Friday, May 17, 2013

What's going on with the policy handbook?

And happy anniversary to Brown v. the Board of Education, decided this day in 1954.

Last night, the opening section of the policy handbook, which deals with school deisolation, was put back into the handbook for another year. Superintendent Boone said that she would formally request that the Commissioner weigh in on our deisolation policy (for those having trouble reading that, it's "DE-isolation," aka, making sure particular populations aren't isolated. Elsewhere, it'd be called desegregation) ahead of potentially making changes next year.
And I should perhaps point out here that the second half of what I said was "and we have schools that are majority children of color..." It can't always all make it into the paper. And if we'd tried to send the handbook back to subcommittee before last night, we would have been told that there wasn't time due to the need for translation.

The rest of the policy handbook was held for our June 6 meeting. Mayor Petty would like the administration's opinion on changes suggested by members of the committee. Those changes are:


  • to leave in the language on demerits and on tardiness in the section dealing with school discipline. The administration is proposing that they be taken out; demerits, because we don't do demerits, and tardiness, because it's silly to suspend someone for tardiness (miss more school as a punishment for missing school). The section of rules, however, doesn't actually say that those rules require suspension for breaking them; they are listed as disciplinary infractions. 
  • O'Connell also is concerned about adding "gender identity" to our non-discrimination policy; there's some disagreement as to where we are with DESE requiring this. 
  • Finally, while administration is proposing that "prior grades" be dropped as a consideration from admission to Advanced Placement classes, O'Connell would like to keep it.

Colorio: to make more explicit that parents can opt out of Body Mass Index measurement, by putting the impetus on the school to send something home for parents to sign if they'd like to opt out.

Novick: (I've actually put mine by page, so you can look them up if you like)
 p. 3: Eliminate new proposed line “Permission to attend a magnet school may be rescinded whenever the Quadrant Manager or designee determines that the district school would more likely better support student outcomes than the magnet school.”

Likewise, eliminate the proposed new line:
“Permission to attend a school outside of district lines (School Transfer) may be rescinded whenever the Quadrant Manager or designee determines that the district school would more likely better support student outcomes than the out-of-district  school.”
On both of these, I am concerned that the Quadrant office can determine that a student should be returned to a home school, over parent decision, for "better student outcomes." That's an overreach on the part of administration. School placement should be a parental decision.

p. 18 Add  to the end of paragraph one: “Students whose parents opt them out of state or district standardized assessments will not be academically penalized or face disciplinary action except as prohibited by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”
There's a growing movement of parents objecting (for very good reason) to the amount and type of standardized testing to which their children are subjected. I've been repeatedly asked what our policy is on this; we don't have language now, and this would add it.

Add to the second paragraph: “Student data, with or without student identification, will not be posted in any school hallway, classroom, office, or other facility.”
The data charts, in which student identity is always known ("whose rocket ship is that?" will always get an answer)  are a violation of student privacy and are an outrageous use of student data. This should stop.

p. 21 Change first sentence to read “ For concerns related to testing procedures and security or for information on your child’s performance or participation in testing....”
The paragraph which tells you who to contact with questions on your student's performance was originally put in so parents knew who to contact with concerns around testing security; this makes that clear.

p. 34 Eliminate cell phone paragraph
We were to be considering cell phone use this year, but received no proposals from administration.

The administration will be weighing in by Friday letter on these, and the handbook will be voted on June 6.

Two further things to note:

  1. These are the policies that direct the Worcester Public Schools. If you have an opinion, PLEASE GET IN TOUCH!
  2. The Worcester School Committee--not the administration--is the policy setting body for the Worcester Public Schools. Debate and discussion of policies is part of our job. To limit that, or to limit that only to subcommittee, would be not to do our jobs.
Again, please get in touch.

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