Thursday, January 18, 2018

There's a Worcester strategic plan meeting next week

Parents received a push on a strategic plan meeting next week on Wednesday. It's January 24, 2018, at 6:00 pm at Claremont Academy. No word on childcare, transportation, or translation. The agenda is:

AGENDA: - Opening Remarks: The Process to Date
- Focus Groups
- Reports from Focus Groups
- Adjourn

Assuming this means the group breaks up into focus groups, this appears to mean at least there is a set time for public input this time. The issue (and if you've been in these rooms, you've seen this one coming) is it's the "break people up into groups and make them set priorities" meaning that not all things make the final list. Not every voice is actually heard.
It also means the troublemakers can't find each other and organize.

I can't go as next week (as you may be picking up from other posts) is jam-packed with state things: the Board of Ed, the Governor's budget, the Rennie Center's annual report, and Commissioner interviews. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Commissioner finalists: Jeffrey Riley

We have three finalists for Commissioner of education

Jeffrey C. Riley, superintendent/receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools
Angélica Infante-Green, deputy commissioner, Office of Instructional Support P-12 in New York State Education Department
Penny Schwinn, chief deputy commissioner of academics at the Texas Education Agency

Next up: Jeffrey Riley

Jeff Riley is on Linked-in and on Twitter.

Round-up of links on the education commissioner

I thought a central repository might be useful

Here's the official press release from the Department.
I put the CV's of the three finalists in my Dropbox here.
My blog post on how this works--eight votes to recommend to the Secretary for appointment--is here. Note that since that post, Noyce has stepped down; West and Fernandez are new members.
The State House News Service article by Katie Lannan can be found (among other places) here.
WBUR's Max Larkin pulled this together yesterday.
You can read Michael Jonas in Commonwealth Magazine here.
The Texas Tribune gives a Texas angle on Penny Schwinn here.
Here's New York's Chalkbeat note on Angélica Infante-Green.
Katherine McKiernan at the Herald has this on responses to the finalists.

My blog post with what I can find on Penny Schwinn is here.
My blog post with what I can find on Angélica Infante-Green is here.
My blog post with what I can find (and what I know) on Jeffrey Riley is here.

The interviews are on Friday, January 26 at the Omni Parker House in Boston and will be livestreamed here. The Board meets again Monday, January 29 in Malden to vote for their recommendation.
And yes, I'll be there to cover it. 

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Commissioner finalists: Angélica Infante-Green

We have three finalists for Commissioner of education

Jeffrey C. Riley, superintendent/receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools
Angélica Infante-Green, deputy commissioner, Office of Instructional Support P-12 in New York State Education Department
Penny Schwinn, chief deputy commissioner of academics at the Texas Education Agency

Next up, Angélica Infante-Green, who is on Twitter, though she hasn't tweeted since November.

Commissioner finalists: Penny Schwinn

We have three finalists for Commissioner of education

Jeffrey C. Riley, superintendent/receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools
Angélica Infante-Green, deputy commissioner, Office of Instructional Support P-12 in New York State Education Department
Penny Schwinn, chief deputy commissioner of academics at the Texas Education Agency

Let's start with Penny Schwinn.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Update on the Commissioner's search (dates)

Just a note for those who don't read the weekly Commissioner's Update:

  • January 16 (tomorrow) the Screening Committee will announce the finalists (get your Googling ready)
  • Friday, January 26 at the Omni Parker House in Boston, the Board of Education will interview the finalists (public session; no times announced as yet)
  • Monday, January 29 in Malden, the Board of Education will vote on the new Commissioner to recommend to Secretary Peyser for appointment 

Budget season starts soon

We'll see the FY19 Governor's budget released next week. Two things of use:
There was a consensus revenue agreement released last week:
The estimate of $27.594 billion in tax revenues for fiscal 2019 amounts to $933 million more in revenue than the updated projection for the current fiscal year. The projected growth rate will serve as the basis for Baker's budget, which is due on Jan. 24, and budget-building exercises this spring and summer in the House and Senate. The Republican governor and Democrats in the Legislature faced a Jan. 15 deadline to agree on a tax revenue estimate.
That tells us how much the state plans at base to spend, but not how.

 Also, MassBudget has released their FY19 budget preview, which is worth a read, as always.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

If you must write that "ed reform at 25" article

Boston Globe coverage of the signing: "Weld puts lukewarm pen to education reform bill"

It's coming...
As we approach June of this year, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Massachusetts 1993 education reform law, we are bound to see an increase in the "ed reform at 25" articles. DESE's new hashtag #LeadingtheNation is only the beginning, and the Michael Jonas article in Commonwealth this week only the first.
I know that some of you reporters out there are going to have no choice but to write some sort of anniversary article; it's a hook. It's timely. It gives publications a reason to write about education, which most of them have a vague sense they should be covering even if they aren't very good or faithful about it.
So if you are going to be required (or feel required) to write a retrospective on Massachusetts over the past twenty-five years in light of our "landmark education law" (don't call it that), here are some tips from me.

1. Don't you dare ignore the money.
It's popular to refer to the 1993 act as "the grand bargain" and place lots of emphasis on the work that went on with business groups, political actors, educators, and others to put together the massive bill that was passed. I will never tell you that is untrue, but it often downplays something crucial:

The state lost a lawsuit on a Constitutional question.

It isn't only the billions of dollars that subsequently were pumped into local districts. The districts argued, successfully, that the state had a responsibility they had been shirking towards all children. It was a fundamental reshaping of the underlying structure of education in Massachusetts; it proved a state-guaranteed right to education--and education of a certain quality--in the Commonwealth.

2. Don't you dare ignore the money NOW.
No, you don't get to ignore the Foundation Budget Review Commission if you're writing a retrospective of the past twenty-five years. And no, you don't get to pretend that there's this pesky recent idea that the districts are short. We have been short for one to two billion dollars EVERY YEAR for AT LEAST A DECADE.
That matters. The Constitutional commitment found in McDuffy hasn't been happening. And since Massachusetts has fundamentally agreed that, yes, money matters, then, yes, money that is missing has mattered over the past dozen years as well.

3. Most kids aren't in charter schools.
Since 1993 brought us charter schools in Massachusetts, there will naturally be a temptation to focus on charter schools. How these would be different than every other article we got during the Question 2 campaign on the real impact of charter schools in Massachusetts, I don't know, but the charter schools shouldn't be the bulk of any story.

4. Receivership and innovation schools and "empowerment zones" aren't a 1993 story.
Yes, yes, I know they're hip right now, and Lawrence makes national news, and the Governor is breathless about Springfield, but those all came in with the 2011 Act Relative to the Achievement Gap. You're over a decade too early, as well as way off base on much of what you're saying. Save it.

5. Don't ignore MCAS
No, you can't pretend that having all 10th graders have to pass the same test to graduate didn't change things, nor that subsequent expansions, including requirements we decide things about schools based on it, didn't change things. They did. And some of it meant that kids we didn't always talk about or pay attention to couldn't be ignored. And some of it meant that kids spent a whole lot of time on boring and sometimes useless math and English drills that weren't educational. And a lot of it meant that we made judgment calls about complicated things on a very narrow set of data. That has shaped how we view not only education, but a lot of things in Massachusetts.

6. ...but don't pretend MCAS is the whole story. 
There's a lot of the work of the 1993 act that was kind of boring, or at least doesn't make good copy. It meant that teachers sat together and discussed who was going to teach what when; they "aligned standards" by grade. It meant that school committees' jobs changed; most significantly, they didn't handle hiring anymore. There was a lot of juggling of finances at the state and local level. As I said above, it's a big law; there's a lot in it. Most of it never makes the front page, but the changes it made are much bigger than the MCAS, and many of them made a lot more difference than the MCAS.

7. Most of this was local work.
Related to the above, much of the work of the 1993 Act took place at the local level. It was teachers and school-level administration that sat with standards and discussed how closely they matched what was happening and what had to change. It was teachers who changed their sequencing, their lessons, how they taught, what they taught, and so forth. It was district administration that changed hiring practices. It was local business managers and finance committees and selectboards and school committees that wrestled with the new funding formula.
That isn't to discount the state--more on that below--but much of the work was local.

8. This fundamentally shifted the locus of power in education in Massachusetts. 
If the state had a responsibility to educate kids, as the courts found, then the state had a responsibility to ensure that such education was happening. We can--we should!--debate if this should look anything like what the state has subsequently said it meant. But there absolutely and unmistakably was a shifting of power towards the state, away from local districts.
You might call this the "be careful what you ask for" lesson of McDuffy.

9. It's about kids. 
The McDuffy case is named after a real person: Jami McDuffy, a student in the Brockton Public Schools. She's Jami Milnamow now, and she now works for the Brockton Public Schools. She has some thoughts on school funding.
It wasn't only Brockton that brought a case, though: a host of cities and towns sued the state. All of those schools had kids in them. What was it like in those schools then? What changed under the change in funding? And how is it now for them?
What was it like to be a kid in school in Brockton or Leicester or Worcester in the 1980's? What is it like now?

10. The proof is in the pudding. 
The kids who went through schools entirely under the 1993 Act are in their late twenties now. What are they up to? Did more of them successfully complete college than prior to 1993? Do more of them have meaningful, fulfilling work? Are they involved in their local communities? Do they vote?

Seriously, the point here isn't to raise some concept of how a third grader can read. The point here is to have an educated citizenry that can continue our democracy.

Are we doing better at that? Do we know? Have we checked?
That's the question of Ed Reform at 25.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Bay State Reading Institute case study

Up at the State House this afternoon for this:
Updating as we go...the report does not yet appear to be online. Upshot from summary: "[Bay State Reading Institute] is not a quick fix reading intervention...leaders and teachers using performance data to differentiate classroom instruction, which, in turn enhanced teacher culture." It's worth noting, as well, that BSRI has a line item in the budget, which the Governor has tried to either eliminate or combine with other lines every year he's been in office. 

One pager on Massachusetts accountability

Readers of the blog will find most of this familiar (yes, it's my work), but MASC put together a one pager on the changes in state accountability, and it's over here.

On the ESSA innovative assessment pilot

It's worth giving a read to this article on the innovative assessments pilot that's part of ESSA. Note first that states have been given a thirty day window on signalling their intent to apply; the first thing I heard on that was "it's not enough time."
One reason for states’ likely reluctance is that the language of ESSA places some fairly strict requirements on them for their testing experiments. For instance, the new assessments must be comparable to existing state tests, and they must eventually be taken statewide. And the assessments have to be rolled out among a broad set of student populations and subgroups, as Alyson points out in her Politics K-12 blog post.
Note, as well, that there's no money attached to the pilot, and one thing everyone agrees on is other assessments are NOT CHEAP.
There's a bit more on this over at EdWeek, and some razzing from New Hampshire over here.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

We're going to have to stop saying mean things about Harvard Graduate School of Education

...if only for this research:
School administrators may want to be even more aggressive in calling for weather-related closures. A new study conducted by Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor Joshua Goodman finds that snow days do not impact student learning. In fact, he finds, keeping schools open during a storm is more detrimental to learning than a closure.
Enjoy the snow! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Five Massachusetts education hopes for 2018

I tweeted this out this morning, but I believe the thread is broken a few places, so...
  1. I hope we don't get a terrible Commissioner. I haven't seen nearly as much attention paid to this as one would hope; it's a powerful position that could screw up a whole lot. I'm not sure that the political side (particularly the Legislature) appreciates just how much power the Commissioner has, especially stemming from the 2011 Act Relative to the Achievement Gap. Maybe, at the time, the thought was that they were just giving that power to Mitchell Chester; Commissioner Chester is gone, but the power remains. Most notably, this, of course, is state receivership, on a Board vote but on the Commissioner's recommendation. The general direction of the Department, though, stems from the Commissioner (I know I'm not alone in seeing and feeling a difference in the past six months). Where things are going well, I don't want to see them go badly; where things are improving, I want to see them continue to do so. Where the Department lately has conceded that maybe they don't know the answer, I want to hang onto figuring things out. The new Commissioner has the authority to send this all in a very different direction. 

  2. Let's get S. 223 out of the Joint Committee on Education and passed. Let's pass an FY19 budget that changes the foundation budget. I can't say it better than Horace Mann: 
  3. If [Massachusetts] would continue to mount higher and higher towards the summit of prosperity, she must continue the means by which her present elevation has been gained.
    (Report to the Board of Education, 1849)
    We didn't do that by wooing Amazon, or by giving tax breaks to GE, or any of the other wild goose chases we've seen the political leadership indulging in lately: we invested in education for everybody. We did it early--remember, we passed the taxation of "visible estate" in 1646 and then required public schools the following year--and we expanded what it means often, usually ahead of the rest of the country. We have to recognize something more like actual costs. We're billions off, and that hurts kids more than anyone.

  4. We need to start paying more attention to western and north central Massachusetts. The Berkshires have wrangled a report, and Superintendent Thomas and others in north central are talking about merged services. We have fewer and fewer kids spread out over a lot of space. And those towns have just as much as a sense of self and of place as anywhere east of 495. I don't have an answer, but we need more than The Berkshire Eagle and the western legislative delegation paying attention.

  5. Dare I mention the state accountability system? I'm honestly a little reluctant to say it too loudly, lest we scare it off. I hope the Board doesn't mess up changes to the worse; I hope the new Commissioner doesn't trample over what progress has been made. My other hope (and plea) is to the field: stop trying to recreate rankings! I know we can't (no matter how much we yell!) get the Globe to knock it off (and see my liveblog from the last meeting for Acting Commissioner Wulfson's ruefulness on that account), but let's stop recreating the trap ourselves. I can't count the number of articles I read from this spring in which superintendents, principals, school committee members, parents, and others essentially said, "yes, we know there are no levels for elementary schools, but how did we do compared to the guys next door?" This round isn't on DESE: Knock it off. If we're going to say that the level system hurts us, that we need support rather than judgment, that we're more than test scores, then we have to follow through when it is left to us on the ground. My bet is we get another "no new levels" on the high schools this spring (that's a guess): don't do this again. And while we're talking about "more than scores," go tell DESE about what you want in a school and district report card.
  6. Less sniping, more actual thoughtful discussions. School committees have taught me that there is a very broad array of people involved in education in Massachusetts; the usual assumptions about Massachusetts being a blue state don't always bear out. Very few people involved in  Massachusetts education actively want things to be worse for kids (there are policy makers who don't, in my view, care). When we resort to our trenches, flinging accusations of who never listens, or who just wants to blow up the system, or who is just a shill, we don't get anywhere. And I see a lot of that. And it's exhausting. I hope to see less next year.