Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Joint Committee hearing on start times, recess, innovation zones

The agenda is here, 'though I don't, as yet, know in what order they'll be taking testimony.
The hearing starts at 10. Posting as we go. 
It appears they'll be taking the "zone" bills first. They are H.304 and S.279
Senator Chang-Diaz is calling the joint committee hearing to order. More on the House than the Senate side represented.
"We have a full house today; we anticipate going very long today."

Secretary Peyser first up to testify in favor of H.304
"all of us should be very proud of our accomplishments...nevertheless, we should not rest on our laurels"
stagnant performance, low preschool, 1/3 of MA public colleges not ready
"too many of our employers struggle to find enough entry level" students
fewer than 40% of public college complete on time
"sustaining and strengthening" underlying system
"continue to improve"
school leadership cannot and do not give full control over budget, curriculum
"compliance rather than performance" (? I think?)
"unlock the potential of every educator"
SEZ "a compelling model"
"innovative approach to district governance"
"the early indicators are promising"
two things stood out: school based decision-making (custodial staffing changed for PD; collaborative student achievement)
"ability to steer their own ship has produced"
"conditions on the ground--not just in the central office--for students to achieve their potential"

Q from Senator Jehlen: interested in data, all schools in the empowerment zone are below state average in growth, what causes him to believe this is a good model
what empowers teachers in this model?
Peyser: "ultimately someone has to make the decision" so the principal does
"works best when there's a collaborative relationship"
note that under MGL, site councils are to advise principals on school budget at all schools
"on terms on the data itself, I totally agree with you; we're in early days"
"only enabling them to be created as a tool"
"reception has been really remarkably positive"
"in other parts of the state, there have been early conversations going on"
Lawrence and Holyoke under receivership
Jehlen: what would stop a district now from saying to a school now from saying "would you like to control your own curriculum, your own budget?"
the answer is nothing: that's what an innovation school does
Peyser: the contract is certainly part of it
"if something is working, why aren't we doing more of it?"
"for many reasons, some having to do with politics, some having to do with bureaucratic inertia, some having to do with this being the way we've always done things"
hard to sustain

Senator Lesser, who has at least the Superintendent of Springfield with him
President of the Springfield Urban League
A principal and two teachers from Duggan Middle School
Lesser: zone is two or more schools that operate independently within a district
can be done by local initiative to stave off a level 5 takeover or the Commissioner can trigger on anywhere there's a Level 4 or 5 school
"to give local communities a way to step up themselves"
"to prevent entering Level 5"
"there's no mechanism in state law right now to do that"
"that's a traumatic occurrence and our goal is to prevent that"
requirement that teachers be involved every step of the way
Superintendent Warwick: to talk about Springfield's model
ten schools in Level 4 status; seven schools were able to turn around with traditional turnaround
three weren't making the progress we thought they should
"extra opportunities"
"when we were looking at Lawrence, we saw some really good practices"
"we didn't want to wait for receivership"
hoping to do that "for a subset for our schools, not all of our schools"
"a lot of energy, a lot of excitement, a lot of buy-in"
a "third way"
"Springfield is part of the board here...we're at the table"
"we own these schools, and we felt we needed to do more for the kids"
needed flexibility "school day, school year...need more support"
"just suggesting it as an option, not a mandate"
principal of Duggan: "this is the most optimistic in turnaround schools" (he has worked in a traditional school and a charter school)
"to have teachers working together on the plan has been a game changer"
have increased teacher retention rate across the zone
"contract...able to train and build capacity in teacher"
very competitive with suburban teachers: morale has gone up, culture has improved
math teacher at Duggan: "truly been an experience...liaison to sixth grade team"
extra hour for math teaching and math intervention: how we were going to use it, how we can change it to make it better
"growth, but not necessarily the growth we needed to see"
another math teacher: bring all those ideas from all those teachers and make all those decisions for all the students in the school
"whatever is going to work best, we're able to cater directly to our kids and to our teachers"
"able to make our own professional development schedule"
social and emotional challenges
full day PD on how to handle students with social and emotional challenges
President of Urban League: "all students irrespective of zip code"
"cannot declare victory, so long as we have too many students in the underperforming category"
need a greater sense of urgency and a "consumer demand" that all students receive a high quality education
Q from Rep Williams: diversity in staff in Springfield
Warwick diverts to principal, as principals hire in zone
Warwick "that's a challenge throughout Massachusetts"
Jehlen: key to success has been additional funds for wraparound services and enrichment: what resources have you been able to get for these schools?
Warwick: the funding piece has been a challenge these past few years; have cut 65 central administration positions
"I won't sit here and tell you that the funding is adequate in Massachusetts right now"
FBRC "needs to pass, especially for the urban centers"
Q from Rep Walsh: teacher teams from bottom up or down?
Warwick: from bottom up
Walsh: why is it limited to only underperforming schools?
Lesser: "that's a great question"
schools in danger of takeover "what we'd like to avoid"
"where the need is the most urgent"
Rep. Cantwell: how do you make sure you're meeting the needs of the children, not just what's sent to you from up high?
math teacher: always have to be mindful of getting to where we need to get
get time to focus in on creative learning or filling gaps that kids may have
autonomy in schedule allows to make connections to real life situations
have resources to do the problem
Q from Senator Chang-Diaz: other schools that had implemented autonomies prior to this
what has held you back prior to this?
Warwick: flexibility here at the building level, wouldn't do in traditional model
contractual flexibility at each building level
freedom from traditional district mandates, as well
Chang-Diaz asks for data on teacher retention

Mayor of New Bedford:
"under current state law it is effectively impossible to create an innovation zone"
"take some measure of pride in slamming the brakes on the district decline"
challenges in middle schools
"with an innovation zone, local districts own the solution"
worked to set up an innovation zone for New Bedford
"a plan based primarily on the plan of our middle school teachers"
"all of our middle schools were level 3 schools"
the teachers union could simply say no "and that's what they did"
"lost the opportunity" to innovate
"it isn't fast enough"

...some testimony here on setting standards on wifi, based on the notion that this is harmful. Please go read the World Health Organization about this instead. In short, unless you're concerned about FM radio waves, you shouldn't be worrying about wifi 

Rep. Marjorie Decker testifying on H.235, which would mandate 20 minutes of recess a day for schoolchildren
"20 minutes of recess at minimum should be non-negotiable"

H.2025 panel on interpreters
testimony in Spanish, which is making the point pretty effectively
parents arriving at meetings without interpreters, being asked to sign forms
in at least one case, a child being sent somewhere other than home without any parent notification
Chang-Diaz asks if there is any process by which the schools ask what needs are

BACK to the zone bills and the unions are up!
includes Springfield Teachers Union president, who is opposed
"what I didn't hear was a presentation about the bills before you"
MTA President Barbara Madeloni: bill proposes board of directors appointed entirely by the Commissioner of education, not the local community
was done under duress in Springfield
"a direct assault on collective bargaining, teacher voice, and democratic governance"
"politically captive of their employees" in today's Boston Globe column
"that's the ideology that underlies the legislation that lies before you"
autonomies [at school level] mentioned "are things we should have anyway"
"we don't need these bills, and we find these especially dangerous"
SEA President Maureen Colgan-Posner do not be deceived into thinking these bills are based on the Springfield Empowerment Zone
no requirement for local community on board
"no only unnecessary; it's harmful"
"where is the language encouraging innovation?"
when asked what they want, parents in Springfield specifically mention a return to things like shop class and art and music
each school has an elected teacher leadership team
"A key component to the success those schools are experiencing"
"The only person that is empowered in this legislation is the Commissioner."
"this legislation isn't about partnership, innovation, and most of all, it isn't about empowering teachers"
urge vote against this legislation
Tom Gosnell, AFT-MA President
FBRC has said that public schools are underfunded by $2.1B
"we don't have an achievement gap;we have an opportunity gap"
all so-called underperforming schools are in high poverty districts
these bills "do not address the real issue"
AFL-CIO Legislative Director (President Tolman was here and had to leave)
"a true partnership would no doubt make sure to incorporate teachers, local elected officials, and sought through the process [of collective bargaining]"
someone being elected somehow is a bad thing
Rep. Peisch: "I'm not familiar with a single bill that comes out of the hearing the same way to was filed in January"
"very much appreciate the comments you are making"
"if any action is taken on the bill at all, I'd anticipate incorporating some of what you're saying"
Q to SEA president: would you support a bill that does what is done in Springfield?
Coglan-Posner: concerned that we have to have legislation
"A key point is you have to have teacher leadership teams"
"time to step back; don't do anything with this"
Madeloni: in order to do what we ought to be doing anyway, teachers have to give up rights
"what we discovered last year in the charter ballot question, parents and students really value educators and educator voice"
Gosnell (in response to Q from Chang-Diaz): longer day at Lowell school for collaboration with teachers
Coglan-Poser: "the level of fear is so great" because of the high stakes
superintendent "had the proverbial gun to his head" lest they take it over
"everyone is afraid if they give up their piece" it will fall apart
Madeloni: "I'd recommend that you go back and re-read Secretary Peyser's testimony this morning; he made it very clear that it really is about the proverbial gun to the head...we need a significant culture change."
Jehlen: who decides in an empowerment zone if there will be a new operator or a new principal?
Coglan-Posner: I don't know who would decide that under the bill; in Springfield, we have a zone board that controls that, but we have local control over that board
Madeloni: community schools and wraparound services (in response to "what works?")
"really talking about parental involvement"
make assessment "less efficient and more democratic"
bring community in to talk about schools
Walsh asks about gap between what was said by Peyser earlier
Coglan-Poser: teachers like teacher voice
"but this was negotiated with a gun to the head"
"I would like to send you data on retention and diversity"
now have teachers in non-zone schools making more than zone teachers for less time
"I would say we're facing a crisis"
Walsh: feel we're creating a two tiered system?
Coglan-Poser shouldn't be, but it has
Peisch: original contract with the zone added time and funding
did that create a discrepancies then?
Coglan-Poser: no,  but just settled the non-zone schools
Springfield this year really worked hard to make pay scale commiserate with surrounding communities

Jessica Tang, president of the Boston Teachers Union and others from BTU
Tang points out that it's the first day of school in Boston (so teachers couldn't take day off)
don't oppose innovation, or partnership, or student success
"would give increased power to a Commissioner as-yet unnamed"
state takeovers have been disruptive to work
Dever takeover gave school to Blueprint: school had 5 different principals, massive teacher turnover, now has given school back to district with no substantial turnaround and three disruptive years
"we've seen this happen over and over again"
increase in funding for turnaround then is removed after years in turnaround
"there seems to be this idea that traditional schools are unsuccessful" but many successful schools are traditional schools
"stable strong leadership and stable staffing" among strong schools
founding teacher at Orchard Garden Pilot
anti-democratic, topdown  system
administrative leadership turned over four times during five years
another school that was resourced properly, then resources taken away
resources directed by local staffing
"impact of parent, teacher, and community voice" taken away by empowerment zone
teacher at a Boston turnaround; third year teacher in Boston
see these words "autonomy, sustainable, empowerment"
"it really makes me wonder what those really mean...especially as a brown male in the Boston Public Schools where a lot of students look like me, talk like me, come from families like mine"
have to wonder if it's sustainable
Chang-Diaz: can you say what strikes you as unsustainable?
additional 100 hours of professional development a year in turnaround schools
"really look at our school community and ask 'what do we need? what are we going to do?'"
"we're a pretty young staff, and we have conversations that we can't do this" for forever
conversations about "people that look like me"
kids need space in schools to do that

Zac Bears of Phenom:"feels to me very similar to a proposal that over 60% of voters rejected last November"
"take power away from local committees and the communities that elect them"
we're number one in richer kids
"what the '93 ed reform did was invest billions of dollars in K-12 education"
"we talk a lot about assessment" but not about the funding
"what we have is a funding crisis, both in K-12 and in higher education"
Lisa Guisbond, Executive Director of Citizens for Public Schools
"would give the unelected Commissioner of Education tremendous power over schools with numbers of low income students"
"no special legislation needed to follow Springfield's example"
supporters of Question 2, having lost that battle, see this as a way of forwarding their goals
concerned it would perpetuate the failed practice of classifying schools
Tonya Tedesco, parent, BPS, "neither of these bills address the fundamental inequity that has built up over time in Massachusetts schools"
schools on the top "overwhelming white and overwhelming wealthy"
daughter is at Boston Arts Academy which is Level 1, entirely on MCAS; it was Level 3 when she chose it
doesn't consider the inequities in funding
"neither of these bills addresses the decades of disinvestment in communities of color"
"holds these communities to a standard that is not only inequitable, it is unfair" due to the differences in resources
a few weeks ago, we had 40,000 people march down the streets of Boston to reject white supremacy; we need to do things in policy that reject structural racism
Peisch: we have many bills before this committee, no one here doesn't support reforming funding
"the suggestion that these bills are filed in an effort to privatize education could not be further from the truth."
Testimony from Mass Tech Council lists off Chambers of Commerce that support the zone bills, including Worcester's

Lowell retired teacher
"I personally witnessed tremendous loss to the public education system"
myraid mandates and changes that our practitioners would have liked to have seen
curriculum narrowed to math and ELA
"our valuable time with students was spent chasing down test scores"
"I don't understand why Massachusetts would need innovation partnership zones"
 Mary Bisson, retired Lowell teacher
"as proposed will target Gateway schools for relying on MCAS as a measure of school quality"

testimony against...Mary Cummings of Arlington
"instead of funding our schools need, gives more power to take over schools"
"offering elements to schools for which they have been begging for decades in return for giving up local control"
asking that you fully fund all of our public schools
Brian Leonard of Worcester
having struggles with students learning English
students in inclusionary classroom settings without supports needed
"should be talking about the full funding of our schools"
"it is a private entity that would operate using public funds"
"two tier system"
school system that is supposed to be for the good of all our citizens in the Commonwealth

There's now a whole bunch of people testifying on the dangers of wifi, which I am not going to take notes on. 

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