Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Call Congress--save jobs--give Duncan some opposition

(you know, that opposition he isn't aware he's been getting?)

I'm seeing some lively activity out on the wires around Rep. Obey's appropriation that would move money from Race to the Top and the Teacher Incentive Fund to the education jobs bill. It seems those who call themselves the "ed reform" crowd are less-than-thrilled at some in Congress remembering who holds the power of the purse (and the policy power that accompanies it).

You can bet that they've got calls into Congress, sounding the alarm to try to "save" the Obama education plan. If you've had your concerns about the direction this administration has taken on education, and you think it's about time that someone stood up against it, call Congress! You can reach the mainswitch board at 202.225.3121. There's a good chance the amendment will be voted on today or tomorrow.

Ed Reform at 17: audience questions

opens to questions from the audience: Mark Bilotta from the college consortium
wrap-around services: have you seeen one "both systemic and sustainable"
PBIS program, cites Baehr (positive behavioral intervention system)
Boston Connects program (out of BU)
looking at secondary models, as well
Boone recognizes support from state DESE for Level 4 schools
"how will we benchmark the success of our wraparound services?"

Ted Coghlin, the major supporter for the Tech school: professional demands for teachers for those coming in for vocational ed (some basic classes that they have to take, that can't be waived for anyone), recognizing large numbers of retirements coming up
Boone mentions that she has a PhD from an acredited university but still has to take the Mtel writing test (to audience laughter...)

Antonucci says that education is not seen as a career that people want to go into; cites "teaching bashing in the media," accountability, lack of resources in education
Antonucci says "bottom line, it's all about students"
"it's not easy, we'll get criticism, it does take time and it does take resources"
Antonucci says that the foundation "works very well, if it's funded" (most of us on School Committees would disagree)
"we're all committed to the same thing"
"seventeen more years of hard grinding work"

Ed Reform at 17: Questions

(note that the intial round of questions came from WEC Director Jennifer Davis Carey)

Questions (note that these are coming from the Collaborative, not the audience):
a credible way of evaluating teachers that will improve teacher performance: to Reville
"total inadequate support on the front lines of urban education"
"we gotta do better at young teacher should come into this and not get regular support and evaluation"
"try to strike a balance...look at a number of factors"
"developing a much more vigorous classroom evaluation process"

to O'Sullivan: students make more choices..has ed reform advanced that aim
"I think so. As I look around at what I'm doing now...explosion of people who want to be here and their children are being educated here"
"a lot of indications that we are changing the status quo"
supportive of people who want to be here and want to contribute
Reville points out that we lead (or close to it) the world in science and technology, but points to gap among groups, and that we have lower than the national average interest among students heading to college in wanting to go into science

to DelPrete: what one or two areas do we need to focus on for improvement?
teachers and teaching have been a pretty marginalized subject in ed reform
"refocus the subject on teaching and learning"
"working on the whole continuum of teacher teachers get socialized into the profession...depends on a capacity for teamwork"
"inspiration gap, collaboration gap"
"kids' social don't have access to social capital or wider opportunities for learning..we are their social capital..even if we build their education, if we don't build their capacity...they instinctively follow other paths"
"what do we get kids to understand the opportunities" out there, where their education might lead?

to Baehr: AYP not a great measure: is this accurate? Is there more that we ought to be using as a measure?
"we've seen the limitations of" AYP
"doesn't take into account mobility"
state has "deemphasized" AYP: at Level 3 and 4, we're not limited to AYP
Level 3, built on MCAS and on high school graduation and dropout
20% of lowest achieving will be Level 3 (once 2010 MCAS comes out); priority for assistance
"abandoning AYP for that purpose"
and it wasn't a factor in identifying Level 4 or 5 schools

to Boone: how can the reams of data be used to improve education
"not use data as a negative"
"I think we have to go back to what I refer to as data mining: what can we learn from the data?"
"when we frame and look at data around a set of key questions, we can grow from it"
"more extensive cultures in our discussing data...through a sense that it is not a negative"
"use data as a tool to drive decisions...that's the premise behind an accountability system in Worcester"
"align resources based on data"
"we have to own the way we've taken data down a negative pathway"
"at the end of the day, do we continue to drive a car...we keep bringing it back with the same malfunction...somebody has to figure out what's going on" (that was an analogy with teacher evaluation being measured by student test scores)
Baehr jumps in: MCAS "equate year to year score"
"a smart, reliable, accurate, valid way to relate MCAS scores year to year"
one kid, year to year, how he did against his peers
between 40 and 60% is typical growth; growth of over 60% is a "school that's really adding value"
"use of potent data can help change practice"
"many have describe MCAS as an autospy...need something more like temperature taking"
quarterly assessment using real MCAS test questions from previous years (yes, folks, that would be four times a year...)

Ed Reform at 17: Boone

Boone: policy implication at the school district level
"part of my attraction to Massachusetts was the history of ed reform...match with my philosophy of education of 'all means all'"
rural areas as well as urban
"early ed reform focused on funding, and that was key, with the achievement piece being there...ed reform two focuses heavily on achievement with wrap around services"
"what we're trained to do is focus on teaching and learning...we have to address those wrap-around needs and not just leave them to chance...families need supports to be successful"
"the jury is going to be out for years and years on No Child Left of the things that has come through as a real strength that there is a real expectation that all students will be successful," regardless of race or poverty level
adult behaviors that are associated with student learning: adult acccountability
"we're now at a point when we can find that middle ground...we're going to need both"
"obviously, we have schools along the entire continuum...Worcester will have schools at Levels 1 through 4"
"where will we have the will and the courage to address what needs to happen...a shifting tide...we're caught in the middle of that tide"
"swim with the tide and you'll eventually swim out"
"use the work with the policy makers so it makes the most sense at the child's level"
"tough for communities to recognize that this is a riptide event"; to swim with the tide and eventually swim out
started on a path to address underperforming schools; what are the supportive services around the schools that are needed?
"and I share Kevin O'Sullivan's perspective on our huge numbers" of special education students
"it's not education for test scores...the MCAS represents one of the benchmarks"
not needing remidial services, enlisted students moving up as they've had a solid education
"a lot of ways that we can connect this in terms of 21st century learning"
"we should be successfull, we have no way to go but in a beneficial route"
"must revist the foundation funding formula...cannot continue to have a negative inflation factor...we've got to get that current in the economic situation"
"the state has got to address the funding formula"
"language concerns me...that achievement gap rests solely within the urban areas...that isn't the case"
multiple measures that will be used as a criteria to get out of Level 4 status; "that's what gives strength"
"quality options in that"
"requires us to focus on wraparound services"

Ed Reform at 17: DelPrete

DelPrete: reflect on the recent legislation
"opportunities it provides on best practice"
innovation schools: designed to operate within a district, to enhance systemic improvement
charter schools "elevate the few rather than the majority"
"presents an exciting pursue a distinct path" with autonomy
"autonomy is really a chance to harness best practice"
strong community "where all are valued" and strong achievement
"reform that emphasize one or the other fall short"
"cultural best teachers in particular a chance to build a community" of best practice for themselves and their students (I'll be really interested in seeing if this is how Worcester's developing innovation schools actually work out on the ground)
"share accountability over...something they have meaningful" control
cultural best practices
"how do you develop as a reader, writer, thinker"
"flexibility provided by autonomy comes together with standards"

Ed Reform at 17: Reville

Reville: "critically important work on knitting together" education (WEC)
"how the past chapter of ed reform links up with the current chapter of ed reform"
"felicitious coincidence" of treating all children as our children with the economy requiring that majority of children have high level of education
"how do we do the job to design a system" that gets all students "to proficiency"
"our status is number one in the nation on so many levels"
"but doing well isn't good enough"
"I think we set the right goals; we meant it when we said all mean all"
right architecture of "standards, assessment"
"now have a negative equity gap" among districts
"to be sure we've differed on a lot of particulars...we disagree violently on strategies, but stick with the architecture moving forward"
"building that capacity...if teachers were equipted to educate all students at a high level, they would have been doing it; they wouldn't have waited for policy"
"the beauty of this reform is it keeps us coming back to that core" of teachers, students, curriculum didn't emphasize enough starting early
seeing kids coming into kindergarten with 1/3 the vocabulary of their peers; "gaps that show up very early that tend to get wider with time" (this is evident as early as 1 1/2)
undeniable corralation between poverty and educational attainment: "we can't ignore the relationship there"
"can't ignore that we have kids that don't get to school in the first place..and have things that get in the way once they're there"
"a whole host of issues that get in the way...15-20% of the waking hours" are spent in school
working on "that transaction" between teacher and student
working on "the whole host of issues" surrounding the schools
"the time shouldn't be the constant; the standard should be the constant...a client-centered program with the child"
to hold jobs, to be citizens, to be heads of families
"underline the urgency of getting the job we've started done successfully"

Ed Reform at 17: Baehr

Baehr: superintendent in Wellesley at the time
"people hoped that ed reform would pass right by...that's for the city"
"had been working on a common curriculum for the town at the time"
when pressing people, asking what the weaknesses in the framework were
"profound impact on the standards in Lowell"
"if there hadn't been writing, there wouldn't have been writing in the curriculum"
"saw the financial impact, saw the impact that ed reform had on the separation of superintendent and the school committee"
(this is a good and, I think, underappreciated point; the relationship and authority structure fundamentally changed under the Ed Reform Act in 1993)
"I think we identified a lot of problems over time" with the 1993 law, including what happens with kids outside of school
new ed authorities and responsibilities to turnaround the schools that are "most stuck"
IDed 35 schools..."the predictable larger cities"
she runs the numbers (you've seen these) 17,000 students; 9 out of 10 a student of color; 9 out of 10 living in poverty ...
trying to foster and strengthen innovation
requires proven providers for charters, and requires that they seek out underrepresented students
another area that it "needs to address, does not, but has been spoken about a lot"...translating curriculum into "powerful lessons"
"that big black box betwen standards, the learning that goes on, and assessment" has not had enough resources provided for, or work on
"major piece of work that Worcester is engaged with, that many districts are engaged with"
"the curriculum that is actually taught in classrooms is not entirely aligned with frameworks" especially in underserved students' classrooms
"issue of adequacy...major issue still on the table of the adequacy of funding"
funding issue does need to be addressed in terms of adequacy (to which one can only add, indeed!)

Ed Reform at 17: O'Sullivan

O'Sullivan (who was in the legislature at the time): references Mark Roosevelt "who everyone loved to hate"
references Reville who worked "to write it"
"the politics were nasty at that time with regards to funding"
"coming off of Prop 2 1/2...we were talking about overrides, a sales tax...a real skittishness because you have to pay for it"
"what I found was that everyone wanted to give out the money, but no one wanted to deal with the accountability"
"my question is 'what's wrong with that'"
"funding was important, coming off of Prop 2 1/2"
"setting statewide standards for schools and for districts...I had a lot of my friends who were part of the education establishment who" didn't like that
"I understand that the status quo is difficult..the money was not coming forward unless the accountability was in there"
(this misses the gap between the original law, which called for a comprehensive assessment system, and the MCAS, which came in for 1999, which was anything but. The major pushback by teachers, parents, and others dates from the latter.)
``we watered that down...the drumbeat of that school was the principal..I think we missed the boat on that, and that's an important factor"
"we had a chance of reform special education..that's where money is being taken out of the system...far too many kids...the legal language" allows too many kids in special ed (he thinks)
(that's interesting...who is he going to take out of special ed?)
accountability needs to be tweaked
"it's not too much for the taxpayer to say 'here's your money, here's what you're getting for it'"

Ed Reform at Seventeen : Antonucci

Panelists are:
Robert Antonucci (former Commissioner)
Kevin O'Sullivan (former state rep)
Deputy Commissioner Baehr
Secretary Reville
Tom DelPrete, Prof of Ed @ Clark
Superintendent Boone

Antonucci: "it's great to talk about ed of the most exciting times in the state..false starts before 1993..five years prior to 1993, with pressure from business community and Paul Reville" working on ed reform
"that's really what drove Ed Reform when we worked on it in 1993"
(wow, that's revisionist...there was also the rather pressing matter of a lawsuit around inequality in ed funding)
"worked very hard to make it happen"
signed June 18, 1993 (just before the judge decided against them)
"up until that time there was no accountability system..."
"in fact, the morning of the day we signed Ed Reform, the courts decided that we were in violation of ed reform"
"that mediocrity was no longer acceptable"
"that student should have equal opportunity...because a student was born in a particular community, they could" learn
standards and assessments and fiscal restrains
"I was asked tonight to talk about the foundation budget...standard of adequacy...a minimal amount of money spent per pupil"
"first needed to address the basic standard of excellence and adequacy"
"for ten years it worked extremely well...for the first ten years it the eleventh year, the state was not able to fill their requirement" (there are school business managers and school committee members across the state that would disagree vigorously with that estimation)
"over the years..there have been adjustments in the formula"
"it wasn't that we weren't going to change it...this morning I was on a panel talking about a national core of standards..what we have to be careful about it how those two go together"
"the end of a difficult process of consensus building, and the beginning of a commitment to learning"
"we have good curriculum, good standards, good assessments"
"still have to work" on achievement gap, funding, charter schools
"if you don't feel that commitment and that enthusiasm, then you shouldn't be in the business we're in"
"we have to be sure that it continues a long way into the future"

Notes going up: Ed Reform at 17

I took notes at yesterday's "Education Reform at Seventeen" panel put on by the Worcester Education Collaborative. (There's links up there now...telling.) They are notes (so, not complete sentences), and I'll be posting them in chronological order.

A few thoughts: it was a very controlled presentation (the panelists apparently were each given an assignment; questions were largely asked by WEC, rather than the audience). There was also a single version of the history of the creation of the original ed reform bill in 1993, which largely left out--'though to Secretary Reville's credit, he did mention--that the state was being sued by districts, including Worcester, for underfunding education, and fixing that was a major motivation in getting the bill passed. That the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education (among others) pushed to be certain that something they regarded as "accountability for increased spending" got into the bill was not the first motivation for getting it done.
Also, the state continues its slow-but-sure de-emphasis of adequate yearly progress (despite this being a tenet of NCLB, which remains in force until ESEA is re-authorized). AYP is not how schools in Massachusetts are being catagorized, as of the new ed reform act in January.

Common Core and Achieve, Inc

And if you're looking for more reasons to be uneasy about the Common Core, you might read this on who's going to make money on it.

Not so fast, Arne!

Congress, ever-mindful of who holds the federal pursestrings, may well fund the education jobs bill from Race to the Top funds:

Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, just introduced the latest version of the edujobs bill, which would appear to skim some $500 million from the administration's signature education reform initiative in hopes of coming up with $10 billion to help stave off layoffs.

And that's not all. From my reading of the draft now up on the House Rules Committee website, it seems another $200 million would come out of the Teacher Incentive Fund, which helps districts create pay-for-performance programs. That program received $400 million in fiscal 2009, plus $200 million under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

The draft bill also would cut $100 million appropriated to the U.S. Department of Education in fiscal 2009 for innovation and improvement. It looks like that refers to the part of the law that deals with charter schools.

All of which not only de-funds (or cuts funds) for the major parts of the Obama-Duncan education platform, it also demonstrates some clear differences of opinion among Democrats on education policy:
The important implication here is that congressional Dems, and especially David Obey, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, aren't on board with the direction Obama and Education Secretary Arne Duncan are moving in education reform. Obey, in a hearing earlier this year, clearly telegraphed that he thought preserving jobs was more important than advancing reform.
or, I would say, advancing "reform."
Good time to call one's Congressman!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Haller requests priority on Level 4

Haller has asked that Worcester's two Level 4 schools be given priority on capital expenditures (understanding that some have to be tied to payback).

Discussion by the mayor

An exchange here between the mayor and the manager about the school ESKO funds. The manager says that the ESKO projects will be ready for the August agenda of the Council, as they look at payback time on energy savings.The mayor points out that this will allow the schools to have a five year plan on capital expenditures, which WPS has never been able to do.
I guess we know how School Plant is spending July!

Futher clarification on the ESKO

Also, the manager has further clarified that this amount includes ALL ESKO funds. The Council has an amended version of the item. The city has buildings beyond school buildings that are undergoing this process; that money is also included in this item.

Capital funds come through

And I'm here at City Council tonight to watch the Council pass Item 8.38 B:
($51,500,000) be appropriated to Account #91C7111A, 2011 School Building Rehabilitation

You'll note that this is several million dollars MORE than we had previously been told. I'm told that this is the total of what Honeywell has come up with for possible repairs and enery efficiency projects. It might not all get spent.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Douglas Reeves on accountability

And should you be wondering what's up with the accountability report that came into Worcester School Committee last week, here's Douglas Reeves, the founder of the Leadership and Learning Center (the consulting group hired by Superintendent Boone to lead the team through a plan) on accountability.
And yes, there's a Norfolk connection.

ESEA reauthorization still under discussion

I'm lamentably behind on posting on national policy, as I've been overwhelmed by local policy lately. I should note, however, that there are still conversations going on in Washington around ESEA reauthorization, 'though the chances of anything getting passed this year are fairly slim. There's some question on how clearly legislators are a) hearing and b) communicating the overwhelming amount of grassroots concerns around reauthorization as proposed by the Obama administration. As Valerie Strauss writes:

Department officials say that they meet with thousands of people a week to discuss policy, and it is unlikely they have the organizational ability to meet exclusively with supporters. So they hear some griping.

The question is whether they listen, and the available evidence suggests that nobody at the highest levels in the government grasps the depth of the disillusionment and the breadth of disapproval to the Obama/Duncan vision for public education.

Progressive Democrats came out with their own blueprint for reauthorization (and considering the opposition on this one from the left and the right, give it a look, regardless). It's also possible that your concerns might be similar to those of Leonie Haimson, writing about parents being left out of this process. You might mention that should you happen to run into--or write or call--your Congressional representatives and senators while they are home.
Or you might make a point of it!

Good teacher evaluation is time consuming

Great post on the time consuming nature of good teacher evaluation by Paul Manna

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I should point out, perhaps, that put a search bar over the right on here. Now that we're into the third year of notes on here, I thought it would be useful (I know it is for me!).

PD position is in...

PD position retained, 4-3
Vote to suspend the rules to reconsider fails
A check of the rules, however, demonstrates that this does not matter as the motion has already been reconsidered by a member; it cannot be reconsidered again.

And that's a wrap!

Human Resources

does it or does it not handle PDP's?
there's also a data management question: we were told that data management was handled by accountability

Boone on professional development

says she doesn't selectively give information to some School Committee members and not to others
"it's a two way street, Mr. O'Connell"

O'Connell on PD

cites that we are talking about administration of professional development, not professional development itself
"we can have good professional development focused on our students"
"let's focus the dollars where they can do the most good"
cites this as a communication problem: this was filed last Friday, we received a packet of information that this was not communicated, yesterday he was informed that the superintendent was on the phone, looking to reverse the vote
"we have no advance notice that this is coming up"
"get it to us early so we are aware of it, and don't select information to certain committee members"
"have yet to see" a reason to change his vote

If you're keeping track

...provided that all other things are equal, that means that we've had a vote flip, so we are 3-4 in favor of the position.

Monfredo on PD

"as an indicator, this position has a mixed history with me"
"when I first looked at this position it was not Curriculum and Staff Development...more to this position than what's on the budget sheet"
Monfredo cites Allen that this position manages $6 million for professional development
(and Allen comes forward)
professional development requirements with all of our grants
PD levels going forward
Monfredo asks what the range of salary would be going forward
FY11 budget reflected the current position holder, says Boone; she did not intend to replace someone at the same level
"could start as low as $85,000 and move up"
Monfredo asks if grant money could be used to hire teachers (and yes, we can, and we do...there's 21 right now)
Mulqueen comes forward to reference a three page letter that we got just as we got here
"the current system was designed to get the results that we do"
(at least I think that's what he said)
"important that we have a planning of the key roles is someone to conduct that process"
he's now citing parts of the Dept of Justice report
"not just a staff development position; it's a leadership position"
"beyond providing professional development, we need to measure to what degree professional development is implemented in the classroom"
"it may be a misinterpretation of the paring back of language around it...the position has actual expanded"
Monfredo says, "in other word, it is vital. I wish we had this information before"
Monfredo supports the position

Reconsideration of grant funded professional development position

Vote to reconsider 4: 3 in favor of reopening conversation
Mullaney, who filed for reconsideration, says "we did not have all the information we needed" to make the decision
wanted to know what was left out of that job
"the way it's been explained to me is that the school system has been underemphasizing professional development for accountability and all of those things" the accountability task force talk about last week
"nail was driven into the coffin early tonight" by principals of Level 4 schools citing staff development, don't want to be on their own
"looking around the district for where the weaknesses are"
unaware that this job: tracking PDP's, required by the state for her license
cites past holders of jobs
"some of this work still needs to be done"
"nobody has come up with a plan for who in our overburdened administrative world"
"still can't wrap my head around why we'd cut this job"
"all those other teachers are going to suffer from not having this job around"

Boone responds

room for dialogue
one-on-one conversations...willing to work for accommodating
"points of reflection for all of us"
"take the comments for all of us"
"interested in our overall assessment of the committee of the whole"
O'Brien comments that we don't have any such process
O'Connell says we don't produce a group evaluation, we never have, and he quotes the item filed (which cites individual evaluation, per her contract)
O'Brien says we could talk about a different process for an evaluation at the retreat
Mullaney asks what the benefit would be, doesn't like the whole notion of numbers and letters, "why do you want a cummulative score?"
Boone talks about a committee of the whole, "committee's goals, not individual desires"
"to package it in a way that I am responsible to the committee's whole desires"
Foley says we could ask MASC to talk about the evaluation process; Foley says he didn't hear any real change in goals and priorities
O'Brien says "democracy is a messy process"

O'Brien on Boone

"may you live in interesting times"
"fairly difficult challenges ahead that are going require strong leadership"
"really want to make this a great urban school system"
"appreciate her intelligence, her passion for public education"
"no one is perfect...'though somehow the City Manager got nearly perfect grades..."
being new and making changes, "some of those changes are good"
"very responsive to myself"
Allen cited for experience, good changes
Mulqueen "enjoyed working with him"
concerns around accountability position
"we need to be careful when we use all of our data from MCAS...we aren't turning out widgets...don't become overreliant on data"
budget breakdown "incredibly helpful...impressive and important step"
focus on teaching
appreciate the high expectation for all students
"we are going to make these schools better and we are going to do this for all our students" (Level 4)
improving public trust "most important work the superintendent does"
"our job to grow that"
positive reflection from businesses
reach out to communities that haven't been at the table: "communities that reflect our student body"
hearings done "with the best of intentions...too ambitious of a goal...led to confusion...better job around messenging...focusing in on how we address our two Level 4 schools"
"great challenges around the morale of the staffs in our schools"
some are outside of the control of superintendent
relationship between School Committee and superintendent a priority
"would like to take some of the responsibility...haven't been as proactive as perhaps I should be" on relationship with state delegation
"it's been a difficult year"
"going to come out a stronger school system"
"you're almost always talking to kids" at events

Novick on Boone

You can find it here.

Biancheria on Boone

"lack of buy-in by all parties involved"
lack of information and discussion
relationship...with barriers
underutitlization of existing staff
continued concern about Accountability officer
lack of data to support this person
need to communicate with parents, teachers, community members
need to avoid another charter school

would have appreciated data to assess student achievement
MCAS removed from section of policy handbook, but cited "as only avenue of results" for superintendent
"benchmarks in place for areas mentioed and need to be referred in a data analysis"
"two sides of concern"
local and state officials "merit a consistent line of communication"
citywide community involvement should be"respected and recognized"
other reports requested cited
school safety services a major concern
"at times it appears the square peg does not fit in the round hole"
"discussed prior to implementation" to avoid suprises
suggests increasing Channel 11
successes: "we have them and we should be proud of them"
"welcoming community involvement into our schools"
"look forward to having dialogue at the retreat"

Monfredo on Boone

he was the first to greet Boone on her visit to Worcester
quotes her interview
"she has lived up to what she said and has certainly walked the walk"
cites visits to city ahead of coming on
Student Advisory Meetings
new charter school: needed a 'full court press' with DoE, "would have been the best course of action"
suggests meeting with teachers: "visiting of school is always welcome by staff"
"perception survey"
marketing system; suggests an ad hoc committee
"has been open to School Committee concerns and welcomes the input by it members"
Mulqueen "has done a wonderful job in his first year"
recommends early action on Beacon Hill for next year's budget
cites Boone's three areas of student achievement, says we'll know when we see MCAS scores released
"more of a data driven system"
what can schools learn from one another
also cites CPPAC roundtable (rock on,CPPAC!)
new Family Involvement Handbook
State of the Schools message this fall, suggests monthly talk show
teachers giving their opinion, he suggests
"most impressed" by accountability plan
"did meet her goals this year"

Foley on Boone

work of the superintendent reflects the work of the administration, cites Allen by name
"school district does not have the luxury of time"
"laser-like on performance based results"
"school committee needs to have confidence in the professional experience of Dr. Boone"
"much work remains to bring the members of the school committee and superintendent" together
suggests individual meetings with SC members
"significant realignment of administrative support"
"talented external hires"
schools "held more accountability"
cites innovation schools as "an exciting opportunity"
cites "zero-based budget"
grades student achievement as "incomplete" as we won't know for some years
public communication "started talking...before she came and has not stopped talking since!"
stated that schools should be school of choice
"really bring parents to the table as partners"
"cautious and strategic about these sessions" (community sessions)
cultivating relationship with legislative delegation
"accountability by all at the forefront of the plan"
"limited tools much more creatively" (in communicating) (Foley jokes that spring rating sweeps were down)
cites Boone as "the district's best marketing tool"
"outstanding professional"

Mullaney on Boone

"I found it rather presumptuous of me, being me, to be evaluating someone in a field that I was such a novice in"
normally people get evaluated by people who have done that job themselves
"I am the first to admit that, even though over 16 years I've gotten some knowledge, I'm very humbled to be here...doesn't give me the qualifications to evaluate" her
"a sense of teamwork to a somewhat fractured body"...commends the superintendent for the retreat last year
School Committee on goals "rather than getting bogged down in the more mundane and trival aspects of the day to day running of the schools"
comment on School Committee talking to all members
"a new set of eyes"
restructuring admin "well thought out and easily justified"
high praise here for Finance and Operations under Brian Allen
"striving toward her clear-headed goal of meeting state and federal standards"
Mullaney here references the reconsideration on staff development
cites Boone's "modesty and the lack of publicity" in the economies in the budget
Level 4 schools "a nasty storm...steered...successfully, if a bit sadly, through those uncharted, bumpy waters"
skeptic of Worcester Compact: "worry about centering all of our priorities around raising test scores"
communiciation: Boone "has by now been everywhere and met everyone"
community meetings "were well-intentioned but unnecessary"
"we could do neat things if we had the honorable attempt which I hope is not repeated"
"hardly an area of expertise for me...defer to her judgement...not comprehending everything in this new world of 'accountability'"
quotes Newman: "she knows what she is about"

O'Connell on the superintendent

"overall body is healthy, but cancer that grows at the heart" of our schools
"to change in a limited area the course of her administration"
"they do need to be addressed...if they do not" we will have real problems down the road
"Mulqueen has done such a superb job" on academics
"his role as Chief Academic Officer is one of the signal triumphs over the past year"
specific goals, truly benefits us
"coherence framework"
"a continuous model of school improvement"
"early budget discussions"
"a factor behind the scenes" in the Level 4 schools
CPPAC roundtable cited as a great success (O'Connell notes that this took place outside the school system)
"draft school and district benchmarks"
"refine her particular approach...haven't always heard back" (in getting back to councilors and state delegation)
"giving the School Committee the information it needs" on time and completely
"there are patterns of this running right through the year...a range of materials that are brought to us until the night of the particular vote...very little effort, very little effective...there is no reason on God's earth that this administration cannot give us the information we need" on time
"respect and courtesy to the School Committee"
"it's a level of courtesy, it's a level of sensitivity"
"she certainly has added positions in tough economic times" (and he lists them)
"I'm really concerned that we're not seeing progress away from the size of adminstration we've had"
"every dollar we can possibly spend we need to spend in the classroom"
"rookie mistakes for a brand-new superintendent"
"journey can lead uphill or downhill"
"very significant areas of concern"
he gives an overall letter grade of B to B-
"a B grade means better next year"

Evaluations online

And I should note that the T&G will be publishing the written evaluations of the School Committee online.

Evaluation of the Superintendent: Boone

Superintendent Boone is beginning the section of her evaluation this evening. She begins with " a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." She then reviews her goals, the things imposed on us (Level 4 schools), the things we didn't expect (Belmont Hill), and challenges (the budget). "Self-reflection" is, she says, part of her leadership style..."looking in the mirror and looking out the window"...what are areas of success and what are areas of improvement?
Principals have done this, too.
"Addressing the district's communication needs"..."branding"
"We've opened up that information to the community in a lot of different ways."
"a uniform governance team"
"an ongoing journey...the path and infastructure is set"

Stakeholder groups

We're now getting presentations on the stakeholder groups of (first) Chandler Elementary and (second) Union Hill.
As Chief Academic Officer Mulqueen, who served on both groups, points out, the recommendations from each school's group are different, 'though in both cases they, per the law, provide for non-academic as well as academic needs of students. As Tim Garvin just said, "Schools can't do it alone."
In both cases, the recommendations reflect the 13 essential conditions prescribed by the state.

I also should point out here that we do not (as most districts do not) have the time to submit and get our plan accepted by the July 9 due date for the School Turnaround Grant, so the schools will not have the $500,000 (or more) for this year. Those funds will not be available to Worcester until next year. There will be bridge funds avaliable to us for this year, and then (once we apply and are accepted, which is not automatic), $500,000 or more avaliable a year for the three following years. Miss Biancheria is asking for further clarification on this issue.

The superintendent takes these recommendations, designs her plans, and will submit her turnaround plans (note the term change) to the stakeholders, the School Committee, and the Commissioner within 30 days. In this case, Superintendent Boone says she will be presenting her turnaround plans to the School Committee at our July 22 meeting.

Special Education Director

Marco Rodrigues, current Director of the Central Mass Collaborative, has been appointed.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Weigh in on Common Core Standards!

h/t to Lisa for catching this first!
The Commissioner of Education is asking that the public weigh in on Massachusetts possibly adopting the Common Core standards. You'll remember we had to promise to do it in our Race to the Top application; it appears the Commissioner has not entirely committed the state, after all:
"Our goal is to provide every student in the Commonwealth with the best possible schools, teachers, curriculum and opportunities they need to be successful in school, college, careers and in life," Chester said. "We will take the time to evaluate the Common Core Standards before making a decision, and if we ultimately find that the final product represents a decline in expectations from our state standards, we will not hesitate to walk away."
You might consider reading Sandra Stotsky's reasons why she is not endorsing the Common Core. Stotsky, a conservative member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, was appointed to the validation committee for the Common Core; she was one of two members not to sign onto their adoption.
You can also write to the Board of Ed. While they won't write back, I have it on good authority that at least some of them read their mail.

Double start time tomorrow

Just to clarify: tomorrow's School Committee has a double start time. If you're interested in the interviews for the Special Education Director, those start at 5 pm.
Our regular meeting, beginning with the presentation on Level 4 schools, will begin at 7 pm. That will be followed by the superintendent's evaluation.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Principal shifts

The principal of Midland Street, Patricia McCullough, will become the new principal of Clark Street School. Midland will start a new principal search.

A few end of the year notes

  • Congratulations to all of the Worcester eighth graders who graduated today!
  • If you're looking for summer reading, you can find inexpensive choices and fund the library by attending the Worcester Public Library booksale this Saturday from 10-4.
  • I just today got the list of Free Fridays in Massachusetts this summer. This is a list of museums giving free admission during the summer on succeeding Fridays. The first one is this week at the Boston Children's Museum. There's no catch (really; I've done it before), and it's a great way of hitting the museums you keep meaning to get to.
  • The summer School Committee meetings are on July 22 and August 26, both at 4 pm.
  • The first day of school is September 1 this year for 1-12; preschool and kindergarten start September 7.

Evaluation week

Tonight the City Manager will be evaluated by the City Council. On Thursday, the School Committee will evaluate the Superintendent.
While I am sure all of the Councilors will have remarks, it is interesting that the Manager's evaluation boils down to a straight report card: while he doesn't get letter grades, one could easily make the terms line up with those.
The Superintendent is evaluated via narrative (which are part of the public record). I don't know if that makes it easier or harder: probably harder to boil down into a headline, I suppose.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Schools by street

And in case you've ever wondered how the schools are organized (and a handy tool for those moving to town), you can find the schools by street here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Director of Staff Development

The position cut last night (pending questions of legal authority) is not exactly that held by Maureen Ciccone as reported today. Maureen's title is "Manager of Staff and Curriculum Development"; due to administrative reorganization, some of her responsibilities are being moved elsewhere (to the Academic Office, I believe), and thus the position is only that of professional (or staff) development.
Which, to some of us, did not warrant a $133,000 position for general oversight.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Motion to approve

finalizing tax level budget of $269 million

Instructional supplies

$63 per pupil again this year
which isn't enough again

Teacher account

this is a -1% decrease
We have 1873 teachers; plus 140 teachers that are grant funded
$1 million of 15 teachers are funded by grants
$628,098 has been cut elsewhere: move to the teacher account is the recommendation from administration (that's about 12.5 teachers)
O'Connell is asking for a report on other allocations of money; he specifically mentions clerks
$31,228 is all we really have to move around...the rest is to call back tutors
Boone asks if we now want to restore he wants a report.
The mayor clarifies that the priority is for teachers and tutors first.

Personal services

The mayor asks why we have a security guard at DAB
Monfredo asks if we could cut the principal mentoring account (as there's only one new principal)
And then he withdraws it when challenged by Boone
Biancheria asks for the average principal salary..."at $100,000, we're asking if they're prepared to be principals?"
She asks what the principal mentors do
The mayor says he'd like an answer to that; he's concerned that we don't have enough people doing it.
Foley says it's short money for bringing back some of our best principals
Motion from Novick to cut the security guard at the administration building
Mayor O'Brien is more than happy to have a clerical position at the door, greeting people and answering the phone: asks for a recommendation to reprogram for a different person who provides a reasonable level of customer service.
Foley agrees with O'Brien, suggest that they be bilingual.
Mayor O'Brien asks he can have a report on the contract.
Biancheria asks if fewer people will be going to DAB if we are registering K-12 at the Parent Information Center. The answer is no.
Allen says that all contracts are subject to appropriation, by state law, so says that if School Committee were to cut the account now, thus not fully funding the account, the contract could be appropriately altered (that's paraphrasing).
$26,000 moved out of this account and into clerical.

School clerical

reduction of nine positions from schools
elementary and secondary school clerks
it isn't a straight cut; there has been a formula change, so some schools went up, while others went down
(and I can faintly hear that someone in this room is listening to the Celtics)

Two clerks, one from sped and one from child study, have been sent to the Parent Information Center, to handle the registration of K-12 and associated needs there.

O'Connell is suggesting a report of using the revolving account funds to restore clerical; Allen points out that the school committee allocated money to the teachers already.

Foley is confused as to why this particular place is a heavy concern; "I want to see concern is still classroom services"

Administrative Clerical

There are a reduction of 11 positions in this department
approved as proposed

Administration: gets lively

O'Connell starts by asking about vacancies: budget director, quadrant manager (contracts have been offered already), manager of staff development (currently open to applications until July 21), director of supplemental services (advertised).
O'Connell recommending vacant positions not be filled: $400,000 in admin, $120,000 in grant account
five different kinds of administrators, lists O'Connell
he says it isn't that these positions aren't important..."can we truly afford to have these positions this year..or can we hold them open for one year...suggest that for one year without these positions, we will survive"
wants to transfer these funds directly
"to make a significant positive step...our priorities do not lie in the Durkin Administration Building...our goal is first and foremost the wellbeing of children"
"attention grabbing"

Novick walks through the open positions: only Manager of Staff Development position is open. Manger of Supplemental Services has been filled; we've issued contracts for the other two previously open positions.

O'Connell scales back his proposal to just the Manager of Staff Development, which is grant funded. Thus it can only be moved within whatever grant funds it. We're wending our way to a question as to which grant funds this and what we can do with this.

Mullaney "we're proposing getting rid of the head of staff we're going to take a year off staff development" (O'Connell is shaking his head) "What school system of this size doesn't have a director of staff development?" Moves approval

Mayor O'Brien reviews motions on the floor.
It is funded largely out of Title II grants (which is staff development), and also Title I
(Title II thus limits what we could reallocate the funds for...)

Motion to move money carries 4-3

Mullaney speaks of this "as penny-wise and pound-foolish"
the "suggestion that these people offer nothing"
we'd be down to one quadrant manager
"it takes the vision of seeing the big picture, to see those people...the skeleton of this school system"
"how you could you possible think that we're going to move this having a bunch of sailors, and no ensigns, no" officers

Boone "going back to the comments you made on the accountability system" (to O'Connell)
doesn't exist in a vacuum
"we need to be very clear around the statements of what we've been able to accomplish in this budget"
zero based budget; grant and finance office joined; continued to make admin reductions
"very very clear...whether we agree with the principles or not...we have two Level 4 schools...very specific roles for central office for the support of those the end of the day we have to decide if we are going to be a school system that is aligned"
"at the end of the day we exist because teaching and learning" is our focus
"if the EPA...were here saying we had missed opportunities to be in complience"
"we can't continue to allow achievement of our students to be allowed to be left to happenstance"

Foley disagrees with O'Connell
"there are greater accountability out there"
"arbitrary position cuts"

Mayor O'Brien asks which positions are systems administration and education administration: Allen lays them out (nine are systems).

Monfredo asks if the PD position can be moved over the accountability officer position
Boone "that's linked to the data of school improvement"

Educational support

Tutors are in here: 38 + 36 restored
Budgeted at $1.8 million

Health Insurance

Mayor O'Brien is asking why/how the health insurance trust funds that are spent and don't have to go through School Committee
They do, is the answer from Allen; it gets transferred through Finance and Operations
What are we doing to encourage people to be healthier? asks the Mayor. He'd like a report.
Unum is the new life insurance provider and that's saving us $50,000 this year.


$17 million of tuition : $11.3 in the budget ($6 million in grants)
this is out-of-district placement for 400 students

Workers' Comp

Flat funded except for the containment charges, which are up 33%; in total a 2% increase for the account (the containment is outsourced, and the first year was an estimate)
traditionally, this account is underfunded at budget and is dealt with quarterly as necessary

Back to budget: retirement

O'Connell mentions that the state may be easing the load here on pensions.
asks for notification at the earliest time possible if/when legislature moves on pension fund

Data doesn't tell you the whole story

...says the Mayor in talking about the accountability report
"We won't always be able to quantify this...develop other ways to talk about students"

Comprehensive Accountability Task Force

"emerging so clearly among outstanding school districts throughout the country" says Boone
"accountability being a way of how do we demonstrate that we're doing what we should be"
committee meeting since February to develop
PowerPoint presentation: based on Worcester Compact
district strategic goals:
  • high levels of student achievement
  • welcoming, safe and secure schools
  • high levels of family and community engagement, commitment and partnership
  • transfer of information of effective practices and needs among all stakeholders

Results system (this is the dots with the arrows)
"continual monitoring"

"deliver on the promise made to stakeholders across the city...adults learning so children can learn"

"key district and school indicators and measures"

In June of 2010: they'll be identifying "key district and school indicators and measures, develop data protocol for collection, analysis, and application; make final edits and refinements to the current accountability frameworks draft"

Kevin O'Sullivan: the public want to understand what they're getting for their tax dollars, don't be afraid of it. Have to be patient. Have a great appreciation for the data you collect.

Shirley Williams: "a gratifying experience" "I liked the focus on accountability and adult responsibility in the classroom"

Mark Bilotta: "wonderful opportunity for higher ed to be at the table" "showed courage and wisdom" four-legged stool of student, family, school, community "recognizing that...the school department leads the charge"

Novick refers to Accountability subcom

Maureen Ciccone

35 plus years (as cited by the superintendent) "a child prodigy" says the superintendent
started as an English teacher, became principal of South High, spent the past two years as Manager of Staff and Curriculm Development
(and she gets a WPS chair; her two enthusiastic staffers are up in the balcony, whistling and clapping madly)
She goes for the quick hug and handshake but is quickly shooed back to the chair for tributes from the School Committee.

I should also point out that the audience is full of principals, in tribute to her work as principal of South High.
Both Foley and O'Connell note the long list of leaders of various kinds that have come out of South (many now in central admin).

School uniforms at Sullivan Middle

The principal and signatories of a petitions (staff and parents) are requesting a uniform policy at Sullivan Middle. The principal is speaking in favor.
Monfredo asks if we can move straight to approval.
O'Connell speaks of decorum, connotation, he'll support.
Novick asks that the voluntary nature of any such uniform policy be made explicit.
Mullaney asks what the uniform will be.
The principalo is wearing the uniform; he'd like mandate it, eventually.


Along with the Worcester Tree Initiative, we've got Elm Park and middle school students (from Forest Grove, Sullivan Middle, and Worcester East Middle) who did well at the Regional Science Fair, faculty and staff for awards, and recognition for Maureen Ciccone, the outgoing Manager of Staff and Curriculum Development.
(great poem, Sophie!)

Misc Education OM

Fees and licenses going up by 80%, Biancheria notes. NOVA Net fees at North and Creamer are the difference (previously this was funded by donation).
asks if we can reduce the employee recruitment/advertising account, as we've laid people off: motion to cut by $5000
Luster: there are positions that we need to replace: we could do it internally, but it might cut down on who we get. Advertising is expensive.
suggests cutting it by $5000
Foley concerned we'd be shortchanging ourselves if we didn't include the full spectrum
Biancheria asks if we can cut the food account (which is $8000; cut to $6000)
Monfredo asks if we can cut moving expenses by $5000
Allen says moving several classrooms (that can't be done in house); recommend maintain.
O'Connell will support cut to advertising.
Can we fund food out of grants?
account is cut by $5000 from advertising; motion to cut food fails
passes as done

Vehicle Maintenance

O'Connell moves to cut the account by $15,000.
Allen says level funding is based on gas prices being down. We're going to need more vehicle repairs as we have an aging fleet.
motion to cut passes


McKinney-Vento act (which mandates transportation for children who are homeless): we budgeted $134,000 last year and spent $356,407...this year we're budgeting $200,000, but everyone acknowledges that this is underfunded.
(We'll probably be moving money later. This question was mine.)

Biancheria asks about the new charter school: are we figuring them in? We think we can use what we have, but they haven't given us the information we need to figure this out yet.
We just found out that SoKA will have five more days (than WPS does); Seven Hills Charter has 10 more, which is an additional $38,000.
Hennessey says that SoKA doesn't necessarily even have a location yet; if they go where expected, it doesn't line up with any of our current transportation routes.
Biancheria wants to know when we'll know. Allen says admin will forward as we get it.

Bus monitors

25 bus monitors funded out of our budget

Non-instructional support

Mayor O'Brien jumps in with a question about the print shop: this line (A) is the two positions in the print shop. These are positions recommended for elimination with the people being moved to custodial.
Asks how much we expect to see as a change in expenditure with the elimination of the print shop: Allen says about $3000 in teacher salaries would be the only increase.
All of the work would be done by students supervised by the teacher, without outsourcing.
Monfredo recommends the business office be level funded.
asks about the liaison: is that Title I funded? Parent liaisons continue, but a portion of their salaries will not be funded under Title I as they are now serving students Pre-K to 12 (previously they were only serving Pre-K to 6). Monfredo says they are registering students.
Foley asks for clarification on level funding Business Office: these are step increases.
Allen says that (in essence) we have to pay these, contractually.
Information Systems is down 9% due to an open position that was cut last year. (Novick question)
Biancheria wants to know if we can be informed if we have to start outsourcing print work.
O'Connell asks we have anyone leaving: we do (director of compensation). O'Connelll asks that implement a vacancy factor of $6, 228. Allen is okay with that.
Mayor O'Brien asks about the two positions (both over $100,000) in district support, reporting to the new Chief Accountability Officer. Boone says she needs them.

Support overtime

O'Connell asks how many people use the clerical overtime.
Allen estimates that IT, Human Resources, and other central office staff are most of the clerical overtime.
O'Connell wonders if we would save money by hiring another person to rotate.
Allen points out that we need specific skills for some of these positions: IT, HR
Luster says right now there are people in HR working 60 or 70 hours a week to move the positions needed, interview, layoffs, etc
Luster comments that over the past few years, HR is down three positions, so overtime is up from that.
O'Connell asks for a report on fesibility of bringing a full time person back and cutting the overtime as a result.
Mullaney points out that it's only $60,000 of overtime; can't see the savings.
Biancheria "looks at this as an important account, and the reason is overtime"...motion for $10,000 off of the amount
"everyone in our school department is double timing it"
asks that we do things a different way
Foley says this is looking at the typical course of the school year, peak work load.
Monfredo asks that admin look at this for next year

Misc salaries

Novick asks for the effectiveness of the Future Teachers Academy: hard to evaluate, but we have 10 teachers currently teaching in WPS, and we know others have gone into teaching.
Community schools funded out of stimulus funding: in danger? Not any more so than anything else funded out of stimulus funding...
requests that cheerleading be moved to athletics for next year: it will be

Biancheria asks for a definition of community schools (not as they have been but as they are going forward)
asks why we have translators in two places: how many translators do we have? speaks of time translating paperwork
Quality issues with translation programs, Boone says; points out that we are under a settlement agreement regarding our translations
the two line items two different things: our own people who are paid for additional time spent translating, and the other is translating done by outside contractors
This year includes an increase based on our DoJ settlement (this is the first year we are under the settlement).
Luster points out that we still haven't gotten everything translated that we ought to; we still don't have a good baseline. Parents still are not getting the documents they need in the languages they need.
Biancheria asks if we intend to continue to investigate programs. Mulqueen gives as an example IEP's which don't translate exactly using a computer program. Reiterates that this account is probably underfunded.
Luster says that in terms of effeciency, we have a computer program that catalogs all things translated so far for easy access and updating.
Mayor O'Brien asks about the Clark Masters Program: do we need to fund it to keep the students in place?
(we've shuffled money around to fund this later in the year for the past two years, which Mr. Allen points out...we probably can squeeze the money out later)
O'Connell is recommending seeing if we can find interest in cheerleading at the three schools at which the program is being cut for lack of interest, at which point, funds would be restored.


We're taking school nurses out of order, as a number of the school nurses are here.
The current nurse of the year is addressing the committee about the cut of half of a supervisor position.
Monfredo is running through the duties of these supervisors.
We currently have 42 full time nurses; a nurse coordinator, and 1.5 nurse supervisors.
The nurse supervisor who is half time will be half time covering in the schools (for a full time position)
Boone says this is as result of the concern over having nurses in the buildings (per school committee and elsewhere), giving additional support to nurses in the building (the money has been cut from the substitute line).
The mayor is moving through the thought here: this in fact increases the amount of person-time in the buildings.
One of the nurse supervisors is saying that we have only 41 nurses in the buildings.
Boone says there are 42....Luster comes to the table and says that we have 42 positions, 41 people, and an open position.
Biancheria asks what the dollar amount is....$13,000.
The mayor asks what that gets us...that would lose us a halftime in the schools.
Novick: what would do with the halftime position? It would be assigned to a particular school based on accuity (the schools are evaluated based on the students in the building and their health needs; some schools have two nurses, some have a fulltime nurse, some have a halftime nurse, shared between two buildings)
Mayor O'Brien is working the pay difference: this gets us more nurses in the schools, but it cuts the pay of this person. Might we get the pay up someway while keeping the person halftime supervisor, halftime nurse in the school?
Mullaney recommends moving the account as it is, and if there is money later, we can talk about it later.
Mayor O'Brien recommends passing account as is, backfilling later if needed, for funding possible overtime for additional supervisory work (for monetary and supervisory needs), if it is needed by the administration.
Foley points out that admin can come back as needed through the year.

Possible loss of Medicaid reimbursement

Much caution here about the possible loss of Medicaid reimbursement, which would lead directly to 9C cuts...something TBD.

Grant surcharges and city in-kind contributions

On top of the surcharge question, Monfredo is raising the question as I've posted here earlier of how much the city puts towards its in-kind contribution, around possibly changing the charge.

FY11 budget good news

Opening the budget hearing with good news (that makes us us two for two):
the city is reducing the indirect grant charge from 3% to 2.6% (per state law): saves $150,000
(Note that this money is distributed across all of the grants individually, so it isn't a chunk of that amount.)
We were also informed today that the expected 8% drop in Title I is instead a 4% drop, saving $400,000. The administration is recommending saving 7 teacher positions with that.
(actually, there will be a trade going on of the money we saved last time (from utilities) with this money saved, to keep the tutors funded from Title I)

What the schools have and what the schools pay for

Posted in response to a question from earlier this week: so why does the school have its own purchasing department, if it pays for the city's?

It doesn't.

The schools don't have a purchasing department; all school requisitions ultimately go through the city purchasing department. However, it is only the requisitions--the purchase orders and (as necessary) bids--that are done by the city. The rest of the work: the consolidation (as schools often order the same things), verification of delivery, processing, delivery, and all the associated record keeping, are done by the Materials Management Department. As they manage materials for 44 schools, 24,000 students, and all associated staff and faculty, it is certainly a full job. And as it is only the P.O. and bids processed by the city, one could easily argue that the schools don't warrant paying 51% of that bill.

There are two IT departments. The schools' department manages the 6000 computers owned by the schools, manages the E-rate, grant, and other funding, maintains all the databases and data systems associated with the district (that's everything from attendance to test scores to pay records), maintain the website, and manage all electronic submissions to the state. The city does none of that for the schools (I'm not sure that the city IT has anything to do with school IT; I can ask).

The short answer is: there isn't a replication here. There's a handoff on the purchasing, and no relation on the IT.

School Committee: budget and more

The School Committee meets in budget session this afternoon at 4pm. This is scheduled to be the final budget session, and, while I believe there will be some questions and motions, I don't think it will be continued beyond today.
The regular session starts at 7pm. You will find the agenda here. There's a number of recognitions (including the Worcester Tree Initiative, who've been planting trees thorough out the city on school property), presentation of the "comprehensive accountability system," and several items having to do with the budget.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Superintendent's Goals 2009-2010

These are the goals, as created by Superintendent Boone and presented to School Committee in December of last year, on which the superintendent will be evaluated next Thursday night.

GOAL: Develop and ensure effective district governance through positive school committee-superintendent relations

  • Objective: To establish the Committee and Superintendent as a cohesive leadership team with a student-centered agenda and begin to build positive working relationship with School Committee members

GOAL: Increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency

  • Objective: To align the district’s human capital to achieve focus on supporting schools to improve student achievement
  • Objective: To develop a budget that reflects the district’s alignment to a focus on student achievement and serves to address both quality teaching and learning along with the community’s values in education
GOAL: Increase student achievement for all students while simultaneously closing the achievement gap
  • Objective: To continue to focus on a common framework for continuous improvement resulting in the reduction of the number of schools not meeting state and federal expectations
GOAL: Improve public trust, commitment, and confidence through open, honest communication and responsive corrective action to identified obstacles to improving student achievement and the conditions of teaching and learning
  • Objective: To establish collaborative relationships and partnerships to garner understanding of and support for district efforts to improve student achievement
GOAL: Establish a supportive, positive and effective district climate and culture singularly focused on the improvement of student achievement, using a continuous improvement model
  • Objective: To design a comprehensive accountability system for Worcester Public Schools linking all district practices to student achievement
I know that I, and my colleagues, would welcome public input on this.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Level 4 stakeholders reports coming back

The stakeholders' groups are having their final meetings for Worcester's Level 4 schools this week. There are several chances to see what it is the groups have, under the state's stringent guidelines, come up with for input.
  • Union Hill will have a presentation at 6 pm at the school on Monday, June 21.
  • Chandler Elementary will have a presentation at 6 pm at the school on Tuesday, June 22.
In both cases, these meetings will be preceded by a dinner put on by the parents.

The School Committee is having a special off-schedule meeting on Thursday, June 24 at 5 pm (note the early time) for a public presentation of both stakeholders' groups' findings. (This will be followed by the evaluation of the superintendent.)
I am also told that both plans will be available online early next week.

Monday, June 14, 2010

"Scheming" in Detroit

I've previously posted about Robert Bobb (Broad class of 2005), the current emergency manager of the Detroit Public Schools. In hearings around some of Bobb's actions, the School Committee's attorney had some strong words about what Bobb has been up to:
School board attorney George Washington says Bobb cooperated with private foundations and charter school backers to draft a plan that calls for a mayoral takeover, and for replacing traditional schools with charter schools.

"Somebody who comes in as an emergency financial manager should not be scheming behind the back of the people to overturn a referendum that the people spoke on only two years ago," said Washington.
From the Detroit Free Press:

A more contentious portion focused on a citywide education plan released earlier this year at the Skillman Foundation with the support of Bobb, several charter school operators, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and community foundations. Backers met in "boot camp" sessions to map the plan.

Bobb said he never told the school board he was participating in talks and he didn't invite them.

The plan calls for opening 40 new schools, shutting failing ones and raising academic standards. It also advocates for mayoral control for the district, essentially eliminating the school board.

And there's money involved according to the Lansing State Journal:

Washington also alleged Bobb accepted supplemental salary offers from foundations active in the planning meetings.

Bobb denied soliciting any extra money for attending the meetings, but said he was aware of salary-related discussions between the foundations and the governor's office.

"How the funds are arriving, from what foundations or whatever sources is not my responsibility," Bobb testified.

Race to where?

Dan Wasserman's cartoon in today's Globe.
(Part 2 here, Part 3 here)

Horace Mann in Salem

Salem is planning to apply to open a Horace Mann charter school for their at-risk students.

Net School Spending and City "In-Kind" contribution

As you probably know from past postings here around the foundation budget, the city is assessed a minimum contribution to the Worcester Public Schools each year.
It doesn't all come in cash.
(I discovered this for myself last year when I asked where the line item was for water and sewer in the school budget. There isn't one.)
You will find here the city's contribution of services to the WPS. There's a calculation at the top that determines how much the city can assess for services provided by the city auditor, purchasing, city technical services, the city treasurer, and the city manager's office.
It's basically "how much of the entire city budget is the school budget?" The answer is about 51%. The schools then pay that percentage of the listed departments. Yes, that does mean that 51% of the City Manager's office is paid for by the schools, as is 51% of the city auditor, treasurer, technical services, and purchasing.
That's about $4.6 million.
Add to that $592,895 in police services (that's the rest of the salaries of the police officers that are assigned to the schools) and the $475, 552 in water and sewer.
That's a total of $5.65 million.

NOTE: This does not include the 3% grant fee assessed for each grant received by WPS. That's an additional $1.3 million.

North Carolina tosses out some tests

North Carolina, in passing its FY11 budget, threw out the statewide tests in history, civics, and social science. In so doing, the Legistlature found surprisingly few defenders of the tests:

The testing commission’s 2008 report found that the state’s standardized-testing regime, called the ABCs of education, did not ensure that students are ready for college or the job market and that too much time was spent on standardized tests without useful feedback that teachers could use to help students.

Other findings were that the testing regime didn’t improve high school graduation rates or reduce the remediation needed when students enter a university or community college

Oh, and they saved some money in doing so.

Friday, June 11, 2010

FYI: postponement

The evaluation of the superintendent has been postponed until July 24 (so we can do the budget this week, and the evaluation next week).
Weigh in!

Paper hang gliders

Testing, testing

On the same day the New York Times is carrying a front page story about standardized test tampering around the country, the Providence Journal reports that one of the two newly-hired "turnaround" assistant principals in Central Falls, RI misrepresented the gain in test scores at his former school:

Sam’s resumé claimed, incorrectly, that under his leadership at the MET over the past four years, math scores had improved by 79 percent.

But the combined test scores for the three MET campuses are roughly the same as low-performing Central Falls High, with just 55 percent proficient in reading in 2009 — the same as Central Falls — and only 4 percent proficient in math, even lower than Central Falls’ 7-percent proficiency. Math test scores did not improve, although reading scores did jump 14 points over the past three years.

As the Answer Sheet points out, this is a curious case of misreporting, particularly as he is being hired for a position in which test scores clearly are what the school--and his position--rises and falls on.

Couldn't have said it better myself

Diane Ravitch in the New York Review of Books:
I keep hoping that some elected official, some Governor or Senator, will recognize that millions of discontented parents and teachers—not just the vilified teachers’ unions—are looking for political leadership. They don’t want to lose public education, and they hate the relentless emphasis on testing and punishment. I keep watching for the leader who will mobilize those who now are voiceless and demand that our nation get serious about improving education: making sure that all children have access to a full and balanced curriculum—-rather than just preparation for standardized tests—and taking steps to improve the teaching profession, rather than demeaning and demoralizing it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Speaking of politics making strange bedfellows

Of all things this post on the Red Mass Group site from (of all things) the Pioneer Institute raises some legitimate concerns about the jump by the DESE onto the Common Core standards bandwagon. (Note that the Pioneer Institute and Charlie Baker were part of the push to get the frameworks evaluated by a standardized test rather than a true "comprehensive" assessment, so take that part with a grain of salt.)
I would particularly echo their concern with the lack of public comment period on this very significant change in Massachusetts education.
UPDATE: and a hat tip for Valerie Strauss for some pointed analysis.

Union dues, agency fees, and North

I don't have a comment on the ongoing controversy at North over Major Godin's employment, except to point out that reading the relevant regulation is enlightening.
UPDATE: Here's the mayor on a joint School Committee comment.

Not over yet in Florida

The state of Florida is threatening to fine Pearson for the delays on returning testing results.

Education commissioner Smith blasted Pearson in a statement Tuesday afternoon, calling its lack of performance "unacceptable." He said he intends "to impose significant financial penalties as a result of [Pearson's] failure to meet contract deadlines."

Under the contract, Pearson could have to pay the state as much as $250,000 for each day it missed a critical deadline.

The penalties cannot exceed $25 million.

(And what if Pearson did get the national contract for tests of the Common Core Standards?)

Diplomas count on Ed Week

Ed Week is free through June 17, and of timely interest is their report "Diplomas Count" around graduation.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pearson strikes again

You may remember that I posted a link about Pearson and the rather stunning amounts of money coming their way under ed reform. They are back in the news again, as they are holding up the entire state of Florida due to test processing delays.
Pearson is in charge of the FCAT (Florida's standardized test) and the schools are frozen until they get the scores back:

The scores are needed to prepare master schedules, what Joyner calls the "backbone of the creation of a school."

Everything is tied together in those master schedules including what courses -- remedial, elective and core (required) -- will be offered. Courses offered affect how many teachers must be hired and in what areas. All of that, in turn, is used in determining a school's budget.

Not getting the scores in a timely fashion also means a delay in using them to assess what needs to be done to improve instruction.

It's hardly the only place that Pearson is increasing its influence: it seems the Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland are turning over their K-5 classrooms over to Pearson:
Under the arrangement, the school district will effectively turn its classrooms into Pearson Education Inc. showrooms, and sell to a private company the right to trade on the system’s high-achieving reputation, built over years with public funds, to enrich itself.

Other than that, there’s nothing wrong with the contract.

Oh, wait. Yes, there is.

Jim Horn points out that this puts Pearson in the perfect position to be the creator of the K-5 Common Skills curriculum nationwide, thus potentially increasing their profits even more than the 46% they were up last year, all while, as Valerie Strauss argues, using Montgomery County teachers and students as salespeople, and Montgomery County public resources for their private gain.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Weiss racing up

Joanne Weiss, currently heading up Race to the Top, will become Secretary Arne Duncan's chief of staff at the beginning of July. She's replacing Margot Rogers, who came to the department from the Gates Foundation.

Summer resource guide

I've uploaded the Worcester Public Schools Summer Resource Guide as a Google doc.
You'll find things that are free, things that cost money, things that involve feeding programs...lots of resources. Check it out!

Weighing in

You can now send feedback of various kinds on the Worcester Public Schools to
(Thanks, T!)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Vote for Burncoat!

Burncoat High's Quadrivium is one of five finalists to sing with Foreigner on June 20. They need you to vote for them! (You'll need to scroll down.)

Putting a stake in the ground

As the Gates Foundation continues its expansion in education policy, it's worth reading this piece.

Separate but equal?

Bruce Ditata has a different take on the MCAS exam in this editorial from Saturday.

In purely economic terms, MCAS, the high-stakes test that remains the only avenue to a high school diploma in the commonwealth, is funded on an unequal basis from town to town and discriminates against students of poorer communities. The funding formula favors wealthier cities and towns with higher property values which are taxed at a fixed rate, barring unpopular tax overrides.

Affluent communities are, therefore, immune from such realities as lack of textbooks. While the Newtons, Wellesleys and Brooklines have the luxury of multiple texts — one for the classroom, one to take home for homework/enrichment — the New Bedfords, Fall Rivers and Warehams are fortunate to have one class set of texts which are shared by three to four homerooms and cannot leave the building. Where is the "equality" in that scenario?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Superintendent evaluation: June 17

I should also note that the superintendent's evaluation of her first year will take place in two weeks. School Committee members are responsible for evaluating her based on her goals (which I will post this coming week). A written narrative goes to her on June 15; the committee discusses the evaluation in open session on June 17.
If you have comments to make on the superintendent, this would be a good time to weigh in with the committee.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Summer programs

We're getting a bit of information around summer programs, with more coming this weekend.


looking at School Committee approving grants that WPS gets
policies tied to grants now: School Committee and community weigh which policies we implement and thus that for which we apply

take "temperature" of School Committee prior to application (as admin wouldn't want to apply for grants that School Committee wouldn't approve)
sent to F&O

TLSS Standing Committee

(Foley makes a motion to approve before O'Connell even stands up...note that it is now 10 pm and we still haven't gotten to general business)

The only item is to approve elementary science textbooks.

Policy handbook goes on

Foley stands and jokes that the noise you hear is the sound of televisions across Worcester being turned off as we continue to hammer away at the policy handbook
"to give greater opportunities for all students"
"bring greater rigor to a greater number of students across the district"
Biancheria: raises that this came out on Friday, posted online on Monday, community concern
asks that 1-6 be read: "if it says 'recommendation' then it's open"
points out that if kids at Claremont and UPCS have taken classes with a C average, then other kids have been allowed in as well, or could be. It's happening with this in the policy handbook.
"We don't make policy by handbook"
Mayor reads the current language
Novick: what if we said "grades may not preclude acceptance of student"
Mullaney comments says that never before have we not had a substantive debate around the policy handbook before.
Does not want to vote on this tonight
Mulqueen suggests leaving the list as is but add "the intent is include and not exclude"
O'Connell asks that it be circulated beforehand
O'Connell comments that in fact this reflects well on the standing committee and all of the committee that people are as well informed as they are and that we're having a conversation as comprehensive
"if the administration needs considered review..." School Committee needs more time
handbook that demonstrates what policies ARE not what policies OUGHT TO BE
Boone says "if we can have this as a work terms of policy development...agree wholeheartedly that policy by handbook is not" what we ought do
"how do we operate, how do we function...look forward to having resolution to this"
Monfredo mentions that it's been an hour since he did his report
There's also an outstanding special ed question around placement for students out of their home school. Boone points out that level of services, 'though not placement, are legally protected through the IEP. Gannon responses that each quadrant has all programs; this gives the administration the option to leave the kid where they are or force the kid into the home quadrant. Mayor says it sounds like we're giving administration the power to move the kid out of his current school. Mulqueen says this is about making decisions within the context of what's going on at a school. The mayor recommends that the conversation go on with parents of special ed students and that we send that off to our special ed counsel as well to be sure we're not getting in the way of IEP.
The mayor is working us to resolution here...we've compromised most of these.

Governance and Employee Issues: handbook

Student Policy Handbook

some of this is cosmetic, some of this is substantive

There's some back and forth here about registering for high school (at the Parent Information Center or high school)...

Cell phones...used? Banned? Confiscated if found?

Advanced Placement classes weight given to college classes taken for credit.

There's also some talk around who takes AP and what they have to do to get in.

There's an excused/unexcused absence question (should we make a distinction?)

Boone says we have "an issue with grading in this city...too many variations on grades...too many subjective an appropriate time, I will be coming back to the School Committee with some issues we're uncovering regarding grading"

Homework: grades "on whether kids know and can do something", rather than strictly attached to how they do homework (Mulqueen)

AP: course cannot be altered, "how do we move to greater numbers of students across a greater number of diverse groups...barriers are set up at courses to be completed, grades to be included..having the door opened wider to include them...PSAT assessments may include"

Mullaney: "shocked...the very notion that you would take grades out of consideration" in deciding whether a kid comes into AP...."Dr. Boone says we have a grading issue; that's the first I've heard of it...fraught with a philosophy I do not share...I care about how hard a kid works and wants to work"

Boone: "this conversation is a perfect example of the perfect example of the challenges of the standing committee format...that's not a negative statement in terms of what anyone has said...committee of the whole...we need as a governance team...we need to spend more time together in work sessions, so we all have the same backdrop of education...our sole purpose here is not the African-American in this room, I do not believe in anything being given to any child because of race, ethicity or socio-economic status" Using things other than grades. PSAT as "AP potential" "broaden the language to allow other valid assessments"

(we're getting a few parents in here now)

(posting now...this is still going...)