Monday, January 23, 2017

Board of Ed talks about ESSA

Making a rare trip into the special evening session of the Board of Ed to cover their discussion tonight on how DESE plans to handle ESSA.
While the backup for tonight isn't yet on the website, they were circulated earlier; I've posted the Executive Summary here, the plan highlights here. The meeting is due to start at 5; posting as we go once it starts. 

Vice Chair Morton opening the meeting, now that there's a quorum.

Chester: Russ Johnston, Carrie Conaway, Rob Curtin presenting
"starting to gel...aiming to submit in early April"
will make adjustments based on Board comments
will send out a draft of the plan to the public after that
many Q about what the accountability system is going to be
trying to start instead with what we want to accomplish and how they plan to go about every student getting a high quality education
Congress maintained a "very central focus in this act on both equity and excellence"
particularly those who traditionally have been left behind
what we will ask local districts to commit to to receive their federal funds

Conaway: why the priorities are what they are
highlight some initiatives that you may not know as much about
"really align quite well with our existing strategies"
"refine and deepen our existing work"
"how can each of these reinforce one another"
key focus to strength quality of instruction: early literacy, middle grades math, historically underperforming subgroups
standards implementation but 'not the only way we have to" push improvement
principal pipeline
effective feedback for educators
educator preparatation
social-emotional skills
school and district turnaround
consolidated grant application
"really out in front of the nation" on data
report to be released soon on student access to effective educators
"everyone else is going to have to be doing something like this, but we've already done it"
school level expenditure data: already collect such data, but don't report in a way that is accessible to districts
"resource allocation" reports: released this summer (being piloted now)
school turnaround, have to do a resource allocation review: help guide the turnaround discussion, "instead of starting from scratch"
public engagement, public forums
interest in social-emotional, well-round curriculum,

Q: birth to age 8 on early literacy: what kind of work has been done with those communities?
statewide advisory group worked with
Q: thinking of specific new initiatives that is different from what we've been doing up til now?
more focused on areas (early literacy, middle math)
meeting in a few weeks as senior staff: have we covered this sufficiently, is there more that we could be doing as well
looking at other states that have brought together core staff at the school level: "having a feedback loop as part of that practice"
Sagan: what needs to be in the plan vs what goals we're pursuing?
Chester: largest single funding stream is Title I from fed
provide to federal government a plan "this is how we intend to use the dollars that come to us in Massachusetts"
in turn ask districts to provide their plan to us, and it has to be in line with state plan
in many districts, these funds support an infrastructure that has been in place for decades
"what we're proposing in this plan is turning this on its head"
rather than telling us what you'll do with Title I, here's our key initiatives
then ask districts: what are your key strategies for our statewide focus, and then tell us how you're going to use your various federal funds to support them
Peyser: "less is more...the less we have to commit to, the easier it is to fulfill our obligations"
road map of where we're intended to go as a state, should be as closely aligned as we feel comfortable committing to over a number of years
"make sure that what we're actually saying is consistent with what we actually plan to deliver on"
striking balance between college readiness v career readiness
students who are going to go straight into the workforce, may fall short of terminal degrees
one of the approaches of successfully engaging students as they enter their secondary and post secondary education
look at "how we might be ratcheting the curriculum level up and the expectations as well"
Noyce: especially in terms of career preparation
look at how we might move more of that into the core
what is our accountability as an agency, given that this is a contract with the federal government?
Conaway: every point in that has a project plan that will be monitored
"when we get you the 106 page version, you can read that part as well"
Peyser: on the early literacy part, making a better point of better integration between our early education agency and this one
Chester: have tried not to reinvent what we're about if we don't need to
"not that we haven't been talking about early literacy or middle grade math, but it's an opportunity to double down" on what we have been doing
Conaway compares with RTTT application which included new work

Chester: moving to Curtin presenting on school and district accountability
"very conceptual, and until we have data, it will remain very conceptual"
notes that test in spring has not been given before
Curtin: requires annual testing, 95% participation, meaningful differentiation of all public schools, annually, long term goals with focus on gap closing
new parts required: measure of ELL proficiency, and at least one measure of school quality or student success
guidance on weighting: "substantial weight" to achievement, progress, ELL, and graduation rate
together must have "much greater weight" than any measures of quality or student success
lowest 5% "comprehensive support"
67% or less graduation rate also "comprehensive support"
low performing subgroups
"We're allowed to signal growth in this plan" meaning that indicators can be expanded or changed over time

measure progress towards English language proficiency, rather than achievement (as students start in different places) as measured by ACCESS
Sagan: isn't that inconsistent with the first goal, which is in achievement?
Chester: different districts are different populations with different attrition in their population
not a stable population
Sagan: have to have an aspirational discussion
know from our turnaround districts, was struck on lack of push her
Craven; something that has informed this in districts?
Chester: for superintendents, this is a big issue, looking for some recognition
they shoulder a major part of responsibility in the state, paying attention to their ability to move the needle is a fairer approach than just the finish line
Sagan: feel like we're letting ourselves off the hook
Noyce; "I kind of agree"
holding state not just districts responsible
"you do your part, we'll try to do our part"
Chester: how many students achieve proficiency in five years included
Sagan: talk to districts "not to let them off the hook, but not to embarrassing them'
Craven; "if our goal is too low, we won't come back to districts" and give them money
Peyser: "sense of urgency around getting English language learners to profiency"
little disturbed that feds are saying five years is the goal we're looking for
"that can't be the goal; that's way too long"
Doherty: don't want to make the same mistake we made with NCLB
"unrealistic goal that ended up labelling hundreds and hundreds of schools as failing because they did not meet" the 2014 goals
Sagan: "a never ending issue"
"you couldn't put any date on probably any of them"
how are we getting there or how are we getting closer and closer
Noyce "as opposed to NCLB, we don't have a deadline on this; we have a bottom 5%. I don't think we'll see ever more schools being labelled"
Curtin can provide some more detail in March
moving on...three measures on graduation; four year graduation rate, annual dropout rate, five year graduation plus still enrolled
"a lot of [graduation rate] has already's hard to move...drop out more actionable"
incentivize bringing kids back into schools rather than "that person is going to hurt my five year graduation"
chronic absenteeism; attendance rate doesn't move the needle on that much on a school
kids who are chronically absent do
"a lot of good reasons why kids might not be in school...ultimately it came down to us to loss of instructional time"
"other ways to offer instructional time...doesn't have to be in bricks and mortar services"
"brings non-tested grades into the accountability system"
Doherty: another contributory is suspension: is there any indicator on discipline rates?
Curtin: a lot of discussion, not included formally at this time
publicly reported
separate accountability structure around discipline within DESE
Peyser: is there a spread on chronic absenteeism?
Curtin: ranges from just over 0 to just over 40 or 45% of students
broad and challenging curriculum: INCLUDING access to arts; access to a well-rounded curriculum; passing all grade 9 courses; access to advanced coursework
students who fail grade 9 courses are four times more likely to drop out
Q; lower grades? (well rounded, failing, advanced are just for high school)
Curtin: information lacking rather than valuing the access
Q; what school offers or what the students take?
Curtin: how we know is students are enrolled
Peyser: I've got a real problem with this category; I don't know how you measure any of them, except the third one
"we don't have measures of them...given that we don't have measures of them, way premature to include them"
access to the arts
"not enough to say that you have access to an arts course, but not you have specify quality art courses"
"not meaningful, not tied in a measurable way to outcomes, creates perverse incentives"
Curtin: have had many discussions, four core courses plus an art
Peyser: maybe we ought to mandate rather than encourage
"I like the direction, I think it's in the wrong place"
Sagan: we say we don't impose curriculum on schools" but then we say we're going to measure
Noyce: this responsive more than others to a concern we've heard in the community
"when we have narrow accountability measures we have narrow curriculum"
"there is different between a good art course and a bad art course, there is a bigger difference between no art course and any art course"
we know in wealthy suburbs, students get to play instruments, and sculpture, and a rich art curriculum
Peyser: school that is on the bubble of being tipped into Level 3 or 4, and one of these tips them into underperformance (comment from crowd "good")
"and I have a real problem with that"
"I don't know how we can defend it"
Peyser; 'those are the questions we're going to have to answer"
Noyce cuts off "aren't these questions we should answer? Aren't we smart enough to answer them?"
Morton: wants to add civic education
student voice included via a school climate survey in grades 5, 8, and 10
Doherty: any discussion of including teachers or parents?
Curtin did have discussions
Sagan: parents and students "are the customers; teachers are the providers"
"I'm more interested in what the customers are saying in this context"
Sagan asks if this is in the federal law; Conaway: "response to stakeholder feedback"

Curtin: previously focused on upper right in chart
now looking at high needs students more discretely
looking at how you're improving over time
"not only high achievement and high performance but if you're continuing to move the needle"

typical constructive criticism is that our system has been a measure of poverty
"we believe that measure which schools are on the move" will change this
Craven: if we were to see a winners and losers list, there will be a vast difference between what we see now
Peyser: the metrics seem to be about improvement rather than gap closing

Curtin; while all schools will be placed in a level by the state, schools will be able to move up by meeting their own goals
can move down based on participation targets and so forth
plan to level districts as one big school (not as currently, lowest performing school)
new system following assessments of next year

proposing to reset baseline for grades 3-8 accountability system in 2016-17
new test gives chance to do that
would require regulatory change
"to not do that for one year would require a regulatory change"
any school that meets participation requirements for this year would not have a level; would be a reset
"don't want to take any eye off of assessment"
"any school that does not meet participation requirements would be placed in level 3"
this spring's results would be new baseline
spring AFTER participation would be based on two years of data (this year and next year)

Turnaround practices "not programs"
leadership, shared responsibility, investment, professional development
greater measure of success in turning around schools in Massachusetts
turnaround practices with a very tight focus

Chester: "until we apply the data, I'm a skeptic"
want to make sure we focus on schools that really need attention
"do a sensitivity analysis"
"Last thing in the world I want to do is tell a school that it's doing fine if less than half the kids can read well"
"core academic mission and that has to be front and center"
Sagan: can't construct a Rube Goldberg machine for what should be a simple question
"have to be a clear signal"
concerned that people will focus on the noise

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