Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Making a broken system worse

Board of Ed went 9-2 in favor of the Commissioner's recommendation on teacher evaluation.
Thanks to the two members, Jim McDermott and Ruth Kaplan, who read the research.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Worcester Public School graduations are up online!

All grade 12 graduations are now archived online.

Not so fast, Secretary Duncan, says Rep. Kline

In the latest round of "Whose Constitutional Power Is It, Anyway?" Representative John Kline (Chair of the House education committee) has sharply criticized Secretary Duncan's plans to offer waivers on No Child Left Behind, but only in return for wholesale adoption of Race to the Top-type goals and measures.
“He’s not the nation’s superintendent,” Mr. Kline said of Mr. Duncan, who assumed powers greater than any of his predecessors when, in 2009, Congress voted $100 billion in economic stimulus money for the nation’s school systems and allowed the secretary to decide how much of it should be spent.  
“Unquestionably, Congress gave the secretary way too much authority in the stimulus bill when it said, ‘Here’s $5 billion, go do good things for education,’ ” Mr. Kline said.
Kline has requested that Duncan get back to him by Monday with an explanation as to his legal authority to offer waivers under such conditions. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

ESCO projects through Honeywell

If yesterday's Telegram and Gazette coverage made you wonder what was and was not on the list, here's the WPS list. 
(note that some names are old names of buildings and programs)
Lots of controls and regulators on the list. Most urgent? Union Hill's boilers, which failed this winter. Most whizz-bang? Solar panels for Tech and Sullivan Middle.

Sorry, guys: not a lot of windows on here. We're going to have to look elsewhere for those.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Worcester East Middle School Let's GO!

Today I went over to Worcester East Middle School for some celebratory photos of the students and teachers who'd been involved in the Let's GO! Worcester East Middle group this year. They went out on over 100 trips: hiking, biking, snowshoeing, mountain climbing, and canoeing. Plenty of the kids had never done anything like that. All together, nearly 40% of the student body at Worcester East Middle went on at least one trip (they're in the photo!), and if you take every student's mileage, add it together, you get enough to go from here to San Francisco! Howard Fain, who is a science teacher, was the heart, soul, and driving force behind it all, and he's deserves huge credit, as to Mass Audubon, their major partner, and Fallon, their major funder.
The mayor was kind enough to issue a proclamation for them; photos are here.

About Duncan?

Go read David Cohen.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Outside Union Hill

Tonight Mullen Sawyer of the Oak Hill CDC is announcing that Union Hill School is getting a new playground and that the school will be surrounded by more GREEN beginning next year!

And speaking of greening Union Hill, you might remember the flower bed put in last year? Here's what it looks like now:
Thanks to everyone who donated, gave advice, or watered! It looks great!

Why history can't be boiled down to an MCAS exam

. Being able to reel off a list of dates in history, while useful, is so much less important than understanding why those dates matter, or understanding enough about the way civilization has developed to be able to figure things out from what you already know.
From "Free Range: Google It"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No, please, tell us what you really think

Kudos this week to Mayor Scott Lang of New Bedford (and, I have to imagine, his staff) for his complete, well-written, exhaustively researched response to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's District Review. If you care about education, particularly urban education, in Massachusetts, it's worth reading.
I received it in an email; I've posted it as a Google doc here.

Save Our Schools Rally in DC

Friday, June 17, 2011

Waving at the bus

Do you wave to your kids on the bus?
Not like this guy, you don't.
h/t NPR

Worcester Cares: fundraising for the American Red Cross

Today is the twelve hour, citywide fundraising event to assist the American Red Cross in their recovery efforts for Western and South-central Massachusetts:

Hanover Insurance Park at Fitton Field / College of the Holy Cross
1 College Street, Worcester
6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Featuring WTAG personalities Jim Polito, Jordan Levy and more!

Price Chopper / East Mountain Street
72 Pullman Street, Worcester, MA 01606
6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Featuring WSRS personalities Greg Byrne & Jackie Brush and more!

Commerce Bank & Trust
993 Grafton Street, Worcester, MA 01604
6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Featuring WCRN’s Hank Stolz and other personalities!

DCU Center
Major Taylor Boulevard Entrance, Worcester, MA 01608
6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Featuring 100 FM “The Pike” and 98.9 ORC FM personalities Frank Foley, Cruisin’ Bruce Palmer and more!

Lincoln Plaza Shopping Center
525 Lincoln Street, Worcester, MA 01605
6:00 am – 6:00 pm
Featuring WXLO personalities Jen Carter & Steve Donovan, and more!

Charter TV3 – live simulcast of WTAG’s Jim Polito Show and Jordan Levy Show!

If you can’t make it: Donate on-line at www.redcrosscwm.org or text: REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 gift to assist Red Cross Disaster Relief.

Tomorrow, the Worcester Tornadoes are living up to their name and hosting fundraising at their home game against the Quebec Capitales. 
The family events start at 5:30 PM on June 18th and will include live bands on the Concourse, children’s games, Worcester Sharks’ shoot-out, clowns, face-painters, balloons, bounce houses and other activities. Post-game fireworks will complete the evening.
All tickets are $15 and all ticket proceeds (as well as those from other fundraisers) go to the American Red Cross.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


And back to the budget...

We're through the regular agenda, coming up on ten pm, and we're going back to the budget. We'll be hitting the big accounts now, including health insurance and the teacher account.

Comments from Superintendent Boone

"how well have we done, what have we accomplished"
"how I live and operate..go back and review documents that you've provided in relation to the coming year"
how we evaluate our success as a district
"what are all the systems of success"
first performance report in the fall
"look to continue to strength the relationships with the School Committee"
different agendas, fragmented approach
"common goals for the school system..we all have our beliefs...concerns about things I have to respond to"
conversation with the ad-hoc group to review the steps going forward
echo kudos from all on administrative team: "Dream Team Plus"
"very bright, very dedicated, extremely dedicated folks"

Evaluation of the superintendent

again publishing as I go
Superintendent Melinda J. Boone is reviewing her goals and objectives.
(And we're being zippy here as the mayor needs to catch a plane)

Approving contracts

...with just about everyone tonight.

Back to public session

...we'll be reporting out of executive session, then moving straight to the evaluation of the superintendent. Then on with the rest of the meeting, then BACK to the rest of the budget.

FY12 budget hearing: publishing as I go

sorry, we had a squirrelly wifi connection there
Keep hitting "refresh" as I'll post these as we go

we've received a letter from the state ethics commission that WPS should stop all fundraising activities (due to WEDF fundraising activities), pending legal advice...posted around athletics fundraising

considering community schools on an annual basis and evaluating placement and funding on an annual basis

Worcester School Committee: last before summer! (now updated with actual information)

The Worcester School Committee has its final school year meeting tonight.
The meeting begins at 4 pm in City Hall with the budget. I don't think I'm giving anything away to say that you should expect to see lots of transfers tonight. As the teachers' contract is settled, we'll need to transfer money from unemployment and health insurance to the teachers' salary account to bring back teachers. There may be other transfers of like sort.
It will recess for executive session once the budget is complete and come back for the regular session, including Superintendent Boone's annual evaluation, at 7 pm (or thereabouts; exec may run long tonight). You will find the agenda here.
The School Committee is supposed to submit the evaluations in writing to the School Committee clerk ahead of time (for those of you who like insider baseball: not all are in). As the T&G has requested them as well, it would not surprise me to find that they'll be posting them online, as they did last year. I have asked that they be posted as an attachment to this agenda, as well, but please realize that it may take a day or more. 
Other items on the agenda:
  • Chandler Magnet is requesting uniforms
  • a few retirements and hirings
  • the annual "allow transfers to clear up the fiscal year" request
  • a presentation on community responsibility
  • donation and grant acceptances, including $45,000 on a graduation initiative
  • congratulations to students on art of various kinds
Not only at City Hall, but on Channel 11, and online

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All that testing isn't working

In a report which appears to have been widely ignored (I'm turning up reports in the Washington Times and HuffPo), the entire basis of the current American educational system has been called into question.
Valerie Strauss summarizes:
A 17-member Committee on Incentives and Test-Based Accountability convened by the National Research Council...examined over the past decade 15 incentive programs, which are designed to link rewards or sanctions for schools, students and teachers to students’ test results. The programs studied included high-school exit exams and those that give teachers incentives (such as bonus pay) for improved test scores.
The panel studied the effects of incentives, not by tracking changes in scores on high-stakes tests connected to incentive programs, but by looking at the results of “low-stakes” tests, such as the well-regarded National Assessment of Educational Progress, which aren’t linked to the incentives and are taken by the same cohorts of students.
The researchers concluded that the effects of incentive programs tend to be “small and . . . effectively zero for a number” of such programs.
(emphasis added)
Note that this report explicitly includes No Child Left Behind, but also includes programs that are now reflected in Race to the Top policies.
The researchers further concluded that such policies not only do not improve students' education, they also give us a false view of how students are doing.
The entire report is online at the link. Share it!

Central Falls, RI update

We haven't checked in with Central Falls in awhile: NPR did.
Karten says the school was in such disarray that in-school suspensions jumped from 2,300 to 8,500 by the end of May.
Lots more at the link. Definitely a cautionary tale.

WPS Special Education audit is UP

Per the request of the public, the entire document given to the School Committee regarding the special education audit is now up online.

Monday, June 13, 2011

"Don't let the facts get in the way of a good story"*

The current batch of education debates is, purportedly, between those who think you can fix everything about a kid's life and future by "fixing" schools, and those who think that issues surrounding schools have an enormous impact on what goes on inside the schools, and thus those issues must be dealt with as well.
(Note: this is of course a vast over-simplification of both points.)
The "poverty matters" crowd got a bit of a boost this week when the National Bureau of Economic Research published a report to:
examine the effects of state-level job losses on fourth- and eighth-grade test scores, using federal Mass Layoff Statistics and 1996-2009 National Assessment of Educational Progress data. Results indicate that job losses decrease scores. Effects are larger for eighth than fourth graders and for math than reading assessments, and are robust to specification checks. Job losses to 1% of a state’s working-age population lead to a .076 standard deviation decrease in the state’s eighth-grade math scores. This result is an order of magnitude larger than those found in previous studies that have compared students whose parents lose employment to otherwise similar students, suggesting that downturns affect all students, not just students who experience parental job loss. Our findings have important implications for accountability schemes: we calculate that a state experiencing one-year job losses to 2% of its workers (a magnitude observed in seven states) likely sees a 16% increase in the share of its schools failing to make Adequate Yearly Progress under NCLB.
Decent coverage here.
Two important points:
  1. One hopes that this will lower some of the shrillness of rhetoric of those who claim others want to "hold off on fixing schools" until...whenever. It would be helpful if we could acknowledge that a community being under economic duress does change how the community's children do in school.
  2. Might perhaps this change how we're dealing with NCLB?

*as oft cited by my dad's former boss, Bob Berkowitz

Hearts for the Arts

Bidding is now open!
It’s time for our 2nd Annual Hearts for the Arts fundraiser to benefit the students in the Worcester Public Schools! Last year we solicited local artists to work creatively with wooden heart forms, which were transformed into unique pieces of art. This year, we have invited artists to create something with a heart-based theme in the medium of their choice. Worcester Public Schools teachers and other area artists have created works in wood, glass and metal, and on canvases and in paper and fabric!  

Many of the items are posted on the home page of the Worcester Public Schools website (www.worcesterschools.org) and bids can be accepted by emailing the Visual Arts Liaison, Kathleen Ivanowski, at Ivanowski@worc.k12.ma.us until midnight on June 15th

We then invite the public to join us at Club Maxine’s on Friday, June 17th from 5:00 to 8:00 PM where the online bids will be carried over for the live silent auction portion of our fundraiser. Donations for admission are inexpensive at $10.00 per person, which includes hors d’oeuvres, and a cash bar. We are also offering chances to own a beautiful framed photograph by local photographer Amy DeMar. Second prize is a $50.00 gift certificate to CC Lowell.

Winners of the auction items may write a check to Culture LEAP, our fiscal agent, or pay with cash.  Proceeds will directly benefit the students in the Worcester Public Schools, as the teachers will use the money to purchase art supplies.

With our heart-felt thanks, we can all help to keep the arts alive in Worcester!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Evaluation "forums" now approaching farce


1. A meeting or medium where ideas and views on a particular issue can be exchanged.
Key word there: exchanged.
Read the letter Jim Horn was sent from someone attending the so-called "forum" and see if there's much "exchanging" going on.
We should therefore expect to see a lovely presentation with colorful charts at the next Board of Ed meeting, representing that "X percent of teachers favor being evaluated by Y" and so forth, when of course this is a gross misrepresentation of what anyone sitting there may think.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Your opinion needed!

The 2011 Parent/Guardian Survey is now ONLINE!
You'll find it in:

..at the appropriate link! 
Please pass this along!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Tree planting at Thorndyke Road today

Third grader Abby West of Thorndyke Road won an essay contest on trees (and who would know better than the kids in the Burncoat neighborhoods?). Today was the award ceremony, where she read her essay:
Abby West reading her winning essay at Thorndyke Road #inWor on Twitpic

And planted two Johnny Appleseed trees in front of the school:
Planting a Johnny Appleseed tree at Thorndyke Road on Twitpic
Congratulations, Abby!

Superintendent's report out

I post here our report from Superintendent Boone on her goals and objectives for this school year. It is on this that the School Committee will be evaluating her next Thursday. As I've said before, I welcome your input.

Overarching focus:  To move Worcester Public Schools from a compliance-based system to performance/results based system.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Gulen charter schools

Enormous front page article in the New York Times today on the Gulen charter school network. There's some big questions here around the legitimacy of the biding process, the religious angle, the importing of teachers. In all cases it boils down to one thing: not enough public oversight. Charter schools, particularly in states where they are chartered by the state, far too often answer to no one on bidding, treatment of children, staffing...and on and on.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

CPPAC this week

Also, the Citywide Parent group is having their final meeting of the school year. It's at 7pm at the Worcester Public Library, and you can find the agenda here.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Graduation week!

Next week is Worcester Public Schools graduation week! Every night next week one of the big high schools had a graduation at the DCU Center:
  • Monday: Burncoat
  • Tuesday: North
  • Wednesday: South
  • Thursday: Doherty
  • Friday: Tech
The following week, Claremont Academy graduates on Monday, and University Park Campus School on Tuesday, in both cases in Atwood Hall at Clark.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


June 11 9-noon at WPI
There will be workshops, discussions, food, babysitting, translation...You should come!
You can find the (English) sign up here.

Flavored milk and lunches

the new federal nutrition act would effectively eliminate all flavored milk. The School Committee is asking for input from parents on that.

Note that schools are now required to have potable water avaliable at all lunchrooms to see how it might be implemented.

Also, the School Committee is asking principals about "the timeframe for student lunches and the lunchroom policies/procedures" for elementary and middle schools, to report back to TLSS.
Concerns raised by parents and staff, and varies across the board...as we have spent much time and discussion and research around recess, "this now seems to be the item on the table."
Mullaney: "what happened to site based management...very opposed to telling principals how to run their buildings...what are we going to do with this information...really frightens me when we put these well-meaning items out there and don't consider the time and effort that goes into them...if we plan to use this as we did the recess thing, to get into the procedures...very wary of overstepping our role..concerned about the school committee" Asks for a roll call
Motion passes 5-1 (mayor is out of the room)

School nurse coordinator

..is open. As this person is hired by the School Committee, the administration is suggesting a process and timeline

Superintendent's evaluation

The Superintendent's evaluation will take place on June 16.
This will be on the goals from last year, with updates. The Superintendent will provide the School Committee with her accomplishments under those goals by next Monday, and those will be used by the committee for her evaluation on June 16.
Monfredo notes, on our behalf, that we are all always most happy to hear from members of the public regarding the superintendent.
And please consider this my open invitation: I will post the Superintendent's accomplishments once I have them.

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports

new courses:
  • Show Choir (at Burncoat High)
  • AP Spanish Lit (at South)
  • Spanish II for Health Professions (at North)
  • Computer Technology for Health Professions (at North)
Review and redrafting of Wellness Policy
Some notes on the the Wraparound Zone committees
Student questionnaires

Note that the Wellness Policy is going in the student handbook as well.

Governance and Employee Issues

gets us a new concussion policy and passes the student policy handbook, largely as amended, including the new recess policy and the 504 information sent home with students last week.

You can find the Worcester Public Schools on Twitter!

I'm ridiculously proud of this!
You will find the Twitter feed at @worcesterpublic

Student Advisory Council

report of the Superintendent tonight
(and they have snappy blue polo shirts)
There are 35 of them, but only three of them are here due to scheduling conflicts (because they all tend to be very actively involved students).
The administration sets some agenda items, the students also "develop and exercise leadership skills"
Gave input on the budget this year

back in public session

And on the regular agenda...
We have a number of honorees tonight to begin with, including the Nurse of the Year and the Teacher of the Year.

Ellen Capstick from Sullivan Middle is the Nurse of the Year.
Siobhan Petrella from Worcester Tech is the Teacher of the Year.

Continued budget

Athletic budget OM
O'Brien wants the locker rooms redone
Novick: Hockey budget is underfunded by about $3000; can we get someone to ante up here? We don't rent a pool for swimming...
Sales at the concession stand at Foley Stadium are down (that's run by school nutrition...who knew?)
Ticket sales are up, though
O'Connell asks about equipment replacment cycle
O'Brien asks about the Foley Stadium rental account: most of the rental fees go to the personnel
rest is used for upkeep and repairs at Foley Stadium
O'Brien asks about the turf replacement: that account won't cover it, Allen says
renew sponsorship to fund replacement
outdoor advertising funds also go through the revolving account: it's still in RFP, though
Biancheria asks about transportation: it's gone up
Allen: it's a contractual increase (3%)
Monfredo wants to know if we think we're going to have a contract soon on the sign
Allen says it's been bid out three times, comments that he's "optimistic"

Crossing guards: $486,636
all are out Worcester Public Schools (Novick question)
O'Connell asks if there's any need for more: Allen none at this time

Bus monitors: all are on special education buses
Luster: they work an eight hour day
O'Brien asks how this works: morning, midday preschool drop-off and pick-up, afternoon

Transportation: Boone commends Hennessey for his work in getting kids home yesterday during the storm
Biancheria asks for a report...breaking down how many buses for public, private, charter
Allen speaks of isolating private/parochial/charter: about $750,000
she's like it spelled out by lines to discuss with legislature
Boone agrees
Biancheria asks about the closing of Putnam Lane
increase of one bus is partly the closing of Putnam Lane, also St. Mary's and Notre Dame Academy have asked for bus services
there is excess bus capacity to pick up North High students due to Putnam Lane closure for the rest of this year because the seniors are done
Foley: more than 10,000 students in our system...responsiveness
McKinney-Vento: federal mandate to bus students to their home school, unfunded
"typically suburban communities will not bear that we have to"
Monfredo most patient when parents call..speak to legislators
Novick asks that WRTA changes be reviewed for impact of WPS students (that's partly why we're adding bus: Notre Dame students don't have an RTA bus to catch) for comment by committee members

Educational support passes

Vehicle maintenance:
we buy gas from the city
226,000 is for fuel of transportation
O'Connell asks how much we're being charged for gas
and asks how much we think we're planning on being charged...we're exempt from some taxes, Allen points out

Back to exec...finishing the budget on June 16


Workers Comp:
recommended at $952,300
(we're expected to expend over a million again this year)
Monfredo asks if there's anything we can do to bring down the necessity of this
Luster talks about training, contacting people who are out

O'Connell asks if we can cut it
Allen points out (in so many words) that we're underfunding it

Retirement: we have an early retirement incentive here
Novick checks to be sure she's reading right; there's money in here that funds those "whose service began prior to 1939" (so, prior to the creation of Social Security). Allen says that we do have those who had service prior to 1939, adding that their numbers are declining.

Coaches account: Boone points out that the cheerleaders are added here (they were moved from last year)
O'Connelll asks how long it's been since we had freshman sports; Allen says he believes 2004
O'Connell: middle school is limited to basketball
requests a report on expanding sports in connection with health and wellness
Biancheria asks if the wrestling is citywide...we're getting a report
Monfredo talks about grades 5 and 6 sports...finding ways of getting some of those schools to elementary sports
Novick asks how we're deciding what sports to offer where
Boone: interest and size of schools
Monfredo speaks of corporate sponsorships
Boone overall goal of ad-hoc sports group
Biancheria asks for a list of needs of sports...Boone says a full report from the ad-hoc committee is coming...Biancheria asks when...some question on when the committee could have it back

Budget account by account...with some comments first

(I'll break as these entiries get long)
Monfredo asks when we will see funding above the minimum level, speaks of Mediaid and grant cut

O'Connell asks how much we're saving on the contract. Allen $5.46 million
O'Connell asks how many positions (if it were only going to staffing positions)...Allen says 85 positions
O'Connell asks how many positions that would leave us having lots...Allen: if it were only teachers, we'd add teachers...it would not reduce any positions at all if we were to put them in the salaries

Worcester Public Schools budget hearing

...has just opened. following the approval of the two (one one year, one three year) EAW teacher contracts. (Note that Biancheria was recused, the City Manager voted no, all others voted yes)

Boone reviews focus, priorities, in setting budget. "There are no good choices..." in budgeting under these constraints.
The budget "does not reflect any potential savings based on the ratification of the EAW contract"

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Tornadoes in Massachusetts

How did the Worcester Public Schools fare?
(with thanks to Superintendent Boone for her update this evening)
Most of the kids were home by the time the storms came through. Two exceptions: the Roosevelt after school program kept the kids until the storm passed; they headed home around 6:30. Also, some Flagg Street kids were coming home from Boston on a field trip and spent the storm at a rest stop in Framingham. All made it back safely and were picked up by their parents.
Superintendent Boone has offered assistance to the superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools, Alan Ingram.

(And yes, Worcester does have school tomorrow. The governor has asked that superintendents in AFFECTED communities call off school. That's not Worcester.)