Friday, April 30, 2010

Cato Institute on Race to the Top

(Yes, that Cato Institute)
So writes the Brookings Institutions’ Grover J. “Russ” Whitehurst, who asserts that nowhere in the “stimulus” legislation authorizing RTTT does it say that the U.S. Secretary of Education can award money based on states doing things he prescribes. No, the authorizing legislation, according to Whitehurst, says that the money must go to states that have already made significant reform progress.
It's an interesting post.

D.C. CFO says no

He thinks the money isn't there.

Special ed director contract not renewed

And in a public session vote, coming out of executive session, the special ed director's contract was not renewed.

a bit of this...

O'Brien asks for how much we've gotten, what we've spent it on...suggest that we have an open house at Belmont once everything is together

Teacher Appreciation Week is next week (National Teacher Day is May 4th), and National Nurses Week the week after (good time to let them know they're appreciated)

note from Mr. Monfredo (in speaking of Rebuilding Worcester Together) that we welcome volunteers in our buildings (RWT did a lot of painting in Doherty a few weeks ago)

Non-buidling specific administrators

list of administrators not assigned to building

clarification from admin: there were no FY10 raises, despite what the chart originally said

O'Connell: looked for people who were weren't involved in day-to-day instruction, or maintenance, or clerical
$76 million spent on that
"in that mix, as we look toward our budget, look to positions that fit in that catagory...when they fall vacant"
"non-instructional, non-support, non-maintenance positions...should we in fact take a hiatus from having these positions?"
reiterates that he is not looking to lay anyone off, requests (not in a motion) that administration look towards those positions for savings to be put back in the classroom
Mayor O'Brien asks that O'Connell file a list of some of those positions so that we can talk about it as we do the budget
O'Connell concerned that it will be taken as a list of people to fire; says again that it would be only as positions fall vacant
Boone:"everything has, and continues to be..." based budgeting
"have certainly made some recommendations..make some through attrition"
"expectation for district support"
"I know that there's a belief system that administration represents the fat in the budget...extremely lean administration..[pressures] increasing, not decreasing"
state has decentralized much of the achievement..."have seen it did not work"

Exhaustive grant list

federal and state grants listing

Biancheria: concerned that there weren't more colleges and universities on the list
expiring at the end of this year: "we depend on funding for this grants"
"renewed, reduced, or eliminated"
"some grants are not renewed, some are eliminated...we could possibly lobby for these funds"
asks if we can have a report every so many months on how the grants are doing
Boone: "we are highly effective at obtaining these grants...lack plan of sustainability for these grants"
Allen: can have a conversation about next year's grants at the budget (they aren't all awarded yet)
dollar amounts going down each year
advocate with federal gov't for summer programs grants

Novick: asks how much of WPS budget is grant based
Allen: 15% (okay, he said 20 at the meeting, but it's really 15)
for more detail on spending of grants: where are they coming from, what are the restrictions, how are they spent in time for FY11 budget
after some back and forth, that motion passes

Teacher hires

Note, by the way, that hiring (with a small handful of exceptions) is done by the superintendent (as of Ed Reform in 1993). The School Committee is informed as a matter of courtesy, rather than one of approval.

Two Tech teachers hired
Novick asks if their certification is in order
HR will have to check; may have been hired under waivers; will come back, per request, as a communication on the agenda

Environmental management at WPS

environmental management system for the WPS
Brian Allen and Jim Bedard (Facilities at Tech) co-chairing committee
"to move beyond compilance and think of new ways of operations"
new ways of purchasing, disposal, cleaning
oldest school was built in 1879 (triva question: which one was it?)
average age of 67
Concerns across the WPS

chem & bio labs, art, vo-tech
cleaning and building maintenance
buses, cafeteria
energy, heating, cooling, water
"purchasing fewer products or having fewer products that require compilance"
identify, assess, control, and reduce environmental impact of its activities, products, or services

who has what impact on the enviroment, prevent address that impact, stay out of trouble, save money, and feel good over a long period of time

Plan--->Do---->Check--->Act "exactly what teachers do"
district-wide issues: 4 management programs for asbestos, hazardous materials, hazardous waste, and emergency response
EMS has to be in place by July 1 (including manual and management programs)

use of the Healthy Schools Checklist

Monfredo asks how this will be shared with the schools? A full rollout
Allen: first focusing on districtwide activities, then on individual schools

Foley: "what is in essence a punitive action...taking it two, three, four steps forward...something forced upon us at first and making" it an opportunity

Of commissioner district funds and the city's grant percentage

MOU for Commissioner's district: Monfredo points out that $14,623 is going to the cityside: "it sort of pops out at you"
O'Connell asks how much the fee was previously
Boone says that previously the percentage was 1%; now it is 3%
O'Connell asks if it would be fair to say that the city has not added any work, while the fee has gone up
Allen says that it does not represent an increase of work by the city, that the City Manager "exercised his belief that he could" raise the percentage and did so
O'Connell speaks of state papers that have circulated regarding an agreement between city and schools; has there been such an agreement?
Boone says that the stimulus funds were done at 1%, but all others going forward at 3%
will be addressed at budget time (again)
O'Connell asks if moving that we request the city (in essence) take only 1%, as School Committee approves, under state law, spending of funds (and this is spending of funds)
Novick: we had an impasse of legal opinions; is that going anywhere? Ongoing conversations
Monfredo asks if there is an concerns from the state and the federal about the amount that is being taken
Grants are being filed at 1%; if we filed them at 3%, the state and fed would see us as accepting the 3%

School choice

school choice hearing--must take place annually
school choice gaining us about $500,000 a year
FY11 budget plans on spending $2 million collected under school choice
Passes unanimously
Note that this means that kids can apply to go outside the city, as well as kids from outside choose to come into the city.

School committee meeting notes: Burncoat Robotics

Looking forward to watching this.

Burncoat robotics was here tonight WITH ROBOT!
The contest this year was to build a robot that shot soccer balls (it also had to be able to go up and over ramps, through a sort of tunnel, and, for extra credit, to hang from a wire).

i3 news

...because sometimes Rick Hess gets it right.

Consider the source

A new book out from the Think Tank Review Project on (what else?) the work of think tanks:

Think Tank Research Quality demonstrates the importance of those independent expert reviews. Taken together, the reviews reveal that think tank publications have clear patterns of misleading, flawed, and even deceptive research practices. Yet this think tank research often serves as the foundation for federal and state programs. As the nation moves forward with Race to the Top, as well as the current effort to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind law also known as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, this book provides a cautionary tale...

Unfortunately, according to the project's co-director Kevin Welner, professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder, "Across the nation, think tanks are churning out a steady stream of often low-quality reports that use weak research methods, offer biased analyses, and make recommendations that do not fit the data." "Moreover," explains co-director Alex Molnar, professor at Arizona State University, "in the political process, the influence of a report often has little relation to its quality. As a result, new school policies and reform proposals frequently are based on research of questionable value."

A new Texas miracle?

Probably not.

508 this morning

Ugh...8 am after a week of four meetings at night.

I was a guest on 508 this morning:

Notes on the way!

There still is no wifi active in City Hall, so I could not liveblog last night's meeting. I did take notes, which I will post shortly. A few highlights:
  • The Burncoat High robotics team came AND BROUGHT THEIR ROBOT, which kicked soccer balls around the chamber, much to everyone's amusement. Excellent!
  • The superintendent's report was on the new environmental plan for the WPS, part of a settlement agreement with the attorney general's office.
  • The contract of the special ed director will not be renewed.
  • Two new teachers were hired; we're going to get word back on if that was under waivers.
  • We got an extensive list of all of the grants funding things in WPS; it's about 15% of the budget.
More coming!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What do parents want?

A post over at PURE (Chicago) points it out:

In 2009, 26,381 CPS students were eligible to transfer to other schools because they were "stuck" in schools deemed as failing under NCLB.

483 students applied.

Only 276 or about one percent of those eligible actually transferred.

Only 1 of the receiving schools was a charter school...

The truth is, parents overwhelmingly want good neighborhood schools, not "choice." That's what national polls say. That's what this CPS report make obvious.

Our legislators need to get off the privatization train, get a clue, and get with the parents and the general public who want all public schools to succeed - and that means we need our state legislators to get off their rear ends and give us fair, adequate state school funding.

(I don't have the numbers for Worcester, but I do know that, despite the eligiblity for student transfers, most parents prefer to stay in their neighborhood school.)

New Citizens' Center

Today at 10 am is the official dedication of the James A. Caradonio New Citizens' Center.

Bid letters out

The bid letters went out yesterday.

UPDATED with an explanation, per the request of the commenter (and now we'll see how well I understand this myself!):
This year, the administration is proposing to the School Committee that a number of, in particular, secondary teaching and tutoring jobs be cut. Those are particular jobs--say, an English teacher at South High--that are cut.
If you are a teacher of some senior status--you have professional status and have taught for a number of years--and your job is cut, you have the right, under the teachers' contract, to "bid" for another job of like kind in the system held by a teacher of more junior status (say, an English teacher at North who is junior to you). You then can bump that teacher out of that job. That junior teacher then loses his or her job instead.

In addition, any teacher who has held a job for less than two years whose job did not originally go out to bid (as when a number of elementary jobs were added two years ago, and principals simply hired new staff) automatically has his or her job posted on the bid list. A teacher more senior at a different school may bump that teacher if she'd prefer to teach that grade at that school. The more junior teacher will not lose his or her job working for WPS, but will lose the position at that particular school. Or, perhaps, no one will bump that teacher.

Clearer? And if you know better and this needs correction, please say so!

Sixth restructuring meeting: April 28, Roosevelt Elementary

And because I know there are lifelong Worcesterites who don't know, let me add that Roosevelt is the school at the south end of Grafton Street which mysteriously has no sign.

Mulqueen is in blue, community comments in orange (we're back in the North quadrant here), my comments in black italics

Maybe 60 or more at Roosevelt Elementary, possibly 20 teachers (?)
Mulqueen here, presenting

Mulqueen cites 2 Level 4 and 29 Level 3 schools (we still don't know which schools are Level 3 or above, BTW)
"you may have heard that charter schools are in the new legislation...just had a new one approved...we have to compete now about
the choices parents have for their children...when I was teaching...was like a capitive audience"

(I think this ignores the huge role that Catholic schools in particular have played in education in the city of Worcester; WPS has always had competition)
"state and federal funding may be tied more to" assessment
"how do you compete for the money? You show that your kids are doing better every year...may be tied to a more competitive structure"
"standards are very rigorous, very challenging"
"I can't even imagine what the homework is like for all of you, because it was pretty challenging ten years ago for me and my wife"
data is a new driver in the system
"sense of urgency so we can generate good thinking...we've gotta do somethings differently to get to the next step"
" that we were no longer under threat from charter schools"
"partnership meeting..certain partners hadn't met with each other before"
"every student prepared for college and career...want every student to have the choice"
speaks of hierarchy of tracks
"you have to be smart in everything you do, no matter what you do"
"these are the ideas that have been coming up on the standing committee on the School Committee for a number of years..items that hadn't been addressed seemed that since we had to start thinking about how to with your feedback, we could
start thinking about which ideas had potential and which did not"
"so we could outcompete people based on the strengths we have already in the city"
"if you had some high-interest areas, it might be a hook for some kids"

(how does this work with the curriculum being citywide,which has been a city concern?)
Mulqueen cites the city he currently lives in, where they moved so his son could go to a high school associated with the art museum
grade patterns: "every grade pattern you can think of"
"there are no changes coming for September in grade patterns...I think that was even in the newspaper"
concept is "there would be a cost savings affliated with that" ; cites subcom agenda again
"if that's something you feel very strongly about one way or the other, then write that down, so I can take that back"
equity, excellence, to which we "now are adding choice"
"haven't paid attention to until they were under threat, like a charter school"
(really? then why do we have magnet, community, and other options in Worcester?)
"providing levels of choice in the system, so they don't need to wait for a charter school and they don't need to go outside our system"
"it's not to make your kids go to school longer, or on Saturdays, or during the summer"
"if I were a student, could I choose to do some learning outside of my regular school day" week or year
"today book learning is not enough; you really have to apply your learning to real life situations" "the horror stories from the parents I hear whose kids are in college...a really expensive kind of a life decision" if they change their minds
areas of high interest that run right through the system
Mulqueen notes that people are already writing as he talks about school grade reconfiguration
"with Level 3 and 4 schools being identified, we don't want to be caught short"
Opens the floor to questions
"the idea is to get your good ideas and hear what is meaningful for you"

a mom whose son is on the cusp of middle school: "one of my biggest concerns is conduct issues, right now for me, East Middle is not an option"
Mulqueen: "all of this is tuned to exactly what we are talking about...working with principals to make those improvements..some of them can be made pretty easily"
"maybe in a quadrant there might a leadership track...a whole school might have a leadership're exactly's a high interest area for me"

a mom wants to know if we're "going to have to fight to get kids to go to a different school" (she cited Forest Grove, and Mulqueen explained an out-of-quadrant placement, which is based on space avaliable)

another mom: "after you read all of these surveys, do we get asked to come back, after you may have a plan?"
Mulqueen says there's going to be surveys online "more formal than these" and an email bank "ideas or feedback for your particular things"
plan "to give us some pushback about"
"again, when we do that part, it's not THE PLAN that we're going to implement"
"to fine tune a plan to what would really work here in Worcester"

"is it the future of the next few years for sure things are changing?"
waiting for Level 3 schools. "We'll need to make sure we're on the right track for year coming up, September through June...that following year, we'll have made some decisions about what we're going to do"
Level 4 schools, getting it together for September
more time for Level 3 schools

another mom: "you also talked about anxiety here; it's coming from all the rumors. Rumor here is that Grafton would be K-2, Roosevelt would be 3-5, East Middle 6-8..."
Mulqueen: "we have no plan for..." that..."I can't even tell you what the grade configurations were we were playing with"
she wants to know what the savings would be..."not possible if we do a small number of schools" level out class sizes at 21..could bump teachers around the system according to the number of rooms, could re-allocate teachers in the system
$1 million in grade reconfiguration, $1 million in transportation
"will have to be looked at for a broad scale of things"
"will all due respect, there's going to be a huge loss of market share if that happens"

21st century standards for special needs...did you take into account their choices for all of this?
Yes, "we want to provide the adequete resources to do it"

Is there going to be something to do with the discipline for the junior high?
"it's a phenominal education, but because of the discipline" not planning on sending kids to WEM
Mulqueen: "it's middle school...elementary is the cutoff point...not something I came prepared to talk about tonight...I know it's something that's on your mind"
mom says "my child would end up in private school, instead of in high school, in middle's unfortunate, but that's what it would be"

Question: what's the root cause of the low performance and has there been study done about that?
Mulqueen: what we've been accustomed to in education, is that when something didn't work, we'd bring in a program, and if that didn't work, we'd bring in another program, but we've found that didn't work (this is the first I've heard of that being the root cause of low performance)
"human capital development...when we are more effective at what we do, we get better results"
Focus on Results...teachers and principals are very focused on particular strategies that we're doing
principals are tracking MAP data across the system across time
for the first time this year, all of the MAP data was middle of the road (with one grade exception)
"starting to get traction for of the most significant pieces of data we're seeing"

Question: so if we're seeing improvement, shouldn't you give it another couple of years to have it continue?
Mulqueen: if we continue at this pace, we wouldn't be making enough progress
"have to align the system to support that in new and different ways"

Question: why all of the schools, rather than just the schools that are just in danger?
"schools that are currently a high-performance school would have more autonomy"
"even in those 29 schools that are Level 3, some are in more danger than others...focus on some schools more than others...high performance schools would be the last on the list"

"if we're making progress, why change it?"
Mulqueen: depends on how much progress how fast

"what is the benefit of letting tutors go?" (I wish I'd gotten over to the person who said this: please come to the budget hearing on May 12!)
Mulqueen: budget question: calculate how to keeping a comprehensive school system (cites keeping art and music)
"at the end of the day we have to meet our budget"

"toxic at Worcester East Middle...look hard core at where your problems are...pushback is falling on guys are looking at a lot of the wrong places here..where is the wellbeing and safety of children? I believe in public education...families need to step it up...I might as well read them a story, put them in their jammies and put them to bed and keep them as my're worrying people with rumors"
Mulqueen "not my ideas, have been on the table for years" (They've been on the subcommittee agenda for years; that's not common information)
"history is that we're going to have a fluffy forum and in 2012, we're going to hear that this is a community decision and this is our need to reach out and grab the have to go hardcore for family engagement..if you don't like that your kid got suspended here, you hightail it over there...we have families move multiple times in a year"
Mulqueen asks that they write down what's on their mind
she wants to know why the state is withholding Level 3 schools
(the short reason is that nobody knows)

parent is confused about "higher level performance schools that aren't going to be touched because they're performing well, the other hand you're talking about" changing programs for schools that might be performing well
"you said it's the city or how are you going to leave some schools untouched if you're doing it citywide?"

You had to look across the whole system, Mulqueen says, 'though some schools would not need to be touched
"you're talking out of both sides of your mouth"
Mulqueen: reconfiguring some schools to get a saving out of it...that took into account the whole city...if a school is high-performing, we'd leave a school to continue the good work
"yes,and that's what I was trying to get to...not trying to give you doubletalk"

"I'm one of the dinosaurs that had prep, college, standard...are we uping the lower performing standards or are we lowering the bar for the highest performing kids?"
Mulqueen: heterogeneous/homogeneous groups "I'm not talking about mixing all of those together...not anything I've thought about at all"
shouts from the crowd.."but that's what you said/it said"
"but if you level everything off, that's integration"
she says "if you took kids from Union Hill and brought them over to Flagg Street, you'd be integrating two different worlds!"

(crowd's getting much more agitated)

instructional aide says: "99% percent of kids were 4 years old in September..with the hour of literacy tutors a day...and, I'm sorry, hiring a data specialist, rather than having people in the classroom" makes no sense

"giving my chilren seventeen pages of homework isn't going to improve the parents who aren't spending time with their kids"
(Dianna Biancheria is here and she points out that the superintendent is not here, for the second time on the east side)

"how do we pay for this?" (how could we have more partnerships if we don't have more money?)
"I'm not knocking volunteers, but unless you offer them some value, they are not going" to show

"my main, main concern is Worcester East Middle..I've lived in Worcester 10 oldest is in first grade, since she's been born, I've had anxiety about that school. Who is thinking about changing...what's going on inside? Financially, I can't afford private school...why should I have to think about "what I'm going to do
Mulqueen suggests that we have a Worcester East Middle meeting

a father points out that the kids from Roosevelt go to Worcester East Middle; his son "was scared to death" about going to WEM; (that it's the same kids, only older)
they need to know that these schools are our schools
"if it's a million dollars for every school, that won't help" if we don't know if it's the parents, kids, or teachers; suggests that the principal meet with school community to figure it out

Mulqueen: each of those schools has a unique community

mother says "you want to focus on the academics, but we're worried about violence"
CPPAC meeting cited: "gives a great range of what parents expect"

there's your resource (research has already been done); also SpedPAC
Worcester Community Connections: where the parents go

asks what it means for the substantially separated students
"my teacher is so undersupported"; if you want my son to do well, support his teacher, so he can perform better on the MCAS

"everyone's against it; are our voices going to be heard?"
"if this already started because we already wanted to get the money and we were afraid we would not, is putting these kids into all different schools going to make their MCAS scores go up?"
Mulqueen "just bringing it here for feedback"
"what's the benefit here?"
Mulqueen cites that UPCS has a K-12 and is doing well, "so the idea of reconfiguring for grade levels" came from there
parent "a salad's a salad; you put it in the spinner, it's going to come out the same every time"
notes that K-2 does not have MCAS, so it can't be a Level 4 school; once they hit MCAS, then you'll have a different result
(she wondered if that's why they'd do that: to avoid a number of schools being Level 4. I hadn't thought of that; Mulqueen says they won't "game the system")
parent asks if there are other things going on in that school? Yes
going to Clark for free is incentive for neighborhood school

parent asks if the survey will be going out this year: June, he says, parents will be told through Connect-ED, notices home, etc; need to work out details
parent asks if there are any non-structural changes for this fall
a PE buffer at the beginning of the day, maybe, for example
when will parents know about those changes? will come through principals

are the changes for the program quality review going to be implemented for this fall? Yes, we're on a strict timeline

Concern with four year olds entering kindergarten (gets a round of applause) says that should rollback entrance to kids who are five for August

(note that it is now 7:30 and the questions are still coming)

parent says this is the second meeting on the east side and the superintendent is not here; leaves a bad taste in his mouth
Mulqueen: "my standing committee sent me to conduct these meetings; this is my responsibility...very rigorous schedule"
Parent points out that she was at Doherty
(for those who are curious, I believe she was here)

"this is robbing Peter to pay Paul..the data is're not talking to us...this is just to throw out the water and test it and see how hot it's going to get...the bottom line is we know the schools are in jeopordy put all this in front of us...this information you're talking about is five to seven years old...we shouldn't be talking about stuff that was data-driven five to seven years ago"
"why are we still talking about when 134 teachers or whatever it is are going to lose their jobs?"
"I know you have a history with people like me coming to talk to you and doing whatever they want...not everything will cost us money"
he asks why we are talking about this if we don't have resources to do this
"what are these standing committee talking about it they're doing it month after month when we don't have money to do" what we have to do it
asks that the superintendent come to any other meeting: "if she can't come to the east side once, what does that tell us?"

parent wants to know why extending the school day is on the survey if he said he didn't mean extending the day; but it's on the survey
he explains what he means by extended day: extracurricular programs, internships, music classes
who are the people doing that? one parent asks
"am I in favor? I don't know what the heck I'm in favor for...also, who are the highly-qualified people coming in that door?"

(this exchange is continuing at some length and rather a bit of hostility; several parents have left, most without turning in a survey)

"I take it you haven't been in Worcester long" round of laughter "People like you come and talk to us, and then the next thing we know, we open up the Telegram & Gazette, and here what you're going to do to our children"
He agrees that he doesn't know the history
listening, trying to reverse that:"I'm going to keep doing that"
he's now allowing people to leave

parent points out there aren't nearly enough people of 600 with this many parents"we really need to speak up" (in fact, this is a quandrant of several thousand elementary school children, so it's more than that)

Mulqueen cites that his wife did most of the "parent involvement"; some parents aren't here, because they have to work

Question: if you're going to move the kids, how is that going to improve the scores?
Balancing class size across the city would help

Questions about preschool: preschool is continuing this year, "we're trying to continue every year"

much sentiment that parents don't want to drive from place to place to drop off and pick up various kids

(8 pm, room has emptied a bit, but the questions are still coming)
Mulqueen says he's "looking to you to generate ideas"
a lot more meetings and community input if there were restructuring

has anyone spoken to the students about why kids are underperforming? Kids taken out of class for suspension
"find out why the frameworks don't ask what's on the MCAS"
"there is so much in the city, but you have to dig to find's not given to you...dig it up, start giving it to the parents"

That's a wrap: there's three more meetings next week if you have yet to make one!

Notes from Roosevelt

A few notes from Roosevelt before I post the entirety of my notes:
  • There was a crowd of about 60 there at Roosevelt last night, and it was more clear in this gathering than it has been in previous ones that parents that were also teachers were there.
  • There's still a lack of clarity on who these meetings are for: one parent last night pointed out that this wasn't much of a crowd for a school of 600. It was even less of one for an entire elementary quandrant, which is what the meeting was meant to be.
  • Two school committee members--Dianna Biancheria and myself--were there, as was Councilor Kate Toomey. There was a solid turnout of principals; Dr. Mulqueen ran the meeting; the absence of Superintendent Boone was publicly noted and was not taken well.
  • Beyond the common theme of previous meetings--parents have no interest in changing the grade system--there was much expressed concern about Worcester East Middle. Dr. Mulqueen said that subject warranted its own meeting, which he'll be scheduling.
  • There was also, better expressed than I've heard it yet, expressed the common fear under all of this: that the city comes out, does these meetings, and then decides what it wants to.

Notes coming next!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Steve Poizner and This American Life

I'm not quite sure what to do with this episode of "This American Life" other than to suggest you should listen to it (act 1) or read the transcript. Poizner is running for governor of California, and he's citing his experience as a teacher to do it. What sort of experience he had, and how much what he experienced was his perception rather than the reality, is why it's included in an episode entitled "True Urban Legends."

Ignoring five decades of what we know

John Goodlad is the guest blogger on the Answer Sheet:

I was dumbfounded. How could we so ignore the lessons of 50 years of failed school reform and the learning and strategies of those hundreds of innovative boutique projects, funded over these years by billions of dollars from philanthropic foundations, that excited and changed thousands of teachers nationwide?

How could we simply set aside the conclusions and recommendations of those many behavioral and social scientists in the fields of economics, history, psychology, sociology, child development, psychometrics, philosophy, education, and more, who have from their inquiries provided so much of the knowledge necessary for those whose work it is to guide the becoming of a wise people? And what about the knowledge of those experienced practitioners, thoughtful parents, and others? Is there any major field of endeavor other than schooling that has so little agency for its own mission, conduct, and well-being?

Another take

And here's the T&G's take on last night's innovation school meeting at Sullivan Middle.
(And I don't often praise the T&G, but I have to commend them: they are throwing huge amounts of manpower and ink at these meetings.)

Vermont's out

Vermont will not be applying for Round 2 of Race to the Top. From the Boston Globe:
"When we look at it realistically with limited resources we have to make sure we put our energies and our efforts into places that we know we can be successful in and that fit what the direction of Vermont education is moving in," Vilaseca said. "Vermont has a highly successful educational system, when you look at our NAEP (National Assessment of Educational Progress) results when you look at how our students do across the board, graduation rates, we are one of the leaders in the country. We have still room to improve but this program doesn't move us in the direction where we feel we should be going in."

Here's hoping some people in Malden are listening to our brethren to the north.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tweets from Sullivan

Family health issues made me late to Sullivan and I left early, but here are what I did manage to get while I was there:
  • About 40 people @ Sullivan Middle. 4 SC members. Maybe 15 are teachers
  • For a long time educators have felt constrained. Better results=more autonomy. Mulqueen
  • Question-autonomy 4 what? Curricula,, too
  • Mulqueen of innovation schools as charters under WPS umbrellas
  • How would you compare schools? Would not use archaic model of comparing last yr 4th gr to this yr. Mulqueen
  • How do we know that our schools are doing well? Mulqueen cites 29 Level 3 schools. Note that is on MCAS
  • What happens 2 ones that already work? Not sacrificed
  • Question-how can there be autonomy w state frameworks?
  • (as I was leaving, I did catch the answer to this from Mulqueen, which was something along the lines of the frameworks leaving lots of room in them.)
Tomorrow night is Gates Lane!

Tewksbury teachers fired, then rehired for less

I can't find this anywhere other than CNN, and it appears to have happened last fall.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Coming soon to a theater near you....

(well, relatively, anyway: it opens in Boston on April 30)

If you're a Boston Globe reader, you may have caught Brad MacQuarrie's review of the recently-opened movie The Cartel. The Cartel (which in all of its press seems to be crying out for a voiceover by Don LaFontaine) presents teachers unions as being a greater threat to American civilization than terrorism.

No, I didn't make that up. It's in the film.

MacQuarrie says that this is a subject "familiar to countless parents, public officials, and even casual observers of the sausage-making of municipal government" or at least to regular readers of the Boston Globe, which has a pretty straight-across-the-board negative view of public education and provides plenty of positive spin to the so-called "ed reform" crowd. It may come as a bit of a shock to the rest of us.

The movie has been funded by The Moving Picture Institute, which presents itself as "promoting freedom through film." A quick perusal of past work cites "a range of feature-length films dealing with topics such as higher education's liberal bias, environmental activism's role in perpetuating Third World poverty, anti-communist humor's cultural history, and Hungary's and Estonia's revolutions against totalitarianism" (you can find the list here). The Reason Foundation has tagged them "the AV department for the vast libertarian conspiracy" and a list of those behind it is rather one sided.

You may want to read, as well, Jim Horn's analysis of the review.

WPS meetings this week

Yep, it's another week like that!
  • Monday is the first of two innovation quadrant meetings (South is the quadrant being looked at for innovation), this one at Sullivan Middle at 6 pm.
  • Tuesday is the second of those, this time on the elementary end, at Gates Lane, also at 6 pm.(Blogging note: though I will be at both and taking notes, in both cases I have to leave early, so they may leave a bit out at the end)
  • Tuesday night also is when City Manager O'Brien is presenting his City of Worcester FY11 budget to the City Council, starting at 7 pm at City Hall (thus why I am ducking out of Gates Lane early). If you're wondering why this matters to the Worcester Public Schools, you might want to read Nick Kotsopoulos from today's paper (and then, if you are so inclined, get in touch with your city councilor).
  • Wednesday night is the Roosevelt meeting (that would be North quadrant, elementary) at 6 pm.
  • Thursday night is the regularly scheduled School Committee meeting. The agenda is not yet up, but watch for it, because there are some intriguing things in the back-up this week, including an exhaustive list of grants to the WPS for both last year and this year. Don't expect it to start right on time, as I'm told we've got a large executive session agenda.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Charter schools in the news

And if you're following the debate on the expansion of charter schools, then you'll want to read today's front page story in the New York Times on Imagine Schools, which is a charter school company of some national weight. There is no question that any school run by Imagine Schools is NOT answering to the local community.

Per the request of charter school parents, State Senator Bill Perkins, who represents part of Harlem were one of every five charter schools in NYC is located, has been holding hearings on charter schools in New York. He's been getting lambasted in the press for it. Diane Ravitch testified at the hearing and gave some historical perspective on charter schools:

Charter schools were first envisioned in 1988 by two men who didn’t know one another. Albert Shanker, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, had the idea, as did Professor Ray Budde of the University of Massachusetts.

Both of them thought that public school teachers could get permission from local authorities to open a small experimental school and then focus on the neediest students. The school would recruit students who had dropped out and who were likely to drop out. It would seek new ways to motivate the most challenging students and bring whatever lessons they learned back to public schools, to make them better able to educate these youngsters.

The original vision of charter schools was that they would help strengthen public schools, not compete with them.

By 1993, Shanker turned against his own idea. He concluded that charter schools had turned into a form of privatization that was not materially different from vouchers. From then until his death in 1996, he lumped vouchers and charters together as a threat to public education and a distraction from real school reform.

Going back to the Bakkes and Imagine Schools, the part that jumped out at me was Mr. Bakke's message regarding whose schools they are:
Mr. Bakke cautioned his executives against giving boards of schools the “misconception” that they “are responsible for making big decisions about budget matters, school policies, hiring of the principal and dozens of other matters.”

Instead, he wrote, “It is our school, our money and our risk, not theirs.”

Driscoll on common standards

Also, I'd missed this as I was on vacation, but you should read what Jim has on David Driscoll weighing in on the common standards.

Common standards

And the ongoing question: what do kids really need to know, and how do we measure it?

We got a hint of that 10 years ago at a meeting in Albany, N.Y., when the state’s chief test-maker was asked why New York tested students’ ability to factor a polynomial but not to speak standard English, even though good verbal skills matter far more on the job to far more people. The answer? “Because we can test factoring but not speaking.”
Every study of employer needs made over the past 20 years—from the U.S. secretary of labor’s 1992 Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills, to the more recent “Are They Really Ready to Work?” report from the Conference Board and the nonprofit Corporate Voices for Working Families—has come up with the same answers. Successful workers communicate effectively, orally and in writing, and have social and behavioral skills that make them responsible and good at teamwork. They are creative and techno-savvy, have a good command of fractions and basic statistics, and can apply relatively simple math to real-world problems such as those concerning financial or health literacy. Employers never mention polynomial factoring or solving shepherd problems.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Indiana's out

The statewide superintendent for the state of Indiana is pulling the plug on the state's Round 2 application for Race to the Top. Not surprisingly, this has irked Rick Hess who sees it as more evidence of kowtowing to the teachers' unions. Hess does raise the important point that, comprehensive application or no, the amount of union buy-in has been stressed by the federal government in discussing the winners of Round 1. Considering the amount of apprehension about the so-called "reforms" put forward by this administration, it's not a bit surprising that unions have felt empowered to wield more force in Round 2.

Congratulations, Jeff!

I'd be remiss in not congratulating Jeff Barnard of Wormtown Taxi on his winning the first (about time!) Best of Worcester blog award from Worcester Magazine.
Hey, I voted for him! And if you're from Worcester and not reading Jeff, you should!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

WPS and going green

There's some information up on the WPS site on how the Tech department has been going green. To wit:
  • in buying refurbished, rather than new, computers, substantial amounts of energy use (that goes into making a new computer) are avoided, and old computers are not headed for a landfill.
  • technology that is too old to use is recycled
  • WPS computers are automatically shut down at night, saving an estimated $150,000 a year in utilities (and, incidentally, that program was written in house, which saved money, too)
  • computer tech support is managed by area rather than by quadrant

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

And speaking of Race to the Top

It turns out that maybe that much-vaunted evaluation system doesn't hold up under scrutiny:

Tennessee and Delaware, the first two states to win education funding through President Obama's $3 billion Race To the Top competition, were chosen through “arbitrary criteria” rather than through a scientific process, according to a new report by a non-partisan research institute.

The report called, “Let’s Do the Numbers,” by William Peterson and Richard of the nonprofit, independent Washington D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute, says that the 500-point system created to decide the “best” proposals for education reform is based on false precision.

Those changes that Race to the Top requires, much supported by Joel Klein, who runs NYC public schools? seems important for Klein to remember that under his tenure and his business approach to public schools, the percentage of African American and Hispanic children accepted into gifted and talented programs -- based entirely on a standardized test score-- dropped from 46 percent to 22 percent, according to education historian Diane Ravitch’s “The Death and Life of the Great American School System."

And, she said, under Klein, the number of black students admitted to selective high schools plummeted. Of 900 freshmen, in 2004 there were 83 black students; by 2009, only 7 black students qualified; Hispanic students dropped from 96 to 17.

Meanwhile, in 2009, when Klein announced the expansion of charter schools, he didn’t mention that of 51,316 public school students in the city who were homeless, only 11 were enrolled in charter schools.

Let's hope Patrick--and not only Patrick--is backing off from this disaster.

Read Ann O'Halloran

You want to hear about Massachusetts urban education? Ask Ann O'Halloran.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Patrick backing off Race to the Top Round 2?

And thanks to Jordan, who caught this. If you ever wondered what good tweeting does, here's your answer!

Today, speaking at the Massachusetts Young Democrats Conference at Harvard Law School, Governor Patrick said that we should not go after the Race to the Top funds if it means compromising our values.

Did the state executive branch just run up headlong against the bad ideas of the federal executive branch? Quite possibly.
Would they rather not go for a round 2 they know they can't win? Could be.
How much does this have to do with AFT earlier this week recommending that their member locals not sign on for Round 2? Some, probably.

It's not over yet! Watch this.

Friday, April 16, 2010

WPS FY11 budget: April 15 memo

Waiting for us at our desks last night at School Committee was a new budget update memo based on the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Budget. I have it only in hard copy, so I can't post it all, but here's the gist and some quotes:

The House Ways and Means budget calls for, as expected, cuts to ch. 70 of 4%, unless that would drive the district below foundation, as it would in Worcester.
The HW&M budget uses federal stimulus funds to reach the foundation budget level, which the Governor's budget did not. Worcester would receive $3.7 million of federal stimulus funds from the state under this plan.

Grants for programs like kindergarten, adult basic education, and funding for special education reimbursement all look as though they will be level funded.

Cuts are proposed to literacy grants and extended learning time grants. How that ends up playing out is not yet known ('though, and this is my interpolation, if it concerns you, contact your House member! ).

It looks as though the House will debate the budget starting the week of April 26.

The superintendent has revised her original WPS proposal: she is no longer planning on cutting the stipend for teaching assistant principals at the smaller, non-STEP schools. She plans to cut an additional (as yet unspecified) central office administrator in order to fund this.

She has recommended the following priorities, should there be additional funds available (and this is quoted):
  • low elementary class sizes
  • school safety
  • early literacy
  • comprehensive curriculum programming
  • College preparation, AP classes, increased rigor and relevance of courses
Specifically, I would recommend additional elementary classroom teachers to address class size concerns. Also I would restore as many of the elementary intervention tutor positions as possible in order to address literacy development. Additionally, I would recommend funds to restore some of the secondary teacher positions to support college preparation and 21st century coursework.
(end quote)
Comments welcome!

FY11 budget sessions

Mark your calendar!
  • The Finance and Operations subcommittee will have a public hearing on Wednesday, May 12 at 7pm. Location TBA
  • The School Committee will hold their budget sessions on Thursday, June 3, and Thursday, June 17, both at 4pm, at City Hall.
There's nothing, however, to prevent you from weighing in earlier.

And the Broad Prize in Urban Education goes to

...Aldine School district in Texas, cited in The School to Prison Pipeline "a particularly striking example of the criminalization of school discipline." From the report in The Texas Tribune:

Aldine boots nearly three times as many students as neighboring Houston ISD — which expelled 181 students in 2008-09 — even though its enrollment, about 67,000, is only a third the size. The forced-out students get processed into either the Harris County Juvenile Justice Alternative Education Program or one of two “very strict” special schools run by the Harris County Department of Education, an unusual agency that provides services to area districts but runs no schools for the general public, according to agency spokeswoman Carol Vaughn. An additional 1,399 students were shipped off to a district alternative program — not technically expelled but removed from traditional classes.

“They’re being treated like they’ve committed a crime when maybe they’ve just been disruptive in class,” Fowler said in an interview. “And that increases the likelihood that they will penetrate the criminal justice system further.”

And that system, often as not, is being populated with minority students committing low-level offenses. When Texas Appleseed pointed to that disparity in an earlier report, it ignited a backlash claiming the statistics did not prove discrimination — but rather that minority students simply commit more offenses warranting expulsion, Fowler said. So this time, researchers took a finer cut of the data to explore the issue further. What it found, Fowler said, tended to throw cold water on the backlash. When looking only at mandatory expulsions — those for serious “zero tolerance” offenses outlined clearly in state law, such as weapons incidents, drug-dealing and sexual assaults, African-Americans are expelled in proportions equal to their overall proportions of enrollment. But when researchers probe data on discretionary expulsions — for less serious offenses involving judgment calls by districts — the proportion of African-American student expulsions rises sharply.

Indeed, the more subjective the criteria, the more African-Americans get expelled. Black students accounted for 14 percent of the state’s mandatory suspensions, exactly matching the percentage of all black students. That figure rises to 22 percent when only discretionary expulsions, involving subjective decisions, are examined. And in the most subjective category of discretionary expulsions, for “serious and persistent misbehavior,” black students account for 31 percent — more than double their presence in the student body at large.

The data on Hispanic students shows a different, in some ways opposite, trend. They are overrepresented moderately in the discretionary expulsions — 52 percent compared with 47 percent of total enrollment — but represent an even higher proportion of less subjective mandatory expulsions: 66 percent, according to the report.

Is public education a disaster?

Not so much.

Money? What money? (in DC)

More on the continuing disaster of next year's school budget in DC:

In the letter, Gandhi, who is responsible for certifying collective bargaining agreements as fiscally sound, tells Rhee that although there is a projected $34 million in "underspending" in the school operations section of the agency's budget, it is offset by an estimated $30 million in overspending in the system's central office.

In unusually blunt language, Gandhi takes Rhee to task for what he describes as a failure to adequately consult his office before mentioning the surplus at a meeting with D.C. Council members.

"I was incredulous to learn that in your April 13, 2010, presentation to the Council on the contract you asserted that a surplus is available to fund the proposed salary increases based on preliminary information," he wrote.

More here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


"discuss with schools in the Worcester area sharing of services and facilities for mutual benefit"


still feeling the loss of the school health grant
lost substitute nurses (for sick days, etc)
funded for 42 full time nurses; we have 41 right now
maintain pool of candidates, interviewing soon
Used to have more nurses than were budgeted by this committee

"it appears the city is going to have to fund its nurses through tax levys"

We have never had a fully staffed program of nurses, not when covered by the city, not now that it's covered by the school committee

request for a report on how much it would cost to staff full nurses

dispelling rumors

Monfredo goes on record to "dispel rumors" that WPS are not asking for more money
"implore the city fathers"
Worcester close to the bottom in funding education over the legal limit

Building plant needs

Average age of buildings is quite old, about 60 years old (keep in mind that the few new buildings skews this; we have several elementary schools that are over a hundred)
We got a backup to Monday's agenda that had the list of school plant needs. It came to a grand total of $69.4 million. (You can find that online.)
It's quite a list.
This past year's allocation from the city was $2.5 million; previous years, it was $3 million. Most has been spent on roofs, boilers, windows.
(note by the way that we've been saving utility money as a result)

Volunteers painting the inside of Doherty this weekend

Chief Accountability Officer

request that the position be held off.

O'Connell: focus the dollars that we have in the classroom
"whether we should under the current fiscal conditions should be adding an additional position"
thrifty as we want to be
refer to the administration
suggests that for next year, admin reduce a position if they move forward with this
"as directly on instruction as it is possible to do"

Monfredo: "can certainly understand why we should wait on this position"
I think the time to say no is probably last year not now
"recommended reductions in the budget"
"one of our benchmarks for evaluating her is student achievement"
"accountability in public education is here to stay here, it's not going away"
"we do not have a position that provides the level of data" analysis
"I suggest that we give Dr. Boone the chance to move our district forward"

Mullaney: "a little confused"
this is just May and June
"we just won't hire this person until July, or we won't hire it at all"
I voted against it last year
"I was more confused at the end of the meeting than I was before"
"I've been a doubting Thomas on this...I go into this reluctantly"
asks if this is a three-three vote: a tie vote keeps it here
"it seems to me that you don't want the job ever at that rate"

Biancheria: "do more with this; built from the child out"
alternative of using current staff members
potential layoffs
"I've been told it's in the budget...the budget is still a challenge"
"our hand has been out to the community...we've asked the entire community to come and help us"
"I realize that data is vital, but so aren't our classrooms..I'd prefer not to make a 100,000 dollar mistake"
recommend that we eliminate the position for Fy11

(then me)

Foley: reminder that this is an item that was brought forward during the FY10 budget
"most of our intention that it would be in the fall"
search is nearly complete
"process is nearly done on a vote that we took last year"
"with the increased scrutinity...we have got to put someone in this see how this is working...agree with [academics over accountability]...believe this will drive instruction"
evaluation of reading programs
"I do think...that we are recognizing that this is more of a demand on our system than we had thought"
operational issue : give her the power to run the school district
integral part of what she intends to do here

Boone: appreciate the thought that has been given to this particular position
"a strong focus on accountability..."
urban districts and strategy...critical use of data, compelling level of that improvement
informations of the use of lack of student data ranked "poor" by the EQA team in 2005; improved in the next one
regular and ongoing review of programs
"what capacity to support school intervention efforts to date? What effect has it had to date?"
2007 EQA...ID'ed for restructions
review of Level schools...
"the need for a much greater and deeper focus on data"
since 2003 this need has been reported
"yes, we've had some focus on data and continue to ignore this documented use of data..."
"the cost of not improving our schools will far exceed our investment in this position"
"I don't see how we can sit back and ignore"

3-3 vote, so motion does not go forward

Cell phones

Teacher from North testifying about cell phones and their disruptive influence

NO teaching assistant principal layoffs

We just as we came in got an updated budget memo. I've only started to read it, but it does say that the proposal to cancel the teaching assistant principal stipend is off the table.

Honoring the Belmont Community Donors

including particularly Representative Vincent Pedone, who organized the major fundraiser for Belmont.

School Committee meeting tonight!

Tonight is the regularly-scheduled School Committee meeting. You'll find the agenda and the associated back-up items here. It's a long one; we haven't had a meeting since the end of March, and members have filed lots of items.
There is no report of the superintendent tonight--Monday's presentation served for that--and there's one subcommittee report coming back, Finance and Operations.
The major donors to Belmont Street Community School's repair are attending to be honored.
There's a number of requests for honors and information, and both the accountability officer position and the Worcester Compact are up for discussion.

7pm City Hall!

Opening Reception

Tonight is the Opening Reception for the WPS third-grader-curated exhibit "Elementary Worcester". Students from Belmont Street, Chandler Elementary, Roosevelt, Tatnuck Magnet, Thorndyke Road, and Worcester Arts Magnet have put together the exhibit at the Worcester Historical Museum.
5-7 pm tonight in the Booth Gallery at WHM, 30 Elm Street, Worcester.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Chandler Elementary Community Meeting: April 14

The presentation here was the same, of course, as it was at Union Hill, so you won't see much change in those notes. The community comments were different, though. Boone in purple, Chandler Elementary community in gold, my comments in black italics.

crowd of maybe 60 or so people in the cafeteria at Chandler Elementary
lots more kids tonight

"about the future of Chandler Elementary School"
introduces CAO, Quadrant Manager
three current, two past School Committee members
two current city councilors
share some information about Level 4 schools
apologies to staff "it will be a little bit redundant"
ensure all students achieve at a high level
state's system for how it will rate schools: previously schools that did not reach goals that were expected were deemed "priority schools" : WPS a Commissioner's district due to # of Priority Schools (13 in WPS)
new accountability system ranked Level 1 through Level 5
Level 4 schools, there has been some progress
Worcester will have 29 Level 3 schools, again some progress, but not on the level it needs to be (to be sure it doesn't become Level 4 or 5)
used four years of data "primarily of MCAS" 2006-09
CPI index, growth data ("how much are kids growing") on MCAS
50% of students showed expected growth on that time period : "that's good news..challenging news that 50% didn't show expected growth" on MCAS
20% of lowest performing schools in the state, but no more than 72 schools that are Level 4 or 5
35 schools are currently deemed Level 4 (Boston had 11, Springfield has 9, Holyoke has 4)
17,000 students are in Level 4 schools
she asks for a show of hands of who among the parents have heard of No Child Left Behind
(there are very few hands that go up)
Obama administration looking at not just scores that students make
MA recognizes that it takes a lot of support to get students achieving
"expectations for student achievement...has created some funding opportunities...have some strings attached to them"
School Turnaround Grants above and beyond money going to schools, additional money to turn around schools
federal gov't : 1. Turnaround model (50% of teachers replaced and the principal) 2. School closure 3. outside operator 4. Transformation model (principal replaced, teachers evaluated on student assessment, time use, instructional best practices)
model 4 has been chosen : "first of all, I do not believe there is any school in the city of Worcester where 50% of teachers need to be replaced for the schools to be not have space" for 300+ students in another school...charter school option "I think we can run our own schools with the right level of support...not a recommendation I'd make to the School Committee"
fourth model "makes the most sense...much more balanced approach to how you turnaround a school"
"trouble is..that it requires that we replace the principal if the principal has been here for more than two years...there is no single group that has led to a school being designated Level 4...has served this community for many years...wanted to say in his presense..not the teachers' fault, not the parents' fault...collectively as a community we just haven't gotten it to fit well"
standing ovation started by teachers, joined by parents
"he has not been fired as an eductor in the Worcester Public Schools...will continue to be an asset in this district...see him around in this district..still a valuable member of this community...fired to me means you have no seat on the bus...will be a member"
Monday "after a lot of angst and agony" SC voted for funds
What are the next steps?
Stakeholder group : turnaround plan, 13 members: admin, teachers, union, parent, community member, Quadrant manager, early ed, workforce development (to strengthen the families)
timeline: what happens going forward?
applying for funds, members of group appointed, group has 45 days to look at data to figure out how to move forward
Superintendent creates a plan that will be "embraced by the community and the School Committee"
redesign team at the school of teachers, parents to implement plan
teams brought together to kick this off: orientation
what will team by focusing on?
13 essential conditions : stakeholder group and superintenent uses as a foundation for what should be in place
best teachers, aligned curriculum, leadership authority, effective instruction, student assessment (monitoring), professional development and time for collaboration ("there's a lot we could do with professional development"), extended time (which Chandler has already "are there ways we can continue to look at our time more effectively?"), social/emotional/health needs, parents ("it doesn't mean parents show up in this building every day"), use of resources and budgeting
data mining : "Our schools have started using a lot of data" work with Focus on Results
"have to look really deeply...look at things that perhaps we haven't paid attention to...dismissal rate..mobility rate...need to validate some of our thinking around some of the many students aren't making it from grade level to grade level...look at these data points for every group of parents in this building"
by grade level, by race and ethnicity, by English Language Learners, by disability
MCAS data, health needs
"aren't just doing things that feel good to us or we'd like to do, but get at the challenges in the center of the data"
state will work with district to create benchmarks
"we're doing these things, but what are we doing them for?"
"have three years in this plan to improve the school"
"having to look closely at those 29 Level 3 schools...continue to accelerate progress for all students...everybody has to achieve..need to continue to do what we do"
analyze and evaluate what's going on with these community supports (Chandler is a community school)
haven't evaluated what programs we have in place; "if we've done certain things, have they made a difference, and should we keep it or not"
"how do we stop doing things that don't make a difference and start doing other things?"

What's the best parts of Chandler Elementary?
What are the challenges?
What will it take for Chandler to be an outstanding school?

hoping to put some things together so principal and faculty can do some summer planning so they are ready to move forward together

Parent and community questions
asks teachers to hold their questions so that parents can take this chance, as there will be a faculty meeting on the 4th

does Springfield have NONE? no, they have 9 (Boone says it's her Southern accent)

Mary Keefe thought it was really interesting "what this money can be spent on, gave us a list"
federal gov't still defining the full scope of work, some of them are revising curriculum, additional instructional materials, technology, extending day...just about anything you imagine the money can be used for it can be BUT cannot be used to offset budget cuts in the city
cannot take money out of Chandler and replace it with the federal money
budget for school will be developed after the plan is developed
"as a school, it will go through zero based budgeting. Just because we've done it in the past, doesn't mean we should continue to"

"you said the problem is not the principal, not the teachers, not the you think a new principal will change the school?"
"your question is at the heart of the national debate over" the philosophy
"if we just change the structure and don't change anything else...much more focused approach to what we're doing...there's a difference set of energy in the building"
"not just an arbitrary system...throwing the baby out with the bathwater...everybody has to go along with this model"
whether it's proven or not"

law says that ELL must be looked at for a Level 4 school (kudos to this woman for having gone through the law! She's absolutely right; ELL also has to have a parent team in schools with ELL above a particular percentage)
focusing on literary, children with disabilities, children who are ELL, college and career ready
"drilling very deeply on some data around English Language Learners"
"part of a pilot with building principals to better support ELL in their to be used statewide"
"a lot of data support"
"how we serve our practices across the country...what are they doing to be successful for student achievement"
students not doing as well academically, 'though they are doing very well at learning English
not doing as well once they have less language support
36 Title I schools in the state recognized for their work with ELL students
"some pockets of concern and some pockets of " good things

Councilor Haller asks what impact it will have on it being a community school
Boone suspects it will be considered one of the best parts of Chandler
language in act that supports social, emotional, health needs...good argument for continuing
"I think that's going to be key in the success of this particular school"
how are we asking the right questions to align the needs of the community
supports we could put in place
healthy families are a part of community achievement

Haller asks if there is money in the FY11 budget for community schools; right now it is level funded for next year
cites the work with Worcester Interfaith on community schools

Boone says it's an awfully quiet group of parents

Question: does the money carry over to the following year? maximum of $500,000 for three years
intent is to use these funds for these years
"have to make some clear decisions about how we use those funds...once we've done the restructuring and redesign, then the school is on the path for the future...have to look at what it will take for the schools to go forward...what are the ongoing financial resources...get some heavy lifting for those first three years"

Mary Keefe announcing that she's proud of the parents that are here
collecting names and contact information
Spanish translation of the same
thanks staff for "working with us"

first of several of these: "we're in this together"

Question : do we need to hire more teachers?
we'll look at it
doesn't automatically mean that we need more

Steve Patton, former city councilor, cites the community health program at Elm Park Community
"could this be used to put a school-based health center in this building?"
Boone says we could, but that would be about all we could do with those funds
if that's a huge need, we may need to see if we can find partners
Woodland Academy lost theirs because the grant was cut

question about daughter being very nervous about taking the MCAS
what support are you going to give for that?

"things that are already going adults we tranfer our anxiety to our children...make sure that children aren't afraid of showing all that they've done"

Boone says this is not early release: please look at these key questions

Gates Foundation perspective on education

If you're at all curious about the perspective on education running the Gates Foundation, you'll find this a good read. On parents:
But back to parents - all they're supposed to do is pick a school and help their kids reach those "college-ready standards" (ie the new Common Core standards, at this point). This falls way short of any kind of genuine parental involvement, but markets are about financial transactions, not relationships.

On schools of ed:
Schools of education take a hammering from these very same reformers, but never for the right reasons. Instead of suggesting improvements to ed schools that would include intensive training (akin to med school residencies) and a solid grasp of how power, privilege, and culture plays out at the school and classroom level, these corporate reformers push for sycophantic neophytes in brief alt prep programs hopped up on positive psychology nonsense and drill-and-kill pedagogical approaches. The added bonus of stripping away all the "unnecessary" frill classes - like schools and society, intercultural communication, how to work with parents, etc - makes it that much easier for the pro-business reformers to control the debate about public education. You won't hear these reformers talking about getting more minority teachers into the classroom - they're too busy pushing pay-for-test-score programs like SB6 down in Florida

Australia rebels

make that their teachers and parents...

The Australian Education Union federal executive said today that teachers would not supervise the national tests scheduled for next month unless the federal government addressed teacher concerns about use of the data on the website.

The union's federal president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said teachers would not administer the tests until the federal government stopped the results being used to "publicly brand students and schools as failures in league tables".

"That is damaging for students and school communities," he said.

"No other test, student assessment or report will be affected by this decision.

"The primary concern of teachers is the fact that nothing has been done to stop test data being taken from the My School website to create damaging league tables in which schools are ranked on test results alone.

"We also have serious concerns that the NAPLAN results are being used on the My School website in a way that is misleading for parents."

When the head of education suggested that perhaps parents might supervise instead, the parents said no.

Meanwhile back in D.C.

Looks like that teachers' contract may not have the money.
Gray placed District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, city administrator Neil Albert, acting DCPS chief financial officer George Dines and Gandhi deputy Gordon McDonald under oath to ask whether there was currently money in the budget to underwrite the contract. Dines said no. Gandhi and McDonald said they didn't know. And Albert said he hadn't looked.

Think segregation ended with Brown

If you think segregation ended shortly after Brown v. the Board of Education, think again.

Notes from Finance and Operations

A few notes from yesterday afternoon's Finance and Operations subcommittee meeting, held yesterday at the Durkin Administration Building at 4 pm (if you check the bottom of the page, it's already up, if you would like to watch it).
  • We received a report back investigating a zero waste cafeteria model as implemented in The Harding School in Santa Barbara, CA. A zero waste cafeteria uses paper products that are compostable (made of corn-based plastics, for example). WPS research came back with an increase of at least $180,000 to implement something of this kind. Admin also pointed out that currently all trash from WPS goes to Wheelabrator in Millbury, which incinerates the trash for electricity (a "waste-to-energy" model).
  • We also got back a requested report on the school lunch program. Currently 12,700 kids in the city of Worcester get free lunch; 1000 get reduced lunch; about 2000 get paid lunch. (Just as a reminder, there are about 24,000 kids in the WPS.) We have our cooks trained to prepared from scratch parts of the meals from USDA offerings (this is uncommon, by the way. A lot of districts send their USDA chicken out to Tyson, for example). All bread is now whole grain, and we've had an increasing amount of fruits and vegetables coming to WPS in the Farm to School Program. All 4 oz. yogurt and milk no longer contains HFCS.
  • The special ed bus contract was approved with Durham, whose bid of $27 million came in under that of First Student. The full committee will vote on this tomorrow night.
  • There was also the third quarter report. On a quarterly basis, the F&O reviews the accounts as presented by the Business office which recommends transfers as necessary to the full committee. On yesterday's report, an importance piece is a bit on the auditor's report. As I explained elsewhere (and, if you're interested, you can hear Mr. Allen do it above in the video, or watch tomorrow night, as he'll probably be asked to do so again), for the past ten years, the utilities for WPS have, with the approval of the city auditor, been paid on a school (rather than fiscal) calendar. The auditors, in short, interpreted the case law differently, and so WPS will be paying those bills on the fiscal calendar from here on out. However, that leaves the budgeted utility funds for those months for this year available. As a general rule, schools may not carry over funds; however, stimulus funds may be carried over if the state is notified. The state has been so notified. The balance (should the full committee approve) is being used to pre-purchase books and to fund the Clark Master's program for this year.
  • (still in the third quarter report) We've also seen an increase in the need for transportation funds under the McKinney-Vento Act, which requires busing to and from their home district for students experiencing homelessness. We've seen a 50% increase. The numbers of kids are up.
Again, this report comes back to the full committee at tomorrow night's meeting.

Heading south!

The Burncoat Robotics Team headed south today to the Atlanta. If you are interested in following how they are doing, you can watch the webcast or follow their Twitter feed.
UPDATE: Links are fixed!
You can also find match results here.

Massachusetts RttT: AFT is OUT

I've just found out this morning that the executive board of the MA branch of the American Federation of Teachers has voted NOT to sign on to Round 2 of Race to the Top. They are asking their locals not to sign on for Round 2.
The Boston Teachers' Union is an AFT union.

No word from MTA.

Teaching Assistant Principals

We haven't gotten to the FY11 budget yet--we've been talking organization--but you may remember that the administration did come out with a proposal to close the budget gap. Among the proposals was cutting the assistant principal stipend for those elementary schools with a teaching assistant principal, an enrollment below 400, and no STEP program.

For those who are wondering about where the teaching assistant principals currently are whose positions might be lost, they are:

Lake View School

May Street School

Midland Street School

West Tatnuck School

Lincoln Street School

Francis J. Mcgrath Elementary School

Worcester Arts Magnet School

Thorndyke Road School

Wawecus Road School

Canterbury Street Magnet School

Heard Street Discovery Academy School

The twelfth is Vernon Hill School, but Vernon Hill is projected to go above 400 next year, so that's been looked at again.


I failed to mention that two administrators from Worcester Academy, which is directly next to Union Hill School, were at last night's community meeting. As I cited below, WA students have in the past worked with students at Union Hill, and it's been suggested that they might again.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Union Hill Community meeting

Boone is in purple (she did most of the talking tonight) and parents are in green (hey, I'm running out of exciting colors that are legible!)

several tables of teachers (might they all be here?), parents, five School Committee members

Superintendent Boone: "you've read a lot of things and you've heard a lot of things...regarding the status of Union Hill School"
begins with thanking administration of Union Hill
staff meeting on Monday the 26th, so some of this will be repetitive for them
as parents, community and staff to turnaround the school
presentation, then conversation, then summarizing
met with staff before state released information
reported to School Committee, then some public reporting
January: Ed Reform act "forward thinking and dynamic process for the state to reform all of its schools"
ID schools that are lowest 20% of schools across the Commonwealth: 72 schools (no more than)
"does not mean that these schools have not made improvement...rate of improvement"
strength of Achievement Act: recognition that families and children often need support outside of school to be successful in school
groups of data of MCAS scores 2006-2009
composite index is calculated on an annual basis
growth model: how much growth did they show in that period of time? 50% of students showed expected growth during that timeframe
state's capacity to help districts improve underperforming districts: while no more than 72 schools can be designated, this time there were only 35 schools designated across 9 districts
Boston and Springfield have 20 altogether
Worcester has 2
stakeholder group established for each school: teachers, parents, central admin, mayor, community member, representative of health and human services, early childhood rep, workforce development
Superintendent has authority to design the turnaround plan for these schools
stakeholder group represents direct connection with Union Hill School: "will work together to recommend a plan that will move Union Hill" from underperforming to meeting benchmarks
data line: pulling data that stakeholder group has to consider: data by subgroup (race/ethicity, ELL, socioeconomic status, special ed status)..."what do we know about its strengths and its challenges?"
parental involvement and other supports
how does the school use time?
"stakeholder group serves in an advisory capacity"
plan taken to School Committee to provide input on the plan
Commissioner will review and either approve it or recommend changes to stakeholder group for redraft
once the plan is approved, there will be a "school based design team"
"will make the plan come to life"
research-based instructional best practices are what we'll be using
a three year plan: each school will have a set of expected benchmarks to meet for each of the Level 4 schools
check to see if progress is being made
"a companion piece to the Commonwealth's Act to Affect the Achievement Gap" is the federal education policy
NCLB is being reviewed and changes being recommended
"how are we assured that the adults are being held accountable for the workt that's going on"
funding will be avaliable to states and school districts who have underperforming students
competitive grant process allows schools to have an additional $500,000 a year to accelerate student achievement
"now we have our own capacity and ability to go forward"
"very controversial part of our greater conversation going forward"
"certainly I have some concerns with the process for accessing those funds"
four models: turnaround model (50% of staff and the principal leaves), close the school, turn school over to an outside org, or transformational model (principal leaves; teacher and leadership evaluation on teacher achievement; time and support in place)
"I have concerns with all of those models...been very clear that I am not convinced that anywhere in the city of Worcester is there a school at which 50% of the teaching staff needs to be replaced"
to close a school: where would the students go?
"I don't believe I have to give away the students in Worcester for them to be successful...had no appetite" for turning over the management of the schools
"continue to be challenged by what is to me an arbitrary decision to remove the principal of the building"
the principal of Union Hill has been principal for more than two years: "that is not an indication that Ms. Bahosh's leadership is" the problem at this school
"the bottom line of's a system failure...haven't put together the right resources for every student to be successful"
"my intention as Superintendent...Ms. Bahosh will have a great seat on the bus of leadership in the Worcester Public Schools"
"our principals have not been fired...both will be employed next year in WPS should they choose to do so"
"I want to thank her and celebrate her as we go forward" (to standing ovation by her staff)
what are the timelines? how soon will this happen?
aspects in place this fall...complete design will not be finalized until later
parent rep, CAO and Quadrant Manager, union, rep of mayor
new principal named within next three to four weeks, will also serve on stakeholder group
intends to bring both groups (Chandler El and Union Hill) together for the first meeting for orientation
"45 days for this group to do intensive work"
group provides plan to Superintendent who has 30 days to finalize plan for each school
Commissioner has 30 days to review
plan then issued close to the beginning of the school year
some work accelerated
staff to do some summer planning, parents and student work
conditions for school effectiveness: research based school effectiveness aspects
evidence of these seen within the plan: to see if the school is turning itself around as designated
school leadership, aligned curriculum, effective instruction, student achievement, leadership authority, professional development, tiered instruction and learning time (perhaps extended day), social/emotional/health needs, family-school relationships, use of resources and budget authority

former school council member: had Success for All, and Cityscape Summer Program: what's to know what happened, because that worked for Union Hill School

parent question: when you explain that all the data is often is the data reviewed?
MCAS is reviewed annually

"we haven't always pulled the data as a district by all of the subgroups...schools have done that at different levels...not only at MCAS, but MAP assessment..look at those data on an annual basis...sometimes there have been disconnects between what it takes for students and the resources it takes to get there"

"from a parent's point of view, we shouldn't ignore the warning...shouldn't wait to get to four years to get to this plan...and then what can we do to improve that?"
new accountability plan for the district: task force established
school improvement plans that are 80 to 100 pages long; accountability plan smaller and more focused and reviewed more often
"all of our schools in Worcester will have that new accountability plan...don't have to wait for the autopsy...more proactive mode"
"make sure that our principals and teachers understand the so-what of the question...what are the adjustments that we need to make?"

Parent question: "so much stuff was taken away from the students and the teachers, as a eldest is now question is more for the staff..I want to hear from the teachers, what is it you guys need? I don't believe that we are in this situation because of anything that teachers have done"
Boone: "have not maintained focus on student achievement like we should have"
31 of our 44 schools are deemed near-underperforming
"got to build-in systems... some things become of the reasons...I'm not knocking my predecessors..when we have to decide where to put our resources, limited as they better evaluate our" programs
wants to hold on the question to the teachers
"one thing I've heard clearly from the staff here at Union Hill: have to make sure their parents are real partners in education here at Union Hill"
sleep, checking homework (stresses that it's done, not done correctly), getting to school on time
attendance is a key issue: address it before a student gets 14 days absent
"we're all gonna have some 'aha's" once the data is laid out
when the community partners are here, then our partners can work with families to address those needs

"don't let anyone convince you that this school has failed...yet"
we're going to make sure this doesn't happen

Question: is this a new system? went through the system and maybe you're not ready for university
designation is new as of January
"in response to two things" state act
Massachusetts students in general do very well (on NAEP, SAT, etc)
certain kids do better than other kids: ELL students not graduating at same rate as others, students with special needs, students of poverty
huge achievement gap: "when only some of the students are achieving...have to do something"

Parent: child says a lot of behavior child just get sent here
why not make a school of just behavioral issues?
"even if you factor out some of those children, there still are a problem with the achievement gap"
parent cites child sent here from another school to here when he misbehaved
Boone: is there an imbalance of kids sent here for support for disability or for other reasons?

why (parent) can't we have this at all schools?
Boone explains clustering students together for staffing reasons

member of the Oak Hill CDC: my interpretation of this
"should not be a conversation of whose fault it is...everyone could take blame..this neighborhood is suffering drastically..majority of families paying much of their salaries toward rent...schools systems open to the community in various ways...might be a Know Your School Week"
switch conversation away from students
"I can honestly say that all students possess the ability to learn..what is the best way"
"what accountability measures for the community to see and know "
WPS make it avaliable
"fail the MCAS as a result of not getting a proper education and be in a bubble"
Boone: very clear what the school needs to do, what wrap-around and supportive systems needs to be brought to bear workforce development: if there are things that we can do, ways that we can do some workforce development to bring to this school, to over time reduce that economic stress

O'Connell: Success for All, children responded to it
students in it for the full year
Worc Academy and North students for mentors
"as I recall the MCAS scores at that time were quite good"
"fine staff can do with reasonable resources what has been done in the past"

Boone: one of the things we see happening in math and reading, not as much emphasis on science..infuse that balance, as well as arts, languages, athletics

EAW rep thanks parents for coming, wanted to remind parents that designation is based on MCAS, which is not a level playing field
NCLB has been an unfunded mandate
"two wars going on and the money goes you're approaching the next election, maybe you should think about whom you're supporting...questioning the support to" president

Boone: "let me also say that while there are challenges with MCAS, we can look around this country and find schools that achieving off the map"
mentions Brownville, TX as achieving ahead of the rest of the state

(yes, I'm going to look that up)

parent "our children, our future" pleads that parents get involved
"how we can do the school better"
"need parent involvement..can only voice our concerns, our children's concerns"

Questions (which are close to those at the CPPAC Parent-Guardian Roundtable):
best parts of Union Hill?
Challenges at Union Hill?
What will it take to support dreams and aspirations of every child?