Thursday, July 31, 2014

Dress code

I'm sending this off to Governance, but also asking that it go to CPPAC, the Superintendent's Student Advisory Council, and our student reps.
Two concerns: implementation, and one section of the dress code (page 28 of the Student Handbook)
in implementation: there are places where authority is being exceeded (there is, for example, no mention of the width of tank top straps), and places where it's sexist (girls being asked to put cartigans on over shirts, when boys aren't). Needs to stop, and we need to be thoughtful about how we talk to kids about this
in dress code: states that length of skirts and shorts must be as long as fingertips when held by your sides. This has everything to do with length of arms and torso; little to do with length of skirts and shorts. It also is nearly impossible to find in stores. It's not fair for us to have a requirement that students and parents cannot meet.
Refer to Governance
but do weigh in!

Worcester East Middle science labs

Biancheria:
WEMS science labs have been transformed
still need some work
announced at library celebration that the school will be getting equipment via grant
Boone: we're waiting to hear also, will let SC know once we do

New suspension regs

on item from Biancheria
Boone: new regs "have created as many questions as answers...will come out with a report in August"
every district in the Commonwealth is doing the same
notice for parents and due process for students
planning to get that to us August 12; discussion at the August 21 meeting
there will be policy language at that time for the student handbook
Biancheria: receiving prior to the meeting, how it's going to be implemented in schools
Boone: responsibilities of School Committee will be included in communication to School Committee
Boone: suspension still allowed, removal from school still allowed, communicated in August
O'Connell asking:
  •  if Woodard Day counts as the alternative program
  • can we send students there for short times?
  • who will be our hearing officer?
  • matrix for what happens to students who are not going to be in school?
Boone: has been part of discussion with collaborative on an ongoing basis
they will be ready to address having students on a short-term basis 
Biancheria asks that what we get be sent to the EAW president, as well

internet access

While we don't (in WPS) get most of our internet access from Charter, we will have a few schools that are affected by the Comcast/Charter swap. Thus it seems like a good time for the city to consider municipal fiber again.
so I sent that off to City Council

advertising on buses

Monfredo: WEDF support system
looking to pilot putting ads on school buses for revenue
asking that administration work with the WEDF
Novick: distressed to see item on this
students are not an opportunity for moneymaking or advertising
entrusted with children
this should not be considered: motion to file the item
O'Connell: understand situation, support referring to standing committee for discussion
have had areas of concern with regards to advertising
weigh options, thorough consideration needed
Boone: administration has met with WEDF a number of times on this issue; will give perspective should it go to standing committee
Novick: could we have admin's perspectivve at this time?
Boone: real concerns on this issue
looked at other districts that have done this
concerns relative to safety, people not paying attention to stop arm as they read advertising
followed up with WEDF on this issue
motion to file fails, 3-2 (Novick and Ramirez in favor)
motion to submit 3-2; item goes to standing committee
This is going to Finance and Operations.

Friday morning update: if you're interested in what sort of revenue numbers come through on these, the numbers aren't impressive.That's not even two teachers' salaries. 

Writing program at WAMS

there's a bit in the grant here about this being scaled up to the whole district; asking for some more information prior to citywide implementation.
Ms. Biancheria asking for a Friday letter on which schools are doing it this year; also, asking for an update ahead of budget. Some question as to that being possible (or meaningful), as the year won't be done.
Dr. Rodrigues clarifies that it's an opportunity, a choice, for the district, should it come to scale.

Accountability report

Mr. O'Connell asking, in addition to his request from the subcommittee meeting regarding distributing the law, for a report on the make-up and first meeting time of site councils at the second School Committee meeting of September.

Worcester School Committee meets at four

and you can find the agenda here.
Liveblogging to follow

Here's the new NEA president

...interviewed by Salon. Sounds like she's telling it as she sees it.
Now, this could be fun! 

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

"I believe you. It's not your fault."

I have just finished once again pounding my head against the desk after reading about yet another district that not only did not protect the victim of a rape; they punished her.
While I really, really would like to hope that enough of these lawsuits and public outcrys will make a dent in the colossal level of ignorance that still is out there, I know it is still out there. People who are in levels of trust and authority do not always respond to our kids with support, protection, and prosecution of actual lawbreaking.
It thus is clear that there is very much a need for the tumblr "i believe you | it's not your fault":
If you’re reading this, and things are tough, we want you to know some facts right off the bat: that your body is YOURS, that consent is not a gray area, that it doesn’t matter what you were wearing, that fitting in isn’t as important as it seems (though caving to peer pressure isn’t the end of the world either), that you have the right to set and defend your own boundaries, that you have the right to have fun, that some things get better and other things, honestly, kind of don’t... 
This blog isn’t about advice, exactly—though that’s certainly a part of it (ask us anything!)—as much as it is about solidarity.  If your step-dad tells you that “it’s your fault,” we’re here to stand in defiance of that, forever, without question. If your teacher says you “shouldn’t have made a scene,” we’re here to shout in one great big voice that you didn’t make that scene—your harasser did. If your family or your town or your school seems so small and small-minded that you think you might just fold up into nothing, we’re here to let you know that the world is much, much bigger.  If you have questions about anything, no matter how insignificant, we’re here, and there are so many of us!
Do share it.

The Worcester School Committee meets TOMORROW!

We have the July meeting of the Worcester School Committee tomorrow at 4 at City Hall. (Different time, same location) You can find the agenda here.
We have a two-fer on congratulating and thank the Ecotarium.
There is no report of the Superintendent; note that this means that we are not voting on next year's standardized test plans this month. I suspect this is because we have several members out for this meeting; I haven't heard yet when we will vote.
We have two reports from subcommittees: Accountability (my notes here and here) and our joint committee with City Council (notes here and here).
We have two reports coming back on instructional assistants: the number of hours per school that they work; and how they are paid when they cover a class.
We have two donations coming in for Worcester Tech.
We're being asked to accept a grant for $94,279 for machine shop equipment at Worcester Tech, and a grant for $10,000 for a writing program at Worcester Arts Magnet.
We have an item to work on the bids for transportation in Finance and Operations, as our transportation contracts are up this year.
We are being asked to amend the social media policy.
Mr. Monfredo is asking us to consider putting ads on school buses.
Mr. O'Connell is referring the changes in Erate (as previously discussed in F&O) be referred to F&O.
Mr. Monfredo is commending those responsible for the redone library at Worcester East Middle, and asking reminding us of World Smile Day (October 3).
Ms. Ramirez calls our attention to Jennifer Cordero for being selected for the Hispanic Youth Research and Leadership program at the University of New Mexico.
The city auditor is requesting that we pass the Misc Ed OM account again, specifying the three accounts into which it goes. 
We have our usual "now that we've passed the budget, we might need to make transfers" item, heading to F&O.
Mr. O'Connell calls to the attention of our PTOs and such that there is a new way of being recognized as a 501(c)3. 
He also wants to thank those who educated our students on solar energy.
It is time to appoint someone to represent us on the collaborative board (this tends to be the superintendent).
Miss Biancheria would like additional information on the new regs on explusion and suspension and its implementation. 
She'd also like an update on the Worcester East Middle School science labs.
Mr. Monfredo wants to know if the attendance campaign last year worked.
I think we should talk to the state about the foundation formula (now that they have a committee considering it), the City Council about the capital budget, and the City Council about the city's investment in education. 
I'm also sending the dress code (the student dress code, from the student handbook) to Governance, and I want to talk about implementation, too. More on that tomorrow. 
And we have a prior year payment of $4,166.75 we're being asked to authorize. 
There is NO executive session.

Tomorrow at 4! 

Not a big surprise to see the charter lobby threatening a ballot question again

...as they're doing today. After all, that worked in 2011, right?
The thing to note in that report is that "Families for Excellent Schools," the group that spent millions attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio when he dared stand up for his city's public schools, are setting up shop in Massachusetts.
They're not families, and they're not for excellent schools, either. Heads up, though, as they're coming.

Good news on Nelson Place!

We've just received the following from Mr. Allen: 
Great news today!

The MSBA Board today approved the Nelson Place preliminary schematic design (with high praise and compliments to the Worcester team on our documents).

Dr. Rodrigues and Julie Lynch from DPW attended the meeting in Boston.

The next phase of the project is full schematic design to occur over the next several months.  



Thursday, July 24, 2014

No, we're not going to cut secondary transportation

...in case there was still any concern out there about this, Ms. Schweiger covers it well in her article: no, we're not doing that. 
We're also not that thrilled about making bus rides longer to save a few seats here and there.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Joint Committee meeting on transportation part II (local now)

WPS administration:
Allen: One thing to keep in mind is our current contracts are up at the end of this current school year
bid out sometime in December, contracts back by January/February

Joint Committee meeting on transportation

You can find the transportation audit from School Bus Consultants here.
posting as we go...
Starting with a presentation from School Bus Consultants remotely. 

More to come on this

...but I've been selected to give an ED talk at the MTA's Summer Institute the first week of August.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Round up of links


  • If somehow the talk of "21st century segregation" in today's Pioneer Institute column got you wondering, I'd advise you to look at the wide array of research demonstrating that charter schools are putting us right back into dealing with the 20th (and previous) century segregation. There's plenty of research out there on this.
  • Popping a bit outside the usual K-12 focus here, this article on the Ivy League and real education is an interesting read. 
  • If you're trying to figure out what you can do to help the kids fleeing violence to our south, First Focus has some suggestions. Also, see more at Border Kids Relief. 
  • When you see this report about principals' expectations, remember that correlation doesn't necessarily equal causation. 
  • How kids are faring across the country

    With the local hype, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Annie E. Casey Foundation had sponsored a study just on Massachusetts, but in fact their annual KIDS COUNT report looks at all fifty states. If you get a chance, I'd recommend giving it a read, as there is solid information here beyond that Massachusetts is doing well.
    Something which I suspect won't make the press, but should, is this note of caution on recent educational policy changes:
    The effects of these major, costly policy  changes are not yet clear. National math  and reading scores as well as high school  graduation rates have steadily improved  for students of all races and income levels, ents preceded  the policy changes of the past decade. 
    Also, this, on the gaps between students:
    Given that in-school factors account for only a third or less of the variation in test scores, we must face the fact that our high child poverty rate constrains our nation’s academic achievement. 
    If you're looking at what we should be tackling, there's your answer.

    Friday, July 18, 2014

    Joint meeting on transportation next week

    On Wednesday of this coming week, the Finance and Operations Committee is meeting jointly with the Education Committee of the City Council. We'll be talking about the transportation audit. 
    The meeting is at 5:30 on the fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building.

    Friday afternoon puzzler

    You may remember that part of the new Massachusetts teacher evaluation system is a "Student Impact Rating," which, while based on multiple measures, by state law (enacted due to Race to the Top) includes student test scores.
    But which scores? From which test?
    Addressing this issue--I'm not sure I'd say 'answering this questsion'--is this memo from Commissioner Chester.
    They're going to use two years of data: 2014-15 and 2015-16. If I'm understanding the memo correctly, if the 2014-15 PARCC scores (should your district be using them) don't agree with the 2013-14 MCAS scores and 2015-16 scores of whatever test we're using at that time, they'll throw those out (or rather, have the districts do so, because the state isn't doing this work), and they'll use the 2013-14 MCAS scores.
    There are several statements in this memo about all of this aligning being a "strong indicator of student learning." No, no, it's not. Student growth percentiles is not a legitmate way to evaluate teachers (it's actually worse than value added). Please allow me to direct you to Bruce Baker on why not.
    Also, this is based not on one, but on two entirely different tests (possibly! We don't actually even know what we're using for the second of these years!), which makes this all that much more crazy in asserting that these are meaningful comparisons that should have real value.
    I am sure that there will be more on this to come, as this information starts to get around.

    Enough with the college and career ready already

    Look, all, I'm with you all the way on how the gap amongst children starts well before school, well before preschool, as soon as children start picking up language and such.
    But, really, enough already with this sort of thing:
    Thank you for your interest in building a foundation for college and career success from children from birth through grade 3.
    [sic]
    No, I'm not interested in "building a foundation for college and career success..from birth."
    I'm interested in building people.

    Thursday, July 17, 2014

    Free Fun Friday tomorrow!

    Tomorrow's Free Fun Friday from the Highland Foundation includes:
    MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS, BOSTON
    OCEAN EXPLORIUM
    THE ERIC CARLE MUSEUM
    LARZ ANDERSON AUTO MUSEUM
    SPRINGFIELD MUSEUMS
    MASS AUDOBON'S BOSTON NATURE CENTER
    SANDWICH GLASS MUSEUM

    Enjoy!

    Some coverage from yesterday


  • Hey, the Globe talked to a parent! From Boston! Who worked against the bill! Maybe the Globe will realize that such parents exist now?
  • Probably the most informative press coverage on this I've seen has come from MassLive, who not only got some good quotes from Senator Chang-Diaz, but scored an interview with Senate President Murray. I'd recommend reading that, as it has insight not only into what happened yesterday (for example: "In some ways, the vote could be looked at as a reflection of the changing makeup of the Senate that has seen an influx of more liberal members in recent years. Murray said she was surprised by the final tally, and noted that “progressives” voted against the bills"), but the largest question of how and why people vote the way they do (much discussion of a democratic process). Those running around waving their hands in their air and yelling about teachers' unions are missing the conversations constituents had with Senators and a Senate leadership that allowed them to vote the way they chose to.
  • The T&G has updated their article since yesterday. 
  • possibly more to come, but that's what I've got so far...

    Roll call on S2262


    Yeas: (13)
    Barrett
    Brownsberger
    Chang-Diaz
    Downing
    Finegold
    Dorcena Forry
    Hedlund
    Humason
    Joyce
    Petruccelli
    Rodrigues
    Ross
    Tarr

    For some context, here's where those come from : Barrett, Lexington; Brownsberger, Belmont; Chang-Diaz, Boston; Downing, Pittsfield; Finegold, Andover ('though he represents Lawrence); Dorcena Forry, Boston; Hedlund (R), Weymouth; Humason (R), Westfield; Joyce, Milton; Petruccelli, East Boston; Rodrigues, Westport ('though he represents Fall River); Ross (R), Wrentham; Tarr (R), Gloucester (which is sorta fascinating, given Gloucester's history with charters).

    (There are four Republicans in the Senate; all four voted in favor of both bills.)
    And the nays:

    Nays: (26)
    Brewer
    Candaras
    Chandler
    Creem
    Didomenico
    Donnelly
    Donohue
    Edridge
    Flanagan
    Jehlen
    Keenan
    Kennedy
    Lewis
    Lovely
    McGee
    Montigny
    Moore, Michael
    Moore, Richard
    O’Connor
    Pacheco
    Rosenberg
    Rush
    Spilka
    Timilty
    Welch
    Wolf
    Note that the Senate also had to vote on the House version (the Senate version is an "amendment" to the House version), and in that case, only Barrett, Finegold, Dorcena Forry, Hedlund, Humason,  Petruccelli, Rodrigues, Ross, and Tarr voted in favor.

    Wednesday, July 16, 2014

    What you aren't going to read in the press on S2262

    The articles are already coming in and, from the perspective of the gallery, there's a lot of the story being missed (or misattributed).
    • First, you'd never know it from the T&G/State House News article (linked above), but the vast majority of the Senators voted against the bill. How about we get a quote or two from them on why?
    • While the Boston Teachers Union (part of AFT) may well have been active on this bill (I'm assuming; I don't know), the Mass Teachers Association did not lobby on this bill until the last minute (in fact, today), when it lobbied for the amendment which removed portion that lifted the cap. Yet, again, the story from the charter proponents/mainstream Boston press is "oh, the teachers' union." Meaning no disrespect at all to the teachers' unions, but BTU does not represent the majority of teachers in the state, and the union that does wasn't active until today. It's a neat little story, but this one's more complicated. 
    • Public ed proponents across the state owe a HUGE debt of thanks to the Boston Public Schools parents who have been using their proximity to the State House to get in there, to tell their stories, and to get the real impact of cap lift across to Senators. I won't even try to name you all, but you all rock,and you brought this one home. Nice work! 
    • Senator after senator today were very, very clear on how these decisions impacted their district schools. That speaks of district level work by parents, superintendents, School Committees, and others to make abundantly clear why each individual senator needs to care about this. Good field work!
    • The overwhelming question from those who voted "no" was "what is the end game? where are we going?" Charter schools, by state law, were created specifically for innovation that was then to be shared with the public schools. Period. The 2011 law added that they should specifically be looking at ways of closing the achievement gap. There are lots of conversations about lots of other things, but what this state is paying for--purportedly--is that. Several senators today pointed out that we're 20 years and an 18% cap in on that; where are the results? Well, there aren't any, because that hasn't been happening.
    • As much as I disagree with Senator Chang-Diaz on the cap lift, I truly do believe that she cares about the kids in her district and that this bill was trying to stick to the commitments made by the state. She's being unfairly savaged in the Boston press for it, and that stinks. They should knock it off. 
    • Finally, we seem to have managed today to have a realization: 
    There's a whole big state out there. The Boston editorial boards and a couple of big funded so-called reformers shouldn't be making laws for us. If we're going to pass laws on education, let's be sure that they're for all of the kids in whole state.

    Thanks to the Massachusetts Senators who voted this down today.
    And particular thanks from me to both Senator Chandler and Senator Moore of Worcester. 

    Short version on S2262

    Fails in Senate. NO CAP LIFT.  

    Posting from the Senate gallery S2262

    ...where we're awaiting the Senators who are either in caucus or in the House for a Constitutional Convention discussion (I've heard both).
    I'll say up front that the ins and outs of how the Senate operates is not something with which I am familiar. I'll post what I know as I know it, though!
    more to come...posting as we go
    Note that the session can be viewed here

    Monday, July 14, 2014

    In depth coverage of the Atlanta test cheating scandal

    I'd highly recommend reading Rachel Aviv's in depth New Yorker article about the Atlanta cheating scandal. It has implications far, far beyond Atlanta:
    To explain the improvement in scores, Hall told the investigators that “an effective teacher three years in a row will completely close the gap between a child born in poverty and a child born to a middle-income family.” This theory, in its earliest form, derives from a study by William L. Sanders, a statistician formerly at the University of Tennessee, but the findings, which have contributed to a nationwide effort to rate teachers rigorously, have been overstated to the point of becoming a myth. According to a recent statement by the American Statistical Association, most studies show that teachers account for between one and fourteen per cent of variability in test scores. 
    John Ewing, who served as the executive director of the American Mathematical Society for fifteen years, told me that he is perplexed by educators’ “infatuation with data,” their faith that it is more authoritative than using their own judgment. He explains the problem in terms of Campbell’s law, a principle that describes the risks of using a single indicator to measure complex social phenomena: the greater the value placed on a quantitative measure, like test scores, the more likely it is that the people using it and the process it measures will be corrupted. “The end goal of education isn’t to get students to answer the right number of questions,” he said. “The goal is to have curious and creative students who can function in life.” In a 2011 paper in Notices of the American Mathematical Society, he warned that policymakers were using mathematics “to intimidate—to preĆ«mpt debate about the goals of education and measures of success.”

    AFT calls for Secretary Duncan to be put on a improvement plan

    Adding to the calls for a different federal direction, the American Federation of Teachers passed a resolution calling for Secretary Duncan to be put on an improvement plan:
    The “improvement plan” would include the requirement that Duncan enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Equity Commission’s “Each and Every Child” report; change the No Child Left Behind and Race To The Top “test-and-punish” accountability system to a “support-and-improve” model; and “promote rather than question” teachers and school staff...AFT President Randi Weingarten said in a statement sent to POLITICO that the amendment “is basically saying, ‘Enough is enough.’ Teachers are evaluated and their future livelihoods are linked to that. And when they fall short, they should have a chance to improve. And that’s what this special order represents.”
    The plan was laid out in an amendment tacked onto a resolution codifying AFT’s “Commitment to Fighting Back and Fighting Forward” on labor and education issues.
     Last week the National Education Association called for his resignation. 

    Saturday, July 12, 2014

    Some thoughts about the Senate charter bill (S2262)

    A few thoughts from me on the Senate bill ahead of amendments being due Monday:
    • It still has the cap lift to 23% in the "lowest" 10% of districts. Even with that calculation now including growth, that's still pulling money straight out of urban schools and putting it into schools that don't take everyone, that hemorrage kids, that have appallingly little accountability. This is simply a bad idea.
    • It still has this "challenge" school designation, which is just a way of expanding Level 4 without the funding that we've come to expect with Level 4's. It concentrates even more (unaccountable) power in the hands of the Commissioner, it's unwarranted (districts are already active on Level 3's), and it's unhelpful (another round of 'turnaround' isn't the answer). Strike it.
    • This whole craziness about saying to a Level 5 receiver "hey, go ahead and spend that money any ol' way you want" is just...crazy. These are public funds. The whole deal with school committees passing budgets (much like Legislatures) is for there to be some degree of fiscal transparency and accountability. Why would you remove that?
    BUT it's clear that the Senators not only have heard from their districts; they're listening! Thus, some praise and some suggestions:
    • The Senate version has the "no increase in charter spending without reimbursement" language, the language that the charter lobby threw a temper tantrum* about; this is how the bill never got out of Joint Committee. It seems the Senate's really convinced on this part, which is very much appreciated and appropriate, as right now the state isn't living up to the commitments it has made on funding. The only power the Legislature has on this is the funding power and the overall cap; the Board of Ed controls the charter approvals. 
    • To that end, school committees have repeatedly called for local communities to be a required part of the approval process, as is true in many other states in the country. Both in terms of fiscal oversight (where is the money going) and in terms of what is actually needed in the community, this part of the process makes a great deal of sense. Language to this end would be a good addition.
    • The bit about charter schools actually fulfilling their function under the law--recall that this was not to target some particular population, but to provide a laboratory for new education models and ideas--is a good step forward, but some specificity in the language on how that is to be shown would be useful. In other words, if a charter school says they're doing this, is that good enough? It shouldn't be. 
    • Likewise, looking at attrition/stability is a good start on the counsel or discipline out issues we've seen with charter schools. However, the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap requires charters to be reflective of the communities they serve...which hasn't been enforced. Language calling for that and tying it to charter renewal is needed.
    • It's remarkable to see transportation mentioned. For FY15, the Worcester Public Schools are budgeting $75,000 just for charter schools' extra days. That isn't something we decide, and yet we pay for it. Likewise, the schools that do their own transportation simply hand us a bill; we have no oversight for how those costs are incured. Anything to remedy any part of that is appropriate.
    • The study of the system of charter school funding is overdue. Another piece that I've heard called for, year after year, is state funding of charters. The state has approved them; have the state fund them directly from the state budget. Language to this end would be useful. 
    I'll be pulling together a letter to Worcester's Senators over the next day or so. I would urge you to get in touch with your Senators ASAP. The lobbying this week is going to be heavy. 

    *which is why I'm a bit confused on why the charter lobby is actively pushing for this bill. Do they think it's the best they'll get, or do they think that they can remove that in conference committee?

    Friday, July 11, 2014

    Birthday of E.B. White

    And let us all take inspiration from Fern's mother in Charlotte's Web:
    “Fern was up at daylight, trying to rid the world of injustice. As a result, she now has a pig. A small one to be sure, but nevertheless a pig. It just shows what can happen if a person gets out of bed promptly.” 

    The Senate version of the charter (zombie) bill (S2262) is out [edited]

    You can find the bill here. Details below.
    First, up, the bits that are the same, or virtually so, to the House bill (my write-up on that here and here):
    • The "challenge" language, allowing the Commissioner to declare some Level 3 schools "challenge schools" and require a turnaround plan, as is done with Level 4 schools, is in. So far as I can tell, this is a way of the Commissioner essentially getting to declare new Level 4 schools without accompanying it with funding (as the declaration of Level 4's isn't mathmatical, anyway; the only difference here is that Level 4 presupposes that state funding will follow). The cap on all the state intervention schools is 4%, just as in the House language.
    • All that business with giving fiscal power to school receivers in Level 5 districts, without public oversight or school committee approval, is in. 
    • The charter cap is raised to 23% of spending in the bottom 10% of districts, just as in the House language, if the expansion is for alternative education OR all kids are thrown into the charter lottery. Also, no more than 120 charter schools statewide; none in towns of less than 30,000, and charters must have a rolling backfill of empty seats.
    But there are some fairly significant differences:
    • Charter school spending cannot go up if the state doesn't fully fund charter reimbursement. You might remember that this is what blew up the original bill. 
    • The Board of Ed is required to set up procedures and guidelines for revoking charters, and the charter cannot be renewed unless the charter school "has provided models for replication and best practices to the commissioner and to other public schools in the district where the charter school is located."
    • A charter school's charter can only be renewed if its hanging onto kids; the three year attrition rate has to be lower than the sending district's rate or the stability rate greater than the sending district's rate. 
    • The bill sets up a commission to report on the "effacy of charter school funding" in Massachusetts, which has to report out by January 1, 2016. I'd say this is a public calling-into-question of the current funding system. For once, it also includes school committee representation, too!
    • [edit] The Senate version does NOT include the House language requiring the mandatory sale or rental of unused public school space to charter schools. (Thanks!)
    • While the House bill set up a commission to study charter school transportation, the Senate bill flat out reworks it: transportation must be provided on "similar conditions" as those of the sending district. Any limitations on transportation that the district applies to its own students, also apply to the charter; note that this includes transportation for districtwide specialized programs (should the charter have any such beyond college prep programs). If the district and charter school cannot agree on start times, the district is responsible for only 50% of the cost of transportation. The district is only responsible for paying for transporation on days when both the district and the charter school are in session (no extra days). For charter schools (like Abby Kelley Foster in Worcester) that make their own transportation arrangements, they must abide by the above, or the district does not have to pay for the transportation at all. 
    If you see anything I've missed, I'd be interested. 
    The Senate is scheduled to vote Wednesday. And the clock is ticking on the Legislative session. 

    Thursday, July 10, 2014

    Next week in the Senate

    I've heard that they'll be debating the gun bill AND the charter school bill.

    Free Fun Fridays!

    Tomorrow, July 11, is another FREE FUN FRIDAY!
    JFK Presidential Library and Museum
    Peabody Essex Museum
    Worcester Historical Museum
    Fruitlands Museum
    Cape Cod Children's Museum
    New England Historical Genealogical Society
    Pilgrim Hall Museum


    Update on PARCC nationally UPDATED


    Not clear if that puts Louisiana in the "out" or "in" list. I'll update if we find that out.
    UPDATE: EdWeek has gotten the full story: the Board of Ed hasn't dropped PARCC; it's a proposed solution by three board members to the current impass between the Governor and state education commissioner.

    Taking care of kids

    This is horrifying:
    SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Anthony O. Castellanos disappeared from his gang-ridden neighborhood on the eastern edge of Honduras’s most dangerous city, so his younger brother, Kenneth, hopped on his green bicycle to search for him, starting his hunt at a notorious gang hangout known as the “crazy house.”
    They were found within days of each other, both dead. Anthony, 13, and a friend had been shot in the head; Kenneth, 7, had been tortured and beaten with sticks and rocks. They were among seven children murdered in the La Pradera neighborhood of San Pedro Sula in April alone, part of a surge in gang violence that is claiming younger and younger victims.
    I would urge you to read all of today's New York Times cover story on this. It is not illogical for parents to be fleeing and sending their children away from these conditions. Of course they are. Any of us would do the same.
    And we shouldn't be sending the kids back to that, either.

    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    The "gun bill" (plus) is moving: UPDATED a trifle

    From earlier tonight:
    You can find the bill's text here.  Remember, this includes:

    • a requirement that schools each have a "safe and supportive schools plan" which fall within the "safe and supportive schools framework" which has to be developed by DESE. There will be professional development. There will be reports required by the state. There will be a commission. There won't be any funding provided by the state, 'though their commission is going to look for federal funding. UPDATE: this has been amended to be "subject to appropriation."
    • a requirement for two hours of suicide prevention training for all staff. No funding.
    • a requirement that each school building have a separate and devoted two-way communication devise directly to emergency services. No, there is not funding for that, either, nor is there any mention of the myraid of communication devices one finds in a school these days.
    • a requirement--pending state funding, on this one--that school safety be in the hands of a police officer, jointly appointed by the police chief and the superintendent. Discipline in the hands of educators? No longer in Massachusetts.
    Cheers to Rep. Denise Provost, who tried to amend the various school mandate pieces(you can find that by clicking the "amendments" tab; my earlier posts on that here and here), with mixed success.
    Yes, suicide prevention is important, as are safe and supportive schools. However...
    Can we please stop thinking that commissions and talking at people fixes things? Can we stop thinking that school districts need individual directives for every circumstance?
    Maybe once in awhile, someone could ask the people closest to schools what would work?

    On to the Senate. Have you talked to them lately?

    Friday, July 4, 2014

    Speaking of declarations...

    The National Education Association (the nation's largest teachers' union) is holding their annual convention in Denver this weekend. Two things from today:
    You can read more about the election here; for those from Massachusetts following this, outgoing MTA president Paul Toner did not win a seat on the NEA executive board.

    While there were several resolutions passed, I suspect this one is going to get all the press:

    Happy Independence Day!

    Thursday, July 3, 2014

    Finance and Operations (mostly operations) update

    Today's (early) Friday letter includes a Finance and Operations memo, which you can find here.
    • First up, the annual school choice report, in both directions: 480.5 students choicing out, 85.2 choicing in. The district receiving the largest number of WPS pupils is West Boylston (that's a change, incidently; it's been Wachusett for a number of years) at 130, followed by Wachusett (109), Berlin-Boylston (65.3), Leicester (29.4), and Auburn (20.7). We're receiving the largest number of students from Shrewsbury (14.4), Leicester and Wachusett (11 each).
    • The summer feeding schedule is also forwarded, but you can also find it here. Any child under 18 can visit and get lunch Monday through Saturday, save July 4 and 5. Locations include all library locations (including the schools), Union Hill School, and both state pools. Please pass this along to anyone in the city who could use the information. Summer can be a hungry time for kids.
    • We also have the solar panel update. Roof coatings ahead of the panels going in looks as though it's mostly complete; most panels are going in now, 'though South's will be going up in September, and Norrback's in November.
    • As for MSBA (you got some of this already, so I'll give you what's new), it looks like Worcester Arts Magnet and Columbus Park will have their windows for school, or shortly thereafter; no date on Chandler Magnet, but that's finishing a second year, so let me check; Tatnuck Magnet is going to be a second shift in the fall job, as May Street and Lake View were last year, due to window manufacturing schedules; and the boiler replacement at Worcester East Middle is a complicated project, so we may be looking at a temporary one come fall (boy, I hope not!).
    Let me know if you have questions!


    Holiday reading

    A few recommendations, in case you're stuck inside during Hurricane Arthur:
    • This post in the Shaker Blog demonstrates that we have a summer reading gap, just not necessarily only where you'd think: parents, when surveyed, think that their kids are reading plenty, when it's not clear that they are, to wit:“Parents of 5-11 year olds report that their child spent an average of 5.9 hours per week reading books last summer. This is lower than the time spent playing outdoors (16.7 hours), watching TV (10.8 hours), or playing video games (6.6 hours).” You'll get no complaints here on kids being outside, but some switching up on the screentime would help, and perhaps parents need better information on how much reading is really enough.
    • This post on CIPA (that's the Children's Internet Protection Act, with which schools are required to comply to qualify for and continue to receive federal technology funds) and the effect it has on the education we're giving our kids on using the online world. The main takeaway? Don't avoid; teach.
    • Curmugucation has been following the New Mexico complaint from American Institutes for Research about the non-competative nature of the bidding process for PARCC, which resulted in the contract being awarded to Pearson. A judge had ruled that the state had to hear the complaint ahead of going forward with the test. The state has now heard the complaint and rejected it. Comments from PARCC (including Massachusetts Commissioner Mitchell Chester) here
    • And I am very late pointing this out, but the Detroit Free Press has been running an extended investigative series on Michigan charter schools, which is well worth checking out. 
    Enjoy the holiday and the hurricane!

    Joint meeting July 23

    There will be a joint meeting of the Education Commitee (of City Council) and Finance and Operations (of School Committee) on July 23 at 5:30 pm at the Durkin Administration Building, Room 410.

    June 30 PARCC/MCAS update

    Courtesy of MassLive, last night we got the update on which districts have chosen PARCC and which have chosen MCAS for next spring's testing. Per the memo, of the 297 districts (and charter schools) that have decided thus far, 176 have chosen PARCC and 121 have chosen MCAS.
    Note that tenth graders through this year's rising eighth grade class will take the MCAS for graduation.

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    Reminder from Worcester's most famous teacher

    The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival...
    John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail; July 3, 1776

    It's really going to be okay if Boston doesn't have fireworks on the Fourth!