Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mayor Petty assigns committee assignments for 2014-2016

Mayor Petty announced this term's subcommittee assignments for the Worcester School Committee.
And there are changes!

Accountability and Student Achievement
Dianna Biancheria, chair
John Monfredo, vice chair
Brian O'Connell

Finance and Operations
Jack Foley, chair
Hilda Ramirez, vice chair
Tracy O'Connell Novick

Governance and Employee Issues
John Monfredo, chair
Tracy O'Connell Novick, vice chair
Jack Foley

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports
Brian O'Connell, chair
Dianna Biancheria, vice chair
Hilda Ramirez


And just a reminder here that the Worcester School Committee votes in their own vice chair (it is not, as the Council's is, set by municipal charter) during the inauguration. Our vice chairs serve a single year term; it will rotate next January.
We'll also pull seating assignments (pull, yes: it's random!) and vote in our rules on Thursday.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Decking the halls

Or, in this case, the Durkin Administration Building...

With thanks to Jim Bedard and the Facilities crew for making us festive!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

opting out of PARCC

Colorio according to our policy handbook, parents do not have to have their children participate in the PARCC test
"not sure that parents understand their rights"
process for parents who cannot keep their child at home that day
Boone: one clarification: did request a waiver for certain schools
Mayor: can parents opt out?
"not a general rule of thumb"
Motion from Novick that language in the policy handbook be included in the communciation to parents from us on PARCC
Passes

H450: health curriculum bill

Colorio: health curriculum customizing at local level
You can find the text here
concern over losing local and parental control

Foley: 
don't read the same concern here
"shall provide medically accurate, age-appropriate education"
"I think we owe it to our students and to our children"

Novick: amend to refer just the bill (without comment)
passes
O'Connell notes that we should let Ms. Colorio know when the item comes before the committee

reviewing academic eligilbility standards

O'Connell: expected to be able to play sports; were eligible under previous requirements, not eligible now
administration recommending a one time waiver for this season
what happened is we changed the GPA calculation
 Petty: what about spring sports?
Boone: rules didn't change; it has to do with college standards around grades
conversion of GPA to the 4.0
MIAA requires take 4 core classes and pass 4 core classes
Rodrigues: would agree that we could extend it to spring sports?
would give more time for administration to work through the issue
Novick: concern about not having a GPA requirement for the next two seasons
some back and forth here about calculations
waiver passes 6-1

items under warranties

Biancheria: expressing concerns about the elevator and the TV in the principal's office that's supposed to be hooked into the security at North High School

Boone:  different way of doing buildings before MSBA; North was built under the transition
concerns about systems at North
challenges of the design pieces
Allen: oversimplification to suggest that facilities is not on top of this
"I think that you get what you pay for...the facilities budget has been lessened over time"
"don't have the luxury of putting money into simple care and maintenance"
Mayor requests a report on the issues of North High since it's open
Boone: reminder that WPS did not have direct oversight of construction during the process of building North High; "we have not ignored the challenges in that new building"
O'Connell: key issues as we deal with Nelson Place School
"inter-relationship between the state, the city, and ourselves"
"there is a real issue...occur because of the lack of oversight from those of the school system"
"state is building in some key oversight"
suggests a commissioning agent in place during construction (who is paid for by us)
Novick: no one is more frustrated than Facilities staff
MSBA also considers North a legacy project and, we hope, has learned from it

change in rules: Open Meeting Law

We've adopted a change in rules on a two-thirds vote (O'Connell and Monfredo against) that all items will be submitted to the clerk, who will circulate those items to members. Members may contact the clerk if they wish to co-sponsor any items. Those co-sponsorships will be announced by the Mayor at the meeting.

Additional funds

the item is being held as Administration needs to do further analysis on where to put that best; we'll have a report on that recommendation at our next meeting
Boone notes that we've had some significant increase in needs of autism

Biancheria: asks for $25,000 for safety
and for an additional assistant principal at North
comments that we need to take another look at North High; concerned with time frame on hiring new staff

Boone: have taken care of what is needed due to what is in classrooms
clarifying we'll get the report and when we'll vote it
note here that technically we have a meeting at the inauguration, as we adopt our rules and we vote in a vice chair

Superintendent's evaluation: self-evaluation

regarding the 2012-13 goals
Timeline change:
  • all individual evaluations from School Committee members due to the clerk on January 13, including Ms. Colorio's (as the superintendent is evaluated by the group that has worked during that year)
  • School Committee's evaluation on January 23 (note change of date: there will be no January 16 meeting)
 working on electronic version of form and of evidence
(we have a print-out tonight; it's not up online yet. I will link once it is.)

Short version: Superintendent Boone has rated herself proficient in Instructional Leadership, Family and Community, and Professional Culture; exemplary in Management and Operations.
Of the five goals: she has marked "significant progress" on strengthening communication and safe and secure schools; she has marked "some progress" on percent of students proficient in reading, ELA, and math; increase student achievement through instructional strategies; and focus on percent of students completing high school coursework for college and career readiness.

Honoring Donna Colorio

Giving her the traditional WPS chair which she's sitting in center stage
Biancheria says that she's brought a whole new meaning to the word "park"
"not only the Common Core, but to find the common ground"
 "not the months that are spent, but the time that you took to look at the items with concern"
when she moves to go back to her regular seat, the Mayor tells her she's stuck there
O'Connell: :"what I certainly look for in a new committee member is somebody who will do their homework"
"it's a bonus when a member is truly independent"
"very thorough and very well-informed"
"she leaves us at this time on an upward trajectory"
"that she might perhaps look at this as a two year hiatus"
I spoke here about the importance of all of us being able to work together and of the advocacy being brought where more decisions are made in Malden and in Boston
Monfredo: "try not to be redundant...only thing that's missing is that cup of coffee"
Foley: "we know you need a rocker, so we'll give you this chair as well..."
running for office is not easy, "thank you for running, for serving..."
Mayor comments that if she does win again, she doesn't get another chair

Colorio: thanks everyone
"it was very enjoyable, enlightening"
"it is an honor" to serve as an elected official
putting us all on an email list "so you can't miss me too much"

Contracts, contracts

With the EAW--the teachers!, with tradesmen, and with plumbers and steamfitters, plus our non-represented employees.
All through (and pass reconsideration) tonight.
I saw Jackie Reis taking notes, so I'll leave it to her to get the details out.

Nice work, Pittsburgh!

Congratulations to the city of Pittsburgh, as last night their School Committee (which includes some newly elected members) rescinded their contract with Teach for America and voted to stop the process of closing an elementary school.The decisions to have the contract with TFA and to close the school were among the last ones made by the outgoing board.
Full story over at Yinzercation.

The amazing Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Can I recommend that you read Mr. Southwick's column today on Worcester's Thomas Wentworth Higginson? He's most famous, probably, as the publisher who encouraged Emily Dickinson in her poetry, but he was so very much more.
As a Worcester School Committee member, I have a special fondness for this:
As a member of the Worcester School Committee he was the sole supporter of Catholic parents complaining about having their children read to from the King James Bible. For that he was dropped from the committee.
 (it was the 1800's. Worcester also fired a superintendent for seeming too fond of the Catholics.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nelson Place Building Committee

update on the building committee
Petty has selected January 6 at 7 pm at the school for the first meeting of the building committee
architects selected are Lamoreau and Pagano

request for consultancy on transportation

has been bid, vendor selected
project just starting
90 day window
report will come back to joint committee

Facilities to date

report on most recent spending
O'Brien: good point to jump off for building study
update from Allen on accelerated repair projects
Worcester East Middle still under review by MSBA
 "MSBA is not considering the high schools as part of the 2013 Statements of Interest"
currently working on specifications of the master plan
will be completed in next 30 to 60 days
Foley: funding master plan?
Zidelis: funding will be available if the City Manager says it will be available
O'Brien recalls that it was in the capital budget, but how much
Zidelis: "if the City Council and the City Manager says it will be funded, there will be funding"
Foley: key to open the door to funding from the state
Allen: non-MSBA projects: about $1 million that will not be MSBA projects
"as a part of our $3 million" for capital funding
"these are things that can no longer be put off"
this will affect the amount that we can apply for for MSBA (as we have to have the 20% match)
O'Brien: what is the general strategy policy on playground repair?
Allen: PTO's responsibility for repair and replacement
safety audit on all playgrounds done recently, referred to F&O
surface replacement the most common
 ESCo: solar panels on Forest Grove and Norrback; ground at the rear of Worcester Arts Magnet; carport arrays at Burncoat High, Sullivan Middle, and South High
once fully operational, will provide nearly one-third of electricity for those buildings in aggregate; 8% reduction in net electricity costs for WPS
Foley: asks for it to be incorporated into curriculum




Joint subcommittee : Net School Spending

And check out this fun facilities backup that we have on this agenda
The agenda is here
Allen: update on Net School Spending 
met Net School Spending earlier this school year
Board of Ed has clarified (as of June) that municipal side employees: can count salaries, but not benefits towards school spending
places Net School Spending under $1.9 million for FY13; due to carryover now $2.3 million under Net School Spending
"clarification of the agreement"
have a change the way that we calculate municipal expenses, which will require change in our agreement; "a new agreement will be needed prior to the submittal of next year's financial report"
Zidelis: find it illogical, but the change has been voted by the Board of Education
on one side they count towards education, on the other they do not
"will be governed by that rule prospectively"
"have been discussing the need to amend the agreement" which dates back to 2007
O'Brien: good work on moving forward
Zidelis: focusing not just on Net School Spending, but the total cost; "the global picture of the cost of education is our new mantra"
Foley asks for the charter school reallocation
Allen: charter school formula is a per pupil formula; recalculation of per pupil allocation quarterly
tuition assessment went down about $2 M; lost about $800,000 in charter school reimbursement
that just under $1.3 million was moved last night in Council
targeted areas already sent aside
"going forward those students will be counted in our foundation budget as of FY15"

Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night

The Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night at 7 pm for our last regular meeting of this year.
You can find the agenda here.
It is Ms. Colorio's last meeting with us, so we'll be recognizing that. We also have both Sheila Harrity and South High coming in for recognitions.
We also have the (as yet unreleased) self-evaluation of the superintendent. We were originally scheduled to do the superintendent's evaluation at this meeting; the self-evaluation not having yet appeared makes this not possible.
We have another round in the question of legal opinions on PARCC, this time on the question of if refusal would impact funding (a moot point, as the committee voted to participate in the pilot).
A member of the public is petitioning for the installation of security cameras at Woodland Academy.
We have a report coming back from Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports.
We're accepting some retirements and approving some appointments.
City Solicitor David Moore is weighing in on co-sponsorship.
We're getting a request for a report on items not covered by warranties.
It's being suggested that we thank outgoing City Manager O'Brien for his years of service to the City.
We're approving a prior year payment (for special education) of $1305.65. 
There's an item coming in on alternative placements, one on the (now vacant) St. Paul's school building, one of recognizing Doherty's Division 4 champion football team, one to recognize Coach Mulcahy on his selection of Patriot Coach of the Year, one to figure out how much PARCC is going to cost us, one on House Bill 450, one that we review our evening introductory programs, and to inform parents of their right to opt their children out of PARCC pilot testing.
We've got a request that we waive the academic requirements for competitive sports for one season.
We also need to decrease our reimbursement per mile (per the IRS) from $0.565 to $0.56 per mile.
We're being asked to accept a $5000 grant for Jacob Hiatt.
And we've got a budget adjustment to review and consider!
Plus, an executive session which includes:

To conduct the disciplinary hearing of a student and to do so in Executive Session to protect the statutory privacy rights of the students under Chapter 30, Section 21, paragraph 7 and Chapter 214, Section 1B of the Massachusetts General Laws.
 
To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining for the following groups if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating position of the public body and the chair so declares:
 
Teachers
Tradesmen
Plumbers and Steamfitters
 
To conduct contract negotiations with non-union personnel
 
            Non-represented Employees





FY14 transfer to WPS

Among the myriad of things the Worcester City Council did last night is make a few adjustments to the FY14 budget ahead of setting the tax rate. In the case of the schools, the closure of Spirit of Knowledge meant that an adjustment had to be made in the education allocation, particularly if the city wished to stay above Net School Spending. Thus $1.2 million was moved to the WPS line. 
I would suspect that we may be getting a memo ahead of tomorrow night's meeting with the administration's proposed allocations (which we got a preview of in Mr. Allen's last memo), as we have needs to take care of. I'll post if and when we do!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We're on for Wednesday

Worcester Public Schools expect to run on a normal schedule for Wednesday, December 18.

Update from Superintendent Boone

...reporting that all WPS buses had completed their routes and were off the road by 3:30. There were no accidents. The last children were picked up from late pick-up by 4 pm. 

Call to be made on tomorrow later this evening. 

And a word of thanks here to our bus drivers. Thanks for getting them all home safely--again--today. 

TLSS subcommittee cancelled

This afternoon's Teaching, Learning, and Student Support subcommittee meeting, scheduled for 4:30, has been cancelled. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

TWO HOUR EARLY RELEASE on Tuesday, December 17

Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 17, the Worcester Public Schools will have a TWO HOUR EARLY RELEASE.

There will be no morning or afternoon preschool. 

There will be no afternoon or evening programs. 

More information coming soon on worcesterschools.org 

UPDATE:

A two-hour early release means all school ending times will be exactly two hours earlier than normal.
 
Tier 1 schools will release at 11:43am
Tier 2 schools will release at 11:50am
Tier 3 schools will release at 12:00 pm
Tier 4 schools will release at 12:20pm
Tier 5 schools will release at 12:50pm
Tier 6 schools will release at 12:30pm
Tier 7 schools will release at 1:10pm
Tier 8 schools will release at 1:10pm
 
Special Time Schools:
Burncoat Prep will release at 1:25pm
Union Hill will release at 1:25pm
Chandler Elementary will release at 1:25pm
Jacob Hiatt will release at 1:35pm
Woodland Academy will release at 12:13pm
Claremont Academy will release at 12:20pm
City View will release at 2:10pm
McGrath Elementary will release at 2:10pm
ACT Program will release at 12:35pm

And yes, lunch will be made available. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Farm to School Interns and Volunteers needed!

You've heard me speak before about the very cool Farm to School Kindergarten Initiative, which gets our some of our littlest kids out to farms that grow food that they eat.
They are looking for volunteers and interns:
The Massachusetts Farm to School Project's Worcester Kindergarten Initiative is looking for interns and volunteers! The KI is a nutritional and agricultural education program for very young public school students here in Worcester. This semester, we are hoping to bring on a team of three interns and a group of five dedicated volunteers to help us with our work. If you are interested or would like more information, please email your resume and questions to Isabel at isabel@massfarmtoschool.org or Lauren at lauren@massfarmtoschool.org.
It's a great intersection of agriculture, early childhood ed, nutrition, urban/farm linkage...good stuff!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What MCAS scores don't tell us

...and what teaching to it doesn't do...
It's worth giving this report from WBUR today about a new MIT study about MCAS scores and "fluid reasoning."
If you’re a kid who’s lucky enough to go to a school that boosts your performance on standardized tests like the MCAS, you’re scoring higher because you know more, but probably not because you’ve gotten smarter. And by smarter, I mean better at certain measurable cognitive skills that psychologists call “fluid intelligence” or “fluid reasoning” — like working memory and problem-solving in a novel situation.
You can find the MIT summary of the report here

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Upcoming meetings

  • There will be a meeting of Teaching, Learning, and Student Support this Tuesday, December 17, at 5:30 at the Durkin Administration Building.
  • There will be a joint meeting of the City Council's subcommittee on Education and the School Committee's Finance and Operations committee on Wednesday, December 18, at 4:30 at the Durkin Administration Building.
  • We'll also have our regular School Committee meeting next Thursday at 7 pm at City Hall.

FYI on Worcester transportation

With the attention today on Atlantic's bankruptcy, I'll call to your attention this paragraph from Mr. Allen's memo of Friday:
We use Atlantic Express for a limited number of out-of-district special education and McKinney-Vento van transportation services.   We were notified this week that Atlantic Express will cease operations on or about December 31st
This will require us to find alternative out-of-district transportation for up to five routes to begin after the vacation period.  We do not anticipate that this will be an issue for us, but wanted to share this information that you may see on the news and know the impact for the WPS.  

Sorry for the weird spacing earlier; posted by phone

Monday, December 9, 2013

Night at the Oscars


If you haven't had a chance to see it, below is the entire "Night at the Oscars" by the arts magnet program.

Congratulations, Coach Mulcahy!

We've just received the following from Administration, coming from Andre Tippett, the Executive Director for Community Affairs for the New England Patriots:

 Our committee has finalized our voting process and we would like to visit Doherty High School to honor coach Sean Mulcahy as the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Year winner for 2013...
The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation will donate $2,000 to Doherty High School football program in coach Sean Mulcahy name in recognition of his Coach of the Year selection. The visit and presentation will be featured on the Patriots weekly television magazine show, Patriots All Access, which airs at 7 p.m. on Friday’s, on WBZ-TV in Boston and will be available immediately after onPatriots.com.

The award will be presented at Doherty tomorrow. 

Clothing needed for Andy's Attic

Have you found some pairs of mittens that don't fit this year? Some outgrown boots that have lots of life left in them? Andy's Attic over at South High could use them.

Andy's Attic is in particular need of winter coats, winter boots, sneakers, hats, mittens, gloves, belts, backpacks, men's sweatpants, pajama bottoms, new socks, new underwear, baby clothing and fleece jackets. Donations can be dropped off at the high school, 170 Apricot St., or on Sundays at Worcester Community Church of Christ, which meets at Temple Emanuel Sinai at 280 May St. Student Aaron Maday, a junior, is a member there and can help bring them to school.

For more information on how to donate to Andy's Attic, call South High at (508) 799-3325 or contact Ms. Foley at Christine@foleymail.com. The group accepts money in addition to clothes.
I'm told that they are particularly in need of children's clothes of all sizes.
And thanks for your generosity!
 ____________________________________________________
Also, speaking of needs, please do take the time to read the first chapter of this New York Times series looking at one child's experience with homelessness. 

Two hour delay

On Monday, December 9, Worcester Public Schools will open on a two hour delay, with no morning preschool. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Friday, December 6, 2013

Where the money is coming from (and a few more updates)

If you read carefully this morning or were listening last night, you got this, but for those who were wondering how the projected budget gap will be covered, Mr. Allen has the answer in today's Friday Letter:
It is expected that the City Manager will recommend to the City Council that an additional $1,258,321 be appropriated to the Worcester Public Schools to reflect the tuition assessment change.
The Administration will provide a full report and the recommended use of these funds for the December 19th School Committee meeting. These recommendations will primarily focus on (a) identifying resources necessary to reflect increased enrollment at schools resulting from the SOKCS closure, (b) address the FY14 budget shortfall identified in the First Quarter Budget Report, and (c) make strategic investments to best position our resources in anticipation of the FY15 budget.
Look for this on the Council agenda when that comes out later this afternoon. 

In other news, there have been heating issues across the city; this year, whether you're too hot or too cold appears to be almost random. Here's the latest from Mr. Allen on that:
The Facilities Department has been working to address a number of heating issues at schools this year, whether too hot or too cold, with many of the issues likely related to the implementation of ESCo projects with the City and Honeywell. The WPS is fully aware of each of the issues in the school and the Facilities Department is working daily with the City and Honeywell to rectify these situations.
And if this is affecting you, believe me: your frustration is heard. And shared!
And speaking of Facilities, the latest on the repair projects:
New Citizens Center: The boiler replacement portion of the project is complete. The window replacement portion of the project is essentially complete with punch list items remaining.
Lake View: The window replacement project is nearly complete with some trim work and door replacement work remaining
May Street: The window replacement project is fully underway at the school and is progressing towards completion in the next 45-60 days.
Chandler Magnet: The window replacement project will begin (as scheduled) in the Spring 2014 and continue through the summer vacation period.
Nelson Place: The building architect has been selected and the feasibility study process will commence with building committee meetings/input as well as the input from other building stakeholders.
Worcester East Middle Science Lab: The project continues with expected completion in the next 45-60 days.
Heard Street Roof: The project continues with expected completion in the next 45-60 days.
And new computers are on their way!


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't panic at the headline

The T&G coverage leads with our projected budget shortfall.

Don't panic. There's a reason why we do quarterly budget transfers--we move money around--plus the charter adjustment will help. The report we received in subcommittee is here. Report on all of our accounts (as of mid-November) is here.

UPDATE: And if you're wondering why legal costs are up: it's a negotiation year (and we have outside counsel for that) and we were facing a fairly large lawsuit that took a lot of time.


Increase in students: increase of budget?

Biancheria: students back from Spirit of Knowledge, need for supplies for students that have enrolled
Boone: enrolled in seven different schools
all across the city (except Worcester Tech, as there's no midyear enrollment there)
nominal to moderately significant
Allen: generally instruction supply dollars are based on enrollment a year ago
changes our charter school tuition and reimbursement; happens quarterly
would happen later this month
City Council sets tax rate next Tuesday; finalizing with city what the change and increase funding to Worcester Public Schools would be since Spirit of Knowledge
in a Friday letter tomorrow, ahead of the City Council agenda coming out tomorrow
allocation recommendation on December 19 meeting "really in three areas":
  • placement of Spirit of Knowledge students
  • budget deficits
  • resources for FY15

Cursive

Mr. O'Connell is asking that we let DESE know that we support any efforts the Board makes towards retaining cursive.
Novick: are we under the impression that we teach cursive now? class by class effort
Rodrigues: teacher run, should be starting in middle of second grade
Novick: suggest that we ask for how we teach cursive now; added to item

Model UN

now at Sullivan and South
O'Connell looking to expand it into other schools
teacher from Goddard Scholars explains the program
presently the only programs in Worcester: would like to make a presentation
"never had a student not come back and stay that it was not a positive experience"

PARCC unfunded mandate

Colorio: costs seen in standing committee
motion for reimbursement unless the money is funded
Novick: to request that the state auditor look into the unfunded mandate
Both motions pass
O'Connell asks that we ask DESE to deal with the issues raised on accomodations

PARCC testing: delay until there is adaptation

O'Connell's motion
Colorio: on the agenda right before the Board of Ed vote on pilot testing PARCC
"very scary this whole thing"
more days taken away from teaching and learning
budget this year has already been developed, submitted and approved
unfunded mandated
"attempts to accommodate" were insufficient
"our children will become products of a D.C. thinktank"
quoting from a letter we received today

Finance and Operations report

Foley reporting out:
Three areas of note in shortfalls:
  • personal services: higher than usual legal costs
  • tuition account: third party services and tuition
  • workers' compensation: continue to underfund it at budget time
F&O will have a report coming out on workers' comp in our next meeting, so we can better and more accurately budget for FY15
O'Connell notes that this year's budget had no changes made in the budget from administration's proposed budget, that FY13 had only one minor change
asks about special education and tuition
Allen: "the budget is a living, breathing document which changes every day"
number of special education students has changed since budget was passed
looking to fund workers' comp at an "appropriate" level for FY15
O'Connell: why is special ed going up?
Rodrigues: moving population, increasing need, increasing specificity
O'Connell: do we need workers' comp insurance (so they can look at what we do to see if we can bring down workers' comp)?
Allen: "work closely with the city" on workers' comp; have done analysis and work place training
O'Connell suggest revisiting the question in February and March

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bet you didn't see this in the PISA coverage yesterday

Massachusetts, were it an independent country, would score third in the world on PISA.

Remarkably, the Commissioner did not mention this in an coverage that I have seen on this. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"picture of educational stagnation"

Oh, Arne...
If you're anywhere in the education universe today, there's a good chance you may hear some mention of the PISA results. These are the Program of International Assessment results from last year's test, released last night. PISA was taken by 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science in 65 countries, including the US; three US states received their own results: Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida.
If you look at the above summary (that's Valerie Strauss, reprinting the basic rundown from PISA) you can sum up the local angle this way:

the US is doing about the same as it has been, and Massachusetts is continuing to rock the curve.
Enter the spin machines.

I'd say that Motoko Rich, from the New York Times, probably summed it up the best:
In the midst of increasingly polarized discussions about public education, the scores set off a familiar round of hand-wringing, blaming and credit-taking.
If you follow education at all, you can probably take it from there, which gives us the quote in the title from our U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I think it's fair here to point out that he became Secretary of Education in 2009, which is when the test was last taken, so if we're looking for top-down accountability, we can start there. We've got hand-wringing from business groups about global competition (at least this time I'm not seeing any read "Shanghai" as "all of China," so at least we've gotten that far).  We've got teachers groups pointing out that we've still done basically nothing on child poverty. And we'll have some complaints about the lack of standardized testing to measure what really matters.
I'm not giving links to all of the above; you can find it all in that NY Times article.
 
The Massachusetts results, of course, leave our educational leaders in a bit of a bind. They've been busily assuring us that everything's not been great, and so we must abandon the Mass state standards and the MCAS for the Common Core and the PARCC. You'd think that might put them in a tough spot going forward.
But bless our Commissioner; he never lets me down.
Here he is in the Globe this morning:
“We have a lot to be proud of in Massachusetts,” said Mitchell Chester, state commissioner for elementary and secondary education. “We have another marker showing our students perform better than most others in the world. But we still have room for improvement, particularly in math and science.”
...cue the comparison with Shanghai.
I'll leave it to others more knowledgeable about I than Shanghai to fill you in. Yong Zhao points out that the East Asian countries that have had rising PISA scores in recent years aren't satisfied with their educational systems' focus on testing. And Tom Loveless gives us this on Shanghai:
Shanghai’s population of 23-24 million people makes it about 1.7 percent of China’s estimated 1.35 billion people.  Shanghai is a Province-level municipality and has historically attracted the nation’s elites.  About 84 percent of Shanghai high school graduates go to college, compared to 24 percent nationally. Shanghai’s per capita GDP is more than twice that of China as a whole.  And Shanghai’s parents invest heavily in their children’s education outside of school.  According to deputy principal and director of the International Division at Peking University High School, Jiang Xuegin:
 Shanghai parents will annually spend on average of 6,000 yuan on English and math tutors and 9,600 yuan on weekend activities, such as tennis and piano. During the high school years, annual tutoring costs shoot up to 30,000 yuan and the cost of activities doubles to 19,200 yuan.
The typical Chinese worker cannot afford such vast sums.  Consider this: at the high school level, the total expenses for tutoring and weekend activities in Shanghai exceed what the average Chinese worker makes in a year (about 42,000 yuan or $6,861).
Anyone want to place a bet on Commissioner Chester advocating that we increase our educational spending in Massachusetts accordingly?
In addition, I have a real issue with this gamesmanship. The U.S. has not "dropped;" it's doing about the same. We've dropped in the rankings because other countries are improving their educational systems.
Isn't that good?
Do we really want to live in a world where we're doing better than everyone else because they're failing to education their children? More and more countries are spending more on education, educating more of their children,  educating their children for more of their lives.
This is a good thing!
I really, sincerely, do not care if we beat Shanghai. Or Finland or Poland or South Korea.
I do care that all children in rural China and Somalia and Afghanistan get a good education, regardless of how much education their parents have, where they live, if they're girls, or if they're wealthy.
 
That's the sort of world I want to live in, even if it means we fall in the PISA rankings.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday!

two more meetings this year!
The Worcester School Committee has its regularly scheduled meeting at 7 pm on Thursday at City Hall. You can find...hmmm, no, you can't. Let me get back to you on that. UPDATE: agenda is here. 
You might remember that we had a super-short meeting last time, and many items were held, as both Mr. Foley and Mr. O'Connell were not there. Those have all carried over to this meeting.
We have several recognitions, including the Quinsigamond Land Task Force for cafeteria tables, Worcester Tech for the PRIME Manufacturing award, Team BEMANY for the solar decathlon, the Alden Foundation for their funding of field trips, and Mr. Allen for the Professional Eagle award.
We're getting the Finance and Operations report back from November 12.
We have some retirements and appointments.
We have more than one PARCC item: one on delaying implementation until student accommodations are done, and another recognizing it as an unfunded mandate. To that end, incidentally, you might take a look at this letter that Commissioner Chester sent out to superintendents (no, not to School Committees) regarding the state's authority regarding field testing. As this will be coming up on Thursday, no comment from me on this.
We're inviting members of the Model United Nations team at South to come make a presentation to us about possible expansion.
We're setting some dates and doing some recognitions, including one for the great work of the teachers and students involved in the "Night at the Oscars" program (which is now up online...I'll post it in a bit!).
Mr. O'Connell is concerned about cursive.
We have an item coming in regarding bumping teaching assistant principals to full assistant principals.
Miss Biancheria is asking for an update on the finances around our recent enrollment increases.
She is also asking for an update on 504 plans.
We will also have an executive session (as per usual) at six. 

By the way: you'll see that the agenda has a somewhat irregular profile when it comes to co-sponsorship. About halfway through the time since the last agenda, we started using the system the Attorney General has required in order for us to be in compliance with the Open Meeting Law. Thus the later items are sponsored only by a single member; all co-sponsorship must be done from the floor during the meeting.

It's back...

The WPS Parent Portal is back up! And it looks as though we'll get the online lunch account additions back this week!

PISA scores come out tomorrow

...and Jersey Jazzman is celebrating.

Annual Joe and Shirl Scholarship auction

The annual Joe and Shirl Scholarship auction to fund children's art classes at the Worcester Art Museum is going on now! This is the yearly drive that children's author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka* does in honor of his grandparents, who were those who made sure that he had art to get him through.
There's some things over there that you certainly aren't going to find anywhere else, and it's the perfect combination of Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, so why not go bid?

*Gates Lane alum. Yes, I've mentioned that before.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

New posting of executive sessions

If you are a School Committee or public meeting observer, you will note a new specificity in our posting of our executive sessions. Here is next week's:

This is entirely thanks to Dr. Friel, who went to the Open Meeting Law training here in Worcester last month, asked lots of questions, and brought back the changes needed to keep us in line with the law. 
Good news for public transparency! 

Tickets for state football championship on sale Monday

Starting Monday, tickets for the state football championship will be available through Ticketmaster. Tickets are $14/students (& senior citizens) and $17/adults. 

Doherty plays at 11 am on December 7 at Gillette Stadium. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

State Education Budget hearings announced

Monday, December 2rd, 4:00-6:00pm
Somerset Berkley Regional High School Auditorium
625 County Street
Somerset, MA 02726

Tuesday, December 10th, 5:00 – 7:00pm
Orchard Gardens K-8 School Auditorium
906 Albany Street
Roxbury, MA 02119

Information here. 
If you feel, as I do, that Somerset and Roxbury don't exactly cover the state, you might send along an email...

That wasn't the meeting I thought I was at!

The national press has had about a week to get the word of the decision made by our Board of Ed here in Massachusetts regarding the new PARCC exam. Locally, it was mostly taken as another step in a phased-in approach to the switch.
Nationally...not so much. 
I was going to ignore this national spin when I saw it only from the (conservative) Heritage Foundation blog, figuring it was coming only from one particular place on the political spectrum. But today Valerie Strauss (who covers education for the Washington Post online) has a similar take: that is is a delay, a crack, a lessening of support for the Common Core and for the new exam. It's also being read that way in Florida, which is in the midst of deciding its own testing future.
Now, there's always wheels within wheels, and I think those of feel that Chester's being pressured on keeping the MCAS are right. But if you go back and look at what the Board of Ed thought it was doing--or at least said it was doing--last Tuesday, I don't think anyone there saw this as any sort of backing away from the Common Core or PARCC.
So...interesting.

Teaching, Learning,and Student Supports meets tonight!

sorry for the late notice on this one!
TLSS meets tonight at 5:30. You can find the agenda here.

There will be an update on service learning; an update on the curriculum review; a review of the absentee awareness campaign; a report on the use of science kits; and a report on the alternative placement programs.

I won't be there, so no liveblog, but do remember you can watch on Channel 11.


Sometimes the question is wrong

The first year that I was teaching (in my own classroom, full time), early in the year I gave a test that nearly every kid in the class failed.
Reeling from paper after paper that had most answers wrong, I took the stack of papers to my mentor teacher (who'd been teaching for thirty years) and I asked her what I should do.
"Tracy, did they know the material?" she asked.
"Well, I thought so," I told her. "They had it when we went through it in class."
"Then maybe it's the test."


ah....maybe it's the test.

This came to mind these past weeks over two public tiffs that some of our educational leaders are having with some of the people they are supposed to be serving. 

First, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, speaking to state superintendents, commented:
...he found it "fascinating" that opponents include "white suburban moms who -- all of a sudden -- (discovered that) their child isn't as bright as they thought they were, and their school isn't quite as good as they thought they were."
 You can read more on this here, and Teacher Sabrina has the best response I've read:
Think about that. Rather than listening to what parents want for their children, or considering what the evidence says kids do or don’t need, they’ve decided that they want to pursue a certain course no matter what. And rather than ask themselves whether the backlash they’ve encountered is an indication that they should rethink their position, they have decided to artificially raise the bar for proficiency and hope the score drop changes people’s minds. (That this will require people to doubt the evidence of their own eyes, as well as other tests and indicators they’ve been told to believe in for years, doesn’t seem to trouble them at all.)
...which brings me to the tiff closer to home, where Commissioner Chester commented to the Boston Globe:
  What worries Chester most, however, is that he is starting to hear counterproductive grumbling from school superintendents. They are telling him that requirements to implement new teacher evaluations and incorporate the new Common Core standards are “too much, too soon.”
This brought in this letter from a principal in Acton, as well as this blog post from the superintendent of Hopkinton:
Perhaps, instead, it is time for the Commonwealth to begin to question if the Emperor is wearing any clothes, and if the policies of data-worship and accountability are just another doomed quick fix that will soon be relegated to the scrap heap of history, joining other failed educational policies such as New Math and open classrooms.  While I do welcome many aspects of Massachusetts’ new educator evaluation system including its increased emphasis on accountability, Massachusetts has embraced these notions as the solution to all our ills and has ignored the real issues that contribute to our performance gap –including poverty, hunger, school readiness, and the burdensome weight of hopelessness that these children feel when entering our classrooms.  Holding a teacher from Lawrence individually accountable for their student’s achievement is like holding the little Dutch boy accountable for the flood after the dyke failed.
...which brings me back to my test that first year teaching. As it happens, I was right--my students did know the material, as I had found from class discussion and more informal assessment. When I went back to the test I'd given them, I found that the way I had put the questions had thrown nearly all of them off. 

It wasn't the students: it was the question.*

When we find that the federal Secretary of Education is blaming parents for not knowing their kids and not knowing their neighborhood schools; when the state Commissioner of Education is blaming superintendents for whining about doing their jobs; when, in short, the blame is falling just about anywhere but in the highest reaches of what is supposed to be an accountability system, it's time--past time, I'd say--to start questioning the basis of the system. 
What are we basing our judgments on: what we know of our schools? what we know of our classrooms?
Or of baseless systems of curriculum and assessment pushed for political ends?

Sometimes the question is wrong.


*for those of you wondering: I threw out the test, after talking it over with my students. We cleared up how I'd confused them in the assessment, and they showed me what they really knew and could do in the next one. And I knew better next time.

Congratulations, Doherty Highlanders!

Heading to Gillette Stadium in a few weeks for the state division 4 championships in football!

Ticket information comes out on Wednesday, but the game will be played at 11 am on December 7.

Friday, November 22, 2013

WPS things to do this weekend!

A few things to bring to your attention:
  • the Doherty football team has made the division 4 state playoffs. They play against Wahconah (the Western Mass division champs) at 2 pm tomorrow at Doyle Field in Leominster.
  • Burncoat Middle and High Schools are producing A Christmas Story tonight and tomorrow night at the middle school at 7 pm. Tickets are $5/children and $8/adults. A bit of this was performed at the arts quadrant show last weekend, and it looks like quite an excellent show!
Good luck/break a leg to those involved!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Worcester teacher evaluation data released by school...for what it's worth

[With a bit of editing for clarity]
You can find the Superintendent's press release and the school-by-school data here.You'll note that for schools that had all teachers with the same rating or schools where all but a single teacher had the same rating, the information is redacted.
There's a couple of things that are very weird about this information (beyond the above, which means that entire schools are dropped) and make it less meaningful than it might initially appear.
All teachers are evaluated in four categories: Curriculum, Planning, & Assessment; Teaching All Students; Family and Community Engagement; and Professional Culture. In each of those categories, the teacher has goals, and on those, each teacher is rated exemplary, proficient, needs improvement, or unsatisfactory.*
But--and here's the thing--not every teacher has the same goal. So while Teacher A is working on this particular thing, Teacher B is working on something else, but BOTH under something in Professional Culture (for example). Those are not the same goals. Each teacher has at least two goals, and then has the four categories.
Plus each teacher is actually getting six [correction] marks, not one, and in four categories plus two goals, not one.
Then all of those were put together for each school.
Thus, all of this doesn't really tell you much about the schools or the teachers in the school. It makes for some simplistic "look, lots of teacher are proficient" or "gosh, everyone must have the same mark at that school" level of notice. It doesn't give you much useful information on the teachers in a school, though.
No, for that, you are still going to actually go see the teachers and visit the school.


*(for more on this see here; note that those are state's regs and guidelines. Each district has negotiated this with their own unions, so implementation varies a bit across the state.)



donations, donations

Lots of approvals here tonight:
  • To set a date to recognize, with gratitude and appreciation, the donation of $100,000 by the Alden Trust to the Worcester Educational Development Foundation, to fund field trips for Worcester students to key cultural/educational institutions of Central Massachusetts, and the support of the Durham Bus Company to help to make these trips feasible.
  • To accept a donation in the amount of $500.00 made payable to Lincoln Street School.
  • To accept a donation in the amount of $25,000.00 made payable to Union Hill School from the Lanza Family Foundation for school field trips.
  • To accept a donation in the amount of $5,000.00 presented to Dr. Sheila Harrity from MetLife/NASSP National High School Principal of the Year.
  • To accept a donation in the amount of $13,000.00 from Millbury Savings Bank to the Worcester Public Schools representing the fourth installment toward Millbury Savings Bank’s five-year commitment to Quinsigamond and Vernon Hill schools.

Teaching, Learning, and Student Support

report is here

Accountability

Ms. Biancheria reading the report of Accountability
with items on PARCC and on student privacy

Exit plan for Union Hill; Renewal plan for Chandler Elementary

Boone: Union Hill need to assure continuing progress
Chandler Elementary: review turnaround plan, so close that we need only renew plan

"A Christmas Story" starts tonight!

Burncoat Middle and High present "A Christmas Story" tonight, Friday, and Saturday at 7 pm at the Friel Auditorium in the middle school. Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children. 

I saw a snippet of this last week and it looks great! 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday

This time for sure!
We've got the entirety of the agenda from the meeting that was scheduled for November 7, with a few new items. You can find the agenda here. 
The report of the superintendent this week is on getting Union Hill out of Level 4 status and continuing with Chandler Elementary in Level 4 status. You might recall that the funding for those plans is now gone. We have three annexes on that; you can find the links on the agenda.
We have both Accountability and TLSS subcommittees reporting back.
Staffing changes are still coming through.
Mr. O'Connell is asking for some clarity on the mailing of BMI letters.
As mentioned by the T&G today, we have several donations to accept or honor, including two for field trips!
We have our quarterly report coming back from the Central Mass Regional Collaborative.
We have a prior year payment of $490 to pass.
We have two items from Ms. Colorio regarding the new PARCC test: one regarding adaptations for special education students; the other pointing out (as did the MASC amendment) that this is an unfunded mandate and asking that this be rectified.
And finally, thanks to those who got the students at South High involved in Memphis. 



Spirit of Knowledge

And today the Board of Ed accepted the surrender of Spirit of Knowledge's charter. 

Heads up crew! Bad idea alert!

An idea being floated by Jeff Nelhaus that would tie increases in Ch. 70 to accountability levels, with greater flexibility going to districts that have higher accountability levels.
And the bad ideas just keep coming...

Chester, then Board of Ed on PARCC

In her review of last night, Board Chair commented that "it's no longer multiple choice; it's selective response."
"it's time to upgrade...learning more and more on learning progression and what people expect of learning opportunities"

The importance of outside of school in Lawrence

Excellent point that I am pleased to hear from the state receiver in Lawrence today:

A few notes from the Board of Ed

Largely taken from Commissioner Chester's remarks this morning


  • Chester announces that their deputy commissioner Cliff Chuang is leading a close look at charter schools and how (and to what extent) they serve subgroups (special ed, ELL students), how they handle exclusion (aka: suspensions and expulsions), and enrollment issues. 
  • Chester commenting that "teacher leaders" (I never know quite what that means; I assume he would say 'unions' if he meant 'unions,' though I suppose not all states have them) have approached DoE on MA's system of teacher evaluation. Comment that more left in hands of evaluators rather than dependent on percentage by test score."to work together, to have common goals, to focus on growth and development"..."recognize that it's not an easy lift"   Voting next month on a DELAY on including student piece in evaluation of up to three years
  • DART: following students after graduation. 40% of students in higher ed campuses will be placed in at least one remedial course.
  • remarks from Secretary Malone for the work that the professionals out in the field are doing; "this is hard work"
  • Testimony before the Board of Ed on PARCC

    Good morning. My name is Tracy O’Connell Novick, and I am a member of the Worcester School Committee. I also serve as Vice Chair of the Urban division of the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.
    I come to you this morning, first of all, with some questions:

    Have you sent in your nomination for the Thomas S. Green Public Service Award?

    Nominations are due November 26!

    • Municipal employees in Worcester County
    • Exceptional competence and efficient handling of all assigned responsibilities.
    • Willing performance of tasks above and beyond the call of duty.
    • Friendly, helpful, and cooperative attitude toward the public and fellow employees.
    • Important, but not required, volunteer community service outside the scope of job-related responsibilities.   
    I have it on good authority that they NEVER get enough teachers nominated, so if your child, or you, have had a GREAT Worcester Public School teacher, please nominate them!
    You can find more information, including the forms, here. 

    Monday, November 18, 2013

    Former Secretary Reville speaking at the Worcester Educational Collaborative

    "this room is living testimony to the value of persistence"
    "the miracles that we ask schools to work with children every day"
    "seems to me that...they're the same issues that we talked about thirty years ago...the jobs that we ask schools to do is too big for schools to do...it's about partnerships"

    PARCC before the Board of Ed tomorrow

    Tomorrow the Massachusetts Board of Education votes on what Commissioner Chester is calling a two year "tryout" of the PARCC test. That would be pilot testing in selected schools across Massachusetts this year--with an opting out of MCAS for those pupils at the discretion of the district--followed by half of schools taking PARCC and half of schools taking MCAS next year--with the choice, we are told, made by the district--followed by a vote on which test to use thereafter by the Board of Ed following the return of all scores.
    With me so far?
    This means, as reported in today's paper, that students in Worcester who are scheduled to pilot PARCC will be double-tested, as the administration has decided--with, I will say bluntly, no consultation with anyone outside of administration--to continue the MCAS with those students as well. As I mentioned in the article, parents in Worcester do have the option of availing themselves of the new WPS policy allowing parental opting out of non-state mandated testing. My husband and I certainly plan to.
    For now, though, the major decision rests in Malden tomorrow, where I will be among those testifying regarding the board's decision. It was clear to me last weekend at the joint School Committees and Superintendents conference that concern about this is widely held across the state. We have heard repeatedly, however, that it is not being heard by the Board. Thus, if you have strong feelings on this, I would urge you to contact the Board of Ed today.

    Friday, November 15, 2013

    Student voice: "Haven't we gone too far with data?"

    ...from Tennessee. In case you haven't seen it yet.



    "If everything I've learned in high school is quantifiable, I haven't learned anything."

    Wednesday, November 13, 2013

    presentation on MCAS by Maureen Kavanaugh

    While Ms. Kavanaugh's presentation is not currently up online, she said she'd put it there. Once she does, I will link to it.
    ...who starts with what MCAS is and where it came from (or at least its intent)
    individual student reports include performance on individual items, score overall, and score level

    Notice of Intent to Apply for a Waiver

    The state intents to apply for a waiver on certain federal testing requirements connected to PARCC. You can read the details here.
    And it's open for comment now.

    Music Lesson sign-ups!

    The form is edited and back up!
    Free small-group music lessons for Worcester Public Schools students in grades 4-12 who do not have lessons during the school day!

    Tuesday, November 12, 2013

    Quarterly budget transfers

    Consalvo: 17% expended or committed
    all new FY14 positions either filled or long term sub
    projected balance in custodian account: vacancy of second shift custodial supervisor, as well as others
    clerical overtime: training for new SAGE
    one additional wheelchair bus added
    projected balance in health insurance: actual increase did not reflect city projections
    personal services: special education, and legal counsel (collective bargaining now ongoing)
    being paid for electronical recycling
    no transfers recommended at this time

    Allen: projects an almost $400,000 deficit
    expect adjustments in second quarter
    suggest Spirit of Knowledge closure funds may mitigate
    making sure students are appropriately classified as they enter

    Changes from June: special education services: in district autistic services...fully growth in number of students, was not expected (also some unanticipated out of district placements)
    nurses: showing a deficit: working with their staff to appropriately cover
    workers compensation "something we really need to think about...to align that closer to what expenses are"

    Foley: custodial overtime balances vacancy
    demand for nursing rising
    special education: managing those dollars
    seeing an increase in workers' compensation: ask for an analysis. Requiring physicals pre-employment?

    Novick: did not increase number of nursing substitutes when we increase number of nurses? No.
    support realistic funding level of workers' compensation
    query on utilities: increase of 40% in energy management services: even with rebid of contract
    Allen: recommendation coming back from administration for FY15 on perhaps bringing this back in house

    year end FY13

    Foley comments that we finished the year with $.76 (that's on a budget of $285,570,702)
    Ideal is to spend all of the money allocated for education, as anything left goes to free cash
    "phenomenal achievement...all of the dollars we are receiving, we are allocating fully"
    Allen: flexibility given by School Committee allows this to happen
    motion to file, with our compliments

    Back to school forms

    Walton: schools contacted for what forms they send home
    two groups of forms: some that are specific to schools individually, which are universal
    sorted out: free/reduced lunch, ER contact form, CORI request form
    CORI requires signature and photo ID, so can't be done online
    emergency contact form: most schools send home a card, information data entered, "if you have multiple students, you're filling out multiple cards...not very efficient"
    possibly switch to online for those possible: make it part of Parent Portal
    Parent Portal taken offline over summer; working on fully implimenting student information system
    free/reduced lunch form: USDA did release some recommendations about electronic collection of this information, now allowed to be collected electronically
    12 districts in MA are now doing this (School Lunch app); some concerns about going to an online form
    parents who have computers and internet connections might fill it out online, but that may not get everyone
    concern about costs
    Novick: not arguing that we need to go all electronic
    what about health forms for nurses? emergency forms repeats some of the same information; can we update that as well?
    also could standardize what we're doing with free and reduced lunch forms? (as what schools require from parents is different)

    Finance and Operations meeting: security cameras

    concern forwarded by Mayor Petty about safety around Jacob Hiatt: security cameras behind building?
    Allen: security around Jacob Hiatt, officer placed there due to camera location
    will evaluate need for officer going forward
    incidents at other buildings; additional cameras at other schools
    School Safety Office
    no incidents since officer in place; 9-4 each day
    officer walks teachers to cars, patrols perimeter, walks students to class at the Y
    survey to all principals: basic security features in their buildings to clarify needs of each building
    cameras at door, intercom system working both ways: majority of schools have that system, a few more to go
    expect that by March,all buildings will
    high risk schools to have more cameras (possibly covered in exec)
    work with city and City Council with regard to issues of students walking to and from schools safely
    security guards at North, South, Sullivan, Tech, Doherty, Creamer (night) and Hiatt
    Foley asks for an update in March

    Monday, November 11, 2013

    Please help out Coats for Kids!

    If, like me, tonight's forecast has you digging out boots and mittens, please give a thought to our students who may not be quite so prepared for the winter. Our Coats for Kids effort (run with the Junior League, the Worcester Educational Development Foundation, and WPS Volunteer office) needs your help!
    If you are able, please consider a donation to:
    The Worcester Educational Development Foundation, Inc.
    Attn: Coats for Kids
    210 Park Avenue, Suite 224
    Worcester, MA 01609
    If you have fast-growing kids yourself, or just like shopping for kids, you can get in touch with Paula Harrity at our Volunteer office.  Let her know what you have (so long as it's gently used) or ask for what they need, and she can set you up. Those donations go to the Fanning Building, 24 Chatham Street, Worcester.
    And thank you!

    Meetings this week

    A few meetings of interest this week:
    • There is a meeting of the Finance and Operations subcommittee on Tuesday at noon. You can find the agenda here. In addition to the usual quarterly transfers and finishing up FY13, we've got a bit about completing forms online, security cameras, and OPEB.
    • We have a special meeting of the full committee on Wednesday at 5:30 for training in the new evaluation system. The agenda is here, 'though that's all it says. Note that it (and the meeting above) are at the administration building in the 4th floor conference room.
    • Later that evening, at the usual CPPAC meeting, Maureen Kavanaugh from the our data office is presenting on the MCAS results for the district. Maureen is excellent at what she does and is taking questions, so I'd really recommend coming to this if it is of any interest.That's at the downtown branch of the public library.

    Saturday, November 9, 2013

    If you have any interest on the previous

    ..and are free on Wednesday night, you can see much of the presentation that we did yesterday on PARCC at Lesley University:
    Look Before You Leap: A CPS Forum on Ed Reform's Next Wave
    November 13, 7 pm
    Lesley University, 1815 Mass Ave. Cambridge.
     amphitheater – room 2-150
    The forum is organized by state Sen. Pat Jehlen, with support from the
    Cambridge Education Association, Mayor Henrietta Davis, Like Minded
    Parents, and members of the Cambridge legislative delegation.

    Friday, November 8, 2013

    Some notes on PARCC (MASC 13) with more to come

    I was part of a panel presenting on the new PARCC assessment this afternoon (specifically, where are we at and what can we do).(UPDATE: which had a brief mention in the Cape Cod Times)
    I do not have the PowerPoint that my fellow panel members presented, but I will get it to post.
    Meanwhile, a few points from me: 
    First of all, all is not lost. Do not despair. The presentation by DESE this morning at the conference was different than the presentation that they made to superintendents late last month, which was different than the one that they made to the Board of Ed last month. They are hearing concerns, and things are fluid. 
    That said, we are hearing that the Board of Ed is NOT hearing the concerns as clearly as the Department. We need to reach them, and we need to reach them fast, as they meet on November 19 to vote on the two year timetable that at least does a one year pilot of PARCC followed by one year of PARCC/MCAS, your choice.

    I urged delegates to be sure to attend the Delegates Assembly and vote in favor of the PARCC resolution (which they did; it passed overwhelmingly). That will now go to the Board of Ed as the expressed view of the Mass Association of School Committees.
    I also urged them to pass resolutions through their own committees, as at least Somerville and Northbridge have done, urging either a pause or a halt to the implementation. Sharing those not only with the Board of Education but also their legislative delegation continues to increase the pressure.

    I urged them to get enough information to make their concerns specific: do they have the technology? What kinds of costs are they going to incure? How many kids are due for double testing in the spring? How valid are the results of this or any such testing going to be? Get those reports as needed from administration (with apologies in advance to superintendents!) and GET THEM PUBLIC.
    All School Committee members have constituent groups with whom they are in contact, whether through email or social media or PTO and community meetings. Be sure your community knows the specifics of your district's concerns around PARCC, and get the community involved in contacting the Board of Ed, the Governor, the Legislature.

    As some have done already, take up the issue of this as an unfunded mandate with the state auditor.

    PACK THE NOVEMBER 19 MEETING!

    And finally, whatever happens on the 19, on December 7 at 10 am, DESE is coming out to Worcester Tech to do a presentation to members of School Committees on PARCC. They will have a presentation (possibly a new one) and will be taking questions.
    And don't give up!

    Before you believe any spin on NAEP

    ...you should (I know, I say this all of the time) go read Bruce Baker.
    And Jim Horn points out that the years previous to NCLB always mysteriously disappear from the fed's charts.
    Also, if anyone from Massachusetts would like to explain how we're going to "solve" the falloff in 4th grade reading scores by adopting the Common Core, as our state officials were saying yesterday, I'm all ears.
    As, however, the state had already decided to adopt the Common Core two years ago, and as adoption is already underway in many districts, and as there wasn't previously much of a problem with  4th grade reading...let's say I'm going to be skeptical.

    MASC 13 : Legislative update

    with Senator Pat Jehlen and Representative Alice Peisch, both members of the Joint Committee on Education
    (both of whom are former school committee members)

    Thursday, November 7, 2013

    MASC 13: School Law 101

    on Open Meeting Law, ethics, and public records
    with apologies for the part missed in the middle; I had to take a phone call

    MASC 13: Is it possible to prevent serious school violence?

    Jack Levin, from Northeastern University
    people wanting to feel powerful, because they feel a profound sense of powerlessness

    Should you have heard otherwise

    like, from the Deputy Commissioner of Education for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...
    Money matters in education.
    I did link to this in my notes below, as well, but I'm putting it here so it's easy to find.

    MASC 13: Chapter 70 aid (20 years in)

    Dave Tobin, MASS School Finance
    Luc Schuster, Deputy Director, Mass Budget and Policy
    Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner of Education

    Wednesday, November 6, 2013

    MASC 13: Advocacy Strategies for School Leaders

    Paul Schlictman, MASC Past President
    advocacy committee through MASC
    multi-layered approach: voters, locally, state, nationally

    CPPAC talks MCAS on November 13

























    If you have any interest in the MCAS results for the district, I'd urge you attend. Maureen is great at what she does, and she will be taking questions. 

    Interim principal for City View announced

    This afternoon, we received the following information from Superintendent Boone:
    Effective tomorrow, November 7, 2013, Patricia Murphy Brown will begin serving as interim principal at City View Discovery School.  Ms. Brown is currently assistant principal at Worcester Arts Magnet School.

    MASC 13: OPEB liabilities

    As of 2012, MA state unfunded liability for OPEB was $16.7 billion
    funding available (already set aside) would cover about 1% of liability
    state has about $400M set aside; communities between $50-75M
    GASB: "therefore the cost of these future benefits is a part of the cost of providing public services today"

    No meeting on Thursday

    The School Committee Meeting that was scheduled for Thursday, November 7, 2013 at 7:00 p.m. has been cancelled.

    You are about to enter...the conference zone!

    Just a word of warning to my regular readers: I'm heading down to Hyannis later today for the annual Massachusetts Association of School Committee conference. I'll be posting my notes from the sessions that I attend.

    In Worcester? Can you take a quick survey on voting?

    Whether you voted yesterday or did not, please take this survey for a research project one of our WPS teachers is doing in pursuit of her Ed.D. She's looking a municipal voting patterns and tying them into elementary school assignments. It's quick and for a good cause!

    Tuesday, November 5, 2013

    Thank you, Worcester!

    To (briefly) let politics intrude for a moment: many thanks to those who voted for me today. Looking forward to another two years!

    Monday, November 4, 2013

    Election Day in Worcester!

    It's Election Day in Worcester on Tuesday! Municipal elections are those where each voter has the best chance to make a real difference in a race; they have been know to come down to a handful of votes making the difference. Make sure your vote is cast!
    If you are registered to vote in Worcester but aren't sure where, you can look it up here.

    And P.S.: I heard a rumor that there might be "I Voted" stickers, should that make a difference. 

    WPS After School Music Lessons!

    Just came over the transom!

    The Worcester Public Schools are offering FREE small group music lessons after school on Wednesdays and Fridays. Lessons are a half hour long, and they will take place at Tatnuck Magnet School.
    Parents are responsible for providing transportation, the instrument, and books.
    Note that students who are currently taking lessons in school are not eligible for this program.

    Lessons are available in violin, viola, cello, and saxophone, French horn, flute, trumpet, and clarinet.
    Follow the link for the form to sign up!

    It's not every school during the school day yet, but it's progress!
    EDIT: the WPS link is down for editing; the link above is the original, which I've saved. I'll post the fixed WPS link once it is back online. 

    Friday, November 1, 2013

    Spirit of Knowledge update from Superintendent Boone

    We got an update tonight from Superintendent Boone tonight regarding students matriculating from Spirit of Knowledge, which reads in part:
    As of this afternoon, at least 65 families have enrolled their children into one of the WPS.It seems that the enrollment process has gone fairly smoothly...We continue to work very closely with DESE on various operational matters for transition, including how to count new students since they are enrolling beyond the October 1 enrollment reporting date.We will provide a full report to the school committee on the financial changes as a result of the school’s closure once we’ve finalized all details with DESE.
    As the second quarter begins on Monday for Worcester, there is a natural beginning place for students who are entering. Parents began enrolling their children (some parents had more than one student in the school) in WPS as soon as they retrieved their records from Spirit of Knowledge, and, thus far, students seem to be distributed throughout the district (keep in mind that Spirit of Knowledge was grades 7-12, thus middle and high school). District personnel have reviewed all courses being taken by students coming in to best place them in courses in WPS, with special regard for seniors.
    Families are also being invited to an open house early next week, so they can have their questions answered by school and district personnel, and be welcomed to the district.