Friday, April 29, 2011

Attention, Gleeks!

That's these Gleeks, incidentally.
I would be remiss if I did not point out that among the classes put in for consideration by the School Committee at the early April meeting was Show Choir for Burncoat High. It is now in the Teaching, Learning, and Student Support subcommittee.
No word yet on outrageous costumes or movie star substitutes, but I believe Mr. Foley will not be allowing slushies.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

School choice

this is the annual required hearing...we've now got three people in the audience, so I'm guessing there's not going to be a ton of public comment
Monfredo cites choices for kids, money brought into the district
O'Brien asks for a report on how many kids went out and how many came in
School choice passes.


cost of renovating South, Doherty, and Burncoat similar to Forest Grove
also seek update on how state reimbursement works
request specifically someone from MSBA to come out and present on how it works

school suspensions

when are we getting a new assistant city solicitor to handle suspensions?
when we had one, Biancheria points out, the School Committee regularly heard suspensions
ever since he left, we've seen none
students going to alternative education options without going before the School Committee
Boone recalls "at least one case" brought before the Committee since we lost O'Day
"I would remind the School Committee of the injunction that we faced at the beginning of the 2009 school year"
court injunction that we faced...
Biancheria points out that we were seeing kids since then prior to the change in system
Boone says "we have not seen cases that have risen to that level" since then
"based on what the courts have said to us...additional thinking in the"
Biancheria sends to TLSS
for updated data
also asking for an update on the hiring through the manager

grant and donation approvals

we've got a list here including:
  • $85,829 for vet equipment for Tech
  • $335 for a scholarship in memory of Carolyn Currie at Claremont Academy
  • $275.63 for Children's Kiducation Fund
  • $800 for a school residency at Heard Street for the Worcester Art Museum

recognizing teachers and nurses

National Nurses' Day is May 11
National Teacher Appreciation Day is May 4

Summary of the community budget groups

Boone says she will present rundown of what was gathered from groups at next week's meeting

Research specialist

Biancheria "promoting the illusion of funds"
another person at 20 Irving Street
15 different staff members have "data in the name"
"never has there been a shortage of data"
"over a million dollars on data positions"
"obvious and unfortunate"

TLSS subcommittee report

accepted as noted.

On the special ed aides

...sorry I missed the beginning of this conversation...
51 potential positions lost
now keeping 26 of those positions, due to having enough funding
13 more could come back with the health insurance changes
"even within the inclusion levels, looked at the level and intensity of inclusion at those levels"
"Hopefully the least impact on the special education budget"
"key to promoting effective inclusion in the classroom"
"was concerned we'd see some erosion from inclusion"
core elements: have to be in compliance, have to fulfill the IEPs, IA's have to be in the classroom
"really put those positions to work for us"
the Life Skills program is not moving from Doherty, it's the LD program that's moving
Amy Olaes: son has been in the SAIL program for five years, is now becoming a "regular ed" student
what defines an IA? what in the classroom? what elsewhere?
Boone: looking at staffing in the classroom, general level of need...
"enrollment, what sorts of supports are needed"
"is building-addressed IA? or is assigned to a student?"
Boone: these are not 1-1 or 1-3 across the spectrum to different classrooms
referred to F&O

Recess policy

"followed through with contributions you all asked for"
"all of that information came to me"
"parents typically are finding at their school is what they like"
"principals are working with their site council and things are working at their schools"
strong feedback from principals asking for more autonomy
"general policy is acceptable to everyone"
"to adjust from a very solid 30 minutes to 15-30 minutes"

Full house tonight: innovation schools

We've got a full house tonight: plenty of people here to testify on innovation, recess, special ed.
Public hearing on innovation schools
School Committee will deliberate and vote at next Thursday's meeting
with apologies in advance for all the names I miss
publishing as I go...updating as the testimony continues 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

School Committee public input night!

That's not an actual part of the evening; there are simply several items on the agenda on which I know there will be public comment!
There will be a regularly scheduled meeting of the Worcester School Committee tomorrow, Thursday, night at 7 pm in the Esther Howland Chamber at City Hall. You will find the agenda here.
In addition to the yearly school choice hearing. tomorrow night is the public hearing on the five proposed innovation schools (it's gb #1-113, but expect it to be taken out of order). I'm still happy to loan out my copies of the proposed plans, should anyone need them.
There are also two items on the agenda regarding the proposed layoffs (gb #1-124 and gb #1-134), particularly dealing with special education. I don't know if those will be answered from the floor or if they will be sent to administration for a report back. I do know that parents of special education parents are coming with questions (as, for that matter, are the School Committee members!).
Tomorrow night also has the proposed recess policy up for approval, for which I would not be surprised to see principals and I know we will see parents. We're hearing a great deal about this one.
Also on the agenda:
  • report back from the Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports subcommittee
  • the *held* Testing and Evaluation Specialist position (recall that School Committee is "informed" of hires; the School Committee does not, with limited exceptions, approve them)
  • several grant and donations approvals (including Tornadoes tickets!) 
  • planning ahead for recognizing teachers and nurses in May (query: why is there no "Custodians' Day?) Planning ahead: Teacher Appreciation Week is NEXT week!
  • an item on reviewing the proposed new teacher evaluation method (that one's off to TLSS: keep an eye on that one if it concerns you!)
  • asking for an update on hiring a new assistant city solicitor. There is an assistant solicitor in charge of disciplinary hearings for WPS; with the retirement of John O'Day, that has been handled by Jeff Mulqueen. 
  • asking for an analysis of costs of renovating Burncoat, Doherty, and South (this should sound vaguely familiar if you're a City Council meeting watcher, 'though we remember all our quadrants!) and also for information on state reimbursement (which has changed)
As always, you are most welcome to attend (or can watch on Channel 11 or online), and comments to the School Committee about any of the above are always most welcome!

Probably doesn't bode well...

...when you hire your superintendent to the protest of hundreds.

Monday, April 25, 2011

What we learned from New York

Diane Ravitch:

Education is not a business. It is supposed to provide good education to all children, not to segment its market and compete with others in the marketplace. It operates on the principle of equality of educational opportunity, not a race to see who can sell the most or win the biggest market share and beat out the others.

Mass parents like their schools, don't like ed reform

By a wide margin, Massachusetts parents said that they are "satisfied with the quality of the education" for their K-12, publicly educated, children (more than seven in ten).
However, the same poll (by UMass Dartmouth) found:
... less than half of respondents in the UMass poll - 42.5 percent - said they felt the state's education reform efforts, such as statewide MCAS testing, had significantly improved student performance.
Perhaps most tellingly, the spin from the DESE at the end of the article is weak, citing how widely the MCAS is seen as strong, how the scores have gone up....the proof of the pudding is in the eating, folks. The people who are eating it are Massachusetts parents and students, and they don't think it's good.

The mayor wants to hear from STUDENTS on FY12!

Attention, WPS students!
Mayor O'Brien is holding a Youth Budget Meeting to hear the youth of Worcester's priorities for FY12.
Any student currently attending a Worcester Public School is welcomed and encouraged to attend!
Thursday, April 28
4:30-6 pm
Saxe Room, Worcester Public Library
Please come and bring a friend!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Let's get this right

The year-long process of getting a recess policy through for the Worcester Public Schools may come to a conclusion on Thursday, but not, it appears, without one more bump in the road.
Not surprisingly, when asked, some of the principals who have said in the past that they have difficulty organizing 30 minutes of recess for all of their students raised this issue again. Administration, in response, is suggesting to the School Committee that the policy be rewritten to read "15-30 minutes."
...thus leaving us more or less where we were last year at this time.
If you think that recess, which has been shown, time after time, to improve student behavior, health, wellbeing, and, yes, even academic progress, is important enough to devote a required 1/12 of the day to, I urge you to contact the Worcester School Committee before the Thursday meeting.
The meeting is at 7pm at City Hall, and yes, you can come and speak to the item.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Opting out

I did not know that the Massachusetts Department of Education conveniently provides sample letters for opting one's child out of the MCAS.

Added to the sidebar

I've just added the Failing Schools blog over to the sidebar. What are they about?

The overwhelming majority of people commenting publicly about the state of American education and “failing” public schools have never taught in, learned in, or sent their children to these kinds of schools. Many of these people have no understanding of the education profession, the social, political, and economic history of education in this country, or how teaching and learning actually work. Most are not educators, and many of those few who did teach and/or run schools did so for a brief period of time after entering the field through alternative means– without the benefit of a rich background in educational studies of any kind.
Good stuff!

"for wide [is] the gate, and broad* the way...

that leads to destruction..." (Matthew 7:13, KJV)

It looks like both Los Angeles and Chicago are joining the Broad superintendents' club:
*I should point out that Eli Broad, and thus the Foundation, pronounces this to rhyme with "road," but it seems singularly appropriate, nonetheless.

another school's MCAS scores invalidated

Somehow I'd missed that Blackstone Elementary in Boston had their scores invalidated by the state:

The collective scores for students in Grades 3 to 5 shot up by 21.8 points last spring from 2009 — well above a statewide improvement average of 1.3 points, state officials said.
The rate of students changing answers in their booklets also exceeded statewide averages. Erasures for Blackstone’s third-graders was nearly eight times the state average, while the rate for its fourth- and fifth-graders was more than three times the state average, state officials said.
In most cases, students changed all or nearly all of their answers from wrong ones to correct ones, state officials said.
“We don’t find the results to be credible,’’ said JC Considine, a spokesman for the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
That's two, including Goddard, with Somerset Elementary having their scores investigated due to parent questions.

And the folly continues...UPDATED twice

I see from this weekend's Globe that the next round of the Race to the Top folly is moving forward in Massachusetts: evaluating teachers based on student test scores.
You'll find the Commissioner's memo regarding this here; the proposed regulations (on which the Board of Education votes next Wednesday) here.
I'm pretty impressed at the chuzpah of the Commissioner in citing Linda Darling-Hammond as a footnoted source for his remarks about teacher evaluation, as hers has been one of the strongest voices in decrying this system as failed (you can find that full paper here; it's even more damning than the executive summary). You can find like research here (from FairTest) and here, a good review of why this doesn't work here and here,  and walk-through of how this plays out on the ground here.
I hope, in response to the article, that this gets fought by more than the teachers' unions. Our children deserve better than to have their teachers evaluated by a facile, discredited evaluation method.

UPDATE: I should point out that "opening these regulations for public comment" gets voted on by the Board next Wednesday (and, as a School Committee compatriot pointed out, what timing! Most teachers and parents won't see these until that Monday!), with comments due by mid-June and a vote on the regs at the end of June. No harm in commenting early, though!
UPDATED (as of 7pm): it appears that both Commissioner Chester and MTA President Paul Toner feel their perspectives were not well served by the Globe article. The MTA website has more information from Toner and this clarification from Chester:

“Both the headline and initial paragraphs of today's Globe story do not provide an accurate summary of my recommendations as they relate to the use of student performance measures. I have proposed that student learning be central to the evaluation and development of the Commonwealth’s educators. My recommendations require that for every grade and subject, at least two measures of student learning gains be employed. At the grades and subjects where MCAS growth measures are available, they must be one of the measures – but cannot be the sole measure. Further, I have not specified the manner by which the multiple measures of student learning are to be combined. Each district will develop and document the manner by which they will utilize the multiple student learning measures to determine whether students are making at least a year’s, less than a year’s, or more than a year’s gain.”
 That's not a huge relief, but it's better than it was.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Worcester Teacher Layoffs: Update as of 4/15

Having just received my weekly packet from the administration, I've got new and somewhat different numbers on layoffs. Here's what I now have:
 The administration is proposing layoffs of:
  • 39 teachers: 27 elementary, 7 special education, and 5 secondary
  • 51 IA's
  • 5 parent liaisons (that's all that we have)
There is also a mention of reducing 12 positions under Finance and Operations (some of this has already started) by consolidating and outsourcing, which is projected to save $345,000.
There is also a "consolidation of administrative positions" but no mention of which or how much it might save.

I'll send out some questions this afternoon to see if I can clear some of this up. Add your questions in the comments or send me an email.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Worcester teacher layoffs

I see from the EAW newsletter (halfway down page 3) that "the administration plans to lay off 25 elementary teachers, 5 secondary positions, 10 special education positions, 48 special education instructional assistants, 1 math/science instructional assistant, 3 itinerant teachers, 2 ESL accommodation IA's and 5 parent liaisons."
No, I did not know this.
The last information the School Committee was given was an estimate that the budget gap was equal to (but might or might not require) 134 positions being cut. We have been told nothing since.

I think "disappointed" is too weak a word for my thoughts on the administration not informing the financial authority for the school system of layoffs. I think "lack of communication" doesn't being to approach exactly how large a gap this is.

"Outrageous" might come close.

Twice today already I have been approached by people in the system wanting to discuss this. It was simply luck that I'd read the newsletter this morning and so had the slightest clue what they were talking about. This isn't embarrassing for me personally--I read everything I'm sent--but it does rather point up in an obvious fashion a misapprehension, now approaching, I think, a dangerous point of who needs to know what when and who has what authority.

I should point out, again, that while layoff notices have to go out now, due to the teachers' contract, that NO DECISION on FY12 is made until the School Committee votes on the budget at the end of June. If you have a concern, an opinion, a suggestion, you absolutely should contact the School Committee (and, if you think it's a matter of money, the state legislators and the City Council) regarding the budget.

They're at it again

Remember how Providence laid off  fired all of their teachers (under the leadership of Tom Brady, Broad class of 2004) as their solution to closing their FY12 budget gap?
Looks like this is becoming the latest "corporate ed reform" hot idea, as Detroit, under the leadership of Robert Bobb (Broad class of 2005) has just laid off all of the city of Detroit's 5,466 public school teachers. Bobb says he also plans to void portions of the existing contract (which he can now do under Michigan state law).
I don't know that I am capable of the appropriate levels of sarcasm to point out exactly how much this will make people want to teach in urban systems, want to stay in urban systems, and want to become part of the community surrounding public systems.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

House budget info rolling in, now UPDATED with health care

More coming in all the time...House budget fully funds Ch. 70. It uses the same numbers as the Governor's for local aid. It level-funds regional school transportation. It keeps the increase in the special education circuit breaker. It level-funds the kindergarten grant. It also level-funds Head Start grants.

Municipalities must met GIC levels in health insurance, or they must go into the GIC. If through negotiations, municipalities don't match GIC levels of savings, they go GIC.

Premium splits remain determined by collective bargaining; 10% of costs avoided (by changes) returned to employees during year 1 for health care related expenses. (You can find the health insurance language here in Section 46.)
I'll post more as I get it!

You will find the budget here:

And for any still wondering about the utility of social media? The earliest word I had on this came over Facebook from a non-Worcester representative.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Full list of graduation dates and speakers

Here's the full list, including School Committee speaker:
All middle schools graduate on June 23 at their own school (with the exception of UPCS, which graduates at Clark)
  • Claremont Academy, 11 am, Dianna Biancheria
  • Burncoat Middle, 1 pm, Dianna Biancheria
  • Sullivan Middle, 10 am, Jack Foley
  • Sullivan Middle, 1 pm, John Monfredo
  • Forest Grove, 10 am, Brian O'Connell
  • Forest Grove, 1 pm, Brian O'Connell
  • UPCS, 1 pm, Jack Foley
  • Worcester East Middle, 1 pm, Tracy Novick
  • New Citizens Center, 1 pm, Mary Mullaney
High School graduations take place at 6 pm at the DCU Center, except where noted:
  • May 27, 11 am, St. Casmir Alternative, St. Casmir's Church (no speaker)
  • May 27, 10 am, Creamer Center, Worcester State College, John Monfredo
  • June 6, Burncoat, Brian O'Connell
  • June 7, North, Jack Foley
  • June 8, South, Tracy Novick
  • June 9, Doherty, Jack Foley/Mary Mullaney*
  • June 10, Worcester Tech, John Monfredo
  • June 13, Claremont Academy, Clark, Dianna Biancheria
  • June 14, UPCS, Clark, Tracy Novick
*As both of these members have children graduating from Doherty, they will be splitting the speaking assignment.

Monday, April 11, 2011

How to lie with statistics

...though more accurately, this is more like "how to completely mislead your audience with something that resembles statistics." For the data geeks.

It has been awhile since I sent you over to the excellent Bruce Baker's blog. This blog entry, on the latest "ed reform" graphs, is a classic of explication of how throwing some numbers on a chart makes people believe whatever it is you're saying.

Waiting for whom?

I thought that maybe we were going to manage to avoid the Waiting for Superman insanity, but, alas, it appears that thanks to the Research Bureau and Holy Cross, we are not going to be so lucky.
I'm sure that both organizations would bill this as "enabling an important conversation about education" or some such, but this is roughly equivalent to "enabling an important conversation about geography" by starting with a movie that fudges facts to talk about the world being flat.
C'mon here: this is the movie (this is no particular order):
No, I won't be there (I've got someone with bronchitis here), but do us all a favor: read the bottom two articles, if nothing else, if you must go to this.
And to Holy Cross and the Research Bureau: let's try to have conversations that start from a factual basis, shall we?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Draft recess policy out for public comment

As you may recall, we've been piloting a recess policy in grades K-6 here in Worcester. You will find the policy here.
Pending possible acceptance of this as a policy for the Worcester Public Schools for next year, the administration is collecting public (parent, teacher, student, interested bystander) comment. You can leave them here, or you can forward them to Mark Berthiaume by the end of this week.
Please weigh in!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Outfall over Black's resignation

A long article on the front page of the New York Times today on the resignation of Cathie Black as NYC schools chancellor. Also insightful piece on the third term of Bloomberg.
Demonstrating deft political instincts, Dennis Walcott, who is replacing Black, walked his grandson to--public--elementary school this morning.
UPDATE: The UK's Guardian also weighs in.


Last night the Worcester School Committee drew graduations (we pull the graduations randomly, really!). I don't have the complete list, but I'm speaking at South High's graduation on June 8 at the DCU Center, UPCS's 12th grade graduation on June 14 at Atwood Hall at Clark, and Worcester East Middle School's graduation on June 23 at WEMS.
The Mayor and Superintendent are at all high school graduations, while the quadrant managers cover the middle school graduations (which all happen on June 23, in two shifts).

Impact of government shutdown on local education

There's much speculation swirling over what happens if the federal government shuts down; the NY Times today had a good list. One item that never seems to get mentioned is federal aid to education.
Title I and other aid of its ilk are reimbursements: in other words, the districts spends the money and then asks the federal government for the money so spent. This is done on a monthly basis and we are currently up-to-date on our reimbursements.
Because whatever budget eventually gets passed will have to include money for the time the government was shut down, one assumes (and the best guess right now) is that we would just get our reimbursements late. We'd have an interesting couple of Finance and Operations meetings where we shuffled money from one account to another, to cover what's usually reimbursed by Title I and others, and then shuffled it back to close the books at year end once the reimbursements came in.
Frankly, I'm more concerned about the proposed CUTS to these funds for next year's budget.

UPDATE: Here's the word from D.C. ('though now I'm confused about summer funding...)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Budget hearing dates

FY12 budget dates hearings will be June 2 and June 16. SAVE THE DATES!

Woodland Academy

note that both UPCS and Woodland have a team presentation
they start with a quote from Stuart McNaughton (had to Google that)
demographics don't mirror those of the district
college readiness, character development, community responsibility
full day preschool: Up to 15 neighborhood preschoolers for a full day
community partnerships for early intervention
"looping" teachers: students staying with teachers with more than one year
"of course the final hiring decision will rest with the principal" after staff review


Just had to quote this passsage from their plan:
However, at UPCS, traditional test preparation will not take the place of core curriculum or our six instructional strategies. We believe that the test preparation for these tests is not the remedial pullout model used by many schools. To the contrary, we believe that there is no better test preparation than the rigorous, literacy-rich curriculum developed by our teachers and the proposed focus on numeracy.
Can we make this the policy citywide?

University Park Campus School

We should note that University Park Campus School has often been cited as an already-active innovation school. Their plan acknowledged that, asking that they be granted some of the autonomies to work further.

Goddard School of Science and Technology

Goddard School
strong culture of shared expectations
"not the typical top-down governance system" (and note that this is the first presentation with more than one speaker)
connection with Promise Neighborhood as well as innovation
"student achievement through innovation"

Goddard Scholars (at Sullivan Middle)

Mulqueen points out that this is the only proposal in which the lead is a teacher rather than a principal
Goddard Scholars is a current academically accelerated program for grades 7 & 8 now
They're now proposing adding grade 6 in their second year (so, not this fall)
currently serve 96 students (evenly divided between grades 7 and 8)
"intention of innovation schools was to close the achievement gap; nearly all Goddard Scholars already achieve advanced or proficient: "we believe that all these students should be achieving in the advanced level"
concerned with digital literacy skills
underrepresented groups: Latino significantly lower--Asian significantly higher--than both the district and Sullivan: "active identification of qualified candidates" to address this

Chandler Magnet innovation school

Principal Perez is presenting:
dual language pilot in kindergarten and 1st grade, with an addition of a grade per year until 6th grade
plus literacy and language for all

Innovation school plans

the schools will go in alphabetical order, 15 minutes from each school, "to give a snapshot" of the schools
a public hearing on April 28th
sometime in May there will be a vote on each of the plans

MOU with Quinsigamond Community College and Burncoat High

QCC is looking for a partnership with the automotive department at Burncoat (yes, Burncoat has one!)
QCC uses the space after school; in return, they pay for the space, give our kids some space in their program upon graduation, and will upgrade our space and tools.

EAW President

Mr. Zaluskas: "this is why I'm proud to be a teacher in the Worcester Public Schools" (per the Women of Consequence Awards)
reads a recent letter to the editor (I'll link that later), regarding the recent spring concert at Mechanics Hall
"I have to say that I really appreciated that..."
"the kids are doing a good job, they're being motivated, and the teachers are doing a good job getting them motivated"
"a few of the plans are so outstanding that I can hardly wait to see what can happen inthe future"
"Worcester is a great school system...together...we can make it even greater."

Worcester School Committee meeting

And not only do we have a packed house, due to the innovation schools presentations; we also have quite a number of members of the teachers' union out in the hallway (breaking out into periodic chants).
Starting this evening with honoring the two Young Women of Consequence Awards, presented last month to Paige Allen of Burncoat High, and to Patricia Feraud of South High Community School. Patricia was here; Paige couldn't be, as she's in Hairspray at Burncoat (which is up tomorrow and Saturday nights, too!).

Mayor's Commission on Latino Education hearing

Let me preface by saying that I by no means heard everything. A few things I heard, though:
  • Opportunities and encouragement: noticing, for example, that Latino students are underrepresented in AP classes, finding the kids who (from grades, scores, history) are capable of doing the work, and going after them to get them signed up.
  • Not just getting kids into college, but getting them THROUGH college.
  • Making sure that kids see people who look like them in leadership (in and out of ed) AND being sure that assumptions aren't made based on what kids look like (or don't look like, come to that)
  • Going in different directions: programs like Dynamy, for example
  • "if it doesn't make sense, the student's not going to buy it" (I saw large nods from the students that were in my row at this!)
  • "a lot of the decisions that are made by our students are made based on outside influences" (this from a product of the WPS who is now a teacher)
  • "My teachers were the ones who told me that I had the potential to do these things."

Retirees and health insurance

This one's for you, Joan!
I checked into it, and I have it on the word of the mayor, who spoke to the City Manager, and Worcester retirees will be HELD HARMLESS this year. Retirees may, if they choose, pick one of the lower-cost options (so check out the chart!), but you will not be FORCED into anything this year.

Whose ed policy is it, anyway?

You may have caught that President Obama was greeted with a gasp in education circles last week when he said:
that “we have piled on a lot of standardized tests” under federal education law, meaning the annual proficiency tests in reading and math given to Grades 3 through 8 as well as once in high school.
“Now, there’s nothing wrong with a standardized test being given occasionally just to give a base line of where kids are at,” he continued. “Malia and Sasha, my two daughters, they just recently took a standardized test. But it wasn’t a high-stakes test. It wasn’t a test where they had to panic.”
Mr. Obama went on to denounce how standardized tests had narrowed the curriculum and led to teaching to the test.
“Too often,” he said, “what we’ve been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools.”
Right, like in the School Transformation Grants? Or in tying teacher evaluation to student test scores, as in Race to the Top?
Oh, wait...whose education policy was that?
YOURS, Mr. President!

BREAKING: Cathleen Black is OUT as NYC Chancellor

Just caught this off the NY Times page: Cathleen Black is OUT as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools. Apparently this is at the (reluctant) behest of Mayor Bloomberg. You may remember that Black was controversial as a pick from the beginning.

UPDATE: Here's the liveblog from GothamSchools. Clearly NOT expected.

Congratulations to Grafton!

As of last night, they've appointed a new superintendent, James Cummings, currently the assistant superintendent in Shrewsbury. Two things that look hopeful?
  • He took subbing positions to see what the schools look like from the teacher's perspective.
  • He handwrites thank you notes.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

More on GIC, GIC-like, GIC-esque...

If you're looking for more on the city insurance, Worcester Magazine has a post up which includes that elusive chart from last night.

Innovation School plans: updated

I should point out that the innovation school plans are posted as part of this week's School Committee agenda.In order of attachment, they are:
  1. Chandler Magnet 
  2. Goddard Scholars 
  3. Goddard School
  4. UPCS
  5. Woodland Academy
All are LARGE, so be prepared!

UPDATE: In answer to T's question below: the presentations are tonight. There is a public hearing on the plans at the April 28th School Committee meeting (remember, our schedule gets thrown off this month due to school vacation week). The School Committee votes on the plans on May 5th.

WPS Goddard documents

Aside from a string of dates and some to/from information (which has some gaps, which suggests that things have been left out), there is literally NOTHING in the Goddard documents from the Worcester Public Schools.
Looking into the state appeal process.

Special Education Parent Advisory Council seeks new members

The Special Education Parent Advisory Council is seeking new members.

If you are interested in joining the Worcester Special Education Parent Advisory Council
please send your:  
School your child attends
phone number
email address

send to the PAC at:

They will receive requests to join the board until May 1st. All parents interested will be sent an email to attend a board meeting for official nominations and voting.

Joint meeting: UPDATED 2x

I didn't liveblog last night partly because they were both presentations we'd seen before (with the differences I note below), and also because it was pretty close quarters up at that long table. Somewhat annoyingly, the presentations are not attachments on the Council agenda or the School Committee agenda, nor are they on the respective budgetary pages. I'll have to see if we can work on that. UPDATE: WPS has it up now. You can find it in the Finance and Operations department under FY12.

On the presentations:
  • The Manager's presentation (notes from previous presentation here) had two changes from previously: he acknowledged that the increase in school funding is due to state law (thank you!), and he also went into the greatest amount of detail I've yet seen on the new insurance plans (and this is why it's a shame that it isn't up anywhere, because that chart is really important; but Worcester Magazine now has it posted.). The plan(s) he's put together are much better than we previously had seen (all we'd gotten before was news of a big, scary deductible), and that puts negotiating those in a very different light.
  • The Superintendent's presentation (notes from previous presentation here) had a few new charts: one that mirrored the city's cut history (for the city, 581 positions since FY01; for the schools, 461 since FY02...I should find out what happens if WPS adds the previous year...), and two that demonstrated that the increase in school funding has reflected an increase in funds the city has available (that's how the foundation budget is calculated, after all!), so at the end of the day, the schools are still being funded at precisely the same percentage of city wealth--29.2-- they have been, below the 30.7% recommended by the state.
On the comments:
  • It's time we had the Mass School Building Authority come in and talk to the City Council. I understand that it's an election year and that the west side votes heavily, but I promise you: there's no way that the state is going to think that Doherty is Worcester's highest priority for state funding for rehab. It just isn't going to happen. So long as Worcester wants state funding to help out with rehab and replacement, we have to go by their list, and Doherty's not that high up.
  • Having Councilors talk about adding an exam school whilst voting for the lowest amount of legally allowed school funding = irony.
  • Much conversation about GIC, GIC-like, what the Legislature may or may not do.
  • And I asked, understanding that this was not the year, but also seeing good years which apparently also were not the year: Under what circumstances would the city propose a budget that funded the schools at something over foundation? I was met with silence.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Hayes, a vocal critic of Sheffield, is a founding member of the Watchdogs for Ethics in Education, or WEE.
She and other members of WEE have filed several requests for information from the district under the Freedom of Information Act. If Hayes is elected to the board, she doesn’t want to have to continue that practice. Saudargas and board member Jude Makulec have resorted to FOIA requests in recent months to obtain information...
From the Rockford Register Star, Rockford, IL, where the superintendent is  LaVonne Sheffield, yes, Broad class of 2002 and where they not incidentally are having a school board election today that in part has been focused on her tenure there.

And speaking of FOIAs, no, I haven't forgotten ours. I'm reviewing the WPS documents around Goddard, and I'll post on them later this week.


There will be a joint meeting of the Worcester School Committee and the Worcester City Council tonight at 7 pm at City Hall (in the Levi Lincoln room; turn RIGHT at the top of the stairs). FY12 budget is the agenda.
So as to allow for attendance at that meeting, CPPAC will be holding their monthly meeting at the library at 6pm: an update on parental involvement in the budget (by survey and by advocacy) is on the agenda, as is an update on their parental expo later this spring.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Tying teacher evaluation to student test scores?

You might be interested in the choices made by our national education "deciders" on tying teacher evaluation to student test scores. If this is a great idea, then, surely, it's something they've chosen for their own children?
As you probably know, President Obama's daughters go to Sidwell Friends. Their answer:
“We don't tie teacher pay to test scores because we don't believe them to be a reliable indicator of teacher effectiveness.”
(Sidwell Friends faculty member, April 1, 2011)
Secretary Duncan's children go to Arlington, Virginia public schools. Their answer:
“We do not tie teacher evaluations to scores in the Arlington public school system.” 
            (Arlington school district teacher, March 31, 2011)
So, President Obama and Secretary Duncan: when do we get this sort of school system for all our children?

Here it comes

Remember Secretary Duncan's 82% not meeting AYP?
In Vermont, 72 percent of their schools aren't making AYP this year.

Meetings next week

While the agenda (plural) won't be out until later today, mark your calendar now for:
  • Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports subcommittee meets on Monday at 6pm on the fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building. I have not seen the entire agenda as yet, but I know that it includes computer gaming, IEP's, and RECESS (this time for sure!). Please come or weigh in ahead of time if you have thoughts!
  • The Worcester School Committee and the Worcester City Council will have a joint meeting on Tuesday at 7pm. There will be budget presentations by both administrations (expect dueling PowerPoints). I've been told that this will be in the Levi Lincoln room (so there's no fighting over desks. You think I'm kidding?).
  • The Worcester School Committee will have its regularly scheduled meeting next Thursday, also at City Hall, also at 7pm. The presentations by the innovation schools will be the bulk of the agenda. This brings me to my light reading for the week:
Yes, those are the plans!
Superintendent Boone will not be at the Thursday School Committee meeting, as there is a Promise Neighborhood meeting she is attending in New York City.