Thursday, July 28, 2011

Philly Superintendent on her way out?

EdWeek reports that it appears that the superintendent of Philadelphia's public schools, Arlene Ackerman, may be on her way out.
With Philadelphia superintendent Arlene Ackerman facing a potential cheating scandal, a $629 million budget deficit, and evidence of contracts being steered toward unqualified companies, lawmakers in the city are reportedly trying to negotiate her departure.
Unfortunately, it may cost the district $1.5 million. (Not that keeping her in office is a bargain.)
Yes, there's a Broad Academy connection: she was Superintendent in residence before she came to Philly, and she is a past member of their board.

SOS March coverage: UPDATED

In today's T&G
Should you be a Bay Stater heading down to D.C., there's a contingent meeting at the World War II memorial, Massachusetts regiment. Hope to see you!
I'll only add that I won't be able to liveblog the march, but I will tweet (you can find my Tweeter feed here), and I'll post when I get back.

UPDATE: It appears that it has come to the administration's attention that they are about to have thousands of upset parents, teachers, elected officials, educational researchers, and others turn up on their doorstep.  EdWeek reports that yesterday's meeting between organizers and ed officials (Duncan apparently stopped by for 10 minutes)...depends on who you ask. Duncan thinks they aren't far apart; organizers disagree. Considering that the previous times Duncan has met (by phone or otherwise) with some of the same people, I'm not confident he actually listened.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Quinsignamond School playground work

We're getting an official update on this work and the work behind Gates Lane at the August 23rd meeting of the Finance and Operations Standing Committee.

Does increased funding lead to better outcomes?

I haven't linked over to Bruce Babbitt on School Finance 101 in some time (but, seriously, read his stuff!). He's got a new post up now dealing with that perpetual question: if we increase funding for education, will it make any difference?
Massachusetts is an example!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Why I March

Next Saturday is the Save Our Schools March in Washington, D.C. I'll be heading down for the day. As part of the protest, those going are being asked to write "Why I March." Here's mine.

I believe in democracy.

I believe that, as the Massachusetts Constitution says, "(w)isdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties" that we must educate the next generation in order for democracy to succeed.

I believe that educating citizens to participate in a democracy is one of the most complicated and most important things we can do, and I believe that it cannot be legitimately represented on a data chart.

I believe that every five year old sitting in a classroom is there to become an educated member of our society, not simply a worker in our economy.

I believe that far too many decisions are being made about education in this country by people who never have stood before a classroom, never have supervised a recess, never have sat in a staff meeting, never have written and rewritten a lesson plan, never have wondered what to do about that one kid they just can't seem to reach.

I believe that far too many decisions are being made about education in this country by people who have never agonized over their decision on where to send their children to school, never watched with great concern as their local budget gets cut and cut again, never asked when their kids were going to learn history or science, never wondered where the joy that they remember in their own elementary days has gone in their children's lives.

I believe there is far too much corporate say in education, and that a society in which the voices of big business are listened to above all else is a society out of balance.

I believe that standardized testing is an illegitimate means of evaluating students, schools, teachers, principals, districts, and superintendents, and I believe that a decade under No Child Left Behind has left our nation's schools weaker.

I believe that education funding should not be subject to political whim, and I believe that the priority we place on funding our children's education speaks volumes about who we are as a nation.

When I took office as a member of the Worcester School Committee last January, I swore to uphold the Constitution of the United States.
However, at this time, national education policy does not work to establish justice. It does not ensure domestic tranquillity. It does not provide for the common defense. It does not promote the general welfare. As such, it does not form a more perfect union, and it will not secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.
I meant what I said when I took that oath, and I fight hard to fulfill it.
The President, members of the Cabinet, and members of Congress also took such an oath. Next week, I will be in Washington to remind them to fulfill it.

That is why I march.

The wonder of Finland

I tend not to do a lot on education in Finland, as we've got a long way to go until we approach their poverty rate (according to the UN, in 2010, Finland's was 4.4%; the U.S. rate was 22.4%).
And before we get into the "you think we have to fix everything before we fix education" downspin: no, I don't. But let's not pretend that having a 1 in 5 poverty rate makes no difference in education.
However, if you're not familiar with how Finland, generally agreed by just about everyone to be doing a good job in education, runs their educational system, you might read this abridged Salon interview with Professor Tony Wagner, narrator of the new movie The Finland Phenomenon: Inside the World's Most Surprising School System. Or you can listen to the whole interview here.
I'll keep an eye out and see when it might be local.

FY12 Budget update: not so good news (now updated)

We got a written update on the FY12 budget last night.
The short version: we've got $769,202 less than we expected, due to the Legislature not fully funding the charter reimbursement.
The charter tuition rate reimbursment level is down $625, 311
The charter tutition assessment is up $155,952

WPS set aside $350,000 during the budget process out of concern over this (most particularly that the state doesn't include transportation in the Abby Kelley Foster assessment until the end), so there's $419,202 left to find, which we are assured administration can find without touching classrooms.

Here's the part that's an update: the state level funded education, with some exceptions (including the circuit breaker, which went up, for which we are grateful). The Board of Ed, however, approved sixteen new charter schools this spring. The Legislature, trying to preserve ed funding in an incredibly difficult year, level funded charter school reimbursement. With sixteen new schools and the same amount of money, though, no one was going to get the money they needed.
And we just didn't.
Note, though, that the state simply now says to Worcester (and any such district around the state) "you must come up with a way to pay this." The Board of Ed authorizes the school; the Legislature underfunds it; the district gets stuck with the bill.
In Worcester's case, that's half a million dollars that we now need to "find" in our budget. It will directly be a cut in our programs that will fund charter school programs over which we have no fiduciary control.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Union Hill Library

Massive donation list here
There's a re-dedication coming later this fall; no date as of yet.

conversation around assistant principals

some about cohort training, who has it, who's applying for positions, who's eligible for positions and not applying

I don't know exactly what it is either; I'll get an answer.


item asking a) that entrances be clearly marked and b) that we be consistent around access to school grounds in non-school hours.

In other words, it shouldn't matter what neighborhood you live in: you should be welcome on your school grounds. "No Trespassing" signs are not cool.

new North High update

...asking for an update on how North High is going. Biancheria points out that people are "more than interested"
Allen: taking ownership from city next week if all goes well
temporary certificate of occupancy
furniture and fixures coming in daily
gym and auditorium are complete
minor punchlist items to process to complete
word out to School Committee on when we take ownership
front has been fully landscaped
temporary parking lot in place; permanent parking lot is on the old North building site
demolition of old building and creation of new athletic fields over the course of the next year
is our list the city list? Yes. Permit to occupy the school comes with permanent occupancy
construction continuing all next year means city will continue to be involved
Boone: goal is that by this time next year we'll be entirely done
Biancheria asks for this as a report

Update: We got an official summary of this. I'm posting it here after the jump:

Thrive in 5

You can find more about this here.

Plan on walking to school

National Walk to School Day is October 5 this year!

Signing on

to the National School Board's Association letter asking for NCLB regulatory relief

Solid Foundation

Solid Foundation for Title I and NCLB
piloting this year

Capital improvements

We've got a gigantic report on capital improvements, including ESCo contract improvements.
We've got boilers going in at Claremont/Woodland,  Norrback, Quinsig, Roosevelt, Union  Hill, and Worcester Arts Magnet.
Worcester Tech is getting solar, as is Sullivan Middle, plus Tech is getting a wind turbine
And Jacob Hiatt is getting a new roof

Grievance being held

...pending meeting of admin and EAW. Decision announced September 1.

Cell phones and bus drivers

No, they can't use them. Yes, you should complain (either through the Superintendent's office or directly to school transportation) should you see it: give us either the location and time of the bus, or the bus number.

National Elementary Honor Society

chartering fee of $125, annual fee of $80
need an advisor and a faculty council

Boone recommends forwarding to individual schools

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports

O'Connell presents from the chair
there's a whole bunch of items being filed

Questions from Novick regarding the implementation of the Common Core
rolling implementation of Common Core,with some diplomacy from Mulqueen regarding the vagaries of dealing with the state on RTTT

School Committee meeting: summer edition School Choice

Report of the superintendent is on school choice. We've got a report on school choice INTO the city and school choice OUT of the city.

Excellent article on the importance of reall vocational education

Very often conversations about vocational education get torpedoed early on by the history in some communities of vocational education being for low-income and/or minority kids. If it's been seen as a "second choice" for kids who have (or should have) other options, then it's difficult to have a real conversation about education that ends in a job at 12th grade for kids who wish or need that option.
The Nation does a solid job of tackling the need for actual vocational education while dealing well with this history. Give it a read. This definitely has implications for what we are and are not doing in Worcester.

Why new boilers matter

So that we don't heat with no.6 oil, as they do in some New York City schools.

Wish summer would last forever?

They've got school on indefinite hold in Memphis, pending city payment. They want $55 million to start the year.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Parent reimbursement upheld by federal district court in Colorado

Here's an interesting one: a federal district court in Colorado has upheld a lower court decision that " parents of a student with psychiatric and emotional disorders, who unilaterally placed the student in a private residential treatment facility, are entitled to tuition reimbursement" (emphasis added). In other words, the parents put their daughter in this facility without the prior consent of their sending school district to pay for such a placement, but the district is being required to pay for it, nonetheless.
The editor further notes:
 The school district has appealed the district court's decision to the Tenth Circuit. As pointed out by the district court, the three-judge panel drawing this case will face for the first time the question of what test to employ to determine whether a private placement is reimbursable under IDEA.
(If this interests you, read the abstract, as there are a few more ins and outs than I've entered here.)

NewsCorp: education edition

You didn't know there was an education connection?
The state of New York has multiple millions of dollars out in no-bid contracts to Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corp., where, not-so-coincidentally, past New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein now works.
It appears that some are now thinking this might not be so wise:
The New York Daily News, in a story about how the media scandal could affect News Corp.’s new education division, quoted Patrick Sullivan, a parent leader on the city’s Panel for Educational Policy, as saying that it was “really disturbing” that education officials had “hired a Murdoch company to work on our children's data.”
And now, School Size Matters, a New York-based education advocacy nonprofit organization, has organized a petition drive asking the state and the New York City comptroller to reject no-bid contracts with Wireless Generation.

Rupert Murdoch recently appointed Klein to serve as his advisor on the growing News Corp. scandal (that's him sitting next to Murdoch's wife, Wendi Deng, and behind his son James, as Murdoch testifies before a Parliamentary subcommittee today).

Race to the Top: Preschool Edition

Massachusetts is in.

“We shape our buildings; thereafter they shape us.”**

There was a press conference this afternoon with the mayor, the city manager, the superintendent, and assorted city council and school committee members to announce the summer 2011 capital improvements. I've included the final list below:

Work on the Michael J. Kustigian playground next to Gates Lan... on Twitpic

Work on the Michael J. Kustigian playground next to Gates Lan... on Twitpic

This is a Parks Department project, so I don't know what the finished product will look like. There was an interesting article in the New York Times today about an overabundance of concern around safety on playgrounds.

Jonathan Kozol's marching

EdWeek has an interview with Jonathan Kozol on why he's joining the Save Our Schools march in DC next week:
The testing agenda that Duncan is perpetuating is segregative and divisive in yet another sense. In inner-city schools, where principals are working with a sword of threats and punishments above their heads -- for fear that they'll be fired if they cannot "pump the scores" -- they inevitably strip down the curriculum to those specific items that are going to be tested, often devoting two-thirds of the year to prepping children for exams. There's no time for arts or music or even for authentic children's books like the joyful works that rich kids still enjoy. No time for Pooh and Eeyore and The Hungry Caterpillar. "What help would lovely books like these be on their standardized exams?" Instead, the kids get pit-pat readers keyed to the next miserable tests that they'll be taking.
So culture is starved. Aesthetics are gone. Joy in learning is regarded as a bothersome distraction. "These kids don't have time for joy, or whim, or charm, or inquiry! Leave whim and happiness to the children of the privileged. Poor kids can't afford that luxury." Even good and idealistic inner-city principals tell me that they feel they have no choice.
So NCLB, in itself, adds a whole new level of division on the basis of a child's economic class or race. An apartheid of the intellect. One class enjoys the treasures of the earth and also learns to ask demanding and irreverent and insightful questions. The other class is trained to spit up predigested answers.

Monday, July 18, 2011

And speaking of cheating scandals...

There are 89 schools under investigation in Pennsylvania now.

"I ran out of synonyms for cheating"

Great commentary by Michael Winerip on the Atlanta Public Schools cheating scandal:

Investigators described how Dr. Hall had humiliated principals who didn’t reach their targets. Every year she gathered the entire district staff at the Georgia Dome. Those from schools with top scores were seated on the Dome floor; the better the scores, the closer they sat to Dr. Hall. Those with low scores were relegated to sitting in the stands.
Principals, in turn, humiliated teachers. At Fain Elementary, the principal, Marcus Stallworth, had teachers with low test scores crawl under a table, according to the report. At Parks Middle School, teachers who refused to join “changing parties” that were organized by the principal, Christopher Waller, to doctor answer sheets were isolated or let go, the report said.

What's the deal on waivers?

So, what would Secretary Duncan want from states in return for waivers on the NCLB hardline? EdWeek has some (not yet set in stone) details:

Here's what is under discussion, according to sources:
• There would be three kinds waivers under No Child Left Behind, and states would have to sign up for all of them—it wouldn't be an either/or thing. This is something Duncan made clear in the initial waiver announcement.
• To waive the 2014 deadline for all students to be proficient in math and language arts, states would have to adopt college- and career-readiness standards and assessments. It's not clear yet what that would mean. But, presumably, Common Core would be involved. Student growth could be used to measure achievement.
• To essentially freeze in place the law's system of sanctions, states would have to propose their own differentiated accountability systems that would incorporate growth and establish new performance targets. States also would have to establish differentiated school improvement systems that more accurately meet the needs of schools with different challenges. The accountability systems would not have to include choice or free tutoring. Districts also no longer would have to set aside Title I money for such programs.
• To waive the law's highly qualified teacher requirement and get funding flexibility, states would have to adopt evaluation systems for teachers and principals that are based on growth and make sure districts actually do what they say they're going to do.
Apparently, the four models under the current School Improvement Grant program are the most significant sticking point in discussions of what the waivers should look like.

Not a surprise on that last bit.

Worcester School Committee meeting Thursday

There will be a regular meeting of the Worcester School Committee this coming Thursday at 4 (NOTE THE TIME!) pm at City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
The Superintendent's report this month is on school choice.
Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports is also reporting out.
There are also several items coming back with reports (some dating back to Mayor Lukes!): elementary National Honor Society, cell phone use by school bus drivers, update on capital needs, funding of the Clark Masters' program, continuing of CPR training, security cameras at South High.
There are also a number of new items filed by members (it's been a bit since we've had a regular meeting!): signing onto the NSBA's waiver request (of which more later), National Walk to School Day, second round Promise Neighborhoods grants, increasing mileage (which we are required to do; going up four and a half cents!), update on North, looking at summer reading, considering outside signage on buildings, reviewing emergency management, reviewing the hiring of principals, sending someone off to the state school committee conference in the fall.
Again, 4pm Thursday at City Hall, and also on Channel 11.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A bit more on the money switch

And thanks to Charlie, who sends me good links!

You can find a summary of the bill here. It gives a list of what programs money could be switched to and from. Looking this over, here's a new concern: the state administered grants on this list would give our DESE (and their equivalents in other states) whole new ways of manipulating the cards.

And a good point from ASCD Executive Director Gene Carter:
The department understandably wants to target its finite resources on its priorities and guard against opening the flexibility floodgates to the extent that accountability is watered down or eliminated altogether, but offering waivers in exchange for new requirements isn’t flexibility. Instead, flexibility needs to be built into federal legislation from the outset rather than added later through vague and broad allowances, a nontransparent and patchwork system of waivers, or more rules.
During the legislative process, lawmakers must consider educator input on the most effective uses of federal funds. They also need to hold schools and districts accountable for student learning while providing them with customizable supports grounded in local knowledge of what students need.

The Schoolboy

The Schoolboy

by William Blake
I love to rise in a summer morn,
When the birds sing on every tree;
The distant huntsman winds his horn,
And the skylark sings with me:
Oh, what sweet company!

But to go to school in a summer morn, —
O it drives all joy away;
Under a cruel eye outworn,
The little ones spend the day
In sighing and dismay.

Ah then at times I drooping sit,
And spend many an anxious hour;
Nor in my book can I take delight,
Nor sit in learning's bower,
Worn through with the dreary shower.

How can the bird that is born for joy
Sit in a cage and sing?
How can a child, when fears annoy,
But droop his tender wing,
And forget his youthful spring?

O father and mother, if buds are nipped,
And blossoms blown away;
And if the tender plants are stripped
Of their joy in the springing day,
By sorrow and care's dismay, —

How shall the summer arise in joy,
Or the summer fruits appear?
Or how shall we gather what griefs destroy,
Or bless the mellowing year,
When the blasts of winter appear?
"The Schoolboy" by William Blake, from Songs of Experience, 1794. Public domain.

This came through via The Writer's Almanac today, and I thought it appropriate.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Kickbacks on bus contracts

A friend from Chicago pointed out this story on kickbacks around bus contracts which left me with more questions than answers. Namely, if, as seems implied by the story, the school board votes the contracts, how is it that one member was sure of the votes?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

RIP, Mrs. Rosen

Our condolences to former School Committee and City Council member Gary Rosen on the death of his mother.
I only knew Mrs. Rosen through Gary's frequent mentions of her on the radio when I was on with him. She was a faithful listener and Gary never forgot that. I know she'll be missed.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Shifting money around

As part of the rolling ESEA reauthorization, today the House Education and Workforce Committee approved a measure that would allow districts to move federal money from one program to another. This was proposed by their chair, Rep. Kline of Minnesota:
The legislation would allow schools to take money intended for one educational purpose, such as for poor or migrant children, and spend it on another school priority, such as teacher training or reading programs... The bill, criticized by Democrats, requires annual notification of how the money is used and continues to hold schools accountable for education outcomes, according to a fact sheet distributed by the committee.
One imagines that this has little chance of passing the Senate (and, actually, I've seen no bets on the House yet, either); however, it is worth looking at Rep. Miller's point:
"This back-door attempt at fulfilling campaign promises to dismantle the federal role in education will turn back the clock on civil rights and especially harm low-income and minority students," Miller said in a prepared statement.
My guess is that Miller's thinking particularly here of Title I, which makes up much federal education aid: it could be very tempting in some cases for people to "raid" that money for other things.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

It's Never Sunny...

sent in by an alert reader. Thanks!
Philadelphia also has a developing scandal around possible cheating on the 2009 PSSA. Philadelphia blog The Notebook reports that according to analysis by Data Recognition Corporation:
The analysis, prepared for the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) in July 2009, highlights roughly 60 schools with suspicious results due to multiple statistical irregularities, including 22 District schools and six seven charters in Philadelphia...
Porter stressed that statistical analysis alone, without witnesses or confessions, cannot definitively prove that there was cheating. But he added that the report "describes a reasonable approach to identifying schools where there may have been cheating."
Nevertheless, it appears that the state never followed up with any further investigations. The forensic data analysis was discontinued in 2010, although PDE spokesperson Timothy Eller said it would be reinstated this year.
Both Philadelphia, where 44% of the schools of concern are, and Pennsylvania officials are now scrambling to figure out what happened to the report.
It appears that nothing was done with it at the time.
We can thus add Philly to the list of cities that are dealing with allegations or proven examples of widespread cheating on standardized tests.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Grant acceptance: MCAS summer

Biancheria: FY11 or FY12? This summer
All hourly work for teachers at $35/ hour
10 teachers for 6 hours for 15 days of the program
site administrator and program coordination
two staff members for 15 days
"no fulltime postion, entirely hourly work for teachers"

Migration savings from health insurance: Committee meeting notes

Agenda is here
Boone: positions restored and textbook spending

Reputation follows you

Notes from Atlanta on administrators with new jobs in other districts and questions about their role in the cheating scandal back in Atlanta.

School bus yard fire

Still finding out more on this, but apparently someone broke into the bus yard on Crescent Street overnight.
I'll post as I learn more.
Durham owns the buses and we lease them.
UPDATE: Looks like the T&G just got this. Preliminary estimate of $500,000 damage. Deputy Chief Sullivan has a great quote:

“Buses do not just spontaneously combust.”

UPDATE II: sorry, other mailbox!
From the School Committee update: 
"6 mid-size special education buses and 1 wheelchair bus owned by Durham School Services were set on fire and are a complete loss.  Other vehicles may be vandalized...There will be no impact on summer school.    We utilize Durham on a limited basis for special education transportation during the summer.Durham will work under tight timelines to purchase or relocate vehicles for the start of the school year."

Sunday, July 10, 2011

School Committee meeting TOMORROW

Sorry for the late posting on this one; it's not a regular meeting. We've got a bit of budget business.
The Worcester School Committee will be meeting tomorrow afternoon at 5pm on the fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building.
The agenda isn't posted online (and Google Docs is being squirrelly about loading it; sorry!), but the only item besides voting acceptance of an $85,000 grant for summer work for kids who've not yet passed the MCAS is a bit of reworking the budget.
Staff have switched health plans and that has resulted in savings for the district of about $1.2 million at this time.
The administration is recommending that $600,000 of this go to teacher salaries; that 242,000 go to instructional assistant salaries; and that $423,688 go to instructional supplies and materials.
The textbook funds will go to upgrading all secondary textbooks, per the request of the Superintendent's Student Advisory Panel.
The IA salaries will restore 7 special ed IAs.
The teachers salaries will restore 6 special ed teachers, 3 secondary teachers, and add 1 secondary teacher (English at Doherty; science at North; 2 science at South).

The other summer meetings are scheduled for July 21 and August 25, in both cases at 4pm at City Hall.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Deja vu all over again

If you've been part of Stand for Children in Massachusetts, what Susan Barrett has to say about what's going on with Stand in Oregon will sound familiar.

Details from Atlanta

Note that the report contains information about specifically what happened, where, and who did it.
It wasn't redacted, it wasn't withheld, it wasn't deemed to be subject to various laws regarding keeping information from the public.
How refreshing.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Atlanta story keeps getting worse

(I usually follow the Get Schooled blog on the Atlanta Journal Constitution site; they're closely watching this, as you might imagine. There's a good broad look here.)
Today the Atlanta school board meets regarding the testing scandal; the former superintendent who resigned in June (reportedly vacationing in Hawaii) has disclaimed all knowledge:

“Apparently, not one of the 82 persons who allegedly ‘confessed’ to cheating told the investigators that Dr. Hall at any time instructed, encouraged or condoned cheating,” said attorney Richard Deane in a statement. “The report’s conclusion that Dr. Hall actually knew of any such cheating is based entirely on supposition. The further conclusion that Dr. Hall ’should have known’ rests on negative inferences from selective, circumstantial evidence.”
No, it doesn’t. There is real evidence in the report that Hall and  her staff ignored or discredited bona fide complaints of cheating, especially when the allegations were about high-scoring schools that were winning accolades.  The report shows a willful effort within APS to maintain the pretense that Hall was a miracle-worker.
The interm superintendent is expected to outline his "action plan" at today's meeting.
The Hechinger Report has a good interview on this. FairTest points out that this is just one of many cheating scandals around the country. Secretary Duncan, however, is "stunned." You'll want to read Sabrina on that.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Whiplash warning

Remember how the Department of Education said it'd be looking at waivers for NCLB? Remember how Representative Kline asked which branch of government they thought they were? On the heels of last's week's announcements by Idaho, then Montana and South Dakota that they would NOT be raising the NCLB numbers this year, the Department of Ed came out to say that they'd just better:
But that's not going to fly, department officials say. If Congress does not rewrite the law, either Education Secretary Arne Duncan will enforce the existing law, which he has called "broken," or he will allow states to earn waivers in "exchange for reform." (That's plan B.) There is no plan C. 
Note that states are still wondering exactly what Plan B will look like and that Rep. Kline is still waiting to hear back from the Secretary of Education for more information (past Kline's July 1 deadline). Given that many of the Obama administration's education policies have been dubbed "NCLB on steroids," I think we can safely say that this puts states between a rock and a hard place.

Massive falsification of standardized tests in Atlanta

The report's out:

Investigators said 178 teachers and principals working at 44 schools were involved. The educators, including 38 principals, were either directly involved in erasing wrong answers on a key standardized test or they knew -- or should have known -- what was going on, according to Deal's office.
Deal's office said 82 of the educators acknowledged involvement, according to the report. Six principals declined to answer investigators' questions and invoked the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, Deal said.
Whether to bring criminal charges will be up to prosecutors, Deal said.

NEA endorsement in context

Over the weekend, the National Education Association endorsed President Obama for re-election. A bit of context:

Let's provide some historical context for elections since 1988.
1988  Dukakis got 86%
1992 Clinton got 88%
1996 Clinton got 91%
2000 Gore got 86.5%
2004 Kerry got 86.5%
2008 Obama got 79.8%
2011, Obama got 72%.
Unlike Clinton, in his endorsement for reelection Obama dropped 7.8% (sic), while Clinton went up 3%.
And Obama's percentage in 2008 was already the lowest in the past 5 elections.
This is far from "overwhelming" support by historical standards.

The same source also has the strongly worded rebuke of Secretary Arne Duncan (now nicknamed on the web "13 Things We Hate About Arne Duncan.") The sad fact is, Teacher Ken is right: the endorsement is going to get the news, not the percentages, and not the rebuke. They should have made endorsement conditional on improving his educational policies.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Independence Day

In honor of America's Independence Day, I give you a Worcester schoolteacher*:
My best wishes, in the joys, and festivities, and the solemn services of that day on which will be completed the fiftieth year from its birth, of the independence of the United States: a memorable epoch in the annals of the human race, destined in future history to form the brightest or the blackest page, according to the use or the abuse of those political institutions by which they shall, in time to come, be shaped by the human mind.

*John Adams, better known as a contributor to the Declaration of Independence and second President of the United States. He also was certain that the United States ought to celebrate on July 2, when the document was actually signed, and so, it is said, refused to attend celebrations on July 4.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

North High photos

part of the continuing "thought you might like to see this" series of photos from WPS!
Having missed all the previously scheduled tours of the new North High for School Committee members, yesterday I went by and got a tour (from a very patient and thorough Jim Bedard, who is in charge of facilities for the district).

Here's the main entrance.
 The main entrance faces the direction of the old North and the Ecotarium, and, unlike a lot of large modern buildings, it has what is clearly a main door.

Long-term suspension report

We've just received the long-term suspension report for the 2010-11school year.
This is a report that is required each year (and note that categories are those of the federal government); I thought it might be of general interest.

During this past school year, there were 184 alleged violations of the WPS Students' Code of Conduct. 40 of the 184 hearings were the elementary level (21.7%). All 184 students had a hearing (in most cases before the Chief Academic Officer); 99 were placed on long-term suspension (which is 53.8%).

Of those 99 students:
23 were female (23%): of those 11 were Hispanic, 8 White, 4 Black.
76 were male (77%): of those 42 were Hispanic, 18 White, 13 Black, and 2 Asian.

64 were special education students (65%)

In descending order, the nature of violations were: knives (29); assault on school employees (28); drugs (17); other weapons (10); serious student assaults (6); setting a fire (4); threat to school employees (2); sounding a false alarm (2); alcohol (1).