Thursday, November 26, 2009

Massachusetts RTTT meetings

I just received a schedule of meetings with various interested groups (school committees, unions, administrations) on Massachusetts' application for Race to the Top funding. A few points of interest:
  • MA DoE is setting a due date for regional proposals of January 8. The state then has until January 19 to get the state application in.
  • Half of the state's grant (for Massachusetts, if the state gets it, would get between $150-$250 million) would go to districts. Take either number and divide in half and then divide that among all of the cities and towns. Not a high number...
  • Only districts that sign a "Memorandum of Understanding" will be able to apply to the state. The state will release its memorandum of understanding in mid-December. Anyone want a legal opinion on who signs that? Very interested in what that will say.
I've got the list of dates. It's not clear that these are open to the public, but I'll see if I can get to one and post what I learn.

If you're looking for more on RTTT, you can find the DoE's FAQ online, as well as the Executive Summary, which on page 2 gives us the all-important 500 point scale (note the 15 points in the final section for including math and science ["STEM"] of which states get all or nothing). I'll be doing a ten minute overview on RTTT at the CPPAC meeting on Tuesday night (7pm at the Worcester Public Library); I'll post my notes here closer to the day.

Robert M. Hughes Academy under investigation

(for a second time)

The Boston Globe is reporting that the Robert M. Hughes Academy, a Springfield charter school, is under investigation:
...yesterday, the state announced that it has launched a formal investigation into possible irregularities in the school’s administration of the exam, as well as additional allegations of mismanagement and fiscal improprieties that have subsequently surfaced.

In addition to a great deal of pressure being placed on the principal to pull up MCAS scores, it seems there is some investigation into conflicts of interest and financial mismanagement. The school has also had a shocking rate of turnover. Charter schools do not have the same degree of checks and balances built in that the traditional public system does (anyone know if charter schools' boards sign warrants to pay bills? is the charter board subject to open meeting law?), making the principal's remark compelling:
“The kids will never get what they need when these people have their hands in the pot,’’ Henry said in an interview yesterday. “Their corruption needs to end.’’

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

In or out on Race to the Top?

A few Race to the Top related news items that came in today:

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has said that new teachers in New York City will be evaluated using student test scores. While Bloomberg does have oversight of city schools, such a radical change in working conditions usually would have to go through the teachers' contract; I assume we'll be hearing more on this. Also note the interesting response and then clarification from Secretary Arne Duncan.

And Governor Rick Perry of Texas has said that Texas will not be a part of any joint standards. He argues this as a "local control" issue. The Dallas Morning News correctly notes that this does NOT disqualify Texas from Race to the Top funding in this first round (it would seem to disqualify them from the assessment round), as that assessment piece is worth only 40 of the possible 500 points. Kudos to DMN for catching this nuance; they're doing much better than the Boston Globe which continues to insist that lifting the cap on charters and other things are "required" to apply. It's more complicated than that.
No word here on whether Texas is out or in on applying; it would make a difference, as if the bigger states are contenders, the awards given after theirs would consequently be smaller (or fewer).

Charter schools and the privitizing of education

A sort of "follow the money" piece over at Dissident Voice

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Innovation and research discussion

There's an interesting discussion going on over at the National Journal online around the ideas of innovation and research in education.
I found particularly compelling some of what Steve Peha had to say:

For example, high-stakes testing ironically sends education backward toward the
old paradigm with more force than its “new paradigm” data-driven nature can
propel us into the future. Why? Because high-stakes testing policies don’t take
into account the preternaturally risk-averse tendencies of education culture.
High-stakes testing works only at first, when the fear factor is at its maximum
and most schools are performing so poorly they have little to lose by trying
something new. After this period, however, high-stakes testing renders teachers
and administrators increasingly less tolerant of innovation. Why? Because for
every unit of progress they make out of fear, the more they fear losing the
progress they have made. Instead of moving briskly forward with the next change
initiative, they hunker down and become ever more averse to what now seems like
the irrational risk inherent in innovation. At this point, the desire to
conserve progress precludes the ability to progress much further.

Ed Reform 2009=S2216

The Ed Reform bill as it came out of the Senate is now Senate Bill 2216, and it can now be found, as amended, online.

The House will probably take up debate on the bill during the first week of January, so consider December your chance to get in touch with your representatives.

Elementary dates for H1N1

The WPS website has a list of tentative dates for H1N1 vaccinations in the elementary schools. As a parent needs to be present for a child to be vaccinated, this matters!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Final step: the interview

It seems that the final round of the Race to the Top competition will be an interview:

But for the finalists, there's one last step: Fly to Washington, bring your five best people, and give us one last sales pitch.

Friday, November 20, 2009

School committee, the open meeting law, and blogging

Yes, it got covered....well, sort of

So, yes, a public official can have a blog, can blog on public issues, can accept comment (even from other public officials) provided the issues commented on have been voted on in open meeting.
So if it's on Thursday's agenda, I can't blog on it on Tuesday, other than to say it's up. And if it gets tabled on Thursday for a vote in two weeks, no comment here.

Otherwise, we're good!

Wrap-up on HR

And the T&G's coverage of the human resources task force can be found here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

rescheduled meeting

December 3 meeting is now December 9 instead and in room 410 Durkin Administration Building

OH! And I should mention: if you're there after 5 or so, you need to go to the door by the parking lot and buzz to get in. The building's locked and that's the only way in (and it isn't obvious).

Details on the bus contract

The one point I forgot to put in my summary of the bus contract was the question of garaging. Traditionally, it's been required that WPS buses be garaged in Worcester, thus guaranteeing the city the bus excise taxes. The financial side of the schools and the city discussed dropping that this year, to see if it would get us a more competitive contract. The standing committee decided against dropping it, so the requirement is back in.

Lowe's charitable foundation

Parents at Midland Street presented a proposal for grounds
Lincoln Street also needed some work done
put in one grant for both which came in for $101,082

According to the woman from Lowe's this one of 25 such grants around the country awarded
volunteers from the local Lowe's stores will also be helping out with work on the project

Public weighs in...

suspend rules to allow citizen to speak
Amy Olaes (co-chair of SpedPAC) would like qualifications of teachers available to parents, would increase public and parent trust.
Currently, parents can have that written into a child's IEP, but even then it doesn't necessarily happen.

HR report: School Committee weighs in

Mr. Monfredo says that he would agree with hiring year-round.
"what was a difficult episode in WPS was resolved with reason, was resolved with professionalism" according to Mr. Bogigian.
Mr. O'Connell is most concerned, he says, with the licensure obligations. "We're at the beginning of this process," he says. "Do we hire the very best people avaliable, or do we hire the people who know" people?...beyond the scope of this task force. "Hiring based on merit, we de-politicize the process as much as possible for public employement?"
Mr. Foley cites this as a "great example of how non-profit and business entities" can help out WPS. In eliminating the teachers involved last year, "we cut two great teachers" and incurred unemployment costs. Hiring strong people more quickly ("though that point may be moot for FY11")...motion to admin to compare our HR to ours..."on our administration side, we are lean across the board"
Ms. Hargrove "said last April that we had a very competant HR staff...we do have a very good school system"
Mayor Lukes "collectively grateful to you for undertaking" this task. Calls this medicine "to cure what ails us...good guidelines to follow" Have to dispell those perceptions..bring transparency to the process. Most important is to move forward with this..."will hear over and over again 'we need reform' " She'd like to see the task force stay around "and tell us whether we've passed or failed"

Human Resources: Boone on next steps

Superintendent Boone on next steps in HR:

prioritizing recommendations, figuring out costs, suggesting a timeline to implement

HR task force

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a PowerPoint!

The task force is here this evening, doing a presentation of their report, followed by next steps from Superintendent Boone.

Focus on licensure, waivers, hiring and recruitment, professional development

Both of the superintendents, all of HR, 3 principals, tech involved

Changes in licensure during 1993 and since then. 1.7% of WPS educators are working under waiver.

On licenses and waviers, recommendations:
  • automate licensure and waiver process in HR
  • train principals and supervisors on licenses and waivers

on hiring, recommendations:

  • formal procedure manual
  • hiring year round
  • current employees tracked into recruitment pool (promote from within)
  • "multi-faceted recruitment strategy"
on information, recommendations:
  • redesign website (FAQ, etc)
  • HR annual report
  • increase involvement with professional associations

on technology, recommendations:

  • more fully use systems that are in place for information sharing
  • HR and IS should meet to plan and review
  • combine databases into one

"Human Resources is professional, competent, and commited to adhering to regulations, policices, and procedures while providing quality service to all employees of WPS."

Much praise now for Boone and for HR

School Committee meets tonight

The School Committee meets tonight at 7pm in City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
The big news is the Human Resources panel comes back tonight with their report. I have not yet seen it (member-elect does not rate you that!), but I will be there and liveblog it!

Chester at MASC / MASS

Commissioner Chester spoke after Secretary Reville
It is "not often the case that we realize how well thought of we are" around the country and internationally
Last year, Chester said
  1. support teacher development
  2. support curriculum and instruction
  3. accountability and assistance
  4. student and family supports

are his priorities and those of the state department. He's impressed at how well those four line up with the priorities of the Obama administration under RTTT (notable exception: no mention in RTTT about student and family supports)

He calls RTTT an "unprecendented opportunity" from the fed; "dollars are substantial, potentially substantial"

He says he's "recruiting YOU" (superintendents and school committee members) to get on board with this--money will not flow as entitlements, has to be earned

"you are going to have to make a commitment" (at which point I heard muttered, "where's your commitment to us?")

Measures of "effectiveness" rather than qualifications of teachers--qualifications aren't a good predictor. "very interested in looking at test scores when we have them" also "principals rating teachers, superintendents rating principals, and, in high schools, students rating teachers"

(yes, you read that last part right)

part of an improvement strategy

not all districts have to participate; more money for the rest

"to be treated as professionals is to get honest feedback," he says, using himself as an example of someone who is a professional who gets honest feedback

Leaves us with this proverb: "when the water hole goes dry, the animals start to look at one another differently"

Reville at MASC / MASS

I won't liveblog all that I hear at the Mass Association of School Committees/Superintendent's conference this weekend, but I thought that some of you might be interested in the remarks made by Secretary of Education Paul Reville and Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester Wednesday evening at the opening dinner.

Reville begins by lauding the work done by superintendents, school committees, teachers, principals to make us number one in the country, but we still have "gaps as large or larger" than other states. The "future of the economy and society" depends on fixing it this; they plan to do "with urgency" and do it in cooperation with the education field. After 16 years of ed reform, what we are doing isn't "wholly adequate."
We want for our students "success in life," "as life-long learners," "as citizens"
The Readiness Project was designed to "deliver on the promise" keeping in mind that accountability and choice in education "are here to stay."
That said, he "understand(s) the pain and drain"of charter schools on budgets (explains that charter schools strictly limited under bill passed by Senate)
"unprecendented flexibility and autonomy" in districts to "challenge the mainstream" = the readiness schools

Reville said that the Ed Reform bill was not only about "getting an opportunity to get federal dollars," that it was "as much a moral rationale" as a financial one
Suggests that the Gates foundation might follow RTTT dollars with money of their own (they recently donated $10 million to the KIPP charters)
fears a referendum proposed by charter proponents that would lift the cap entirely (let me interject here briefly that he mentioned this several times now and later. Why he assumes such a referendum would be won by the charter proponents--they say it would, but, then, one assumes they would--and why we should be governing based on threatened referenda escapes me)

On to the budget!
comments that education has been a high priority to the Patrick administration, that when they cut the budget, they did not cut foundation funding (except Worcester lost all foundation funding from the state, which was supplanted by stimulus money. The state did not hold Worcester harmless.)
the state is hoping to avoid further 9c and ch. 70 cuts for this year; working with unions to cut back there instead

six readiness centers are opening around the state to "systematically improve the quality of teaching" and to do the "joint work of setting expectations" and integrating...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Doing more of what we're already doing?

A new study out by Columbia University is draws a conclusion that Worcester ought to be looking closely at as we "Race to the Top": it seems that magnet school programs and other programs that mix students with others out of their neighborhoods have a greater rate of success than those that create charter and other programs in their neighborhoods. EdWeek's summary:

After examining the nation's eight remaining desegregation programs that enable disadvantaged students to cross school district boundary lines to attend more-affluent, suburban public schools, the researchers conclude that the programs are "far more successful than recent choice and accountability policies at closing the achievement gap and offering meaningful school choices."

It's a fascinating conclusion that runs counter to most of the methods and strategies at work in public education right now to close the achievement gap. The authors acknowledge that the programs--in Boston, East Palo Alto, Calif., Hartford, Conn., Indianapolis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Rochester, N.Y., and St. Louis--are "out of sync" with current practice. Except for the program in Minneapolis, all have been in place for at least two decades, and all the programs stem from court rulings and legislation meant to create equitable educational opportunities for disadvantaged students.

Worcester's magnets were originally constructed as a desegregation effort; they don't have the scope of Boston's METCO program, but they do a similar thing.

Across the Atlantic

The Queen's annual speech to Parliament took place in London earlier today. (For those not up on their British government, the Queen presents "Her Government's" plans for the year in a speech to both houses of Parliament. In this case, Labour is in power and thus is presenting its plans for the year.) It included this line which has caused a bit of a fervor:

Legislation will be brought forward to introduce guarantees for pupils and parents to raise educational standards.
The question here is whether one can indeed "guarantee" a quality education. Is this opening school districts to suits from parents who feel that their child has not received one? And what is the responsibility of the national government?

Ed Reform '09 passes Senate with amendments

The big news is that Senate Bill 2205 passed, 28-11,but just what is in it is something I'm having trouble getting. Both the coverage by the Globe and the T&G (which I can't find online) are vague at best (clearly they were running up against press deadlines). The most complete information I've found is here in the Dedham paper, plus the MTA is keeping its members up-to-date on the provisions that most affect them. Part of the reason for the lack of information?
The redrafted policies, tacked onto a bill that senators said was the most significant education reform bill since 1993, were not available during debate. It will take some time for the House and for legislative clerks to sort through the many changes made to the bill.

Here's what I do know:
  • the charter cap is lifted
  • contracts have to be negotiated for 30 days before going to arbitration
  • Horace Mann conversion is subject to a building teacher vote
  • an adequacy study is included

It now goes to the House, which from the various pieces I've read, has little appetite to take it up today. Tonight, the Legislature recesses until January.
Good time to get in touch with representatives!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Why all public schools are failing...except yours.

Gerald Bracey died this past fall, and we are going to miss him. Here's his explanation for why all public schools are failing...but yours.

What happens when Duncan runs your schools?

I fear because it got buried in most national papers (p. A17 of the New York Times, for example), you may have missed the University of Chicago's study of just what happens to kids when you close schools.
For those of you who haven't followed the national press on this, Arne Duncan became Secretary of Education under President Obama after running Chicago's public schools. Duncan was appointed by Mayor Richard Daley (yes, Chicago's schools run on the "strong mayor" model) as CPS Chief Executive Officer. Duncan was a big part of implementing the "Renaissance 2010" program, which has, to say the least, been controversal. Duncan has closed numerous schools (22 have closed since 2001, 'though not all of that was under Duncan), fired teachers and principals, and thrown neighborhoods into turmoil.

Has it done any good?

Not so much, it seems.

  • When it's announced that a school will close, student test scores go down.
  • Once a school has closed, student achievement returns to what it was prior to the announced closing.
  • Student improvement, long term, depends entirely on the sort of school the student ends up in (and most students, in the Chicago study, ended up in schools that mirrored the schools from which they'd come).
This is the "chronically underperforming" question now before the Massachusetts Legislature and this is part of Race to the Top. Worth keeping a close eye on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Buses and Budgets

The Standing Commitee on Business (or what my eldest referred to as "the money committee") met tonight. Two major issues on the table: buses and budgets.
  1. The bus contract is up for renegotiation. There's an amazing level of detail in the bus contract. A few things I learned tonight: we're starting off by paying $3 a gallon for gas (but it goes up and down with the market). We've got video cameras on the buses (we're now looking for a more modern system as part of the new contract). All buses to be used can't be more than ten years old. Oh, and no, that driver should not be on his cell phone: it's against state law.
  2. The budget, or rather two. Business committee gets an update on where we are on money, so FY10 is part of the program. We've hired eight additional teachers (for class size, scheduling, or special ed reasons) since the budget passed. We saved some money over the summer on air conditioning. We lost funding (through 9c cuts) for some school nurses (it's a 50% reduction in the EHS grant, for those who follow this) but they're scrambling to pay for it some other way. And here's an interesting point: the federal and state legislature has extended unemployment benefits, however, city and state governments are not reimbursed for that. So we are losing some substantial money there. As for FY11, you've seen the list (but the business office would like you to be able to recite it in your sleep, so I'll give it to you again): charter school funding formula change; extended the retirement schedule; eliminate private and parochial school transportation requirements; freeze out-of-district tuition rates. This is what the administration would like to see happen on Beacon Hill; if it all did, it would add up to $5.7 million in savings for WPS.

Keeping it in perspective...

Perhaps you missed, in all the reporting last week, the news that Race to the Top awards to states would be scaled to population. Small population? Not as much money, regardless of how well you score.

So just how much money could Massachusetts get?

Massachusetts falls in Catagory 3, which is $150-$250 million.

Sounds like quite a lot until you realize that the Worcester Public Schools budget last year was more than that. Divide that up among the cities (figuring in the Title 1 angle), and you're not looking at much more than 5-10% of Worcester Public Schools' budget.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Because I know sometimes it helps to read what others have written...'s what I sent in yesterday:

Dear Senators Chandler and Moore, and Representatives Spellane, O'Day, Pedone, Fresolo, and Binienda:

I am writing to urge you to vote against the Education Reform Act of 2009.

The original proposal has been a negative one for Worcester from the beginning; as you may know, lifting the charter cap in Massachusetts and thus allowing two more charter schools in Worcester would cost the city $5 million next year. As the school budget is projected to be running a $26 million deficit next year already, this is not going to help.

It also has had a sketchy at best relationship with teachers, as it has moved away from the contractual relationship our unions have had with districts. Though the claim has been that such a new "flexibility" is necessary, the variety of working conditions that teachers in Worcester have under contract shows that not to be so.

For both of these reasons, I went into the State House to testify against the original three bills in September.

The bill's evolution while in the Joint Committee on Education has only made it worse. It now strips teachers' unions of arbitration, a basic right allowing the unions to represent for their members. It strips School Committees of the power to negotiate with unions, centralizing that power in the superintendent, and further removing the power of the purse from the people (whom the School Committees are elected to represent). The bill pushes us down a road to greater privatization of public schools, giving very vague outlines for the sequence by which schools would be declared "chronically underperforming" and be privatized. It also allows for privatization of the bottom 20% of schools, and there is always a bottom 20%, even if all schools are performing well.

All of this from the progressive state of Massachusetts, the home of public education?

This bill, if passed would be a disaster for Worcester. The charter school cost I've mentioned above, in particular, will add to an already difficult situation. Worcester is also bound to be hard hit by the privatization plan, as we have schools that are declared "chronically underperforming" under some of the rules of No Child Left Behind (Ieading, in some cases, to schools being praised by the state and criticized by the fed, or vice versa). This will not improve our relationship or negotiating position with the teachers' union, to say the least. Taking the power of negotiation from School Committees, moving it farther away from the people, is moving in the wrong direction.

I ask you to please, please vote against this bill.

Deb Meier gets it right...

again, as she so often does:

President Obama's message throughout the campaign was a reiteration of the concept of the "common good," at a time when we were experiencing the impact of a society built around "the more I get, the better." But I agree with you, Diane. What we're hearing now is rather different than what we expected. Neither Education Secretary Arne Duncan's failure in Chicago, nor the mayor's in N.Y.C., nor Michele Rhee's in Washington, D.C., are on the table; it's as though we can sweep that inconvenient evidence under the rug by a constant repetition of good PR.

Producing schools that do right by all children AND by the nation is, in fact, more complex than rocket science. It means, for example, concerning ourselves with the children in that other ward across the levees, not just our own. Democracy works most easily when our personal short-term interests and the interests of the least advantaged match. But democracy can't depend on that.

Boston's RTTT hearing

And for those looking for another look at how the hearing in Boston went, here's EdWeek's report.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Finally got a number

The Education Reform Act of 2009 is Senate Bill 2205.

I just found an alert to MTA members which covers the collective bargaining/termination end.

Keep those calls and emails going. I hear there still could be amendments going in on Monday. It's going to need significant amendment to be fixed!

Contact your legislators TODAY!

The Education Reform Act of 2009 is being pushed along quickly. If we're going to stop this, we've got to get to Massachusetts legislators TODAY, as it could go to the floor on Beacon Hill on Monday.

Here are a few key points to consider (and pass along):

1. It is percentage-based system that can lead to significantly expanded privatization of a key public resource, our schools. The 20% of lowest-scoring schools and 5% percent of districts are "eligible" to be declared "underperforming" based on MCAS reading and math scores. By one estimate I've read, an estimated 70% or more schools in MA will not make that threshold by 2014.

The steps from "underperforming" to "chronically underperforming" are subjective...and once a school is there, it can be privatized.

And remember: there is always a bottom 20%.

2. The new RTTT rules count lifting the charter cap as only 40 out of a possible 500 points in an application. Even if we (the state of Massachusetts) want to apply from RTTT funds (something which I'd like to see more debate on, frankly), we don't have to lift the charter cap to do it.

And this bill doesn't do enough, still, to ensure that charters are quality institutions, that only good charters are granted (the administration has a questionable history on this), that charters truly serve all in the community, etc.

3. It centralizes authority, moving authority to bargain with unions, close schools, and make declarations the sole province of the superintendent as overseen by the MA Commissioner. It moves us away from the classic Massachusetts model of local control (answering to the local community) of local schools. This is the centralized model that has, for example, just been declared a failure in Chicago. We do not want to go there.

4. Did I mention it would cost Worcester $5 million next year?

You can get your reps info here:

And if you're in Worcester: contact the whole Worcester delegation!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Public input

We're about to go to public input...I'm signing off. It will all be up online, though, so I'll post a link once it's up.

How specific should the application be?

how can these ideas be sustained?
interstate cooperation
"there's a lot more ways for this to go wrong then right"
what decision making and approval has to happen for this application to go forward (so if you get the money, who still has to say 'yes' to move forward)?
We're back to maybe this being 3-5 years

Need a leadership structure that sustains through leadership changes (aka: when we get a new governor or a new legislature)

What if you have a big consortium? "some leadership management" (oh, good...more administration) Yes:"an executive director model"..."executive committee, executive board" Boy, did this just get more expensive! And what sorts of models do we have in the US for multi-state executives that are vested with any real power? I'm having difficulty coming up with any.

What if a group of states have different standards? Can they be a group anyway? Sure, and it's a great research tool. What if they say, "Yeah, but we're going to keep doing what we're doing" even if it isn't measuring as well? (it sounds like no one has an answer to that.)

Assessments focused on age, stage, or grade? How are we sorting kids?

Literacy and numeracy are basics for college readiness. "if you're going to play, play" I'd like to see as many consortiums happen, but not spliting the subjects...Weiss interjects that states "would become vendors for each other" where states would develop an approach and offer it to other states...but it would quickly lapse into a vendor model, another member objects. In five or six years, there will be perfectly aligned tests and states will buy them, he says.

don't lose the capacity building at the local level...assessment takes on the role of the bad guy/good guy and capacity doesn't get built. Increase the capacity of the teacher, the principal...early models haven't done that.

The worm turns...and they said WHAT?

a panelist asserting that we're going good things in grades K-3 in assessment was greeted with loud (not entirely friendly) guffaws.

We're doing a sort of round-robin of the speakers now, with a lot of talk about metrics and other psychometric buzz words, and it's impossible to see who is saying what. Oh, and sometimes they're talking over each other. Sorry for the lapse here. Large portions of the audience have sort of zoned.

Someone says he wants to be able to tell "if it's the first grade or the second grade teacher that screwed that up" (in talking about a kid not reading at grade level by 2nd)

AH, a question on the role of the district (I'm sorry; I am not calling them LEA's)...could a group of LEA's form a consortium? someone asks. No, they are part of the state. However, the LEA's can opt in or out in developing the test "though once it's the state test, of course, all LEA's will have to take the test" replies Weiss.

Question on teachers developing assessments (which someone now calls "performance tasks"): "teachers have a very strong role" says Nellhaus (weird from the MCAS guy). Teachers, he says, "know just how to do that." Somebody is now talking about teachers not being able to do it "without really good expert guidance" but they can pilot them...(flabbergasting) "tremendous form in assessment building" ..."having teachers score is good, but getting feedback on how well the score is going" "tremendous value in training teachers" in how to develop test questions, oh, and you save money by not having to pay for question writers!

"We know that teachers mark papers differently if the student is known, versus if the student is not known" Bringing in marking that is absolutely blind...this from the Canadian guy.

Henry Brown

Titled "Race (or Long, Slow, Slog) to the Top Assessment"

in principle, we know how to do it and could in 3 to 5 years; in reality, there are technical and lgoistical obstacles, capacity constraints, contractual issues, resistance and inertia

a "new develpmental pathway to jumpstart innovation"
adopt a systems approach:
  • new patterns of collaboration
  • new measurement qualities
  • new assessments
  • and new platforms

need a comprehensive model of the domain, models of student learning, complete content standards, performance standards that are articulated, technology platform

four component system: diagnostic, extended projects, on demand test on previewed material, and on demand testing (forced choice and short answer responses)

focus on standard setting: mastery of material at grade level is not an end in itself; we want proficiency at the end of school. It's a milestone: you are this far along.

standards that you hope to measure should be an integral part of the test

technology is not an end in itself; it is a means to an end

lack of capacity of technology is a big issue, but the assistance of technology can be helpful: novel items, adaptive test designs, automated scoring

ESEA is undergoing reauthorization

change is difficult, and there are the constraints of contractual arrangements

identifying a viable state constortium

complaint that the assessment tail is wagging the instructional dog; complaint that you're involving teachers

(Interjection from Weiss that complaints from both sides "is what success looks like")

Money should be leveraged over time; alternative strategies supported; teachers involved at all levels; build in requirements; provide incentive to states; allow flexibility on timing

Scott Marion

starts by quoting an article from today's Times on the only thing holding us back "is a little thing called physics"
"Conceptually coherent comprehensive assessment system"
he wants the DoE to articulate a "clare and explicit theory of action"
how do we get from A to B

Congress will utimately reauthorize ESEA...but DoE must have a sense of the likely accountability uses before letting the funds

measuring a limited number of big ideas at deeper levels of understanding
measuring student learning, not cross-state comparisions

theorically sound design modles: student model, evidence model, task model...
design systems up front; reports need to be part of the system, not an add on

suggesting "curricular units" that focus on the "big idea" of the domain, used within the existing curriculum, basis for performance tasks, access for all students

why the obsession with instant results? He dismisses this as unnecessary as there have been other assessments throughout the year.

argues that we have much more of an instruction than an assessment problem when it comes to students with disabilities

new psychometric practices: traded validity for "pretty scales"

assessment should go along with core courses up to 10th grade
after 10th grade, more choices and more diversity

Points out that this is an ongoing cost, not a one time purchase
embrace differences
figure out what is absolutely essential
reconsider having every child tested on every item (sampling)
allow for multiple answers
be exceptionally clear on the goals
consider a phase-in over the next five years (not a one time jump)
recognize that there are lots of operational rules and regs to keep in mind

Break for lunch

Starting up at 1: 15 again.

Gary Cook, University of Wisconsin

coming at it from "alignment standards" specifically in English Language Learners

Cycle test: test in April, results when school is out
disconnect between when test is administered and when it might be used: a year behind
He said, "let's do this in the fall" in Wisconsin...testing grade 3 content for 4th graders in December of 4th grade
multiple assessment cycle
he has a chart that has three assessments with three results a month later in each case

proposed assessment system delivered online (likens it to ATMs being universal)
"shared common core content"
loud laughs as he says that content setting is a "very exciting endeavor" (cites labor history as something that has to be taught in Wisconsin now which he didn't know was necessary)
common assessment across states, need to sort out what matters to each state (ah, so Texas history comes up, indirectly)
wants to see 100% of teachers involved

for a non-language skill, you have to have a language neutral assessment before you can have supported language assessment and finally move to a traditional assessment
(so we need to find out if someone knows math, even if they don't know English yet, by assessing in a way that doesn't require their English. English Language Learners have to fight their way through the question before they can even get to if they can answer the question.)
He's now scrolling through questions demonstrating how one might do this. Good stuff on the ELL end, using technology (oh, yeah...assuming we have the technology)

Things to think about:
beyond multiple choice
he's sure currentl assessment models will work
what do students (ELL or disabled) know? Using technology to get at that
how can we get people to use assessment data effectively?

Lauress Wise, HumRRO

"content matters"
what are you trying to accomplish?
  • school accountability
  • teacher or principal performance indicator
  • evaluating instructional programs
  • providing diagnostic data

"tremendous opportunity to move things forward"...paraphrasing RFK in asking "why not?"

one test in unlikely to meet all goals (this current slide includes the phrase "micro-level growth trajectory targets"...and the next one has "macro-level growth trajectory targets")

hang on...he just said that it's difficult for publishers when there are fifty different standards to create tests for. Are we doing this for the publishers?

Maybe this is the time to point out that there is a note explicitly saying that participating in these panels does not keep panelists or their organizations from, basically, making money later on from RTTT.

yes, now he's speaking of "states and their vendors"

Don't make it arbitrary numbers.

mulitple assessments focused on smaller sets of content, teacher scored

year-to-year end of year assessments

"most states have complained about the peer-review requirements" (said to warm chuckles)

useful not to put all your eggs in a single basket that will allow you to take some risks

"not just about building test questions"

tests that provide diagnostic and formative information rather than just summative

emphasize teacher involvement

Director Joanne Weiss

While Secretary Duncan is not here (he's doing a presentation on RTTT later today), the director of Race to the Top, Joanne Weiss, is.

Weiss is the former COO and partner in NewSchools Venture Fund.
Her background prior to this is mostly in educational technology

Now from Alberta

Jim Dueck
"more than 100 years in the world of assessment" in Alberta
as Canada uses "moral suasion" rather than laws to guide these practices, the system works differently; high rate of teacher involvement

thinks we ought to test in every grade
the high school exam is half classroom and half exam

myth of higher order thinking skils in mulitple choice; he refers to this as "the elephant in the room"...and thinks that one can have higher order thinking skills in multiple choice

Alberta is removing the written component of the math/science component, because the corration of the muliple choice to written is so high "temporarily" as a cost saving measure

photo montage of teacher involvement has a photo

theme in marking is "fairness to students"
"we don't want to be a mirror; we want to be a prism" (takes the knowledge and breaks it apart to demonstrate higher order thinking)
Don't measure districts on the basis of raw score (because scores are affected by socio-economics)

ah...they were tops in the world until they dropped behind Finland (pop quiz, folks: what do we know about Finland?)

The expert panel

...which gets the morning, includes the following members:

(public speakers are not until 3:30 this afternoon)

Anyone else catching a depressing theme here?

We're hearing first from Jeff Nelhaus, with yes, a PowerPoint presenation

"MCAS has received some modicum of success"

summative, benchmark, and formative assessment

he thinks it's necessary to release half of the items of each summative assessment (which would be like publishing half the MCAS questions each year)

urging online delivery of assessment exams

He's also pushing hard for teacher involvement at all levels of assessment

RTTT Assessment competition

...not the same as the RTTT competition, which is the $4 billion for "comprehensive statewide reforms across 4 key areas"

the assessment competition is $350 million for common standards and development of new assessments

Inviation to apply in March 2010, applications due in June, grants given in September 2010

Looking for a system of assessments--one cannot do it all--and supports good instructional practice, must include all students

assessements that are summative but not necessarily at the end of the year, only once, and all the same test
might replace assessments currently used
valid, reliable, and fair

At the RTTT hearing...

...hearing some strange things about how the "Education Reform Act of 2009" (I haven't gotten a bill number on it yet, but this is the hybrid coming out of the MA Joint Committee on Education) came out of the Joint Committee: dead of night, straight up or down vote, too little time for legislators to read it, etc. Let's just say it's not looking like a victory for the open democratic process.

As to what it has in it, let's keep an eye on the parts dealing with teachers: I'm hearing that it puts superintendents (rather than School Committee) on in negotiations and also strips arbitration. Also it lifts the charter cap, allows for private takeover of schools, and much of what we'd otherwise feared.

I'm in a good spot for finding out more, so I'll update this as I find out more (including the text or at least a summary of the thing, which does not seem to be online).
And while I won't be liveblogging the whole assessment hearing here, I'll post now and then.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Testimony on Assessment: Race to the Top

Here's more or less what I plan to say tomorrow:

Thank you all for coming to Massachusetts to hold these hearings regarding assessment. As Massachusetts is often cited as home of reforming education, it is good to get the chance to address the question ourselves. Thank you for that opportunity.
I have spent a great deal of time reading the applicable pages of the Federal Register before this meeting, seeking to somehow answer the questions you pose regarding assessment. I have, I believe, a radical answer for you:

Make testing the province of the classroom teacher

If you indeed wish to have an assessment which “models and supports effective teaching and student learning,” which “allows students, including students with disabilities and English language learners, to demonstrate” their knowledge and skills, which “elicit(s) complex responses,” which “contain(s) varied and unpredictable item types and content sampling, which “produce(s) reports that are relevant, actionable, timely, accurate, and displayed in ways that are clear and understandable,” which “make(s) effective and appropriate use of technology,” which is “valid, reliable, and fair,” which is “appropriately secure,” which has “the fastest possible turnaround time,” and which is, finally, “able to be maintained, administered, and scored at a cost that is sustainable over time,” the only way forward is to make testing the province of the classroom teacher. A standardized test of any kind will not meet all of these standards, but excellent teachers across the country do it every day.

There are ways in which things would need to change. The first part might be the most difficult for some: first of all, we would need to see classroom teachers as highly trained professionals who are indeed in the best position to assess their students, rather than as an obstacle to overcome or co-opted in order to achieve educational excellence.

Mentoring our young teachers once they are in the classroom, making certain that we truly are supporting “effective teaching and student learning” would be enormously important. It takes practice as well to make assessments “valid, reliable, and fair.” Making assessments appropriate for all students, including those with disabilities and those who are learning English is again something teachers need to master and which can best be done with mentoring. Master teachers do all of the above, and new teachers can learn it, but the only place to learn it is in the classroom with cooperation of both. That takes time, and that means money, but if it is indeed that important, then it should be funded through your assessment grant.

Quality evaluation of teachers—a skill far too few principals are trained well in—is also important. There are those who need further training or who ought to work in another field. The time to discover this is not after they have spent years in the classroom, but it is very early in their careers. Appropriate training in assessment of teachers is an important piece of student assessment, as well, and it ought to be funded as part of assessment.

If we wish to make appropriate use of technology, we must have that technology. Currently, too many classrooms have little or no technology to speak of. One cannot educate 21st century students on Windows 95. Assisting teachers and students in using the technology, and seeing that they have the appropriate support staff, is a necessary part of this as well. If it is a valuable piece of assessment, however, it ought to be funded.

Creating varied items, assessing complex responses, making assessments applicable for a variety of students and producing reports that are produced in a timely fashion can only happen with small enough class sizes. Having thirty children in a classroom (as we have in Worcester in 7% of our classes) makes this impossible. Smaller classes means more teachers, and in some cases, more classrooms. If it is a valuable piece of assessment, however, it should be funded.

You might note as well that this system meets your requirements that teachers be involved in scoring, that it be easily adaptable, that the technology involved supports assessments (and is cost-effective), and that the technology used be easily adaptable. It also goes a long way to truly heading toward international assessment, as this is much more like what the countries we are looking to as models are doing; moving towards a giant standardized assessment or two is going in the opposite—and ineffective—direction. Speaking from the perspective of 16 years of what has been called “ed reform” in Massachusetts, moving assessment away from the classroom—away from the teacher and student—does not reform anything. You cannot replace a teacher and a teacher’s assessment by a computer or a committee.

If we truly wish to educate our children in a way that makes them good citizens who are well-educated and well-informed, we would do best to start closest to them, in their classrooms, rather than sent $350 million dollars to testing committees and programs. Mentored teachers, quality technology, and smaller classes would be a great help in supporting quality education.

Joint Committee on Education releases a combined bill

You might remember that the Joint Committee on Education was hearing from the public on three bills before the Legislature which would, in sum, make Massachusetts eligible to apply for Race to the Top funding by lifting the charter schools and changing the terms of employment for teachers (readiness schools or "in district charters" are in there, too).

They've been combined into one bill, just released this week by the Joint Committee on Education.

Two things to know about this: pay-for-performance doesn't work if it involves higher level thinking (teaching, anyone?) and lifting the cap on charters and adding the two that have applied this year would cost Worcester $5 million next year. Add that to the $26 million we're already in the hole. Even if funding came through, we're still on the hook for that money.

You can find your state legislators here
. Give them a call or send them a line and let them know what this would mean for Worcester. You need to do it soon, as this is on a rush!

Family Involvement Survey

This one needs YOU!
The WPS Family Involvement Committee has now up on the district's website a survey.
Available in the five major languages spoken in Worcester, it will be up until November 23.

Like all surveys, this one is only as worthwhile as the responses it gets. Please answer it yourself, if you are someone involved with children in the schools, and please also urge other parents to take it as well!

Basic Special Ed Rights Workshop

Next Wednesday, November 18, is the regularly scheduled meeting of the Special Education Parents Advisory Council (SpedPAC). At next week's meeting, they will be presenting the Basic Rights Workshop in both English and Spanish.

This will let you know of special education eligibility as directed by state and federal laws and how to be an involved parent in your child's education.

An excellent opportunity for any parent of a child on an IEP or going through the process.

6:30 to 8:30 at Worcester Tech

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

At Council

Council is now in session, and worth mentioning: we have two WoMag reporters and a T&G reporter here tonight!

Comments from the members: Palmieri

"talking about the budget and how we're going to balance it, but not much about education"
Any adverse impact on North High?

proceeding forward with North High, made the short, no. We're good on North.

Maybe the Councilors could meet several at a time with the superintendent for "a real dialogue"

Hope we can talk about a whole host of educational issues: K-8 education

Comments from the members: Eddy

longstanding repercussions in our neighborhood
free advice from Eddy: revenue, reductions, we head toward spring, don't catch people by surprise
let Councilors know what you're thinking ahead of time

Comments from the members: Clancy

Five points from Councilor Clancy:

  • reforms did not come easy on the city side this year. Send the schools a list
  • stabilization funds. Do the schools have $ set aside? (note from the mayor-elect sitting next to me: schools can't save money from year to year)
  • charter schools would cost $5 million if the 2 new ones get approved
  • reform efforts: what are they on the school side?
  • numbers are unsustainable for the future

Clancy says the message is that they want the city to live within their budget

Comments from the members: Monfredo

Can the school admin meet with our legislators when the city meets with them this week?
Yes, more or less

Comments from the members: Foley

If we raised the contribution to 25% on school side (Manager says he's lost several years off his life getting the employees we have, there), what would it save?
Boone says $3.3 million for the schools
With what is left on city? Manager doesn't have it (but there isn't much left)

Comments from the members: Toomey

Joke about "mind control" in reforming ch. 70 funding
Boone says they're working on a "joint municipal statement" from both administrations (and both elected bodies)

Comments from the members: Haller

what are you strategies for addressing the deficit on the school side?
(not asking for an answer tonight)

Need rapid information as the target changes...continue that
taking the long view
"cannot pit municipal versus educational services; they are all municipal services"

Mayor says five people, three minutes

Comments from the members: Rosen

Selling airport: a done deal?
Yes, more or less

Rosen talks about the Alliance for Education coming back to Worcester

Combining offices: HR, purchasing...has Boone heard of the suggestions? would she be willing to look at it?

At the 11/19 meeting, the HR task force is coming back! "generate interesting information" and how different the departments are...

Questions from the members: O'Connell

Inquiry on the "five key budget drivers" on the revenue side
Yes, in short

And how is he figuring out the school budget? It's the minimum contribution, he says; can't commit to more...and it's subject to change based on state aid and "where we end up"

Comments from the members: Rushton

Rushton, asking the Manager: how close are we to settling with the WPD (re: Quinn Bill)? "I'm an eternal optimist" is the short answer. He hopes we can get to that $2.2 million gap through contract negotiations and departmental restructuring.
Warned by the Mayor that they have an executive session coming, Rushton calls his question "lame" and then tries to ask about departmental restructuring, which the Mayor attempts to rule out of order, which he persists in asking, which the Manager more or less answers the way that he already has (fully vetted plan, adjustments...)
Hopes that they can resolve the Quinn bill deficit

grant fee of 3% only applies to non-stimulus money for this year; stays at 1% for the stimulus funding...FY10 budget assumes no increase in the grant fee, Boone says.

Much close questioning on the projected 10% health increase...
Eddy interrupts to ask if we are operating under the 5 minute rule of Council meetings, as the Council meeting starts in about 15 minutes. Or doesn't, if they keep going.

"Only one more comment" from Rushton..."good fruitful discussion"

Superintedent Boone on the WPS budget

"transforming challenge into opportunity" is the title of the presentation

"quality schools will be a force for maintaining citizens in this community"

building a budget with the student in the center: what is mandated, what do we know is important, what do we know the community thinks is important

FY10 stimulus money did what they were supposed to do...they closed the gap. But then, that's it.
"look for our own efficencies"

Now CAO Mulqueen
(does it mean something that the school presentation is printed out four to a page and the city's is printed out single page?)

21st century learning: digital age literacy, inventive thinking, effective communication, inventive thinking, high productivity

new job of educator is to build partnerships to comprehensively address the needs of our students

Now CFFO Allen
this is the same presentation (more or less?)that some of you may have seen October 15 at School Committee
FY10 spending $264 million
review of how we filled in the $24 million deficit in the FY10 budget
where did the stimulus funding go? $51 million
  • $19 million in FY09 stabilization
  • $15 million in FY10 to balance the budget
  • $8 million in IDEA and Sped FY10
  • $8 million in IDEA and Sped FY11

Title 1 and IDEA are very specific in how they may be used

School enrollment is up to 23,416 (and addition of 290 from last year); 7% of the classes in the city are over 30 students

Review of a normal year: usually the budget would go up $11 million next year (foundation formula and state funding)

FY11 cost increases: health insrances, transportation, salaries (even at no raises), sped, retirmentme, charter schools , all others: Up by $10.5 million

The state and the city will, one assumes, see school budget $15 million in deficit

all assumptions are LEVEL FUNDING; if we don't get that, it gets bigger

reveune change of $15 million, increase of $10 million= $25.9 million deficit (note: rounded!)


  • state grants
  • federal grants
  • charter school reimubrusement
  • circuit breaker

Medicaid funding: reimbursement to city may fall from $5.4 million to $2.5 million (went from bundled service to fee-for-service reimbursement method)

Legislative suggestions:

  • redistribution of ch. 70
  • charter school freeze (state can't afford it)
  • freeze sped tuition rates
  • eliminate non-public transporation mandates
  • revise charter school funding
  • pension schedule adjustment

FY12: we have $8.2 million, we're missing (we're using $8.2 million of stimulus next year in FY11)

liveblogging from the Levi Lincoln Room

I don't know what that does for broadcasting

We've got the School Committe and the City Council all scrambled up together in quite a presentation of unity in the Levi Lincoln room (mysteriously overheated).

We're hearing first from City Manager O'Brien and then from Superintendent Boone.
keep in mind: we are in FY10 now

FY10 : Pension Liabilites one year reprieve
Local option taxes
$2 million decifit as of August 2009
Then the Quinn Bill got cut further ($400,000)
Plus we're projecting a loss of $800,000 of less revenue (interest income, trash bages, fees and permits all are down)
Looking at $3,200,000 then for FY10

FY11: further state aid cuts
valuations are expected to continue to decline
new construction growth is projected to continue to decline (FY07=$4.5 mil, FY10=$2.5 mil, FY11=$1.5 mil)

Local receipts adjusted downward another $800,000 in total
Fy11 projected increase of $1 million

Obligations for next year: $255 million for WPS, $24 million for charter schools, $104 million for fixed costs, $3 million for snow removal
To do everything we have left we have $105 million, but it's going to cost $115 million, leaving a deficit for next year of $10 million
unemployment claims are down
and we have a hiring freeze of 10 positions
each of those is half a million, giving us $1 million back

$2,200,000 budget deficit for FY10, then
there also is still $1 million cushion for possible future 9c cuts
"Must plan for the worst and hope for the best"

Assuming state aid is level funded, that there is no snow carryover from FY10, and a 0% wage increase for all unsettled contracts

$10 million is A MINIMUM projected deficit

Possible solutions: airport transfer to MassPort of $1.5 mil
pension schedule extension $3.1 million
early retirement $2 million (up to 100 positions and only filling 20)
closure of telecom loophole $1.5 million

Lots of working with the Legislature on things

"Partnership with WPS is key to our city's future...through difficult times and the better days ahead" (capts deleted)

  • preserved and exceeded minimum education funding
  • $2.1 million in health surplus for funding above minimum ("in the absence of school-side collective bargaining reforms")
  • stabilized funding after 9C cuts
  • reforms--health and pensions savings--allow for funds to be redirected tot he classroom

Monday, November 9, 2009

Here it is

The list of requirements in order to apply for round two of the fiscal stabilization fund (or stimulus funding, etc) are here (that's the DoE's draft for the Federal Register which will come out on Thursday). For those of you who don't want to read 403 pages (?!), here's a bit of a summary (borrowed more or less intact from Education Week, lest you think I read all 403 pages this evening):
  • There are 35 items the states need to answer
  • 8 can be answered using already existing data
  • 13 require a "yes" or "no" response
  • in the "turnaround" section (you'll remember that this was one of the four sections), they want growth-related data, including AYP data for subgroups dealt with under NCLB
  • in a point newly interesting to me, they want to know what schools are eligible but don't get Title 1 funds
  • plenty on charters: how many do you have, how many have closed, what ones do you have
  • plenty on teacher evaluation, including the big one on using standardized tests to evaluate teachers
  • graduation data, higher ed data

Some of this data a state has already (they generate the AYP data, for example), but much of it is going to have to come from the districts. One wonders: can the state require the districts to supply it, even if the district has no intention of applying for RTTT? And how much power does the fed have to make the states do what it wants, and in turn, how much power does the state have to make the districts do what it wants?

And is anyone remembering the Tenth Amendment here at all?

I guess we're going to find out.

Reversing RTTT?

I'm posting this partially just because I think the photo captures a great deal:

Be sure to read the rest.

What if states and districts returned the favor and came up with their own
"reverse" version of the Race To The Top? Fair's fair. The USDE has been
wagging its finger in state and district faces for months now

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Joint meeting

And it's a big one!

The School Committee and the City Council will hold a joint meeting at 5:30 on Tuesday afternoon.

The official agenda is short; just "To discuss issues related to the FY10 and FY11 projected budgets"

Worth attending if you're keeping an eye on budgetary matters. I'll be liveblogging.

Fixing Union Hill's roof

A bit of poking around on the attachments to the City Council agenda for Tuesday reveals $400,000 being transferred for building rehab, specifically to fix Union Hill's roof.
(You'll find it on the Manager's agenda)

Friday, November 6, 2009

On Title 1, readers comments, and strings

I've gotten a few comments recently on Worcester and Title 1 funds on various posts, and so I had to go back and figure out what I'd left out. The short version is that Worcester as a district qualifies for Title 1; nearly all (save, now, four) of its elementary schools qualify, as do the middle and high schools. The elementary schools that are eligible take the funding; the middle and high schools do not, filling in with funding from other sources. The funding isn't taken at the middle and high school levels because NCLB ties those funds to other regulations (aka, if we took the money, there would be new and additional things we would have to do and be).
Yes, you've heard that about funding being tied to strings before. And if we've stuck to policy before...?
Thanks to my readers for catching this and giving me reason to go poking around on it! Please keep it up!

RTTT news around the country

There's been some varied reactions coming in around the country on Race to the Top over the past few days. I've already posted on President Obama's pre-election push in Wisconsin earlier this week; we're now hearing from, for example, Louisiana, where school boards are saying they're going to forgo the funding. The first link there gives an "anti-stimulus funding" spin to it that the EdWeek report does not. EdWeek frames this in terms of two issues: local control (the American tradition) and long-term funding.

I was also pleased to see this report from New York on a former Obama advisor's concern about the administration's education policies:
Edley said that transforming schools requires not just an infusion of competition into the system, but also regulation. He said that while some charter schools are excellent, “most of them are schlock,” and added that school choice does not provide a way to export best practice to the majority of schools.
It's that "majority of schools" that I fear are being left out of RTTT and much of the administration's policies in general. This focus on closing schools, firing teachers, and opening charters ignores the fact that most children in America attend regular public schools. It is those schools with which we need to most concern ourselves.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

FY10 budget

Accept and filed
No discussion.

Marketing WPS

Continue efforts to work with T&G, maybe a monthly "As I See It"
TV channels
Yearly state of education report

ah...using our website (I just tried to figure out the details on Burncoat High School's production of Fame next week, and it's not on there.)

working with colleges and universities, maybe a video?
at middle schools, treat as private schools: invite parents to open houses as early as 5th grade (now this would be a great idea, as lots of parents want to get in there earlier)

Update in January, please

504 plans

Referring to Standing Committee on Curriculum...or not (Monfredo)
It looks like the Chief Academic Officer is just going to take this one

930 students have active 504 plans, according to Dr. Mulqueen
Does this seem low to anyone else?
under the general education, outside of special education
O'Connell wants to know if we have any guidelines or plans on how we move kids along
504 plans are monitored similarly to IEP's, process is similar
plans are monitored within a school, localized accomodations, not as specialized as an IEP
(Mr. O'Connell is continuing to hammer away on structure, parental notification)

Mr. Monfredo says that answers his question

AVID program

Ten pages on this one, too, including citation of Hanover Insurance for their help in funding

"prime example of how we can narrow the achievement gap" according to Mr. Monfredo

Mr. O'Connell is asking about expenses and prioritization in continuing AVID

School to business partnerships

Ten page backup on this one tonight

The Quadrant managers are working with the schools that don't have business partnerships at this time (response to a question by Mr. O'Connell)

Superintendent's report: English Language Learners

ELL presentation

Dr. Mulqueen (CAO) and Dr. Paez (ELL director)
First type we have is direct instruction (in ESL labs), TBE programs, and the two biligual programs
ESL Tutoring (push-in or pull-out programs)
Regular classroom: regular classroom teachers, highly trained
currently we have 6100 students in ELL programs and slide 4 shows the moving along of students in their learning of English

population is changing: increased population by 2000 students while adding 5 teachers (from 2007-2010)

in ESL labs, teacher are dually licensed teachers, licensed tutors
New ESL language curriculum, new technologies

in the two-way programs at Norrback and Roosevelt, half of the students (and half of instruction) is English and half Spanish

TBE transitional biligual education (at Chandler Magnet) which is what we are allowed under the consent degree, which is around 360 students, and moves students along in their fluency in English

Question from Mr. Monfredo regarding special ed students...Dr. Mulqueen speaks of different services provided to the same student...but is there an overlap? He says there isn't a direct connection...but have access to services.

Mr. O'Connell gets up and basically from memory recites the history of English language instruction in Worcester (including dates and legal cases) and asks where we are in the variety of legal directions we are required to go in. The mayor intervenes and says that we'll understand if they can't answer that. Superintendent Boone says that we're developing a continuum of services looking at best practices. Dr. Paez adds that parents have a choice of what program suit their child, and adds that the consent decree only applies to Spanish speakers.

Committee members weigh in

...including Ms. Hargrove who says that she has to take a bit of credit for Ms. Harrity as Ms. Hargrove was the Catholic youth leader for Ms. Harrity's group...
Otherwise, lots of thanks and praise, with specific mentions of MCAS scores, sports, and the nice building
February 9, 2010 begins the 100th anniversary of the vocational school; party to come!

Taking Worcester Tech first

Taking the item on the Worcester Technical High School out of order...
(it sounds like Dr. Boone has whatever is going around)
We're getting a report on the general advisory meeting that happened two weeks ago from Sheila Harrity, principal; Peter Crafts, director of vocational education; and Ted Coughlin, Chair of the Worcester Technical High School board.

1400 students: 51% female, 62% low income...about half white
Now getting a chart on MCAS passing rates in English and math, including a slide on the improvement of the students who enter the high school failing and get to passing. 78% passing in ELA, 70% passing in math
Whole school field trips for motivational speakers before the MCAS.

Added AP bio, English (2), will add AP Statistics
62% go on to higher ed

5200 hours provided in Green Hill Park every year as volunteers (under the settlement agreement that allowed for the building of the Tech school in the park)
Added 3-D Gaming to the Drafting program
Renewable Energy added to Electrical program
Volunteering at Heifer Project and Matthew 25
lots of showcasing of the technology used at the school in various programs: "crucial to keep us on the cutting edge of the programs"
Plan to add BioMedical Science (grant funded) for next year; Pharmacy Tech for 2012; Medical Assistant for 2012

After 15 years, the school was "planned, constructed, equipped" and now is serving students, according to Mr. Coughlin.
Worcester Technical Fund allows for continuous updating of technology, which Mr. Coughlin calls the "lifeblood" of the program.
Five year forecast of $2.7 million that they need, have raised 20% of it already

Getting started

We now have some, make that all, of the committee members coming in now. And between Tech school and teachers and parents, we've got a fairly full house tonight.

Liveblog of School Committee

...once they come out of executive session, where they are now.

Obama on RTTT

President Obama was in Wisconsin yesterday to talk about Race to the Top funding. I'll let the New American take it from here:
The Obama administration has said that refusing to link teacher performance ratings to student test scores would lessen a state’s chance of receiving federal funds. In Wisconsin, Obama wrapped the bribe he is offering in high-sounding language about the importance of education.

“There is nothing that will determine the quality of our future as a nation or the lives our children more than the kind of education we provide them,” Obama declared. “If you’re willing to hold yourselves more accountable, if you develop a strong plan to improve the quality of education in your state, we’ll offer you a grant to help make that plan a reality.”

What the president really meant was, “If you will make your states more accountable to the federal government in the area of education, ol’ Uncle Sam will make it worth your while.” Tying teacher ratings and pay to student test scores will provide a strong incentive for teachers to prepare students to do well on standardized tests.

But standardized tests are not always as effective at measuring student knowledge as an essay test or other form of evaluation. Also, teachers of disabled, troubled, or remedial students cannot be fairly judged by the performance of their charges on standard tests. Not only that, if the federal government has any say about what is in the tests, teachers will be forced to focus on imparting what Washington wants students to know.
The article goes on to point out that this is giving a large measure of control of education, traditionally--in fact, Constitutionally--within the parameters of the state, to the federal government.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

School Committee tomorrow night

Yes, there was an election yesterday, but the calendar goes on as usual.
The agenda for tomorrow night is up.
A few items of interest:
  • the administration is coming back with two reports, one on community partnerships and another on AVID students. There was some discussion, both in School Committee and in CPPAC, about the AVID students: were they in fact doing better than there peers? Did we have data to back that up? The report is in the backup. AVID does seem to be getting those kids through school and more of them are going to college (as compared to the whole of their graduating class; is that their peers, in fact?)
  • several members of the School Committee are asking for a report on the number of 504 plan students in the district. A 504 plan (the number refers to the section of the ADA that deals with it) allows for modifications for a child who has a physical or mental impairment; it can include anything from physical accommodations to speech therapy. I'm guessing that this is a direct result of a question asked at the Special Education Parents Advisory Council forum a few weeks ago: members were directly asked how many kids on 504 plans we have, and the short answer that was no one knew. As 504's are handled through the principal, there is no central database of that information.
  • Both the marketing of WPS and the family involvement plan are back on the agenda.
  • And, yes, there will be an update on the budget. If I'm reading that first page right, the good news is that we have smart people on this who assumed that things would be even worse than we are, so we weren't planning on the money we lost, anyway.
There will be a liveblog!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2010 Change-up

With two new School Committee members (Dianna Biancheria and, yes, me!) and a new mayor serving as chair, it will be interesting to see what differences we see in January.

(and, yes, Who-cester will continue...look for a liveblog of School Committee on Thursday, in fact!)

And THANK YOU to all who voted for me. I am very, very grateful.