Thursday, December 29, 2016

"Getting Schools Ready for the World"

I like the questions this article is asking.

So the good news is that we don't need to develop students' learning dispositions in schools. We just need to maintain and strengthen the dispositions they already have. 
The bad news, however, is that new research suggests that traditional schooling may actually discourage these dispositions. For example, in one experiment described by Gopnick (2016), 4-year-olds were much less likely to find their own solutions to making a complicated toy work when the experimenter "taught" them ("I'm going to show you how my toy works") than when the experimenter allowed them to observe her trial-and-error efforts and think about the problem ("Hmmm … I wonder how this toy works?"). As Gopnik writes,
Studies show that explicit instruction, the sort of teaching that goes with school and "parenting," can be limiting. When children think they are being taught, they are much more likely to simply reproduce what the adult does, instead of creating something new.
If we're honest with ourselves, we know that current school structures that force kids to learn the same thing on the same day in the same place with other kids their same age with the same teacher going through the same curriculum to be assessed in the same way are not built on any sound theory of learning. It flies in the face of common sense to think that this approach will produce the powerful learners we're discussing here. If we're truly committed to developing every student's ability to learn how to learn, we're going to have to rethink our practice.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Worcester's enrollment is up!

h/t to Scott O'Connell for the story today. Good graph, too.
Now, you all remember how this works, right?

From the article, it looks as though that's still shaking out.
As MassBudget wrote last month, while the economically disadvantaged count is improving in accuracy, there are still fixes need. Worcester, of course, actually did better on the economically disadvantaged allocation (there were districts that did considerably worse through the count) last year. What those numbers look like this time round is a very good question (and one that's being watched like a hawk by the Gateway Cities in particular).

I was reminded today that the ELL count is also something that's being watched (see slide 33 from last year for the mention). Assuming that was about the new guidance on ELL students, I don't see the issue, but I've asked for more.

Assuming there isn't a huge hit on either of those, it should be mildly good news in FY18.
...which reminds me that I haven't checked the inflation rate lately...

a few blogging notes for year end

  • I'm reworking the "helpful links" sidebar (see ---->>> if you're on a full screen); I've dropped some of the Worcester-links, and I'm adding some DESE ones. Let me know if there are ones you'd find helpful. I'll link to the new state Joint Committee on Education when we know who is appointed.
  • I'm still not thrilled with the new color scheme...I am finding the wider blog posts easier to read, though, which is what I made the changes for. 
  • I don't always tweet when there are new posts, but I just about always link to them on my blogging Facebook page, so you can follow that if that's helpful. Likewise, the summary reports for MASC always show up under "Novick Reports" on the MASC page. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December Board of Ed in sum

The Board of Education met in Malden on December 20.
Note that the Board of Ed not only is now being livestreamed during the meeting, but the meetings are beginning to be archived online.
In his opening remarks, Commissioner Chester noted the substantial number of proposed changes to regulations and standards that are currently out for public comment. I've posted all of those here.
Public comment included an early childhood perspective on ESSA, concerns about a proposed dropping of the instructional technology license, and grave concerns from MTA president Barbara Madeloni regarding the MCAS proposals. Madeloni asked the Board to "step back" from the increase of testing, saying "we've found ourselves in the smallest place of what teaching and learning can look like."

There was an update on the receivership of the Holyoke Public Schools, with a particular focus on the Morgan School, which went into state receivership a year ahead of the district. There was a particular emphasis on data updates and secondary pathways by student.

The Board then took public comment on the Mattahunt in Boston, followed by their own discussion of the school and future for its students. Several of the Board members clearly were concerned about what happens to the students being moved (with member Craven mentioning that they likewise had requested updates of what happened with the students of Dorchester Collegiate when it closed, which they have not received). There was also some concern about the community not having the same understanding of how the school was doing as the state did. The Commissioner, commenting that he had heard nothing in the last month to change his views about the school or decisions made, said it was time to move on.

There was a presentation on and a discussion regarding the PISA results which came out earlier this month. While there was some discussion of the stellar results of Massachusetts students, the Commissioner mentioned what he referred to as "very provocative" points on schools in China, Singpore, and Vietnam, which in some cases outperform Massachusetts in math, commenting that they have large class sizes of 40 or 45 students, but a low adult/child ratio, and teachers don't spend as much of their time teaching students.

There was a presentation on the state's plans for ESSA, particularly in light of the public sessions (one pager on that here) that took place in November and December. Additional indicators the public comment sessions indicated as important include school climate, access to the arts, and access to a well-rounded curriculum (one pager has them all AND acknowledges potential problems with them, as well). At this point, DESE plans to present again to the Board on this next month, with the plan before them in March, possibly to be submitted in the earliest window of April 3. All also acknowledge that no one at this point is clear of the plans of the incoming administration at the federal level.

There was an initial discussion about proposed changes to educator licensure. The changes, to my eyes, largely seemed about making it a more straightforward process.

There was an update on MCAS, specifically on the high school competency determination. The biggest change here is the proposed addition of a history assessment, which, as Secretary Peyser noted, is already in regulation and would thus require no change, just an implementation. Deputy Commissioner Wulfson commented that the state is "looking at all of our options: not tying ourselves to a pencil and paper or a computer based options" and was clearly open to inclusion of classwork, projects, and other assessment methods for this assessment.

There was a fairly lengthy presentation and discussion (of which I only have a hard copy) of early college high school ahead of next month's joint meeting with the Board of Higher Ed. Essentially, a substantial amount of groundwork has gone into possibly expanding such programming in Massachusetts.

While they had the recalculation of low income to economically disadvantaged on the agenda, there was no discussion of it.

As mentioned above, the January meeting is a joint meeting with the Board of Higher Ed, to be held at Bridgewater State.

DESE wants YOUR opinion!

No, that wasn't sarcastic at all!

There are a significant number of things out for public comment right now, and, thinking some of you would like nothing better than to use your time over the holiday break than to express your views, I'm collecting them all here in one list:
  • The standards for history and social studies are just beginning to be reconsidered. You can give input on this by taking this survey

December Board of Ed: MCAS

memo is here
Chester: discussion on where are we going on high school assessment
provide students, families, educators with more accurate assessment of if they're prepared as they move up the grades
a number of questions being tackled
leaving it at grade 10; when can we certify 'readiness' for college
adding history and social science to competency determinations

posting from my notes earlier:
  1. Provide clear and accurate signals to students about whether they are on track for the expectations of colleges, employers, and civic engagement.
  2. Keep the high school competency determination for English language arts and mathematics at grade 10 for the near future
  3. Add history and social science to the competency determination.
  4. Eliminate the high school chemistry and technology/engineering tests (as most choose bio or physics).
  5. Add an introductory physics re-testing opportunity in February (in addition to the retest of bio already offered).
  6. Convene a stakeholder workgroup to identify and recommend options for a grade 11/grade 12 assessment program to gauge students' readiness for success after high school.
Wulfson: preliminary discussion; on agenda in January
looking at a potentially new history test and 11th and 12th grade options
"Looking at all of our options: not tying ourselves to a pencil and paper or a computer based options"
competency options, existing options, classroom options
"want to continue our discussion with the field about getting students and families the information they need without wanting to be intrusive" in the classroom
back and forth here about science options
Doherty: do you still have to take US History?
law doesn't say you have to pass it
Sagan: revisiting standards?
Yes, that's K-12
Peyser: think regulations currently include history/social science
Wulfson: Board has voted to delay
Sagan: why haven't we done it? Money? (to general agreement)
Chester: for me one of the concerns were...bad time to increase requirements if you can't also increase supports for those students
which would seem to imply that increasing this requirement would mean increased support 
Peyser: I would be concerned about setting an expectation that if anything untoward happens on funding, that we'd drop the test
wondering about an alternative option for proposed dropped science tests, like AP tests
McKenna; only probably is you probably aren't going to be able to pass an AP chemistry test in 10th grade
but other options to consider

December Board of Ed: Educator Licensure

memo is here
Chester: update of an ongoing discussion
"getting close to bringing you recommendations to update" regulations
all updates "fit within existing statutory authority"
"revise where revisions are warranted"
"again no action being asked of the Board at this time"
Heather Peske
Brian Devine
Liz Losee
who get high points for putting their names on their PowerPoint
anticipate bringing changes to Board in January

December Board of Ed: early college

Chester: Board meets with Higher Ed Board in January
Parthanon group did evaluation
memo is here, but there's a PowerPoint which wasn't handed out

December Board of Ed: ESSA

Johnston: met with stakeholders in spring: summer created: fall went back out (in Boston, Shrewsbury, Brockton, Holyoke, and Salem)
"quite a bit of stakeholder outreach"
"made sure we got parents, and teachers, and administrators there"
"pretty good job of 20% split" (teachers/admin/parents/advocacy...I think I missed a 20)
talked to them about three specific areas:
  1. modifications to the accountability system
  2. more of the programmatic areas "Safe and supportive schools, well-rounded programs and study"
  3. programming to promote equitable access to high quality educators
"tons and tons of notecards"

December Board of Ed: PISA results

backup here
McKenna: why did we pay to do this?
Chester: in Massachusetts, we get a number of indicator that we're doing pretty well
where we were, NAEP assessment, a couple of international assessments
"in my mind, we should expect nothing less from Massachusetts than what the most aspirational systems expect"
cost about $600,000
US has participated since 2000
MA has participated twice as a state
1700 students in 49 schools; principals, teachers fill out questionnaires
"League Table" "comes out of the scoring world, tells you who's on top and who's on the bottom"
only Singapore scores better in science, top the world in reading, "less well" in math
"our science performance ticked up slightly, though it wasn't statistically significant"
"only 14% of the variance in MA science performance in attributable to increase in scores"
go read the charts if you're wondering about that; as you'd expect, it's more complicated; for one, kis socio-economic level is self-reported
Running through some charts here, which I'll add later.
Girls (36%) more likely than boys (30%) to expect pursuing a science related career
Sagan: "just on the edge of changing their minds" commenting that girls often slip in this as they get older (PISA is taken by 15 year olds) "or maybe it's encouraging"
fewer plan to pursue science than country
Policy implications: commitment to universal achievement, "gateway exams" were students need to pass to go on
"capacity at point of delivery"
class size versus student teacher ratio
"as much as 40, 45 students in a class, but teachers spending less of their day teaching those students"
"not about class size"
"very provocative results"
"resources where they yield most"
"higher performing systems have a capable central authority"
speaks of Fryer "hoping he will look at our data sets" to see what else can be done
Massachusetts fell in middle of frequency of testing
"stakes [in other places] are often quite high for students"
"I just feel so strongly for us in Massachusetts...particularly when there is an anti-globalization sentiment...we'd be doing a disservice if we didn't connect with the most aspirational systems around the globe"
Doherty: how schools chosen?
Chester: representative sample
Peyser: also is TIMMs: can you talk about that and this?
Chester: assessment of math and science, 4th and 8th grade
have participated as a state before
"much more of a traditional assessment of 'what you know'"
Stewart: what the style of pedagogy is in the high class size places?
how they're engaging this
"can get locked into a mindset without thinking about what that might mean"
Chester cites Sweden which has declined
"allows each school to grade itself and it has declined overtime"
"and I thought that was an interesting little tidbit"

December Board of Ed: Mattahunt

Mattahunt: public comment then discussion
and I'll apologize in advance for no doubt missing names
her daughter who is in third grade wanted to be there
quoting here her daughter: current principal is her third principal
"education unlocks your dreams"
wants to be a fashion designer: make clothes that are not just pretty but functional
"always cold in the cold weather"
mother: been very frustrating for her
need for wraparound services: only one school on transfer list does
"have to be at work at 8:30, finish work at 6"
can drop off early, goes right into extended length of day
"cannot get these kinds of services at any other type of school"
students at school do not learn like students at other schools

early childhood centers: are longer time, schools are not (or may not be)
a lot of confusion and anger from parents
"can't say if teachers will be teaching there next year"
parents went to welcome centers and staff had parents fill out transfer forms for this year
some transfers went through and were removed from the rolls
parent who refused to fill out form as she wanted to visit schools first was told she'd lose her slot
parent who doesn't want to move her son again at the end of the first grade
another, daughter in third grade, has been in three schools already; son has IEP and his location will depend on services
"mother is adamant that she is not moving her daughter a fourth time"
parent who chose the Mattahunt upon moving from Haiti as cousin was there; no family priority for cousins
70 homeless families at the Mattahunt right now, citing DESE
how does Boston's "home-based plan" work for families without a home?
urges Board to obtain BPS five or ten year plan for the Mattahunt and plan for Mattahunt students

Barbara Fields, retired teacher, resident of Mattapan:
requests around information from BPS about assignment of students
chronology of events: two week period of time from informed of possible closure to school committee vote of closure
requesting vacancy by grade in schools being offered to parents
and services at schools offered
"parents are going at this blindly; they don't know if they're going at this in a reasonable way"
not only school level, but where they're at in the turnaround, are they going up or down
"that you really look at the schools that residents of Mattapan are able to attend, based on capacity"
"schools have been disproportionately closed in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Mattapan"

"cautionary tale...don't want tale to be lost"
what questions were not asked before school was closed?
"in our view context matters...symptom of a larger problem"
"fundamental equity issue"
"there's no argument that closing schools has a perilous impact on communities, and a disproportionate impact on communities of color"
parents see school closure as a done deal
people feel they are powerless
some are fearful they'll be punished by being denied a school of their choice
community really wants to work with BPS admin; "let's look at what successful turnarounds have done"
successful parent engagement
willing to work with administration to identify obstacles to parent engagement
"let's embrace the opportunity to do what should have been done during the years of turnaround, but were not for whatever reason"
no ability to sustain change with turnover in administration
funding was "primarily devoted to two hours of extended day"
"that in and over itself was not enough to move the turnaround"
asks for an independent evaluation of turnaround work in Boston
this happens, but those reports aren't always public
Stewart: parents who have extraordinary barriers in front of them right now
"who is the champion for the students at the Mattahunt right now?"

Sagan now takes the Mattahunt out of order
Sagan's understanding is that Boston School Committee has now reconfirmed their decision
"we do not run those schools"
to the question of oversight, "some of that resides with this Board"
Chester: comfortable with plan of BPS admin
"what's been happening under the authority that the school district has basically flatlined the school"
runs through again the Dearborn school
(citing this as a positive plan with DESE, as opposed to history cited by Boston School Committee)
comfortable with Mattahunt students ending up in a better place
"nothing that has transpired in the last month has changed my mind" with regard to the decision of the School Committee
spoke with Supt Chang, mayor's staff, Chair O'Neil
Boston School Committee "they're comfortable with where they've landed"
"I see no further action that is warranted here."
will continue to follow through with parents and kids
30% English Language Learners; reflective of district as whole
wonder how many are former ELL?
spoke to students at the Mildred Avenue School "and students were quite" outspoken on difference between Mattahunt and Mildred Avenue Schools
(positive at Mildred Avenue and negative at Mattahunt)
Sagan: seeing gap between services offered and those seemingly being offered
very close contrast with Boston and "how it's being operationalized"
open enrollment in Boston schools opens January 3; families find out in March
Boston has informed parents that there may be further changes to their choices
If there are other schools that are closed, schools will follow up with parents
DESE has said can't be lost year
residency in school now; support schools in social emotional
concern on early literacy, PD for teachers
"acceleration academy" during vacations
student rep notes that majority of sessions are in weekday mornings
DESE will follow up
Noyce: that the school was truly failing appears to have caught the community by surprise; how to make that better?
was a local stakeholder group that informed that plan
one of the goals was parent engagement
worry that students are not proficient; make sure that communities are well informed about progress of schools
community meetings at Dearborn with use of "data dashboard"
Doherty: no effort on part of school system to change their minds in the past month
information that parents are looking for that they haven't been able to get
Craven: progress of Level 4 schools
needing context
Dorchester Collegiate Academy: wanted follow up of what has happened to students; don't recall getting updated
calls out involvement of Morton in keeping Board informed on Springfield
"don't have larger perspective" of district
"magnitude of what we're dealing with in Boston
"change our context around Boston"
Stewart: appreciate comments of Craven
do have structure of monitoring: technical assistance teams in BPS
coordination of assistance to Boston Public Schools in turnaround
McKenna; assume when we're talking about monitoring Level 4's "not just in Boston"
asks for a report on Holland and Dever again "they're our schools"
Board will get update on all Level 5 schools in January

Chester: while we rely on local school districts to run local schools, state judicial court has made it clear that state has a responsibility to education
law codifying lowest 20%,
"giving districts additional authority and schools" to turn those schools around
and then giving state the authority if those efforts don't work
"not to take full responsibility for efforts at Level 4"
"it's a balance on our part...we want nothing more than to see every one of those efforts be successful"

December Board of Ed: Holyoke

Chester: quite heartened by the work that happened in Holyoke in general
Zrike "thinking of this in a really strategic kind of way"
principal of the Morgan school, which was Level 5 before district was, here as well
"putting charge" (this is the presentation the department is making of what Level 5 does)

December meeting of the Board of Education: opening comments

The full agenda is here; it will start with opening comments. Updating as we go.
Not here: Katherine Craven, Margaret McKenna

Sagan: second time that we have tried to livestream the meeting to the public
Sagan welcomes "all three of you, probably" who are watching the livestream

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Mass Inc "Community Conversation on ESSA and School Accountability"

Forman, Mass Inc.
Gateway Cities "Vision for Dynamic Community-Wide Learning Systems"
  • early education
  • social and emotional growth
  • college and career pathways
  • newcomers
"we haven't seen the kind of resources that Gateway City leaders feel are necessary"

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The Board of Education meets Tuesday, December 20

They've posted the agenda here.
After the usual comments from the Commissioner, the Chair, the Secretary, and the public, they'll be hearing an update from Holyoke; note this report on the high school redesign from MassLive this morning. It's also worth noting that, while dual language has expanded under the receiver, the initial impetus for that came prior to the state takeover.
They'll be receiving a report on the PISA results for Massachusetts. As in prior years, Massachusetts paid to have the state evaluated separately on this international exam. Also, as in prior years, Massachusetts came in close to the top in the world. I posted some links last week regarding things to consider about PISA.
DESE will be giving an update on the state's plans under ESSA, after the series of public input sessions they held across the state. While final regulations were issued this month, note that the Republican members of the policy committee for the Congressional Review Act is looking at them closely; particularly with the new administration and an entirely Republican-controlled Congress, it isn't at all clear what is going to happen with this.
There is an initial discussion scheduled around educator licensure.
The discussion this month on MCAS will involve six recommendations from the Commissioner on high school testing. Those are:
  1. Provide clear and accurate signals to students about whether they are on track for the expectations of colleges, employers, and civic engagement.
  2. Keep the high school competency determination for English language arts and mathematics at grade 10 for the near future
  3. Add history and social science to the competency determination.
  4. Eliminate the high school chemistry and technology/engineering tests (as most choose bio or physics).
  5. Add an introductory physics re-testing opportunity in February (in addition to the retest of bio already offered).
  6. Convene a stakeholder workgroup to identify and recommend options for a grade 11/grade 12 assessment program to gauge students' readiness for success after high school.
(all of the above outside of parenthesis are quotes) 
This backup includes one of the more hopeful things I've ever read in a DESE backup: 
We're also cognizant of the many other scheduled activities in high school, and we've heard loudly and clearly from our stakeholders that we need to minimize additional time lost to standardized testing. 
So, in looking at options for grade 11 and grade 12, I recommend that we take this opportunity, and take the time, to think creatively and not assume the answer is another one size fits all standardized test.
There will be a presentation on the Legislative update on the calculation of economically disadvantaged students. Watch this one closely: not only does it matter for the calculation of the foundation budget, but there has been some work going on behind the scenes to improve the matching of students that has to take place to create those numbers (you might remember that students have to be "found" in another database to create this count; MassBudget had an excellent series of recommendations on this last month). There also remains work for the Legislature to do (yes, including updating the foundation budget!).

There is a report on the probation of the Martin Luther King Charter School of Excellence (backup is a Word doc which you can find off the agenda).

Finally, there is "continuing discussion" on the Mattahunt in Boston.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

DESE update at MASBO

Note juggle of positions here, due to retirement of Roger Hatch (who was the Ch. 70 guy):
Jay Sullivan, Associate Commissioner
Melissa King, Director School Finance
Rob O’Donnell, Director School Business Services

Know where DeVos is coming from

The NY Times has an op-ed today from Katherine Stewart, which starts to get at the background from which Betsy DeVos comes.
At at 2001 gathering of conservative Christian philanthropists, she singled out education reform as a way to "advance God's kingdom." In an interview, she and her husband, Richard DeVos Jr., said that school choice would lead to "greater kingdom gain."
Edushyster called out a great deal of this in her post from late last week:
Not nearly enough has been made of DeVos’ extreme closeness to the extreme fringes of the Christian right. She and her family have spent decades and millions upon millions to help further the reach of organizations like the Family Research Council, known for its *research* into homosexuality, which, by the way, is not a civil right. While media reports have referred in passing to DeVos’s support for Christian causes, they’ve largely glossed over what these causes are and how deeply enmeshed she is in a world that views homosexuality as immoral and abhorrent. Since her position comes with some responsibilities of the civil rights variety, should we maybe be concerned about this?
Politico covered some of this last week:
During the DeVos interview, the couple talks about a trip to Israel where they learned about a geographical region, called the Shephelah, where battles were fought between the Israelites and Philistines. 
Betsy DeVos then links this topic to education. "It goes back to what I mentioned, the concept of really being active in the Shephelah of our culture — to impact our culture in ways that are not the traditional funding-the-Christian-organization route, but that really may have greater Kingdom gain in the long run by changing the way we approach things — in this case, the system of education in the country," she says.
One of the weaknesses of the American press is around religion, so this has not been a strong point of coverage. Told that DeVos is a Calvinist, many reporters won't make a connection to much of anything else. DeVos is part of the Christian Reformed church, which grew out of Dutch Calvinism. Among that which the Christian Reformed church holds is the Canons of Dort; some may know this as TULIP:

  • Total depravity
  • Unconditional election
  • Limited atonement
  • Irresistible grace
  • Perseverance of the saints  
Wikipedia's summary of this is decent if you're interested. I'll call your attention for now only to the third: the belief that only some have been chosen by God to be saved (and that there is nothing that any person can do to change this) is a troubling position for the person who is in charge of education for every child in the country to hold. Does this mean that there should be a religious test for public service? Of course not. It is, however, a relevant question as to how that applies to her fulfilling her responsibilities for all kids.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Worcester School Committee Finance and Operations

agenda is here 
MSBA spending: total of $43M in spending
Allen: balance of $3M annual allocation this past year to fix HVAC for Jacob Hiatt which had failed
Foley: money going to windows "and the reasons behind that" but the windows were also in terrible shape
Allen: pretty good results
ESCo plus MSBA plus environmental mitigation
windows "at twenty cents on the dollar, we're going to take advantage of that"

Sunday, December 11, 2016

Worcester meetings this week

There are two Worcester school meetings this week of interest:

The Worcester School Committee Finance and Operations subcommittee meets Monday at 5:30 (that's at the administration building, 4th floor); the agenda is here.
This is the first quarter meeting, so it closes out FY16, updates FY17 in full, and with accounts of particular concern...which are concerning. It's only the end of the first quarter, so there are no recommended transfers as yet, but currently FY17 for WPS stands at over $700,000 projected in the red. The reasons are telling:
  • The loss of the state kindergarten grant when the Legislature cut it for this year: $694,132
  • Special education tuition beyond anticipated: $442,912
  • supplemental programs, in largest part additional need for translation due to updated Department of Justice requirements (hey, did we know anything about that?): $264,529
  • transportation, due to the city not increasing capital spending, and thus WPS having to cut back on needed new buses (and rent instead): $130,468
That, of course, adds up to more than $700,000; if you look at the report, you'll see projected balances, as well. But this isn't a good place to end the first quarter on. And the first snow falls tomorrow.

And do notice how many of those have to do with the state needing to update the foundation budget.

There's a report on the MSBA-funded work done in WPS since 2012. A question of interest: the reimbursement comes back to the city; has the city been using the funds to pay off the MSBA-related borrowing? Or has it gone into the general fund?

Finally, there's a response to Mr. O'Connell's query regarding the signing of warrants. The full letter from City Solicitor David Moore is here. To say that this has rather startling policy implications, if fulfilled, would be an understatement, as Mr. Moore goes well beyond the municipal charter--which is in line with Lowell and Cambridge's charters, where committees sign warrants--into querying the position the school committee holds in state law (and drawing conclusions I will say that I have seen nowhere else).  He also never speaks of ch. 71, section 34, which is where the authority is derived. I also find the tone of polite horror at school committees having to sign off on every expenditure a little entertaining, as it's done in nearly every district in the state (yes, including cities).

The full Committee meets Thursday at 7 at City Hall; the agenda is here. The report of the superintendent will be on expanding preschool; there is as yet no posted backup.
There are reports of subcommittees, appointments, retirements, congratulations.
Mr. O'Connell requests a salary schedule.
Noting the update on school improvement plans that passed this past year, he also is asking for a process of consultation on school improvement plans.
Administration is requesting the School Committee accept $1700 in donations to Goddard Scholars.
Miss Biancheria would like to know how principals are evaluated.
She also is requesting that buildings be inspected with regard to: water systems, foundations, leaking roofs, heating systems, and wrapped pipes...sounds rather like the facilities plan noted in the subcommittee report.
Miss Colorio would like all teachers and other licensed personnel renewed through "the new data base tool from DESE" by which I assume she means this, which is just a database, not a new way to renew.
She also would like a robocall to go out on the recovery high school and on Worcester Opiate Educational Forum.
There are two prior year invoices, including one for $74,967.76 for special education transportation services.

There is an executive session: the teachers and the IAs are still in negotiations (hm...nobody else?), they're going to talk about PCBs some more, and there's a lawsuit: Lyons v. the Worcester Public Schools. That's at 6 pm, prior to the meeting.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Public comment on the math and ELA standards is up!

As I posted last week, the Board of Education voted to send proposed changes to the state ELA and mathematics standards out for public comment. That is now posted.

Dickens on the Baker budget cuts

I'd urge you to read Adrian Walker today in the Globe for a glimpse of the sort of programs the Governor is cutting with his midyear--let's call them what they are--round two vetoes.
The course he’s taken is designed for people who have had trouble finding their footing in the work force. Its founders zeroed in on culinary training as an avenue to prepare workers who could quickly move into jobs, and they’ve been successful. A large percentage of NECAT’s students are ex-offenders. People recovering from substance abuse problems are also prominently represented among its students. Roughly a quarter of them have no permanent address. 
It’s part culinary school, part reentry program, part treatment center. “They come with a lot of challenges,” said Josephine Cuzzi, the executive director. “Our mantra here is that your past does not need to define your future.”
The alternative that Governor Baker has forced the state towards is this passage from Stave 3 of "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, which I've had going through my mind since the cuts were issued earlier this week:
From the foldings of its robe, it brought two children; wretched, abject, frightful, hideous, miserable. They knelt down at its feet, and clung upon the outside of its garment. 
'Oh, Man. look here. Look, look, down here.' exclaimed the Ghost. They were a boy and a girl. Yellow, meagre, ragged, scowling, wolfish; but prostrate, too, in their humility. Where graceful youth should have filled their features out, and touched them with its freshest tints, a stale and shrivelled hand, like that of age, had pinched, and twisted them, and pulled them into shreds. Where angels might have sat enthroned, devils lurked, and glared out menacing. No change, no degradation, no perversion of humanity, in any grade, through all the mysteries of wonderful creation, has monsters half so horrible and dread. 
Scrooge started back, appalled. Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude. 
'Spirit. are they yours.' Scrooge could say no more. 
'They are Man's,' said the Spirit, looking down upon them. 'And they cling to me, appealing from their fathers. This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased. Deny it.' cried the Spirit, stretching out its hand towards the city. 'Slander those who tell it ye. Admit it for your factious purposes, and make it worse. And abide the end.' 
'Have they no refuge or resource.' cried Scrooge. 
'Are there no prisons.' said the Spirit, turning on him for the last time with his own words. 'Are there no workhouses.'"

Thursday, December 8, 2016

What are we doing with early college?

Really interesting look specifically at Bard College's early college programs, which raises some good questions not only about early college, but also what we're doing with educating kids for life:
...she pointed to research that suggests people with liberal-arts backgrounds have better career and salary outcomes, and more economic mobility, than those who have very specific skills. The focus on liberal arts, she added, is really an insistence on a lifetime of engagement as a citizen and member of society. Vocational education in particular, she said, can predetermine so much—what skills someone will possess, exactly which jobs they’ll be qualified for. As Bickford said, the last thing Bard wants is for early college to turn into early tracking. “It’s planned obsolescence for human beings and it’s really sad,” he said. Instead, he and Gamber want their students to have the freedom to explore beyond that.

Human Rights Watch on LGBT youth facing discrimination

Human Rights Watch has released a report on the discrimination and more faced by LGBT youth in schools in the U.S.
Human Rights Watch explored the many forms that anti-LGBT bullying takes, including physical violence, sexual assault, verbal harassment, cyberbullying, and exclusion. In many instances, teachers did not intervene, and in some cases educators participated in the harassment.
Particularly disturbing as the incoming administration has threatened to undercut or even end the Office of Civil Rights in the US Department of Education.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Legislature has an opinion on the Governor's budget cuts

Another warning about expanding charters

Note that Standard and Poor's has now joined Moody's in warning of the dangers of continued charter school growth to municipal finances.
"Even within the confines of the existing cap, if not managed effectively in the future, charter school expansion may serve as a credit pressure," S&P analysts wrote. "This is particularly true in municipalities that have a limited capacity to cut expenditures and where demand for charter schools is high."
At some point, the state is going to have to acknowledge the impact on districts and on municipalities as something of concern.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Here come the 9C cuts

This afternoon, Governor Baker announced mid-year (9C) budget cuts. The full spreadsheet is online here. MassLive has a good introduction. Speaker DeLeo is entirely correct when he comments:
"It seems that the Administration is seeking to achieve policy objectives that have previously been rejected by the Legislature through its unilateral use of 9C cuts."
The cuts largely come in accounts the Governor had originally funded differently, or vetoed, or both.

I tweeted out the education line cuts earlier; they begin with 7009 lines. I'll recreate that here with whatever else I can turn up by checking them against the budget as passed; UPDATE: I've also updated with the specifics if I've been able to find them.
  • $1 million has been cut for English Language Learners in Gateway Cities. That line item is what it says it is. It was passed at $2M, so that's a 50% cut. That is bigger cut than his veto, which had been for $250,000 for this line. 
  • $250,000 was cut from inclusive, concurrent enrollment from a $1.6M line item. That was specifically targeted at expanding concurrent enrollment (being enrolled in college while in high school) at students with disabilities between the ages of 18 and 22. This parallels a veto.
  • $1.8M cut from DESE. Given that this brings them back down to $12.4M, which is still more than the Governor's original budget had it, my guess is that this is a cut parallel to that made by Baker in his veto, which cut the earmarks out of DESE's budget. It doesn't get specified in anything released by the Governor. 
  • $266,000 cut from the Bay State Reading Institute, even though the full $400,000 that the Institute is funded at has already been expended. This parallels a veto.
  • $580,000 is cut from literacy programs, from a $2.2M line item. His veto had cut $600K from this line. He is specifying Reading Recovery and literacy in the Hopkinton schools. 
  • $400,000 cut from school to career connecting activities from a $3.3M line item. In his veto, he had cut the same amount. The Governor is specifying Bottom Line and the South Hadley culinary arts program.
  • $644,444 cut from adult basic education, cut from $29.4M. He had vetoed $375,000 in the spring. 
  • School breakfast was cut by $250,000, which I'm assuming cuts this: "$250,000 shall be expended for a grant for the Chefs in Schools program, operated by Project Bread: The Walk for Hunger, Inc"
  • $100,000 cut from military mitigation, bringing it down to $1.3M, paralleling his overridden veto; he is specifying Lincoln's mitigation.
  • $350,000 from innovation schools, zeroing out the line item, which is the same as his overridden veto, and brought this reaction from Senator Chang-Diaz: 
  • the innovative assessment consortium likewise is zeroed out from its $350,000 budget, which also is an overridden veto.
  • $466,666 cut from college and career readiness programs from a $700,000 line. He vetoed $200,000 back in the spring.
  • $300,000 cut from targeted intervention, a $8.1M line. This is the same as his veto in the spring. He is specifying the Pilot Parent Engagement Project and the Randolph science program.
  • After and out of school grants cut by $714,999 from a $3.4M line. He vetoed $935,000 in the spring.
That's it on the education accounts, but in terms of things that will hit kids, everything from drug treatment to suicide prevention to basic health services are hit in these cuts. 

So about those Massachusetts PISA scores

Can we all say this together? "We are proud of the work of our students and teachers but there is still work to be done!"
(really: check the quotes)
It's interesting to see what PISA itself emphasizes in the release of the results:
Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Hong Kong (China) and Macao (China) achieve high levels of performance and equity in education outcomes.  
 Poorer students are 3 times more likely to be low performers than wealthier students, and immigrant students are more than twice as likely as non-immigrants to be low achievers. 
Nearly 20% of students in OECD countries, on average, do not attain the baseline level of proficiency in reading. This proportion has remained stable since 2009.

These would be useful conversations to have. They aren't the ones being had, however.
It's worth (as always) reading Yong Zhao about the relative worth of such results:
PISA is not a political poll, but it does attempt to predict the future. “PISA assesses the extent to which students near the end of compulsory education have acquired key knowledge and skills that are essential for full participation in modern societies,” according to its brochure. These students are 15 years old. In other words, PISA claims that its results predict the future success of individual students and, by association, their nations.
I riffed a bit about PISA on Twitter this morning: we'll inevitably have comparisons between Massachusetts and our only real competition, Singapore, which is a Malaysian city-state which spends 20% of its budget on education. Call me a cynic, but I suspect we'll hear less about that and more about how they teach math.

UPDATE: and I'd be interested in any explanation that someone can offer on this (from DESE's press release):
"Of particular note is the fact that only 14 percent of the variation in our students' science scores is attributable to family economic background. Eighty-six percent is determined by instruction and district practices," Commissioner Chester said.
And we know that how?

Monday, December 5, 2016

Joint Committee on Ways and Means Consensus Revenue hearing

The agenda, such as it is, is here. We have a handout of list of speakers, however.
Posting as we go. 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Make sure you read the memo on Worcester start times

If you read this article, make sure you also read this memo, which is what is being referenced.
And in particular: "All options presented should not be considered recommendations."
'though not all options are costed out, and some are dismissed out of hand. 
Full agenda for that meeting, which is tomorrow at 5:30, is here. And, yes, they're going for another round on wifi. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

What happened with ESSA this week?

On Monday, the U.S. Department of Education issued regulations on the Every Student Succeeds Act around school accountability. The Department's summary is here; EdWeek does their summary here.\
First, do note that regulations are under the purview of the administration, so it's completely unclear what happens when the Trump administration comes in at the end of January.
That said, we do have regulations, so, a few pieces of note:
  • states now don't have to ID schools for "comprehensive support" until the 2018-19 year, which is a year later than was originally proposed.
  • the summative evaluation versus how schools are identified for support has been fleshed out a bit (if that interests you, I'd read the US Ed summary)
  • the "at least one additional indicator" now has to have "a positive impact on student learning," which is more flexible than the draft language (and, should we all push, could give states much much more to consider) 
  • states can set their own maximum subgroup size, but if it's bigger than 30, they must justify why it is good for kids that it is that big.
  • "consistent underperformance" was original over a two year period, now is tweaked a bit to allow for more time if it can be justified
  • 95% participation on testing is still required, but if states decide to come up with their own systems of dealing with that, they can have different remedies for different rates of participation (those that barely missed possibly having something less draconian).
  • ELL's are to become proficient in English on a "research-based" timeline.
Also a reminder that there are TWO MORE DESE input sessions on ESSA implementation: tonight at Holyoke High and Tuesday night at Collins Middle in Salem, both at 6 pm. (Sorry for the lack of coverage on these; I have had, and still have, meetings opposite every single one.) 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Suburban Coalition talks about the Foundation Budget Review Coalition

Speaking tonight is
Glenn Koocher, MASC Executive Director
Rep. Alice Peisch, Wellesley and Chair of the Joint Committee on Education
Nathanael Shea, chief of staff for Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (the Senate Chair)
Sen. Karen Spilka, Ashland and Chair of Senate Ways and Means

posting as we go
Dorothy Presser, Lynnfield, recognizes over 150 committees and councils passed a call for the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to be implemented

November Board of Ed in sum

Good news all: the Board of Ed had a livestream this time!
The bad news is they're doing it through a website that requires a log-in, and on a site that doesn't keep the video.
This isn't new technology; there are good ways to do this. Let's try harder, please!

The Board of Ed opened with comments from the Chair and the Commissioner. There then was a significant public comment period, largely of parents and community members from the Mattahunt School in Boston, which the Boston School Committee voted earlier this month to close next year in response due to the Commissioner's letter of "concern," presaging a declaration of Level 5/state takeover status. I think it only fair to note that the Mattapan community is largely a community of color, and there were multiple notes of the closings of rounds of schools in communities of color in Boston (as has been true across the country). The district plans to reopen the school as an early childhood center. The testimony was eloquent in the concern over the loss of a neighborhood resource and a space of learning and "home" for children, many of whom have faced significant trauma in their lives already.

The Board voted to send the revised ELA and math standards out for public comment. As yet, how to do that is not posted; I will share once it is.
Likewise, after an extensive discussion, the Board voted to send the revised educator evaluation regulations out of public comment. Note that this would also change the evaluation of administrators, also moving a student impact section into one of the existing standards (standard I for administrators). There is some significant disagreement among the Board members about the evaluation system as it stands, the role of student testing within it, and the relative importance of this. Most are deferring to Roland Fryer regarding the research on this.

The Board then discussed the two schools "of concern," beginning with Commerce High School in Springfield. The Springfield Empowerment Zone voted to add Commerce in October. As MassLive notes in the above linked article,"Schools in the zone are independently governed," and thus are not under the governing of the School Committee. This satisfied the Commissioner, who thus did not recommend that Commerce be declared level 5.

The discussion of the Mattahunt largely centered around the amount of control the Board had at this point, with several comments (including two from the Commissioner) that they didn't want to "second guess the school committee." Two things that were news: the Boston Public Schools administration had internally discussed closing the Mattahunt last summer (it had seemed that this had only been motivated by this latest state action); the proposals put forward by the community to the Boston Public Schools administration were not shared with the Commissioner (to gauge reaction) prior to the vote of the Boston School Committee. The initial discussion concluded with no action taken by the Board; a later comment by member Doherty that he was not satisfied with this led to the Commissioner's agreeing to Chair Sagan's proposal that he would speak with Superintendent Chang of Boston, informing him that the Board had heard impassioned testimony, were pained that the School Committee felt they had no other options than to close the school, and "remain open to what the district has to offer."

The Board briefly discussed their recommendation to the Secretary to inform the Governor's FY18 budget. While they may have discussed the foundation budget review commission in their budget subcommittee, it is mentioned nowhere in their recommendation. Do note, however, their recommendation of a new account for "reform/targeted assistance initiatives...leveraged to improve student learning."

The Board voted to send out for public comment proposed changes in the recovery high school regulations. They approved both amendments to charter schools (adding West Boylston to Parker Essential's region and adding 400 seats to Foxborough Charter).

The Board heard an update on standards setting on MCAS 2.0.
They also had a brief presentation on school discipline data from last year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Student discipline data: Board of Ed

slight uptick from last year
non-drug non-violent non-criminal is 52.3% of discipline types
highest proportion grades 7-12
1% in K, up to 3% in 4
grade 9 has highest with 16.8% of suspensions
7.9% of students in Commissioner's districts were suspended; 8.7% of charter schools; 7.6% of regional vo-tech; and 4.3% of students in all schools
cross district conversations between and among districts with higher rates
next: template for an action plan; due in two parts: winter for steps this year, this summer for outcomes plus plans for upcoming year
presentation to Commissioner around next steps
districts that were identified in June to participate in professional learning network; one phone call and one gathering
all had to submit a plan
discussion of big picture: what is impacting students on not getting into classrooms (includes absenteeism)
Chester cites district that was using suspension the most on kids who skipped class
Peyser: do we track services provided to those on out-of-school suspensions or expulsions?
Yes, broad categories
Stewart would like to see other resources considered by other districts; mindfulness work
Morton: illegal substances, other services needed for those students
likewise sexual assault
what kinds of services are being provided to those students?

MCAS 2.0 standard setting

backup is here
download description here
Wulfson "staff has been creating a great deal of guidance"
"much of the effort over the past...has been around mode choice selection"
(that's who is using computers)
96-97% responded: test as much as possible in 4 and 8 on computers; low 90's
free choice on remaining; about 40% testing online
Stewart: what some of the priorities have been in developing the test?
Wulfson: around standards
tradeoffs on lengths of test and number of categories reported
testing time issue: minimize time while still making sure results are valid
"would have preferred to have an additional year...very aggressive timetable"
"will be a year or two as we fine tune the test"
discussions of the high school test; options for high school testing
next month, plus continuation in January with Board of Higher Ed
MCAS-Alt: as required by ESSA limits to having no more than 1% of students taking that version of test
"will create some logistical issues"
that decision is made by each individual IEP team
terminology when used to report results
circulating through the field and come back to Board in February for further discussion and a decision
Proposal is:
  • exceeding expectations
  • meeting expectations
  • partially meeting expectations
  • not yet meeting expectations
Intended for audience of parents and students; wanted to signal that there's additional work that needs to be done, additional supports to be provided by the school
Peyser: "partially meeting" and "not yet meeting" seems like it could be the same thing
Noyce: discussion around need for a big wakeup call versus need to be encouraging
Wulfson positive, but wanting to give a wake up call as needed

Amendments to charter schools

backup here
amendment to include West Boylston to Parker Essential
Foxborough Charter to add 400 students
Chester "we've watched them be increasingly committed to their changing demographics...I think they deserve this"
several superintendents opposing it
Sagan: smaller districts that aren't sending many?
three that are a handful, North Attleboro sends 100
motion carries (Stewart opposed)

Proposed changes to recovery high school regs

back up is here

DESE FY18 budget proposal

no backup

Craven: budget subcommittee met this morning: great uncertainty
overall revenue picture: discussed a lot the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations (though I will note that FBRC is not mentioned anywhere in their budget recommendations)
making sure baseline funding, "funded at the highest level possible"
additional funding be directed to district needs in meeting the achievement gap: requesting a new "mitigation account" to "fund reform/targeted assistance initiatives...that can be leveraged to improved student learning"
recommendation that the Board still feels passionately about civics education being included
sharing of resources between state agencies
work on reducing out of district special needs placements
early literacy in programming
curriculum and instruction initiatives
recommend new assessment be funded at level to support new initiatives
Stewart: being explicit about our time in learning initiatives so we really know what that is
Peyser: will abstain from votes
will inform budget recommendation "I make to the Governor"
motion, seconded, voted

the Mattahunt (Board of Ed)

also dealt with here

Chester: question is what is the better path for the students in that school going to be?
receivership one option
Commerce into empowerment zone
solution Boston brought "made sense to me"

Commerce high School: Springfield (Board of Ed)

backup is here

Chester: liked to hear from school district prior to exercising takeover option
Springfield empowerment zone has voted to accept Commerce
Commerce will stay as Level 4; Commerce needs a new turnaround plan

Student impact rating: Board of Ed

Backup is here
Sagan: "I come to this thinking...we have to evidence of student learning, the job that's being done in the classroom..."
voting will be to send it out to public comment
Chester: teachers have demonstrated time and again "their ability to impact student learning"
"I've just seen so many of the Massachusetts educators be strong in terms of influencing student achievement, student academic learning...I feel very strongly that if we're not smart about building into our rating cycle...we've missed the boat"
building into the rating the impact of teachers and schools
"if we don't build that into the rating cycle...we're doing our teachers a disservice"
"I feel quite strongly about that"
heard from unions in the spring; "I appreciate that conversation"
separate and discrete impact on student learning; distraction of that far outweighed the benefit of that
have folded impact of student learning into overall rating
concern that it would drive more testing; change would support 'on the fly' assessment "that schools are doing anyway"
"provides greater flexibility, perhaps, than the system that exists now"
clear signal from superintendents and principals that support
teachers' unions do not

Proposed ELA and math standards

Backup is here

McKenna: lots of discussion about this
doesn't seem to be anything in these about technology
Digital literacy computer science standards, which are separate

OUT for public comment

November Meeting of the Board of Education public comment

The agenda is here. It will start with comments by the Chair, the Commissioner, the Secretary, and the public.
updating as we go
Oh, and they're livestreaming

Monday, November 28, 2016

Worcester meetings this week

Three Worcester school-related meetings this week:

  • There's a meeting at 7 pm tonight at Burncoat High School on PCBs. 
  • There's an accountability subcommittee meeting tomorrow night at 5:30. There are three agenda items: an overview of how accountability plans are changing for this year; a review of last year's testing (multiple backups; check the agenda); and a review of the new transportation position (which is a weird place to do this; transportation is part of Operations). That's in the fourth floor conference room at the administration building.
  • There's a full school committee meeting on Thursday. If I get a chance, I'll do a full agenda review, but it looks like the main item is a review of the literacy changes (report of the superintendent; no backup as of Monday). Otherwise, congratulations, donations, and payment of prior year invoices...not much there. There's an executive session posted without an detail. 
No liveblogs: I'm elsewhere this week! 

Continued profiles in courage in the corner office

(yes, the title is sarcastic)

Faced with the President-elect's nomination for Secretary of Education, Governor Baker had this comment today:

No, thank you, Governor Baker. We have ample information already.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday, November 29

You can find the agenda here.
It looks as though there is not a Monday evening meeting.
After the comments from the Chair, Secretary, and Commissioner, and public comment, the first item is continuing the discussion (and the vote to solicit comment) on the math and ELA standards.
As was previewed last month and is covered in the Globe, the Commissioner is moving forward with his recommendation to amend educator evaluation.
They're getting reports on the Mattahunt (Boston) and on Commerce High (Springfield), both of which were on the Commissioner's "very concerned" list when the latest round of test scores came out. The Boston School Committee voted last week to close the Mattahunt and reopen it as an early childhood center. Springfield has not taken any such votes after receiving what amounts to a Level 5 warning.
There are some proposed regulations for recovery high schools; the vote is to solicit public comment.
Amendments to their charters are being requested by Foxborough Regional Charter and by Parker Essential Charter. Foxborough wants to add 400 students; Parker wants to add the town of West Boylston to their region.
There is an update on standard setting for MCAS 2.0.
There is a discussion scheduled on last week's release of discipline data. 

And yes, I plan to be there. 

School choice advocate (and so much more!) Betsy DeVos is Trump's choice for Secretary of Education

So, who is she?
If you want to update your Twitter lists, you can find her account here (she was at 450 followers or so when the announcement came through).
The Chalkbeat did a "five things" that would be indicated by her appointment: her big issue is charters, vouchers, school choice: "The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country." That gave us Detroit schools that are here, plus commentary around Michigan education like this. (Let me in general just recommend the Detroit Free Press as a resource) The DeVos family used their political donations to sway lawmakers around school choice and related efforts.
She doesn't oppose Common Core (she's on the Jeb Bush spectrum there), so that looks like another campaign point of Trump that we're taking a miss on (we were anyway, as the federal government has no oversight there, anyway, but we could have gotten someone who was going to complain about it).
They also note "Outside of education, her family gave heavily to efforts to ban same sex-marriage in Michigan." This is in keeping with the donations of the family in general, supporting groups that are against legalized abortion, LBGTQ rights, and the like. (UPDATE) The DeVos family also supports the Acton Institute, which recently gave a ringing endorsement to bringing back child labor; Peter Greene covers this well.
She's been upfront about what she sees her political contributions for; she is directly quoted:
“I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party,” wrote DeVos, according to Mayer. “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American values.”
There's an extensive article about the family's giving here (from March). The family is among the top funders of conservative politics in Michigan. Not only that, but they have been active in destroying the other side, as in their efforts to get so-called "right to work" legislation passed in Michigan.
The family wealth, as Politico notes, comes from Amway. Richard DeVos, her husband, is the former president of the company; his father (also named Richard) founded the company. The connections Muckety maps out are fascinating: most notably, her brother founded Blackwater, and apparently now is an advisor to the crown price of Abu Dabai.
It is worth noting from a Massachusetts perspective that vouchers are banned by the state constitution (and remember that the next time the Pioneer Institute starts talking about Know-Nothing clauses. It may have been anti-Catholic when it passed; that doesn't mean that separation of church and state should end).
More as I have it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ars Gratia Artis and the incoming administration

(Ars Gratia Artis is the Latin rendering of "art for art's sake" but also the slogan of MGM studios [it's around the neck of the roaring lion on the logo before movies].) And if you feel this discussion has been beyond exhausted already, please, by all means, skip.

As by now you may have heard, Vice President-elect Pence went to see the musical Hamilton over the weekend. The cast, after bows, had a brief message for him:

I've seen two arguments against this that I want to talk about here.

The first goes something like "He went out for a nice evening at the theater, he wasn't on duty, they should have let him enjoy the show." The best response I have to that is to invite you to speak to any local elected official, and ask them if they have any expectation that when they leave the house they are anything other than on. They aren't. In the six years I spent on Worcester's School Committee, I heard about education in the grocery store, next to the soccer field, outside the dance studio, at church, at concerts, in the park, at the doctor's office, and in my front yard. If you're an elected official, you are always an elected official, and you should expect always to be treated as one.

(Notably, Pence himself appears to know this.)

The other thing I've heard is "Those actors are paid to deliver those lines and only those lines, and they had no business going off script."

To say this is to fundamentally misunderstand art.

Actors aren't "paid to deliver lines" and musicians aren't "paid to play instruments" and artists aren't "paid to paint pictures" forth.
If all there was to art was reciting memorized lines, I can set my computer up to read you Shakespeare's plays, and you can listen to that instead of seeing a performance.

While Governor Pence was enjoying Hamilton, I was at a production closer to home: the Burncoat Arts Quadrant's annual production. Students from first grade through their senior year sang, danced, acted, and played instruments together before a full auditorium.
They weren't paid. And there was more to it than just the noises and the movement.

The dancers aren't just able to move in time to music, and their performance to "Hold onto me/'cause I'm a little unsteady" made that abundantly clear. The "Pie Jesu," the lyrics of which we've been singing since the 1200's, are not just words sung. The "Egmont Overture" is far from pretty music; Beethoven explicitly wrote it as a protest of Napoleon's position in Europe, and it subsequently became an unofficial anthem of the Hungarian revolution (in 1956) for a reason.

There is more to art than art. The dark joke was making the rounds this week that we can expect better punk music under a Trump administration (as punk is revitalized under oppression). I won't go there. I will say, though, that art is more than art. Dismissing it as simple pretty sounds or pictures is a mistake I'd urge you not to make.
It will be telling if this administration does.

I have no idea what's going on with this editorial

No, seriously: what is this? 
I assume the T&G  felt some need to push the "we can't rest on our laurels/ we don't hate charters" line again, but what's the point here?
"All is not well"
"serious problems remain"
"cities most in need of reform"
"address the issues"
"Clearly some school committees are not fulfilling their responsibilities"

Which issues? Which problems? What isn't well? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Okay, so I see that someone has gotten to the editorial board on so-called "Empowerment Zones," which they're now touting, despite that being exactly contrary to the above piece where they talk about the importance of local accountability. That would also be a clear example of "school committees not fulfilling their responsibilities" by literally outsourcing them.
They also tout "teacher accountability" as being something we're getting from charters...where? Again, seriously, where is that happening?
There's an attempt here to give credit to "magnets and other programs" in districts, but it's unclear for where and for what.
And then we get another plug for Worcester's new compact---which, incidentally, I still haven't seen--and the strategic plan that the School Committee appears to be outsourcing--though, come to think of it, we haven't heard about that lately, either.

Look, I get that education is complicated. I get that there is a lot here to get your mind around. But don't write vague thinkpieces that use threatening language around district schools, airly promote charters without a link to actual impacts, and make references to local ideas that haven't had any community connection. That helps literally no one, least of all kids in schools.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New suspension figures are released

The second year of state suspension data were released this week. The numbers went up a bit since last year. Of more concern:

Across the state, black students are more than three times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled. Hispanic students are suspended and expelled at more than twice the rate of white pupils. While increases in suspension rates were small last year, they most heavily impacted minority students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.
This is true basically across the board, which is why we had the reform of Chapter 222 to begin with, if you recall.
 Plus, as noted by MassLive:
Of the top 20 school districts to give out-of-school suspensions during the 2014-2015 school year, charters represented 90 percent.
Charter schools also gave out 8% of suspensions statewide to the 4% of kids under their care.

For whom do we make policy?

I want to give a h/t to the student representatives in Worcester, doing their job by requesting a revision in the cell phone policy:
“Most of us are looking for more trust and access to do tasks we wouldn’t be able to do without our devices,” Ms. Miller said. Some students, for example, have expressed disappointment that they can no longer listen to music through headphones outside of class, which they found helped them concentrate and study, she said.
 Others have said they can’t do their schoolwork as efficiently without access to their phones. Ms. Miller gave the example of some classes that lack enough textbooks so students use their phones to take pictures of pages of their classmates’ books. Ms. Miller also argued that students want to be better prepared for college and the workplace, where cellphone use is generally accepted.
 Valenia Bergier, a senior at Burncoat High School and also a student representative on the School Committee, said the new cellphone policy seems counter to school officials’ recent emphasis on expanding technology in the schools. “Yet we’re being denied our most accessible piece of technology: our phones,” she said.

I posted about this earlier in the year, but I'll echo Ms. Bergier again: the district can't afford 1 to 1 technology, yet it is barring the use of (nearly) 1 to 1 technology that currently is in its buildings. The policy consideration never included students--from Ms. Binienda's comments, it's clear it still does not--and it represents a position that again puts our kids at a disadvantage.
That isn't what school policies should do.

DESE hearings on proposed charter schools

Copying from DESE:

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced today that it has scheduled four public hearings in the coming weeks to invite community members to comment on four charter school final applications. The applicants submitted their initial prospectuses in time for last August's deadline, and if approved, the schools would open in fall 2017 or fall 2018.

Each of the charter school founding groups that submitted a final application will undergo a rigorous review process over the next three months before Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester decides which of the proposals, if any, to recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The public hearings are an opportunity for interested people to provide feedback on the proposed schools. At least one member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will attend each hearing and will report back to the full Board on the public testimony provided at each hearing.

In addition to the hearings, members of the public can submit written comments through January 6, 2017 to: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, c/o Charter School Office, 75 Pleasant St., Malden, MA 02148 or by email to

Public hearings will be held from 4:00–6:00 p.m. on the following days at the following locations:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Plymouth Public Library
Otto Fehlow Meeting Room
132 South St.

 Hampden Charter School of Science - West*
Westfield Thursday, December 1, 2016
Westfield State University
Loughman Living Room in Scanlon Hall
577 Western Ave.

 Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School* Sturbridge
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Sturbridge Town Hall
Veterans Memorial Hall
308 Main St.

 Equity Lab Charter School* Lynn
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Lynn Community Room
10 Church St.

 For more info see