Friday, November 8, 2013

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)

Rep. Peisch: legislation passed:
amending background check requirements for school districts;  now requiring federal background fingerprint checks for employees (as does the rest of the country)
reported two bills out from committee recently that may be of interest
  • Act Establishing an Educational Mandate Taskforce: what are reports are required, by whom, and what can be done to cut down on those? What mandates do we have that don't make sense anymore?
  • Act Relative to School Improvement Plans: putting School Committees back in school improvement plans
bill on Level 3 schools (more flexibility) and bill around charter schools: "expect that we will be reporting something out hopefully by the end of the year"
expect that the bill above will then be followed about the bill on the foundation budget
Sen. Jehlen:
expect that one of the top priorities should have been mandate review
"my expectation is that School Committees and Superintendents are not eager for more direction from the Legislation and the Department of Education...if you are, let me know"
"what I'd like to know is what do you really want from us? Not what's possible...what are your dreams?"
asks far, none have said "higher MCAS scores"

Finnegan: superintendents looking for some relief from mandates
" the education community seems to be on board with that issue"
School Improvement plan bill: filed by MASC
another pending bill: special education schools in the same category for MCAS scores. Give people more of a flavor of what's going on. Collaboratives keeping students for MCAS reporting purposes
many issues that they've been dealing with

Q from superintendents' association:would like to have committee look at "whole feeling of the new initiatives that are coming forward from Washington...definitely too much, too quick. The message has to be given by the Joint Committee and the Governor to slow down, pace it out."
Also, school security issues: perhaps working with MSBA, to prevent issues that they just don't have the funding to do
It's become a serious concern

Peisch: well aware of your first point, we've been hearing it for the past year
Common Core, PARCC assessments, and teacher evaluation (crowd adds RETELL)
Commissioner is aware of this "I suspect that there is a difference of opinion as to how responsive he has been"
driven by the federal government
not aware of funding on security issue: would ask for a proposal to advocate for, clearly MSBA one avenue
perhaps a grant program: wide range of need, what makes sense?
Jehlen: I don't know if you all have met with Elizabeth Warren; feedback to president, as this is not what he ran on
"feeding some of our frustration at the federal level...they're hearing it from other states"

Q: money targeted to administrative work
RTTT money is spent and gone; weakened our teacher evaluation system, which was stronger than that of the new state system
"you'll never stop someone from getting into the building if they want to get into the building...responding quickly is important"
suggests DoJ grants to cover school security issues

Q: Northampton vocational school. funding own security personnel
working on new building for sciences...has heard something about a bill to bring up their reimbursement rate on their science building (which their mayor has refused to fund)
Peisch, comments that she's "spent some time in Northampton" (she's a Smith College grad)

Q (or comment?): technology courses need to know pedagogy for technology
suggestion that higher ed courses be accredited by their organization

Mary Jo Rossetti:, outgoing president, MASC: "that celebration is going to be short lived with PARCC"
scores are going to come out much much lower
"too much too fast"
"I know you get it...parents at home who are reading the Globe and the Herald..."
"he says he's not asking for the vote next month; he is!"
scores are going to dip, and these teachers are going to be explaining again"
"we're going to go right back down next year"
Peisch: "no question that the standards are being raised" (though apparently she meant something about MCAS here)
very important that we have public discussion about this
discussion about having a forum for all of our legislators
Jehlen: I don't think we know that PARCC is an increase in standards; questions are very similar
main change is that they are going to computer
"changing the test...anytime you change the test, everybody knows you will not do as well"
"just because we're getting more proficient, doesn't mean you should change the issue"
Comment that we have to celebrate the good stories
Comment that Commissioner in 2003 sold MCAS as a baseline, that we grow from here
"now the rules we're no longer getting them to proficient, we're changing the system"
go back to what we did before, and tell everyone that the scores are going to be low
"if you change the test, it's going to affect the mean score"

Comment: MassBudget and Policy, there is an underappreciated consequence that is not obvious
thinking of going into teaching? Salaries are low, they're laying off
Quality of classroom teachers is what it's all about; can't do it in a system that's contracting
 overall amount of reimbursement from state (transportation, circuit breaker) has gone down
"unfortunately a lot of our students who want vocational technical education can't get it. Why can't they go, like the charter schools, to a lottery system? A lot of our students are being denied that education."
That could be achieved with some simple legislation and probably wouldn't cost a cent.
Private schools need to register with state but do not have to abide by same mandates
Peisch: share concerns about those who cannot access voke-ed. There are not enough slots.
will not be easy to increase the number of slots
surprised by comments on circuit breaker, as that's been funded
regional transportation only getting reimbursement
"The issues with the private schools are that we don't give them any money."
Another: agreement wholeheartedly with slots of vocational technical schools
suggestion as well that they serve collaborative students in after hours
comment that voke techs are being used by different families and that has come at a cost
Jehlen: idea of using MCAS scores to judge districts is very very common
bottom 10% of schools poverty rate is 76%
suggestion that we don't have the data to actually judge schools; we could develop other ways of doing it
"I think it would be great if we could ask parents 'what do you think?'"
cites mayoral race: "preferred two to one a candidate that was not as critical of the school system"
"if you're measuring a school at all, why are you measuring it by the input?"
if you look at growth, the Boston schools are absolutely in the middle
Comment: practical politician, going to get very little done in 2014
"we need the support of the leadership of the House and Senate"
Peisch: legislative sessions are always two years long, and the second year is always an election year
"things coming out of committee that we judge to be the priorities that we care about"
"the leadership at the end of the day reflects what the members tell them, and the members say what they hear from their communities"
Jehlen: "I want to strongly echo that, but I want to urge you to play the long game. Who's going to be the next governor?"
"all of them are talking about education and how it's going to be an important issue...but what do they mean?"
suggestion from Monty Tech superintendent that we need more time
"the Commissioner is ramming down our named only a few teachers' heads are about to's insane it's got to stop."
 Q (from me): asking for the views on the report from DESE
Peisch: not really any surprises, special education and health insurance to two big areas
challenge in taking up the issue with the Legislature
caution that if amount of education funding needs goes up, local amount will also go up

Northampton SC members: we should get the kids to school, should not charge for it

Comment: to keep an eye on charter school proliferation

No comments: