Sunday, February 28, 2010


The cover story in today's local section of the Telegram and Gazette is timely for Worcester as well, as the parents at Woodland Academy are collecting signatures to request a uniform policy at their children's school. It should turn up sometime later this month. From what I understand, a preponderence of parents must sign a petition requesting the policy, and then the School Committee votes on it (I imagine it will go out to subcommittee for a recommendation before a full committee vote.).

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Questions on PQA

audience questions first tonight: asks if those reports are going to be made public (the progress reports, that is)
Monfredo: all must be completed by October of next year
wants an update in October as to whether or not we are in compliance and where and why
Foley: would hope that corrective action plan can be made public--important follow-up to us all issues around facilities for sped, assessments, incomplete IEPs, placement of students
O'Connell: send progress reports to TLSS subcommittee (as well as full committee)also to spedPACput documents on our websites as well
Novick: glad plan is taken seriously, glad budget will be in compliance
more online with progess reports
questions around other Tech issues
motion for budgetary impact for FY11
O'Brien: headcount on special ed kids there and level of disability
highlight facilities needs in comprehensive report he's asking for later
may be a whole pool of translators out there that we aren't tapping into

PQA report

There were two superintendent's reports on Thursday. The Comprehensive Program Review, done by the state, coordinated on our end by Dr. Gribouski, was the second presentation.

Coordinated Program Review: done every six years: complience with federal and state mandates
done every six years with a three year follow-up
  • WPS corrective action plan developed by WPS in November, approved January
  • Progress report submitted Monday
  • 2nd progress report due May
  • full progress report due in October

safety issues have all been addressed as of January 2010
training and development of materials and protocols in the first progress report

District Program of studies so all students know what options are avaliable to them, and what it takes to get there (so no surprises in high school math, for example)
May report is implimentation report
budgetary impacts:

  • translation services,
  • additional hours of ESL services,
  • ELL professional development,
  • gym for all kids,
  • more guidance counselors,
  • keeping kids in special needs in age-appropriate classes,
  • monitoring needs,
  • services for kids who are eligible for ELL and sped,
  • physical restraint training (ongoing),
  • protocols and processes within and across depts,
  • program of studies/admission policy implimentation may take money,
  • articulation agreements,
  • embedding academics in Tech

Accountability presentation

These are my notes from the presentation by Linda O'Konek from the Leadership and Learning Center on the proposed "comprehensive accountability system" that the superintendent is working on.
(I should note, by the way, that I didn't know that Ms. O'Konek was also employed by the Norfolk Public Schools, from whence came Superintendent Boone, until I read the paper the next morning.)
"focused on the improvement achievement"
"from a complience system to a performance-based results system"
needed to provide insight into leadership,teaching, policy, learning
cause to effect (cause is "the action of adults" "no student is held more accountable than the adults in the system") There was no mention of the actions of students during the presentation.

  • tier 1 are quantitative systemwide data: "represent the values of the districts"
  • tier 2 are quantitative school based data: "based on the unique goals of each building" (percentage of teachers that use particular kinds of instruction, for example)
  • tier 3 are one page narrative "the story behind the numbers"

NOTE : Norfolk used this system and was given a Broad award for this framework

O'Connell asks of process and community inputcompleted by end of May: coming back every other week to work with "community based task force" (central
office, quadrant officers, TL support, plus parents from CPPAC and spedPAC, principals, teachers at all levels, union invited, demographic representation)
this group is "the design team" will be done by them without outside input or consultation
team at each school that develops this data

Novick: concern over expenditure of funds; question of why we aren't doing this in house: request for spelling out of funds and how they are being expended. To this the superintendent wishes to add the MOU, as the state weighed in on this plan.

Foley likes that we are looking at assessment and accountability in a number of different ways
"building based accountability"--make sure we are looking at all students
as a school begins to complete an accountability plan--task force will decide what will be the group to design the
plan and who will be on the team to monitor it
many districts look at student achievement; safe and secure learning environment; parent involvement
design draft will come back before the end of the school year

Biancheria asks if the school improvement plans will be in existence: no, the superintendent says: the accountability plans will replace them
"what gets measured gets done" quotes the superintendent
"it's not anectodal data anymore..."
will there be outreach for each school's team, asks Biancheria...

Notes from the Legislative Tea: CORRECTED

Though it was a posted, public meeting, there were no members of the public at yesterday's Legislative tea. In addition to all members of the School Committee save Mary Mullaney, both Senators Chandler and Moore were there, as were Representatives O'Day, Fresolo, and Pedone. From WPS administration were Superintendent Boone, CAO Mulqueen, and CFO Allen, in addition to the School Committee clerk Helen Friel.

As I said below, the most imporant looming issue to arise is that the Legislature is facing as much as a possible $300 million hole for the FY11 budget, compared to the Governor's budget. (I notice that the City Manager is making the same point to the City Council on Tuesday.) As that smaller-than-we-feared budget gap of $6 million (back to $4 million if one figures in the health insurance savings and the spending of school choice funds) is predicated on the Governor's budget, the numbers are going to change. We were told that the Legislature is crunching numbers to try to get local authorities new numbers, and I'm sure we'll see a WPS update from Mr. Allen as soon as that happens.

Note, by the way, that the city is already facing a $14 million gap, and that's with a fully-funded 9C budget. If local aid gets cut, the city budget is only going to get more messy.

Michael Widmer from the Mass Taxpayers' Association is going to be doing a presentation locally on FY11 on March 31. I don't have a time or place; I'll post once I do.

Mr. Allen estimated that WPS could save $750,000 if the state were to reverse unfunded state (transportation) mandates. (That's the correct number now.)
The actual grant we get for extended learning time does not cover all of the costs of ELT in the city.

The state department of education will have a press conference at 11 on Wednesday at which they will announce the Level 4 and 5 schools for the state. The superintendent told us that those evaluations were made, according to the state, in alignment with the education legislation passed in January. As such, multiple evaluations of schools should feed into this levelling, not only MCAS (absentee rates, graduation rates, school safety numbers, dropout rates,'s a lengthy list).

It was also suggested that monthly meetings of the School Committee with the delegation would be useful to both sides, as the delegation requested better, more completely, and timely information and input, and the School Committee would like updates on state legislative moves.

I also should comment that the Harrington Room, which is the top floor of that turrent at the Tech School, is lovely, and that the sandwiches and cookies were excellent. Thanks to Dr. Friel for pulling it all together!

More coming

I have more notes from Thursday's meeting, as well as a few things to post from yesterday's session with the state Legislative delegation, both of which I will try to get up over the course of today.

The most important thing, short term, from yesterday's meeting, is the the legislators were very clear in saying that they think the Governor's budget is not going to be the number going forward. The estimate they gave is $300 million less than what the Governor came out with.

Keep in mind that all our calculations to this point are based on the Governor's budget. We should be getting a different estimate from the legislature soon, at which point, I'm sure, we'll have a new WPS estimate.

Friday, February 26, 2010

About that reorganization...

I'm sorry I didn't get notes from last night's meeting up yesterday; I left City Hall at midnight.

To clear up what I posted below about what is and isn't planned for Worcester Public Schools for next year (and thanks to Jeff Mulqueen for very clearly spelling this out last night):

There's no plan to reorganize the entire system next year. That was if we were facing a $26 million deficit and needed to come up with some brilliant ideas fast.

What is on the table for next year is:
  • possible reorganization and other action at Level 4 schools. The latest way the state is categorizing schools by MCAS scores is "levels" with Level 5 being the lowest. There will probably be several Worcester schools that are deemed Level 4 by the state (we aren't expecting any Level 5's, by the way). There will be conversations about how best to improve the work there, and among the things discussed may well be reworking grade levels and such.
  • an innovation quadrant in the South High quadrant. The Governor asked for and got "innovation schools" in the ed bill; the administration is attempting to implement this in an entire quadrant of WPS. An innovation school has different rules around things like length of day and other issues that are contractual; I am certain that there will be more discussion about this.
  • shift courses at (it sounds like) the high school level, possibly in ways that involve different schedules, so that, for example, the AP classes are not in conflict with one another on the schedule. This is a school-by-school shift.
I do believe, from what was said last night, that there will be ongoing conversations around how schools are organized (including both grade levels and focused quadrants; possibly also a Horace Mann school) moving forward. Much of the presentation at the subcommittee stemmed from a number of items that have been filed by School Committee members over the years regarding different ways to organize our schools. The Chief Academic Officer was dealing with all of them at once.
I hope that this clears a few things up!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Here's some reassuring news

Here's a few quotes from Dr. Mulqueen tonight around school reorganization:
amending community meetings for March and April: is it timely? what are we meeting about?potentially dealing with budget gap of $6 million
"don't have the same amount of urgency around some of these issues"
"To start fresh...introduce the concepts of change...not going to shift the whole system next year"
phasing in some secondary shifts, bring more focus to the courses offered, flexible use of staff, maybe turning South into innovation quadrant, certainly Level 4 schools

  • Level 4 schools
  • innovation at South High
  • secondary issues around the districts in course shifts
"more time to take community input...want everyone to be on board"

BMI is coming your way

(it's required)
Being approved tonight, coming out of the TLSS subcommittee is the Body Mass Index, an "unfunded mandate" as Mr. O'Connell points out.
(He's looking for reimbursement from the state.)

Just as a sidenote's now 20 minutes of 10, and we're still on the 2nd superintendent's report...

Two reports tonight

We've got two reports of the superintendent tonight: one of the Comprehensive Accountability System, being presented by The Leadership and Learning Center, which is an outside consultant working for the administration.
The other is the aforementioned PQA report.

Want to buy a brick?

The North High Alumnae are selling bricks for a walkway to the new North. The money will go to scholarships and teacher mini-grants.

There's no online link as yet for this; I will post one once there is one.

Meetings and meetings

A few scheduling notes:
  • There is a meeting of the Worcester School Committee tonight at 7 pm (it will probably start a bit late, as there's an executive session first). A few interesting things on the agenda: the superintendent's report is on the PQA (watch this list to see if it's addressed); the TLSS subcommittee report will include that bit about school reorganization (watch this); and there's items dealing with the census, recess, Twitter, and more money for Belmont.
  • The Tea tomorrow has nothing to do with the Tea Party, but is a meeting of the School Committee with the Worcester delegation (it's a tea due to the time of day). As there is quorum of the School Committee attending, it is open to the public. It's at 3:30 tomorrow at Worcester Tech.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Notes from the Board of Ed

These are specific to the charter section of the agenda.

Chester:"maintain the integrity of the process""grounded in the merit of the application" --it's been a process that looks at the merit of the application"
continue to believe that the Lynn application" is a good one"
"we have to be careful"
"Legislature did not give this board the authority of evaluating the fiscal impact"

PULLING his recommendation on Lynn: issue on whether this is a private school applying for a charter (it's too unclear if this is what's happening in the case of Lynn, he says)
"don't want to foreclose any possibility of anyone...from the private realm...applying for a charter"
instructed legal counsel for some standards around this, as we can't convert from private to charter
Lynn's application was put in from the Hathaway school, which is a private school in Lynn, which would close the private school and open the charter school
Objections from the proponent of the application, who says that this was not brought up before, that he'd be happy to answer questions, that he hasn't heard previously from the delegation.

Mayor O'Brien speaks of what they will not to do: students not served
Novick speaks of they will do: no outreach to ELL, low income, special ed communities; college prep
Monfredo speaks of programs already in place in WPS: engineering pipeline at Doherty, Tech, Mass Math Academy, etc
Boone speaks of the lacks in the application and the ways in which Worcester meets needs
Allen speaks of the 25% dropout rate in the application (academically gifted programs). 1/3 of speading on non-instructional needs.
"The financial plan doesn't add up."
Toomey speaks of the record of those applying for the charter: it isn't good, say the least, particularly as the primary applicant was fired by her previous board in the charter for which she worked before

Really long part when they talked about new regs which had nothing to do with charter schoolsItalic

Reville is recusing himself as the school is attempting to rent space at All Saints' Church, where he is a member

Chester: 14 initial, 7 applications by deadline, 1 dropped out; outside reviewers, hearings, public comments solicited, final interview
people Chester worked with said 1 thumbs up, 3 thumbs down (Chester says "not ready for approval"), 2 mixed
the application "that was a clear thumbs up was the Spirit of Knowledge charter school"
2 possibles were Lynn and the Discovery charter
Lynn withdrawn not on merits but on precedent setting on private schools becoming charter schools

THUS ONLY SPIRIT OF KNOWLEDGE is on the table, as the Commissioner is saying he's taken Lynn entirely off the table
one member of the Board of Ed said that his impression was that community members were
preponderingly against; the proposed Board of trustees spoke, as did WPS, but he isn't weighing that in
another member says that he made a note on 6 in opposition versus 25 in support; he is including all those who spoke, including the trustees
if you remove all that are associated either with WPS or with S of K, "there wouldn't be very many left"
question about management: professional opinion from ESEA of those who are proposed to lead the school ("to dispel some of what was said around people who were fired...")--"I don't know that I've met anyone who has a sense of perservance on getting the job done" says someone from the Charter schools department from the DoE

interview: "school is different from Marlboro...not going to be elitest"
short turnaround time between charter approval and lottery (restrictions around outreach)
ESEA says the school WILL BE SUBJECT to the new ed reform law in distribution of student population
80% or more applications are from minority students, reports the school (How do they know this, comments someone in the crowd, as there is no line on the application for it?)

comment from Board member that there are few kids at Mass Academy

"why there should be any concern around which students are going to charter schools..who their parents are, and so forth?"it sounds like she wants a survey of why parents want charter schools...thinks it would be useful to districts
why there might be disproportionate numbers of particular groups of children applying to charters--she's under the impression that some groups are more satisfied with public schools than others
Chester says we haven't done a good job in learning from one another--charters, public, ESEA

pre-enrolling before they get a charter? population has to be reported to districts by March, so people enroll before the school has a charter
questions around elitism...track record in Marlboro was not good, AMSA doesn't reflect sending district:"hard to know what to believe" says one board member
anticipate students that need pull-out special ed services in a school that has substantially AP classes
"with all due respect...if I saw this, I would know that this was not the school for my daughter"
part-time ELL position when there is "a priority placed on" (this from Ruth Kaplan, the parent member of the Board)

"What they've done in Marlboro is create a regional school of excellence" says another member
cites exam schools "very, very important, and in many ways better than the usual model"

"completely creditable to me that this can be done" citing Boston Foundation report
"exhortation to the charter school office" that these conditions apply

Shrewbury superintendent's letter said that it largely a qualitative difference (uniforms, length of day) in what parents who leave public for AMSA
ALSO said that a majority of kids sent to AMSA from Shrewsbury ALREADY were advanced when they left Shrewsbury
Board is not charged with creating elite schools, charged with creating schools that address the achievement gap
S of K has no record in serving underachieving schools
new law says only if the applicant has a record of serving ELL and other underperforming groups
"lots of drama" around AMSA
don't see how this school is reflecting the population they are supposed to be serving under the new law
what does the pay for performance mean?
Soka education : is this being used anywhere else? No ("one of the things that makes this proposal innovative")
underrepresented diverse population: starts at gr.7 : by then you have to have a platform in order to achieve at high levels
"this has clearly been a theme" particularly by Legislature under ed reform

Commissioner: population that represents the community as a whole
all new applications coming forward starting next year, but also all existing charter schools MUST be representative of sending community
student member likes school calendar and curriculum
charter doing things that were not expected (AMSA not originally chartered for districts from which it's been drawing; it now draws from 57 communities)
asks if this is a precedent that we want to set: how does the new law hold charters accountable? the short answer is that we don't know yet

Board votes 6-2 in favor of granting the charter.

And meanwhile back Chicago, where Secretary Duncan got the education experience he has, his successor was coming in for close questioning by the Education subcommittee of the City Council on school closures on the Race to the Top prequel, Renaissance 2010. From the Tribune:

"Clearly, I'm hearing we need to do more ... to improve the process," Huberman said. "The easy answer here is not to do [closings]. It's my opinion that walking away from this would be a mistake."

Huberman said that it's tough to defend a school where 2 percent of the students are meeting state standards that he said are already too low.

A crowd of people seemed to disagree.

Cecile Carroll, education organizer for community group Blocks Together, said Huberman's suggestions for improvement would not involve the community in the decision-making process. Carroll said the hearings would just advance the typical format, in which people yell at school officials.

Others testified before the committee, saying that school closings had not been shown to work and decrying the district's attempts at reform. Huberman and other top-level district leaders left the chamber before public testimony began.

Is there something about covering education that leads to these great, straightfaced *zing* lines, by the way?

PURE has information on what the closures have meant.

School committee approves Central Falls firings

Last night the Central Falls school committee approved the firing of all 88 of Central Falls High School teachers, 5-2. Secretary Duncan approves. NECN report here. Much of the front page of the Providence Journal website is devoted to it today. Former Rhode Island senator Lincoln Chafee is calling for mediation.

If there are any Central Falls readers out there, might you clear one thing up for me, please: was this vote necessary to fire the teachers, or was this the committee demonstrating support for the superintendent? In Massachusetts, the School Committee has no authority to hire and fire teachers, so I ask.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Spirit of Knowledge Charter will open in fall of 2010

You may have already read it here or here, but should you have missed it, the Board of Ed today voted to approve the Spirit of Knowledge charter school for Worcester (they withdrew the Lynn application, leaving only the Worcester one to consider).

I have extensive notes of the presentation and the Board's discussion, which I will post later.

Monday, February 22, 2010

You won't find Worcester on this list*

Here's the Boston portion of a national round-up of "public private schools": schools that serve virtually no poor children.

(*to be fair, it's not clear that the list would go out quite this far west, anyway, but I am fairly certain that none of our WPS-run public schools would make this list.)

In honor of Washington's birthday....

We bring you this version of the Declaration of Independence:

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Old rules, new rules UPDATED

Perusing the Spirit of Knowledge charter application.
Worth noting: this application was made prior to the new law requiring that new charters include a parallel proportion of children who have special education, ELL, and other needs to the sending communities (something which is not true of current Worcester charter schools).
The applicants also have no record of improving achievement among children with achievement gaps (also a requirement under the ed reform law). While they run a charter school in Marlboro, they haven't dealt with achievement gaps as they would in Worcester.
The application makes no moves in that direction--in fact, one would say that the core principals to some extent preclude it--and so the Commissioner is recommending it...regardless? Ignoring the law? Assuming they'll change?
No idea there.

UPDATED:aha! As Worcester is not quite yet at the old cap, this school falls under the old rules. Only ADDITIONAL schools (yes, to this one!) will have to reflect the sending community. So this one can skim the student it likes from the system without any reflection of the rather lengthy list of attributes the ed reform law required (special ed, ELL, free and reduced lunch, ethnicity, etc).

Comments on ESEA reauthorization?

Send them to by March 26, 2010.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

On contract negotiations

You'll hear nothing from me on this, but SFD makes some points on health insurance, et al on his blog.

(and psst...I can't comment on your blog for some reason!)

Chester recommends charter school for Worcester

Commissioner Chester has released his recommendations on the pending charter schools; it includes Spirit of Knowledge in Worcester. Here follows excerpts of his press release:

Lynn Preparatory and Spirit of Knowledge Charter Schools Would Open in 2010

MALDEN - Massachusetts Education Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester will recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education grant two new charters next week to groups seeking to open schools in Lynn and Worcester.

Commissioner Chester plans to recommend approval of charters for the Lynn Preparatory Charter School, which aims to serve 250 students in grades K-8, and the Spirit of Knowledge Charter School, which aims to serve 275 students in grades 7-12 in Worcester. Spirit of Knowledge was a finalist in the 2008-2009 application cycle and submitted an updated application before becoming a finalist this year.

"I am confident that these two charter schools both have the potential to succeed and to serve their students well," said Chester. "Both proposed schools met the necessary criteria established in the application process and present unique visions for ways to set high academic standards and close achievement gaps."

Spirit of Knowledge Charter School's (SOKCS) curriculum will be based on high-standards academic learning, subject-specific, multi-year courses that span grades 7-12, and a focus on intensive math, science, and technology. SOKCS plans to open for grades 7-9 with an enrollment of 156 students in fall 2010, and expand to full capacity in its fourth year.

Founders of eight of 14 proposed charter schools during the 2009-2010 cycle were invited to submit final applications for consideration in September 2009. The eight finalists included: Discovery Charter School of Sustainability in Franklin County; Hanlin International Academy Charter School in Quincy; Housatonic River Charter School in Berkshire County; Leaders of Tomorrow Charter Public School in Worcester; Lynn Preparatory School; Rediscovery Academy Charter School; Road to Success Charter High School in Lynn, Peabody, and Salem; and Spirit of Knowledge Academy Charter School. Two schools, Rediscovery Academy and Housatonic River, withdrew their applications during the finalist stage.

The Board will vote on Commissioner Chester's recommendation at its monthly Board meeting on Tuesday, February 23.

Note that the Board votes next Tuesday; they do not have to follow Chester's recommendations. Also, note that, unless the state can fully fund the charter reimbursement this coming year, this will cost Worcester an additional $1.56 million (and if the state does, then it will cost the state $1.56 million). In the fourth year, it will be on Worcester's tab entirely, and it will cost $2.75 million.

Two things you can do: you can write to the Board of Ed at

You might also write letters to the editors, not only of the Telegram and Gazette ( , but also of the Globe (

ESEA authorization

or NCLB round 3

I haven't posted much lately on the possible reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, as there hasn't been much movement. Just last night, however, the Washington Post gave us this:

Senior House Republicans and Democrats plan to announce Thursday that they will team up to rewrite the No Child Left Behind education law, a rare show of bipartisanship in the polarized Congress.

A Central Falls teacher contributes

You'll want to read this post from a Central Falls teacher, if you're following that:

"Which brings us to the situation between our union and our superintendent:
After many years of being on the low performing tier in the state testing
heirarchy, our high school finally found itself on the upswing. We made 21%
points of progress in reading scores, and 4% in math in the last 2 years, just
recently reported. The scores are still not acceptable (55% & 7%
respectively) but they are certainly going in the right direction. With backing
from the newest, hungry state commissioner of education and a dangling carrot of
reform called a School Improvement Grant, our district superintendent (the 3rd
in 4 years) made a unilateral decision to lengthen the school day by 25 minutes,
mandate 90 minutes after school per week for teacher work groups, another hour
outside of school for student tutoring, PLUS mandate lunch with students once
per week (the teachers at this HS get 18 minutes for lunch...). All this plus 2
weeks in the summer (paid) for PD. The thing that blew us away was that it was
non-negotiable! Never mind that our district is only halfway through a 3 year
contract, approved and signed by this superintendent, the district board of
trustees, the former state commissioner, and the highest seat in RI's education
heirarchy, the Board of Regents."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Staying in school

...and keeping your job.
Hear's this recession's argument for staying in school longer:

Extreme Makeover indeed

Yes, that was Secretary Arne Duncan in a cameo appearance on "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on Sunday.

Duncan would, of course, be familiar with extreme makeovers...

Discussing Central Falls

I should point out that Blue Mass Group has a conversation going on about Central Falls.
(Thanks, Lisa! And thanks to Brendan for sending me the original story!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Nobody blinked

Following this story from just down the Blackstone Canal from us in Central Falls, Rhode Island. The high school there has been deemed underperforming. The superintendent first chose the "transformation" model, implementing a six "transformational" changes:
  • adding 25 minutes to the school day
  • providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school
  • eating lunch with students once a week
  • submitting to more rigorous evaluations
  • attending weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers
  • participating in two weeks of training in the summer
The teachers' union refused the changes.

The superintendent then switched to a "turnaround model" (that's the "fire at least half the staff" choice) and ...

fired ALL of the teachers at the high school.

A few things to note: Central Falls is a one-square-mile community next to Pawtucket on the Blackstone River. In other words, it's a mill town. It's nearly half Latino. Somewhere around a third of the population is under 18. Forty percent of the population under 18 lives below the poverty line.

Does this give you a picture of what sort of neighborhood--for it isn't much more than that--we're talking about here?

You can find the "bust the union" take here.
You can find a "raising the bar" take here.
An update on the original report is here.
And a completely unrelated concern in Central Falls is here.
And there are plenty of comments on all articles.


Diane Ravitch's post on "Bridging Differences" this week has sent me all over the internet!

Marc Dean Millot on February 5 posted that he'd heard from three places that the fix was in on Race to the Top; the administration knew to whom they wished the money to go.

His post was subsequently taken down by Scholastic, and he was fired as a blogger. (You'll note that the first link is a screen capture; the second is the original link, which is blank.) He was also attacked by the not-particularly wonkish Eduwonk (which subsequently removed the post on the main blog; you can still find it via direct link). Millot has now responded to that post (posting as a guest blogger) and here.

All of which means...what?

My guess? The fix is not only in; they don't want you to know it's in.
Considering the crowd we've seen testifying as "experts" at events, and those who have been appointed to run these programs, some of us have thought the fix has been in for months.

The 2009 Bunkum Awards

And just when you thought all sense of humor had been lost in education policy circles, the Education and the Public Interest Center (at the University of Colorado-Boulder) has published the 2009 Bunkum Awards. The Awards "highlight nonsensical, confusing, and disingenuous education reports produced by think tanks" each year.
Readers may recognize How New York City’s Charter Schools Affect Achievement (see EPIC's debunking here):
In a revolutionary reversal of research procedures, Hoxby and her colleagues announced her results to the media and policymakers while withholding much of the actual information on which her results were based. Hers was a breakthrough in scientific methodology and a tribute to the non-accountability of pro-accountability researchers.
I also must mention the "Time Machine Award," which goes to the Reason Foundation for its weighted student formula (EPIC's analysis here): a truly breathtaking innovation, the report enters its time machine and attributes positive reform outcomes to policy changes that had not yet been implemented.

Another take on school-to-prison

Here's the PURE take on that report from the Advancement Project on testing and the school to prison pipeline. There is, of course, an Arne Duncan connection:
During his six years as CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, the architect of Race to the Top, Fed Ed Head Arne Duncan, quadrupled the out-of-school suspension rate while maintaining a student test-score-based retention rate of about 10,000 per year.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Common core drafts

I'm going to be working through the drafts for the common core (ELA and Math) over the weekend. I'll post when I've got something on them!

A different turnaround model from Chicago

As Worcester considers some reorganization of its own, here's more on that alternate reorganization model in Chicago.
Reconstitution can work. You can get results. But our experience, which includes not only the last almost four years with our most recent network of schools but also the last 15 years using a similar model in schools in the lowest income neighborhoods in Chicago, shows that our model is getting better results than the reconstitution model. And it is lower cost and faster.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Educational Adequacy nationwide

The Quick and Ed raises the question: are we facing a perfect storm for adequacy lawsuits?

First, most state budgets are in horrible shape, and it will difficult for states to close budget gaps without education playing a role in those reductions. Second, the federal stimulus funding is going to run out soon, and states are not in a position to backfill those funds. So, while the stimulus funds allowed schools to put off difficult cuts for a couple years, when the federal funds end at the same time that states are cutting state funding, it does not look good. And third, local property tax revenues are not looking strong any time in the near future. Now property tax policies differ by state, but at least in some states, when property values fall, so do the tax revenues (although there is a lag until the property tax bases are reassessed). So to sum up the fiscal outlook for schools in much of the country – federal funds down, state funds down, local funds down.
In Massachusetts, this is the open question around the Hancock case: will the judge deem the state's most recent efforts in adequate? And wither the Commissioner's report?

Time for...

Coming home this week from third grade: the latest issue of Time for Kids put out by Time, Inc. This issue's cover story is on testing.
Keeping in mind that this is written for grades 2 and 3, there's a few points of truth in the article: US kids are taking more standardized tests than ever (previously, how many tests you took had everything to do with your teacher), and this is, at least in part, an outcome of NCLB. Check out the quotes from Secretary Arne Duncan, however:

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan says tests are needed to show kids' strengths and weaknesses. That way, students can get the help they need. "I want kids to get the best education so that they can pursue their dreams," Duncan told TFK.
"Tests are needed to show kids' strengths and weaknesses," Duncan says. So, let's look at what one such assessment from the same third grade would have demonstrated earlier this week.

The assignment is "read the passage, answer the multiple choice questions." The passage is about the Old West, and one of the questions asks the student to decipher from context the phrase "she packed a pistol." The phrase in the passage reads exactly that, with no surrounding context, and indeed, no mention elsewhere of the pistol.

Rather logically, one student chooses "she put the pistol in a suitcase."

Now what, Secretary Duncan, does that tell us of this student? Is she weak on reading? No, actually, she's reading at the top of her grade. Does she need extra help? Well, perhaps some outside time spent watching westerns, but beyond that, no.

The fault lies in the question. It isn't possible to decipher meaning from context when no context is given. The basic assumption behind the question is actually that the average eight year old would have heard the phrase used elsewhere. This one had not. The question is a poor one, depending as it does on knowledge not taught in school; it also does not reveal any sort of skill purportedly being tested.

Is this, Secretary Duncan, any way to get to the "best education"?
I think not.

Assessing Harlem Children's Zone

...or not.
Interesting piece pointing out the lack of assessment of the Harlem Children's Zone, which, as I've pointed out before, is now being copied nationwide.

You have set a 65 percent "tipping point" as a universal goal for your programs, after which you think success becomes inevitable. How did you determine that 65 percent was the tipping point?

Why that number? Why that number and not 70, 80 percent? There's no science there. You don't go look up, find the tipping point of a poor community—there's no science there. You take your best educated guess. …

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

No need to get up early

Worcester Public Schools are CANCELED for tomorrow.

School changes update

A few notes, having now watched the meeting:
  • plans for meetings with parents about this as early as March
  • much of this will depend on which schools are deemed Level 4 schools by the state later this month
  • a though that this could save as much as $2 million in costs (in reconfiguration)
  • suggestion from Mulqueen that every quadrant have its own focus (one of arts, etc) with the idea that this would give parents choices.
The administration is clearly throwing a lot of energy behind this. This is the first presentation of this for the School Committee.

"...early employability and career exploration in grades K through 12"
"we need to keep the ideal in front of us"

Beware the funding cliff

EdWeek weighs in:

The ARRA, approved by Congress last February, included the $48.6 billion State Fiscal Stabilization Fund aimed at helping states put their budgets back on a firmer footing after the severe blow dealt by the recession. States were directed to use the money first to backfill any cuts to K-12 or higher education, then distribute the rest to districts.

But once that money is no longer flowing, 36 states will have to fill a collective gap of at least $16.5 billion to return to fiscal 2008 state spending levels for K-12 education, according to an Education Week analysis performed late last year.

This is, by the way, part of an EdWeek Midterm Report on the Stimulus available on their website.

School changes

Plenty of Worcester Public School parents looked at their paper this morning and thought, "They're going to do what?!"
(And then some of them went over to the T&G site and commented to that end, although the discussion over there now seems to have moved on to the use of alliteration in commenting.)

If you'd like to look at the full presentation and discussion of this, the subcommittee meeting from yesterday is now posted (bottom of the page, highlight "Sch. Comm.--Stdng Comm on Teaching, Learning, and Student Support" and click "Launch Player). The full agenda is here, and the backup for that particular item starts on page 24 with "Addressing Issues of Educational Reform."

To answer a few questions:
  • this is in answer to some items filed by various school committee members about other ways of doing things: longer school days, different school structures, Horace Mann schools, classical schools.
  • this also grows out of Governor Patrick's moves on Innovation Schools and the Race to the Top.
  • the latter, RTTT, is where money could come from, 'though the administration in this presentation also in hoping this might possibly save money (I'm not clear on where; I think at this point it's still a question).
  • when isn't clear. Mary Mullaney asked just that question at the last full Committee meeting. It could be this year, it could be next year.
  • Note also that both at the full Committee and again yesterday there was much assurance from the administration that the community would be fully involved on this.
  • No, I don't know any more than what I've got up here.
If you've got questions, please post them. The Standing Committee will report at the next meeting of the full committee (February 25), and we can ask questions then.

Ravitch on superintendents

And you should read Ravitch on superintendents.

(The superintendent I worked for the longest? Very much the former. It makes a huge difference to a classroom teacher.)

Who might be weighing in on NCLB redux?

This guy:

Johnston’s unquenchable thirst for the designer brand of NCLB Kool-Aid is enough to make true educators lose their insatiable appetite for teaching. He applauds that “states have developed the sophisticated data systems needed to measure…effectiveness.” He does not want to “prop up the status quo.”

Because “status quo” is a wet putty concept that means whatever people with conflicting views scheme it to mean to suit their aims, that adaptable abstraction is ideally fit for artificially unifying opposing camps. Very convenient.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Replacing AYP? UPDATED

Among the conversations surrounding the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA, or, last time it was reauthorized, No Child Left Behind) is that of Adequate Yearly Progress (or, yes, AYP).
Secretary Duncan has indicated the possibility of replacing AYP, which has numerous problems, with a rubric on "career and college readiness."
Under the plan, adequate yearly progress, or AYP—the accountability vehicle at the heart of the current version of the law, the 8-year-old No Child Left Behind Act—would be replaced with a new metric that would measure student progress toward readiness for college or a career.
The ins and outs of this--including questions surrounding how one measures such a thing--are well covered in Ed Week.

UPDATE: And here are some good suggestions from Sam Chaltain.

Whose message?

What happens when you take an involved, motivated group of parents, send them on a bus to the state capital, and then change the message?
You get this post.

Funding cliff ahead!

And while it isn't true in Worcester, the New York Times notes that many communities are seeing that funding cliff for FY11.

The stimulus program was the largest one-time infusion of federal education dollars to states and districts in the nation’s history. As the program took shape last year, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other officials repeatedly warned states and districts to avoid spending the money in ways that could lead to dislocations when the gush of federal money came to an end.

But from the start, those warnings seemed at odds with the stimulus law’s goal of jump-starting the economy, and the administration trumpeted last fall that school districts had used stimulus money to save, or create, some 250,000 education jobs.

Note, of course, that Worcester will face this problem in FY12.

State aid for whom?

You may have seen the article in today's Telegram and Gazette regarding state aid to schools, putting forward the notion that the distribution of aid isn't fair because it isn't equal. This is based on two misunderstandings:
  1. It costs the same to educate every child in the Commonwealth. FALSE. It does not cost as much to educate, for example, a child who has no special needs as it does a child who does. The same is true of a child whose first language is something other than English, who may not have received education prior to kindergarten, who may be low income. It simply costs more to educate any child who needs extra services. What communities have more children who meet those profiles? The cities, like Worcester.
  2. Communities that support education are being "punished" by the state by getting lower state aid. FALSE. The state calculates a community's ability--not willingness--to pay for education. That is the foundation formula, based half on property taxes and half on income. If a community then chooses to pay over and above that (as do many communities, Northboro-Southboro among them), they are free to do so. The state does not take that into consideration.
Now, is the amount communities are given in aid adequate? Probably not. Thus the need for an adequacy study.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicago tries out Children Zones

Chicago is putting together plans for three "Promise Neighborhoods" modeled on NYC's Harlem Children's Zone.
The Obama administration has proposed $120 million in funding for such neighborhood programs throughout the country.

Resegregation in charter schools?

A study out of UCLA, covered in the Washington Post, speaks of the growth of charter schools tracking with increases in segregation:

To the authors of the study, the findings point to a civil rights issue: "As the country continues moving steadily towards greater segregation and inequality of education for students of color in schools with lower achievement and graduation rates," the study concludes, "the rapid growth of charter schools has been expanding a sector even more segregated than the public schools."

Who are those guys?

The DoE has decided (as I've posted elsewhere) that the Race to the Top's judges identities will not be made public. We do, however, know a bit about them:

  • 32 are women, 26 are men
  • 30 are former K-12 teachers
  • 35 have doctoral degrees (meaning, probably, that they aren't classroom teachers now, even if they were!)
  • 15 are former superintendents

508: Schools and cheese

Because when was the last time you sat around a fire with cups of coffee and talked about the Worcester Public Schools budget?

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Following upon Belmont

Requesting a review of the security system, making sure the equipment works, if our current protocols are enough, and if we need new things.

PQA report coming up

February 25 superintendent report on the PQA

Legislative priorities

The G/EI standing committee has compiled the following list for the Legislative delegation:

  • fully fund FY11 foundation budget
  • freeze charter schools
  • freeze sped tuition
  • eliminate unfunded transportation mandates
  • revise charter school funding formula
  • support pension schedule funding extension
  • support funding adequacy study
  • use a growth model (i.e. MAPs testing) to measure success

That Legislative tea is now Friday, February 26 at 3:30 pm in the Harrington Room at Worcester Tech (and yes, it's open to the public. It has to be, as a quorum of School Committee members will be presented).

Creation of a Title I parent council

In tonight's Committee on Governance and Employee Issues (G/EI), a motion is being made to re-establish a Title I parent council. One used to be required; it isn't any longer, but it's an attempt, encouraged by the administration, to get more parents involved.

Questions from the members on the budget

O'Connell runs through the possible problems with revenue coming in
suggests continuing with school choice and increasing it

Monfredo echoes that (on school choice)wants to talk 50/50 split on Medicaid

Foley mentions that Brian Allen came tonight to get some sleep (his wife had a baby boy last Friday)
we depend on others for our money (2/3 of our budget comes from the state)
how much would one or two charter schools cost?
next year's cost $3.1 million to $6.4 million--we'd supposedly get reimbursed, but we think it's unlikely that we'd get reimbursed
FY11 has $8.1 million in stimulus which GOES AWAY after that: watch out for FY12!
how confident are we on the level funding of grants? "appears to be level funded"
House/Senate would cut grants before Ch.70, but it doesn't matter to us: "A cut is a cut"Foley points out that in a traditional year we'd be in good shape: our numbers are going up! But with the inflation rate
going down...we're a normal year, our foundation budget would be going up $15 million!
"federal price deflator index" says Allen...state and federal governments making cutbacks
seeing increases in enrollments

Mullaney: "well worth waiting for" asks about possible school reconfigurations? Would we be looking at this for next year? What would we be doing to prepare families for that?
will work through subcommittee on Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports as presented
"full dialogue" around changes
would we do it for FY12 (know that we're going into that year with a deficit) or do it for this year, with fewer children?
putting last parts together

Biancheria: expenses, when we look at employees salaries, can we divide what is under grant funding? (yes, it's done, as the budget is presented later on)

Novick: School nutrition change means that this year the school nutrition area is now making enough money to support itself;
we no longer have to subsidize the health insurance of those who work in school nutrition (it doesn't change health insurance)
we don't yet know how much compliance will cost, but we're getting a report on this on Feb. 25(that's the PQA report, for those who have been following this)
the state could theoretically take back the money over foundation, but it isn't uncommon for this to happen, so it's perhaps unlikely
reorganization of federal funding needs watching

To watch

House budget, Senate budget
(if these include, as the Governor's budget does, the pension schedule change, that would get us an additional $1.2 million)
Charter school application are decided on in February

Possible solutions

$8.1 million of stimulus money
cut of 70 positions
use of school choice money
making nutrition health insurance fully self-supporting

there are also some compliance requirements for ELL, special education, which may cost more money

suggestion from the school superintendent on the WPS compact and on school restructing

Growing city

244 more students
14% more ELL students
9% more low income students

DUE TO THIS, the city's required contribution is greater than required by foundation; the city's growth is putting the required contribution above foundation.

Allen: preliminary budget gap and onward

$26 million (which is where we were in December)
Ch. 70 of $193 million
city contribution of $93 million

Total from all sources of $319 million

State is covering entirety of their contribution to the foundation
State contribution going down by $1.7 million, as expected, due to the charter reimbursement tapering off

City contribution is ASSUMED TO BE going up by the FY11 growth factor ($2.5 million)

FY11 budget presentation

Boone: Questions heading into December:
  • would the state use state stimulus dollars to fill gaps?
  • how would the state use the negative inflation rate?

The answers are 1. Yes, to get us to foundation, and 2. they're using the negative inflation rate.

Projections were on target (score one for our financial office), and now we're at $14 million (with $8 million in reserve).

100 Years of Vocational Education in Worcester

Celebrating 100 years of vocational education in Worcester: 1910-2010

A presentation from various students in the trades at Tech tonight
a student from plumbing (who plans to attend WPI this fall), from Allied Health (who plans to go to BU for pre-med), from drafting ("breaks the stereotype of normal trade schools," she says; who plans to go for architectural engineering), and from telecom (who has 24 college credits at QCC and plans to transfer to Clark).

partnership with companies wouldn't have happened without support of WPS (starting in 2006)
cites AYP met; MCAS scores going "up and up and up"

Motion for reconsideration

reconsideration from Biancheria: this was her item; she asked for reconsideration within 48 hours of the last meeting
asking that this item have a report by 3/4/10 instead of going to subcommittee
comments that she has gotten phone calls"questioning the strategies of the administration in dealing with the summer youth program"l
ists some of the advantages of the summer programs
What will we know in 30 days, what can we know in 30 days?

Boone responds that we will not have state or federal numbers in 30 days: the state will not yet have passed a budget, nor will the federal government.
Can show what last year's programs looked like and what the plans are
will not have numbers yet

Mullaney "anxious to know about" all programs; a little reluctant to "just single out" summer programs

O'Connell: summer programs crucial to prevent or minimizing summer slide
report is still early enough to plan for summer

And then there were four

We're starting this evening with four School Committee members, Foley chairing, as a number of members are still running back over from Coral Seafood where there was a fundraiser this evening for Belmont Street School.

Agenda's up!

And, more to the point, the PowerPoint on FY11 for the Worcester Public Schools is up!

A few points to note:
  • (p.5) State aid is level funded (the charter reimbursement goes down each year, remember).
  • (p.17) due to a negative inflation factor, the foundation budget is growing by only $1.2 million (note, though, the increase in school population)
  • (p.20) the budget does not include a raise for staff
  • (p.21) leaving us at a $14 million
  • (p.22) AHA! How many remembered that there was still $8 million remaining in the stimulus (put down your hand if you work for the city or school budget office)? Should we use that, we're at about $6 million in the red heading into next year PENDING THE BUDGET GETTING THROUGH THE LEGISLATURE.
  • (p.24) There is NO MORE STIMULUS MONEY socked away!
Again, I'll liveblog this tonight during the presentation itself. 7pm, or thereabouts.

List to where?

I should point out on the below that I've asked but don't yet know where you should bring donations of stuff (as opposed to money) for Belmont Street. I'll post when I do.

Come down to Coral Seafood tonight at 5:30!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Supplies list for Belmont Street Community School

Here's the list compiled by the teachers of what is missing, destroyed, or otherwise needed there.

5 sets Base 10 cubes
15 CD player
10 Electric pencil sharpener
10 Manual pencil sharpener
10 Tape dispenser
50 packs Post-it notes
10 Stapler
6 Ink cartridges for classroom printer
10 World globe
1 Palm Pilot
50 packs Dry erase markers
1 EM thermometer
20 EM geometric templates
20 EM decks
40 EM Volume 2 math journals
1 EM Math Message overheads – Unit 7
1 EM Game mats – grade 6
1 EM Teacher manual – Volume 1
1 EM Masters book – grade 6
1 EM Study math link – grade 6
2 Math reflectors for translations
5 Cart for overhead projector
1 Radio
6 Whiteboard easel
20 Whiteboard erasers
100 boxes Markers
4 Tape player with headphone hook-up
6 Wooden easels
10 Overhead projector
5 Overhead projector screen
300 boxes Crayons
60 Calculators
100 Folders
300 boxes Pencils
10 Holt School Dictionary of American English
2 Classroom rugs
1 Telephone
1 Student desk
6 Small student chairs
4 Easel with chart paper
50 dozen Glue sticks
1 Wall clock
6 Bean bag chairs
25 dozen Highlighters
100 Scissors
10 Chalk erasers
10 quarts Paint – red
10 quarts Paint – yellow
10 quarts Paint - blue
2 Listening station
2 HM Off and Running Book
30 HM Volume 2 reading journals
1 HM Reading Teacher Practice book
1 HM Grade 6 CD 7A
1 HM transparencies – grade 6
10 Mouse pads
100 boxes Colored pencils
1 TV with VCR
1 TV cart
50 dozen Pens
50 packs Construction paper

Two Worcester educational events

Two reminders for tomorrow:
  • Starting at 5:30 tomorrow night at Coral Seafood, the "Belmont Street School Community Unites" fundraiser is happening. Hanover Insurance has issued a $50,000 match challenge. There will be food, music, and a silent auction (including local memberships, gift certificates for dinners, signed items...lots of choices!).
  • Starting at 7 (or a bit after; most of the members will be coming from the fundraiser!), the School Committee meeting includes a superintendent's report on budget FY11. I will try to liveblog at least the budget portion, but if you're interested, I'd urge you to come to the meeting, watch on TV, or watch on Channel 11 online.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Cliche alert!

I was diagnosed yesterday with a pinched nerve which has, among other things, made it harder to type, so it may be a bit light here for a bit. In the meantime, I had to share this post from "The Cliche Expert" at the US Dept of Education:
Yes, NCLB is a toxic brand. But it's the dawn of a new day now and we're committed to stepping up to the plate to give schools a new lease on reform . We know it's going to be a heavy lift, but we're committed to a game-changer here. The President's budget expands his commitment to provide a world-class cradle-to-career education for all children. We are psyched to roll up our sleeves and push the envelope, with no holds barred and no stone unturned to get students moving on the Race to the Top.