Friday, October 30, 2015

Update on PARCC scores

Per Commissioner Chester's weekly letter:
Districts and schools that administered PARCC tests in spring 2015 are now able to preview preliminary PARCC data in ESE’s Security Portal...We anticipate releasing PARCC school and district results publicly during the week of November 9.
The Board of Ed votes on testing on November 17.

Congratulations, Mary Ann!

Mary Ann Stewart, formerly of the Lexington School Committee, now of the Mass Board of Ed, was elected to the National Association of State Boards of Education Board of Directors! Congratulations, Mary Ann!
Mary Ann not only GETS IT: she's also on Twitter and blogs so you can go see for yourself!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

This is what skimming looks like

Today in the NY Times

You asked why we have a school committee

The final question we received at last week's CPPAC Worcester School Committee candidates' forum was what the purpose of public education is and why we have a school committee.
We received a resounding answer to the latter last night.
The final Worcester City Council At-Large forum was last night, and, while I didn't attend, both Tom Quinn of Worcester Magazine and Nicole Apostola liveblogged it. The topic was public safety, which, bearing out my truism that everyone wants to be on School Committee in an election year, kept swinging around to schools.
And, boy, were there some terrible answers.
Let's be clear about police in schools:
Like many social programs that are motivated by a sense of urgency to do something about a perceived crisis situation, this program has grown dramatically without the benefit of scientific evaluation. No rigorous study to date has demonstrated that placing police in schools promotes school safety. Our study finds no evidence that increased use of SROs decreases school crime. 
(emphasis mine throughout this post)
That's the conclusion of "Police Officers in Schools: Effects on School Crime and the Processing of Offending Behaviors," which uses the National Center for Educational Statistics annual report to evaluate programs. 
And if you're looking for solid, peer-reviewed research about what effect police in schools in fact have, that's about all you're going to find, as has been pointed out, more than once.
But perception! we're told. Okay:
However, little is known about the long-term or concurrent effects that the presence of uniformed officers might have on students' feelings of safety. For example, although the presence of an officer may provide peace of mind for administrators and parents, we cannot presume that students view officers as their allies or defenders. The presence of uniformed officers can, in fact, breed a sense of mistrust among students and hence adversely affect school climate. Indeed, some preliminary evidence suggests that physical surveillance methods (metal detectors, searches, and security guards) can predict increased disorder.
Likewise, the American Bar Association's reflects:
 Although police officers and metal detectors may create the appearance of safety for some, research studies and experiences have shown that these policing tactics, instead, have a serious detrimental impact on school communities. The American Psychological Association and others have found that these practices do not improve student behavior and that they drag down academic achievement, breed distrust in the school community, and result in the criminalization of youth—particularly youth of color—for minor misbehavior, like “disrespect.”  Am. Psychol. Ass’n Zero Tolerance Task Force, “Are Zero Tolerance Policies Effective in the Schools? An Evidentiary Review and Recommendations,” 63 Am. Psychologist 852 (Dec. 2008).
What does happen when you have police officers in schools? More arrests for offenses that don't lead to charges, and more disorderly conduct charges:
  Controlling for socioeconomic status, the researcher found that there wasn't much difference in serious crime between the schools that had SROs and the schools that didn't. Students at policed schools were much more likely to get arrested than students at unpoliced schools, but they weren't any more likely to actually be charged in court for weapons, drugs, alcohol, or assault. (In other words, students at policed schools were much more likely to get arrested in cases where there wasn't enough evidence to actually charge them with a crime.)
And, yes, that absolutely happens out of proportion with the racial makeup of the public school system, as reported by the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights:
While black students represent 16% of student enrollment, they represent 27% of students referred to law enforcement and 31% of students subjected to a school-related arrest. In comparison, white students represent 51% of enrollment, 41% of students referred to law enforcement, and 39% of those arrested.
 As for those who would cite the spending of the Springfield public schools:
While all three districts appear to overuse “public order” offenses as a justification for arrests, Springfield had significantly more such arrests than Boston or Worcester, as well as a much higher overall arrest rate than either of the other two districts...
While there are undoubtedly many reasons why there are more public order arrests in Springfield than in Boston or Worcester, it appears that the manner in which Springfield deploys police officers in its public schools is a contributing factor. Springfield is the only district that has armed, uniformed police officers from the local police department stationed in selected schools for the entire duration of the school day. These officers report to the Chief of the Springfield Police Department, not the Springfield school district. 
The above is from "Arrested Futures," the spring 2014 report from the American Civil Liberties Union about criminalization of students in Boston, Springfield, and Worcester (prior, one should note, to Worcester having full time police stationed in our schools). That's absolutely necessary reading to anyone who opines on police in our school system.

And that's the point, really: if you're going to be making public policy on this--which the City Council does not--you need to do the homework. Too many candidates clearly have not. And last night? Twenty-four hours after Spring Valley? Several of them lost my vote. You don't get a pass on this.

I'm just relieved that they aren't setting public school policy.

For more on this, I'd highly recommend "Education Under Arrest" from the Justice Policy Institute.

"...let's...embrace the fact that you showed up at all..."*

On Saturday, President Obama in a video message commented that we had too much testing in our schools, and that it needed to be limited. This was followed up by official guidance from the federal Department of Education.
And then the internet flipped out.
If you're a long-time reader, you know that I've been outraged by President Obama's education policy since before he took office (That link goes to December 2008). That it has doubled-down on much that was wrong with No Child Left Behind to begin with, while adding extra measures of things that are also awful, has been a frequent theme for me (and it's why I voted against Race to the Top).

But there's two things that bother me about the chorus of negativity that met the President's announcement.
First, most of the scoffing (shading to outrage) comes from educators, in one way or another; from teachers to education policy makers and think tanks, many people in education reacted negatively to this announcement. I thought, though, that we in education didn't give up on people. I thought we were about explaining it again, changing how we tackled a subject, coming back to what students don't get. I thought we were about getting everyone there, no matter how long it takes.
Does that not apply to adults or to presidents? Or did we really not mean that at all?

The second thing that bothers me about the reaction is what's missed: we're in the middle of the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Congress has to pass it and the President has to sign it. Many in the Democratic party have been taking their signals from the President in education policy. That has meant that much of what we loathe--and much of that centered around testing--has been pretty non-negotiable. For him to say that there's too much testing and to lay out some clear parameters for testing opens the door for new levels of negotiation on what can be in ESEA (and get votes and gain his signature) than there were before. That absolutely matters.
And in the meantime, we're still living in the ESEA waiver universe, and the department handing out those waivers just changed the rules on how we're operating. I look forward to states submitting waiver applications publicly that take very, very seriously:
  •  testing that is PART of classroom instruction
  • testing and test prep that is NOT a separate item
  • testing that is FULLY transparent to parents and to the public
  • testing that is NOT the sole measure of anything
..and so forth (do please read the DoE fact sheet). I venture that very few, if any, current waivers include any of this. It's up to the states now to take DoE at their word and submit waivers--and be VERY public about them--that actually follow those rules.

And then we can see if the lesson has truly been learned. A test, if you will.
*Sam Seaborn to C.J. Cregg, "Mr. Willis of Ohio," The West Wing, Season 1, episode 6

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

School resource officers?

If you, like I, were horrifed* to see video from Spring Valley High in Columbia, South Carolina of a school resource officer knocking a high school girl's chair over as he arrested her for refusing to leave a class, a few things to read:

*though unfortunately not surprised. There have been plenty of reports of such things in the past, just not on video. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

So what just happened?

When we walked into the Board of Ed this morning, our last indication on where we were going was the comment from Commissioner Chester last night which was clearly an attempt to walk towards a third way:
I am considering this new model, this door number three, that takes advantage of our access to PARCC development ... but uses that development for the construction of a MCAS 2.0, and gives us the running room to ensure that MCAS 2.0 is exactly the test that we want
Today, though, at a "just before adjournment" section, and in response to questions from Ed Doherty, Chester used a key verb: recommend:
recommending to the Board that we not just stick with MCAS as it is now; that we not just adopt PARCC and hope that it's a great test, but that we go down a path of developing our own test
So what does that mean?
First of all, as pointed out by Deputy Commissioner Wulfson, it changes nothing for spring, as there is no MCAS  2.0. We as a state are either doing MCAS or PARCC during this school year, this spring.

Second, it potentially tries to answers everyone's criticism at once. Don't like having other states decide? We won't! Don't think we should be stuck with the MCAS? We aren't! Think PARCC has more challenging questions? We'll keep that! And so forth. It can capture the push coming from the superintendents this morning without (potentially) alienating those who are convinced that only Massachusetts going it alone can do best.
Side note from me: I found Superintendent Chang's discussion of what Massachusetts might, as an educational leader, owe the country an intruguing thought (as did Vice-Chair Morton, who picked it up later).
Now, this only works with PARCC's new(ish) choices; previously, you were in or out. Now can you be partly in, or buy their services, or pick and choose. Pragmatically, I suspect it's the only way to keep the consortium together at all, 'though given the number of states that are doing things like keeping Common Core but naming them something else, they may well have takers on such a system.
Also, if everybody wins, everyone can also be seen as losing.

For those really looking for a third way, this timeline from Chester today is interesting:
if we were building a next generation MCAS from scratch...that's probably...and we'd very much want Massachusetts educators involved...that's easily a three year timeframe
Now, this proposal is that we NOT build a next generation MCAS, but build it off the PARCC, which, as Chester said, would take less time. There is going to be time involved in building any such assessment, 'though, which (I'd argue) leaves a bit of an opening for conversations about what it really looks like to have assessments that are the "real work" happening in the classroom.

So far, we haven't.

Continued discussion on assessment

Doherty: my head is filled with numbers
"there's no real predictive" on PARCC and MCAS
"if we're going to go through Door number 3...are we going to do more than just rename PARCC to MCAS 2?"
"it sounds to me as if we want to keep PARCC but drop the consortium?"
would like to know if there's more to it than that
"I'm not looking for the answer now, but I'd like it more than fifteen minutes before we're going to vote."
is it the development of a new test?
If it is, who is going to develop it?
if we go through Door #3, what is our relationship with the consortium?
Sagan: do you envision reacting in writing?
Chester: those are great questions that you asked
"I'm only in a thinking through it phase"
"recommending to the Board that we not just stick with MCAS as it is now; that we not just adopt PARCC and hope that it's a great test, but that we go down a path of developing our own test"
that we go off of the development that has been done of PARCC, but "not limit ourselves to PARCC"
"going down that path means going through" ann RFP, possible to think of that as a mulit-stage
build MCAS 2.0, capturing as much of the intellectual capital that we've invested
"outline a multi-year process for building a refreshing and updating our MCAS exam"
what's not clear to me right now is if that means everyone takes PARCC this coming spring? That's one possibility.
Not interested in going back to MCAS 1.0 "I think that's a step backward"
how do we advance in the direction of MCAS 2.0?
"And there will be an expense to the state...and it won't be a trival expense"
Sagan: and what will be the relationship to the PARCC entity?
previously seemed as if you're in the club or you're not in the club; now sounds as if there may be different levels of membership
need to have a legal agreement with them
Chester: we were successful in winning a grant to build the test we wanted
"it's work that we did; it's work that Massachusetts did."
Willyard: what are we even voting on next month?
thought we were either voting to stay in consortium or not
Sagan:used to be a binary model but PARCC has raised that they're experimenting with other models
Noyce: I'm not comfortable making a decision along the lines the Commissioner has presented to us
other members concerned that we'd lose autonomy
"I'm less concerned about that, as it seemed to be largely at the margins"
timeline for getting MCAS 2.0?
Morton: what is the remaining work of PARCC? How are we going to rely on PARCC moving forward?
Chester: responding in a dialogue:
if we were building a next generation MCAS from scratch...that's probably...and we'd very much want Massachusetts educators involved...that's easily a three year timeframe
wait, what else takes three years?
could be four years, til we're up and running
building off of the development of PARCC, we're talking a much more accelerated timeline
PARCC has developed about four years of content
"if we decide that we want a feature that is not part of the consortiums, we can develop it"
if there are elements of the PARCC asssessment that don't make sense, we can move those out
membership in the consortium: issue "we need to be smart about and keep our eye on"
has never been a static entity, has changed over time
commitment from the states has been to do what's in the best interests of the states
Moriarty: does this have some valuable help in closing the achievement gap and advancing learning? I'm hearing not.
Sagan: not what I heard at all, may be predictive in the same way, but underlying very different
Moriarity "I just don't see these quantitative differences in the data" as described
"The one thing I would have hoped...there's was always going to be an MCAS 2.0"
what can the administration do for us in MCAS 2.0? "or do we lanquish for seventh and eighth graders in two or three years?"
Peyser: if this appears as if we're kicking the can down the road, then I agree.
what MCAS 2.0 is supposed to look like
part of that is showing us that this kind of assessment is the basis for which we should be building MCAS 2.0
governance questions have been an overlay of that
perhaps RFP to go out and clarify what it will take to get us to MCAS 2.0, what's the timeline going to be, what's the costs
"if that's the decision we make, it won't be drift, it will be a clear fork in the road that we've taken"
Wulfson says at a minimum, DESE would need to know what test would be conducted in the spring
Noyce: "I don't know that a test can close gaps, but one of the important arguments for me on PARCC is it's a much deeper signal for college"
"to me, calling something MCAS 2.0 is just a way of putting a Massachusetts stamp on it"
would like to see us give PARCC in the spring, and say to the state that we've developed this test, but going forward, we'd like to take this test and make it our own Massachusetts test
Sagan: that we have to call it MCAS by law
Moriarity: summative test puts lights on them so you can close them
Willyard: always saw us as forwarding the MCAS
Morton: couple of concerns: one is the technology issue
"recognize it isn't only on this assessment" but something beyond
"looking for places where it could be in the budget" as it isn't yet
"we're going to want as a department and a board about what we're going to do on the technology piece"
"get our schools across the Commonwealth up to speed so all children can have the benefit"
other concern I have is "collaboration on any level is different, but I think that collaboration on all levels is important"
"if only to pull those states together for a test that works for all children across the country"
achievement gap "is a national issue"
"owe it to be part of these efforts across the country"
Chester: honest set of expectations across states
"goes to Penny's question: is there an opportunity to remain part of a cooperative" if there are areas that we think don't do justice to what we think are covered, we can set our own destiny
don't think we've done justice to the efforts on the technology gap
talked to MSBA about floating low interest loans for technlogy
"a number of pieces in motion for support to districts for technology"

Science, technology, and engineering standards

Sagan: all we're asking for is a vote to send out for public comment
Peyser: MIT slogan is "mind in Latin, though"
Mens et manus....though that's mind AND maybe I misheard him?
balance knowledge of science with the practice of science
expect that we're going to hear plenty of opinion from all sides, and I encourage all of it"
engage thorougly with the material
"and we're getting it"
Sagan: as material is coming in, we should get it
OUT for public comment

Civic learning and engagement

Chester: specific details on moving forward

  • incorporate civic readiness into "college and career readiness": will be part of upcoming meeting with Higher Ed council
  • network of regional advisory councils: address this by repurposing two current councils: Civic Learning and Engagement Advisory Council, will hold regional meetings
  • annual conference: incorporating sessions in upcoming fall conference; spring statewide conference with sessions
  • updating history and social science frameworks: timeline for updating standards and a statewide assessment at January meeting
  • recommendations on assessment as part of budget requests

Discussion on PARCC

update: press release distributed is here. DESE is working on uploading the PowerPoint shown this afternoon.

"not everyone is in agreement on what would be the right course of action"
"very strongly about the need to move and to move expiditiously"
two year timeline: full set of experience with the PARCC assessment
"we've had quite a bit of experience and feedback and you've heard a lot of it"
"the more I've thought of it, the sharper my thinking has become"
"depth and range of feedback you're getting"
systematic analyses, strongly held opinions
"have been concerned that we identify the forest for the trees"
Three principles as we move forward (this from Chester):
  1. MCAS has reached the point of diminished returns. "Last year was the 18th year we'd administered MCAS" having greatest impact on places where there's a lot of energy on having students succeed on a test rather than being successful.
  2. Having looked at an awful lot of information on PARCC, "it's clear to me that PARCC is a strong advancement on MCAS"
  3. Whatever path we pursue, "we need to be in control of our destiny." Opens options beyond a binary decision
"what's been colloquially referred to as Door 3"
"capitalizing on the investment we've made in PARCC"
"Massachusetts has played a leadership can we capitalize on it"
Well over $100M investment, can't replicate
capitalizes on PARCC development, but we as a Commonwealth decide what is and isn't in it
Owe it to our educators, students, families, "to move ahead, as standing still with MCAS is not a path that I would recommend"

Bob Lee and Jeff Wulfson:
Lee; trying to provide some context for these results
98% PARCC test takers (not many opt outers)
selected statistically to represent state population from 2014 both demographically and in academic achievement
"though their accountability level can't go down, we'll be calculating a percentile for them, and those percentiles will be public record"
also need context for these (given history)
MCAS and PARCC have different levels of achievement; MCAS has 4 levels, PARCC has five
"not that they're the same things"
"seeing about 50 to 60% of students meeting expectations on PARCC" in grades 3-8 (which is where most of the results are)
in math, about half: (all grades 52%) (80% of eighth graders who took algebra I, BTW)
in high school, numbers are kind of all over the place (?) for PARCC, but no higher than 49%
91% of students in MCAS ELA; 79% in math in MCAS

slide that tries to compare percentages
"what was a 68 on MCAS compares to a 60" in PARCC though Fryer points out that this is not the case
"that's not to say our proficiency went down, but there are differences in meeting expectations"
difference of about 8 points
Fryer: 60 doesn't equal 68; it doesn't work that way
because they're different cut points; math cut the test into deciles
distributions are matching up across the test
Peyser: is there something you could say about the percentage of raw score points you need in one rather than the other?
Lee: somewhat relevant, cut scores 60-70 percent
"when we calibrated our expectations, and we talked to our professors and our teachers"
"47% is a really good score on the PARCC test"
lot of score points on the PARCC test, lot of good information
have .3 correlation with grade point average
Doherty: reading at grade level by grade 3, is what that means to be
"how do I interpret that in reference to reading on grade level?"
Lee; probably not your best source
Chester: with PARCC, there was a standard setting process that began at the 11th grade
"what part of the 11th grade test to you need to master by" lower grades to then succeed at a higher college course
PARCC was very deliberate in terms of lining that up, grade by grade
Noyce: "we've talked about grade level for years as if we knew what that met"
this is a definition: "we talk about these things as if they have some meaning, but they have the meaning that we give them"
Lee: there was a process, they looked at very detailed standards
Morton: for MCAS districts, there was 10% fewer low income students
Lee: that's why we normalized the sample
Morton: were you able to determine impact of poverty on achievement
Lee: matched first on achievement, then on demographics
Morton: I want to know if PARCC adversely impacts low income students, compared to MCAS
Sagan: "and 'struggling' isn't the word I would use...I would use 'not meeting expectations.'"
Chester: fewer students across the board are getting to those standards
"so this becomes a pretty interesting discussion...does the gap widen or shrink...and" what does that mean
"let's not look for a test that eliminates the gap"
essentially he then here talks of a test that just tests content and thus gives pure resutls
Lee; rigorous bias review process for items
"strange to say a kid is not proficicent one year and is proficient the next without his having a particularly good year"
Lee: compare how kids did to how kids did on a test we know better: correlates with 9th grade MCAS
now there's a chart that basically shows that if you take MCAS results and take PARCC results, they do correlate at a beyond statistically significant level
Wulfson adds cavet on relative seriousness with which test was taken, which is protested by Willyard (the student rep) that he doesn't like the insinuation that any students might not take the test seriously
Peyser: we're comparing a four performance to a five performance scale
Lee: have two scales that work and you've broken them up in different ways
pretty massive gap in Algebra II and 11th grade ELA
Lee; "these are tests that don't correlate as much"
Willyard: would this mean that the cut scores need to be reevaluated?
Chester; they can both be equally correclated by cover very different content
Fryer: text complexity, other is different cut points on a test
"if I were to do the exact same thing, and give it six levels and call it PARCC revised, I could say 'Look, look at the complexity'"
Sagan: but do you want to say that 90% pass? Whatever that number is?
Moriarity: if we go with PARCC, does that mean that there will be three math graduation requirements?
Sagan: change in high school requirement waived for three more years
rules won't change partway through the process
Peyser: if these data are right...
Sagan: "wouldn't it line up with the large numbers of students being put into remediation?"
Noyce: there is a strong movement among other states in the country at back mapping on math to what you study in college
"we should as a state really not try to tie ourselves to the Calculus track"
and now comparison with NAEP

And now on PARCC and technology (presentation by Kenneth Klau, digital learning)
minimum needed to administer PARCC online:
  • internet connection to download test to each computer prior to testing
  • sufficient bandwidth (at least 5kbps per student)
  • sufficient computers (desktops, laptops, netbooks, thin clients (?), and tablets) with a web browser and an input device (keyboard with mouse or touchpad)
20 day testing window x 3 sessions / day= 60 sessions
each student sits up to 7 sesssions
number of students x 7 sessions = total "seats"
for example: a school with 721 students has 85 testing seats & therefore needs computers to give tests during the window (721 x 7/60=84.1...thus 85)
how many classrooms? 5 

Statewide estimate need for $3.1M to $12.3M (based on type, ranging $250 to $1000)
  • 304 schools need less than 30
  • 85 need 31-60
  • 37 need 61-90
  • 13 schools need 91-120
  • 3 need 121-150

infrastructure needs of $2.4M, includes broadband costs for schools that do not meet proctor caching requirements
Sagan: do you have a map? yes, but not yet, and you'll be able to zoom in and out to the individual level
For technology in general (beyond PARCC):
$90 (something)M for upgrading school technology
$67 and $278M for devices
Wulfson: behind much of the country, as much as we see ourselves as a technological state
what resources are out there? Erate being the best
districts applying, regardless of testing decisions
Digital connections partnerships schools grant: state bond batching program
sliding scale where state match funds for infrastructure, local money used for infrastructure, devices, PD, or assistive technology for students

Stewart: process out loud
had been rethinking MCAS in 2008, but went way of RTTT
"not a test per se, but college and career readiness for students"
tension between what is necessary and important wellbeing and what is necessary for the future economy
don't have a clear vision of 21st century skills look like
"no test ensures great instruction"
test to inform instruction, and how best to do it
"how do we go back and replan, retool for what we want to do with regards to assessment"
Chester: not at ground zero...and now we're reviewing 20 years of ed reform...
"this is not about starting a new direction; it's about continuing."
Stewart: MA has set standard at level 4; Ohio has set it at Level 3. How do we have common assessment?
Sagan: 'as long as you can can compare if it's the same data"

Statewide PARCC results (updated with link)

Click to make it bigger: 

Press release here

Holyoke update

Receiver Zrike updating on Holyoke (which doesn't have a backup)
Sagan points out that they don't have results yet (yeah, about that...remind me to talk about Holyoke's MCAS scores)
Zrike: goals of the plan
  • build on what is working and fix what is not
  • empower staff and hold them accountable
  • extend time for learning
  • establish pathways to career and/or college success (clear rework of secondary)
  • invest in partners strategically ("and all kinds of partners: charter partners, private partners")
  • repair relationships with families ("they'd walk if they could")
special education review process scheduled to begin
comprehensive strategies to address needs of ELLs: "how you can best use the first language to develop the second language"
structures around instruction of the plan: redesign secondary educational experiences: grades 6-12
"it's gotta be more than saying we have two high schools"
need multiple pathways, beyond two
climate and culture: pilot director of culture and climate (licensed social worker)
teachers feel as though they have nowhere to go beyond special ed, not all kids have special ed needs
"looking at outside partners with track records"
"create an activist parent and family engagement office"
developing leadership in the district: "just rolled out a new ed eval" model
thought previous eval "was a compliance document"
organziation "all about feedback"
"just because you get feedback doesn't mean you're going to fired"
need to hang onto people he has "need work to do to build those systems" of new leadership
see a lot of people who aren't engaging with kids, then see classes sizes of 30
"particularly as we're spending more than most urban districts" on administration
has a "chief of implementation"
alternative programs for overage and under credited
schools fully engaged in operational schedules to use time

Stewart: when is budget approved in Holyoke?
began this winter into spring
"that seems late in terms of recruting and some of what you're talking about"
"not holding back on the budget" in recruiting
Stewart: how families are being integrated into the work? Particularly at Dean and Morgan
Zrike: doing a lot of meetings in housing development
had visits to homes
"we're going to come to your home or your neighborhood"
Morgan school "really have flipped" "because of some of the relationship wth families"
"that's the beginning of the relationship"

Doherty: has been built on other successful turnaround plans
"can you cite two or three significant differences between the Holyoke" plan and Lawrence?
Zrike: secondary redesign
some of the work around family engagement "given what I've heard about the context in Holyoke very early on"
"didn't want to be solely influenced" by a single model

Willyard "have done a fantastic job in the district"
Have seen benefits of breakfast in the classroom
don't think experience around arts is as strong as it should be
"have places of it, it's not consistent enough"
"look at what those look like" especially outside of secondary
built into extended school day

Public comment (beginning with superintendents on PARCC)

Opening with comments from superintendents from Boston, New Bedford and I missed the last one
New Bedford: talk to you about PARCC
approach with two lenses: data and instruction
in ELA recently used Star assessment, very robust turnaround in New Bedford
saw only 42% scoring at benchmark at 9th grade
but failure rate was only 7%
"having a false and almost cruel sense of hope" as they hang onto their diploma (having passed MCAS)
instruction: demanded through rigorous standards
"knowing that there is more than one right answer"
careful close reading looking at evidence: "becoming critical thinkers and readers"
"all this shows what rigorous instruction is"
your choice will drive instruction in these schools, "particularly for urban kids, particularly for kids in New Bedford"

Boston: "must be more thoughtful about high stakes test and its impact on learning"
"do a better job of measuring specific standards"
would like to share three thoughts
oh, don't...quoting the Teach Plus survey...
we need assessments that are tied to particular cores of learning
relationship between teacher, student, and subject: best evaluated by what's going on in the classroom
misalignment between what is going on in classrooms and what is in the standards (in Boston)
when there's a shift "you see a huge shift in students demonstrating mastery"
"need assessments that match the rigor required in the Common Core"
PARCC improves access and accessbility
should be proud of our leadership in the state and should continue
"should not absolve ourselves" of responsibility to rest of consortium
hmm..interesting point: what do we owe the rest of the country?
Cant lost the progress we've made

"going to comment on why I think PARCC is the right choice"
standards "comprehensive and rigorous"
realigning instruction to standards, integrated use of technology
"seems one group lost in the shuffle" is students
engaged students in groups afterwards: "our kids overwhelming prefered the use of PARCC" particularly in terms of using technology and time
"who among us has written more than a paragraph by hand and then had to copy it over by hand?"recently
"can you imagine not having spell check on the work you do daily?"
test split into portions: "the most was 90 minutes"
reduction of 40% to 70% of time spent on testing, depending
should not be receiving results that are four months old
rather than spending hundreds of millions of dollars for a new assessment, use that money to upgrade technology across the state, and not just for PARCC, but for education
"the fact that the technology upgrades our assessment system is a bonus"
MCAS does not give us the data we need to address the needs of our kids "a hybrid won't either"

Willyard Q: justifying responses is not new
fairness of the assessment: is there a gap of technology for students who have access at home versus those who don't?
Chang: think that's a separate debate
Moriaty Q: thoughts about technology are well placed: 388 schools not capable of using online version
Revere is up to date, New Bedford needs to do a lot of work
"what is the commitment to reversing this at the district level"
New Bedford: need to move kids to 21st century level
leverage needs to pushed as to why kids need technology "separate and apart from PARCC"
"not a whole day saga"
parents saying "that's what I want my kid to learn"
Sagan "technology issue might be a tie breaker for some"
"are you telling us to wait on PARCC or not" based on technology?
Revere: "let's not give anybody the better one because some aren't ready to receive it yet"
PARCC is a better test than MCAS and transforms how instruction is done in classrooms
shouldn't wait, "because it gives us a gap in our data"
"sense of urgency will be lost in terms of getting kids where they need"
New Bedford: urgency is critical, "time is moving on"
"can't wait for technology to catch up"
"even though we were totally paper in New Bedford" we'd still push forward with PARCC
Boston: aligns with instruction daily
Stewart: how many licensed teachers in the state? 80,000
Fryer: right set of signals to guide teaching and learning in the classroom
"how do we know that assessment is PARCC?" versus another assessment
Revere: "there's always room for improvement"
"leaps and bounds" above MCAS
"from what I've seen of tests, it's a really good test"
calls for not letting perfect be the enemy of the good
Boston "more power in working across school districts, across states"
"Do we continue working with other states or do we go off on our own?"
"there is some collective responsibility that Massachusetts has in leading this work"
Fryer: if we did away with the labels, but we had a bucket of high-quality assessments, but we completely controlled the testing that we used, could you get excited about it?
Chang (Boston): "think it absolutely should be part of the conversation"
Sagan: agnostic among several new tests
Boston "power" in being able to call superintendents in other states
Chester: thanks superintendents for their leadership

update on Lawrence

Backup is here
Sagan: "welcome back, year 4"
Riley: "has it been four years?"
high quality academics, high quality outside activities, hard work matters
MCAS: trending up, still need to work on ELA
dropout rate cut in half since 2011
offering 130 new full year full day preK seats for eligible 4 year olds
"moving towards one larger high school with smaller personalized learning environments"
"gradual release of responsibility"
"teach kids to walk the line but then forge their own path"
9th grade academies: "reactive work" on working on dropouts
felt like 9th graders needed a more guided program, more social-emotional supports, a real focus on academics
"won't have to be as reactive" in upper grades
upper academies being planned this year
school year for 9th grade is expanded; start earlier; interesting electives: Crossfit, orchestra, mindfulness and mediation ("which I was personally a little skeptical about" but has received rave reviews)
Playball announcement: $100,000 to expand sports offerings in middle school
talk a lot about test scores, but offering outside opportunities really important
taskforce for special education for it to get "done right and done better"
teacher leadership teams at school level; teachers voted in at school level
working with an outside firm to create a facilities masters' plan
"this is a serious issue in Lawrence" as they have aging buildings and a booming population
Fryer: math and ELA "mirror nearly every reform effort I've seen in American"
Riley: accelerate timeline on language acquisition (I don't think this is possible)
"pound that language into kids"
"try to accelerate that pace...something everyone struggles with in second language learners"
"English is something that we continue to work on and needs help"
tutoring "still going on" but in mathmatics (in response to Q from Fryer about MATCH) and in house
possibly more important to focus on English
Fryer "good models for MATCH tutoring in English"
Stewart interested in data on staffing longevity
Riley: "hired virtually no new principals this year"
had replaced 50% of principals this year; pretty happy with principals we have now
teachers "saw more turnover the first few years...going back down"
Stewart: student support and family engagement?
Riley: "there's a lot of things going on"
expanded Family Resource Center: "have seen amazing results in this area"
if you come to PTO Presidents' Council, meet on a bimontly basis
field days on weekends with virtually every parent showing up
Riley: model where parents are not only welcome but expected to be there
Stewart: co-construtive model for parents as well
Sagan suggests making that part of the next updated
Noyce: how much of need for preK are you filling now?
Riley: waiting for demographic report
Chester: acknowledge the "terrific leadership that Jeff has provided...Lawrence kids in a much better place than they were four or five years ago"
have just renewed tunaround plan
"takes decades for a district" to fail, can't turnaround right away
students with a significant proportion of students whose first language isn't language
highlight work of DESE in shepherding turnaround effort across the state
at the end of this month, bringing together Holyoke, Lawrence, Springfield, "what can we learn from others and from each other"

The Board of Ed meets at 8:30 (opening comments)

The Board of Ed meets at 8:30; you can find the agenda here.
Updating as we go once we start 
Not exactly a full house for a discussion of such import...
We seem to have had a shuffle of seats. Note that Margaret McKenna is not here and Ed Doherty is still coming.

Commissioner: "quite pleased to announce that Massachusetts has a received a expand and enhance our state longitudial data system"
$7M over four years; propose to expand in two areas:

  1. better explore fiscal equity and return on investment
  2. college and career readiness and watching students has they progress through the system (into college)
NAEP results being released next week; discussion at next meeting
urban results and Boston is one of the cities
Parthonon group reviewing organzational review: "finding it very helpful and very provocative"

Peyser: wanted to acknowledge and appreciate the Commissioner's comments framing of the decision we have in front of us
  1. MCAS very much in need of an update; in "many respects it represents the best of student assessment from a decade ago" but time for an update
  2. PARCC work in collaboration "reflects a great deal of that new thinking" test items in many respects
  3. Massachusetts needs to control its own destiny
Noyce: Commissioner's evaluation process: include a verbal midpoint check-in, otherwise, connected to new initiatives that the Commissioner needs to report on
Fryer: subcommittee on charters: lots of potential reauthorization and new charters
important decision of how to narrow down 2000 "very worthy" requests for expansions to 600 new seats
Board will sort out who goes to which public hearings

Chester and door number 3

At last night's Board of Ed meeting, Commissioner Chester floated the notion of a third way between PARCC and MCAS:
“I am considering this new model, this door number three, that takes advantage of our access to PARCC development ... but uses that development for the construction of a MCAS 2.0, and gives us the running room to ensure that MCAS 2.0 is exactly the test that we want,” Chester told the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education at a special meeting focused on student assessment...
“Any path to MCAS 2.0 that involves PARCC must be a direction over which we have complete control,” Chester said, adding that the state must be able to customize any exam it gives to meet “our needs and desires.” Chester said that the board’s discussions so far and public comment on the exams have helped him realize the importance of Massachusetts retaining control. “It’s critical that we ensure our control of our standards and assessments, and not leave that to chance or to decisions of other states,” he said.
 Let's first of all--PLEASE--set aside any notion that this is totally coming out of nowhere. It was clear from last month's Board discussion that a number of members of the Board had what Professor Fryer termed "governance" concerns: in other words, who runs the show. As the argument from the beginning has been that it was important for Massachusetts to not only be in PARCC, but be on the Board of PARCC, and as Chester's position of chair of PARCC has repeatedly been defended as furthering this end, this isn't new. 
What is new is getting the Commissioner himself to a place where Massachusetts not just going with straight PARCC was going to fly. It's somewhat hard to back off when you've been chairing a board tasked with creating the test, and when you've been saying for months that states dropping out of PARCC has been purely political (I could link to my notes on that, but it would be multiple links!).
This is not to say that Massachusetts leaving (as it appears is being recommended) isn't political. It was impossible for me to read yesterday's column against PARCC by the Pioneer Institute without recalling who their first director was--Charlie Baker--and who their director was shortly after that--Jim Peyser. So as much as it pains me, no, it's impossible to view this through a purely educational lens.
But then, that's what got us into this mess in the first place. 
Instead, it's been clear in the Board meetings that there really isn't a plan B: we don't have a renewed contract for MCAS, we don't have a technical backup (beyond PARCC), and we're running up against deadlines all over the place. That was most particularly clear from Deputy Commissioner Wulfson's responses at the last meeting (that's the previous link), and how the state decides to deal with that remains to be seen (and here's hoping the Board thinks to ask!).

For all those, like me, who are waking up this morning wondering what would have happened in Massachusetts had just stayed out of Race to the Top all together and instead used this time to develop an actual authentic assessment, all eyes on Margaret McKenna:
Suffolk University President Margaret McKenna said she didn’t think either MCAS or PARCC was the answer, citing a recent report conducted by Mathematica Policy Research for the state Executive Office of Education, which found both tests to be comparable predictors of college readiness.
“We just need to start thinking maybe more creatively about how we get there,” McKenna said of developing a new exam.
 Count me in.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Board of Ed meets tonight and tomorrow

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Board of Ed meets tonight and tomorrow in Malden. Tonight, they'll be getting an update on PARCC. Tomorrow, in addition to that, they'll get updates from Lawrence, Holyoke, and the Level 5 schools; have an update on civics instruction; discuss the science standards (and maybe finally manage to get them back out to comment?); talk about FY17; and probably talk some more about PARCC.

Yes, I do plan to be there and blog!

Oh, Boston Globe (regarding PARCC)

Because the Board of Ed meets tonight and tomorrow and PARCC is on the agenda, the Globe editorial board apparently felt that it couldn't put off deciding any longer, and came out in support of PARCC. The Pioneer Institute could not, of course, let that go unchallenged, and Joanna Weiss doesn't understand this very specific math problem.
Oh, Boston Globe (sigh)...
The survey the Globe is citing (72% of teachers support) is this Teach Plus survey of teachers who attended a Teach Plus PARCC conference. Yes, it was a self-selected group, and they offer no evidence that, as they say, "The views of Massachusetts teachers who attended the “Testing the Test” events are similar to the views of the teachers across the sites." It was a survey that included 351 teachers. So all that we can conclude is that 252 teachers think it's better. That's about 1/3 of 1% of Massachusetts teachers. Note that their only support for "great teaching" is also from a Teach Plus fellow (which Board member Margaret McKenna pointed out at a previous meeting is a group that comes to this with a certain agenda).
The column by Jim Stergios, writing for the Pioneer Institute, is replete with myths and errors: PARCC will take more time (no, particularly now that they rolled both parts into one); kids will delay entering algebra at all (no) and kids will end math with Algebra II (no); oh, and this:
That demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of standards-based reform. PARCC tests the elements of Common Core shared by all states, not the supplemental math or higher-level reading individual states may add. Given that over time what isn’t tested isn’t taught, PARCC represents a race to the middle for Massachusetts.
Well, throw out calculus and AP physics, then, folks!
 The column by Joanna Weiss is a more measured version of the hysterical forwards replete on social media around Common Core math homework, which more-or-less boil down to "I didn't learn it this way; why should anyone?"
Because we can do better. Because kids who actually understand how math works rather than just memorizing formulas actually are better at mathmatics, long term, no matter what they do in the rest of their lives.

Please understand: I post all of the above not because I am a PARCC apologist. I made my own position clear--neither--back in July when I testified before the Board of Ed. There are other options out there. If we are going to have this conversation about testing, though, let's please at least attempt to do without making things up, misleading the public, repeating things that are wrong, and otherwise trying to cloud the issue.
What if we debate this on its relative merits?

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Thoughts on yesterday's Foundation Budget Review Commission

With fifteen days out from their due date, and a bulleted list of eleven things to wrestle with, plus additional suggestions members had about reporting, accountability, and the like, the Foundation Budget Review Commission met yesterday.
Let me first again cheer this from David Bunker, in response to Ed Moscovitch (he who wrote the foundation formula) scoffing that districts don't know their foundation budget amounts:
Let's give a hat tip here to Mass Budget and Policy Center and every school business officer who has pounded how the foundation budget works into every budget presentation for years (yes, ours certainly included).
Thus, when district after district comes forward and can give a list of areas that are underfunded, they know whereof they speak. And that's particularly true of the conversations Bunker had these past weeks with districts.
Of the eleven items they had left to grapple with yesterday, they spent the greatest amount of time (as Bunker had been tasked with focusing) on ELL and low income. No doubt, they warrant the attention. Bunker's report, which was based off interviews he conducted in a number of districts (including Worcester) came in large measure from successful school turnaround efforts, and what it had cost to run them.
However, what was supposed to be a conversation about low income and ELL also appeared to encompass the conversation about wraparound services, low class sizes in primary grades, and extended day. The conversation assumed that the low income increment should serve as the means to those ends, without those being separately considered. It's not at all clear that such a merger appropriately represents the need.
The good news on this front--and it is a change!--is that the Commission appears to have backed away from the requirement that any additional dollars be spent on areas that they would determine. This change was particularly marked in Peisch, who commented that she now understood that something that worked in 70 or 80% of districts might not work in the others, and that it would be wrong to tie the districts' hands in that circumstance. So thank you to whomever has been talking to Rep. Peisch!
There was a separate report brought in on professional development and coaches. It didn't (from my read of the conversation) appear to go much of anywhere.
The need for high-quality preschool will be "recognized," though they will not be recommending anything on it.

Two items were being skipped until brought to the attention of the committee: in-district special education,  for which models have substantially changed since 1993, and inflation, which misses a 2.2% rate in 1994 and included a 3.04% rate in a year (FY10) when it should have been 6.75%.
To give you an idea of what that looks like: the 2.2% is $7 million for Worcester; the difference of the other is $12.9 million.
Every single year.
It was late in the meeting, but that is when we saw the reoccurance of the "we can't say that; it's too expensive" claim from the Chair. I agree that it's a lot of money; it's money that our district is missing. The state didn't halt inflation; it pretended it didn't exist. That doesn't work when you have real bills to pay.

I said this before, but it needs to be said again: the job of the Commission is to report out on reality. The reality is that there are substantial sections of the foundation that are undercalculated. Yes, that is a lot of money. The only way the Legislature is going to have a realistic idea of where we are relative to reality is for the Commission to tell them, though.
And ignoring it doesn't make it go away. It just pushes the problem back down to the districts.
That isn't how McDuffy found that this works.

I've included the preliminary recommendations (please be clear that this is a draft) after the break.

About that charter hearing

I tweeted out some "morning after" thoughts on Wednesday about Tuesday's charter bill hearing.
I should also point out that Edushyster was in the hallway on Tuesday,

I think that Mary Pierce captured some of the surreality of the day for those of us who were there for the whole thing; it was, more than anyone, the Boston Public School parents and students who were the very last to be heard. Somewhere over three-quarters of the school-aged children in Boston are educated in Boston Public Schools, and every year those schools face cuts. Yet their mayor had the temerity to come in and ask for a cap lift, saying that his own proposal was somehow more reasonable than the Governor's. I have no doubt that he and his office will be the first to say that the schools can't possibly be better funded when we talk budgets this spring.

Mayor Walsh, you aren't well-serving the schoolchildren of Boston.

That's really just a microcosm of the insanity of the whole conversation, though. As I said earlier this week, we spent eight hours talking about 1/2% of the kids in the state. It's not the schools that serve the most needy kids; it's not the schools coming up with the most innovative ideas. It's a margin of schools that can run suspension and attrition rates near fifty percent and somehow never face state sanctions. It's a sector of schools that continue to not be appropriately, nay, even legally, funded. It's schools that can make budgetary decisions privately (yet with public funds) and have no local accountability.Yet somehow that was the most important issue that the Joint Committee had to spent eight hours on this week.

And yet somehow some of the same people could sit at the State House yesterday and claim that we didn't have time to sufficiently flesh out the foundation budget review commision report, a report which will reach ALL of the public school children in the state in one capacity or another.

To be strictly fair, there are charter school issues that warrant attention. It's things like where their students disappear to over time; how schools that serve cities with high rates of ELL students can have none; how we can be fulfilling our constitutional mandate to be educating kids "for the preservation of their rights and liberties" when they're attending schools that write them up for having their shirts untucked.

The auditor did her job when she issued her report on charter schools back in December. The report was dismissed by DESE and has been ignored by the Legislature. Before anyone does anything else with charter schools, the state needs to deal with the issues she raised in the report. That's what we have an auditor for!

We need ed reform, Massachusetts, and we need it in the charter section.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Foundation Budget Review Commission meeting

The Foundation Budget Review Commission meets at 2.
updating as we go
They're starting with a presentation by David Bunker, which I've posted here. 
Bunker: asked me to focus on ELL and low income increments
theory of action was we want to make sure a lot of schools and districts are receiving sufficient funding to accomplish what they're trying to do
moving quickly through how other states do it; "we're within the ballpark"
"success could be defined as MCAS scores, as growth in MCAS scores, or turnaround schools"
a way to get some testimony and cost that out
top two things I heard were extended time "not just considered learning time, common planning time, professsional development"
second thing "incredible growth in the need in social and emotional attention"
"That was the striking thing to me, was it was almost the first thing out of everybody's mouth"
early ed, full day kindergarten, a desire for more preschool, professional development
"class size, but considered a " particular way
entering high school, high level of need and not much education behind them
"given that not every district does every single one of them...when there's been success in a school, they've done several"
when you look at where you are "a flat rate largely driven by class size assumption"
"how do you address poverty when it's concentrated poverty"
"how do you process this many ELL students"
for ELL, "we were not wildly not outside of national bounderies"
need to address the high school rate, and not added at all to the vocational rate
"both of these were addressed with DESE"
"when we say that we're progressive, we get more to the highest poverty quartile than the lowest poverty quartile"
"did not give a specific number" as they're still looking at the change to low income from F/R lunch
citing Worcester, turnaround was "about $2000" per student
"as we start to talk about...needs...might need to be flexible" as district needs vary

Q from MTA: weighted ELL add on took the difference (I think he said to secondary?)...wouldn't that be sufficient? (separate increment)
most of those things we're thinking of as being carried of by the low income increment
'though those decisions will be left to Legislature
current estimate is $25M
"rooted in the middle school"
Chang-Diaz combining the data points, "it's not out of step with the national level...and bring everyone up to the high water mark"
"we don't know that it's the magic number"
"hard to find conclusive ELP data about what's right"
Peisch: very high percentage of ELL students are also low income
would also be benefiting from low income addition
"will vary dramatically" depending on numbers

Jehlen: idea of recognizing different concentrations of poverty
listing two of them are ELT and wraparound services is $2600 per pupil
even if you said all your kids were low income, it'd be significantly more than that
2001 report for MA said the low income increment should be "at least 50%"
NY thought the low income increment should be 100%
questioning if they're adequate at the lower level
cites Bruce Baker most disadvantaged communities are smaller communities like Everett
"the ideas are know what's going to happen" (it will shrink)
"I would like us to say what we think we need, and leave it our different role" to shrink it

Q MASC: is there a factual basis for quartiles?
Bunker: $1500 is just an example
"kind of differing that decision to whenever the Legislature will take it up"
Jehlen "whatever you say will be the upper limit"
Bunker "not a lot of evidence out there about what the middle quartile should be"
Chang-Diaz: Worcester spent $2000 for turnaround; where would they be in quartile?
Bunker: lowest
highest is 9%; lowest rate starts at where the highest low income rate is right now
MBAE: anything from schools that have shown the most improvement and seen what they did, "like Lawrence"
"there might be different evidence"
all used different
"we'd like to see dollars attached to outputs not inputs"
Bunker: focused on specifically "what are you doing in the places you had the most success"
Verdolino: anything on where the money came from?
Bunker: varied by district, one of the challenges of all of this
"very often grants, Race to the Top, turnaround"
Race to the Top "didn't prove" very useful (for information)
certainly ELT grant funded...worked into collective bargaining costs
Verdolino: best practice is sustainable funding, that you can count on
joke that you get a Level 3 to a Level 2 by letting a Level 3 become a Level 4 and then you get the grant
Moscovitch: like the idea of an ELL increment
Lawrence has very high 4th grade growth scores and their scores are falling
"we should be careful about that"
other services: is there a sense in which we'd be asking for this money twice
biggest gap is professionals who are not classroom teachers
if they could spend their whole allotment on that, would they be whole?
if we adjust the rest of the foundation budget on that, would they have enough?
since we're already making the adjustment on that,
"creditability question if you wind up asking for it twice"
note: we don't know this; no one has proven this; we don't have the money
small group instruction "need for wraparound services go away"
nooo, you don't
Did you look at if those districts could spend their health insurance and sped gap money on the rest?
Moscovitch: if they don't know their allotment, then they can't answer the question
Bunker: Oh, they know what their allotment is
"I know we used to say that only ten people understood the foundation budget, but that's no longer the case"
MASS: social emotional has exploded in our state
Chang-Diaz "what do smart people tell us it costs to educate a low income student versus otherwise"
last commission said 50%
"it may correct and we're not spending it that way, but I saw a lot of data points pointing that even if we spent it as proscribed," we wouldn't be there
Moscovitch: "you'd be doubling or even tripling the amount alloted"
Peisch: "I think the response that I'm hearing is that" it's still too low
"particularly given the need in mental health services"
Moscovitch: "if there are schools where it is happening" (cites Revere) with high test scores even though they don't have enough wraparound services
MBAE: should make a recommendation that mental health and other departments "to make sure that they can provide the services at schools"
"taking on a responsibility that they don't think they should have to provide services that they aren't trained to perform"
MASS: social emotional is different than mental health
"have social workers with every one of our schools, we could certainly use more social workers"
"partner with outside providers" for some children
MBAE: "then it isn't coming out of your budget"
MASS; if they don't have Social Security numbers, it does
"it's complex"
Ferguson "it's a very complex area" some small schools are contracting with outside providers
some of the kids in my area may go to counseling or an outside provider
whole child not impacted, needs smooth back and forth
MASS: also connected to in-district special ed

Peisch: met with Bunker
General consensus around these recommendations for special ed and low income


  1. ELL: convert the ELL increase from a base rate to an increment on the base rate; apply the increment to vocational ELL students as well; equalize the increment for each segment including high school to the current middle school increment of 34%
  2. Low income: increase the increment for districts with high concentrations of low income students; ensure that any new definitions of economically disadvantaged properly count all high needs students
  3. leave the exact calculation of each increment to legislative action, based on further review of data and debate, but with guidance from the Commission that national literature recommends a low-income weighting of 40-100% and that practices in model districts in the Commonwealth suggest that multiple concurrent internventions are necessary to effectively close the achievement gap.
  4. establish a better data collection and reporting system that allows for greater access to school-level expenditures and data, and tracks funding allocated for ELL and low income students to esnure that spending is targeted to the intended populations.
  5. require each district to post a plan online about how it will use the extra funds calculated in the ELL and low income allotments and what outcome metrics they will use to measure the success of the programs so funded. The plan will be public but not subject to approval by DESE.
some concern about calculation about low income
Moscovitch having  trouble about tying funds specifically to low income and ELL students
Peisch "don't want to tie the districts' hands" in how they deal with it
Moscovitch want to ensure it's going to learning
Chang-Diaz: mandate here is to do well what we have not yet figured out how to do well
average levels of achievement are fantastic; what do we need to do to close the achievement gap
a lot of what we heard was ELT and social emotional
"we want to allow districts to have flexibility"
"we think it's best to leave it at the district school level with a strong accountability structure"
"a place where people are looking at what is your plan and did it work"
MASS: this is above and beyond phase I recommendations
this does refer to the things that were in the limits of the spending; it "can encompass"
Chester: I've been someone who's advocated for some way of ensuring funds are spent on ELL and low income students
advocate for doing a better job of tracking and reporting where schools and students are spending their money to the school level
figures on where money is being spent in Holyoke compared to other Commissioners district
"some degree of skeptism..not confident people are coding dollars correctly"
endorse spirit of this
MBAE: didn't read data collection as limiting how the funds could be allocated
"I think that the idea is asssessing the productivity of investments and make sure it gets to the points its intended for"
"not going to use the word accountability...effectiveness and efficiency" were words used
should be an addition that the results should be online; be sure the results were met, improving
"case made the funds are being used as effectively as possible"
Peisch: the more that I have looked into these issues the more I've been made aware "there's no silver bullet"
"theres no one thing that's going to work for every kid in every school in every district"
think I started out thinking that we had to be sure that every dollar went to where it was allocated by the foundation budget
have come to see that some things may work in 70-80% of districts but may not work everywhere
but should see where it goes
Moscovitch: foundation budget reads proscriptive, but "of course the superintendent would have the flexiblity to do it within that total"
just going to point out there that it'd be the School Committee that passes the budget...
"small disagreement...there are some areas that if you don't spend it, it's very difficult to succeed"
"really hard to change teaching in schools that don't have instructional coaches"
MTA: are we putting plan online because it should be or to sell this package
Chang-Diaz: both
plans online so it's more focused for academics, others, beyond local stakeholders, so can see in comparison with one another
Moscovitch: some way of "nudging school committees to focus on improving pedagogy and improving things for low income kids"
Chester: "feeling ornery...going to stir it up"
assumption on low income and ELL are well-intentioned
when it comes to expenditures "biggest driver is salaries"
convinced that spending same amount for different schools (with different needs)
MASC: mechanism for this: it's the school improvement plan
don't need to create a whole new mechanism
not approved by School Committee; which is a problem
would have to be beefed up some more, but it exists
put them online and link to them
MBAE: would need to beef up, certainly
MASC; school councils not being treated with appropriate gravitas
Peisch: is that something that you could actually get any of your districts have difficulty filling your school council?
MASS: level of pedagogy left to non-education professionals
MBAE: heavily on the loose side here
Chang-Diaz: gesture of a recommendation about sending money directly to the school level
MBAE: leaving flexibility to different districts for different needs
language suggestions to David?
Verdolino: if you try to mandate a way to make sure that this money goes to each individual school, are you putting in a tremendous layer of backfill from central budget
"this could be a lot more trouble than its worth"
I'm not sure who is talking now
"want to be about kids are doing"
don't want to get into looking into if additional money went into ELL, where it went into PD to address ELL, and it's harder to track
want to be sure it doesn't put us into defensive mode
MARVA "over time it becomes increasingly difficult" over time to track new money
MassBudget: is there a way of merging the story: there are things we never did that we intended to, and things we now know we should do that we didn't
confirmation from MASC that this now deals with "accountability" bit


Peisch: placeholder that acknowledges the need for early education
Chang-Diaz: heard about high quality early ed in so many places
"high quality preschool is a promising practice"
tactic that we frequently saw highlighted
"both for closing achievement gap and for saving money in special education"

MTA: correct historical underinflation
5% total
Peisch: caution that list is so expensive that it won't be taken seriously
MTA: compromise: historic underinflation in 2010 (which was 2%)
MASC: is there a difference between recommending the change and recognizing that inflation has not been completed
"there is a significant dollar differential here"
Peisch: some statement in the report "that general indicates...a recognition that the foundation budget from time to time as it has been calculated over the year has not" included inflation
"maybe in a footnote"
("maybe in a footnote?")
MTA: "I know it strikes some people as trival..." (he's interupted "We KNOW it's not trival")
Note that this would $7M for Worcester Public Schools

early ed commissioner: more than "promising practice"
"strong evaluation of that"
Peisch: drafting language to include

Peisch: in district special education: presentation at last meeting
"no real impact or best practices"
came to conclusion "that we've essentially run out of resources" to deal with in district special ed
may put a sentence in that it needs to be looked at "but it's beyond our time and resources"
Moscovitch: "I don't agree with that"
MASS: instructional core for improving schools
"elephant in the room when we talk about coaches is Ed owns" a coaching company (?)
13 year rollout on...I have no idea what her proposal is...oh, she's introducing this
Moscovitch: "about improving instruction"
"unless this report is seen as improving instruction not just for low income kids"
free up two hours each week for a teacher, two instructional coaches at each school
"yes there is a lot of money on the table...but at its heart, this is a proposal for improving instruction"
Moscovitch is now going through his prosposal
want to say what the problem is
need to talk about it in terms of teachers and class size
thinks that this is a much greater guarantee of ongoing funding support
"I think we all understand you can't have a good class with 28 or 30 kids in it"
"resume using staffing as part of what you report"
Chang-Diaz: different catagories of teachers
Moscovitch: "other teacher" catagory
importance of "guidance counselors and other sorts of services"
when people ask why the music teacher was cut "the music teacher is paying for health care"
essential for understanding and for long-term political support
Chester: concern about staffing whether that drives folks to a standardized approach across the Commonwealth when we're seeing a lot of different directions
Moscovitch: superintendents said (back in 1993), we're all going to do this differently
but no one felt uncomfortable that just because there was a standard, they all had to do it this way
Chester: on PD, coaches...seeing a number of different models some of which are very effective
Both Louisiana and Tennessee have developed an approach to identify lead teachers; quarterly meeting regionally, statewide once a year
"thinking about the foundation budget, I hate to lock us into a one-size-fits all sort of model"
Moscovitch: "that was never the intention"
"there's got to be a way to identify that you've" used the resources to improve instruction
Chester: "I'm not enthusiastic about requiring a lot more planning...want more transparency of where the dollars went"
to show differences in how schools are spending dollars and identifying things that are working
MBAE: felt we dealt with this issue in the preliminary report
felt like this was reopening professional development
Moscovitch: "we never discussed professional development in the preliminary report"
MBAE "trying to give discretion to school leaders" to spend their money
"also very input oriented"
MTA: should be taken very seriously...don't know that we have time"
MASC: focusing on in-district special education number "is there anything to suggest it isn't accurate?"
if it's significant, can't ignore it
MASBO; "numbers all corraborate each other"
"my recollection is that in-district special education was part of the" next steps
Peisch: if you just try to recommend what is being spent without benchmarking to some performance, some evidence to what works, it's problematic
health insurance benchmarked to GIC
"we haven't done that kind of looking to make that kind of judgment"
"I think that to endorse a number runs the risk that inflation does but to a greater extent"
"selling the need for greater influence...a little concerned about having everything class size driven"
acknowledge in our recommendations is left open
concerned about simply funding what is currently happening
Moscovitch: based on walking through schools
Peisch: that's the same thing to me
Moscovitch "when you see how an inclusion model works, you can see why you need more than 15 minutes a day" per classroom
"I think you need some way of focusing attention in districts"
MBAE: "very serious proposal that I want to read carefully" but don't think there's time
Chang-Diaz: include in it "the delta"
"the difference between a recommendation and a recognition"
would you be comfortable if we included that this is an issue and we haven't gotten to it, recommend it to the Legislature's attention
"I honestly don't know the answer to the question what is exactly the problem in many districts that need to get fixed"
"In many districts, I think it's instructional quality"
"if we had heard from everyone, or much of anyone, a concern with instructional quality, I would feel better about putting a fence around instructional quality" as a special category
essentially, they didn't decide on this. They're going to circulate things, discuss them via email, and HOPE to vote on final draft at next meeting October 26

Research Bureau presents on International Baccalaureate

Rodrigues: has been in the works for some time
Vote of SC last year to set forth in planning year
Right now in process of hiring the director that will be heading the director for us
This school year to do the planning of the academy: about 240 students
IB course of studies will be the emphasis
Hope to be a satellite or program within Doherty; physical space at Doherty does not allow it in the building; temporary location until it has a home being looked for
Schools that have implemented IB in different capacities in different scales; plan is for Worcester to open in December of 2016

Marco Rodrigues

If you're wondering about whom it is we've just appointed interim, I'd recommend this 2010 column by Jackie Reis (with apologies if you run into the T&G paywall).

Thursday, October 15, 2015

School Committee policy section passes

AND BACK: vote of interim contract

Note that this is an amendment to his current contract, which he will go back to, should he not be the person appointed permanently 

15% increase in salary for Dr. Rodrigues
transporation stipend as in current superintendent's contract
not precluded from applying for permanent position
Begins December 1; ends upon appointment of new superintendent or July 1
passes on a 5-2 vote, Biancheria and O'Connell opposed

RFP approved to be sent out
due by November 4
school committee will do screening and do community input with search firm

Worcester School Committee meets at 7 (and we're taking interim appointment out of order)

The agenda is here.

taking interim out of order

"tidal wave of updates"

Posting entirely because I'm entertained by the lede:
How do you know if Tracy O’Connell Novick is at an event? If you are following her on Twitter, you can tell by the tidal wave of updates and links to her blog, all of which keep interested Worcesterites up to date on the latest in education and school politics.
We did charter schools on Tuesday, and we'll do Foundation Budget Review Commission tomorrow!

Note that the link above is to Worcester Magazine's profiles of all Worcester School Committee candidates. Please give it a read! 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015


They're more or less a wash in predicting college readiness, EXCEPT:

PARCC appears to be a better predictor of better college math* grades than MCAS.
We can make of that what we will, and it appears that Secretary Peyser already is.

*note the asterisk; only math's difference is stastically significant.

A couple of reports that you may have missed yesterday

This one, from the Mass Association of School Committees, on who is actually being served by Massachusetts charter schools. A couple of charts from that:

This one, from the Annenberg Institute (thus a national perspective), on recommendations for charter school reforms. Those include:
  • transparent and representative charter governance
  • equal access
  • fair and transparent discipline
  • better monitoring and oversight

The above are things that must be dealt with. Not a cap lift.

Morning after thoughts

for those not on Twitter...

(that deserves a blog post of it's own at some point)