Wednesday, September 30, 2009

League of Women Voters Forum notes

Sorry: no liveblog, as I was a bit busy during the forum!

Every candidate got to make a 1 minute opening statement and a 1 minute closing statement. In the middle, two candidates were given a minute each to address a question. Those questions were on the following (excuse the note form):
  • a longer school day/ a longer school year
  • health care during school time
  • parent involvement
  • drop out rate and how to answer it
  • procedure for removing disruptive students from the classroom
  • staff reflective of the cultural diversity of WPS students?
  • NCLB: how does Worcester measure up?
  • role of charter schools
  • more students studying math and science
  • role of school nurses
  • current school library sources and changes
  • healthy physical environment and avoiding sick buildings
  • superintendent and school committee working together
  • drug policy and drug education
  • preparations for H1N1 flu
  • meet or should meet the needs of higher achieving students
  • any changes in the billigual education program?
  • ROTC in high schools: pro or con?
  • request for censorship of books: how to handle
  • inclusion classroom policy: meeting needs of all?

October 1 School Committee meeting

The Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night, and it looks like they've been getting some mail!

There are five items on tomorrow night's agenda in response to citizen petition, all from Christina M. Pattee. The items are regarding kinethetic learners, Delayed Sleep Phase syndrome, grade improvement through after-school programs, personal finance classes, and gift certificates for volunteer parents. (You can see the letters as submitted if you click on the cooresponding Annex on the agenda.)

And yes, readers, you can petition public boards, including both the City Council and the School Committee, on an issue by writing to the appropriate clerk.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Teachers Unions and Ed Reform

The Cape Lyceum presents:
Teachers Unions and Ed Reform: Beyond Can't We All Just Get Along?
October 12, 2009
South Yarmouth MA

Find the details here.

Sounds like a great panel...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Rethink Learning NOW

I've just gotten something from the Rethink Learning NOW site, which is asking people to submit their own stories of "what powerful learning environments, highly effective teachers, and a fair and equitable public school system actually look like."
The prompts:
Learning, Teaching, Fairness
  • Share a powerful personal experience in a learning community. It could be a club, a church group, a school experience, a course, or something else. The only criteria are that it was a positive experience and real learning occurred.
  • Who was your most effective teacher, and what was it about that person that made him or her so effective in helping you learn?
  • To ensure that every child receives a high-quality public education, does the federal government need to make the equal opportunity to learn a constitutional right? Or is there a better, less drastic alternative toward ensuring fairness that policymakers should consider?

SAT optional

For those of you following the SAT end of the standardized testing debate, there's this article in today's Inside Higher Ed. Following on last year's landmark report questioning the use of the SAT in admissions decisions, the National Association of College Admissions Counseling is moving to carry out some of the recommendations of the report, most notably requiring training for admissions staff in the appropriate use of standardized tests in admissions. Some staff have received training only from the testing companies themselves...something of a conflict of interest.

(hat tip: Smith NewsTracker)

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Executive function

Fascinating article in today's New York Times Sunday Magazine on the role of executive function in childhood development and in children's long term success:

In the past, when psychologists (or parents or teachers or priests) tried to improve children’s self-control, they used the principles of behaviorism, reinforcing good and bad behaviors with rewards and punishments. The message to kids was that terrible things would happen if they didn’t control their impulses, and the role of adults, whether parents or preschool teachers, was to train children by praising them for their positive self-control (“Look at how well Cindy is sitting!”) and criticizing them for their lapses. And in most American prekindergartens and kindergartens, behaviorism, in some form, is still the dominant method. But Bodrova and Leong say that those “external reinforcement systems” create “other-directed regulation” — good behavior done not from some internal sense of control but for the approval of others, to avoid punishment and win praise and treats. And that, they say, is a kind of regulation that is not particularly valuable or lasting. Children learn only how to be obedient, how to follow orders, not how to understand and regulate their own impulses. The ultimate goal of Tools of the Mind is not emotional or physical self-regulation; it is cognitive self-regulation — not the ability to avoid grabbing a toy from the kid next to you (though that’s an important first step), but the much more subtle ability to avoid falling for a deceptively attractive wrong answer on a test or to concentrate on an arduous mental task. And those abilities are more difficult to affect by other-directed regulation. Because the abilities are more abstract, they are less likely to be elicited by rewards. Kids are rarely able to organize their thoughts better in order to get an ice-cream cone.

There's been some research lately on the long-term importance of true self-control in long-term success. Some of you may have read of the "marshmallow experiment" in this past May's New Yorker magazine, which showed a high degree of corralation between how much self-control children displayed at a young age with how well they did on a myriad of measures later in life.

Why We Educate

The single biggest problem in American education is that no one agrees on why we educate. Faced with this lack of consensus, policy makers define good education as higher test scores. But higher test scores are not a definition of good education. Students can get higher scores in reading and mathematics yet remain completely ignorant of science, the arts, civics, history, literature and foreign languages.
Why do we educate? We educate because we want citizens who are capable of taking responsibility for their lives and for our democracy. We want citizens who understand how their government works, who are knowledgeable about the history of their nation and other nations. We need citizens who are thoroughly educated in science. We need people who can communicate in other languages. We must ensure that every young person has the chance to engage in the arts.
But because of our narrow-minded utilitarianism, we have forgotten what good education is.

DIANE RAVITCH Ravitch is a historian. Her book ‘‘The Death and Life of the Great American School System’’ will be published in February.

Amen! And I look forward to reading her book.
NOTE: for those of you who are over here from the Daily Worcesteria bloglog (and thanks for the mention, guys!), the above pithy quote is INDEED a quote from Ravitch from the Sunday New York Times Sunday Magazine. The "amen" is mine! Blog style over here is serifs if it's me, sans if it isn't.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

More on Reville, charter schools

Rising to the defense of Secretary Reville today is the editorial page of the Boston Globe:

CALLS FOR the resignation of state Education Secretary Paul Reville over his handling of a charter school application in Gloucester are grossly out of proportion with his actions. Reville badly embarrassed himself and the Patrick administration through a careless Feb. 5 e-mail urging approval of a charter school in Gloucester. Even so, it would be a huge retreat for education reform in Massachusetts to jettison Reville for this misstep.

The comments make for telling reading:
Do you really feel the Boston Globe has any credibility whatsoever in this matter? If there is such a thing as a right to pontificate, you have lost it.

Secretary Reville did what he did--bowing to political pressure rather than formulating education policy on the basis of the merits, on he knew was best for kids--because he feared being bludgeoned by his "moderate allies," namely, the Boston Globe and the Boston Foundation. (Presumably, the Pioneer Institute is counted among his immoderate allies). We have it in his own words, in the email you prematurely removed from your web site.

Duncan on the ESEA

Secretary Duncan spoke today on the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, last reauthorized as NCLB. The meat of the speech?

In his speech, Duncan said that the NCLB law has significant flaws and that he looks forward to working with Congress to address the law's problems. He said the law puts too much emphasis on standardized tests, unfairly labels many schools as failures, and doesn't account for students' academic growth in its accountability system.

"But the biggest problem with NCLB is that it doesn't encourage high learning standards," Duncan said. "In fact, it inadvertently encourages states to lower them. The net effect is that we are lying to children and parents by telling kids they are succeeding when they are not."

Still not clear on what Duncan thinks of as "high learning standards," though I'm relieved to hear him acknowledge the overreliance on standardized tests.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Political questions about charter schools

Very interesting article in yesterday's Boston Globe about the process used in approving Gloucester's newest charter school and particularly the role of Worcester's own Paul Reville (Secretary of Education) in it. A memo from Reville to Commissioner Chester found its way to the Globe:

In the e-mail, Education Secretary Paul Reville told the commissioner of elementary and secondary education that rejection of the Gloucester charter school proposal, along with the probable rejection of two other pending charter proposals, would send the wrong signal.

“Our reality is that we have to show some sympathy in this group of charters or we’ll get permanently labeled as hostile and that will cripple us with a number of key, moderate allies,’’ Reville wrote on Feb. 5. “It really is a matter of positioning ourselves so that we can be viable to implement the rest of our agenda. It’s a tough but necessary pill to swallow.’’

As for Worcester?

At the time of Reville’s e-mail, there were three charter school applications before the board: in Gloucester, Waltham and Worcester, which is Reville’s home town. In the e-mail, Reville said he was not inclined to push for a charter school proposal in Worcester. Instead, he said he preferred the Waltham proposal, but knew that Chester had concerns about that application.

“My inclination is to think that you, I, and the governor all need to send at least one positive signal in this batch, and I gather you think the best candidate is Gloucester,’’ Reville wrote. “Can you see your way clear to supporting it?’’

This comes, of course, as the Legislature is considering a bill filed by the Patrick administration to lift the cap on charter schools.
UPDATE: here's the Telegram and Gazette's take here. And welcome back, Jackie Reis!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Joint meeting on budget issues

So that's a joint meeting of the Council and Committee on November 10 at 5:30 pm
(pending, of course, that all involved can make it)

And thanks to the Mayor for serving as the bridge between the two committees. A great relief.

Petty on the school budget

9e & f:
"one of the biggest budget issues we're facing is the school department"...feels he doesn't have a good handle on it
maybe November 10 (post election) they can have a joint meeting
It's come to his attention that some classes are 30 or more (7% in elementary school, according to last week's School Committee meeting)
Did we spent all the stimulus money?
Laid off over 50 firefighter and police officers
Nobody has a handle on this side of the house (of next year's stimulus or the budget)
November 10 is a Council meeting, Mayor points out, before the meeting.

Rushton rises for a friendly amendment (he hopes):
easiest way to improve children's performance is to improve parental involvement
calls MCAS a "damn good indicator" of how we're doing by our children
cites Sam Adams teaching school here (uh, think it was John?) to today
Epstein's study on parental coherent plan on how we're going to get parents involved (AND DANG THESE GUYS DON'T WATCH THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE MEETINGS! THIS HAS BEEN ON THE AGENDA! THEY'RE DOING IT NOW!)
no more money until they have a plan that they plan to adopt
demanding when they're going to adopt a citywide plan and we can hold the schools accountable to that plan

Mayor points out (thank you!) that it is currently underway in the School Department. Also, this needs to be a separate item

Why is there this kind of malaise around it? Rushton asks. "If holding back the dollar bills will light a fire under it, then so be it!"
Clancy rises to say that we have to separate money from policy; policy is School Committee's realm, money is the Council's
The only issue we have with the School Committee is money
Petty asks if there are any dates on FY11 budget; Mayor answers that they are planning on hearings around the city for FY11. They are dealing with it. Petty asks if they'll have something ready for Nov. 11; she says they have to start sometime.

Items pass

Two items

I should mention that Councilor Petty also has an item on the agenda requesting that the Council and School Committee meet within 60 days to review FY10 (midyear) and FY11 budgets.

How to get in touch with the Joint Committee

I'm adding a new link to the sidebar: the list of the members of (and contact information for) the 2009-2010 Joint Committee on Education.

Anything at the state level--including the issues currently before them on MCAS, charter schools, and merit pay--is worthy of mention to these individuals, as well as your own legislators.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Council agenda for Tuesday

On this week's Council agenda is an item from Councilor Petty asking for an accounting of how much money was received by the schools through federal stimulus and how it was spent.
That should be pretty straightforward--it's all in the FY10 budget as passed--but I wonder why he asks?

Friday, September 18, 2009

EAW President testifying at the State House

Here's Cheryl DelSignore, President of the Educational Association of Worcester, at yesterday's hearing.

Update on the teacher negotiations in Washington

I hadn't caught anything on Michelle Rhee's negotiations with the D.C. teachers' union; I've just caught this on Mothertalkers:

Over the last several months, D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee and the Washington Teachers' Union have been hammering out details on how to help the district get rid of ineffective teachers but also compensate teachers fairly. WTU President George Parker puts the chances of reaching a deal at "50-50."

Worth keeping an eye on in light of yesterday's bill hearing on merit pay here in Massachusetts.

With apologizes to Dr. Friel

emphasis added


1[buhs] Show IPA noun, plural bus⋅es, bus⋅ses, verb, bused or bussed, bus⋅ing or bus⋅sing. –noun
1. a large motor vehicle, having a long body, equipped with seats or benches for passengers, usually operating as part of a scheduled service; omnibus.

Testimony before the Joint Committee on Education

My name is Tracy O’Connell Novick and I live in Worcester, Massachusetts. I am a former high school English teacher and the mother of three daughters.
The first time I testified before this committee, I was sixth months pregnant with my first child. That daughter is now a third grader at West Tatnuck Elementary in Worcester. I am pleased to be able to tell you that I no longer have to flinch when it rains, as I did when she was in first grade and the ceiling in her classroom had six leaks. It finally became our turn for a roof repair.
At least she has only 18 kids in her class. There are a number of city schools that are running kindergarten classes of 27 students. At least her building doesn’t need periodic inspection of how tilted it is, as does another school in the city. At least she has books, as many of our high school English classes do not. At least she’ll get to go to the library once a week, as some schools do not have the parent volunteers to run them.
Last year when her younger sister was in kindergarten, she came to me and asked when “the computer lady” would come back to put the math games on their classroom computer. I had to tell her that I didn’t know, as there’s only a single technology person for the public schools. My five year old daughter asked me how much it would cost it to hire another lady, saying , “They can have my money, Momma.”
I could go on with examples—and I assume that many of you have other such examples—but I will stop here to point out what all of these examples have in common, besides being in Worcester: not one of them will be made a bit better by Race to the Top funds.
Should nothing change, as of right now, Worcester is facing a $26 million shortfall next year in the public school budget. Lest we depend on the oft-cited $12 million under the tax levy cap the city of Worcester has, allow me to point out that even if it were raised all of that next year and every cent of it went to education, we would still be facing a $14 million shortfall. We’re in dire straits and we’re hardly alone.
The Race to the Top money does nothing to help that. It solves no current problems we are having in education in Massachusetts.
This is not the time to re-open the can of worms of charter schools. While oft-debated, Massachusetts has come to the conclusion that for now, we have enough. You have, here in the Legislature, debated and re-debated that, and you have gone over and over the funding of charters. More charter schools—which serve a select few students and have mixed results in educating them—are not some magical solution to education, as Secretary Duncan seems to think. They don’t solve the larger issues of educational equity and of dependable fair funding of public education. Quite the reverse.
This is also not the time to try out merit pay. A quick perusal of education articles from around the country will allow you to see how well that works: it doesn’t. Would you work harder if your pay was dependent on how many bills you passed? Would that improve the quality of the bills passed? And how much does the number of bills passed depend on you, as an individual? Teachers, likewise, do not work somehow better if their pay is dependent on their students’ test scores. And how exactly are we in Worcester to determine which teacher is responsible for a student’s test score when we have a 40% mobility rate?
Let me read to you something written by a Worcester school teacher:
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them…
The schoolteacher was John Adams, who taught in Worcester for several years. The quotation is taken from the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Massachusetts is, so far as I can discover, the only state in the union that includes public education in its original Constitution. As the home of the country’s first college and the home of Horace Mann, we, of all states, have the stature to be able to say “no” to the Secretary of Education. Let us faithfully execute the words of that Worcester schoolteacher John Adams and spread “the opportunities and advantages of education” to all of our students. It is, as he said, your duty.

Bridging Differences

For those of you wondering just what all of the fuss is about test scores, allow me to direct you to a public exchange of letters going on between Deb Meier and Diane Ravitch over on Ed Week. It's all that conversation about education in this country ought to be.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

No liveblog tonight

No liveblog from who-cester I type this I am just pulling into Wellesley Square station on the MBTA (and how great is the free wifi?), having spent the day at the State House. I did not get to testify (looks like they might go 'til midnight!), but I did leave my written remarks, which I will post tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

School Committee meeting tomorrow

And the agenda is up!
Plenty of appointments, including some nurses! Looks like we've got something about getting reports ahead of meetings, possibly applying for DoE grants (is this RTTT? Anyone?), and a Civil Rights decision on English Language Learners.
(and as a side note, the plural of bus has only two s's. Really. It's buses.)
The meeting starts at 7pm tomorrow!

Race to the Top comes to Massachusetts

I'll post at greater length on this tomorrow or Friday, but I wanted to get something up here so those who wish to could write to their legislators.

Tomorrow at 1pm, the Joint Committee on Education will be taking testimony at the State House regarding bills dealing with Race to the Top. Specifically, there are currently bills before the Legislature--proposed by Governor Patrick and Mayor Menino, among others--that would lift the current cap on charter schools and would allow merit pay for teachers (and principals).

I'll be taking the train in tomorrow to testify against those bills.

The charter school discussion often gets heated, but at the end of the day, they don't, across the board, perform any better than other schools (some do, some don't: check out the MTA on charter schools here). They aren't a magic answer. Lifting a cap which has been a considered move by the Commonwealth is nothing more than a money grab. We, as a state, have a position, but we're apparently entirely willing to abandon it at the slightest hint of possible funds. At which point, incidentally, we will then have more charter schools to fund once the federal money dries up.

As for merit pay, the statistics are in on that as well: it doesn't work. Do you really think your child's teacher is going to teach harder if his pay is tied to your child's MCAS score? And how, in a city with a 40% mobility rate, are we going to decide which teacher is responsible for which children?

I'll post my testimony once I type it up. Hope some of you will be writing to the delegation on this.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Student Rights in the 21st century

This may be of interest:
Student Rights in the 21st Century
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Clark University, 950 Main Street, Jefferson Room 320

Featuring Mary Beth Tinker of Tinker v. Des Moines Independent Community School District SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
Decided February 24, 1969
Three public school pupils in Des Moines, Iowa, were suspended from school for wearing black armbands to protest the Government's policy in Vietnam.The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that in wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth.
Also featuring Jeffrey J. Pyle of Jeffrey Pyle and another vs. School Committee of South Hadley and others.
Decided July 25, 1996
This case had to do with the right of students to wear t-shirts to school with a certain message and were disciplined The Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts ruled that high school students in public schools have the freedom to engage in non-school-sponsored expression that may reasonably be considered vulgar, but causes no disruption or disorder.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Citizens for Public Schools Conference

Citizens for Public Schools is having their conference at Bunker Hill Community College this year on October 17.

You can find all the information on their website.

Public School Funding in Massachusetts

The Mass Budget and Policy Center has recently compared Massachusetts public education spending (for 2007, the most recent year available) to other states, as gathered by the U.S. Census bureau. You'll find the full report here. Two pieces of note:

In fact, the 2006-2007 school year marked the first time in Massachusetts where local revenues comprised less than 50 percent of education spending. Perhaps due to changes to the education funding system in Massachusetts made in FY 2007, state spending on education in the 2006-2007 school year reached its highest point since data has been available.
Sounds good, right?
While Massachusetts has continued to shift some of the education spending responsibility away from local sources, compared to other states Massachusetts is still heavily reliant on local revenues. This reliance on local funds makes up for the small share of federal education revenues received by Massachusetts. Massachusetts continues to rank among the lowest in the nation in percent of education funding that comes from federal dollars.
In some ways, by the way, this is a good thing, as much federal aid is tied to the number of low income children in a district. Massachusetts doesn't rank that high for that.
There's some great charts on that page (percent of the economy is pretty damning), which I recommend.

As 2007 now feels almost impossibly far away in terms of budgeting (and was it only this time last year that we were working on Question 1?!), the report goes on to look ahead to 2011. The incredibly bad news (which you've heard here before):
The FY 2011 Chapter 70 situation is potentially even more difficult than FY 2010 because additional federal financial assistance may not be available to offset state funding reductions. Already in FY 2009 and FY 2010, the state committed to using $580 million in federal money to fully fund Chapter 70. It is possible that the state’s entire SFSF allocation will be spent prior to FY 2011.
Their suggestion? It's time to look at both Ch.70 funding and the foundation budget formula.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

School Committee candidate events

I mentioned below the CPPAC candidates' night on October 21st at 7pm. There are a few others that I know of:
  • On September 30, the League of Women Voters has their candidates' night at 6pm at the Worcester Public Library.
  • On October 15th, the Special Education Parents Advocacy Committee (SpedPAC) has their candidates' night at 6:30pm at Worcester Technical High School.
All three events are open to the public, and I believe that at least one will be broadcast via radio. (No word if anyone is putting them up online.)

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Race to where?

And in more commentary on Race to the Top and the rest of the Obama/Duncan education agenda, there's this from yesterday's Globe:

Obama and Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are rushing headlong down a path that in many ways replicates for schools the same market-based principles that have left our economy a shambles. We know that inventing new finance models created a hollow prosperity for a few.

Likewise, we cannot create a separate underclass of public schools that charters leave behind. Financial rewards for a few teachers won't raise quality among all of them. And shutting failing schools, like property foreclosures, fails to address the underlying problems.

There are better ways. We have seen this firsthand in our studies of high-achieving school systems around the world.

The rest, with examples from Finland, Great Britain, and Canada, are well worth reading.

Working on FY11 now

I should mention, as well, that the city will also be working on the FY11 budget early...expect to be hearing about it before the November election.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

School Committee and FY11 budget

Question, taken by Jack Foley, over when we'll be starting the budget hearings for FY11 (per their conversation at last week's meeting over starting early). What does it look like now (with no stimulus), start early to get consciousness raised

If school closings become part of the mix, it could have an...effect on parental involvement. (let's just say)

AVID donation

AVID in all high schools, expanding into all middle schools
goal is to make Worcester a demonstration site on the east coast
more work to document success rate
Motion to school committee to seek more structure and data to see what success is
designed for students who are seen as having high potential but medium work, but that it will permeate the schools ('though only a targeted group is getting the program)

Parents workshop

PTO, CPPAC, open workshop with superintendent: what would that look like?
@ Clark in Tilton Hall on a Saturday
Ice breakers and then assigned tables to discuss strengths, concerns, and what we can do for public schools in Worcester
November? after the holidays?
Trying to get people from every school to make it really effective
Getting more schools represented at CPPAC, too
Looking for volunteers to work on parent workshop, candidates' night (taking sign-ups tonight, but if you're a parent, you're welcome! You could sign up!)
Request parental participation through the schools (via administration)

(we're now up to a total of four School Committee members that have been here over the course of the meeting...and all of the non-incumbent candidates have been here, too)

CPPAC new business: school committee election

Appointment of a new secretary (hey, a volunteer!)

School Committee candidate night:
October 21, 2009 7-9:30 at Worcester Technical High School
Jordan Levy will be the moderator
CPPAC will come up with two questions for the candidates (of whom, it is pointed out, several are here, whom they're going to have to throw out in a moment) plus there then will be open mic for questions with final statements at the end
Spanish translation avaliable!
oh, now they're going to do questions at the end

Questions for Boone

Are you looking at any solutions to our elementary libraries?
Third graders get a Worcester Public Library card...talking to our library about cooperating. Libraries are information sources (not just books).
Display cases to pull resources as kids are studying particular units in school.
Very protective of the school day (instructional period of the day): still running instructional time, day, year...not moved from that. Needs are different. Evaluation of partnerships--keep those adding value, add more that will add value. Wrap around the school day

Role of CPPAC?
Being a clearinghouse, forum, connect with as many parents as possible. Do problem solving, direction...ambassadors for the work we are trying to accomplish in WPS
Positive and effective dialogue around what are our problems and solutions
Obviously our schools should be welcoming and inviting, but need support in getting information out.
Ad for the new website (note her new message on Obama's address)

Mary Mullaney from School Committee: thinks teachers didn't get into full gear (at Doherty) as kids are still getting classes (as we have no guidance counselors working during the summertime)...basically, there's a bunch of programming that has to go on at the beginning of the year. Wants guidance office open earlier...don't want to waste any learning time, wasted time if you're working out kinks.
Today's meeting (Boone says) was a debrief on how opening went.
(She took it for granted that principals work 12 months, as did the transportation director, both of which are 220 day employees, who do not work during the entire summer in Worcester)

Talk about arts when there's so much in the core curriculum?
What kids have to know has shifted. Have to have a rigorous curriculum with support for kids who are having difficuties, and more for kids who have gotten what they need to. What are the opportunities that they have in place.
Not every child will be a mathematician or a philosopher or a do we keep that richness?
Truly an opportunity for us to look under every rock...have to keep a well-rounded education...try to have some symmetry. Deal with people not programs (don't cut the program, deal with the person who is a problem)
Being budget conversation with pictures of children in the middle of the table. Great fiscal stewards.
Best professional development for teachers is that delivered by other teachers
What in the instructional core, and keep that.
Asks for the prayers...have a heck of a task before us...have to survive it and survive it well.

Thank you for your speech...RTTT (Race to the Top) money from Duncan...large achievement gap between those that have and have not. Thoughts on RTTT money? Using schools after school day?
One of my greatest concerns, departure with Duncan (didn't take a job with him)..."I'm concerned that the federal government is sending a message that the only way to improve schools is to create new schools...know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, BUT...put together right formula, we can accomplish what a charter school can do...Have to have the will to do." Big concern with RTTT...WPS has a great track record of getting grants. Challenge is sustaining efforts post-grant...sustainablity. Has been contacted to be a peer reviewer for RTTT. Wants existing public schools to get a chance.
Sustain it.

CPPAC with Boone: caring adults nuturing children

This is how we make decisions on how we nuture children.
These (the aforementioned list) are the things we try to perpetuate in the WPS.
What do we need to do to make sure every children has a nuturing, caring adult helping close those gaps?
President's message: he said, find that caring adult that will help you meet those goals when you meet those obstacles.
If we don't do right by our children, what's going to happen to us?
Wants WPS to be the schools of choice
At developing budget: we have to be preparing our students for glaboal responses beyond this economic stituation.
"I am determined that even in the midst of this economic situation not to reduce Worcester Public Schools to a minimalist education" (to a round of applause)
(not cutting gym, science, library, arts)
Have to do more than value public education...have to support it.
If we don't have arts in our schools, what will happen to our community arts programs?
Parents who are there because they choose to be there...want parents to choose to put their kids in WPS.
"Why should we give away our right to educate our children?"
Very low teacher turnover: teachers come and they stay here
"build on what's already good in the Worcester Public Schools"
"Build on what this city of seven hills...stand on top of one of these hills and say we are the greatest system in this Commonwealth and in this nation"

Melinda Boone at CPPAC: parents, libraries

..was here for library board earlier. Met with students here, and now she has a Worcester Library card.
She's still in shock that we don't have elementary librarians.
"There's no new dollars in this..." she warns.
"It's all about achievement. It's not solely the numbers we have to deal with for MCAS" but what sort of adults they become.
Both her daughters had their first day matter how old they are, they want someone to ask them about their day.
We have to "reprogram our access to our children." They want us in a different way as they get older.
"What's the value we place on education?"
Of her husband's mother, raising her five children: "You go to school, you get your lessons, you don't get in trouble (because I'm not coming to get you), and you make yourself successful."

She recommends Zimmy's Guide to All Kids Need, (an ABC for parents) which says kids need:
  • a peaceful household
  • acceptance
  • art, dance, drama
  • bedtime stories
  • caring adults
  • celebrations
  • communication
  • community
  • compliments and praise
  • discipline
  • education
  • hugs
  • individuality
  • listening
  • role models
  • yes more than no

Monday, September 7, 2009

The President's remarks

If you'd like to preview President Obama's remarks to schoolchildren, you have find his address online now.
If you'd like to watch it, he will be speaking at noon EST here.

(As all WPS have lunch at noon (or lunches at noon), it will be taped for later broadcast. And yes, I know there's no need to tape it, since it will be available online. Do I have to remind you of the technological limitations of WPS?)

Friday, September 4, 2009

Presidential address and local coverage

With the fervor over President Obama's presidential address to public school students making the front page of today's Telegram and Gazette (as well, incidentally, of the New York Times, which wrote the article), wouldn't it have been good for the T&G to have sent a reporter to last night's School Committee meeting?

If they had, they might have discovered that they could add some local relevance to the article. In a marked remove from general practice, Mayor Lukes called for a suspension of rules and took an item not on the agenda (this was at the end of the meeting, and, regrettably, after my netbook's battery had died). It seems she, too, has been getting calls regarding the President's address. While she went on at some length regarding politicians taking advantage of schools to politic, what she was calling for was less controversial: she wants the administration to recommend a policy regarding politicians addressing schools.

May I also add that if you have an opinion on the Presidential address, you pass it on to the Mayor? It appears that all comments she's gotten have been remarkably one-sided.

I do have to say that this is rather an over-reaction to an American president addressing American children in the American public school system. One imagines that once in awhile someone might possibly say something with which parents don't agree in school; if you have a problem with that, you probably ought to be doing all of the education yourself. As the President's message is work hard, stay in school, and take responsibility for your education, this is hardly a controversial message.

6000 non-graduates?

According to today's Boston Globe, there are 6000 high school seniors who have yet to pass the now-required science portion of the MCAS exam.
They have two more shots at it before spring.

Title I funding

I've corrected this below, but I got this a bit wrong last night: Worcester now receives fewer federal Title 1 dollars than we did in 2002. This is partly, Jack Foley says, a matter of our having fewer eligible students, and partly due to the significant cuts we've seen in federal education over the past number of years.

Thursday, September 3, 2009


and it's the swine flu item!

Suggestion here that we consider vaccinations (which I think Massachusetts as a state has ruled out, actually)
mention of a "flu pandemic"
wants it addressed on the meeting on the 17th

Boone says they've had "expanded conversations" this week. Nursing department is on it. Report on the 17th

"The Choice"

To consider an outreach effort to encourage Worcester parents to consider the Worcester Public Schools for their children, modeled on "The Choice" initiative of Richmond, Virginia, and possibly on similar approaches taken by the school systems of Washington, DC, Detroit and Milwaukee.

Richmond sent kids door-to-door to try to get parents to send their kids to the Richmond Public Schools, to make sure that people have an accurate perspective on the schools.

D.C., you'll remember, ran an advertising campaign.

Monfredo says this is accentuating the positive, suggests the superintendent have a half-hour show, and says they don't have the same sort of relationship with the T&G (who don't appear to have sent a reporter tonight, incidentally, as I look around).

fy11 budget

The mayor wants early reports for next year's budget.
Foley says that he's suggesting that we have hearings as early as September with hearings for the FY11 budget
That means NOW!

Federal dollars: CORRECTED

We are receiving fewer Title 1 federal dollars than we did in 2002.
We need accurate census numbers! That's where the numbers from. Remember this in the spring when you wonder why you should answer their questions!
Federal unfunded mandates: how much do they cost? Look at what we can't do because they aren't paying for it.

Foley on business

This is the quarterly "here's the money we have left and what we should do with it" report
And the answer is: there is none.
No changes, that is. Don't worry about the negatives (they aren't really negatives, they're transfers that are weird because of the year end.)
And what about the stimulus funds?
We had to balance the FY09 budget with them (and that, reminder, was NEXT YEAR'S MONEY. If you'd like to worry about something, worry about that, not the safety officer, parents!)

Boone responds

Special ed and safety part of "the overall leadership team"

reassurance that our schools are very safe

Wants that as the gold standard

No diminishing of focus

We don't have new money to bring on initiatives

and my battery is dying...sorry

No diminishing


Monfredo: doesn't like Safety Officer reporting to anyone under the superintendent. In fact, he's suggesting that the change not be made this year. He also says there's been inadequete transparency in the Title 1 budget, but maybe this will get better with the Title 1 being under the CFOO.

O'Connell: largely likes being kept up to date. Pleased she's making changes already. He suggests a year-to-year monitoring. He has similar concerns to Monfredo (and he's basically saying that he's had lots of experience with this, more so than Boone), raising the stabbing at South High in the late 80's. "We really have much less difficulty and a much more ordered environment" than many urban districts. He also wants a solid line to the superintendent..order..urge report. He also would like the director of special education report directly to the superintendent (referencing here special ed parents, of whom two, the co-chairs of SpedPAC, are here, as they often are).

Bogigian : vital position, day-to-day contact, split-second decisions, can't go through another person, "that's the way it has worked for years" and he again brings up South High School

Mullaney : wants first to know if they're voting to approve this or if they get a say, in fact. She thinks it's a reasonable number of people under her purview. Thinks not having safety under her is fine. Doesn't agree on special education, either. Thinks he's the equivelent of the quadrant manager.
And this is for informational purposes: they don't get a vote.

Foley: coherent, consistent, thinks having a limited number of people reporting to her is good, "I'm okay with that" We're making progress

Hargrove: also praises the report

Superintendent's report

a very smooth school opening, says Superintendent Boone.
Some class sizes are large, some bus riding and transportation adjustments
She's asking that everyone be patient for the next few days as levels stabilize, then adjustments will be made.

As for the realignment (is there a problem with the word 'reorganization'?)
"moving toward a performance-based culture"

Focusing on four areas as a district:
  • teaching and learning
  • research and accountability
  • human resources
  • finance and operations
Quadrant managers now report to CAO, as does student support, staff and curriculum development, and special ed. The CAO is the "teaching and learning" section. English Language Learners is now under here. Head Start also under here now.

Initial concerns for the district:
  • 3 and 4th grade literary
  • ELL
    21st century skills
  • and dang, I'm sure I missed one there (she only said them)

A bit of discussion here on having the Head Start curriculum aligning with the WPS, connecting the Head Start to the rest of the curriculum, likewise federal programs, including Title 1

we're on page 4 of the annex here.

Parent Information Center under manager of student support services (page 5), as that's the intake

On to the CFO (page 6), nutrition, plant, transportation, information tech, all under operations (maybe it should more legitimately be called the COO office?) .

Federal Programs, a boggling list of "title" programs (page 7)

Plant Manger remains the same, but reports to what she's just called the "Chief Financial and Operations Officer" (CFOO?)

CRAO (Chief Research and Accountability Officer) which was one of those just introduced. Program evaluation and implementation is something that's been identified as something to be addressed. Comprehensive accountability system and school improvement plans are part of this person's purview.

Hey, we have student reps!

From Doherty and Tech tonight!
Plus we have a new principal at Claremont Academy, and a new chief research officer, being introduced tonight
Oh, and we're appointing a CAO tonight; we starts next week. Ah, and it was his contract that was being discussed at such length in executive session. They are approving his amended contract. Jeffrey Mulqueen (sorry if that's misspelled).

bit of a lull...

We've got a Committee...we've got a mayor...we're still waiting to start. Okay, here we go!

liveblogging School Committee

The School Committee is still in executive session now. It looks like tonight's superintendent report is on organizational realignment. Note, by the way, that the organizational chart (which I'm told is the bulk of the superintendent's PowerPoint) is part of that attachment.
Not a great deal else on the agenda...

School Committee today

School Committee meets this afternoon at 7 pm (note the time change).
And, oooh, look! The new website means the agenda doesn't load as a new page!

Superintendent Boone at CPPAC

Superintendent Boone will be at this year's first Citywide Parent Planning and Advisory Board meeting, next Tuesday, September 8, at 6:30 pm at the Worcester Public Library.
There will be a social time from 6:30 to 7; the meeting will begin at 7.

CPPAC is just what it says it is, and, while all schools are supposed to have a representative, many do not. If you want to have an idea of what's happening citywide at schools in Worcester, this is a great meeting to have on your calendar (and if your school doesn't have a rep, volunteer!). It's a public meeting, incidentally, so all parents--indeed, all residents--are welcome.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Schools cited at City Council

Here at the City Council meeting (they're back on their regular every Tuesday schedule this week), the WPS $26 million budget deficit is being cited as evidence that things are not so hot (in reference to pools).
The City Manager also is saying that there are "hundreds of millions of dollars" in backlog of repairs, and that, moving forward, the city is working with the schools on sustainability.

Okay, and now we have a nun from Green Island lecturing the Council on the public process...I love Worcester.

This time for sure

WPS bus routes really are now up!

And just in time...

It also appears that some of the holdup was that the administration was loading their new website, with the new address

Kudos also to new superintendent Melinda Boone for recording the welcome Connect-ED message that went out to all parents last night herself.

And for all of you in education: Best wishes for your new year!