Tuesday, September 21, 2021

September Board of Ed: competency determination

 Curtin: interruption of the pandemic has required a pause in work on resetting of competency determination
do need to further timeline of interim competency determination
extend through '24 and '25
would cover existing high school classes right now
this time next year, new competency determination would start with class of 2026, this year's 8th graders 
no public comment received
bringing back to vote on extension to classes of '24 and '25

Hills; what is enough notice? Curtin: don't want to overpromise
Stewart: what does it mean that there was no public comment?
Curtin: don't have an answer to that 
Stewart: has that happened before, recently?
Curtin: yes, accountability has happened

Board approves interim competency determination for classes of '24 and '25

September Board of Ed: MCAS

 Rob Curtin:
districts had several more weeks to give test
shortened grade 3-8 assessment and took one session instead of two
Grade 10 the same
remote administration option 
call out for districts and assessment staff for their flexibility in this 
Board has modified competency determination of classes of '20-'23
over a million assessments, 85% in person, 99% received a valid result
1% did not; some small number of classrooms being reviewed and grade 8 remote science was not able to be scored due to a contractor error
participation remained strong across; all at 90% or higher (save 89% at math grade 10); younger grades 97% in gr.3-5 in both subjects
Typically in 97% in grade 8 and under; 95% grade 10, so a dip, but still strong
Someone asked if there were higher pockets of non participation
Moriarty: 89% in math grade 10: harbinger of dropping out?Curtin: not as yet, provide ample opportunity for students to take the test to meet the competency determination
stacked bars of achievement; vertically within each grade an achievement level; horizontally comparing across grades
Blue bar of achievement in 2019: orange above the blue line in grades 3-8 is the drop in students meeting or exceeding expectations compared to 2019
2021 grade 10 OUTPERFORMED 2019 in ELA (so no orange over the bar!)
West asks if test was shorter, confirms it was not in grade 10 
Curtin: do have "tale of two subjects" as we look at math
Decreases in ELA for sure, "to a more significant degree in math"
concern with amount of red "not meeting expectations"
grade 10 did experience a decrease in math as compared to ELA
science drop more consistent with ELA than math
15% drop in meeting or exceeding expectations in grades 3-8
grade 10 7%
West: comfort in comparison?
Curtin: "what gives me comfort is numbers"
speaks of the numbers of tests given and results
and I missed a section here...augh
Curtin: looking at achievement gap
math change in achievement gap: "actually have a little bit of a narrowing"
"all in all, we end up with certainly declining results" but while we might have feared increasing achievement gaps, that isn't what happened (that last is totally paraphrase)

Riley says he sees recovery as a several year project

Morton: what is social emotional impact on students and on schools
"if we could get such data, that would be helpful"
Riley: "I don't think there is such data."
Morton: "then maybe there should be"
Morton: should focus on alternative assessments, "I'd like us to be sure that we're spending the same amount of resources on alternative assessments"

and then an alarm sounded and the floor? building? was ordered to be evacuated via an automated voice

Hills: wanted to make a comment "there's no perfect place on the agenda to make it"
Haven't looked at individual assessments, 
MOU and work that DESE wants to be able to do in Boston
"systemic and systematic and structural problems" in Boston Public Schools
"more skeptical now than I was a year and a half ago"
Don't know how you're going to address deep and wide options "without considering all options including receivership"
"beginning to feel complicit"
"not another day that goes by without another Boston Globe article that...amps my skepticism up a notch"
"I just want to raise this issue publicly, not just privately"
Riley notes it is "not on the agenda today" but hears concerns and notes "there is a process"

September Board of Ed: opening comments

 Today's Board of Ed meeting, coming to us (change of venue) from 1 Ashburton Place, starts at 9:30 am. The agenda is here. The livestream will be here

really choppy connection here today...missing large parts of what people are saying...after five restarts, we just jumped to what I assume is current in the meeting with a woman talking about a universal remote learning option during public comment

Commenter says her daughter's just been approved for home and hospital
school ventilation and distancing not possible everyone
children under 12 need time to be vaccinated
was so excited about children going back to school after last year being remote
watched as rates rose, safety protocols made optional 
"We aren't asking for forever; we're just asking for remote options until vaccines are widely available for children under 12"
"asking for ability to keep our children safe"
"all students have to be alive to be learning"

Commenter speaking about "normal childhood" being denied children
mitigation "no longer necessary"
policy must be made on "costs versus benefits"
encourage looking at data in other countries (erm, wow. Hospitalization rates in the UK right now?)

Commenter on MCAS 
"they are who they are and ready to learn what they need to learn next"
"system is not adapting to where the kids are and what they need to learn"
Better information about where students are achieving; adaptive assessments can do that; the current MCAS can't

Moriarty asking for information about ventilation systems across the districts
Riley: ESSER dollars, district responsibility to set up

another welcome to the new student member Eleni Carris Livingston of Wellesley

Peyser talking early college and STEM week

election of Board Vice Chair: nomination of James Morton (again)
elected unanimously

Riley on reopening: round of thanks for reopening
now doing multiple rounds of COVID data
He...really just spoke of requiring masks as a "difficult decision"
I'm also just going to note that so far I think all of these charts go up at the end
vaccines varied across the state; Chelsea singled out for having 81% of 16-19 year olds vaccinated
"we think the best place for kids is at school"
testing program
looking at needs of kids who have medical needs
kids qualified for home and hospital can be remote; individual remote bundles for remote students via virtual schools
National Guard help kids get to school "especially our special needs students"
173 drivers ready for service; currently in eight districts, more to come
test and stay program
"as one of the first penguins out of the gate" on test and stay
"with local control we were undermined by a few factors" on going back at three feet last year
he just listed mental health and suicide, as well as what I assume is a reference to MCAS scores as a result of districts being remote
MCAS in sum: Drops all over the Commonwealth, so not an opening of new gaps

Rouhanifard: high rates of vaccinations in state, mask not hill to die on
argues that we don't need to vaccine children to lift restrictions

Livingstone: distress and difficulties that adults in children's lives are having
encourage social and emotional supports for staff and families
resources to support faculty

Stewart: families and students and schools "a time to heal"
Has to be something that happens that's different
can't assume we go back to "some kind of normal"
She cites Neema Avashia's piece

Morton: effecting Black and brown children differently
"while I want to be optimistic, I want to be cautious"
want to know how Black and brown children and communities
"we during public comment heard two different stories, and that concerns me, that we're hearing two different stories"
our low income communities and our Black and brown communities are not

Moriaty: high needs special needs students and families "fell into a hole"
how much provision of compensatory services for those who have turned 22 since March 2020

Friday, September 17, 2021

Very quick update on today's search meeting

 Again, note that today was only to do two things:

  • to approve a timeline for the search
  • to draft and approve a request for proposals for a search firm
We did both of those things. The timeline approved looks like this (I will type this out over the weekend):

And my very quick (!) edit of the RFP (just making sure the text is all there!) is online here

Thursday, September 16, 2021

How does this work? On the Worcester superintendent search

Tomorrow afternoon, the Ad-Hoc Search Committee for the Next Superintendent--which I'm going to call the superintendent search committee--meets for the first time. You can find the agenda, including the Zoom link, here. I thought I'd take a bit today to outline what we know so far.

Who hires a superintendent? The school committee of a district hires the superintendent. It's one of the four core responsibilities of school committees laid out in MGL Ch. 71, sec. 71

The school committee in each city and town and each regional school district shall have the power to select and to terminate the superintendent, shall review and approve budgets for public education in the district, and shall establish educational goals and policies for the schools in the district consistent with the requirements of law and statewide goals and standards established by the board of education. 

Who is on the search committee? The School Committee members of the search committee are Molly McCullough, who has been appointed as chair; Dianna Biancheria; and me. The Mayor, who has the authority under the city charter to appoint subcommittees of the Worcester School Committee, said he was appointing the three longest-serving members of the Worcester School Committee who are also running for re-election. 

Why only three? There are of course four of us running for re-election, including Laura Clancey; the search committee needs to be less than a quorum of the full committee, though, lest it operate and make decisions as a committee of the whole.

Is this going to be the full search committee? No. The Mayor has outlined a process that will appoint further members of the district and the public for the search process. That will happen later on, as the full search committee has particular responsibilities (see more below!).

Does this committee meet in public? Yes, as the search committee, both as a subcommittee of the Worcester School Committee and as an ad-hoc committee reporting back to the full committee on something under its purview, is subject to the Open Meeting Law.
HOWEVER, the full constituted search committee will be conducting, as its job, the first round screening interviews of semi-finalists for the position of superintendent. Under MGL Chapter 30A, sec. 21, subsection 8, first round screening interviews may--and I assume here they will--be conducted in executive session. Those are not public.

What is the search committee doing right now? The first job the search committee has been assigned is to report back to the full committee for our next meeting--next Thursday the 23rd--with an RFP for a search firm for a national search and a timeline. Miss Biancheria also wants to define the word "national."

What's an RFP? An RFP is a Request for Proposals, which is how the city (of which the school system in this case operates as a department of) asks for submissions for a purchase the district intends to make. I won't go into huge detail here on municipal purchasing, but there is a strict process under which purchases are made by the city, particularly if they hit particular expense levels. 
In this case, the RFP will spell out exactly what the search committee is looking for from a search firm to work with the school committee on the superintendent search. 

And what's this about a timeline? The new superintendent will need to be ready to go on July 1, 2022. Ideally, new superintendents are appointed earlier in the spring, so there is a transition between superintendents, and the incoming superintendent is part of developing the next year's budget (that they will manage), the summer work (that they will oversee), and the next year's planning (that they will direct). Thus the clock is ticking on making sure we get this moving. 

So which school committee is appointing the new superintendent? The school committee that begins serving in January 2022, which will be elected November 2, will appoint the new superintendent. 
The work that will happen between now and the end of the year, though, will be outlining position descriptions and so forth, which will draw on the knowledge of the current committee. But it will be the next committee, which will have at least two new members, that will appoint the next superintendent. 

What are you/we looking for in a new superintendent? That's what gets decided next and where the community comes in! Part of the RFP will be laying out what we expect the search firm to do, and some of that is gathering community feedback! 
I'm not at this point, beyond what I said at our last meeting, going to lay out more about what I am looking for; right now, I want to push hard on making sure that we hear from as much of the community--and not just the usual suspects!--as possible. That, obviously, is going to have a real impact on what the position description that we decide on looks like. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Charter school application in Worcester

 It has been awhile since this has happened: the latest round of charter school applications includes one in Worcester (h/t to the MTA on this one, by the way; I still can't find this on DESE's website).

 The Ubuntu Excellence for All STEAM School is described as:

The Ubuntu Excellence for All STEAM School’s purpose is to serve historically marginalized students of immigrant families and families of African diaspora interested in STEAM. African diasporic communities in urban cities are often economically or socially oppressed and consist of Black and Brown families who continue to be underserved by the traditional public school system.

It would be, at its fullest extent, a PreK-12 518 student body; it would open K-7, then add PreK and 8, then a grade in high school a year. 

The primary applicant is Dr. Regine Philippeaux, who (interestingly) is the current Deputy Chief of Equity and Strategy for Boston Public Schools, the creator of the Boston Public Schools Excellence for All program, and lives in Upton. The two primary writers, Toni-Ann Williams and Rachel Jules, respectively, per the application, a special education teacher and the current program manager for Excellence for All, live respectively in Mattapan and Dorchester. 

While the school is being applied for in Worcester--which, as I believe I've noted, is back on the lowest performing 10% list as of 2019, and, with the freezing of the list, is on for this year again--I remember being concerned that just this would happen...--the application is a regional one which also includes Mendon-Upton, Hopedale, Milford, Millbury, West Boylston, Sutton, Grafton, Leicester. Worcester also has not hit the spending cap, which, as it is a lowest performing 10% district, has now been bumped to 18% of district net school spending; it was 9% when we were not in that lowest performing group. Such things, one notes, have consequences.

Boston, incidentally, is within 0.5% of its 18% cap; while it, per the February update from DESE, has a fairly complicated methodology going on around adding students, it's not a good prospect for a full school expansion. 

Because Worcester has always funded at net school spending, the balance of making the funding of a charter school in Worcester work has always been dicey--see Spirit of Knowledge, for example. Remember, however, that this school would be opening as the Student Opportunity Act will be boosting funding. 

The other schools applying--there are three--are two in New Bedford and one in Newton. 

I am sure more is to come on this. 

Thursday, September 9, 2021

DESE organizational update

 If, like me, you were so irritated that DESE was posting chirpy "ready for school" videos on September 7, you may have missed that Commissioner Riley has reorganized his senior officials. To quote from the announcement (item 4): 

...the Commissioner is bringing back the two deputy commissioner positions and creating a leadership cabinet of seven members, six of whom are existing DESE employees. The seven are:

  • Chief Financial Officer Bill Bell
  • Chief School Officer Komal Bhasin (Kaleidoscope Collective for Learning, Statewide System of Support, Office of Language Acquisition, Office of Educational Technology)
  • Chief of Staff Leldamy Correa
  • Chief Officer for Data, Assessment, and Accountability Rob Curtin
  • Deputy Commissioner Russell Johnston (Special Services, Strategic Transformation, Problem Resolution, Curriculum and Instruction, Educator Effectiveness)
  • Deputy Commissioner Regina Robinson (who is new to DESE) (Strategic Initiatives, Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems and Innovative Assessments, Research and Planning, Educational Options)
  • General Counsel Rhoda Schneider.

The changes take effect Tuesday, September 7.

Aside from those of us who need to know people's titles in order to write about them, why should we care? Well, to me a lot of this seems to focus pretty heavily on the ethereal rather than the concrete. 

It's also never been clear to me if the DESE finance folks actually work for Bill Bell, so I'm not sure this helps with the funding piece. 

In fact, I think I now need to know who answers to who in this line-up, overall.