Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Item 12v: Pittsburgh Promise

"I think we ought to have as a goal to be the smartest city in New England, and we can do this," says Mayor Lukes. She's confident that with rising standards, we can pull our schools out of underperforming status, and she suggests that we look into the "Pittsburgh Promise" Program.
Councilor Toomey is rising to (again) amend an item by Mayor Lukes, suggesting that we look at what we already have in the city.
From the Pittsburgh Promise website:

Currently, students who are eligible have the opportunity to receive a scholarship from The Pittsburgh Promise that would pay up to $5,000 each year for up to four years to help with expenses related to tuition, mandatory fees, books, dorm, and meal plan. Funds from The Promise will be used as “last dollar” scholarships. This means that Federal and State grants will be used first. The Pittsburgh Promise scholarship will be applied after the Federal and State awards. Students who already have scholarships to cover the total cost of attendance may be eligible for an award of up to $1,000 through The Promise.
To maintain eligibility while they pursue their higher education, students must earn a minimum 2.0 GPA to continue to receive yearly Promise funds.

Pension Reform: Rosen

Gary Rosen has just spoken at some length about the state's rejection of Worcester's local option, saying (I paraphrase) that the $12 million under tax levy is not relevant, that we weren't asking for more money, that it's a terrible year to raise taxes.

Local option considered

I'm posting here from the City Council meeting, where they've just taken up the rejection by the state legislature of our local options. Councilor Clancy has asked that the Manager reapply as soon as possible (which, according to the Manager, is more or less this fall; we don't want to do it before then, as it can be rejected out of hand).
Councilor Smith is now going on at some length about his...disappointment. "You can't cut and not give us any options to do anything about it...there's no 'I' in 'team' and the state is the 'I' here."

Monday, July 27, 2009

First, a word from others who get it

Before I go on to Secretary Duncan's Race to the Top remarks, let me first post this from ASCD Whole Child:

Educators use data for two major purposes: accountability and performance improvement. Accountability requires schools to prove something, while performance improvement is focused on improving student performance. The conversation in the media, at the state and federal levels, and often, in schools is focused overwhelmingly on accountability. In addition, we traditionally create assessments and collect data that measure accountability rather than identifying the factors that influence learning. As long as we continue to devote the majority of our energy, time, and resources to proving something, we will make less significant strides toward improving the education of each child.

We must be strategic in the questions we ask about quantitative data and ensure that we collect qualitative data to help identify and address causes rather than just dealing with effects. Stakeholders at all levels must use data to identify and address the factors that influence student learning. We assume that data lead to conclusions, yet they can only suggest what may have caused the result. Data rarely, if ever, identify cause and effect. When we focus on identifying the causes of both success and failure, data becomes not a dirty four-letter word but an essential ingredient in the recipe for educating the whole child.

You can find more from them here.

Safe schools without heavy policing (now with link)

Interesting report sent along to me (thanks, Brendan) from New York City, looking at the results in schools that have a heavy police presence with those that do not:

The report is based on a one-year quantitative and qualitative study of six high schools: Progress High School for Professional Careers (Brooklyn), Urban Assembly for Careers in Sports (Bronx), Humanities Preparatory Academy (Manhattan), Urban Academy and Vanguard High School – both located in the Julia Richman Education Complex (Manhattan), and Lehman High School (Bronx).

None of these schools currently has metal detectors, although some used the devices in the past. Each employs alternative strategies to intervene with troubled students, and they generally enjoy long-term, positive relationships with school safety agents, NYPD civilian personnel assigned to patrol the schools.

What I found most troubling was what is going on in the schools not participating in the alternative:

Since 1998, when Mayor Rudolph Giuliani transferred school security responsibilities to the NYPD, the number of police personnel in the schools soared by 62 percent, from 3,200 to 5,200. The police force in New York City schools is now the fifth largest police force in the country—there are more police in New York City schools than there are on the streets of cities such as Baltimore, Las Vegas, Boston and Washington D.C.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg imported Giuliani’s “broken windows” policing strategy into the schools—cracking down heavily on minor disciplinary violations. Students, some as young as five, have been handcuffed, taken to jail, and ordered to appear in court for infractions such as tardiness, talking back, truancy, refusing to show identification, and refusing to turn over cell phones.

Bloomberg has also introduced such controversial practices as the “Impact Schools” initiative—which doubles the number of police personnel permanently assigned to certain schools and has police agents enforce a zero tolerance policy for rule infractions—and the “roving” metal detector program, which often subjects youth to bag searches and body pat downs on their way to class. The Department of Education now spends 65 percent more per year—an additional $88 million this year alone—than it did in 2002 on school safety, despite the fact that student enrollment has decreased over the same period.

The escalation of police activity in the schools has created a de facto zero tolerance policy in schools that serve the city’s poorest neighborhoods. In these schools, which often have permanent metal detectors, students can be suspended, expelled or arrested for any number of disciplinary infractions.

These punitive measures contribute to the school to prison pipeline, a system of local, state and federal education and public safety policies that pushes students out of school and into the criminal justice system. The pipeline disproportionately affects youth of color and youth with disabilities.

More police in the NYC public schools than in all of Boston? Roving metal detectors?
I wish our federal secretary of education would pay attention to reforming things like this!

Race to the Top remarks

Here's Secretary Duncan's Race to the Top remarks from last week.
Comments to follow: I haven't looked at it yet.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Administration: no money for states not allowing kids' test to evaluate teachers

One wonders how much time the President and Secretary will spend on this item: that Race to the Top funds will not go to states that refuse to allow student test scores to be a part of teacher evaluations:

To be eligible to apply for money, a “state must not have any legal, statutory or regulatory barriers to linking data on student achievement or student growth to teachers and principals for the purpose of teacher and principal evaluation,” according to a summary of the proposed rules.

The American Federation of Teachers says that it will be commenting during the 60 day period allowed. No comment, as yet, from the NEA.

Race to the Top announced today

President Obama and Secretary Duncan will be announcing the Race to the Top fund today at 12:15. You can find coverage here.

From Duncan's post on this:

But the president and I want to send a message to everyone: governors and mayors, school board members and teachers, parents and students; businesses and non-profits. We all need to work together to win this race so that our students can outcompete any worker in the world.

To win the race, states have to have standards and tests that prepare students to succeed in college and careers. They’ll need to recruit and reward excellent teachers and principals. They must have data systems to track students’ progress and to identify effective teachers. They must identify their lowest-performing schools and take dramatic action to turn them around.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Home rule petitions on pensions REJECTED!

Just up on Daily Worcesteria: the City Manager has been told that the state is rejecting the home-rule petition on early retirement and on pension reform. This puts the City of Worcester $6.2 million more in the hole for FY10. Added to the previous cuts? $8 million.
The Manager will have a report for the council on recommended actions Friday (when the new Council agenda goes up for next Tuesday's meeting.)


The School Department did not assume passage of these items, so no changes there.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Duncan to principals

I know that Secretary Duncan addressed the national conference of the National Association of Elementary/Secondary School Principals in Washington late last week, but unfortunately, the usually quick updates on ed.gov are slower this summer (nothing new on speeches since July 2). I did manage to find this analysis from a guest blogger at Education Week, however:

“We need a team of warrior principals to leave the easier places and go into the most underserved communities with a chance to build a new team,” Mr. Duncan said to the roughly 350 principals who are in Washington this week for the annual meeting of the National Association of Elementary School Principals and National Association of Secondary School Principals. Mr. Duncan said he would need to enlist about 1,000 principals a year, over the next five years.

Friday, July 17, 2009

And about that stimulus money...

For fiscal year 2010 (which started July 1), the Worcester Public Schools are receiving $51.2 million dollars from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (or ARRA, or what we're calling stimulus funds). $32.3 million are straight from the fed, $19 million through the state (State Fiscal Stabilization Funds).
Originally, the below mentioned IDEA and Title 1 money were going to expand programs (remember all that about training and technology?). Unfortunately, the state budget has cut back so severely that all of that money is going to simply maintain current services.
The federal money is largely going to maintain current services and do a bit of staff development. Beyond that, we are allow to hold some of it over for next year (and, to editorialize here, I'm glad that someone learned something from Joseph and the Egyptian famine: seven lean years, remember?), which the Administration has recommended, saving $8.1 million for FY11 (aka, the funding cliff). Also, the administration is already recommending that any money saved from anything this year be saved for next year (they'll need to juggle things to do so, as they can only carry forward stimulus funds. I think we can see below that this won't be a problem.).
If you want any more on where the money is going, let me know. I think it's been a pretty dense reading day here, already!

Budget correction

As mentioned yesterday, there was a $4 million decrease in the FY10 WPS budget due to the corresponding decrease in the state budget. Here's a bit more on that, from the text of the recommendation to the School Committee for yesterday's meeting:
  • The inflation factor (which is part of calculating the foundation budget, and thus everyone's contribution) is 3.04, as compared to 4.5 in the House and Governor's budget. This one reduction (this is pretty amazing, really) costs Worcester Public Schools $3.6 million.
  • Charter school reimbursement is 90% this year, which costs WPS $285, 155.
  • The City of Worcester, as we all already know too well, took a substantial hit in local aid from the state. That reduction in local aid translates to a reduction in the city's required contribution to the schools under the foundation formula. In this case, that loss is $117, 258 (that's a bit more than two teachers)
  • Every district's aid is down by 2% from last year, but stimulus funding saves us there.
This gives us the $4,012,292 figure I cited yesterday. That's 57 teachers we'd lose (and that's on top of the 225 teachers saved this year, and only this year, because of federal stimulus funding).
However, it's stimulus money to the rescue again here; here's how the money will be made up (you'll want to keep in mind here that there is separate stimulus money for special ed (which is the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, thus IDEA) and for Title 1 (children who are poor, which includes all schools in Worcester but 3).
Here's how the money gets reallocated:

Instructional Assistants 850,000 from IDEA stimulus
Instructional Assistants 500,000 from Title 1 stimulus
Bus Monitors 100,000 from IDEA stimulus
Community Schools 206,574 from Title 1 stimulus
Special Ed Bus Drivers 199,015 from IDEA stimulus
Parent Liasons 162,671 from Title 1 stimulus
Math & English tutors 165,840 from Title 1 stimulus
Retirement 350,000 from IDEA stimulus
Health Insurance 795,140 from the regular stimulus funds
Health Insurancce 543,552 from IDEA stimulus
Personal Services 89,500 from IDEA stimulus
Staff Development 50,000 from Title 1 stimulus

So, how does that work?
The IDEA stimulus is picking up a lot of the cost of special education to the Worcester Public Schools (including teachers, bus drivers, and so forth). Each district is federally required to fund a portion of special ed themselves, so we're keeping our end up, while taking what we can here, so we don't have to cut elsewhere.
The Title 1 stimulus is funding Kindergarten Assistants, other aides, and parent liaisons at Title 1 schools. Those aides will reduced adult/child ratios in those schools. It will be used to fund community schools at four schools. It will also fund one English Language Learner position (hooray for that!).

Okay, so it looked like a looming, $4 million dollar hole, but whew! A save! Right?


This is the FY10 budget. You will note that the word "stimulus" is used a great deal above. And what happens next year? Very little stimulus. The project budget deficit right now is $26 million, based on the state having no regular stimulus to give us (they spent it already) and not fully funding foundation (like this year).
We have to start paying attention to this now, or we stand to lose 400 teachers.

New link

I've added a link on the right here to the Worcester School Committee agenda; it will bring you to the page with a list of agendas and their respective attachments. Yesterday's isn't up...I don't know why.

Any other links that would be of help?

Teachers spending their own money

There's a few things before Congress regarding teachers' out-of-pocket expenses:
(taken from the NEA Insider; thanks, Kara!)

Lawmakers on the Hill want to see educators recoup more of the money they spend “out-of-pocket” for classroom expenses. Several of them—including Representatives Dina Titus (D-NV) and Suzanne Kosmas (D-FL)—are sponsoring legislation that would make positive changes to the educator tax deduction.

Currently, K-12 teachers can deduct up to $250 on their taxes for out-of-pocket classroom expenses. Both Titus and Kosmas have introduced bills that would double the deduction amount and make it a permanent part of the federal tax code. Representative Judy Biggert (R-IL) has also introduced legislation to double the deduction.

Meanwhile, Representative Larry Kissell (D-NC) has introduced a bill that would extend the deduction in its current form through 2011, while Representative Zach Space (D-OH) has introduced legislation to make the deduction permanent.
According to the National School Supply and Equipment Association, educators’ out-of-pocket expenses for the 2005-2006 school year, on average, totaled nearly $2,000.

The real story from Chicago

This letter is in this week's Education Week: as that is only available to subscribers, I post it here in its entirety (the author wants it widely distributed):

PURE letter in Ed Week
From Julie Woestehoff of PURE:

My letter on the truth behind the Duncan-Chicago myth is published in this week's Education Week.

In case you're not an online subscriber, here's what I wrote:

With billion of dollars and millions of children's lives at stake, Education Secretary Arne Duncan's claims about his record in Chicago merit special scrutiny, especially if federal education funds are tied to requirements that districts across the nation rapidly replicate the "Chicago model."

Advocates in Chicago have a special vantage point for this effort. We have been comparing Mr. Duncan's rhetoric with reality for several years, and finding significant factual errors and misstatements. His comments in "Start Over" fit this pattern.

For example, Ms. Duncan says, "Chicago success proves that we as a nation can expect dramatic and quick turnarounds in our lowest-performing schools." Yet the Rand Corporation (2008) and SRI International (2009) found that Chicago's new schools perform only "on par" with traditional neighborhood schools. Yet the traditional schools serve more low-income, special education, and limited-English proficient students.

Mr. Duncan states that "In every elementary and middle school we turned around, attendance rates improved." But state data for the 2007 "turnaround model," Sherman Elementary, show that attendance dropped from 91.4% the year prior to the takeover to 90.6% in the first year of the takeover. Attendance nearly recovered its pre-takeover rate at 91.3% in 2008. That's not a terrible record, but it's not an improvement.

Other post-turnaround data for Sherman are even more troubling. By 2008, the data show a 20 percent drop in enrollment, a 10 percent drop in the number of low-income children, and a 17% increase in the mobility rate.

Reality, not hype, should provide the context for considering Mr. Duncan's urgent call for bold and rapid change. Yes, our children need better schools, schools with more resources, more time, smaller classes, better-supported teachers, safer buildings, more participation of parents and community, and programs with a real track record of success. We fear that following Mr. Duncan's lead will send us at breakneck speed down a $5 billion-dollar path to privatization, national standardized tests, and loss of local control over schools, leaving our children even farther behind.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Budget adjustment

Budget was just reduced by $4,012,292 (as we thought)
Next year's budget:

Chief Academic Officer

...will, it appears, be hired by the School Committee, according to MA General Laws (this came up in the retreat earlier, in the question of who got what report when and if they should have). They have ultimate authority.
Ms. Mullaney has opened the conversation for what the School Committee would like to do about this. The position has been posted, applications are coming in, Boone is waiting to see what the School Committee would like to do.
Lukes is back to who got what...wanting to know the legality of a School Committee member getting an opinion before the Superintendent got it. She wants a legal opinion on that. She also wants to know if there's a legal obligation the School Committee has.
Monfredo says, let's have her suggest someone for and vote 'em up or down.
Lukes says she sat in on interviews. She thinks there's a process by law.
Mullaney says she thinks it's a little different from what Lukes is referring to (which was the special ed director). She thinks we ought to excercise that little bit of authority state law allows the School Committee.
Lukes wants a policy for how School Committee hires the people they hire. Mr. Foley says he'd like Boone to get going on hiring CAO, and makes a motion to that end.
O'Connell says that Ed Reform only changed the hiring process for some positions in redrafting the lines, thus the difference among positions. He suggests that if a meeting is needed, the Mayor has the authority to convene such a meeting and should do so.


report on change orders is now being sent to City Solicitor for review (this is that paving issue).
The report was adapted from the state guidelines.

Is it in the backup?

Mayor Lukes is just now looking over the backup on whether we've had new or added slots this year, as it wasn't in what she got. Bit of a flurry over that.
She wants to know, basically, if we're spending more money.
Brian Allen fields this one, and the answer is no, in fact, we are saving money, between saving money on health insurance and saving $500,000 from the administration. (did I get that right?)

Autism specialist

What are we doing for the services that were provided by the autism specialist (the position has been cut)?
Mr. Foley comments that this was a grant-funded program that was cut. He'd like to see this be part of professional development for teachers in all schools (so it isn't just one person). Will the training happen before the start of the school year?
(hat tip to Dr. Boone who is up in the "big chair" as superintendent (with her own sign) today for the first time)
She says yes, that it is happening on an ongoing basis.
Foley reminds us that there is a "social component" in the requirements under state law.
Quick exchange between Lukes and O'Connell, who wishes to have another motion (for looking at what sort of progress has been made over the course of this year). Okay, he got his motion.

Bogigian can't believe it

Mr. Bogigian, referring to "this vast paper," cannot believe that they can't find "three inches" to say something nice about the Worcester Public Schools.
He isn't willing to let this go.
(Mr. O'Connell has suggested that we follow up with their suggestion that they put it on their website.)

BROAD Center

Okay, I'm officially correcting all of the above/below: read the BROAD Center (for Brode).
My apologies.

subcommittee report: Community and Employee issues

First item on the agenda: looking at naming rights and sponsorships for sports teams, gyms, etc. A number of items here were approved in moving forward with this, as Mr. Monfredo says they need to be looking at new ways of raising money for athletics.
Now the "Public School Corner" as they are asking the Telegram and Gazette to establish. The T&G said no, so they want the WPS website to have a "Good News corner."
Item on parents volunteering in school improvements

School Committee liveblog next!

Coming up in about twenty minutes....the School Committee liveblog.
Off to find an electrical outlet!

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: standards of practice

Standards of Practice: code of ethics of School Committee
And, ah-ha, the School Committee has one (adopted April 5, 1973; citing a MASC Code adopted in 1964), which is being passed around, ‘though Quinn says he will send some other samples. He says this should be part of assessing the School Committee.
Quinn talks about the Brode Center for Urban Schools: three times, two to four days, for School Committee training: developing board members, urban school renewal, policy development. $50,000. They’re working on this proposal for school districts around the country. “A great growth experience…never heard” anything otherwise. Lukes wants to know how we can apply; she says in going to meetings with other mayors, she walks away thinking “Worcester’s in good shape!”
Mass Association of School Committees, he recommends.
He says that continuity is key: superintendent and School Committee in place (he speaks here about winning the Brode Prize of $2 million; all districts that have won it have had the same people at the top, including School Committee, for 6 years. Oh, and Worcester isn’t eligible because we aren’t a big enough district.)

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: evaluating the superintendent

Question on contractually, goal-setting by mid to late fall: evaluate in spring
Quinn says that he sees a “bucket” of student achievement, whether they are ELL, extended learning, or at underperforming schools. Another one he sees is communication, transparency, and budget. “Third big chunk” has to do with defining success. Community partnerships is another.
Superintendent’s evaluation
O’Connell reviews how the School Committee evaluates the superintendent
Quinn gives a rundown of other systems of evaluation; says it should be a process not an event. Quarterly retreats, part of which should be related to performance. Self-performance should be part of performance evaluation, as how a supervisor relates to how those being supervised perform (?), he’s concerned about executive session and evaluating the superintendent (they can’t go into executive session for that). He recommends Charlotte-Mecklenberg as a success in evaluation (news to those of us who know anything about the Charlotte district). He doesn’t think that individual evaluations should be collected and put together for the final evaluation (and put out to the press and public). He wants a strategic plan in place so that she can be evaluated by that in her second year. (He calls this a hybrid of a “global and data” assessment.)
Brode offers a “senior advisor” for all superintendents they have. They also offer to “facilitate the evaluation” in year one for their graduates. They do it over two days: meet each School Committee member individually; three or more mentions of anything end up in the final report. They send that to her, she goes over/adds her own stuff, it goes back to the committee, and they check it over for the final report. The Mayor calls for discussion now; largely the committee feels they ought to do it themselves, the Mayor speaks of “being willing to experiment”…she’s like to have the experience. Speaks of having at least one, maybe more, new member on the Committee…”I don’t feel threatened at all by the Executive approach” It’s only free the first year...some back and forth over maybe meeting with a person, but not for evaluation. Lukes points out that colleges and universities have to be more involved; Boone says she is having good conversations with them; Lukes suggests coordinating w/ City Manager on that. Some talk about Pittsburgh having a community grant program for kids who graduate with a certain GPA.

Lunchtime and six month plans

Some of us are hoping that they’ll break for lunch here…ooh, not breaking for lunch “having a working lunch”
Expectations six months out? is what they are to be thinking about over lunch.
Concerns and issues:
· Budget vs. service
· Technology & marketing
· Competition: impact on funding…diversity opportunities
· Core strategies for underperforming schools
· Expectations high enough across city: top-down vs. bottom-up: Boone speaks of a collaboration, but says “research is clear” that urban districts do best with a top-down until things improve, then control can be loosened.
· Monfredo speaks of getting kids on grade level (reading on grade level by grade 3), and he wants to look at curriculum; Mullaney wants to not only see kids as people who need to pass the tests; kids who are going to have no problem need challenges too; (dang, is she really not all that pro-MCAS?)….ah, “Worcester has been able to retain a middle-class, college-educated population...”other districts are freed up to focus on other things.
· Family involvement: embrace family involvement: “parents as key players”
· School safety: something about bullying programs
· Alternative assessment
· Next generation of leaders in Worcester Public Schools
· Hargrove: “What is success?”
· Foley wants leadership training for principals
· 25% of budget and population is special ed: how do we get them succeed? (Foley)
· Healthy Communities (Worcester is doing this as a city) (Foley)
· Professional development for teachers (Monfredo)
· Transparency in Title I budget (Monfredo)
· Mayor: maintaining services in underperforming schools during budget crunch: “making parents part of the solution...looking at reforms” Foley suggests having budget hearings of a sort early
· Extended Learning Schools: have they improved? What difference has it made, if any? (this from Hargrove)
· Math: what recommendations, what makes sense? (Monfredo)
· Listen to teachers’ concerns: CEO visibility (O’Connell)
· Collaborate with social agencies
· ELL students (look at how far down this is!)
Plan Development:
Accountability and strategic plan
Benchmarks for student achievement
Mayor Lukes says that she’s heard good things on the retreat Boone ran last week with the leadership of the Administration. Boone has them energized to move forward and (according to Lukes) make changes that need to be made. Foley praises her having met with so many people during her visits with the community. She’s been appointed to at least three boards since she was appointed superintendent. And now just about everyone else is saying something nice about her, what’s she’s done, the presentation she’s made. Bogigian tells (Boone? Everyone?) not to be afraid of change…it’s why we went outside the school system…have this community with you, because perception is so important and your perception is one of strength.

Boone's entry

Entry: continue with meetings with district and community stakeholders (everyone from district legislatures to editorial boards to fire department to medical community); she’s setting up regular meetings with Mike O’Brien (hooray for that!); she’s also setting up communications, operational, and instructional audits (she’s restructured the principals meeting for the fall; a “leadership institute…to continue to support the leadership capacity” of the Worcester Public Schools. She’s talking about shorter school improvement plans, sometimes we need to take things off the plate (reviewing programs): “how does our district get the greatest return on our investment?”…sustaining the efforts that are making the biggest efforts in student achievement. “how do we sustain our results?” for district priority schools. She’s not looking at cutting positions in her reorganization…”not a system of schools but a school system” Right now there are openings for Chief Academic Officer, Chief Accountability Officer, Principals…”we have to market ourselves or we’re going to lose” children. Looking for budget FY11 and FY12.

Boone's Pre-entry

Pre-entry: she gives here a list of various people she’s met with during her transition time, the meetings she attended (sometimes with video conferences), sessions she was part of (Focus on Results & Harvard ExEL program, budget meetings), things she’s read (contracts, reports, grant app’s, evaluations, student data, financial reports)

The First 90 days

Dr. Boone’s Plan of Entry (the First 90 days)
(ooh, there’s a PowerPoint!) ;)

· Pre-entry (2/1/09-6/30/09)
· Entry (7/1/09-9/300/09)
· Action Plan Development (10/1/09-11/30/09)

Her five goals on entry:
1. Develop and ensure effective district governance through positive school committee-superintendent relations
2. Increase student achievement for all students & closing achievement gap (including opportunity gaps)
3. Improve public trust, commitment, and confidence
4. Increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency
5. Establish a supportive, positive, and effective district climate: improvement of student achievement and behavior

conversation about School Committee conversation

Jack Foley asking where to go with questions from constituents…does she want all calls to go to her office? “Next step folks” she says (CFO, CAO, Dr. Friel), but she also wants to know, if available. Foley expresses concern about inundating her with calls, but she says that is part of their relationship. And she’s going to bring it back to staff. Mullaney says this is a bit of a switch, as she has previously gone to, say, the head of curriculum for a math question. Boone reiterates that she would want to know, as it becomes part of the larger conversation she is having with the School Committee. (OOOH, of all examples, she’s just chosen, in speaking to Mary Mullaney, of having four years of math in high school!) Every example Mullaney comes up with (bus being late), Boone says she wants to know. Mullaney says she has a problem with calling her over everything, fearing it will “bog her down.” Boone says it will only bog her down in the first year, it’s part of the job, she’s “not a control freak”…she is “the newbie to the district, and this is how she learns this.” Bogigian points out that sometimes he doesn’t agree with a person, sometimes he’s just asking a question. She agrees that it’s fine, that you need information. Boone thinks of going forward with joint City Council/School Committee meetings; how does she support your ability to communicate effectively in those sessions?
Quinn wants to go back to press…if someone calls you and wants to know your position…Lukes says it’s done individually. Hargrove says she didn’t have enough information to say something that would go out to the public. Boone is conducting a communications audit: “We’ve got to figure how we communicate…who are the key people?”
(Lunch just arrived from the Broadway)
Foley talks about executive session stuff saying “No comment” but beyond that, responding as individuals. O’Connell talks about educating themselves to educate the public through the media. Would we ever have a spokesman? No. Quinn didn’t know that there was no public relations department. He says they need to be “proactive about getting your message out” (exchanges of looks by reporters here)…”they’ll pick up on the negative” Foley on getting message out, advocating for superintendent being the point person. Monfredo thinks she could have a radio or TV show. Bogigian suggests adding point person to CAO position. She goes back to communication audit. Lukes agrees that she needs to be the person herself so she is known by the community.

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: communciation from the School Committee

Dr. Boone’s list on what she wants from the School Committee on communication:
· Be a good listener to constituent concerns; people want your view and want you to hear it
· Refer employee concerns to the point of the problem and/or their union rep. (avoids having to recuse yourself from a particular matter) Inform superintendent so she can ensure issue is handled properly. “And make sure we are responsive to the school committee around that problem”
· Refer constituent concerns or complaints to the point of the problem, and up the chain, to her, as necessary.
· If you believe it may require a committee policy change or is of a potentially serious nature, let her know right away.
· Information? Ask her office.
· School Committee electronic communications are public record. This includes your editorial comments on information forwarded to other members.
· “Maintain fidelity” to school committee members, policies, standards when communicating with the media. She goes back to the close vote example, wanting them to say “and we’ll move forward” after losing a close vote.

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: freedom of information

There’s conversation going on here around information passed to committee members rather than through superintendent. Information apparently went right to Mullaney without first going through superintendent (a legal opinion about the Chief Academic Officer)...the Mayor just got it today, it hadn’t gone through superintendent, the City Solicitor gave it to Mullaney without it going to the executive first, and it’s exempt from freedom of information (somehow)…Mullaney was asking if the School Committee had legal authority over the CAO hire.

Thank you, Dr. Friel!

(and I should say here that Dr. Friel is being incredibly generous in making sure that everyone in the room, including the two reporters, two parents, and Gary Rosen, are all getting copies of everything that is passed out to the board members. Thank you!)

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat:conversation about communication

Mayor makes a distinction between informational versus substantive information (if it comes out of a meeting, it has to come back in meeting on the agenda, discussion allowed on the floor), there’s also the question of public information (which isn’t much coming up)…information may come out but need further discussion. Mullaney speaks of “lesser items” if one of the goals is streamlining. Mayor is concerned that we use the Friday letter for a substitute for discussion. Monfredo brings up parents following items; public information in meetings (ah, there it is!). Personnel items do not come in a Friday letter as they are public information. (How would one get their hands on a Friday letter? one wonders)…the Mayor says “you might as well send it to the T&G” to which Clive McFarlane responds from the back “we won’t mind.”

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: communication from Superintendent

Dr. Boone on what they can expect from her and what she expects from them: communication
This is her list:
· Regular school committee meetings and committee work/study sessions
· Weekly written updates: the Friday letter, which she is restructuring (pull-out box of pertinent dates)
· Urgent calls or emails for events “that you may be alerted to through the media or community members” (aka: crisis management): those calls will come from Dr. Boone herself or from Dr. Friel
· Quarterly governance team retreats (check our process)
· Periodic phone check-ins
· Periodic one-on-one face-to-face meetings as needed
· Planning meetings with mayor/ chair
· Media advisories and press releases
· Information requested by any member will go to all members

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat:Brode Center

Brode graduate is now Assistant Secretary for Elementary and Secondary Ed for the US (she comes from Pomona County)

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: to subcommittee or not to subcommittee?

Mary Mullaney says she is intrigued by this notion of having no subcommittees. Looking back and saying “why do we need it?” She is referencing here the voke school subcommittee established to merge in the voke school. He asks how much time they spend in subcommittee; she says it depends on the committee chair. He suggests making one monthy meeting a study session, and the other meeting a reaction. Bogigian wonders if all items really ought to be referred to subcommittee as a matter of course; the merits are not weighed before referred. Lukes says that School Committee members ought to monitor themselves. Mullaney says they generally have been deferentially to each other (but if they are talking to each other, it shouldn’t be offensive). Foley says he’s intrigued by this; subcommittees have worked well in his experience, but it would save on staff time; need to be much more strategic. Boone has already talked about changing her superintendent reports. He points out that this would be much more easy for constituent services. Monfredo expresses concern about the democratic process; voting items down without hearing them; don’t want to do away with advocacy of children. Suggested change of rules so public is allowed to speak without suspension of rules. Hargrove is looking for models: maybe they should meet more than twice a month. Mullaney suggests following the City Council model: one superintendent report meeting, one Committee meeting.
T&G photographer just came in (10:16 am)
(This is particularly interesting in light of the conversations that had been going on over whether staff members could be expected to report to evening meetings, which would have to happen if the School Committee went to this model…assuming of course that they didn’t instead move their meetings to during the day.)
He suggests more from Jon Carter; he’s going to send them something to read
Mary Mullaney has just raised the issue again of individual board members, and he’s drawn a distinction between acting as a parent versus acting as a board member.
There’s a break here, during which a number of School Committee members mention that they’re not so sure about eliminating subcommittees.

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: subcommittees

or not?

Potential Pitfalls of Board Committees:
· Designed to help superintendent rather than focus on board business
· Diminish superintendent’s authority and accountability
· Board members rarely have time, experience or expertise to make sound decisions
· Provides opportunity for some members to become better informed than others, when all have ultimate responsibility
· Puts board in position of being lobbied by staff
· Puts staff in being directed by board
· Board members take on staff perspective and lose board perspective

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: school committee functions

Jonathan Carter on public governance
Carter says there’s only one committee which is the committee of the whole (dismissal of subcommittees)
Four areas: board processes, indicators, means, board-superintendent relationship (only with superintendent…no other people that you’re going to) : Asks how we feel about policy manual. Answer is what policy manual? O’Connell references policy manual for students..but not one for School Committee, then something about manual from 1970’s (?) This obviously dismays the leader…”model policies on many different issues…you must have some internal guidance in place” “the fewer policies you have the better off you are in terms of the superintendent having the autonomy” to make decisions. Establishing guidelines, frameworks, monitoring outcomes
Basic principles:
1. Board owns organizationon behalf of community.
2. Board employs CEO to whom it delegates day-to-day leadership and management of district
3. CEO is the only district employee who reports to and receives direction from the board
4. Board speaks with one voice or not at all. Individual members have no authority over district (reference here to Committee members who issue instructions to principals; exchange with Mayor who asks what should happen if it happens (which it does). Says that it will be Dr. Boone on the doorstep of Committee member)
5. Board prescribes the ends but stays out of the means to as great extent as possible.
6. Board holds CEO accountable for progress on Indicators of Success; performance is monitored against established criteria (reference to mayor of Detroit staging takeover of public schools, a favorable mention, one might say)
7. CEO recognizes board’s need for adequate an timely information
8. CEO responsible for engaging staff in planning and decision making
9. Bad and CEO are jointly responsible for effective communication
10. The only standing committee is the committee of the whole. (no standing committees)

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat:#5

5. Strong and durable linkages with community: seeking community input (superintendent should deal with things before they end up in School Committee). Need four retreats over the course of a year. Regular meaningful dialogue on district directions. Work on “this relationship” Professional marriage between superintendent and 7 individuals (this is common sense, you know this stuff)

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: #4

4. Relationships based on trust, loyalty, and respect: people of goodwill. Gossip undermining, settle things face to face

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: #3

3. Indicators of success established for district (struggled with by many boards in the country) “to define success in absolute terms”..can never be successful otherwise…be very clear about what success means for your organizations…”amazing how many abdicate their responsibility to the state or federal government” Individual teachers need to know “what success means…whole issue of accountability have escaped for far too long…we are an entitlement culture rather than a performance culture…pushed it off…” he doesn’t have a friendly response to those who say that we are not making cars, we’re working with children. “We aren’t doing what we need to” (reverence here to other countries)..Monfredo says it can’t happen in one year. Lukes says reaching down to classroom level is more difficult, reference to collective bargaining…”perks work against these goals”…implement it, too. Back to presenter:“Obama taking on the unions”

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: #2

2. School Committee and Superintendent (referenced here as CEO and Board) are interdependent (reference here to “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People”): Board has “ownership” and Superintendent has “professional management”. Board has been elected to “always speak your truth…and vote your conscience”…strong and independent ideas must be given up once board has decided otherwise…must support decision as voted. Analogy made to Green Bay Packers board, who hire the coach but on game day are not on the sidelines (he says that would look like the Detroit Lions)...line between setting overall policy and running day-to-day..Jack Foley is saying we need to look for consensus…pull back rather than have a 3-4 vote…recommendation from presenter to “take the time” if possible…Mary Mullaney says that “because the meetings are televised, things could be constrained…there’s often been informal discussions before the item coming on the” agenda for a vote…”take the pulse” of the School Committee..discussion happening in subcommittee…”I was a little uncomfortable” with supporting a decision that has been made with which she disagrees..presenter says you don’t have to agree with an issue to support a decision…Mullaney disagrees, saying she can think of times that wouldn’t be true. Presenter says”have to make the relationships work”…”chaos in the board meetings is chaos in the classrooms” “Politics as blood sport has no place in this relationship” Foley “I think a 4-3 vote is a loss for the School Committee…how can we reach a compromise, how can we come to consensus” Hargrove: “I don’t know how you separate the polical from what is best for the little ones”…”my whole belief system doesn’t match up with the whole polical thing that goes on” Mayor: to make decisions requires disagreement…would not take back those votes…a 4-3 vote, in itself, is not something to be avoided…difficult to see beyond” the current time. “constrained by the charter, our political and philosophical beliefs…personal grudges feared more than anything else” (she references here the superintendent’s search)…Foley is quick is say that he wasn’t thinking that…Mayor suggests that holding a vote (like the City Council can) for a week could work, maybe a rule change…some conversation around lining up a majority vote over time…Bogigian asks “how much do we owe the electorate when they email or call”…when he gets a lot of contact on an issue, he feels he must do something about it…”have a little bit of consensus with the public”

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat:

“Peak Performing Governance Team”
1. United in service to children (these are the constituents of the politicians on School Committee): all discussions and meetings focus on what’s best for children (more important than teachers, parents (though parents are partners), etc): above all

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: Brode Center

Recommend retreats for starting superintendents: how the relationship is going to work
Brode: “if we find the best and the brightest people, prepare them…if they stay in that position for three years or more, “ there is improvement…by year three, you can see significant results (they track test scores). He says we may even see it in 2, as Boone is one of their own instructors
Brode Prize won by districts that have “an effect governance team”…to often see a group of people who are dysfunctional…he doesn’t think it will take until 3

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: School Committee intros

Mary Mullaney saying she came here today “with a blank slate” (this is her 16th year)
Jack Foley (his 10th year) “focusing our school committee meetings” “strategic, policy-centric”
Dottie Hargrove “passion for public schools” (she’s finishing her first term); she says she’s “new at this, never attended a retreat”
John Monfredo “make sure that I try to make a difference in the community” (after his retirement; he’s been on for four years): he’d like “to look at best practices”
Bob Bogigian (finishing his first term as well) “thought it might be a good thing for me to get on the other side of it” (after working as an administrator)…he owns a small stable of racehorses (who knew?)
Brian O’Connell gets a laugh by saying that he’s at his midpoint in his service on school committee (this is his, count ‘em, 26th year) ; he says he also is looking to coordinate with the superintendent on policies and goals that they set together
Mayor Lukes says that her approach to government is always that of questioning (due to her background); more openness, agenda should be “less public relations and recognitions, and more business related” should look at what they are filing and why they are filing them. Expectations “are not high” due to the City Council (need another retreat on the City Council)…now she’s going into having the retreat outside the city, saying the city is “unsophisticated”…says that having reporters and public there “blogging, taking notes…had a chilling effect on the conversation”
Dr. Boone: “perfect match for my philosophy that we can improve our public education accomplishments”: develop our roles and relationships to improve student achievement; “don’t allow dollars to drive…but make our choices for students and line up our” money accordingly

Not-so-liveblog of the Worcester School Committee retreat: intros

Dr.Boone saying she’s “extremely excited” to look forward as they” evolve as a strong governance team”
Presenter is from Brode Center on Urban Education
(reporter from T&G just came in)
Leading introductions now is Tim Quinn the presenter: former English teacher, moved up through administration (Green Bay, WI), college president, then started this business of working with school governance, then Brode center
110 graduates of the Brode center: most leading districts now
“governance team” is elected board + superintendent

Will update later

Much to post here, but they're taking a working lunch which I'm missing to post even this much. Presenter is from Brode Center, which trained Dr. Boone. Much of the morning was his presentation, then Dr. Boone reviewed her transition plan and communication needs. All will be posted! Just not yet!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tomorrow's School Committee retreat

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 16, the School Committee is spending the day on retreat on the 9th floor at Mass College of Pharmacy at 19 Foster Street. I've heard that it will start at 8; I've heard that it will start at 9; I'm planning on getting there at 8 (corrected). It runs until 3:30, at which point the School Committee is scheduled to have a regular meeting at 4 pm, though I do not see an agenda posted for this meeting.
I will be coming with my laptop, but, alas, the 9th floor of 19 Foster Street does not have wifi (this would have been a great time for a downtown wifi; I'm pretty sure that City Hall's signal doesn't reach that far), so I will not be able to liveblog it. What I will do is take notes, update on who-cester when I can, and keep my Twitter feed up-to-date.
And it's open to the public, of course!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Set for Success

..will again be collecting backpacks and school supplies. Councilor Toomey urges us to stock up now to contribute in August.

Five Year financial plan

Being held, as Councilor Toomey believes we'll be getting a new one soon from the new superintendent.

"Major commitment to provide tutors"

Councilor Toomey comments that the colleges have made a "major commitment" to provide tutors, noting that (from what she's heard) WPS are looking at a $24 million deficit next year without stimulus funding.

Advertising colleges

and looking at whom we keep after colleges...powerpoint presentation going on now.
12 colleges
20,000 alums in Worcester
1500 international students

Twitter and Facebook once again referenced in how colleges are using social promotion (rather than viewbooks). The Worcester Rocks video on YouTube, too.
worcestermass.org is the common calendar (that link isn't working for me...)

10,000 students annually spend 600,000 hours at 450 local organizations. He notes that the Worcester Public Schools are a large recipient of that time (some of whom are work-study): about 90,000 hours.

Challenges include a perception about lack of safety downtown, a common destination for students downtown, and the perception of Worcester from 290 (which is that of an old industrial city).

Reach out

Still talking about the Woo card...Councilor Toomey just suggested that they should be able to take calls during the meeing...

Summer meeting: subcommittee and the WOO card

Councilor Eddy is not here tonight; we've got a two person subcommittee for the meeting (Toomey and Smith).
They're doing WOO card (item B) while the people are there.
(Councilor Toomey just literally introduced everyone in the room, including my children and Dawn Johnson, here for the CPPAC.)

"Everything is WOO-hoo here in Worcester!" is the quote of the report. There have been 12,000 Woo cards distributed in the past 12 months. They are now on Twitter (anyone have a link?) and on Facebook (where Councilor Toomey has just said that she will friend them).

Education subcommittee

The Education subcommittee of the City Council will be meeting this evening at 5pm ('though, as it is currently 4:58 and we have as yet no Councilors, I think it might start late).

Liveblog to follow

Education, science, and popular culture

Here's an interesting Salon.com take on how popular culture has something to do with America's ignorance about science:
What do we learn from this curriculum about science? Well, just ask America's kids. Researchers who have studied the stereotypical views of scientists held by American schoolchildren report that when they encounter real-life scientists who visit their classroom, the kids think someone's pulling their leg, because the scientists aren't anything like the big-screen version — mean, male, gray haired and mad. As one study author explained to the magazine Nature: "They might say the person was too 'normal' or too good-looking to be a scientist. The most heart-breaking thing is when they say, 'I didn't think he was real because he seemed to care about us.'"

State Budget

Here's a link to the Mass Budget analysis of the FY10 budget. The education section is here.

Education spending at the state level is down 4.2% from FY09 (and do remember that next year's prices usually are higher; one generally needs a bit more money to keep the same level of services). Here's the important point on K-12 spending from the state:

The most notable aspect of the Legislature’s budget in the area of elementary and secondary education is the use of $167.6 million in federal Fiscal Stabilization Funds to ensure that each district receives sufficient aid to meet their Chapter 70 Foundation Budget, as defined in the budget. In FY 2010, combined state and federal Chapter 70 spending totals $4.037 billion, an increase of 2.2 percent over the FY 2009 level.

Aside from reliance on federal funds, the approach to Chapter 70 includes other important policy decisions. For one, the Legislature’s budget uses a new method for calculating the inflation adjustment for the Foundation Budget than used previously. Specifically, it excludes price data from the first quarter of the last fiscal year when making the inflation calculation, because the Legislature felt that the high cost growth of that quarter was anomalous. However, this method results in an inflation calculation that is substantially lower than the traditional measure (3.04 vs. 6.75 percent) and ignores cost growth experienced by school districts during the omitted quarter. To avoid Foundation Budgets permanently failing to reflect the effects of cost increases during the quarter that was not included, the FY 2011 budget will have to use a calculation of inflation that, in some manner, corrects for the quarter omitted in FY 2010.

Add that to your list of reasons to be concerned about the FY11 budget.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Firefighters, the Supreme Court, and standardized testing

From today's New York Times opinion page:
...the Supreme Court's 5-to-4 decision last month - that New Haven should not have scrapped the test - perpetuates profound misconceptions about the capacity of paper-and-pencil tests to gauge a person's potential on the job. Exams like the one the New Haven firefighters took are neither designed nor administered to identify the employees most qualified for promotion. And Ms. Torre's identity-politics sloganeering diverts attention from what we need most: a clear-eyed reassessment of our blind faith in entrenched testing regimes.

For more on this, you can find Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the four dissenting justices, here.

Community Conversations about Excellence in Hispanic Education

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans is having a series of "Community Conversations" around the country before an update of the executive order which created the office, due later this year.
Next week the conversations will be in Texas, with Chicago following later this month.
As it is the Obama White House, I poked around to see if they were looking for online submissions, but I haven't found any such thing.

School Committee retreat schedule

This just in:
The School Committee retreat is scheduled for this Thursday, July 16, from 8 to 3:30. It will be held at the Mass College of Pharmacy at 19 Foster Street.

And, yes, it's a public meeting!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Summer meetings

There is an education subcommittee (of the City Council) scheduled for this coming Monday evening (July 13) at 5 pm (I've got no idea what's up with that first item: a five year plan dated 2006 which has been held?).

There is also a School Committee meeting next Thursday (July 16) at 4 pm. No agenda posted for that yet, but I do know there will at least be a budget update, now that the state has passed a budget.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Online single-sex education

There's been a growing trend in recent years of single-sex, public education...now a couple of all-girls private schools are taking single-sex education somewhere else: online.

For now, the online collaboration will allow the four participating schools -- Holton-Arms, Harpeth Hall in Nashville, Westover School in Middlebury, Conn., and Laurel School in Shaker Heights, Ohio -- to offer classes that would not have generated enough student interest or teacher support in any one school. When the classes open to the public a year later, the educators hope that students around the world -- including homeschoolers and girls at coed schools -- will be able to take part in a version of the girls' school experience. And they want to prove that single-sex online education works. They can't find anyone who has done anything similar.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Summer numbers

There will be full report out for next week's (July 16, 4 pm) School Committee meeting, but it looks like the FY10 budget is down by about $5 million from what was passed last month. In addition to some grants ending, the cut to local aid by the state means that the city of Worcester will be responsible for less money for the schools (under, yes, the foundation formula). So far, it looks like this hole will largely be plugged with stimulus funding of various sorts, but stay tuned.

Welcome, Superintendent Boone!

She officially came on the job full time last Wednesday, and among other things, already saw Worcester's fireworks (as per tradition, not on the Fourth of July!). Welcome, Superintendent Boone!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fourth Duncan speech

Secretary Arne Duncan spoke yesterday to the National Education Association, the national teachers' union, at its national conference in San Diego. As expected he forwarded the idea of merit pay (he's being challenged on the merits of this in the Senate, incidentally), eliminating or restricting tenure, and eliminating a single salary schedule.

So I look forward today to hearing your voices—hearing what you have to say—hearing your ideas for improving American education. I encourage you to think boldly and courageously—to challenge me, challenge yourselves, and challenge each other.

But we must be willing to do more than talk. We all must be willing to change. As I said recently, education reform isn't a table around which we all talk. It's a moving train and we all need to get on board.

(is he willing to change?)
You can find his full remarks here.

While Duncan was greeted with only a few boos (and no shoes) and largely with warm applause, his tone is not especially welcoming of real input. Challenged schools? We need to start with a clean slate. Union-negotiated contracts? Standing in the way of educating children.

He speaks of his own experiences here, and it's interesting the degree to which they obviously have shaped him. His adult experiences with education have been those of an outsider. He started a neighborhood school, and then took over the Chicago school system.

Outsiders can be great: new perspectives and new ideas are enormously helpful. The danger is always that of throwing out the good along with the bad. Teachers, for example, undergo (or are supposed to undergo) rigorous scrutiny prior to being granted tenure. If poor teachers are granted tenure, it isn't tenure that's broken: it's the scrutiny. He accepts that tests are not great evaluation instruments, but in the next breath he wants to include them in teacher assessment.

I wish we could stick him in a classroom with 25 fourth graders for a few months.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

An open letter to Arne Duncan

by Herbert Kohl, the acclaimed (by, among others, Arne Duncan himself) author of 36 Children, an important work in looking at the education of African-American children:

We have come far from that time in the '60s. Now the mantra is high expectations and high standards. Yet, with all that zeal to produce measurable learning outcomes we have lost sight of the essential motivations to learn that moved my students. Recently I asked a number of elementary school students what they were learning about and the reactions were consistently, "We are learning how to do good on the tests." They did not say they were learning to read.

It is hard for me to understand how educators can claim that they are creating high standards when the substance and content o f learning is reduced to the mechanical task of getting a correct answer on a manufactured test. In the panic over teaching students to perform well on reading tests, educators seem to have lost sight of the fact that reading is a tool, an instrument that is used for pleasure and for the acquisition of knowledge and information about the way the world works. The mastery of complex reading skills develops as students grapple with ideas, learn to understand plot and character, and develop and articulate opinions on literature. They also develop through learning history, science, and technology.

Reading is not a series of isolated skills acquired in a sanitized rote-learning environment utilizing "teacher-proof" materials. It develops through interaction with a knowledgeable, active teacher—through dialogue, and critical analysis. It also develops through imaginative writing and research.

It is no wonder that the struggle to coerce all students into mastering high-stakes testing is hardest at the upper grades. The impoverishment of learning taking place in the early grades naturally leads to boredom and alienation from school-based learning. This disengagement is often stigmatized as "attention deficit disorder." The very capacities that No Child Left Behind is trying to achieve are undermined by the way in which the law is implemented.

Worth reading the whole thing.


I tried to see if I could throw another acronym up there, too, but I couldn't come up with one that works.

Weekend Edition Sunday this past weekend had an informative report from Claudio Sanchez on the teaching of English Language Learners, particularly under No Child Left Behind. You can find both the audio and the text of the report here:

"The research certainly has in the past shown dual language programs to be the most effective," says Nancy Rowch.

Rowch oversees instruction for English-language learners in Nebraska. She swears that building on a child's native language, rather than discarding it, has proven to be the best way to help kids make the transition to English — but that's neither here nor there, because the actual programs that schools use have less to do with research than with politics and funding.

This matters enormously here in Worcester, where so many of our kids are ELL at some point in their school lives.