Friday, May 26, 2017

The rest of Worcester meetings this week

Note that the Worcester Public Schools' (bottom line) budget is before the Worcester City Council on Tuesday, May 30, at 4 pm.

The School Committee begins meeting in budget session on Thursday, June 1 at 4 pm, with an executive session at 6 pm, and a regular meeting at 7 pm. The agenda for all of that is here.

In addition to recognitions and the major request for an appointment I posted below, the School Committee is hearing a report on professional development, which largely seems to be focused on the curriculum liaisons, including at least one "to be appointment" for "college and career readiness." OCPL is apparently "Office of Curriculum and Professional Learning."

The reports out from the meeting of and budget hearing by Finance and Operations are on the agenda. As always, the hearing on the budget is being reported out after the first School Committee budget session. 

The restorative justice programs at Claremont and at North are back on the agenda (?).

The School Committee is being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $1685; to accept a grant from "Project Lead the Way" at Doherty, which appears to involve classes at WPI, for $26,250, and for Worcester Tech for $15,000; to accept a grant from Lowe's for $3810 for Burncoat High; to approve a prior fiscal year payment for Education, Inc. for home tutoring services for $8,902.50; to accept a donation for Worcester Tech of $435;

Miss Biancheria is asking for monthly incident reports and for the cost and locations of graduations. She also is requesting more information about the changes in staffing around the Central Mass Collaborative.

Miss Colorio is suggesting that recognitions be consolidated to once a month.

The Administration is asking that the admission policy of Worcester Tech (largely regarding legal changes, per the notice).

The executive session is for the teachers' contract, for an HVAC worker's grievance, for worker's compensation for a teacher, and for non-represented employees, both administration and not (as they don't have a union negotiating, they haven't come through on new contracts. This probably is whatever the administration is proposing in cost of living increases.)


Also, check the front page of the website: LOTS of graduations this week! 



Superintendent Binienda seeking to appoint a deputy

From Thursday night's Worcester School Committee agenda:
To consider approval of the appointment of Susan O’Neil, Ph.D. as Deputy Superintendent of Schools, effective, July 1, 2017. 
That is the date that Dr. Rodrigues begins in Hudson. 
Dr. O'Neil was the principal of Worcester Arts Magnet School until last year until she joined central administration.

Note that this is also a reorganization of positions, as there is as of now no deputy position in administration; there is no note of a request of that being approved, though the creation of such positions does require School Committee approval under the Massachusetts General Law:
Upon the recommendation of the superintendent, the school committee may also establish and appoint positions of assistant or associate superintendents, who shall report to the superintendent, and the school committee shall fix the compensation paid to such assistant or associate superintendents. 

As for the appointment itself, under MGL Ch. 71
The school committee shall approve or disapprove the hiring of said positions. Such approval by the school committee of the recommendation shall not be unreasonably withheld; provided, however, that upon the request of the superintendent the school committee shall provide an explanation of disapproval.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

And with the Senate passing their budget tonight...

The Senate passed amendment 75, which implements the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations, UNANIMOUSLY. Not only that, but Senate President Rosenberg cast a rare vote (generally the president doesn't vote) in favor.
Nice advocacy!

On to conference committee! Let your representative know that THIS IS A PRIORITY!

Comments before the Worcester Finance and Operations on FY18 budget

I spoke from notes on Tuesday night, so this isn't word for word; some of what I said made it into the T&G. Again, the presentation from Tuesday is here. 

Please note that I speak tonight only as a parent with three children in the Worcester Public Schools, 'though my perspective is informed by my work at the state level.
I think it's important first to note that Worcester is an outlier this year in having a budget that is growing as it is. While other districts are seeing staff cuts of double and triple digits, Worcester is adding double digits of teachers. The growth in the budget largely due to increased enrollment, which is also unusual. Most districts in Massachusetts have declining enrollment. We should celebrate that, but it also should make us even more active as a district in our advocacy for a revision in the state formula.

I can't help but notice that this is the second year in a row in which the central administration is growing, after several years in which it declined. I don't begrudge the growth--as the budget cites on page 396, Worcester's administration is smaller than most, and, by my calculation, in FY16 was funded at 62% of foundation--but I am concerned about the choice made in where those additions come. Early planning stages of the state's Every Student Succeeds Act planning emphasized social-emotional learning heavily, and thus many districts shifted resources in response. The final plan, however, de-emphasizes this as part of the accountability standards. This is not to suggest that social-emotional learning isn't important, but I question if a cabinet-level administrative position is the best way to do that. A budget that adds, as far as I can tell, no (or few) guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, or psychologists is not most effectively meeting the needs of students. Additions are desperately needed.

As a parent of two secondary students, I find the significant additions of secondary teachers reassuring. Additions not only in core subjects but also in the arts are heartening. I note, however, that the only addition to the Burncoat Magnet program is a single dance teacher 7-12. With the addition of the Hanover Academy to Burncoat, there already is concern in the arts magnet that they will be negatively impacted; no one has reassured them otherwise. A successful program of three decades deserves better treatment than this. Likewise, though the dual language program moves to seventh grade this year, Burncoat Middle has no additional ELL or language teachers. Those parents--and I stress, only the sixth grade parents, as no one has spoken with parents in any other grade; communication on this has been non-existent--were told that the school could only schedule those students to move as a pack. This means those students would see no differentiation of levels, thus leaving those who might otherwise head to AP or Calculus classes unable to do so. Having worked in a secondary school, I know that this is a  matter of wanting to rather than being able to. I would urge the committee to take an interest in this matter and add the sections that might be necessary to give these kids access to all they are able to do.

I note that both the instructional materials account and the building maintenance account are flat funded. Likewise, though the capital repairs list is interesting, and I appreciate the City Manager's reported interest, the capital fund thus far is flat funded. While it is gratifying and important that the city continues to make investments in new buildings and windows, if we don't spend money on regular repairs to the existing buildings, we will need those new buildings that much more often. I would urge the School Committee to be outspoken in their advocacy for additional capital funding to better meet the needs of the district.

Finally, though it is found in two locations in the budget, between the schools budget and the municipal contribution, the spending on police continues to rise. This year, the district will come close to spending a million dollars on policing in our schools. I think it is important to note that, and to question the wisdom of this as a priority in funding.

Likewise, I see that the safety account is budgeted at a hundred thousand dollars this year. Having been in a number of presentations on school safety, most recently last week in one by Sandy Hook Elementary, allow me to point out: you can spend as much money as you like on cameras and buzzers and equipment. If, every time I show up outside a school and push the buzzer, I am buzzed in without any question or look, the schools are no safer than if you'd spent nothing.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Worcester Public Schools FY18 budget hearing

The presentation for tonight is here.
The full budget is here.

Worcester Public Schools Finance and Operations quarterly report

meeting before the budget hearing...agenda is here

May meeting of the Board of Ed: early college

Back up is here
five key design principles
"key thinking about each domain"
  • prioritize students underrepresented
"structured to eliminate all barriers to student participation"
  • guided academic pathways
at least 12 college credits; exposure to career opportunites
validating that courses are as rigorous as those on college campus
should allow for student work on campus
  • enhancing student support
  • connection to career
  • effective partnership
one public secondary school or district; at least one higher ed

application to be recognized as early college
have to hit all five guiding principles: to receive preliminary designation, must address plans for each five
final demonstrates effective implementation (signed MOUs, policies, calendars and schedules, staffing plans)

Peyser "do need to ensure an ongoing financing strategy"
"It's additive to the existing funding model"
McKenna: not to require students to earn 12 credits
"when we talk about at risk students we do not want to lose the goal of losing at risk students...that's a full semester"
career paths broadly defined
"There are careers that are not in STEM"

May meeting of the Board of Ed: MCAS update

backup is here
Wulfson: continuing on promise to keep Board updated
2/3 of way through administration this spring
then standard-setting process that will then lead into the scoring
"extremely pleased with how this test is going"
"it's been an incredible year" for those doing the work

May meeting of the Board of Education: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here. Note that we'll hear from Scituate as part of the opening this morning, as Sciutate High School is hosting today.
Also, interesting note for DESE watchers: the Commissioner is not here today, so Deputy Commissioner Wulfson is sitting in.

Congratulations to Katherine Craven who is home with a new daughter!

Welcome today to Scituate High School.
"flies under the radar, but is doing some exceptionally well things here"

Monday, May 22, 2017

The Board of Ed meets tonight and tomorrow

Apologies for the late posting on this one!

The Elementary and Secondary Board of Education meets tonight and tomorrow. You can find the agenda here.
Tonight's meeting has a presentation from each of the receivership districts.

Tomorrow is at Scituate High School; as is their custom, the Board is meeting at the high school of the student representative for their May meeting.
After opening remarks, the Board will hear an update on MCAS; an update on the early college committee; an update on the FY18 budget; next year's proposed meeting schedule; and plan to vote on a policy on remote participation.

I won't be there tonight, but I will be in Scituate tomorrow


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Worcester, you have good people working for you.

Congratulations to:
Sara Consalvo, Worcester Public Schools Budget Director, who was awarded a "Friend of MASBO" award at their Annual Conference on Thursday, and...


Brian Allen, Worcester Public Schools Chief Financial and Operations Officer, who was awarded the 2017 President's award.

We don't hear enough in Worcester about the good work that people are doing.
Nemo profeta in patria

Friday, May 19, 2017

Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner, DESE (MASBO Annual Institute)

"obviously the state budget is on everyone's mind"
FBRC recommendations "have clearly taken hold"
some start made in each budget towards that

MassBudget presents on the FY18 state budget (MASBO Annual Institute 2017)

 Noah Berger, MassBudget and Policy
people are our resource; Mann's quote on "having no mines to work...whatever abundance she may possess, all has bee evolved from the enlightened...mind, not of a few, but of the great masses, of her people"

Looking for more motion on FBRC?

Call your Senators and ask them to co-sponsor Amendment 75, which would implement recommendations and set up movement in future years.
Or you can use MASC's handy "send an email" function.
I hope to get to a full rundown on amendments...

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Best Practices in School Budgeting (MASBO Annual Institute 2017)

Presentation is here
They're also referencing the Government Finance Officers Association Award for Best Practices in School Budgeting.
And, as would only be right, there's a reference to ASBO's Meritorious Budget Award.


"Beyond Sandy Hook" (MASBO Annual Institute 17)

I'm posting this morning from the MASBO Annual Institute in Falmouth where this morning the presentation is "Beyond Sandy Hook" a panel discussion on Sandy Hook. Hashtag for the conference is #MASBOAI17
Presenters this morning:
Michele Gay, parent of Josephine Gay
Daniel Jewiss, CT State Police
Natalie Hammond, teacher, Sandy Hook Elementary
Joseph Erardi, current superintendent of Newton

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Worcester Public Schools before City Council

Per Nick Kotsopolous:
...4 p.m. May 30. Among the budgets on the docket for that day are the Worcester public schools...

Senate Ways and Means budget

The Senate Ways and Means Committee released their FY18 budget today. You can find the executive summary here, along with the ability to download the rest of the budget.

A few foundation budget notes first: in the outside section, the FBRC implementation committee (for lack of a better term) is set up:
Section 5B½. (a) Annually, not later than January 15, the secretary of administration and finance shall meet with the senate and house committees on ways and means to jointly determine an implementation schedule to fulfill the recommendations filed on November 2, 2015 by the foundation budget review commission established in section 4 of chapter 70. The implementation schedule shall establish a foundation budget as defined in section 2 of said chapter 70 incorporating the categories of tuitioned-out special education rate, assumed in-school special education enrollment, low-income increment, low-income enrollment, foundation benefits, retired employee health insurance and English language learner increment; provided, however, that in the first year of the term of office of a governor who has not served in the preceding year, the parties shall determine an implementation schedule not later than January 31 of that year. In determining the implementation schedule, the secretary of administration and finance and the senate and house committees on ways and means shall hold a public hearing and receive testimony from the commissioner of elementary and secondary education and other interested parties. The schedule may be amended by agreement of the senate and house committees on ways and means in any fiscal year to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations or other factors that may affect the remaining costs in the schedule. The implementation schedule may be included in a joint resolution and placed before the members of the general court for their consideration along with proposed legislation to execute and implement the schedule. The implementation schedule shall be subject to appropriation.
That's important, because that's the part that really makes it happen. If they have to get together and publicly decide every year "here's where we are; here's where we're going," then this becomes something that we're all in on making happen.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, May 18

You can find the agenda here.
While it does not appear until later down the agenda, in honor of the anniversary of Ernest Thayer's death, the Worcester School Committee will be doing a reading of "Casey at the Bat" as part of the meeting.
There are also a number of congratulations.

The report of the superintendent is end of cycle reports on the innovation plans of Chandler Magnet, Goddard Scholars, University Park Campus School, Woodland Academy, and Worcester Tech. Each of the schools is requesting a renewal of their innovation plans; remarkably, all that is being offered to the committee for this decision is 2 to 4 page charts. Most schools are requesting no change in their innovation plan. The one change that is being requested is from Goddard Scholars, which is asking to eliminate the "proficient" tier for the 4th grade MCAS, which is the sole determent of admission. They would thus be taking only "advanced" students. Interesting in that it more concretely sets the academy's emphasis on test scores, and does so in a year in which testing is through a new system. 

There are updates on restorative justice programs at Claremont Academy and at North High School.

The committee is being asked to accept an "Integrated English Literacy and Civics Education Grant" for $51,602, which surprisingly is actually for machine shop training (with an ESL component).

Mr. Monfredo is requesting a summer reading kickoff.

The committee is being asked to accept a number of donations to Tatnuck Magnet, to Woodland Academy, to Burncoat Street Prep, to Worcester Tech, to Canterbury Street, to Belmont Street, and to the administration (?) for the opening of school in 2017. They're also being asked to vote a prior year payment of $1,685.00 to WB Mason.

There is also an executive session on teachers' contract negotiations, a worker's comp case, and a grievance.

No liveblog; I'm off to cover MASBO's Annual Institute! 

The Worcester Public Schools FY18 budget is now posted

Sorry for the late post on this; I was off my computer this weekend.
The new and improved FY18 Worcester Public Schools budget is now posted online. Start perusing it now, so as to give public testimony next Tuesday, May 23, at the public hearing.

I haven't given it a thorough read as yet (longer post once I do), but I did post two Twitter threads on it after skimming it over the weekend. The first starts here:

The second, in (brief!) response to the Nick Kotsopoulos column on Sunday starts here:
In both cases, click through to get the full thread.
We are, as I posted in the latter thread, actually over Net School Spending this year by less than 1%. We're also have a foundation budget that is $61.4M undercalculated for just health insurance and special education.
Go look at the budget, though; enormous work on graphics there!
And more to come

Friday, May 12, 2017

One Oklahoma representative wants to round up ELL kids

Yes, it's as awful as it sounds:
Republican Rep. Mike Ritze told CBS affiliate KWTV that he has another proposal in mind: Rounding up the state’s 82,000 non-English-speaking students and handing them over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens — and do we really have to educate noncitizens?” Ritze asked.
As the article points out, the Supreme Court weighed in on this issue in Plyer v. Doe in 1981, finding that those who are undocumented are people "in any ordinary sense of the term," and thus were protected (and afforded equal access to education) under the Fourteenth Amendment.
And this did not escape the ACLU:

Friday, May 5, 2017

About classroom management

A good (short) read for Friday.

Two Worcester upcoming events of note


  • CPPAC's next meeting is Wednesday, May 10 at 7 pm at the Worcester Art Museum, and they're having Bridgette Kelly, from Student Assessment in DESE to "provide an overview of new parent/guardian reports for MCAS 2.0 and focus group to obtain feedback from parents ensuring information is understandable," which is something I didn't know they were doing.

  • BUDGET HEARING! Tuesday, May 23 at 7 pm in the fourth floor conference room at DAB. The budget is due out next Friday, May 12*, so that gives some time to peruse the proposed budget before weighing in.
Please spread the word!


*it should get posted here 

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Why the Worcester Public Schools don't just use the WRTA

On tonight's City Council agenda:
Request City Manager work in consultation with the WRTA and Worcester Public School Department to direct an evaluation to utilize existing WRTA buses and personnel to transfer Worcester Public School High School students to and from high schools
 Yes, Worcester, it's an election year, when suddenly the Worcester City Council remembers there are 27,000 city students and $100M city dollars going to the Worcester Public Schools and they decide to DO SOMETHING TO FIX IT.

Here, for those not familiar with our bus system, is the WRTA route map:

Notice anything?
Yes, Worcester has a lot of open space (it's handily marked in green on the map) but those are, in fact, neighborhoods in all of those spaces between the red lines, even that big blank space in the upper left (where the default assumption is that you have a least one car). And those neighborhoods have students who live in them.
Worcester has seven high schools; two are in the urban core and largely have a student body that walk. Of the other five, South High is in the bottom left corner of the map (on the Leicester line); North is along the right side (close to Lake Quinsigamond, which is the Shrewsbury line); Burncoat is in the upper right (near the West Boylston line); Worcester Tech is midway on the right side; and Doherty is close where a lot of the lines cross, by Elm Park (though at the edge of that big blank space). The majority of the schools are at the edge of the city. And those schools together serve ALL students. Worcester Tech takes students from all over the city, but so does the Burncoat Magnet and Goddard Scholars at South. All of those students are guaranteed transportation.
The WRTA (as you can tell from the map) runs on a spoke system, out of the central hub downtown. Assuming you are served by a bus (and, as you can also tell from the map, that's a significant assumption), you need, for most trips, to catch a bus to the central hub in order to get to anywhere else in the city. 
And service is not at all frequent.
Let's try, for example, doing what I see students doing when I head out to the train some mornings: they live in Tatnuck Square, and they go to Worcester Tech. Worcester Tech starts at 7:20. How could they get to school?
There are two bus lines that run out Tatnuck Square, the 2 and the 6. Neither of them starts service until later in the morning, however, so the first thing they have to do is walk the mile and a half to Worcester State. Then they can catch a bus to the hub, to catch a bus to Belmont Street, to walk up the hill to school.
And they'll need to start at 5:45 am.
(providing, of course, that they don't start the night before)

Now, this seems, I am sure, like an extreme example. But all high school students within two miles of their high school already are NOT provided with transportation, so they're already not on the buses. It's only students like this who Worcester DOES bus. Those high school students--as has been pointed out every single time this comes up--require the same buses that then carry the rest of the students to school who don't require buses as part of IEPs.

I'd love to live in a city in which this is possible. We don't.
If you want to fix the transit system, I'd be a huge fan. Taking yellow buses away from high school students using "exisiting WRTA buses and personnel" isn't the way to do it.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday. You can find the agenda here.
It appears it is time once again to honor Mr. Allen for receiving the Meritorious Budget Award from the Association of School Business Officers International. 🎈
The schools receiving the EoS Breakfast awards are also being recognized (and the awards being accepted), making it appropriate that the report is on school nutrition (not yet posted, though today's announcement may well mean it's being revised! UPDATE: posted)
Not having exhausted the discussion at the subcommittee level, the committee will be discussing their concerns over wifi. Salient point:
...extensive research into the matter has not produced any solid evidence that non-ionizing radiation given off by smartphones and Wi-Fi routers is harmful to humans...
They'll be voting a delegate and an alternative to the MASC Delegate Assembly in November.
Not having acted last week, they're considering a resolution on the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings.
And Miss Biancheria wishes to:
review the precautionary measures and safety features under the safety regulations of the bus contracts for both the Worcester Public Schools and Durham School Services.
The 7th grade science text book is up for review (That'll go to TLSS)

There is an executive session beforehand for an HVAC employee grievance (again?) and collective bargaining for teachers (still). But hey: NO PCBs!  
I'll see if I can make at least the nutrition presentation; I'll be interested to see what difference the federal change makes 

Four things we don't know about AP tests

Yes, I know, I keep posting about this. But:
"remarkably little independent research has been conducted on the academic benefits of AP." That's according to Russell T. Warne, an assistant professor of psychology at Utah Valley University, who has done some of that limited research. Part of the problem, he tells NPR Ed, is that, "it's really hard to do causal research because we can't force people to do AP or force them out of it."
If we're going to keep pushing kids to take these course, we ought to be looking into this stuff first.  

"We are not consumers, but citizens, when it comes to schools"

Excellent opinion piece in The Hechinger Report:
Public schools are a public good that we have forged together through public conversations, elected school boards, and democratic policymaking. Within schools, we should deliberate, craft, and institute the aims we seek. Moreover, public schools are special because they impart the skills and knowledge necessary for future generations to continue to deliberate the public goods they will uphold. Public schools are places where children learn how to exchange and respond to the ideas of others as they balance their own individual needs with needs in their communities. They are places where children learn to be a public.
But do read it all.  

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Hey, Pittsfield

Good coverage of a thing I did last night.
"The commonwealth of Massachusetts is not doing its fair share in making sure our children are having the best education," Council Vice President John Krol, an avid supporter of the city's school system, said of the current situation.
Here's the Berkshire Eagle
Speaking during public comment, School Committee Chairwoman Katherine Yon said that Novick's presentation was a "beginning." "There are many issues we face in fulfilling our constitutional obligation to our students," Yon said. "Become involved."

And WAMC pulled audio from the meeting:
“And if you keep in mind that most cities are spending at foundation, that means that it’s towns across the commonwealth that in town meetings are voting themselves tax increases in order to fund schools at one-fifth above the minimum required. I think that is a pretty strong statement of where we are at,” O’Connell Novick says.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Worcester school meetings this week

Two meetings for Worcester schools this week:

The subcommittee of Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets today at 5:30. On the agenda is a review on AP programs (not the scores, if you look at the backup); a discussion of the possible $20-$30,000 per year funding of Worcester Tech membership in SkillsUSA; a report on last year's summer programs; yet one more report on wifi (citing actual science); a report on "day-to-day PEAK-like instruction" in WPS elementary schools (in response to a request that the PEAK gifted program be re-established); and a discussion of citywide wrestling.

The full school committee meets Thursday; you can find the agenda here. After recognitions, there is a report on the Worcester HEARS initiative. There are citizen petitions requesting public hearings on the FY18 budget (required by state law) and on standardized testing.
There is a report back on elementary summer programming (18 days, four hours a day, at nine schools); there is a note regarding the decreased funding available this year. The committee is being asked to approve the innovation plan for the Goddard school (the link isn't to the plan, but to a summary; the full plan isn't posted).  Administration is asking that dates be set for FY18 budget hearings (really, budget sessions, unless they change this to take public comment).
Among the recognitions being filed this week is year four of ASBO recognizing the Worcester Public Schools' budget with its Meritorious Budget Award.
Mr. O'Connell wants to request funding for the science AP exams from the state; to submit nominations for awards to MASC; to possibly file items with MASC for its annual Delegate Assembly; and to pass an FBRC petition.
Ms. McCullough requests that the No Live Lice policy be reviewed.
There's another round of schools receiving grants for Breakfast in the Classroom from the EoS foundation.
The committee is being asked to accept a donation from Scholastic to Woodland Academy, and from Andy's Attic to South High for marketing.
Mayor Petty has filed a plan on PCB cleaning (still no money mentioned).
Miss Biancheria wants an inventory of playground equipment.

There is also an executive session scheduled: PCB's, negotiations with the teachers (still), and a grievance from an HVAC worker.

No liveblog; I have a presentation on Thursday. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

April Board of Education in sum

On April 18, the Board of Elementary and Secondary met in Malden for their monthly meeting. You can find the meeting agenda here. The video of the meeting is posted here.
The meeting opened with comments from Chair Sagan and Commissioner Chester. Chair Sagan began by announcing that member Roland Fryer has resigned. (Members of the Board of Education are appointed by the Governor.) Sagan also opened a discussion regarding remote participation by Board members, something the Board will be returning to.

Chester mentioned the recent Nipmuck High public forum he attended, of the upcoming civics literacy conference in May, and of an expected report from the Office of the Child Advocate regarding private special education services. He informed the Board that the Department had, as planned, submitted the state's ESSA plan to the federal government on April 3, that they had already taken some questions regarding it on long term goals and on measurements of interim progress, and that they expected a peer review in mid to late May. He spoke of the ongoing MCAS testing, and he updated the Board about negotiations with Rhode Island around their possible adoption of our state test (which they would call RICAS).

Public comments were made regarding civics education by a civics teacher who spoke from examples from his own practice, in particular of having students engaged meaningfully with administrators on school policy as legislators, and of the groundwork this lays for active citizenship. A panel spoke of the need for the development of educators of gifted students and the need for measurement of students beyond grade level, noting that one of the top resources in the country is at UConn, but Massachusetts alone among all states in measuring no dimension of giftedness.

The Board heard a report on civic engagement plan (note that the link is to a Word doc). The three prongs moving forward (to quote here from the report) are:
  • Develop a communications strategy about the importance of civic learning and engagement in students' success 
  • Increase visibility of civic learning and engagement offerings and highlight best practices using data 
  • Strengthen the teaching and learning of civics
There also was some engagement in the six working strategies from this "The Civic Mission of Schools" report. In particular, students need to discuss current, even--especially--controversial issues in the classroom. There also was agreement with earlier testimony on the need for active and meaningful engagement for all students in actual school governance not just "designing the prom." The example of Berlin-Boylson's global studies curriculum, developed by the district and running through the grades was discussed. Superintendent Ekstrom said, ""it's about being citizens"
This also involved a discussion of the timeline on redrafting the history and social studies standards, scheduled to be out for public comment next year. Secretary Peyser expressed concern about that becoming a long, drawn-out process, with member McKenna commenting that such reviews grow heated. Secretary Peyser also related this to the planned history state assessment (referring to it as a "test"), asking if it would be possible to be field-testing questions next year, concerned there would be "a loss of urgency." The answer (in sum) was no, with one panelist later responding, "in terms of assessment, I don't think there was any appetite on the task force for another test." Deputy Commissioner Wulfson later responded that the state would be looking at best practices in such assessments as part of the Department's FY19 budget planning process. Several members of the Board emphasized active civic engagement being the focus.

The Board heard an update on Level 5 schools, most specifically UP Holland in Boston, where they're focusing on deepening student understanding, working with students on managing their emotions, and increasing partnerships with parents and families. Asked for larger lessons from the Level 5 schools, Senior Associate Commissioner Johnston spoke of the focus on student improvement.

Finally, the Board was asked to vote on an amendment to regulations to allow for a year in which school and district accountability levels would not be impacted by test scores. This grew out of concerns over the multiplicity of test histories districts now have, given the past several years. The amendment passed unanimously, but not before an extensive, and later returned to, discussion not of this year, but of next year. In particular, the Commissioner proposes to have this year's MCAS scores be averaged in with next year's scores when setting the accountability levels after that round of testing. The Board vocally (and nearly unanimously) rejected this interpretation of their direction, which repeatedly has been that this year's scores will not harm a district (or school)'s level. After a recess, Secretary Peyser express concern that not incorporating scores from this year in some way with incentivize districts to score artificially low this year, so as to have room to move up in future years. This was not disputed, but the matter will be taken up again later once the Board has to set future years' leveling systems.

Finally, the Board received an update on the House Ways and Means budget.

The Board meets next on May 22; as is its practice at its May meeting, it will meet at the home school of their student representative, which this year is Nathan Moore, who attends Sciuate High School.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

April Board of Ed: accountability reset

backup is here
Sagan: if we don't change the regs, all our talking will be meaningless since the Board said they wanted districts and schools held harmless with regard to test scores

April Board of Education: Level 5 (focus on UP Holland)

backup is here
Russell Johnston speaking: careful planning from teachers
emphasis on students persist with their learning
Tim Nicolette from UP is presenting

April Board of Ed: Civics education

backup for this is here
and the civic engagement plan is here
Student day at the State House where students role play parts of government

Three recommendations coming out of the task force today:
  • Develop a communications strategy about the importance of civic learning and engagement in students' success
  • Increase visibility of civic learning and engagement offerings and highlight best practices using data
  • Strengthen the teaching and learning of civics

Mass Board of Ed April meeting: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here.
I'm posting remotely today via the livestream, so please excuse any hiccups. 
Chair Sagan announces that Roland Fryer has resigned from the Board of Ed.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Erie, PA is relevant

schools in low-income communities in many states don't have the resources to give students access to opportunities that are available in wealthier areas. This well known fact is most often talked about in the passive voice, as though it’s a “new, unavoidable normal.” But it’s important to know who to blame for the financial calamities. "The problem is high reliance on local funding in the state," Michael Churchill an attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, told me in a phone interview. "Places with a poor local tax base like Erie can't generate enough revenue."

Sound familiar?  

Massachusetts Board of Education meets Tuesday, April 18

You can find the agenda here.

They are again foregoing the Monday evening meeting.
After comments by the secretary, the chair, the commissioner, and the public, they'll be hearing an update on civics engagement and the review and renewal of the history and social studies standards. You can download the civics learning and engagement plan here.
In the ongoing updates on Level 5 schools and districts, UP Academy Holland is giving an update. There are also written updates from the Dever School (going from Blueprint to Boston Superintendent Chang in oversight), Parker Elementary (from New Bedford Superintendent Pia Durkin), the Morgan school (provided by Holyoke receiver Steve Zrike).
The Board will discuss and vote on the proposal to reset school levels this coming year; as the accompanying memo says:
Schools enrolling students in grades 3-8 would not be placed in Levels 1-3 of the framework for district accountability and assistance for the 2016-2017 school year, provided that the school maintains at least 90 percent participation for each student group in each subject on the spring 2017 assessments and, if the school goes through grade 12, the school does not have persistently low graduation rates for one or more student groups.1 Elementary and middle schools with a participation rate below 90 percent will be placed in Level 3. Assessment results for each school still will be reported publicly. The 2017 next-generation MCAS results for grades 3-8 will serve as the baseline for future accountability reporting.
The Board is being asked to delegate their authority to approve charter school contracts to the Commissioner for the Old Sturbridge Village Charter School (to contract with Old Sturbridge Village) and Community Day Charter (to contract with Community Day Charter Management Organization). May want to keep an eye on this one; the Legislature gave this authority to the public entity for a reason. 
Finally, they are hearing an update on the FY18 budget, now that the House Ways and Means budget has been released.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Do go read

this Commonwealth Magazine piece on vocational education in Massachusetts and who it is and is not serving. Definitely a conversation that needs having.

FY18 House budget

...which you can find here (though irritatingly, they're still making you download PDFs).

Really, really briefly:

  • it increases Chapter 70 OVER the Governor's budget, both by increasing the health care calculation within the foundation budget (even more than Baker did) and by including a $30/pupil minimum increase per district; the first is an FBRC h/t; the second isn't progressive BUT is less than they tend to do... 
  • regional school transportation up by $1 million (to $62 million) from the Governor's budget
  • circuit breaker up by $4 million over the Governor's budget
  • METCO funding by $500,000 over Governor's budget
  • adds a pothole account of $12.5 million for districts that have been hit the economically disadvantaged calculation
  • Same funding as Governor's budget for McKinney-Vento, school lunch, and charter reimbursement
  • does NOT combine grants like the Governor's budget did (round...two? At least?)

Saturday, April 8, 2017

What's an adequate education? And who decides?

Here's something I've been thinking about as I've been running Gateway city comparisons on funding:

I've been posting this chart, or its equivalent for--quite literally--years. Close to a decade at this point. Generally, my point is something like "Jeez, Worcester, get your act together!" as we slip farther and farther behind the level of funding that most communities are putting towards their schools.

I'm not letting Worcester off the hook--I still think we could do better--but I want to point out something different this time.

The vast majority of districts in the state are funding their districts over foundation. In fact, the majority are funding their districts at well over the minimum the state requires. The foundation budget is supposed to be adequate, yet district after district after district has said that it isn't.

They're doing that with local tax dollars, and in most cases, they're doing that themselves; most of the districts funding over foundation (since that leaves out the Gateways, in particular) are doing so by town meeting votes.

Citizens are voting tax increases to fund their schools at more than the state requires.

Doesn't that effectively argue that Massachusetts citizens are asserting with their local tax dollars that the foundation budget isn't adequate?

Maybe they're right.

Not everyone benefits from a per pupil increase

As we head into the House budget (it comes out Monday at noon), just a reminder: Not all districts benefit from a minimum per pupil increase.
The following districts will get no benefit:

  • Fall River 
  • Fitchburg 
  • Gardner 
  • Haverhill 
  • Lynn 
  • Lowell 
  • Lawrence 
  • New Bedford 
  • Southbridge 
  • Springfield 
  • Taunton 
  • Worcester*
(that was my quick scan of the usual suspects; it may not be all)
Why no benefit? Because their foundation aid increases already are more than $50/pupil.
OH, comes the response! Then they already are getting a benefit.
No: that's the aid they need to HIT THE MINIMUM.

Per pupil increases are over that.

Should we hear "no money to fix the foundation budget"--when its being broken hits the neediest districts the hardest--remember where money has gone. 

*a few that are this year? Chelsea, Revere, Everett, Holyoke, all due to enrollment not being in their favor

Thursday, April 6, 2017

McDuffy redux: Worcester starts talking

motion from Jack Foley tonight (coming out of F&O) to interact with Brockton and other urban districts regarding possible legal action on school funding.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Worcester School meetings this week

Two meetings this week:
The Finance and Operations subcommittee meets on Tuesday at 5. The agenda is here.

The part to watch on that (and arguably the most important thing that will end up on Thursday's meeting's agenda) is the second quarter update on the FY17 (current year) budget.

A $375K gap is a lot of ground (yes, non-Worcester readers, even in a $300+M budget) between now and June. You can see that the City Manager's partial filling of the hole left by the Quality Kindergarten grant helps; the city's contributing $280,000. Since the Quality K grant for Worcester was $750K, though, that doesn't get us all the way there.

Also, note what else is going on on the quarterly update:
  • rarely do you hear anyone in Worcester talk about special education tuition. That account, though, is now $596K over what was budgeted last June. To interpret this paragraph: "based on student fiscal responsibility" means that kids have moved districts, and we've now sorted out that Worcester has to pay for them. The "approved tuition rate increases for residential placements" means the cost went up for schools kids live at (and this has to be approved the state; it has been). "This account also represents the processing of several necessary prior year payments" means some of this is FY16;  and "as well as new student placements for the current fiscal year" means that new IEPs are still coming through. Remember that the foundation budget only recognizes 1% of the district enrollment as out-of-district special education (and not actual students or costs), and that the circuit breaker, which covers extraordinary costs, is also underfunded (for Worcester, by $294,500 for FY17). It's probably past time to start talking about this.
  • because of the ongoing flat funding of the WPS capital account, the district isn't buying new buses at the rate required, so they're increasing the number leased: they're adding adding a special education route, increasing rental use for the transitions program, adding two midday routes through the end of the year, and "The district is developing contracts for the lease of 10 buses during later this fiscal year." The account is projected at $156K over at this point; watch this for FY18.
  • Workers' comp. Still over.
  • Personal services had some movement due to bringing special education services back to the district, but there's some things going on here besides that: an increase in legal (ok, contract negotiations year, plus the ongoing PCD-ness); translation services (underfunded in about every district serving high numbers of first-language-other-than-English speakers);  security guard contracted rates (has anyone asked why we still have them when we have cops in the schools?); and "nursing services contract rates," (?) as well as "an increase with necessary student services" (and I don't know what that is).
  • A balance of over $500K is still in instructional materials; given the above, I have a sneaking suspicion that the schools aren't going to see their remaining $10/pupil.
  • And hey! Money saved on utilities!
Also on the agenda: bus tracking (hey, pilot testing before the end of the year!) and running totals on how much the state has underfunded charter reimbursement from FY12 on. 

The full committee meets on Thursday; the agenda is here, and it's a long one, because there was an extra week between meetings. As a result, the following is not in agenda order, but re-sorted into one that is a little easier to follow.
The report of the superintendent is on AVID. 
There are a few appointments and a number of requests for congratulations.
There's (apparently? no backup) a report coming back on window replacements. How the district plans to deal with PCB's is also in there, so perhaps it will be dealt with at least partly in executive session. 
There's a request to approve the update of the agreement with the Collaborative.
They're also being asked to approve the innovation plan for Goddard Elementary.
They're being asked to update the policy on physical restraints (the state adopted new regulations a bit ago on this).

The committee is being asked to accept a donation to Clark Street to encourage families to visit libraries over the summer.
They're also being asked to accept a donation to Worcester Tech for their science fair.
They're being asked to accept a donation from Target to Woodland Academy for the annual Freedom Trail trip.
They're being asked to accept a donation from Fallon for SAT testing for all juniors.
They're being asked to accept accept the Secondary Transition Systemic Improvement Grant for $37,000, which is to improve how high-need kids on IEPs are transitioned out of services from the public schools.
They're being asked to accept the Biobuilder grant for $28,000, which builds on the biotechnology programs at North, Doherty, and Tech, and includes a $500 stipend for students who complete the program.
They're being asked to accept a $10,000 donation for a scholarship from DCU.
They're being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment of $2,066.40 to a parent for transportation.
They're being asked to accept a donation of $3,000.00 from the Patterson Family Foundation & Scholastic Reading Club for Chandler Elementary.
The audit is in! But not yet attached; being sent to F&O.

Mr. O'Connell is concerned about the edge of Tatnuck Magnet's property; truck traffic from CSX; the federal budget; the update on state accountability (for which comments are due April 5).
He also would like the city to consider issuing bonds to replace schools more quickly.
He also thinks we should have a literary magazine.

Miss Biancheria would like to know which schools are using Mass Work-Based Learning Plans.
She'd like to know about the online program being offered Creamer.
And she'd like a schedule of STEM programs. And a report on the bullying conference.


Mr. Monfredo wants all teachers to read "Casey at the Bat" to students during the week of May 29th.
He would also like the committee to express its concern at the federal budget.
He also wants to celebrate "Heart Health month."
And he's accepting donations for his annual book drive.

Ms. Colorio wants to create a task force "to investigate and seek solutions to drug and alcohol problems in the schools." She's also asking for a report on the Massachusetts ESSA plan and what changes that might bring, and a report on the mathematics and ELL (I think she means ELA?) standards, both of which were voted last week.
She also would like to create "a Hotel and Restaurant within a vacant Worcester public school." Which we don't have any of.



There is also an executive session at 6 pm on negotiations with the teachers' union, two grievances, and (you guessed it!) PCB litigation. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Worcester's loss is Hudson's gain


More from the Metrowest Daily News here 

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Joint Hearing on Ways and Means FY18: in sum

There were two main themes that emerged in testimony at the education hearing before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means Wednesday, March 29 at UMass-Amherst: the impacts of issues outside the classroom on the classroom, and the need for funding reform in both K-12 and higher education.

March Board of Ed in sum

crossposted from MASC
The March meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education opened with Commissioner Chester speaking of his recent visit to Washington with other heads of state school systems. He reviewed what Massachusetts receives in federal grant funds of the grants proposed for decrease or elimination by the Trump administration: we receive $40 million from Title IIA; $15 million in 21st century grant funds; and $6.7 million in Title IVA funds. Also the staff of DESE is 60% federally funded; 15 or 17 positions in the department are covered by the grants mentioned above. Chester further commented that with Secretary DeVos, "choice is front and center on her agenda."

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Joint Ways and Means hearing on education

I'm posting this morning from the Old Chapel at UMass Amherst, where the Joint Committee on Ways and Means (the money committee) is starting shortly. Looking like there are some UMass students here to talk about tuition, among others.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

March Board of Ed: MCAS with a sidetrack into test refusal

Backup is here
90% of 4th and 8th grade testing via computer
Moore: descriptors not implemented in for high school yet; new test implemented at high school with current eighth graders

McKenna: there needs to be some clarification or something about what you said or didn't say; "the punitive way it's being interpreted is pretty worrisome, it's pretty gruesome"
Chester: there is not provision to opt out of the test
students who have chosen not to take the test
"just like you can't refuse to take a math class; you can't refuse to take homework"
McKenna: sounds like there were very specific instructions, "making a kid sit down for fifteen minutes"
Wulfson: general guidance
"students are with their class, don't expect there to be any punishment, or any shaming, don't expect that there will be any alternative curriculum"
"It's not intended to be punishment but we have to do something with the kids who don't take the test"
"haven't said fifteen minutes"
guidance they're using is supposed to be for kids who cannot interact with the test (from ELL tests)
"there is no guidance for students who are refusing to take the test"
"we have basically said that it's up to the schools on where that student should be, but should not be a distraction"
Sagan: we should be clear and we shouldn't avoid the question


March Board of Ed: ESSA plan

Chester: will be submitting by Monday, April 3
have been through successive public comment periods
state plan "that we're obligated to submit" and is reviewed by federal government; becomes contract with fed that allows for federal grants
"is not a compliance document"
"reaffirms our constitutional commitment to provide all students with a world-class education"
"very much about our work in Massachusetts"

March Board of Ed: revision of ELA and math

back up is here
Chester: don't want to run right past this moment in time
Massachusetts history of setting strong standards, "envy of most of the nation"
anchoring a state educational system that has succeed in way that no other state has
industry practice to periodically review and revise standards
lots of commentary, lots of discussion of what's working well, what can afford to be clarified
Very "robust process"
standards "are the Commonwealth's own"

March Board of Ed: Michelle Ryan, Randolph High social studies teacher

Michelle Ryan, the 2015 Milken Educator Award winner
theme of equity
role of history in pursing equity for all students
qualifying conviction
"desperately critical sole purpose" to ensure all students move to excel

March Board of Ed: Lawrence update

Jeff Riley with students, stressing arts
"arts don't always show up on the test, but they show up in life"
and I can't liveblog student performances...end with "Children Will Listen"

March Board of Education: opening remarks

The full agenda is here. Posting once they start.
Looks like we're only missing Fryer

Commissioner: "so looking forward to today's meeting...terrific milestones represented by this meeting"
presentation of Randolph educator, Lawrence update
Lawrence has brought students
"particularly excited about frameworks...major milestone in Massachusetts"
submission of ESSA plan
new achievement level descriptors
"take in and not just run past as we get to those items"

Monday, March 27, 2017

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday, March 28

You can find the agenda here.
There are two big items on the agenda: the state standards around math and English, and the state's federal education plan.

After comments by the Chair, the Commissioner, the Secretary and the public, there is a presentation by a Randolph social studies teacher, Michelle Ryan.

As part of the monthly updates on the Level 5 districts, Lawrence receiver Jeff Riley is presenting; that link also has an update on the Dever School in Boston, which is in state receivership but transitioning to being under Boston Superintendent Chang's authority. Note that Lawrence has been in receivership since 2012, and still no word on when that will change.

The Board is having a final discussion and vote on the new revised math and English standards, after their period of public comment. The link goes to the memo which has some discussion of how the public comment period went.

The Board is also having their final discussion, but are not==contrary to what has been said for months--being asked to vote on the state's ESSA plan. The full plan was released to the Board on Friday afternoon, ahead of their Tuesday discussion. You can download the Executive Summary here; I've uploaded the full 129 page plan in my Dropbox here. As I know many including myself were hoping for and even seeing some signs of movement towards a more well rounded view of public education in Massachusetts, the plan as submitted represents a shift back towards the emphasis on test scores, and thus on a system that ties students and schools to levels of poverty in their outcomes. In particular, I'd call your attention in the executive summary to page 11:
We heard strong support from stakeholders for the inclusion of certain input measures, specifically access to a well-rounded curriculum including the arts, physical education, advanced coursework, computer science, career development education, and other offerings. At least in the initial years of the new accountability system, such input measures are better represented as indicators in a school or district report card so that the information is readily accessible to parents, policymakers, and the public, rather than as indicators in an accountability system.
...which means it won't count towards actual accountability levels. Likewise, page 12:
Among the accountability index indicators (core measures) to which we are committed are: • Students’ scores on our statewide assessments • A measure of growth to standard (i.e., based on year-to-year gains, whether the student is on track to reach proficiency within two or three years) • Gap closing by accelerating the gains of the lowest performing students • High school graduation rates • English learner progress and attainment of proficiency in English 
Other accountability index indicators that we are considering include: • Student engagement (e.g., attendance, chronic absenteeism) • Dropout rates • Successful completion of a broad and challenging curriculum • Ninth grade success 
These measures would be aggregated into an overall school performance index. Per the federal law, the core measures outlined above would be given much greater weight in the calculation than the additional measures. For certain measures, we may begin by including them in enhanced reporting on our school and district report cards to encourage state and local conversations about programmatic and/or policy changes, such as expanding course offerings and ensuring a well-rounded curriculum including arts, physical education, and service learning.
...but they won't "count."
And this is really disappointing, because there's a lot of work (inside and outside the Department) that went into making this a more progressive assessment system. Our only hope at this point is that we did hear, more than once, that plans can evolve. Here's hoping.

The Board is being asked also to vote on MCAS 2.0 descriptors, which are as follows:
  • Exceeding Expectations A student who performed at this level exceeded grade-level expectations by demonstrating mastery of the subject matter. 
  • Meeting Expectations A student who performed at this level met grade-level expectations and is academically on-track to succeed in the current grade in this subject. 
  • Partially Meeting Expectations A student who performed at this level partially met grade-level expectations in this subject. The school, in consultation with the student's parent/guardian, should consider whether the student needs additional academic assistance to succeed in this subject. 
  • Not Meeting Expectations A student who performed at this level did not meet grade-level expectations in this subject. The school, in consultation with the student's parent/guardian, should determine the coordinated academic assistance and/or additional instruction the student needs to succeed in this subject.

The Board is also being asked to vote out some obsolete regulations on private occupational schools.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Worcester's foundation budget gaps

I'm just breaking into the FY16 end of year report to run district by district comparisons of general fund spending against foundation budgeted amounts. I did a dry run on Worcester. As noted these are general fund, so it doesn't include grants and such. It shouldn't have to, as the foundation budget is supposed to be adequate. 

Health insurance is still about a $29M gap: that means WPS is spending 193% of foundation on health insurance.

Where does it come from? If it's a Gateway, it must be the classroom, as it's the largest category in any school district budget. In FY16, Worcester was $34M short on classroom and specialist teachers.

On professional development, the district spent 45% of what the foundation budget calls for (note that this doesn't encompass all spending on professional development; WPS reported nearly another million out of grant spending. But foundation is supposed to be adequate.)

Nearly $6M short on instructional materials and technology, or 61% of foundation.

And 55% of foundation for operations and maintenance.


Worcester gets 71% of its foundation budget from the state. These numbers aren't enough to "provide an education for all its children, rich and poor, in every city and town of the Commonwealth," as McDuffy found.
We need reform. And we need it this fiscal year.

Why is your district getting an increase in state aid? It probably isn't your foundation budget.

I write this well aware that isn't going to be popular. Nonetheless, more information and clarity is always, in my view, better.

Last February, I wrote a post on how the foundation budget operates and how the state's failure to reconsider it is failing districts.
The foundation budget, though, isn't why most districts get yearly increases in state aid.

Note: as always, all of the following are coming from the fantastic information available on DESE's Chapter 70 page. Bookmark it; download the spreadsheets! I'm pulling here from the FY18 one, which is based on House 1, the budget Governor Baker submitted in January. And also as always, if I totally lose you, let me know.

Less than a third of districts see increases in state aid the way that Worcester does:
  • the foundation budget goes up (due to increased enrollment or increases in categories of need or inflation) 
  • the increase is beyond the increase in the municipal assessment (in Worcester's case, they're aiming for the city to fund 28% of foundation) 
  • so the increase largely falls on the state. 
Thus for FY18, Worcester's foundation budget goes up by $9.3M, the city's assessment is only going up by $227,515, so the rest is coming in state aid.

But that combination isn't true most places.

First, lots of districts have flat or declining enrollment. Statewide, K-12 enrollment only increased by 1200 kids last year, which isn't much in a system handling nearly a million students. Skimming up the enrollment change column in the comparison of FY17 to FY18 sheet, it's mostly places like Springfield, New Bedford, Lowell, and Worcester that are seeing the big numbers (in hundreds) of student increases. Since the foundation budget is, as they say, "student driven," in that it's a by-student count, no student increases = no budget increases.
There can, of course, also be shifts in enrollment: a district could see a jump in the number of ELL students, or an increase in a vocational program. That would also increase the foundation budget, as students would shift to a higher cost category. Some of that is happening (statewide, ELL numbers continue to be up, for example), but not enough to make much of a difference in districts.

We also have a close to flat inflation rate.   An inflation rate of 1.1% isn't going to put much of a jump into a foundation budget.
And if the foundation budget doesn't grow, or doesn't grow enough to get to where the state picks up the difference, then the increase only falls on the city.

Or there isn't an increase at all.

Let's take an example.

Douglas is in southern Worcester county, right on the Connecticut/Rhode Island line. The town has its own school system (it isn't regionalized) and has 1328 students; its FY18 foundation budget is just under $13M. Through the municipal wealth formula, it's expected that Douglas can fund a bit over half of its foundation budget (52%).
But Douglas lost 77 students from last year. That means that:
  • In FY17, the foundation budget for Douglas was $13,394,370
  • In FY18, the foundation budget for Douglas is $12,885,345  
...a loss of $509,025.
Likewise, the calculation of the Chapter 70 aid fell, from $8,644,415 in FY17 to $6,121,390 for FY18.
On the summary sheet (tab 6), that looks like this:


Note that line 5 is phrased as "increase" over previous year; if it were finding the change, it would be a negative number.

And here is where we leave the realm of the foundation budget.

"Hold harmless" means your district will never get less Chapter 70 aid than you got the year before. The state, thus, will send Douglas the $8,664,415 that it got last year, rather than the $6,121,390 that it is, by the municipal wealth formula, supposed to get this year.
(It's worth noting, by the way, that it being such a difference implies that this has been happening for years; there's a lot of hold harmless and minimum increase years in that $8M!)
Note that this doesn't let the town off the hook: they still have to hit their minimum spending level, which for FY18 is $6,763,955. It does mean that what was the foundation budget isn't going to be what is spent in Douglas next year (even before we go any farther).
"Hold harmless" is not part of the foundation budget. It's what happens when the people who decide how we spend money are elected; it's hard for them to go back to Douglas, for example, and let them know they're getting less state aid than last year.
And realistically, of course, while Douglas lost 77 students from last year, their costs haven't gone down. Most districts with either losses of students or flat enrollment are still seeing costs go up by 3% or more a year.

Which brings us to the next step: the minimum per pupil increase. 
I posted on this last April after the House budget came out, as it is something that gives most advantage to the districts that need it least. It is, however, what gets most districts their increases in state aid.
The Governor's budget includes a minimum per pupil increase of $20 per student. That means if you're Worcester, and your state aid is going up by $9.3M over last year and you have about 26,000 students, you're already getting at least $20 more per pupil, so this doesn't include you. But if you're Douglas, and you're only getting what you got last year, you'll get a bump:



You're going to hear a lot about this over the next few months, again, as it's how most districts get an increase. The Legislature usually wants to increase it more (to $50/pupil or more), to ensure that their districts get an increase.
Note, though, that it isn't based on need (of district or community); it's not in any way a progressive funding system. At this point, $450M of the state's school aid is in hold harmless and minimum per pupil aid to districts, due to accumulation over time: districts that get minimum aid increases year after year see those build on one another, such that there's a real separation between the Chapter 70 aid coming out of the foundation budget and the state aid actually being received by the district. In the example of Douglas, there's a significant difference in a $13M budget between $6M in state aid and $8M.

This leads to some interesting consequences.

I tend to avoid Boston examples, because Boston is such an outlier, both in terms of size and in terms of being a high need district in a low need city: Boston is a minimum aid community, getting 17% of their foundation budget in aid because by the municipal wealth formula, they can afford to pay for the whole foundation budget locally.

The box in yellow is what the city could afford to spend; the box in green is the foundation budget.
Note of course that the foundation budget doesn't include transportation, which for Boston tops $100M a year.

I raise Boston only because hold harmless and minimum per pupil increases have real state impact when the numbers get this large:

By the FY18 calculation, Boston gets $142M in state aid; after hold harmless and minimum per pupil increases, Boston gets $217M. That's a difference of $74M.
Again, that's not to pick on Boston--the numbers are big because the system is big. It's simply the calculation writ large.

That also isn't the only consequence. A number of the poorest of the Gateway Cities--Revere, Everett, Brockton, Lynn, just for example--lost out on the change between low income and economically disadvantaged counts. The students that aren't being picked up by the ED count aren't being made up by the increase in the per pupil rate. Their foundation budgets aren't going up, or if they are, they aren't going up by enough to increase state aid. Thus most of those districts are hold harmless/minimum aid districts for FY18. 

And that's why you'll hear a lot about that in coming weeks.
And none of it is in the foundation budget.