointments; congratulations and welcome all!
We've got a response coming back on the singing of the National Anthem at our meetings: Chandler Elementary is coming in September 20; Canterbury on October 18; May Street on November 15; and Quinsigamond on December 20.
We have a list of recently repainted crosswalks
We're reviewing the school-parent compacts, and the summer reading.
We're receiving a grant for $80,000 and emergency kits worth $99,985.99. (They come with duct tape, so they're clearly good stuff!)
We've got some recognitions coming up.
And--you asked!--we're asking about filling out forms online and about data walls.
Finally, the report of the Ad-hoc Committee on an exam or IB school.
7 pm at City Hall!

Also, please note that the Citywide Parent Planning and Advisory Council is holding to their regular meeting schedule of the second Thursday, so they are meeting AT THE SAME TIME. In the interest of accessibility, they've moved their meetings downtown to the Durkin Administration Building. Parents and interested community members, please come!

Monday, September 10, 2012

This sign is pretty great, too

Admittedly, from the Labor Day march:


From the Chicago Teachers Solidarity Campaign Facebook page

Going back to local affairs for a moment...

Should you be following the attempts to intimidate voters in Worcester that went on in Worcester last Thursday, you should read Steven H. Foskett's livetweeting and Nicole Apostola's liveblogging of the Election Commission meeting.
...which was lively.

Chicago teachers ON STRIKE: link round up

I'll do a round-up of links later today.
____________________________________________
NOON UPDATE:
The Chicago Teachers Union press release is here (I don't know if the administration didn't issue one; I can't find one); You can read NPR 's coverage here; the New York Times here; the Chicago Tribune here and what's going on with the kids in the meantime. You might also listen to Democracy Now. You can get a progressive perspective here.

Teacher Beat points out that much of what's being negotiated isn't about money; in fact, as Professor Naison writes, this is a strike against Race to the Top.
Mirriam Webster has seen a spike in "union" being looked up today.

If you're looking for something to do to support the teachers, you can find suggestions (including how to send pizza) here.

Best quote so far, from CTU president Lewis: “I think the whole idea of an imperial mayoralty where you wave a magic wand or cuss someone out and things happen is untenable.”
More to come!

No agreement reached in Chicago

No agreement reached. Chicago teachers on strike today.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The clock is ticking in Chicago

With the picket lines scheduled to form in Chicago at 6:30 am tomorrow, negotiations are continuing tonight. The Chicago Teachers Union blog is reporting that there will be a press conference at 10 pm (which you can watch live here; remember, times are Central)..
And (via Facebook), no, they aren't bluffing:



Daily Kos has a report from strike headquarters from earlier this weekend.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Whooping cough vaccinations

If you have a sixth grader, you may have gotten a reminder last spring (or will get one this fall) that they need a DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis) booster for your child. Here's why:
In the late 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration approved a new formulation, called DTaP, for babies and children. Before this, the vaccine used dead whole cells of pertussis to stimulate kids’ immune systems. Now the newer version deployed only a few selected compounds, not cells. The good news is that it hasn’t caused as many side effects. Early clinical trials suggested that this newer, acellular vaccine was also highly effective.But as Tom Clark, a pertussis expert at the CDC, told me, the studies fell short. They tended not to follow children for a long enough time. Or they defined cases in a way that missed milder infections. As a result, the studies missed a dire fact: The new vaccine doesn’t actually work for as long as the old one.Now we’re feeling the painful effects. During the 2010 whooping-cough outbreak in California, the largest number of cases, age-wise, were infants under the age of 1. But a notable spike was also seen in kids aged 7 to 10, most of whom had received all of the recommended shots—at 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, 2 to 3 years, and 4 to 6 years of age. These kids were supposed to be safe. What’s more, their risk seemed to increase with age, with the 10-year-olds most likely to get sick. When the CDC picked up that pattern, it “leapt out at us,” Clark says. These were kids who hadn’t received any doses of the old, whole-cell vaccine, which had been phased out completely by 2000. So the uptick strongly suggested that the acellular vaccine’s effects were wearing off year-by-year as the kids got older—long before anyone had anticipated.
Pertussis, simply put, kills babies. It makes older kids dangerously ill (and sometimes kills them, too). We need herd immunity to keep those babies from getting it. This is why doctors are now recommending that adults also get boosters (even the older vaccine does wear off over time).  

Thursday, September 6, 2012

And then there were 35? Maybe?

Texas wants in on the NCLB waivers, but, being Texas:

Texas is not applying for the formal waiver that the department has spelled out, but as is the Texas way, wants to create its own waiver proposal. "This allows us to define the waiver request without agreeing to the strings that were attached to the NCLB waiver," Texas Education Agency spokeswoman Debbie Ratcliffe told me. (This is the route California wants to take, too.)
Good luck, guys, but Secretary Duncan means his flexibility, not yours.

More outdoor progress

I owe you a general round up on this, but for this evening, look what's new on Burncoat Street.
The front of Wawecus is enclosed now, so the kids can play on the grass. How great is that?

You should go vote

...particularly if you've got kids to bring along with you.
If you're in the fifteenth Worcester district and you pick up a Democratic ballot, there's a decent chance that you're deciding on your next state rep. Don't miss that. State reps are the closest to us when it come to Beacon Hill, so use your ballot on that one!
If you're in most of Worcester, you won't have a contested race on your ballot, or you'll have a single one, that of Congressman McGovern, who is being challenged by William Feegbeh on the Democratic ballot. To the Congressman's credit, he hasn't taken anything for granted (his Facebook page today reads like a western Mass travelogue), and he's running a real race. There's a great bit here that really ANYone can run for office and that even sitting Congressmen can be challenged in their primary races.
If you take a Republican ballot, and see all those uncontested races, or take a Green ballot, on which there are no names, or even if you go down the rest of the Democratic ballot, and see the rest of the uncontested races, there's a pretty clear message. There's a good chance that we're going to hear a lot today and tomorrow about low voter turnout.
How about low candidate turnout?

Go participate in democracy today; it doesn't run without us!


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

What "choices" really look like

There was much talk of "choices" in education during last week's Republican National Convention. For a real look on how that works out on the ground, take a look at this report from Harlem, which has been in huge upheaval in the Bloomberg administration's push to open new charters.

And about Orchard Gardens...

If you were watching the DNC last night, you might have caught Governor Deval Patrick's tale of Orchard Gardens Elementary School in Roxbury:

What’s at stake is real. The Orchard Gardens Elementary School in Boston was in trouble. Its record was poor, its spirit was broken, and its reputation was a wreck. No matter how bad things were in other urban schools in the city, people would say, “At least we’re not Orchard Gardens.” Today, thanks to a host of new tools, many enacted with the help of the Obama administration, Orchard Gardens is turning itself around. Teaching standards and accountabilities are higher. The school day is longer and filled with experiential learning, art, exercise and music.The head of pediatric psychology from a local hospital comes to consult with faculty and parents on the toughest personal situations in students’ home lives. Attendance is up, thanks to a mentoring initiative. In less than a year, Orchard Gardens went from one of the worst schools in the district to one of the best in the state.
You can check Patrick's numbers here; assuming we're talking MCAS scores,as Commonwealth Magazine points out, no, not one of the best schools in the state, and not in a year. Moreover, as Free Speech Radio reports, this is another round of "fire most of the teachers and SHAZZAM!" miracle makeover story that, while a compelling narrative, is far from the truth.

Be careful what you ask for

With 33 states and the District of Columbia now all approved for NCLB waivers, the federal Department of Education has the unenviable task of keeping track of what I heard someone today refer to as "34 different versions of NCLB."

For its part, the Education Department is gearing up to manage a new portfolio of states that have adopted vastly different grading systems, diverse ways of tracking the achievement of small groups of students deemed academically at risk, and new ways of evaluating teachers. Gone, for the most part, is a one-size-fits-all accountability law.At the federal level, "there are big management challenges to doing this right," said Cynthia G. Brown, the vice president for education policy at the Center for American Progress, a Washington think tank. "If we're going to learn the lessons of this new state flexibility, the federal government is going to have to monitor it carefully and do deep analysis. My concern, very frankly, is they don't have enough resources devoted to it."Education Department officials say they recognize the challenge but are prepared.
The article further notes that they are doing this at the same time that they are also tracking states' implementation of what they promised in their Race to the Top applications, all of which have phased-in pieces. The fed did threaten to take back Hawaii's grant last year when they felt the state was not making sufficient progress in their promised changes; Hawaii is now considered "high risk." It remains to be seen if they can juggle both of those monitoring activities, to which they've now added nearly 900 districts competing in a district round of Race to the Top.

Online school lunch payments: you asked, we answered

I've gotten this question several times over the past week, so I went off and asked.

A reminder that you can now pay for Worcester Public Schools' lunches online at the WPS Parent Portal.  If you claimed your child last spring, you already have a user name and password set up. You can just sign back in and transfer more funds.
If you have not claimed your child and do not have the number sent home last spring, you can get that number from your school secretary. All school secretaries have received information on how to retrieve this information from school nutrition. If (and only if, please) they are unable to do so, please then call school nutrition. They'll not only be able to get that information for you; they then will also be able to help out the secretaries that need it!

And, as always, if you have such questions, let me know!

Meanwhile back in Chicago

On the day that Mayor Rahm Emanuel was one of the primetime speakers at the Democratic National Convention, this was the front page of the Chicago Sun Times:

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

First day of kindergarten!

Please be a bit extra patient around our schools and bus stops today. It's the first day of kindergarten, and we have a couple thousand nervous parents out there, hoping all goes well.
Welcome to our new students!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Samuel Gompers on public education

Today in honor of Labor Day, here's Samuel Gompers on public education:
In order to be consistent with democratic ideals, public schools must meet the needs of all. They must fit not only for the administraive, directive positions in life and for the professions, but they also must meet the needs of those who by their creative labor powers and the coordination of their minds and muscles give existence to the ideas and purposes that are in the minds of those who control industry and commerce.
And in a bit that looks like prophecy:
 Your organization has officially gone on record as opposed to all such efforts to dominate the public schools of this country, whether exercised by so-called philanthropic organizations, foundations, or any other agency. The organized labor movement is with you in that purpose. Our experiences with the exploiting forces in the industrial and commerical field make us keen to detect them when exercised in other relationsh of life. We have opposed from the beginning efforts of these "foundations to secure legislation granting htem the right to incorporate under federal laws and thus dominate our whole educational system. We have called attention to efforts of these foundations to lay corrupting hands up on the foundationheads of information, knowledge, and education. We have disclosed where they have laid violent hands upon government institutions and have attempted to form an insidious alliance nimnally with government agencies but in reality to exploit the work done.
Nothing new under the sun. Happy Labor Day!
h/t AMPS