Friday, January 26, 2018

Interviews for Massachusetts Commissioner of Education: Jeffrey Riley

You can read WBUR's profile here

Sagan: mission of Department
Riley: "I spent the majority of my time on this earth in public education"
"this near and dear to my heart"
"someone who build consensus, able to work with wide variety of stakeholders to get things done"

Craven: diversity
Riley: children come to public schools from a variety of backgrounds, races, religions,
wide range of skills and abilities and differences
"As a white man, I'm very cognizant of the privilege I've had in this world"
spent most of career trying to get results "for city kids, most of the kids in poverty, most of them kids of color"
Lawrence "more than double number of Latino teachers in the district"
almost tripled the number of people from Lawrence

Moriarty: gap
Riley: achievement gap doesn't start in kindergarten; starts at 18 months!
Edwards Middle: able to close gaps significantly
"but it takes time"
Moriarty: three to close gap
Riley: "word gap that starts" early
an educational campaign, information to families
"we talk about third grade reading...key metric area..."
acceleration academies to make up ground
using data
"sometimes second language learners need a little more time"
"BUT that does not mean as a community and a department that we can't put a mandate at the third grade level" to identify kids who need support

Morton: role of K-12 in meeting the needs of differently abled
Riley: started career as a special education teacher
have a child who has different abilities
were concerned that she might be treated differently
school in Boston "that met my child's needs"
coming home every day wanting to play school when she got home
taking daughter off IEP
"this is a problem, particularly in special education...and this is a problem, especially in urban education"
need to get kids back in classrooms
"equity issue around this"
Morton: leverage expertise?
Riley: come together to find ways to discuss what's happening in our special education program
some of that is about being more inclusive
"machinery inside the structure is still broken"and needs fixing

Craven: management
Riley: budget in Lawrence is almost $200M
"when I first came, the city was not meeting that minimum number"
got a deal together that they will at least fund at the minimum level
things we wanted for our kids "like art and music and step dancing"
a few years ago, Foundation Budget Review Commission said districts like Lawrence should be getting more
"but I'm a realist" may happen when revenues may return to the state
what can we do in the meantime?
Craven: what specifics?
Riley: replace LED lighting
raising money outside

Stewart: team
Riley: historically have been more of an operator
policy support
"I'm going to need to get up to speed"
"from the Belichick school of drafting, [people] who can do many things"
"there was a lot of call to fire all the teachers and replace the schools with charter schools"
took six months to assess
"found a lot of assets...used incredible talent inside the district"

Trimarchi: stakeholders
Riley: "the children in Lawrence have no problem tweeting to me the winter forecast about closure of school"
BUT also have said "we need an extra late bus" or changes in high school
"I didn't just tweet back to them"
went and met with them
"it would be a mistake not to listen to the kids" as they know what the issues are

Trimarchi: legislature
Riley: starting with ELT school in Boston, went to Beacon Hill
comings and goings of political process
not new to Beacon Hill, doesn't have a depth of experience there
would be learning

McKenna: people have different visions of state agencies
Riley: "lose/tight administration"
"how can we support them"
tight on certain things and people know what the rules are, but they also know they're going to be supported
McKenna: balance state oversight and local control
Riley: former superintendent went to jail, 50% of kids weren't graduating from high school
"that was a time"
"but it should be done very delicately"
had to change reputation: "we are not here to blow everything up"
"yes there are things that need to change...but at the same time, we were able to rally people to change"
"when you talk about the zone idea...I've seen a lot of press about's too early in the process if it's been a net positive for kids"

West: charter schools
Riley: "I've always been a moderate on this issue"
I've always thought that parents don't care what kind of school "parents just want a good school for their kids"
charter schools in MA "single most effective charter sector in America, and a lot of that lies at the feet of this board"
always said that if I got the chance, we'd work together
"a place for charter schools in Massachusetts, and we need a more collaborative spirit on both ends"

strong policies at the state level that have continued
gains made have benefited many but not all
"moral and legal obligation" to ensure all kids
engaged with stakeholders
listen and bring back to Board
three key concepts: 1. rigorous academics supported by quality professional development
references teaching classes
2. high quality enrichment
3. push for equity
working group on issues of equity
rolling out and expanding key initiative: early college, vo-tech (in both vo-tech schools and comprehensive schools)
auditing DESE itself to ensure balance on oversight
"may be areas where we are overregulated"
know that only peanut butter will get gum out of a child's hair; that if you're trapped in a middle school with 500 middle school students by a freak snowstorm, your only hope is in sending out teachers for pizza

West: "at the risk of repeating one of the more infamous moments of our national education secretary's hearing," view on growth and proficiency
Riley "I do not think it should be one or the other"
"for me, I believe that effort is the key to success"
"would like to see them rewarded for improvement"

West: teacher eval and role of state
Riley: new system "more user friendly for administrators"
"not sure we've agreed on what good instruction looks like"
the question is does this Board pick up on that
"talking about good teachers and administrators chances to share"
"I think we can start with that work first"
"give teachers opportunity to have that time"

Fernandez: communication
Riley: don't always take the time to go back and review policies
better job on communicating to our families
"What we don't want to do, like I had to do last week, was tell 46% of my teachers that they're going to have to switch health care"
high school test: a real opportunity
let parents go into the schools "and be partners in the work"
"it's an amazing community in Lawrence and we did not do a good job of inviting them in"
Sagan: sitting here, what should department do
Riley: regional meetings for superintendents
op-eds in newspapers
"many different forms of communication these days to get the word out"

Fernandez LOOK act
Riley: one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out in a long time
parents more choice and more say
seal of biliteracy "a very elegant statement about how profound it would be to have students graduate biliterate"
celebrate second language learning acquisition
"blown away by how engaged and excited the kids are"
"learning a language, you have to put yourself out there"

Doherty: I want to make a public disclosure that my mother's name was Riley
socio-economic status and test scores
Riley: "I think poverty is a real thing. I also know we've seen outpost where we've beaten it back."
"more time with good teachers"
"at the end of the day it's a question of fairness for our kids"
kids aren't starting at the same place
poverty is real, hunger is real, word gap is real
"we have to recognize that these things are real, but we have to have high expectations"
Doherty: use of scores in accountability
Riley: I'm more interested in their improvement
"I do recognize that poverty is an issue; it can be demoralizing to people in the field to see progress and not seen that recognized"

Peyser: focus on reading and math
Riley: believe it has led to a narrowing of the curriculum "and I believe that's wrong"
believe we have to value different types of intelligences
"I think there's a balance there"
"We have an awful lot of testing there...and that's a lot of missed instructional time"
have we looked at adaptive testing?
"how can we make [testing] better"
Peyser : a great theater production can't offset poor math skills
Riley: tells a story of a kid who performed as the lead in "Godspell"
"for me, my question is this 'Is Michael scoring as high as he can on math and English? If the answer is yes, then I feel like we've done our job. I also feel like we need to find a way to celebrate Michael's other skills"

Peyser: vocational education
Riley: some kids want to go to college, some want to work, and some are in the middle
"incredible demand" for vocational schools
"so what can we do to meet this demand?"
increase seats, add voke programs at comprehensive schools
"we need to be able to have great options for our kids"

Peyser: "one last question and don't take this the wrong way"
this job has to do with policies, process, systems: do you really want this job? And how to transition?
Riley: "I did apply for the job and I want it"
at every step, people have asked if I really wanted that job
"for me, I've been clear, there'd be a lot of learning"
passion for education in Massachusetts and a willingness to learn
would rely on your guidance

Sagan: any reservations?
Riley: "I didn't before this meeting."

Riley: appetite for engaging with public on policy?
Morton: Board has people with different do you manage us?
Riley "I've always worked for one person, not a collective"
"having those interpersonal skills and personal relationships"

McKenna; achievement gap; what's it going to take?
Riley: improvement over time before counting testing

No comments: