Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Strange bedfellows, coming right up!

Politico notice that the incoming GOP (federal) majority shares something with the teachers' unions: a wish to rollback the overdependence on standardized testing.
On a related note: I'm thrilled that I'll be  going down to the National School Boards Advocacy Institute in DC in February; it looks as though there may even be federal motion on education in the legislative arm to watch.

UPDATE: And hat tip to Stephen Krashen for catching the extremely ignorant comment from an unnamed federal DoE official:
An "unnamed Education Department official" said these stupid and outrageous things: ”We’re responsible for student learning every single day and every single year … If you’re waiting every three years to measure student learning, then what happens when a student has been falling behind? … Do you wait until that third year to figure out what their interventions ought to be?” IN OTHER WORDS, THE ONLY WAY OF KNOWING HOW CHILDREN ARE PROGRESSING AND THE OTHER WAY TO HELP CHILDREN IS THROUGH FREQUENT STANDARDIZED TESTING. TEACHER EVALUATION MEANS NOTHING. If you accept this, it means we should give standardized tests "every single day."
Please get this person away from education.

Regarding the new MA Secretary of Education...

Sorry for the long break in posting: holidays!
There's not much more to add regarding Governor-elect Baker's selection of James Peyser as Secretary of Education that isn't already revealed by his biography. I posted that with the notion that at least we knew where the administration in general was going; what I didn't entirely anticipate was that we'd have a "Dick Cheney heads up the vice presidential selection team" moment and Peyser would become Secretary of Education.
As Peyser's only experiences have been with cheerleading and funding charter schools and with standardized testing, we know what direction he's approaching this from; he has no experience in teaching, administrating, overseeing, or, honestly, having anything to do with public education at all, save his service as Undersecretary of--you guessed it--charter schools. Thus, I don't have a lot of confidence that we're going to see much that's of use to most of what we do in education in Massachusetts, 'though I would love to be surprised on this.
Before we give up in despair, however, realize that the Secretary of Education in Massachusetts oversees only the Executive office of Education, reporting to the Governor. Of the actual administration of K-12 education, the Secretary has a single seat of the Board of Education, the board that oversees the Commissioner, who in turns runs the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The Governor only further appoints members to the Board as the seats come up for renewal or become vacant; the incoming Governor, thus, is working with the currently appointed Board, not only newly appointed by him.
Other that? More reasons to go to Board of Ed meetings.


And on a related note: Secretary Malone's enthusiasm for all things education, both in person and on Twitter, will be sorely missed. Best wishes on your future endeavors, Mr. Secretary! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Who volunteers and what that means for kids

The New York Times Motherlode post "When Elite Parents Dominate Volunteers, Children Lose" hits precisely what I've been feeling a great deal this season (as can be attested by more than one patient administrator who has heard my rant on it). I am relieved to see it being expressed this way in a public forum, and I hope that this will be making its way to more PTO and site council meetings.
I am enormously grateful for parents who volunteer: in Worcester, we wouldn't have had (or still have) elementary school libraries, field trips, playgrounds, and a host of other necessities that aren't funded as if they are. I also appreciate those who push to get things done when many don't have the time.
Often, very often, it is those with the luxury--and it is the luxury--of time and money to spare who do so. And having those parents make the decisions around activities and fundraisers leads to exactly the dispartity put forward by the column.
We need to be acutely conscious, most particularly if it is we who are the volunteers, of this disparity. In Worcester, for example, 74.3% of our public school students are free or reduced lunch eligible. Out of every four kids, three of them have a family that is struggling to keep that kid in sneakers. That's the silent majority that may well not be at the meeting where the decisions are made. Their voices need to be heard, nonetheless.

"... shall assess the effectiveness and monitor the improvement of the public schools in each district, including charter schools."

According to Mass General Laws, Chapter 69, section 1A, the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education:
...shall assess the effectiveness and monitor the improvement of the public schools in each district, including charter schools.
We in district education know well of the assessing done by the Commissioner: of reams of data required to be submitted each year to the state; of the accountability system with levels; of the strict state oversight of Level 4 schools; of the state takeover (and handoff) of Level 5 schools. The state has gone so far as to now determine how it is that we evaluate our own top administrators, feeling that we were not doing so effectively.
It is enlightening, therefore, to see the Commissioner's reaction to his receiving his own outside assessment from State Auditor Suzanne Bump, regarding how DESE handles charter schools. The report (among much else) commented:
We do not question BESE and DESE’s combined authority to grant or renew charters; however, we do believe that they should be consistent when exercising this authority as it relates to the imposition of conditions. Although the DESE Commissioner and BESE elect to provide conditions in limited circumstances when a school’s overall performance justifies renewal, from comparing the schools detailed in our finding, it appears that DESE displayed inconsistency in the assignment of renewal conditions when responding to the same or very similar deficiencies (related to the schools’ meeting the “academic goals and objectives contained in [their] accountability plan[s].”). 
Consequently, we again recommend that DESE make efforts to apply its performance criteria consistently in the charter renewal process, including requiring schools to meet the measures of success shown in their Accountability Plans
and:
DESE should develop policies and procedures for the verification of charter schools’ reported data. Such procedures could include a program of on-site data verification similar to the one it piloted, as well as a system to ensure that corrective action is taken when problems are identified
and:
Further, our review of BESE meeting records did not identify any instances where adverse action related to inadequate innovation practices had been taken for any of the 48 charter school renewals processed during the four-year period covered by our audit. While we recognize that it is only one factor that DESE considers during the charter renewal process, it appears that this requirement is not given equal weight, since we did see conditions placed on charter school renewals for a variety of other reasons, including concerns related to academic progress, board governance, and enrollment exceeding prescribed limitations 
And I could go on.
Now, keep in mind that the Commissioner not only already had to have seen the findings; he was able to respond right within the pages of the report.
However, in marked contrast to the ways in which districts are urged, required, and otherwise pressed to respond to any such critique by the state, the Commissioner responded disputing the findings in the press, and  by sending the Board of Ed a four page memo, including this press release from the National Association of Charter School Authorizers*:
The audit released today by the Massachusetts State Auditor of the administration of the charter school program by the Board of and Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE and DESE) misses the forest for the trees. 
No one questions the need for confidence in the state’s handling of school data, but administrative issues should not obscure successful outcomes.The Massachusetts charter office oversees one of the most vibrant and high-performing charter sectors in the nation. This is due in large part to its record of rigorous application processes, comprehensive oversight, and prudent decisions on renewal and revocation of charter school contracts. 
It’s troubling that the report raises concerns about charter renewal based on questionable priorities such as “sharing of innovative programs.” The law and DESE’s renewal frameworks properly put the emphasis on student achievement and the accomplishment of charter goals...
There are a large number of things wrong with this press release :

  • By its very definition, an audit is about the trees that make up the forest; the forest of issues with charter school authorization in Massachusetts are made up by the individual trees of issues with DESE oversight. 
  • The successful outcomes are, of course, not in any way universal; when they are there, it is often at the cost of the students the auditor's report points out aren't there. 
  • The audit of course points out that the application process is not "rigorous," the oversight not "comprehensive," and the decisions on renewal and application not "prudent" as is needed. 
  • Far from the law and frameworks putting the emphasis elsewhere, the sharing of innovative programs is written into the very law that creates charter schools.

And the Commissioner knows all this.
And he sent the memo anyway.

The Commissioner has been among the loudest voices calling for accountability in Massachusetts education.
It is time for the Commissioner himself to be held accountable.
All eyes are on you, Board of Ed.




*A group which is hardly impartial, having as part of its mission statement "a commitment to... increasing the number of high-quality charter schools across the nation," and having familar faces on its Board and Advisory Board and for its funders. 

A bit more on International Baccalaureate (and a note on exam admission)

If you're just catching up on the IB conversation from last night, a few notes from me:
  • If you're wondering about the school demographics, I did get one bit wrong last night: Worcester Tech is our school with the highest percentage of white students by a slight margin (43% to Doherty's 41% to the district's 35.3%). Doherty is the high school with the lowest percentage of low income students (59.7% to Worcester Tech's 64.9% to the district's 74.3%). If you're wondering where the stats came from: I asked for them. If I get a chance later today, I'll run and post the rest of the percentages; all I have is raw numbers.
  • As for Brooklyn Latin, as Mr. O'Connell cited last night: they are one of the three IB programs cited in the Ad-Hoc report, and it is the leadership of that school that had the strongest words against using an exam as an admission requirement for an IB program. They're stuck with theirs: as a New York City limited-admission school, they have to use the NYC exam as the admission requirement, by state law. It does not serve them well, per the school leadership, as students who do well on a single admission exam are not necessarily those who would succeed at an international baccalaureate school. 
  • Because we seem to still be operating at something of a disadvantage on general knowledge of IB, here's a few words from the Ad-Hoc report on the program: 

In grades eleven and twelve, ...the standard IB course of study : language and literature in English; a second language and culture; individuals and society, e.g.  history, geography, anthropology, world religions, global politics; experimental science, e.g. physics, biology, chemistry, environmental science, sports exercise; mathematics and computer science; and the Arts, e.g. music, film, theater, painting, drawing. Following this standard course of study, IB students also take a course Theory of Knowledge, (similar to a college course in Epistemology). This course explores ways of knowing, nature of knowing, and areas of knowledge. Students also perform a service learning project, as well as a creative project.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Budget cut

...passes as proposed. 

Rule 50

(this is on deisolation)
Petty asks that it be held for the next meeting for a report
as we're under a Department of Justice settlement, getting legal advice is what we need

Worcester Tech principal

Biancheria: not looking for names, but interviews, where you are in the process
a couple of lines to get a quick update on it
Boone: were just about to send to the School Committee the process and the timeline when Mr. Coghlin died; held it out of respect
update to come early in the new year

bid specifications for transportation

Mr. Foley reviewing what was passed by subcommittee

O'Connell: asks if School Bus Consultants have looked at the bid specs?
Allen: contract was part of their original review; still working on routing and analysis at this time (haven't finished current report), city purchasing has reviewed
O'Connell: share with SBC

approved and reconsidered

IB school discussion

Monfredo: most importantly, would like to find out as much as I can if we have the revenue to

Novick: in sum: why Doherty? it's the most centrally located
recommitment needed to other programs, like GSA, like Burncoat arts
admission must align with what the work of the school is

O'Connell: attended the winter concert at Doherty
"in terms of capacity, class sizes that are larger than" would be comfortable in terms of space
opportunity for Doherty to speak up
clearly avoid having a test
"I suggest that this is not the direction down which we should be going"
cites Brooklyn Latin as an example as an IB that has an exam for admission (it has to, as it's an NYC exam school, and the principal would rather not)
lists schools that are exam-only admission

Petty: we're going to have a planning year,
none of this is new

Foley: Ad-Hoc committee did make a recommendation, "we are not looking at an exam school"
"we are seeing that testing alone is not necessarily alone" the measure of what a student can do
"this is still pretty skelatal"

Biancheria: how many public hearings?
Petty: at least two
Biancheria: most of what I've heard is about location, so far; at least two, and then move on from that

Ramirez: would like to see the unfolding of how we're going to unfold this through the year

HELD! for further discussion

You should really read Auditor Bump's report on charter schools

You can find the press release here, and it's hard to find just one section to quote from:
An audit survey of charter schools and their related traditional school districts illustrated a lack of clarity, little sharing of best practices, and in several cases, a difficult working relationship between charter schools and traditional school districts. In addition, the audit reported that of the 48 charter school renewals during the audit period, none were subject to adverse action for the lack of sharing of innovative programs and best practices.
Further, with regard to charter renewals, the state auditors found a lack of consistency in the standards applied. It was unclear why certain deficiencies in one charter school might mean a school’s charter being conditionally renewed while similar deficiencies at another school did not result in conditions being applied to its renewal.
“This process must be made much more transparent if the public and policy-makers are to have confidence in the quality of the charter schools and if the schools themselves are to know what is expected of them,” said Auditor Bump.
She specifically pushes the Board of Ed and the incoming Governor to make changes.
FULL REPORT HERE! 

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

What was in the CRomnibus for education?

Per ASCD:
  • Title I: Receiving an additional $25 million (for total funds of $14.4 billion) to assist schools with high percentages of low-income students.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act: Receiving an additional $25 million (for total funds of $11.5 billion) to provide services to children with disabilities.
  • Preschool Development Grants: Receiving $250 million in competitive grants to build or expand high-quality preschool programs.
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers: Receiving an additional $2.3 million (for total funds of $1.15 billion) to provide academic enrichment in high-poverty communities during nonschool hours.
In FY15, the Investing in Innovation program will lose $21 million (for total funds of $120 million), the School Leadership program will lose $9.3 million (for total funds of $16.4 million), the Teacher Incentive Fund will lose $58.7 million (for total funds of $230 million), and the Pell Grant program will lose $303 million (for total funds of $22.5 billion).

School Committee meets this Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday at 7 PM. You can find the agenda here.
After a few honors (I wonder if we are having any of these musicians sing the National Anthem?), the report of the superintendent is the--held--discussion on the proposed International Baccalaureate school. While we don't have an item on the agenda for it, public comment is allowed under suspension, and do remember that you can always get in touch with us at schoolcommittee (at) worc.k12.ma.us (and I'm really hoping to hear from our student reps on this, too).
We'll then take up the proposed bid spec that passed F&O tonight.
We have a prior year fiscal payment of $14,811,73 that we're being asked to approve for services for a special education student at the Robert F. Kennedy Action Corps (we never received an invoice).
Miss Biancheria is asking for an update on the filling of the Worcester Tech principal position.
She's also looking for our (annual) report on the $1 per pupil provided for elementary schools for recess.
We're being asked to accept a Strategic Support Grant from the state for $100,000.
Mr. O'Connell is asking that we, "pursuant to Rule 50 of the School Committee" hold a hearing on the deisolation plan (Rule 50 says it was supposed to have happened last meeting. We haven't had one during my time on the School Committee). 
And--we knew it was coming but here it is!--we are being asked to "adjust" the budget. What we have to do is CUT the budget by $450,061, as our charter reimbursement is--AGAIN--short. In fact, it's nearly a million dollars short, but the city is holding us harmless on $500,000 of that. THIS IS WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU KEEP INCREASING CHARTER SCHOOLS WITHOUT REGARDS TO FUNDING.
Oh, it's being cut from special education, and it's balancing out only because the Collaborative still has frozen our tuition rate. In other words, it's only a happy coincidence of timing that the Worcester Public Schools aren't having to cut a half a million dollars out of the budget in December.
We're being asked to raise our mileage reimbursement rate to $0.575 from $0.56 per mile, per the 2015 standard (federal) mileage rate.
Mr. O'Connell is asking that we recognize the contributions of Ted Coghlin to the Worcester Public Schools.

We also have three items in executive session: one on bargaining with our Educational Secretaries; a grievance; one on the Superintendent's contract. The committee will take those up at 6 PM.

Bid specs pass

The proposed bid specs were passed by Finance and Operations this evening as proposed. A few points in the discussion:
  • This is being proposed as a single contract for full-sized and special education buses, which is a change. Due to market forces, administration anticipates that this will be more cost effective. What is being split off as a separate contract (to be bid after this one) is bussing for field trips and athletics. There are more vendors who can handle the size of that business.
  • Per Mr. Foley's request, administration is going to explore how much it would cost (additionally) to allow parental access (by password) to the real-time GPS on buses being proposed as part of the specs. If it isn't a significant cost, we might consider it. Any additional technology deemed necessary by administration will be allowed under the terms of the contract, but it will be installed at WPS expense.
  • Changes to this proposal include AC in the special education buses (which transport students through the summer months), block heaters or some other means of making sure the diesel engines will start even on cold mornings, drop-down tire chains on all buses (WPS currently has them on the buses we own and operate), and the aforementioned GPS tracking.
  • The plan, should these specs be approved on Thursday by the full committee, is for this to go out to bid next week, for there to be a pre-bid meeting in mid-January, and for the bid opening date to be January 28, 2015.
  • I did ask about alternative energy possibilities for buses, as they're just the sort of vehicle that can do that, as it always goes back to the bus yard. Plus Quebec recently put their first electric bus on the road. The answer is that Mr. Hennessey is following this, and so far, any of those vehicles are at least two times as expensive as a diesel one, so trying to put that into a contract like this would be VERY cost-prohibitive (and maybe just prohibitive, as nobody has a fleet like that yet). The prices have to come down first. 
More to come on Thursday! 

Finance and Operations meets this afternoon on the bus contract

The Finance and Operations subcommittee meets this afternoon at 4:45 pm at the Durkin Administration Building. The agenda is here, 'though it only has one item: to consider proposed specs for the next transportation contract, which will go out to bid in January.
It will be taken up by the full School Committee on Thursday.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Foundation Budget Review Commission hearing at Somerset-Berkeley HighSchool

And Somerset-Berkeley High School, which is brand new, is GORGEOUS. We're still awaiting most of the commission, as apparently the traffic coming down from Boston was difficult.
People are being asked to sign up at the door if they wish to speak.
Rep. Alice Peisch "charged with reviewing the way that foundation bdugets are calculated and suggest changes to that calculation"
specificially seeking testimony meeting one or more of the charges of the committee:

  • educational programs and services necessary to achieve the Commonwealth's educational goals
  • Components & assumptions used in the calculation of the foundation budget
  • Measures to ensure that resources are effectively utilized
  • Models of efficient and effective allocation

written testimony is accepted
Peisch
"very interested in hearing from members of the public who live or work in this area"

first up Superintendent from Carver: citing the balance of the amount the state funds versus how much the town funds
cutting "to the marrow"
does not allow for the costs of special education: "we've brought back children from out of district placement, and we're still unable to release that burden"
"implore you to find a way to keep the schools open in Carver"
on the edge of 35 children in the classroom

speaker from Fall River
78% low income
needs are diverse, complex
"Fall River are not receiving"
"has not kept pace with the actual costs" of health care and special ed
no support for "critical" wraparound supports
Foundation budget gap is "over $25 million"
$16.5M diverted to health care; $6.6M to special ed
kindergarten classes too big
Fall River teachers have lowest average adjusted teacher salary among urban schools
"impertative that our educators receive the necessary resources"
Increase and provide a low income allocation
include full day preschool in the foundation budget
allocate funding for expanding the school day
assumptions of each of the foundation budget catagories, multiplied out by the number of students Fall River has
"diversion of $16M towards health care, and diversion of special education funds"
MBAE rep "overall looking at the overall approach to education...versus actual innovations to how education is delivered"
response: if you addressed some of the fixed costs, "imagine what we could do if we had that $25 million"
praise for illustration of how much the gap is; question as to how much is being covered by circuit breaker
rep from DESE: has Fall River made changes the state pushed in health care? short answer is yes

City administrator from Fall River: "have some huge challenges"
from municipal side "doing our best" to provide with education
best case scenerio is $2M a year
"by and large, when you consider that we had to increase education spending by $6M, we clearly are on a path that's unsustainable"
have rebuilt 3 of our 4 middle schools
"and yet, we can't really take credit for those...there are often times things a community is doing that don't factor in to direct or indirect school spending"
saw transportation increase by over $3M, mostly special ed
"trying to encourage our children to walk to school...and yet, school crossing guards are not an eligible net school spending request"
annual student population: a lot of movement after October 1
"have gone out a number of times to restructure our health insurance...BlueCross matched GIC savings"
going out again on a competive bid
"how far above foundation is Fall River?"
for FY15 at foundation; but FY14, $3.2M under foundation (thus the careover)
struggle with not full funding of McKinney-Vento, struggle that not all Medicaid has been achieved
question: if there were no deficit, would the amounts be adequate? it sounds as if he wants to know just about the gaps in special education and health insurance
"there's no doubt in my mind, they are in need of additional funding"
"It would go a long way"

Taunton: one of the lowest per pupil in the state
57% low income
class size around 30
need for assistant principals in large elementary schools
fulfill state mandates
"you have failed to fulfill the promise of the 1993 Ed Reform Act"
Taunton superintendent Julie Hackett: Gateway city, cites education level of parents
"experiencing sifnificatn demographic shifts"
ELL students in a low wealth district have different needs than those in a high wealth district
"perform very well compared to our urban counterparts"
headline in recent paper was "tight budget, right results"
"only six other school systems have less administration costs than Taunton"
"I want to make it clear that we've done a lot"
closed five schools, consolidated two schools, relocated sixth grade
added guidance and safety through federal grants
bringing special ed back
all day kindergarten increased chapter 70
"operations and efficiency award"
"consider an additional supplement for free and reduced lunch, increase supplement for ELL"
"increase accountability for chapter 70 funds"
same Q from MBAE:
"a complete redesign is necessary...I'd be content with more of a tweak"

Middleboro faculty member: right now the town is using half of the funds for its schools
"we are doing the best we can"
"amazing people in town, amazing employees"
"if we had more money...we'd be able to do even better"
don't have funding for PARCC and Common Core
don't have common planning time
infrastructure and technology
need to see more funding to be successful
"look at the mandates in changing education and look at the funding for those changes we have"

Superintendent Lynch of Somerset-Berkeley
speaks of small size of Berkeley (regionalized in 2009)
Berkeley passed two overrides to fund regionalization and education
"increased number of school choice students" : using funds for technology and to fund five teachers
lists number of teachers and programs cut over past few years
"running out of band-aids"
"I ask you to remember the small towns around the state"
in answer to MBAE question: needs full adjustment
"whole structure...needs to be looked at"
have increase number of seats of school choice as K enrollment has gone down

Robert Baldwin superintendent for Fairhaven
"more and more dollars must be diverted"
health insurance and special ed together nearly $2M "or 23% of our actual spending"
"gradual gap widening"
18.1% statewide for FY15
gap between the communities that can make up the difference by funding over foundation
"truly a financial tipping point"
"in order to make their budget balance, towns look at their biggest expenditure: their schools"
yet schools' gap continues to widen
"what is apportioned by the town
"spending is clearly connected to school performance"
"closing the achievement gap and the funding gap are one and the same"
"as the funding gap continues to grow, so will the achievement gap"
"we collectively cannot wait one more day"
Peisch: does the gap factor in circuit breaker?
Baldwin: "we are to provide the least restrictive environment...it does not qualify" (as it isn't as expensive)

Brockton business manager: much of what has been said by Fall River and Taunton
"many, many ELL"
"we find that the ones that we receive are the ones that are most expensive"
students come in all year long
"we're not complaining about the students; we're very good at teaching them"
coming in third or fourth grade, by high school, achieving as well
1/3 of students received Adams scholarship
83% low income
15,000 to 17,000 students
"to carry that continual growth of students year to year...has put quite a strain on our system"
Q: is there a date? "I would love April 1...anything would help"
Q: is the city spending under foundation budget? a bit of an off the topic question: how do you achieve these results if you're not funded even at foundation?
eliminated a lot of positions
"I can balance class sizes easily; we bring class sizes to 34"
"basically, we overwork our staff"
225 students net coming in after October 1
1400 students changed
McKinney-Vento "is a general fund receipt and goes to the city" (not the school; city doesn't share)

President of Attleboro teachers' union
6200 students
"a plea, a plea for a formula that works for everyone...a number that superintendents can count on...that cities and towns can count on"
list of things that districts are asked to fund...without funding
"and these are unexpected gaps"
"make changes or redesign the formula, whatever is needed"
Q: how could this be more transparent?
when this ($155,00 change; they were expecting more) last year happened, we asked and were told "the numbers hadn't changed"
Q: did your enrollment fall? No.
someone just pulled open the spreadsheet and found that there was a change in enrollment
argument is that it was unexpected which it shouldn't have been; enrollment is known by fall of the previous year, inflation by the previous year, as well
Chang-Diaz: what factors has Attleboro used to predict?
Doesn't think that the superintendent would be able to answer either
"we've had four business managers in the past few years..."
Tom Gosnell "complexity has significantly decreased...historically, it is significantly easier to understand"

Jim Hawkins: MTA, retired teacher from Attleboro

Fall River teacher: "not one person said that their salaries" were the priority
"a good week for me is when I don't read my former students' names in the police log or the obituary column"
students who have special needs are not being serviced...falling further and further behind
two alternative middle school programs, at least three alternative high schools
"our resources need to be expanded and our formula need to be changed"
"there seems to be plenty of money for Common Core training and materials"
"leaving our youngest children behind"

Superintendent Lincoln Lynch, Walpole
students we receive back from vocational schools or private schools
high needs need to be adjusted
"seeing a trend of students who are moving into Massachusetts" due to our interpretation of special ed law
cites multiple cases of students moving out of state and coming back due to services provided
difficult to explain formula to town meeting
"perhaps we should think of different formula for urban, for rural...even if it's a multiplier, like wages"
significant amount of mandates from DESE, in addition to minimal state aid
need to have time and funds to implement what already have
"a lot of efficiencies, saved funds on transportation, but loss of circuit breaker"
this last in response to same circuit breaker Q; the commission is flummoxed that circuit breaker isn't somehow making a difference; looks like they need a breakdown on how special ed budgets are being spent


Ron Clark, Carver: "this formula is very complicated, but the goal is very simple: that every child in the state should have access to a quality education"
needs to take socio-economic factors of towns into account
citing cranberry juice prices
wealthier towns arguing that they pay a lot in taxes, but "I don't think that's where you start applying 'fairness'"

Whitman-Hason School District testimony
regionalization presented as financial saving
2001, chapter 70 was 68% of foundation budget
rely on chapter 70 and regional transportation for funding
after 2001, these percentages declined
local contributions have not increased enough to make up the loss of chapter 70
"over time, programs have disappeared, class sizes have grown...and unfunded and overfunded mandates have continued"
"while regionalization has helped for the first decade..." it doesn't anymore
growing percent of free and reduced lunch students
concern with students in the middle
ranks in the bottom 2% of per pupil expenditures
formula "has become obselete and has now become inadequate"
"realistic support for regional school districts and cost effective regional collaboratives"

Allen Crowley, Board of Selectman Middleboro
"we get just under matching contribution for chapter 70"
"I don't understand how this formula works; I try"
citing increases in foundation budgets and chapter 70 levels (which by themselves don't mean anything!)
"would appreciate your taking a look at it"

Bob Montero, superintendent in Swansey
"most of the areas I'd like to discuss have been discussed by my colleagues"
meeting the needs that our students have on the budgets that we have
"we're pretty lucky in that the community supports our budget"
low income students increasing, increasing needs
in the last 16 months, 60 homeless students coming into the community
"just that number alone, just the transportation, affected our budget $130,000"
"I know that there has been some movement in the House in terms of McKinney-Vento...we need to look at it"
ELL services go to the unfunded mandates, required to have our staff trained
"put on our plate, but we're not seeing the funding"
"needs in technology...we are a district that chose to go PARCC. We think we're ready for that, but it's drained our resources"
Q: you talked about low income population has doubled, and you're far from a Gateway community; explain Title I funds
"increase in Title I funds has been a little bit...draining in some ways for the services we have to provide, with the homeless students in particular"
argument that the Title I goes 'into the general pot' of funding I think...but that isn't quite right

former finance committee member from Lakeville
would like them to look at how much a town is worth
"on the property value side, do the appraised values get used, or do the assessed values get used?"
because the appraised values aren't how much the town gets from the property
which is why they don't use that. They thought of that.
Peisch: points out that this is not under their purview; they are ONLY looking at the foundation budget, not the community wealth model
answer that comes back is "it tracks pretty close to assessed"

Carver School Committee chair: "I wanted to make the town a better place, and the school system a better place"
tight budget when he joined 15 years ago "and every year it has gotten worse and worse"
"we're always going to do a little bit more next year when there's more money"
kids need a little more help; please keep them in mind

HEARING CLOSED: four or five more to come
meeting over the next six months
always willing to take additional testimony via email or letter
All can be sent to Jennie.Williamson@mahouse.gov

I was going to write up a long post on how horrifying Michael Petrelli's column on charter schools is

...but you should really just go read Daniel Katz.

The outsourced state takeovers aren't working

It's based off only first year results, but, nonetheless worth noting: the schools that the state has turned over to "outside partners" aren't seeing improved test scores:
Two years ago, Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester delivered an ultimatum to seven underperforming schools in Boston, Holyoke, and Springfield: If you want to avoid a state takeover, hire an outside partner to rapidly turn around student performance. 
The schools took the commissioner up on his offer and enacted partnerships last fall, but all have failed to achieve dramatic, across-the-board gains in MCAS scores so far, according to a Globe review of testing data. 
The results are raising questions about the efficacy of the partnerships and fueling tensions in local school systems, especially among teacher unions and some grass-roots organizations that resent bringing in private nonprofits to run public schools. The state has devoted more than $1 million in federal school-improvement grants to support the partnerships.
I'd be interested in what else is going on in the schools: have these partners only brought in increased test prep, or are there any ways in which the schools are operating better for students? But in this case: live by the test score, die by the test score.

Charter schools ruled unconstitutional in Washington state

Judge Jean Rietschel struck down the core of the Charter School Act by determining that charter schools are not common schools and cannot be funded with state common school funds.
“A charter school cannot be defined as a common school because it is not under the control of the voters of the school district,” Judge Rietschel wrote.
The judge also found that, as a result, charter schools cannot receive restricted common school construction funds from the state.
Attorneys are reviewing the decision, and the case likely will be appealed to the state Supreme Court. 

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Rumor busting: IB school. Round II

And the rumors continue to swirl! Some more rumor busting for you! As always, this is verifiable information, not my opinion. That I'll save for deliberation.


  • "It's going to cost six million dollars, and..." No. You can find the budget on page eight of the proposal. These numbers--like the numbers that were in the Ad-Hoc committee report--are from the finance office, and they're the actual numbers we're using in our schools right now, projected out. The proposed academy tops out at nearly $2 million a year for operating grades 9-12 of 250 students in a building that we are already running. To give you some idea of the scale, Burncoat Middle (with 500 students) will cost about $5.4 million to run this year. 
  • "Giving only an exam will give more accurate (or insert adjective here) results." No. First, exam school programs that use only an exam for admission (as is done in New York City) are notorious for not in any way reflecting their full student body (and if you're prepared to argue that academic ability in fact lies along those lines, then you have issues beyond those of school admission); thus the schools do not accurately admit those who are most academically gifted, but those best at taking exams. Further, the school proposed is an International Baccalaureate school. If you aren't familar with the program, please read up on it (or read the Ad-Hoc report starting on page 20; hint to the press: an article on IB would be VERY USEFUL right now!). It is NOT a program in which success aligns closely with test taking ability. In fact, we were warned specifically of this by schools that currently run the program; admitting good test takers poorly serves both the students and the program.
  • "You could achieve the same thing by simply expanding Goddard Scholars." No. While we can and should have a discussion about Goddard Scholars (and at the risk of repeating myself), this is an International Baccalaureate program. We don't currently offer one. There are only 13 schools offering the Diploma program (the 11th and 12 grade program) in all of Massachusetts; in central Mass, only Abby Kelley Foster Charter School and Quabbin Regional have it. This is not something we, or much of anyone else is doing locally, and in that, we are both nationally and internationally behind. We can decide to do or not do it, but it isn't something we're doing already.
  • "It will send X school into Level IV status by skimming off the top students." Aha! Anything is possible, and this is among them. I dislike intensely the notion of state test results determining the academic programs we run,  BUT: if we're going to talk about skimming, then we need to be honest with ourselves about it, and talk about every single other limited admission program and school we have in the district. We have more than one school and at least one program that pick their students in one capacity or another. 


  • And again, if this interests you, please read the recommendation from administration and please also consider reading the original Ad-Hoc report. The Worcester School Committee takes this up at our next meeing on December 18. Public testimony will be welcome, and you can always email all of the School Committee at schoolcommittee (at) worc.k12.ma.us . 

    Common Core ballot questions coming this spring

    I'm told that in Massachusetts, a group of people opposing the Common Core are organizing to put a non-binding resolution on local (town) ballots this spring. I'm quoting below the notification I received. FYI:

    Good afternoon folks. I just want to say how excited I am to launch our ballot question! Our hope is to have it placed on the ballots of as many towns across Western MA as possible for spring elections. The outcome of this nonbinding question could really have a significant impact on public education in Massachusetts. Our plan is to present the gathered results (sure to be in our favor) to Gov. elect Charlie Baker, Commissioner Mitchell Chester and every single elected official that represents We The People.

    We worked, meticulously, on this question [below] and would like it to be used, verbatim across the towns for consistency and no confusion as we drum up media coverage. The next step is finding volunteers to present it to your selectman. Spring election dates vary from town to town and we still need to gather that information. We do know Ludlow's election is in March, so we need to get this going quickly as there are time restrictions to the process. We will then proceed in Wilbraham and Longmeadow.   

    What we need, right now, are volunteers to request time from your selectman to present this nonbinding ballot question (signed by at least 10 registered voters in your town) for approval. There should be no refusals since this is just a public opinion poll. Selectmen meetings are posted on your local town government web site.

    MGL ch 53, sec 18A is the general law on nonbinding public opinion advisory questions on local ballots.


    Without further ado . . .  

    Interpretation of Question:  The Common Core State Standards Initiative, a federally designed, one-size-fits-all set of national education standards is being vigorously opposed by the parents of school-aged children all across the country. Common Core uses unproven “educational” theories such as “Constructivism” – a method of instruction where children are taught to “construct” their own way of figuring out answers to simple math problems, and “New Criticism Literary Analysis” - which removes the joy of reading and learning by emphasizing informational text reading while greatly reducing the classics.

    One of the most egregious aspects of Common Core standards is tied to the gathering and storing of in-depth personal data about every child which could be shared with the federal government and even sold to third parties. This includes over 400 data points, including health history, disciplinary history, family income range, voting status, religious affiliation, etc. The files are called longitudinal - which means they include information on the student from birth through the student’s entire school and college experience.

    Question:  Do you OPPOSE COMMON CORE and agree that decisions regarding education, including standard and curriculum development, should be decided at the LOCAL level with the input of a child’s main instructional influence, their parents and teachers? Do you OPPOSE the federal government’s National Common Core educational standards and the associated testing known as PARCC being imposed on the *INSERT YOUR SCHOOL DISTRICT*? And do you also OPPOSE the invasion of a child’s personal right to privacy through forced federal government data mining?

    “YES” vote is a vote to OPPOSE COMMON CORE, the government’s federal enforcement of educational standards into public education. A "YES" states that you would like more local control, by taxpayers who fund public education at the local level, through property tax dollars.

    “NO” vote is a vote to SUPPORT the federal government’s one-size-fits-all educational standards called COMMON CORE, which will continue to increase the cost of education while lowering, Massachusetts's (previously #1 in the country) educational standards.
    Whatever your opinion on the Common Core--which I will point out, again, was adopted by the Mass Board of Ed back in 2011 and thus is THREE YEARS into being implemented across the state--there are several issues with this question.
    The first is that the personal data aspect is, simply, incorrect. There is no such data set, and this is simply fearmongering. The massive data collection of this sort was why there was opposition to In Bloom, which, as readers know, not only is not being used in Massachusetts; it's gone out of business.
    The second is that both Constructivism and New Criticism are not what is stated here. Constructivism isn't making up your own way of doing math; it's relating what you know and have experienced to new information. New Criticism (which was big, incidentally, in the 1940's and 50's) looks as literature on its own, as an aethetic object (without, for example, relationships to historical background and the like). So, first, these two theories, if they were being forwarded, are in conflict, and second, this isn't much like what is happening in either case (in math or in ELA). This does sound a lot like the criticism that was level against these theories at the time that they were popular, that somehow they were going to weaken the educational system (and sometimes related them to Communism).
    As I've said before, there are entirely legitimate reasons to watch carefully and weigh in on the Common Core. I think many of them are developmental ones. Making stuff up, throwing around terms that many people don't know, and pushing essentially to make parents very afraid is not legitimate.
    Knock it off.

    Lack of fiscal transparency in Lawrence Public Schools under state receiver

    From the article covering the announcement that Lawrence School Committee member Jim Blatchford will run for Lawrence City Council:
    At the meeting, Riley responded to Blatchford's request for a line-item account of school spending by saying only that he had delegated responsibility for the budget to aides so that he could focus “on learning and teaching.
    Blatchford pressed on until Mayor Daniel Rivera, who chairs the School Committee, suggested he was “badgering” Riley and cut him off.“Your question was asked and answered,” Rivera said. 
    “No, it wasn't answered, actually,” Blatchford responded.
    “Sometimes that happens,” Rivera said. “I'm not going to sit here and let you get into a badgering match with the superintendent.”
    “It's not a badgering match, it's literally a question,” Blatchford said. “It's disgusting that you think (Riley's response) is an OK answer.”
    I've seen what it is that the Lawrence School Committee gets for budgetary information, and their PowerPoint--which is ALL that they get--doesn't contain even as much information as our PowerPoints in Worcester have (and that is far from all we get).
    When the state took over the Lawrence Public Schools, the School Committee lost legal fiscal oversight. What they and the city of Lawrence didn't lose--and, I'd argue, can never lose--is public accountability. They, and we (as Lawrence, like Worcester, is majority state-funded) are owed specific information about how public funds are being used within the system.
    That is a responsibility that cannot be "delegated." The state should call the receiver to account on this.

    Monday, December 8, 2014

    Nelson Place VOTE

    Just starting the Nelson Place meeting on the design vote.
    You can find the presentation tonight here
    Full schematic design being submitted this week (Dec. 11)
    Plan right now still to have school opened for beginning of school 2016
    hope to have a contract awarded to a firm by mid-January
    meeting with them later this week
    When will construction happen? Starting early 2016

    first elementary school in the city in quite some time (I believe it's two decades)
    "real good showing of that enthusiasm and those efforts"
    stairwells at both ends
    building will have solar panels on the roof: "hoping to have 40-50% of electricity" provided by solar panels
    "very compact and efficient plan"
    "very tough site, a tight site"
    separation of drop-offs for parent cars, full sized buses, small buses
    main entrance faces the back of the current space
    evergreen buffer along bounds with neighbors
    four foot fence, ending at wetlands on both ends
    mostly glacial till, with rock: "a lot of material that has to move off the site"
    Phase I is building site and building
    Phase II is taking down current gym and getting at access
    Phase II is taking down current building
    will build new building by skirting current gym
    roads will largely be fill
    how will water flow affect Indian Lake? Detention areas on site so there's no increase in runoff; hold water back "and let it out at a much, much lower rate"
    water quality issues as dicated by DEP, "that's all part of the calculations that engineers do"
    submission to ConCom "probably next April"
    Paul Moosey: "This process shows me that the system can work...have a much better plan that we would have been able to do if we just put it together in some office somewhere"
    VOTE:
    unanimously in favor

    Nelson Place new building vote TONIGHT

    Note that the Nelson Place building  committee will vote TONIGHT on the design to be submitted to the Mass School Bulding Authority for the school. You can find that presentation here.
    The meeting is at the school at 7 PM.

    Rumor busting: IB school

    No, programs are not slated for elimination. The proposal for a new program says (in bold) the following:
    It should be clearly noted and understood that this "Pilot Innovation Academy" is not designed to replace or supplant any of the existing programs serving gifted and high achieving students. Rather, the "Pilot Innovation Academy" will be an additional option within the Worcester Public Schools portfolio of school and program options. The district will continue strong support for and enhancement of those existing programs.
    Please pass this along.

    Wow. It looks as though THIS is a post that's going to need updating!

    Friday, December 5, 2014

    School proposal posted!

    You can find last night's PowerPoint:

    And the written proposal: 
    https://www.dropbox.com/s/5w7h5709l6xn9rn/Proposal%20for%20Pilot%20Innovation%20Academy%20-%20December%204%2C%202014.docx?dl=0
    Update: it appears that online version does not include the page 8 budget. I'm asking for it. Meanwhile, if you look at this post, the final photo is the budget. 

    Apologies: I can't hyperlink from my phone!

    Acting Career and Vocational Ed Coordinator appointed

    We've just received the following from Dr. Rodrigues:

    Please join us in welcoming Ms. Mary O’Malley, recently retired Assistant Principal from WTHS, as the Acting Director of Career and Technical Education for the district. The vacancy occurred as Mr. Kyle Brenner assumed the Acting Principalship position at WTHS. Ms. O’Malley’s qualifications and experience in Career, Vocational and Technical Education will continue to be of great benefit to the district. 
    Ms. O'Malley starts Monday. 

    Thursday, December 4, 2014

    Exam school proposal in photos



    We'll have this electronically sometime tomorrow, but I wanted to give everyone a chance to see the EXACT language as soon as possible. Click each to make them bigger; send me a line if you can't read something. I'll link here to the electronic version as soon as I have it.















    Request for facilities update online

    Biancheria: I know that there are items in F&O in reference to receiving an update
    on WPS website, last dated information is February 2012
    asking for an update in hard copy to SC, and to update the website
    "so we're able to discuss that in the community which would be very helpful"
    Boone: as the process for the next update comes through, we'll update
    can certainly do a progress along that
    once the Facilities Master Plan update is done, it will go up online
    Foley: full master plan specs being put together still
    Allen: being put together at this point with city
    pilot at Doherty
    once we get that back, can move forward
    once joint committee meets in January, will have a better idea of how that will work out
    Biancheria: on website, update on what has been done
    Allen: January, February is when SOI's open with MSBA would be an appropriate time to do that

    City View cleanup

    Biancheria: Sheriff's department would take care of the area of City View School
    field with stone wall
    greens extend over into the street
    kids use that as a shortcut
    neighborhood feels that it needs to be cleared up
    weren't able to coordinate with Sheriff this year
    DPW has done it previously as well, but property belongs to school department
    Boone: will look into the situation

    Silent lunches

    Biancheria: "we've discussed this a number of time...continue to receive letters, phone calls, and emails with regard to silent lunches in our elementary schools"
    my question is this: when we've spoken of this in prior meetings, we've said that this is not something that the School Committee or administration agrees to
    "for a fifteen minute lunch to be silent, as an adult wouldn't be able to do that, never mind as a kid"
    "this is something that just can't continue"
    Boone: "I'll ask if you can give us the names of the schools offline"
    Novick

    Report of the Superintendent: Exam School

    I have this only in print; I'll post photos of it once I get home; posting as we go
    Petty: we will hold the item so people can think about it for the December 18 meeting
    "I think this is very important...going to be another offering...committee is very sensitive to how it will affect the other Worcester Public Schools"
    Boone: working on this for the past 18 months
    "spent a lot of time...doing additional research of what's happening with advanced learners"
    important that the School Committee and the public had a chance to see it without the public already vetting it
    Ad Hoc committee working from January 2013 to June 2013 for a final report
    state of Massachusetts is virtually silent on gifted and advanced learners, but Worcester has such programs:
    • Goddard Scholars at Sullivan and South: have been continuously accepted to excellent colleges across the country; innovation academy at Sullivan
    • Burncoat quadrant arts magnet program
    • 23 AP courses offered across the district 
    • dual enrollment through colleges and universities locally
    "I want to be clear...This pilot innovation academy is not designed to replace, supplant, or undermine any of our existing options...The district will continue strong support for and enhancement of those existing programs."
    "this is in addition to, not instead of"
    key recommendations of Ad-Hoc committee that are being included: 


    "Students who have demonstrated exceptional interest in and ability to be successful in a rigorous high school program of studies leading to advanced college readiness"

    No grade level to exceed 63 students; total student population of 250
    beginning with grade 9 (possibly 10) and adding a year
    recommendation is to have it be an IB school
    ninth and tenth grade prepares student for IB courses in 11 and 12 grades
    strong liberal arts component and Theory of Knowledge
    students have either a certificate or diploma option

    Admission:

    • application
    • grades from prior and current year
    • MCAS or other state assessment scores
    • transcripts
    • essay
    • teacher recommendation
    • attendance history
    • discipline history
    application process coordinated by district BUT reviewed and processed by local higher ed institutions to keep it a blind to politics process
    a rubric will be developed
    weighed scores for honors classes, pre-algebra, foreign language
    "we see this as an opportunity for the readiness aspect of this program"
    lottery will be held if there are more students than slots

    proposed budget is a planning year then rollling out from ninth grade
    planning year: appointment of assistant principal, IB coordinator (which is required by IB) and clerical position
    "there is a process for admission to IB...they will vet us"
    "this planning year is significant to get that IB piece up and running"
    will finalize admission process and criteria
    support marketing and recruitment process and materials
    budget assumes dedicated teachers for the cohort (which is more or less required as well; teachers have to be IB certified)
    first group of students for 2016-17 school year
    advisory council to be compromised of community members, higher ed, ex-officio SC member, and parents
    to advise district on the start up
    program evaluation for the pilot will be designed in partnership with higher education, led by Dave Perda

    timeline: on December 18 agenda
    at least one public hearing late this year
    looking at facilities for site survey and early spring
    SC votes in April
    included in May 2015 budget proposal
    June: assistant principal and IB coordinator appointed
    July staff positions
    August: Advisory Council appointed

    Comments
    Monfredo: would you like questions in advance?
    Boone: yes, that would be very beneficial
    "sounds like a great plan...my concern would be the funding of the mechanism"
    O'Connell: asking for the siting of the program specifically at next meeting
    "raise concerns as well if the school would have the space to handle that"
    Boone: will not have that information available by the 18th; is intent to have that in concert with public hearing
    "we are not at a place to have that available in two weeks"
    O'Connell: look at criteria for admission
    "not an exam school in any respect...I'm just going to point out here that Mr. O'Connell is recapitulating his (minority view) arguments that he made at the Ad-Hoc committee when we were having this conversation. Essentially he's convinced that anything other than an exam as an admission requirement is "less rigorous."
    Petty: I disagree with some of that..timeline is very clear, going to have a meeting at Doherty
    disagree with you on the IB program..."there is no way that someone could go through this program"
    Boone: "passing an exam is not a 100% indicator of future success"
    "we can bounce that tennis ball across the court any number of ways"

    Sorry, no full notes from me, but two main points: appreciate that this work isn't being put on the shelf and YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED IN THIS CONVERSATION! PLEASE PLAN ON WEIGHING IN!

    Biancheria: admission, worked on community piece
    student essay: would we determine what the topic would be on, or would it be a choice?
    Boone: single essay topic, changing from year to year

    HELD



    Elm Park Level 4 work

    The backup is here
    Rodrigues: triggered a series of events, timeline and process
    charged with providing recommendations to superintendent for turnaround of Elm Park
    law proscribes size and composition of the committee
    three meetings held from mid October to mid November
    make sure larger stakeholder group represented
    larger focus groups to each meeting as held to have greater voice so one parent and two teachers could represent their groups most effectively
    discussed in depth the state's 11 essential conditions
    timeline to follow
    January, superintendent submits draft turnaround plan to stakeholder group, School Committee, and Commissioner
    Boone: echo appreciation to stakeholder committee members
    thank administrative team
    DESE representative "has made so many comments about our stakeholder process...this should probably be the model to address turnaround schools and the process"
    "she didn't have to offer that, but she has been truly amazed and pleased in working with us"
    O'Connell: pool of yet untapped potential, reminds of Union Hill
    "has potential and capability of doing it"
    busy from midday to close to midnight
    "fulcrum of time and effort" in the community
    cites WPI, Becker
    Novick: connections to institutions and parts of the community?
    Boone: Bancroft, WPI involved already, continuing; Becker relationship growing
    Novick: are we expecting School Improvement Grants?
    Rodrigues: yes, will be competitive, of amounts similar to what we saw with previous schools
    Biancheria: community school part of Level 4 plan?
    Rodrigues: no, spinning off of Level 4 group as connection to work there
    Biancheria: will it come to full committee and change other community schools?
    Boone: will inform other practices throughout city, but focus specifically on Elm Park
    committed to be at the table with you, how do we address the gaps that have been clear by this process
    Biancheria: Elm Park was always know as a school that was open; has that continued? Is that something we're going to look at?
    Boone: extending the learning time is a requirement, and then what are wraparound and supportive services needed by students at the school
    have worked for several years trying to redefine, but "school was simply a broker for services"
    "activities were very valuable, but we're specifically aligned" with needs of students
    "I believe that we will begin to see activity return to those levels" but with focus on what the needs of community are
    Biancheria: were sports teams that used the gym? is that included in that plan?
    Boone: community access in common areas of the schools has never stopped
    "we don't generate the revenue that people think we do" as we may waive not custodial fee but other fees
    Foley: thanks stakeholder group
    look at Clark's work and Worcester State's work for schools at what has worked
    important role that health center plays, including mental health
    Ramirez: " a lot of rich discussions around community partnerships"
    Becker reached out to me to see how can we help
    "a lot of parents that play soccer at that school" and thus a way of bringing parents in
    "I've very comfortable that this is going to turn around quicker than we think"

    You should read this about North

    Great column today from Janice Harvey on the community that is North High School. 
    In fact, every teacher I spoke with who manned a bus said the kids they supervised were, for the most part, calm, cheerful and patient. And LOUD. But, hey, I’ll take loud over whiny and impatient any day. Leave that behavior to the adults in these situations. No devices were found, and we filed back in, hungry, to a scrambled schedule. K-9 units trotted on their way, the FBI agents finally disappeared in that weird way they have of vanishing without notice.
    And then read about their TED talks. Good stuff.

    Transportation matters, but it won't affect foundation

    I'm always pleased to see the T&G give space to covering something as important as the WPS budget, so good reading today on the coverage of yesterday's Research Bureau/WEC event. It's also nice to see Mr. Sinacola's kind words (?) on the budget, 'though taking credit "even a small role" for our managing the fiscal cliff from stimulus aid is a bit rich.
    I do have question the efficacy of something raised by City Manager Augustus, Mayor Petty, and Mr. Sinacola, however: counting transportation towards foundation. The issue, as presented, is that transportation, which this year will cost WPS $14 million a year, does not count towards the foundation budget. Thus, from a particular perspective, the city spends $14 million that "doesn't count" when the state calculations how much we spend on schools, and, the argument goes, that isn't fair.
    The thing is, though, that transportation doesn't count towards ANYONE's foundation. If the state suddenly started counting transportation towards foundation, all that does is raise EVERYONE's requirement towards foundation. Thus, if transportation were to count towards foundation, and get folded in, the requirements on funding would just expand to add that account.
    What it wouldn't do is make any difference in any of the other accounts...and thus it wouldn't make any difference in where we are on funding. The level would be higher, but we'd be in the same place.
    We'd still be underfunded.

    A note on the exam report tonight

    A note: we have not yet gotten the report on the exam school proposal (I'm told there have been discussions of details even this week). As it is coming in so close to the meeting, the presentation is tonight; discussion will be held to the next meeting.
    You're welcome anytime, but if you want to hear (or participate) in the discussion, that will be on the 18th. And PLEASE WEIGH IN!!

    Wednesday, December 3, 2014

    And again

    All I can offer you tonight is Langston Hughes--


    Let America be America again. 
    Let it be the dream it used to be. 
    Let it be the pioneer on the plain 
    Seeking a home where he himself is free. 

    (America never was America to me.) 

    Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed-- 
    Let it be that great strong land of love 
    Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme 
    That any man be crushed by one above. 

    (It never was America to me.) 

    O, let my land be a land where Liberty 
    Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath, 
    But opportunity is real, and life is free, 
    Equality is in the air we breathe. 

    (There's never been equality for me, 
    Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.") 

    Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark? 
    And who are you that draws your veil across the stars? 

    I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart, 
    I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars. 
    I am the red man driven from the land, 
    I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek-- 
    And finding only the same old stupid plan 
    Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak. 

    I am the young man, full of strength and hope, 
    Tangled in that ancient endless chain 
    Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land! 
    Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need! 
    Of work the men! Of take the pay! 
    Of owning everything for one's own greed! 

    I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil. 
    I am the worker sold to the machine. 
    I am the Negro, servant to you all. 
    I am the people, humble, hungry, mean-- 
    Hungry yet today despite the dream. 
    Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers! 
    I am the man who never got ahead, 
    The poorest worker bartered through the years. 

    Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream 
    In the Old World while still a serf of kings, 
    Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true, 
    That even yet its mighty daring sings 
    In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned 
    That's made America the land it has become. 
    O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas 
    In search of what I meant to be my home-- 
    For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
    And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea, 
    And torn from Black Africa's strand I came 
    To build a "homeland of the free." 

    The free? 

    Who said the free? Not me? 
    Surely not me? The millions on relief today? 
    The millions shot down when we strike? 
    The millions who have nothing for our pay? 
    For all the dreams we've dreamed 
    And all the songs we've sung 
    And all the hopes we've held 
    And all the flags we've hung, 
    The millions who have nothing for our pay-- 
    Except the dream that's almost dead today. 

    O, let America be America again-- 
    The land that never has been yet-- 
    And yet must be--the land where every man is free. 
    The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME-- 
    Who made America, 
    Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, 
    Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain, 
    Must bring back our mighty dream again. 

    Sure, call me any ugly name you choose-- 
    The steel of freedom does not stain. 
    From those who live like leeches on the people's lives, 
    We must take back our land again, 
    America! 

    O, yes, 
    I say it plain, 
    America never was America to me, 
    And yet I swear this oath-- 
    America will be! 

    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death, 
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies, 
    We, the people, must redeem 
    The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers. 
    The mountains and the endless plain-- 
    All, all the stretch of these great green states-- 
    And make America again!

    US Department of Ed investigating NY state funding

    I haven't seen this before: 
    The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights will be investigating complaints brought forth by two New York school districts that say the state’s funding structure for public schools discriminates against districts with high concentrations of people of color, students whose first language is not English, and students with disabilities.
    According to a press release from the Schenectady City School District, this will be the first time the OCR considers a complaint of this kind from a school district.
    It would seem that this is also going to establish something of a precedent, both in terms of federal oversight and in terms of potential national impact.

    Speaking of the Common Core

    The Research Bureau has an event Monday regarding the Common Core:

    Digging into the Common Core: Education Standards & Testing in Massachusetts 
     In 2010, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts adopted the Common Core State Standards developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. Since that time, the standards have been captured within the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, incorporated into local school curricula, and measured by the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) exams. Are Massachusetts students thriving or struggling under the new system? Where do we go from here? 
     Join the Worcester Regional Research Bureau and its panel of experts to discuss the status of educational standards and testing in the Commonwealth.
     __________________________________ 
     Monday, December 8th, 2014 
     3:45PM - 5:00PM 
     Worcester Technical High School 
    One Skyline Drive, Worcester 
    __________________________________ 
     Panel: 
    Richard Bisk, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics, Worcester State University 
    Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner of Elementary & Secondary Education, Commonwealth of Massachusetts 
    Phyllis Goldstein, English Language Arts Liaison, Worcester Public Schools 

    Moderator: Melinda J. Boone, Ed.D., Superintendent of Schools, Worcester Public Schools

    And PS: they always take questions at the end!