Monday, May 31, 2010

Read the whole issue

It looks like the next issue of The Nation is very, very relevant to what's calling itself "ed reform" recently. The cover story gives an excellent summary of where we've been and where the Obama administration is taking us:

Before his election President Obama carved out what many regarded as a more progressive and enlightened position on education reform. Recognizing that No Child Left Behind (NCLB) had become widely unpopular because of its overemphasis on standardized tests, he declared, "Don't tell us that the only way to teach a child is to spend too much of the year preparing him to fill out a few bubbles in a standardized test." He pledged to lead the nation in a different direction.

We are still waiting for a change of course. Since the election, the president and his secretary of education, Arne Duncan, have adopted policies that, to the chagrin of many of their supporters, have had far more in common with the previous administration than expected.

You can also read an article by the woman many of us hoped would have Duncan's position, Linda Darling-Hammond, comparing the United States to other countries and assessing what it actually would take the pull ourselves up:
Rather than establishing a framework for dramatically improving the knowledge, skills and equitable distribution of teachers, as high-achieving nations have done, Race to the Top encourages states to expand alternative routes to certification and to reduce coursework for prospective teachers, despite findings that hiring teachers from low-coursework alternatives reduces student achievement. Further, Race to the Top largely misses the critical investments needed to prepare and distribute excellent teachers and school leaders. Pay bonuses alone cannot succeed in recruiting and retaining teachers without efforts to create competitive, equitable salaries and working conditions. Removing low-performing teachers cannot improve teaching or student outcomes without strategies to ensure a stable supply of highly effective teachers who stay in their communities.

There's also an article on the too-oft-ignored magnet programs, which have been, for forty years, successfully working with all kids. You can also read about community schools (something ELSE Worcester has been doing), and real innovation. Oh, and Diane Ravich is in there, too.

Send Mrs. Obama a postcard!

I mentioned in passing earlier that I was seeing something around about sending Mrs. Obama a postcard. It's been picked up, and you should send one in!
(You can even print a template here; I'm going to send one in from Worcester, myself.)

"This page left intentionally blank"

Arne Duncan and the research behind his theories.

Conspicuously missing in this report is any "research" to back up school turnarounds, which are one of the four major strategies required by the RTTT grant program, and pushed in the Blueprint.

WPS and the week ahead

Short week...much going on....
  • On Tuesday, both the standing committee on Governance and Employee Issues (5 pm), and the standing committee on Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports (5:30 pm) are meeting at the Durkin Administration Building. GEI will be approving the changes to the WPS Student Handbook, and TLSS is looking at science textbooks for grades 1-6. (Neither agenda appears to be online...nor is either meeting posted on the school website, though you can find notice of it on the city website.)
  • On Tuesday (Union Hill) and Thursday (Chandler Elementary) of this week, the Level 4 schools stakeholder groups are meeting again. Those meetings have been moved as of last week: Union Hill is meeting in Walker Hall at Worcester Academy (Walker Hall is straight in front of you as you come through the gate), and Chandler Elementary at Worcester Common Ground (7-11 Bellevue Street). As always, meetings are open to the public.
  • Wednesday is the annual preschool and kindergarten open houses for all incoming preschool and kindergarten students.
  • On Thursday, the School Committee meets at 4 pm in budget session (as it will also do on June 17). That will be followed by an executive session at 6 pm, and a regular meeting at 7 pm. Once that agenda is posted, you'll find there's a sizable back-up; that's the complete list of grants for WPS for 2009-2010.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

New Chief Accountability Officer, David Perda

School committee members were informed yesterday that the superintendent has hired David Perda for the Chief Accountability Officer post. (I've also been told that he was in town yesterday, meeting with the accountability team; I haven't met him yet.)
Currently, Mr. Perda is working for the Institute of Education Sciences as a research scientist. Previously, he worked for the Mass DoE as in the research and evaluation section for math and science department. He was an undergraduate speech major and has not worked directly in schools (he's a research guy).
His doctoral thesis (currently his doctorate appears pending from UPenn) is on national board certified teachers. He has also published on data-driven schools, the math and science teacher shortage, America's Choice in Rochester, NY, and the professionalism of the teaching profession.
He's working on a per diem basis for Worcester for now; he goes full time on July 15.
He'll be at the June 17 School Committee meeting.
I have no details on his contract.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Worcester Public Schools budget is UP

You will find the Worcester Public Schools budget here.
(caution: that is the whole thing, so it's a biggie)
The executive summary is here.
You can also find it by going to the Worcester Public Schools webpage, clicking on Departments, then Chief Financial and Operations Officer, then FY11 budget documents. I assume it'll be moved to the front page next week.

Comments, as you read, welcome! I just got my copy this afternoon, and I haven't looked through it yet.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Summer reading list is up

The summer reading lists for the Worcester Public Schools are now available online.

UPDATE: T-Traveler rightly points out below that the summer reading list with changes came out of subcommittee, went to full school committee, and then, by my recollection, was sent BACK to administration for further changes. It looks as though changes have been made, but they were not passed by School Committee (I would never have voted in favor of only writing options, for example). I've asked about this.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Virginia's out

...due to the Common Core requirement.

"We can't go back. We've been working on this for 15 years. Our standards are much superior. They're well accepted. They're validated. All the education leaders have a comfort level with those. So once again, a federal mandate to adopt a federal common core standard is just not something I can accept nor can most of the education leaders in Virginia nor can most of the legislators."

Massachusetts implemented the Mass Frameworks starting in 1993.

Why teachers need pedagogy

...and why Duncan's trying to get rid of it.
Duncan wants such colleges to focus on practical methods in order to prepare teachers for an outcome-based education system, which is code for pedagogical methods that are as anti-intellectual as they are politically conservative. This is a pedagogy useful for creating armies of number crunchers, reduced to supervising the administration of standardized tests, but not much more. Reducing pedagogy to the teaching of methods and data-driven performance indicators that allegedly measures scholastic ability and improve student achievement is nothing short of scandalous.

Charter schools aren't turnarounds

In light of last night's WEC event elevating charters as a great multi-applicable education answer, this post on (the generally rah-rah charters) The Quick and The Ed, is telling. Even when given an open door, charter schools aren't interested in being turnaround schools.
The response tells you why: you can't pick and choose your students in a turnaround school, and you can't counsel them out.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

More Worcester Education Collaborative

File under "watch this." The list of participants is telling.

Education Reform at Seventeen:
Where We've Been, Where We Are, Where We're Going
Tuesday, June 29
5:30-7 pm
Fuller Conference Center, Mass College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
25 Foster Street, Worcester

Participants will include Robert Antonucci (former Sec. of Ed), Karla Brooks Baehr (Deputy Com. of Ed), Melinda Boone (Superintendent, Worcester), Tom DelPrete (Ed prof, Clark), Kevin O'Sullivan (former state rep), Paul Reville (Sec. of Ed).

Here's the school money

"in a sense this balancing out of $20 million for schools in the capital budget"
That's $14 M in ESKO and $6 M in capital spending
This from Mayor O'Brien...lest you were concerned.

Worcester Education Collaborative opening

There was a crowd of maybe a hundred and fifty on the second floor of Mechanics Hall.

Grogan cited as doing "pioneering work in length of school day and year"
Melinda Boone "represents a superintendent's dream; to have a community that is proud of its public education..committed to the education of its time to its children"
"had the vision to establish the Worcester Education Collaborative"
"it's a huge community leadership team that looks in the mirror"
"education is very important to this community, to my community is the heart of Worcester, in the heart of Massachusetts"
"not just the support in terms of dollars...commitment that our students don't have to stand outside the gates of these institutions...challenge down the road will be how can others get into the colleges and universities of Worcester, because so many of our students are filling the seats there"
"great time to be the superintendent in the city of legacy to build upon...landscape is shifting..respond to that changing landscape...we've attempted to generate that conversation across the city..first to admit that some were painful..truly about how do we engage our community and what do we value"
"we accept that for what it is (Level 4)...don't blame students...families...teachers...principals...administrators...move the conversation forward"
"true sign of a healthy community ready to be engaged"
"preferred education provider in this community..align our students and their success with 21st century skills..make room in our hands to receive more, have to let go of some things"
"Worcester is a city of immigrants...prides itself on everyone having great opportunities"

Paul Grogan "who can resist an opportunity to drive from Boston to Worcester at rush hour?"
"the latest fruit of that engagement"
"an enormous statement that you're making of shared responsibility...absolutely necessary..particularly for low income children who increasingly dominate our urban communities"
"we do have to say that urban public education in the United States remains an enormous disaster, an enormous disaster"
"I thought of the children being flushed out of our schools, mostly urban schools, at the rate of a million a year"
"will earn {less}, be incarcerated more often"
"will cost the nation three trillion dollars in lost wages in their lifetime"
"50 largest cities have graduation rates below 50%" (Worcester's is higher)
"previously the explanation was that these children are in poverty...the data would seem to support this hypothesis...but that's also a way of taking us all off the hook, and you obviously don't want to be taken off the hook..and in the last several decades we've found these theories are wrong..too many of them down to be dismissed as accidental"
"I believe we are getting to a place where have data supporting"
(and YES, there are the charter schools!)
'an opportunity here...catch is, we have to do things very differently"
"entrenched interests fighting the changes"
"charter schools the best in the state..." (and here come those stats on charters, but none on special education students, parent choice, etc, etc.)
"appear to have very large messages about what it will take to extent these successes to many"
"tremendous breakthrough with the Ed Reform bill...radical piece of legislation if it used"
"love that your superintendent talked about schools of choice"
"new powers to bring new ideas into the system, often pioneered by charter schools" (oh, really? Like what?)
"shifting ground"
"I think that with your collaborative, Worcester can be the place that makes a difference"
"Parent constituency is too weak to demand performance" compares to suburbs where "parents demand results" (I don't think that's the case, and I think it's a question of empowerment rather than size of district)
"that is why your collaborative is so important"
"let's hold this institution responsible for results, because it's terribly terribly important"
"In God We Trust, everybody else bring data"
"the good news is, we have the data...we've had a data revolution...the problem is that data has to be kept, marshaled, and kept in front the public, I would argue by an independent entity, like the Boston Foundation"
list of statistics regarding who completes a college degree upon graduation (you may have seen the Boston Globe story)

urge collaborative to create a picture, a pipeline, and "set tough but ambitious goals"
"but above all keep that picture in view"
"to insist that those that are blocking change get out of the way"
"you can get your arms around this"
"product of that great thing called human ingenuity"
"you may or may not be fans of charter schools...classic case of entrepreneurs freed from the shackles"
No doubt the charter school system is going to keep growing
the question is "whether school districts will succeed in importing to their districts those things that work"
(I left at this point, as they opened the floor for questions, but I did hear that the first one rejected the comparison of charters to public schools, as they have different numbers of kids in class)

Worcester Education Collaborative

The Worcester Education Collaborative's opening event is tonight at Mechanics Hall. The speaking piece starts at 7. Among the speakers is Worcester Superintendent Melinda Boone and Paul Grogan of the Boston Foundation (hmmm...).
While I will not be able to live-blog, I will be taking notes and I will post them once I get wifi, probably at City Council.

"assessments beyond the MCAS"

...says the Commissioner.

Monday, May 24, 2010

The City sold the airport for $17 million...

...and the Worcester Public Schools have a $67 million facilities repair backlog....
...and how much money is going to the schools?

Not. one. cent.

Nice set of priorities we've got here.

You will find the emails of the city councilors, who will be presented with both the airport MOU and the City Manager's suggested allocation of funds tomorrow night, here.
UPDATE: I'm hearing some money may come in...put me under "waiting to see it" because it isn't written down here!

Same building...not much else

You probably by now have come across Steven Brill's New York Times Sunday Magazine cover story "The Teachers' Union Last Stand" (I'll refrain from comment on the title). Brill compares a charter and a public school sharing the same building: "Same building. Same community. Sometimes even the same parents. And the classrooms have almost exactly the same number of students. In fact, the charter school averages a student or two more per class."
But guess what? Not the same kids.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Opinions on the MCAS Guardian Report?

If you have a child in grade 4 or above, you've received in the past an MCAS Guardian report, giving you imformation about how your child did on the MCAS.

What did you think of it?

Should you have any sort of opinion, DESE (aka: the state) wants to hear from you. They are working with Mass PIRC to collect parental thought and bring it back. They're meeting in Worcester this week:
Tuesday, May 25
Worcester Public Library

Please attend if you have thoughts on this!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Duncan on the ed jobs bill

(hat tip, Nicole)
And goodness, hasn't he gotten enthusiastic about our "unsung heroes"?
Excellent questions!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Stakeholder groups

Mayor O'Brien on the stakeholder groups
"where parents plug in..where parents can check in on the process"
Boone: at the conclusion of each of the community meetings, email, survey (he's talking about the Level 4 schools...she's talking about the reorg meetings. I think that this demonstrates how much we've got going on.)
plans for fall, no plans until fully vetted throughout the community
Mulqueen: "be careful what you ask for...just completed typing all of the answers"

I think that admin just figured out that they were not answering the question that he's asking
Mulqueen cites Stand for Children as organizing meetings for parents
"very open meeting, very open dialogue, very open and honest communication"

O'Connell: time precludes anyone working 9-5 coming
location precludes anyone coming who cannot drive (and in an intimidating building)
"the message we send is that the meetings are organized for the convenience of the administration"
asks how classes are being covered
"create a sad irony: ...we are taking teachers out of their classes...deprieving kids of the quality of their education so their teachers can improve the quality of education"
"we may be sending a bad message, and we may be hurting in the short term the education of those students"
asks that key meetings be held at locations more easily accessed, at times more easily accessed
Boone: "timing of the meeting didn't allow space"
"worked to accommodate parents schedule"

O'Brien agrees with and echoes O'Connell's points

Novick: glad to hear how schedule was established: first she'd heard of when meetings were was when she was told
echoes O'Connell's concerns: perception is that this on administration's schedule and in their building
City Council demonstrated much of the community concern around these schools
use every opportunity to talk about and show what's happening not only in stakeholder groups but also in the actual schools

Autism programs

"growing by almost geometric means"
what sort of planning do we have to do as this population is growing
some members toured the autism program at Gates Lane
SpedPAC will be invited to subcom to discuss

item on instructional coaches

"request that the administration provide the School Committee members with the process and qualifications which make one eligible to fill the position of a Focused Instructional Coach to ensure a fair and equitable determination of employment"
Biancheria: asks if we're consistent in applying evaluation
Boone: requirements have shifted based on current need
Luster says that she'd like to give a written response

Superintendent's Student Advisory Council

A number of the representatives are here tonight, as the superintendent is presenting her report about them this evening. They are high school students who meet with the superintendent once a month
We've just received a letter that the council is sending to Commissioner Chester about high school graduation requirements.
"met monthly to discuss issues pertinent to the student body"
  • agreed that all students should have the opportunity for internships
  • option of using bookbags in high school
  • gym credits (use of varsity of sports for gym requirement), fine arts, foreign languages
  • Needs for lunch

They met not only with the superintendent, but with relevant members of the administration depending on the topics they wanted to discuss.

Worcester School Committee tonight

The Worcester School Committee has its last regular meeting before budget tonight at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.
In addition to lots of honors--we've got everyone from Model United Nations to robotics teams to Central District musicians coming in tonight!--there's a superintendent's report on the student advisory council, an item on summer feeding programs, a response on licensed teachers (the answer: they are), several items on building repair and maintenance, and one on parental participation in stakeholders' meetings.
There is also a supplemental agenda giving a date and time for the Worcester East Middle meeting: June 2 from 5:30-7:30 at the school (p. 4), and receiving generous donations in memory of Maxine Levy for a scholarship fund at Burncoat High. We'll also be setting a date and time for evaluating the superintendent.

Massachusetts scrapping the MCAS?

The Globe via an internal DESE memo has the story this morning: it seems that Massachusetts may in fact be signing up for the national standards--and the accompanying national test--after all. They'd scrap the MCAS to do that, but, other than potentially being cheaper, I can't see that this would improve things. In fact, it would remove the question of "what's on the test" even farther away from schools.
And why would Massachusetts be doing it? There's that little matter of $250 million out there...
('though Commissioner Chester is giving mixed signals on that, too)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Missing Gerald Bracey

If the fear-mongers can scare you sufficiently (how many times have you heard the phrase "failing schools" in the past five years?), you might permit them to do to your public schools things you would otherwise never allow.

Cited here, along with what you should not be doing with the NAEP scores.

A few FY11 budget clarifications

As there's fairly extensive local education coverage in today's T&G, and the comments are flying fast and furious. A few clarifying notes:
  • The administration is slated for a zero percent pay increase this year, as they had this past year. Yes, that includes Mr. Allen. Admin also pays 25% of their health insurance.
  • The regular ed bus contract is $8.8 million for next year (thus one could not, per Q, save $10 million on it).
  • There are administrative cuts (you can argue about how many there are, but let's not pretend there aren't any).
  • Nearly half of the WPS employees are contributing at 75-25% already: all of admin, all non-union, all new hires.
  • Worcester is at nearly the bottom of the barrel when it comes to local contribution to education. The state mandate for education spending? We are 0.1% over it. The state average is 14%.

Teacher turnover and education

The L.A. Unified school district has been barred from layoffs at three schools deemed underperforming by the California Superior Court. In his ruling, the judge said:
...the evidence shows there is a distinct relationship between high teacher turnover and the quality of educational opportunities afforded: High teacher turnover devastates educational opportunity.

What are we using those tests for?

We've got a federal agenda right now pushing the use of standardized tests for all sorts of things. Here's a better look on the concerns around using them for teacher evaluation.

The lesson of the NRC-NAEd report is that even though value-added methodologies offer a number of advantages over other approaches that consider test-score data in a vacuum, policymakers need to move carefully in adopting any approach—value-added or otherwise—in making important decisions about individual teachers.

Urban education and the stimulus

A report here on where it went...and the hole many districts are in.

The council's survey is based on responses from 40 big city school districts and represents the spending of more than $7.2 billion in economic-stimulus funding. School districts sought waivers to help them spend the stimulus funds quickly and and across a variety of platforms.

What's that you say?

Poverty has something to do with 4th grade reading scores?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

More on schools

I left at this point, but there were more remarks made by Council on schools. (start at 8:28)

Parent at Columbus Park

wants to know how much of the $20 million from the airport is going to schools: going to sidewalks, not to schools
wants to stay in the city, not move to the suburbs
has 30 kids in his son's kindergarten class; what will happen next year in first grade?

Cheryl Delsignore, EAW president

"present state of debate is very alarming"
economics plays a very great part in what we do every day
"Worcester's not the same as Lexington and Shrewsbury"
Worcester has funded their schools less than 1% above what they are required to; state average is 14%
devestating to let them go; it's a challenge
"we don't need...the teachers know what we need"
need more teachers, lower class sizes
to address poverty, homelessness
need a longer day
400 per guidance councilors; national average is 100
"we're cutting all of our business programs!"
"we need much more in our schools than math and reading"
"you need to step up and start acting...we've got to stop the flood of dollars going away from our schools"
"if your kids don't go to schools in the Worcester Public Schools, then why not?"
"we need the resources to make this the best public school system it can be"
enthusiastic applause
I should note as well that teachers rallied this afternoon on the Common before meeting with the legislative delegation.

Smith comments

Councilor Smith: "shine some more light on the school side of things"
ESKO: do you see energy savings growing?
Allen: won't be immediate savings, but yes, something we're looking at
Class size: any reason why there are over 30 in four classes?
Boone: yes (as she said) no more classroom space in those schools
Smith: if we got $3.3 million due to 75-25% on health insurance, what would you do with it?
restore positions
would that help Level 4/ Level 3 schools?
Mulqueen: any cuts hurt, for certain; "have to reshuffle what we're doing"
Smith: looking at data, using resources
and he just cited Level 3 schools again
Boone expects movement on 100% of schools

Toomey remarks

note that people are streaming in from outside
"know that this is a very difficult process..fluid process"
per pupil cost? $10,000
asks if is't that the same as it was when she was on SC? Yes, not going up with inflation
student population? Just under 24,000
tutors: what do you have planned for the places they're cut?
"experts are saying 15 or less, clearly we aren't going to get there"
Boone: keeping 27 tutors, using more sparingly
attrition rate: projected retirements?
significantly down from previous years
Toomey: still might be positions saved from people who have not told you that they plan to retire?
could be
asks for a copy of actual positions cut

Rushton comments

asks if the breakdown of added students can be more than one?
you can be both low income and ELL (for example)
reviews the numbers for low income, ELL,
more money for low income? Yes, but the Title 1 funding is projected to be down by 8%
Is that the only area that we receive a bump up for those students?
we get an increase for any ELL and low income
what are you finding of the actual cost versus how much we get?
intent of adequacy study: all of these are issues of concerns
I should note that Brian Allen is taking all of these questions
do we have numbers?
"I do understand sports analogies...I hear the word 'strain'...conversely, I'm hearing 29 out of 44 schools are Level 3 or Level 4...maybe you can say it's not the whole school,, that's not really working for me...I'm not hearing the alarm bells...a delta between what it costs to educate a student and what we are given...economic development tool as well as a quality of life tool...when we come back to budget, I kinda gotta get a sense from the school administration that we're passively accepting that we're not going to get more money...corralation between getting more money and student achievement...if there are areas that you as an educator don't feel comfortable signing off on, I need to know that...want to be sure we're delivering a quality product"
Boone: you just signified to me that I did hit a home run...we've got to do something differently
"we're beginning to take a very proactive have captured everything that we struggle with"
focus on class size...would not ask for money to focus on just general things
I think she either just intentionally or inadvertently misread him...he was saying "do you need us to raise taxes? If you do, you need to put some fire behind it"
what I heard is that you'd focus on Level 3 schools in decending order as they are ranked?
Boone: used across the district...have to ensure there are opportunities for success
details: where the teachers should go?
won't know until this summer how our schools have done on the spring MCAS
"if you can't give me the school, then I want to know the prioritization"
and he wants previous years MCAS


asks for a copy of the budget: broken down by school? Yes
likely June 8 passing City budget; notes that School Committee is holding a hearing after that
244 increase across the city
changing demographic of special ed: on balance an increase of 773 students
increase of low income students of 1367 students
requirements around transportation? 2 miles except for safety concerns that may warrent transportation
asks how many positions that will be cut are currently filled? nearly all
have they been notified? yes
elementary will be better this year than last year?
prioritizing putting additional funds into literacy, elementary, secondary
will elementary be better off? It depends on what you mean by 'better off"
elementary class size down, tutors cut

Lukes questions

assumed 25-75%?
No, it's 20-80% (but by breakdown; retirees and new hires are already at 75-25%)
asks if it's a zero salary increase? yes
Lukes cites that the cityside 25-75 breakdown (for renegotiated contracts on the city side), with zero ('though not across the board...and most had some money built in in some way)
mention of step increases, which are still happening
3 1/2--4 1/2 step increases; note that 85% of teachers are at the top of the salary schedule
the step increases for those still getting them is about 1.5 million

comments from Councilor Haller

asks number of schools: 44 comprehensive schools and several alternative programs
asks if 29 plus 2 of those schools would be underperforming...have not met AYP (note that this does not, according to the state, mean Level 3)
asks if the money for the Level 4 schools money is included in the budget? No
asks if the money coming through might supplant anything here? No, it cannot, by federal reg

regionalization: has there been any discussion about regionalization partnerships? including with the City? (HR, or other services or departments)
educational collaborative is a regional service
conversations with small districts who struggle with providing services required
engage with City in conversations now that she knows better the district
accountability officer: asks for comment?
Mayor says cuts that were made to pay for that position
"currently we have no method by which we evaluate our effectiveness in any practices"
"looking to restructure our school improvement plans so they are much more user-friendly and much more used"
"we have to be able to quantify what's making a difference"
"since 2003, at least, the need to address use of data around instruction...has been identified by the state as needed...critical to drive the achievement we need to have in this district"
"not to support me"
"$500,000 in administrative reductions" in FY10, and remains in FY11

Stakeholders' meetings

...note that they are in the library at the Durkin Administration Building...not the library

Worcester Public Schools budget

...released by next Friday, May 28.
School Committee will meet on it on June 3 and 17, both at 4 pm at City Hall.

Liveblogging City Council: FY11 Worcester Public Schools budget: Boone

Boone's presentation: "been discussing our process around meeting the challenge of this budget and future budgets"
"as the months have gone on, the realization of those numbers have really come to pass"
"focusing on some key areas: lower class sizes at safety..early literacy...comprehensive curriculum preparation, AP, increased rigor and relevance"
"what's our work in education? It's teaching and learning."
"the summary of the FY11 budget status...nearly $17 million deficit" (it's $16.8 million)
"we have avaliable to us $8.2 million" in stimulus funding (remaining)
reviews the use of stimulus funds to save jobs for the past three years
Senate budget comes out tomorrow. State is using about $3.6 million to meet their contribution to Worcester.
State's contribution is down by $1.4 million from FY10
decline in charter school reimbursement of $119,526
negative inflation factor this year for the first time; -2.2% (figured on the basis of state and local spending, which is down)
growth of student enrollment of 244 students...
appears that state and federal grants are level funded with the exception of Title 1, in which we are anticipating a drop of 8%
(note that this is decreasing federal spending on the backs of poor kids)
Boone on zero based budgeting: "absolutely no stone has been unturned"

budget solutions: $8 million in stimulus funding, $1 million in school choice, $1 million in other stimulus funding, cutting 140 positions ($3.6 million), $2.2 million in operating reductions, $840,00 in other sources

note that the City Manager just went over to talk to the CFO for the city...hmmm

Superintendent notes the cuts since 2002: $60 million
cut 21% of staff
supply spending cut by 52% (to $63 per pupil)
technology spending cut by 86%
reductions in staff development, building maintenance, athletics, fine art

compliance review: ELL, special ed for state compliance

increasing 8 elementary teachers, 11 special ed teachers, 8 ESL teachers
drop in high school enrollment of 10% since 2005 (this is the opposite of a bubble--a dip?--moving through the system)

there are two cops outside, clearly waiting for the protestors outside to come in for tonight's 7 pm meeting

review of elementary class size: estimate of 4 classes of 30 or more across the city, all in places were there is not another classroom to split those classes; 8 classes of 27-30 across the city

other changes: Parent Information Center for all registration, merging grants into Finance and Operations
"obviously any loss of positions after we've lost 22% of our staff since 2002...we're strained"
would look to restore positions THOUGH NOT NECESSARILY THE SAME ONES if there were more money coming in
more teachers coming in...the EAW rallied at City Hall at 3;30 and have been meeting with the legislative delegation this afternoon

Liveblogging City Council

The city council is in an hour and half early tonight to hear the WPS budget. I believe we are waiting for a quorum...the presentation here isn't really any different from what was presented at last week's Finance and Operations meeting.
Beyond the School Committee, there isn't much of a crowd here.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Admin gets cut, too

Per the T&G's cover story today and the comments on it, I thought I'd clarify: there are administrative cuts in this year's budget (as proposed), as well. The administration has proposed the cut of:
  • the coordinator of team chairpersons in special ed
  • school plant administrator
  • 4 head teaching coaches
  • literacy facilitator
  • family involvement facilitator
  • a school safety office position
  • 4 grant finance clerks (the grant office and the business office have combined)
  • 3 clerical positions
  • 4 custodial and school plant staff
Those are all central office or systemwide positions, for a total deduction of over a million dollars. The last three positions are perhaps not quite what people mean when they say 'administrators'; even the first six positions add up to over six hundred thousand dollars.
Plus, administration is proposing merging the manager of student supports with the ELL director, which will save another $111,000. (Some of those responsibilities will be shifted elsewhere.)
It isn't all falling on the classroom this year.

City Council hears the school budget

Just a reminder that the Worcester City Council will hear with Worcester Public Schools budget tomorrow night at 5:30 at City Hall.

Statistics 101

Cross-posted on Blue Mass Group, because Bill is on vacation.
The new study put out by the Boston Foundation gives a superb example of a principle from Statistics 101: correlation is not causation.
In other words, just because THIS happens and THAT happens, THIS did not necessary cause THAT.
Just because charter schools students on average spend more time in school and charter school students get better grades on tests ('though they don't, come to think of it), the time spent in school does not necessarily cause the better grades.
In order to prove that, you would have to control all other variables. You'd have to have exactly the same sort of kids--same grades, study habits, family involvement, neighborhoods, ethnicity, disabilities. You'd have to change ONLY the time spent in school: not, say, the amount of family involvement you have to have in a "choice" program.
This would, one would hope, be screamingly obvious to the reporter at a metropolitan daily, not to mention the backer of charter school research, but, alas, it appears their educations did not extend quite so far.

(And yes, Worcesterites, that is the same Paul Grogan who is keynoting the new Worcester Education Collaborative's inaugural event next week! Interesting choice, don't you think?)

How much is $23 billion?

You may have heard of the $23 billion education jobs bill languishing in the Senate? Here's a little perspective on how much that is.
Twenty-three billion is a bit more than we spent the first year in Afghanistan.

No excuses?

Among the mantras of the new "ed reformers" is "no excuses."
"We know," the mantra goes, "that our kids don't have enough to eat at home, that some of them have unstable family lives, that some of them are still adjusting to speaking English, that there are all sort of things going on outside the school...but it doesn't matter. There are no excuses."

Uh, well, this report from the Detroit Free Press on lead begs to differ.
The data also show, for the first time in Detroit, a link between higher lead levels and poor academic performance. About 60% of DPS students who performed below their grade level on 2008 standardized tests had elevated lead levels.
Turns out that some of what happens outside of school comes in with the kids.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

What do the Royals have in common with WPS?

Sean has the analogy.

Level 4 stakeholder group

...was entirely covered by today's T&G.
Note that School Committee received this information yesterday.

Michigan high schools arrested at education sit-in at Governor's office

Michigan high school students were arrested in Lansing Wednesday after they staged a sit-in at the Governor's office to protest the actions of Robert Bobb, the emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools. Bobb has been a controversial appointee, facing conflict with parents, teachers, and staffers, among others. (Bobb is a Broad Superintendent's graduate, class of 2005, graduating the year after Worcester's Melinda Boone.)
The students had asked to meet with the Governor, who refused and also refused to send a staffer out to meet with them. The Governor appointed Bobb.
The protest was organized by the local chapter of By Any Means Necessary

Friday, May 14, 2010

Level 4 stakeholders group update: NOTE CHANGE

...because for some reason this isn't being made public? While we're working on that, here's what I've got:

The first of the Level 4 stakeholder group meetings was held this week at Worcester Tech. Both groups--the one from Union Hill and the one from Chandler Elementary--attended, as there was some introductory work to do. After this, the Union Hill group will be meeting on Tuesdays from 12-4 at the Durkin Administration Building (room 410) [that's the change], and the Chandler Elementary group will be meeting at the Durkin Administration Building (room 410) on Thursdays from 12-4. The meetings are public.
I've asked for, but I've not yet gotten, a list of the stakeholders for each group. I can tell you that the mayor appointed Councilor Haller to the Chandler Elementary group, and me to the Union Hill group. There are two teachers serving on each committee, a parent representative for each, as well as the new principals of each school. There are also a range of service and community organizations represented, as well as school administration and the state (and I'm going to wait to get the full list to even guess here). The state law mandates the stakeholder group be no more than 13 people.
In addition to walking the groups through Level 4 designation (which I won't go into here as you've heard it before), the group was given the state's "Essential Conditions of School Effectiveness". These were passed by the Board of Ed last summer and are the conditions that each stakeholder group for a Level 4 school is being asked to consider and make recommendations around.
The groups then considered (in order) conditions 1, 2, and 7 on the list, all of which have to do with school leadership, the authority it has, and how the school system supports it.
This coming week, the stakeholder groups will be asked to look at aligned curriculum (number 4), and effective instruction (number 5).

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Worcester: A City That Reads

Posted at the request of my colleague on Worcester School Committee, John Monfredo, who with his wife Anne-Marie puts this together each year.

Donations of new and gently used children's books urgently needed!

Each year "Worcester: A City That Reads" collects books for Worcester Public School students, far too many of whom don't have books in their homes. Having books at home has a great deal to do with literacy later in life. The aim is to get a book for every child in elementary school in the Worcester Public School system.

This year, donations are down.

If you have kids and haven't culled the library lately, are there things in good shape that your kids have outgrown? Things you have doubles of?
Have you gotten any bargains lately at the bookshop?

You can find bright yellow boxes at the Worcester Public Library, every Flagship, Commerce, and Bay State Savings Bank in the city, Barnes and Noble, Ben Franklin and the Greendale Mall (among others). Please bring in your donations soon!

Secondary class size by high school

These are slides 22 and 23 of last night's budget presentation, and the administration's back-up for the proposed cut of secondary teachers.

Mobility in WPS

You will want to read Jeremy Shulkin's excellent article on mobility and how it hits Worcester Public Schools in today's Worcester Magazine.

Presentation is up

When they say it'll be up, it goes up.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Closing remarks

Boone: parents have given a great deal of thought to the budget
open process
understand the revenue streams
thank the public for being thoughtful throughout the process

Monfredo: sharing Medicaid in other communities
could we get additional funding from nursing?
Allen: working with Medicaid claim providers to identify impact on city going forward
grant money percentage: how much money would we save if it were 1 instead of 3? $900,000
Boone: we have been continuing those conversations, even last week

Biancheria thanks people for coming and lobbying for concerns
"please stay with it and please stay informed"

O'Connell (to whom Foley has commented more than once will have some BRIEF remarks): as of May 28, going over it line-by-line, page-by-page
"any thoughts you have as we approach that last week"
says he's received more mail this year than before on the budget: "I worry more when people don't react to the budget"


Jenith Charpentier, parent at Lakeview
priority if additional funds found: listed in order?
No, they are not
we'd identify the amount of money first, then look how it could best be used
pay attention positions that were previously cut at small schools
parent liasons were cut at small schools: administrative position to float at small schools is her suggestion

Safety, literacy, MCAS, nutrition

Diane Trusic, parent (I'm sorry if I've mangled your name)
question about school safety being a major issue: how would you help with school safety being a budget priority?
early literacy? test scores for her son's school are very low: have concerns
school safety continues to be a priority, Boone
"preventative and proactive approach"
"little bump in 2000 MCAS testing"
Mulqueen: in MAP, all but one area is on track to reaching proficiency
"early results from what we suspect is the Focus on Results work...we can see that the bump up is starting to become more us some good hope"
looking to implement some new technology for our older readers who aren't as confident as well
school nutrition: no cuts, no price increase, higher quality

Senator Chandler

Senator Harriette Chandler: point of information
Senate budget out next Wed, amendments due Friday, following Monday debate begins
local aid will be exactly the same as the House budget
depending what revenues look like, if they are a bit better, maybe we will look at local aid again...remains to be seen


Mike Perotto, former City Councilor (current candidate for state rep)
wish us luck with our budget process
comments on the great support shown in Worcester for public schools (we're .1% over foundation?)
"commend Congressman McGovern for the federal stimulus money"
asks how the negative inflation rate works
Allen: inflation factor is based on spending from state and local governments, as spending went down, inflation factor went negative

what will the cuts do?

another parent asks what difference the cuts would make
Boone: research and development department to help us tell
"cutting teachers will increase class sizes"
elementary will be less than 27 (average)
need to study impact tutors have had on academic achievement
suggest try to maintain the level in lower elementary classes "where they can't help themselves"

Health insurance split

Dawn Johnson, parent
"just like to ask regarding health insurance a small business owner"
what would be the savings to the school system if all employees went to 75-25 on health insurance?
$3.3 million would be saved, nearly wiping out the job losses


Tami Hale: RN in WPS, parent in WPS
"it is my duty as a patient advocate to make sure you are aware...15 WPS are without a nurse for a good part of the day"
a child in school may well not have a nurse on hand
more than 4000 students with special healthcare needs
"do all that you can to be sure that all of our schools are staffed with a nurse all day every day"

Cathy Watterson: RN in WPS
having a school nurse in the building every day keeps the kids safe and learning
"not having a nurse in the building puts extra stress on staff and administration"

And because it's my blog, and because I agree with them, let me point out that full nursing would mean 5 additional nurses, which would cost $275,000. Plenty, but not much in the context of $333 million.

Parent liasons, mental health

Nicole Hazard: parent at Chandler Elementary
priority given to parent liason
how to support children with mental health issues
"asking that we do not negotiate the mental health issues of the children at school"
when stress is addressed...children have been doing much better
"if we address the mental health of our children, they learn to cope better with their environment" then they can learn better
"just need a little bit of hospitality"
"stay focused on these services that we have in school"
doctor willing to facilitate a community connection within the school (improve health in the school)
Ronald McDonald van service
And very cool that Ms. Hazard was here tonight; she spent all afternoon in the stakeholders' meeting about Chandler Elementary, as she is the parent representative.

Special ed at Flagg Street

Stacy Woods: parent at Flagg St speaking of special ed teacher at Flagg St
(the position is being reallocated, from Flagg elsewhere, due to numbers; Flagg currently has the lowest staff-student ratio in special ed in the city)
one teacher for primary, one for intermediate
special ed teacher works with students who are "transitioning into regular classroom"
"urge not to undo something that works very very well"
"I beg you not to forget that these special ed teachers work not only with students, but work with parents...teachers...benefits are far-reaching"
going over "just doesn't cut it for some kids"

Questions from Foley

Foley: other cost savings, other revenue?
extension of retirement schedule
possible early retirement schedule for non-teachers...have to look at closely, might not work for all (retire, rather than layoff)
administration grant fee up from city 1% to 3%
Medicaid reimbursement
new charter school in the city of Worcester: only community in the state to add one
more students we are educating for less money: "irony is not lost on any of us"
significant reductions of staffing on the elementary side
negative inflation: step increases, utilities going up
inflation rate is calculated on municipal spending: "a self-fulfilling prophecy"

savings that already has come through (or could)

re-bid the special ed contract: saves $350,000
utility savings of $400,000
health insurance rates less $450,000
pre-purchase of instructional supplies $200,000
reallocation of federal stimulus $800,000 (staff development)

centralizing student registration Pre-K to 12 in Parent Information Center

retirement schedule extension could save us $600,000 if it passes House and Senate (it isn't in the budget)


high school enrollment has declined 10% since 2005-06
increases teacher load to match elementary levels
does not change the graduation requirement or eliminate course offerings

(high school staffing charts...I'm going to ask for these)
20-23 students per class

reducing even one of the additional elementary teachers will add a class of 28 somewhere in the district
the classrooms that are more than 30 is a lack of space issue

And some additions

compliance issues in sped and ELL
increasing 8 elementary positions, 11 sped, and 8 ESL
Yes, you read that right...there will be positions added in these departments.

A bit of WPS budgetary history

Since FY02, $60 million in cuts
820 positions
8 schools closed
52% in supply spending
tech spending cut by 86%

Allen: how we make up the deficit

$8.2 million of federal stimulus
$2 million in school choice money and additional federal stimulus
$3.59 million in positions cut (that's 140 positions)
$2.2 in operational reductions
$840,000 other funding sources (school nutrition self-funding)

22 central office
31 secondary teachers
72 tutors
15 school-based clerical postions

Allen: did we get here?

reduction from Governor's budget of $14 million
ch. 70 down $1.2 mil
city contribution down $425,000
8% cut in Title 1 $ 883,438 (or so)
current budget deficit of $18 million for FY11

final year of IDEA and Title 1 stimulus funding: using $8 million
FY09 used $19 million=380 jobs
FY10 used $24.1 million=480 jobs
FY11 will use $11.9 million=238 jobs saved stimulus funding
total in $55 million spent over three years

$319 million in revenue in total next year
state is offsetting the larger decrease anticipated in state funding
$195 million coming from state, about $1.3 million less than this year
FY11 foundation budget is $275.8 million
foundation growth of $1.2 million [we have a negative inflation factor (-2.2%) so that's a reduction of $6.6 million ]
enrollment goes up but negative inflation sends us down
city contribution $90 million, $400,000 for Medicaid + $130,000 in Medicaid, FY10 INET (connections) $130,000, FY11 growth in foundation $2.5 million= 93.3 million
federal grants of $25 million, state grants of $4.8 million (so far as we can tell thus far)

Level service costs would add up to $335 million
we have $319 million
there's the $16.8 million we are missing

Allen: budgetary focus

Allen: (note that this presentation will be up online Thursday morning)
official budget presented in two weeks
focus is on: low elementary class size
school safety
early literacy
comprehensive curriculum Programming
college prep, AP

FY11 budget hearing: introductory remarks

$65 million or more over eight years cut
$19 million last year, $25 million this year, $8 million next year in stimulus, keeping us on an even keel (or minimizing damage)
Foley: "let's state unequvically that none of these cuts make any sense...not a wise cut"
I pointed out that our budget this year is actually less than last year, despite our budget going up. I also pointed out that, as lousy as this year, next year is going to be worse: we're out of stimulus funds.
Boone: process "everything was a possiblity and everything was examined"
"obviously we couldn't just continue to look at the budget as taking off layers...alignment with what are the functions that we need to have happen"
"what are the the state has revised its accountability system"
"aligning resources in the way that makes the most sense as it relates to student achievement"

General notes on the FY11 budget hearing

A few general notes to start:
This was not the full budget presentation or hearing. The full budget will come out on May 28 (to, I am assured, not only the School Committee in a hard copy, but to the public online).
The budget will be heard, debated, and passed over two School Committee meetings: June 3 and June 17, both at 4 pm, at City Hall. Public comment on particular parts of the public is possible under suspension of rules.
The presentation from tonight will be up online tomorrow on the WPS website.

The short version:

Level service costs--from last year: increases only of teachers' step increases, health insurance increases, other increases in costs without additional services--would add up to $335 million
we have $319 million coming to us from federal, state, and city sources
there's the $16.8 million we are missing

Then we add in the $8.2 remaining in stimulus funds (and, reminder, that's it. No more stimulus), which brings us down to $8.6 million to fill.
$2 million is avaliable to use from school choice funds and from moving some additional stimulus funds over.
There's $840,000 this year due to school nutrition become self-funding on insurance
Administration is thus suggesting $3.59 million in positions cut (it's 140 positions, some full time, some part time)
and $2.2 million in operating reductions

How many Level 3's?

And you'll see that the T&G has caught the change in Level 3's in today's paper.
Under the new definition, Level 3 schools will be in the lowest 20 percent of schools in the state. The state will calculate which schools qualify after the 2010 Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System test and adequate yearly progress data are released.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The rest of the budget

And while you're marking your calendar, you might mark next Tuesday at 5:30. That's when the City Council will hear the WPS budget for FY11.

A new education bumper sticker

If you win a Pulitzer, thank a teacher.

Blogging with elementary students

I found this one fascinating.

Another F for RTTT

A Harvard study gives Delaware a C- and Tennessee an F in the standards they are using for students:

In the Education Next study, the researchers looked at the percentage of fourth- and eighth-grade students in each state that performed proficient on the 2009 NAEP math and reading exams, and then compared that with the percentage of students deemed proficient on state assessments.

States with a similar percentage of students proficient on state tests and on the NAEP test earned an ‘A.’ But lower grades were given to states with high percentages of students proficient on state exams but with low percentages of proficient students on NAEP. The exact grade depended on how much lower state results were than the world-class NAEP.

Tennessee, with an 'F,' was at the bottom of the list of states and the District of Columbia. It reported that 90 percent of its fourth-grade students were proficient in math on Tennessee’s own assessment, though NAEP tests showed that only 28 percent were performing at the proficient level. Results in reading at the fourth- and eighth-grade reading levels were similar.

Delaware earned a ‘C minus.’ The state said that 77 percent of its fourth-grade students were proficient in math though on the NAEP only 36 percent were. In eighth-grade reading, Delaware said 81 percent of its students were proficient, though only 31 percent were proficient on NAEP.

Massachusetts? Earned an A

School turnaround conversation

...going on over at Education Sector, though I'd consider some of the sources, in reading.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Stimulus funds

And the next time someone tells you the federal stimulus funds didn't do anything, tell them that Worcester would have laid off 500 teachers in the last two years without it.
And then ask them how we would have taught 24,000 kids after losing one-seventh of our staff.

More of that lack of opposition

Here's a bit more on that "zero" opposition Secretary Duncan is getting to his education policies.
My guess? Willful blindness.

School Committee meets with McGovern

Just a at 6:30 pm the Worcester School Committee is meeting with Congressman McGovern. Discussion will particularly focus on the re-authorization of ESEA.
The conference room at the Durkin Administration Building, 20 Irving Street, and by virtue of it having a quorum, yes, it is a public meeting.

aMAzing teachers?

And okay, points to whoever came up with the title...nice one

The state of Massachusetts is rolling out their new search for teachers in underperforming schools today. You'll find their website, aMAzing teachers (get it?) here. You can also find them on Twitter and Facebook, they say, 'though those links just get you the state Elementary and Secondary department.
The Globe gave them a front page article on it, including this telling tidbit, "A private foundation in Boston provided funding for the site."

Oh, really? I wonder where the money's coming from this time. UPDATE: I'm told it's coming from the Boston Foundation. Yes, that was what I'd feared...

The stakeholders' groups are just being generated in some places--in Worcester, they have their first meeting this week--so how this is going to interact with teachers who are in place (I've heard that most in Worcester at Union Hill and Chandler Elementary are opting to stay, 'though we'll see), the new principals, the stakeholder plans, and teacher union contracts (which, no, are not superseded by Level 4 status), is all a bit unclear.

UPDATE: Here's a teacher's take.

UK Nationwide testing boycott

...has gotten enough teachers on board that it's working:
The estimate of the amount of disruption caused by a boycott of the tests - in maths and English - increased yesterday. Christine Blower, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the number of schools backing the boycott ranged from 30 per cent to 75 per cent from local authority to local authority. Overall, about half of the 17,000 schools due to sit the tests are set to abandon them...
The NUT - along with the National Association of Head Teachers - has voted in favour of boycotting the tests because they believe the importance placed on them - with performance tables based on their results - has forced schools to teach to the tests at the expense of the broader curriculum...

Another charter editorial which the T&G does not disclose the conflict of interest of having an editorial on charter schools written by an editor married to a teacher at one.
Ethics 101, guys.

(I've posted the full text of the Inspector General's letter online.)

Sunday, May 9, 2010

I'd never tell you not to buy your mom a card...

...but Nicholas Kristof today points out what the money we spend on Mother's Day could do for mothers (and children) everywhere:

Let me also add that your mom — yes, I’m speaking to you — is particularly deserving. (As is mine, as is my wife. And my mother-in-law!)

And because so many people feel that way, some $14 billion will be spent in the United States for Mother’s Day this year, according to the National Retail Federation. That includes $2.9 billion in meals, $2.5 billion in jewelry and $1.9 billion in flowers.

To put that sum in context, it’s enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school. That would pretty much end female illiteracy.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Not a shocker

Recess improves academic performance:

The report -- a review of 50 studies published in 43 articles -- reached a conclusion that is no great surprise to those of us who know kids well (I have five), and work to promote their health (both physical, and intellectual). Physical activity is good for body and brain, alike. As often seems to be the case, modern analytic methods and systematic review of evidence landed us right in the middle of Grandma's common sense counsel: sound mind, sound body.

Postcards to Mrs. Obama?

I don't know if anyone else has seen this; just came across the transom:

Here is what Michelle Obama said ABOUT THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION'S NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND PROGRAM on the campaign trail IN WISCONSIN ON FEBRUARY 28, 2008 :
“No Child Left Behind is strangling the life out of most schools.” “If my future were determined by my performance on a standardized test I wouldn’t be here. I guarantee that.”

Thousands of us agree with her criticism, and we need her help to end the dependence on high stakes testing. Please: send postcards to the First Lady.

Address the post card to:
First Lady Michelle Obama
White House,Washington DC

*SEND THE POSTCARD WITH THIS MESSAGE:* Dear Michelle: We want the same education for our children that you provide for Malia and Sasha. *Our child is not a test score.*
Tell the President to end the use of high stakes standardized tests!

WCRN on the budget

And I should note that the second half of the radio show that I do with Gary Rosen tonight will be on the school budget (specifically, my giving him a hard time about his column in last week's Worcester Magazine, which I can't find online).
WCRN 830, starting at about 7:30 pm

RTTT update from Baehr

RTTT update: Phase 1 counts for Phase 2 unless they opt out in writing (and any one of the three parties may)
anyone who did not opt in for Phase 1 may opt in for Phase 2 by May 24
Must still have all three parties on board

There are, I've been told, School Committees that are re-voting for Round 2 (and some are opting out) and unions have pulled out.

on teacher assessment from MCAS

you can only use MCAS growth data for 16% of teachers in the Commonwealth
(that would gr.3-8 teachers in a self-contained classroom)
there would be an indirect connection to another 17% of teachers (gr. 9&10 teachers in English and math)
"there must be multiple measures"
one quarter of teachers have no curriculum frameworks for what they teach
"when's the last serious work we did with art teachers, music teachers?"
" way for them to learn around student activities and affect on student learning"

Federal grant

So you know how we had more than one fraught vote about the federal School Transformation Grants? Turns out that no one other than Boston is going to have a plan together fast enough to apply for this year. The state's piecing together some money for every school for this year, but no one will get federal STG grants until next school year.

school turnaround grant deadline is July 9, so only Boston is going to hit that deadline
there was yesterday, early implementation grants given to nine districts for schools to use for this summer (to a maximum of $100,000)
between July 1 and Dec 1, there is first year "Bridge funding grants" for Oct-June ($150,000 to $200,000 a school for that first year)
school turnaround grant for 2011-12, is due Dec. 1
so fall of 2011 is the first year of the federal grant; schools will get it for three years following that (and that's the $500,000 a year to a total of $1.5 million per school in total)

grant requires:
replacement of principal under transformation model (the 7 districts with fewer Level 4 schools are opting for this)
evaluations "that are based in significant measure" using student growth to improve teachers' and school leaders' performance
annual evaluations to include:
MCAS student growth percentiles; pre and post assessments of student learning in other subjects and grades
use at least 3 performance ratings
ID and reward school leaders, teachers and other staff who improve student achievement outcomes, ID and remove those who do not
model on this avaliable by the spring from the state

restructuring plan

Plan must include measurable annual goals including but not limited to
1. student attendance, dismissal, and exclusion rates
2. student safety and discipline
3. student promotion, graduation, and dropout rates
5. progress in areas of academic underperformance
6. progress among subgroups
7. reducation of achievement gaps
8. acquisition of 21st century skills
9. college readiness
10. parent and family engagement
11. building a culture of student support among school faculty and staff
12. developmentally appropriate child assessments (pre-K to 3)

group has 45 days to make a recommendations,which goes to the superintendent, who within 30 days have to send a plan to the commissioner, school committee, the union
superintendent must provide "due consideration" to recommendations of stakeholder group
(if there are contract modifications, and the union does not agree, it goes to expedited arbitration, so this could go as long as 79 days)
if the school committee or union objects to part of the plan, they may appeal to the commissioner, who within 30 days may modify the plan
30 days for superintendent to issue final turnaround plan
authorize the plan
superintendent is ultimately responsible for meeting goals of plan

NOTE that there are more days here than there are in the summer, so some aspects of plan may well not be implemented until partway through the school year or even next year
for parts of year 2 or 3, it may be wise to limit the things that are bargained for this year, and arbitrate parts of plan for later (as plans may change)

Stakeholders' group

Stakeholder group must include:
1.state designee committee chair designee
3.union rep
4.admin from school
5.teacher from school
6.parent from school service rep
8.workforce development agency
9.early childhood rep member
...not more than 13 members altogether

group must meet publicly

Level 4 schools

Level 3 schools give priorities to ideas from Commonwealth with plan to implement (starting in the fall)
4% of schools in Commonwealth can be designated (about 72 schools) Level 4 or 5 schools
within those 4%, looked at improvement trends within those schools
the least improving among the 72 schools are the Level 4 schools
2 chronically underperforming from history, too
35: 20 elementary, 8 middle, 3 K-8, 4 high schools
they are in: Boston, Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, Springfield, Worcester
17,000 students; 9 in 10 free or reduced lunch, 1 in 4 ELL, 1 in 5 sped

Exit Criteria:
strong increase in student achievement over three years
improvement in CPI in aggregate and for high needs students
decrease instudents scoring at failing/warning
achieve and maintain a median student growth percentile of 40-60
...for all of those in BOTH ELA and math for BOTH aggregate and high needs students
and for high schools to meet 80% 4 year rate or 75% high year rate
STRONG increase means a projected increased based on similar schools past data
PLUS: progress in implementing school-level conditions for school effectiveness
evidence that district systems of support and intervention
have to have the conditions to sustain it over time, so that this isn't a short-term gain

if school meets all of the benchmarks, Commissioner can pull it out of Level 4
if school has met some, it can stay in Level 4
if school has made little or no progress, Commissioner takeover, but what exactly happens is not decided yet
"I've been advocating, let's wait and see what we learn first"

District Analysis and Review system

which they're calling DART...I don't know where the T comes from...

42 indicators that a snapshot of school and district performance (District Analysis and Review)
inputs and outputs (percentage of net school spending, kids eligible for free and reduced lunch, quality of MCAS writing, ratio of arts teachers to students in gr. K-8...and lots more that we send the state anyway; they're putting it all together)
input data and use it in helpful ways: decent use of data
comparision community: 10 communities that are most similiar (most telling data point is % of kids eligible for free and reduced lunch; no shocker there): chart of state average, your trend, trend of comparison community
use that data to inform the action plan
there is now a searchable data based of all teachers' contracts in the Commonwealth; working with school business managers association to make that useful

under the new ed law

"a district is no stronger than its weakest school" (district takes the designation of its weakest schools)
lowest achieving 20% of schools in state become Level 3 schools (then 35 Level 4 "underperforming" schools)
there are also Level 4 districts from a district review
Level 3 schools were, when the rules were being developed, under reconstruction for the district: THAT IS NO LONGER TRUE
the regs now as passed now are not what they were planned to be when the deputy commissioner came to Worcester: Level 3's will not be identified until this fall including this year's MCAS data
Worcester therefore will have LESS THAN 29 Level 3 schools when the list is released this fall
(the 29 included all that had status under NCLB; that is NOT the state standard under the new regs!)
growth model will be included the FOLLOWING YEAR, so the list will change again in 2012
Lowest achieving 20% of schools based on 4 years of data: MCAS CPI, % of failing/warning, in 2011 median student growth percentile, high school graduation, high school dropout rate
"limited effectiveness of the qualitative reviews" done by the state
looks like 62% at Level 1, 15% at Level 2, 20% at Level 3, 2% at Level 4: prediction for fall
does not believe that there will not be additional Level 4 schools released in the fall

Notes on Level 4 schools: a recap

As I said below, today I was at an MASC meeting on Level 4 schools. The deputy commissioner spoke to us. Below are some of my notes:

MASC Urban districts with Karla Brooks Baehr
mix of urban (Holyoke, Clinton, Lowell) here along with Lynnfield, Winchendon, Amesbury, Upper Cape Tech

pre-NCLB: accountability was built on school reviews w/ labels underperforming and chronically underperforming
NCLB brought in AYP w/ federal labels (in need of improvement, corrective action, restructuring)
AYP was an ever-increasing line
state labels also Commonwealth priority schools and Commonwealth pilot (on their way to being priority)
District EQA reviews (2000-08); in August 2008 Legislation eliminating EQA/EMAC
Commissioner's district meant as punitive, but a way to give additional assistance: as a way to organize those with most Commonwealth priority schools: nine largest urban districts,plus Holyoke
urban superintendent network meeting monthly

2008-09 year of transition: 15 district evaluations (six best practice reviews for sped), redesigning entire system
2009-10: 20 district evaluations (half were best practice evaluations, focus on ELL kids doing well), draft regulations in fall, new law in January, new regs in April

[best practice documents are all put online once they are written up]
the district, rather than the school, is where the state integrates
accountability is essential but not enough
assistance and interviention proportional to need
districts and schools needing intervention is independent of NCLB (by last fall, more than half of MA schools were ID'ed as needing help under NCLB; in a few years it will be 80%) and proportional to state's ability to help
"we can't have a system of assistance that all schools are bad"
"if we're going to take the step of labelling, we have to be able to help"
(in other words, the state has, to an extent, dismissed the NCLB status as being increasingly meaningless)

Worcester doesn't have 29 Level 3 schools

So the big news coming out of this morning really has nothing to do with the Level 4 schools at all. The deputy commissioner, though, is a straight-answer kind of person, so I didn't hesitate to ask her about the 29 Level 3 schools she'd told us Worcester has when she came out to our meeting last month.

We don' t have them.

When Karla Brooks Baehr came out to our meeting, the state had developed the process for identifying Level 4 schools. They still figuring out how to identify Level 3 schools. She answered based on the work they'd done.
When they went back to the committee that meets with them on such things, they said what the state was coming up with didn't make much sense. The state was saying that we'll keep all of the federal designations around underperformance and also use the number crunched they did for Level 4 schools. If you had a federal designation under NCLB (for not meeting adequate yearly progress, for example), you'd keep it.
But for Level 1 and 2 schools, they were talking of keeping all NCLB designations in those catagories, so that a federal designation wouldn't be enough to knock you down to Level 3 or 4. So they pressed the state to make this consistent.

They have.

Now, your NCLB designation will not make you Level 3 or 4 (or what the state law calls "underperforming"). If the state cruches your MCAS data (and graduation data for high schools) and you're in the lowest 20% of the state, you're Level 3.
Nothing else can get you there.
As such, according to the deputy commissioner, when the list comes out this fall (they're waiting to include another year of MCAS scores), Worcester will have fewer than 29 Level 3 schools.

Note that this also means that the statistic that '70% of Worcester schools are underperforming according to the state' is also no longer the case.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Senior management and school turnaround

In the conversation over school improvement and administration--does one necessitate more of the other--D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee has just weighed in.
She's posted openings for 13 "instructional superintendents" with salaries of between $120,000 to $150,000 each.
You may remember that the D.C. schools are on shaky financial ground right now, and they still haven't figured out how to fund their new teachers' contract.

MASC meeting on Level 4

I'll be off tomorrow morning at a Mass Association of School Committee meetings on Level 4 schools in Attleboro. While I can't liveblog (Assebet is built like a bomb shelter and doesn't have wifi), I will take notes and post them.
I was waiting to say this until there was some sort of public press release or announcement or something, but it doesn't seem to be forthcoming, so I'll just say: I've been appointed by Mayor O'Brien to be his--and the community--representative on the Union Hill stakeholders' group. We start meeting this week.
CORRECTION: Assabet does have wifi, but it's password protected.

The Congressman comes to School Committee

The School Committee is having a special meeting on Monday at 6:30 at the administration building (conference room on the 4th floor) with Congressman Jim McGovern. In particular, with ESEA up for re-authorization, we need to weigh in with him.
Public meeting, of course!

"Us" and "them"

And I know I say this a lot, but you should read Deb Meier:
I hope we will criticize the many reform ideas that rest upon false assumptions about the differences between "us" (especially middle- and upper-class whites) and "them." The "these kids need" arguments that I find most distasteful about many of the charter schools networks I know—spouted by folks who are hardly experts on "those kids," and whose solutions support the continuation of schools with a test-prep curriculum and military/prison-style behavioral norms. (See the popular current fads being pushed by author Ruby Payne about educating poor kids.)

I want all kids to have a chance to go to schools of the sort where Arne Duncan and President Obama send their own kids. I want us to stop assuming that only "some kids" can handle complexity, uncertainty, and depth of curriculum or self-regulation—what we used to call "agency."

I want us to stop pretending that the only thing upper-income kids get from their mothers is more books and reading aloud! Nonsense. What their parents offer them most of all are advantages that come from money, money, money and status, status, status and a sense of entitled power.

Inspector general on the ed dept

And in a report that seems to be missing from any but the local paper, the Massachusetts Inspector General is questioning the new charter school review policy:

The new process, approved without public input or outside approval, also codifies the commissioner's decision in charter review as "final," while that of charter school experts in the education department is "advisory" and records of their ultimate opinions of the application "personal notes" and not public records.

"In my opinion, this change — including the introduction of the term 'substantially meets the criteria,' makes the standard for approval less clear and less defined, and makes the process more vulnerable to abuse," Sullivan wrote.

Blue Mass group is on it.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Technology report

This is coming back per the suggested additional capital expenditures from the City Council budget: what would we do with $500,000? what would we do with $1,000,000?

A few numbers that are of interest: the WPS has 6000 computers. That includes--I asked--all those computers sitting on desks of principals. And remember, we've got 24,000 kids.
54 networked sites--wifi at DAB, Tech, USPS (and another one that I forgot)--and we're replacing our old networks with fiber.

They're suggesting that we replace old monitors (we've been replacing the computers and saving the monitors we can; some are 15 years old now), up the replacement of computers. Plus projectors, cameras (document and video), amplification, and technology for special ed (touch screen, Braille keyboard, JAWS software)

Special Ed director position

Special education director position is open and is hired by the School Committee.
There is conversation around whether this search should be delegated to the superintendent or should be done by School Committee.
Monfredo is suggesting that the superintendent do the search but bring in three candidates, asks that the person live in the city
He has the support of O'Connell and (to an extent) Foley
Novick is reluctant to give School Committee authority away, asks for a national search
Biancheria asks for a minimum of three come in
Mullaney would like the superintendent to run it, says she trusts Boone
Foley speaks of doing it before the summer is too far gone, not spending too much money
Mullaney says she doesn't want the superintendent flying people in just to have us have three
O'Brien suggests that the superintendent keep people updated if she can only find two.
Biancheria says it should be taken seriously, shouldn't be rushed, "have capable staff who can pitch in, while we look for the best candidate for the position"
"insult to our parents" to be in a rush
O'Brien summarizes the conversation thus far

Supplemental agenda

We don't usually get one of these, either
A list of what the donations to Belmont Street Community have been spend on so far. We've gotten about $36,000 and have spent about $34,000 on:
Maps and globes (21)
Mimio bundles (12) [those turn whiteboards into computer boards]
TV/DVDs with carts (7)
Library books (111)
Two-way radios (10)
Library DVD's (62)
Letter & number sets (7)


Don't mark that June 2 date down just yet!
You'll be hearing more about this.

WEMS meeting vote

So it looks like we've got Biancheria, Novick, possibly O'Connell and Monfredo pro

Foley, Mullaney, possibly O'Brien con

O'Connell and Monfredo speaking of this as a marketing possibility

Boone: concern that there's an implicit concern that they would not be true to their word on meeting

hope that the process would be used to highlight positive

O'Connell recommends referring to the administration

Biancheria asks if that will supercede the date set

O'Brien offers an amendment that the adminstration come back with dates and an agenda

Biancheria requests a seldom precedented recess
---two minute recess---
Monfredo offers an amendment, then a separate motion for the June 2 date, then he withdraws it, as Boone would prefer it be left to administration

That motion passes unanimously
The original item is held for a week

Worcester East Middle School meeting

Date set for June 2, 2010
6-7 pm
at Worcester East Middle School

(This, you may remember, is an outcome of the meeting in the North quadrant at Roosevelt.)

hmmm...this may go to a roll call...who knew that it would be so divisive?

Parents at Clark Street

"better to teach a man to fish than to give him a fish"
"Marie Morse is our CEO"
likens it to the removal of Steve Jobs at Apple and stocks plunged
"how are you going to guarantee that my investment is going to remain in place?"

"highest MCAS scores consistently in the district"
"worked veryhard to develop the exact team and staff to get the job done"
"since Monday night the mood at Clark Street has been somber...there were tears in the hallways"
"much closer to remove a family member than a boss"
"I'm under the impression that there isn't much that we can do about it at this point...we would like to seek some reassurances...regarding the continued quality at Clark St"
"interested in maintaining the quality of education, but improving the quality of education"
"I would ask that people keep in mind, perhaps signature programs that we could do at Clark St...advanced programs"
"would be so bold as to ask that the parents get to nominate a candidate to move to the final round of interviews"

congratuate children, teachers, and parents at Union Hill: 'getting a top notch principal'
just got through a transitional year of the school doubling in size
"we really got hit out of left field with the loss of Marie Morse"
"done very, very quietly, swiftly, and it doesn't feel right"
"so that they don't feel their assests will be picked as well"