Wednesday, April 6, 2016

ESSA and Chapter 70 reform: Implications for Massachusetts Education

Speaking today:
Pat Francomano, immediate past president, Mass Association of School Committees
Senator Pat Jehlen
Commissioner Mitchell Chester
Professor Martin West, Harvard Graduate School of Education

and moderated by Linda Noonan of Mass Business Alliance for Education

posting as we go

Noonan: Two very very monumental issues
Context in which all of this is happening; perspective of what is happening on school funding

Jehlen: "soon, as soon as possible"
oh, hurray, it's MassBudget's charts on school funding!
1993: foundation budget based on calculations of what an adequate education would be
doubled in an equalizing way over 1990's
achievement of previously low spending districts went up over the next several years
state aid became a smaller portion of school spending
"cost of health insurance rose far faster than anyone anticipated"
"cost of special education far outstripped the assumptions"
comparison of foundation budget to actual spending with gaps larger for the lowest income communities
"only the highest 20% of districts in wealth are spending a little bit above what we thought was adequate"
cites Petty's testimony on foundation budget: choices made when you're right at foundation
cites WPS Allen's work on foundation budget: $93M more on special ed
661 more regular ed teachers needed and the rest of the gaps which we've heard
testimony across the state: doesn't include technology or real cost of educating children coming from low income
districts with highest percentage of low income students most likely to be underfunded
communities that can afford the higher taxes put the funds in to lower class size; districts that cannot afford that are underserved, "This is exactly what the court ruled unconstitutional in 1993"
achievement, poverty, test scores
accountability measures caused schools that are low income to be labelled underperforming
self-selection out lowers scores in schools
good work begun by 1993 work in danger
increase proposed by Governor does not come close
"we can phase in the recommendations starting with the budget we pass this year"
"we have broken the promise we made in 1993"
we say no excuses for students, schools, districts, but we make excuses ourselves

Francomano: have not done anything for 20 years since we put in foundation budget
MASC concerned that there is discussion...communities funding above foundation budget
"simply necessary for them to do so in order to survive and provide basic services"
you'll see quality basic programming, but little beyond the basics
comparisons with previous funding "is simply intellectually dishonest"
we have amply demonstrated that the foundation budget "is not in alignment with current educational spending needs"
towns picking up more leaves gaps in other services
"new state aid" is not new money per se
as foundation budget is adjusted, particularly in regard to special ed and health insurance, those dollars are already being taken from other spaces
"any influx of money will allow for development of more vibrant" education
in Gateway cities: concept of wraparound services
serious emotional, economic social issues: "we can't solve those in isolation"
do executive and legislative branches have the will to take action
"we are back to that point in time" of the broken promise
"history is repeating itself"
"we need to take whatever steps are necessary to address the funding gap"

West: try my best to summary a 1000 page law
reauthorization of ESEA: how it authorizes funding to states from federal level
places conditions on receipt of federal funds
replaces No Child Left Behind

  1. "more deference to states, particularly with design of school accountability systems" and teacher evaluation
  2. very tight prohibitions on the authority of the secretary to extend federal power (response to waivers, Race to the Top, etc)
  3. greater transparency on not just test scores, but reporting out of discipline, teacher qualifications, spending, and such
  4. support for innovation: 7 states changing testing, up to 50 districts to implement weighted student funding
  5. promote generation and use of evidence to support policy
"there are huge opportunities for Massachusetts, even as there are risks nationwide"
"states have to take ownership of the decisions they're making around school accountability"
progress being made in student achievement, rather than the level they're at
conversations should be taking place here and across the state

Chester: think I'll be a little be provocative
school funding: frame a little bit of perspective: $16B enterprise
average of $16k per student (with no mention of high costs of special education)
and we're going into the "spending doesn't equal achievement"
what are we putting money into where there are strong results
challenges numbers in special education; Massachusetts high on special education
correlation of high numbers of low income students

federal law: finally passed
most needy students are not ignored by states and locals
praises work of Worcester Public Schools "over past several years"

Noonan: impact of expenditures and where they are
opens floor to questions

Francomano: Commissioner "played the provocative card"
concerned about the picture that is sometimes painted about reability of school committes on spending
"as if they are spending their budgets willy and nilly and overidentifying students for special education"
very public, very open process
"any implication that a school committee is not doing its darnest to spend in a fiscally conservative way is unfair"
Noonan: thank you for the comments

Councilor Lukes (Worcester):
past considered special education a "dumping ground"
numbers high
think we're still doing something wrong
Chester uses the word "overidentify" in special education
"trying to explore this with them"
Lukes: still don't have an answer for why this is happening
Chester: high rate of identification in Massachusetts "is partly a cultural thing"
"maximum feasibility benefit" rather than "free and appropriate"

Jack Foley (Worcester):
glad you acknowledged Worcester at the end; have a good sense of Worcester where the challenges are
Have lead the effort as far as soem of the Foundation Budget
"I'm proud of the standard Massachusetts has set in leading the country" (speaking of special ed)
trauma, "we know this is happening"
"inclusion is expensive"
"we don't have the funding in place to do this properly"
Stigma of low performing district: improved Level 4 schools with additional funding
"can provide supports and be very successful" with supports
West: agree accountability under NCLB was based exclusively on simple achievement
sent out very misleading signals about student achievement
new law allows incorporation of growth into accountability
"should move in a more growth-based direction"
Monfredo: have seen great results in Worcester, but we don't have enough
"ludicrous to say that money doesn't matter in education; we know it does"
don't do enough in prevention
Jehlen: if I were going to put my money in one place, it'd be preschool
"if they start out behind, they stay behind"
"they learn that they're dumb"
Chester: can use Title I funding for preschool

asked for an example of a district that spends over minimum that gets poor results, Chester does not have one
he offers Cambridge, to a Cambridge public schools graduate
Davis: are there those spending less and getting higher results
Chester: "can think of a number offhand"
Jehlen foundation budget has levels for need, not recognized by averages
change to add growth, not just achievement
why Worcester is no longer lowest 10%
if we measured only by growth, Boston would not be only in bottom 10% of districts

Francomano: can't judge by just a test
look at education more holistically
need to look at this a lot broader than we are

West: 1993 reform "was both/ and"
need to see what package of reforms we're going to put into place at the same time
federal law puts a framework for that

Jehlen: issue of transparency and accountability needs to be just at the state and local level
advocate better

Chester: comments doing a good job with the decision making we do "was not aimed at the school districts"
"for me it's about the students"
"it's a lot more than test scores...I'm the last one to say that it's about test scores only"
citation of Lawrence "very low results"

responsibility lies with state and local governments
"disproportionate impact on Gateway districts"

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