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.

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