Monday, October 31, 2011

No school for Tuesday in Worcester

We still have EIGHT schools without power, and National Grid expects that we will remain that way through tomorrow.
There will be a decision for Wednesday by 4pm tomorrow. It may be that some will go back before all can.

Monday, 1pm update

We received an update at 1pm this afternoon with the following information from Superintendent Boone:
School was called off for today due to lack of power and downed branches and wires.
We have 12 schools without power today, in most cases becasue their neighborhood is without power. One school does have its own wires down; several others have branches and wires around them down. School plant staff is working on that now.
After discussions with National Grid and the city, administration will be meeting later this afternoon to decide on school for tomorrow.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Worcester Public Schools canceled Monday: Updated! Again!

Don't wait to see it on the WPS website, as the site runs out of a school without has been rebooted and it's now up.
It's on the Twitter feed, too!
However, still working on the Connect-ED. Don't wait for it!

Forest Grove opens at 5pm an emergency Red Cross shelter. As National Grid is saying you should not plan on getting power back if you are among the 29% that do not have it now, get yourself some place warm. The forecast is for a low of 20 tonight.

Postponing trick-or-treating

Worcester is requesting that trick-or-rewarded wait until Thursday.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

We aren't teaching enough science in elementary school

Right. *
So, what are we going to do about that?

*also true of social studies.

Beyond academics

What looks like a hopeful conversation in New York City yesterday around what supports are needed for schools with high rates of poverty:
Supports should target students in school, through teachers, they said, but they shouldn’t be purely academic.
Those supports, panel members said, range from teaching students skills to calm down during a rage to helping parents access social services they might not even know they are eligible for.
Note that isn't quite the wraparound zone idea coming through the Promise Neighborhood and Race to the Top, as it's working directly with kids in school on non-academics (along with what might be covered by wraparound services). The notion that there are things beyond the math and reading scores that need to be a focus is new, or, as was commented on during the discussion, not well communicated.

Snow coming!

And, yes, the WPS plows are ready.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Auditor finds education costs for homeless kids must be covered by state

As you may have seen, State Auditor Suzanne Bump has found that the busing and education requirements of the McKinney-Vento Act, as complied with by the state, are an unfunded mandate. McKinney-Vento requires that students who are homeless and are living outside their home district be given transportation back to their home district, if their families wishes; students also have extra support services. Under this ruling, districts may apply for a waiver of the requirements or (as is more likely) may work with the Legislature to fund what is estimated at $6.3 million statewide in combined education and transportation costs each year.
You may recall that Worcester saw some substantial increases for FY11 for homeless students, particularly around transportation, and that it came up in this year's budget conversation for FY12. No, I don't know how much money we're spending on this now (good question for the first quarter report!), but it sounds like we've got something else to work with the Legislative delegation on!

Money to be made

...around the new teacher evaluation systems, and the race is on.

School Committee meeting location change!

Please note that due to the construction at City Hall, all meetings of the Worcester School Committee through March 2012 will be held at Worcester Technical High School. In most cases, they will be in the first floor conference room (right across the hall from the auditorium). The one exception is this coming Thursday, November 3; that meeting will be on the fourth floor in the Harrington Room (turn left once through the doors, take the stairs or elevator to the 4th floor; it's the corner tower room).

I should perhaps say that we strive to keep the meetings televised. For Channel 11, that limits us to City Hall, Tech, and the 4th floor of the administration building.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

NCLB waiver transparency?

Not so much.

Series on using federal funds

Admittedly, this is possibly not of general interest, but I suspect that a few of my regular readers will find it of interest:
Rick Hess is out of town; while he's away, his column is being guest-written by Melissa Junge and Sheara Krvaric, who are lawyers at the Federal Education Group. They're writing on federal education funding. If "supplement/supplant" and "time and effort" are familiar terms to you, you may find it of interest. Their first entry is on compliance, the next on supplement/supplant, next on time and effort, and today on implementation (particularly around cooperation with private schools).

Nightmare on North Broad Street

Think you're having a tough budget year? Philadelphia's CFO yesterday:
announced almost $17 million in possible new cuts, then said there’s still another $22 million left to go.
That's on top of $590 million in budget "adjustments" already made.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

NCTQ doesn't like our new evaluation system

...according to their latest report, but, before we get too concerned, let's remember who it is we're talking about here. They're not exactly an evenhanded arbiter. Also, what they're criticizing sounds like praise to me:

Massachusetts' new regulations do not require student performance measures to be a "significant" factor in teacher evaluations. And, the regulations leave too much discretion and too many details to individual evaluators to choose student achievement measures and make decisions about what constitutes satisfactory student growth.
So...not locking in on student test scores being a huge chunk, and local administrative discretion. Sounds right to me.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The funding equity lawsuits are coming

Texas has just had an equity in funding lawsuit filed:
The TTSFC petition to the court relies on the earlier Texas cases, Edgewood and West Orange Cove, and alleges that the latest state budget is a reverse Robin Hood, taking from the poor to give to the rich. Plaintiffs ask the court to declare that the school finance system: violates the "efficiency" and "suitable provision" parts of the Texas Constitution; creates an unconstitutional state tax; and, fails to provide legally required "equal protection" to students in low-wealth districts.
Likewise, in California:

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, alleges that Gov. Jerry Brown and lawmakers improperly disregarded Proposition 98’s minimum funding guarantee for education when they diverted billions of dollars in general fund revenues that should have gone to public schools, using the money to pay for other state services instead. Proposition 98, a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 1988, contains provisions that permit temporary diversions in times of fiscal crisis, but it clearly requires the state to repay the money.
And elsewhere:
Parents, students, and school districts have also challenged funding cuts in New Jersey, North Carolina, and Kansas. Others would like to do the same in lots of states.

Court orders in New Jersey and North Carolina ordered those states to restore certain funding, and the Kansas case is preparing for trial. The NC decision is on appeal.

(h/t Schools Matter)

State of the Schools address not-so-liveblog

valuable thing discovered this evening; there isn't QUITE enough signal strength for WiFi in the auditorium at North High. Call is in from admin on that one.
With apologies: I got there a bit late from another meeting...

“Banner at Jonas Clark hall “Challenge Convention”
WPS challenging convention, not simply complying with requirements

Implementation of comprehensive accountability system

chart showing enrollment approaching 2008-09, gaining students
38% Latino, 35% white, 18% African-American
percent low income increased (70%, up 7% since 2007)
33% ELL students

Liveblogging State of the Schools

Tonight at 7pm, Superintendent Boone will be delivering the second "State of Schools" address at North High. You can watch it on Channel 11.
I'll be there, and I'll liveblog it and the community responses.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Coordinator of School Nurses interviews: UPDATED

Interviews for this position will take place at the Governance and Employee Issues subcommittee meeting on Tuesday afternoon at 4pm on the fourth floor of the Durkin Administration Building.

(yes, this position is hired by the School Committee) 

UPDATE: This meeting was postponed. I'll post when it has been rescheduled.

out of committee

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act renewal is out of the Senate subcommittee on a 15-7 vote (read that link for the conditions under which Senator Bennett of Colorado will eat the bill.) The President is not thrilled with the "teacher accountability" pieces of the bill (much drumbeat there on "accountability" and the global economy).
EdWeek's rundown of the big points of the bill:

It would keep the NCLB law’s regime of testing students in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school. And it would retain the law’s focus on breaking out achievement data for various subgroups of students, including racial minorities, students with disabilities, and English-language learners.
But the version approved by the committee after a two-day markup also would drastically scale back the accountability system at the heart of the NCLB law, which was approved with broad bipartisan support in 2001. Among other changes, the panel's bill would:
• Scrap the law’s signature yardstick, known as Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP.
• Put a halt to federally-directed interventions for all but the lowest performing schools and schools with persistent achievement gaps between low-income.
• Lay out a series of federal interventions for turning around the lowest-performing schools based in part on the administrations regulations for the School Improvement Grant program.
• Call on states to craft college-and-career standards, but not require them to join the Common Core State Initiative, which nearly all states already have done; and
• Streamline the Department of Education by consolidating 82 programs into about 40 broader baskets of funding.

...which means, I fear, that we're looking at something like many of the worst parts of NCLB crossed with some of the big problems with Race to the Top.
It's moving. There's hope it can be brought to the floor soon, with a push to reconcile by Christmas.

More from Denver

via the Nation
(And PS: Emily Sirota's website is here. You can donate to her here.)

Friday, October 21, 2011

What I missed in the notes last night

  • We had several principals there, two of whom spoke on district initiatives.
  • A draft of the 2011-2012 Superintendent's Goals came out of the Ad-hoc committee for full committee consideration. It's been held for the next meeting (and if you have thoughts, get in touch with a committee member!).
  • We accepted several donations, including year two of the donations from Millbury Savings Bank to Quinsigamond School and Vernon Hill School.
  • The Major Taylor curriculum was referred to Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports.
  • We got a report back on career days.
  • We've not yet hired a librarian for Union Hill and Chandler Elementary, because there's a shortage of elementary librarians.

What's next for Nelson Place

So last night, the Worcester School Committee unanimously confirmed Nelson Place as our first priority school. The administration will be confirming that with the Mass School Building Authority in the next few days.
Then we wait.
We could hear back as early as January from the state.
Should the Mass School Building Authority Board vote Nelson Place into the pipeline, we would be notified, and then the city would have 270 days to meet their eligibility requirements. Those include setting up a building committee, gathering enrollment figures, and having the superintendent, city manager, and the chair of the school committee sign a certificate of compliance.
We also would need the City Council to vote the funds for a feasibility study. The feasibility study is eligible for the state reimbursement (probably 80% for Worcester), but it is reimbursement, so the city has to front the money.
The city has a year to complete the feasibility study.

I will post more as I hear more.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mass School Building Authority submissions (and here comes Nelson Place)

Allen: Statement(s) of Interests submittals going to Finance and Operations
note that there is a new science lab initiative this year (Worcester East Middle and others?)
Green Repair (which we submitted three plans to last year; more coming this year?): limited to boilers, roofs, and windows
traditional Statements of Interest
any project that was filed in FY11 that has not changed can simply be recertified
"working with the City Manager...developing some funding discussions..begin in relatively short order"

Foley:  as it stands right now, we can certainly do a reaffirmation of Nelson Place
MOTION: to reaffirm Nelson Place as our first choice schools (and refer all else)
 Passes unanimously

Biancheria asks if getting state money on Worcester East Middle would slow it down
Allen says potentially slow it down, "in our best interest to leverage state funding" at 80% reimbursement, possibly allowing more work to be done at Worcester East Middle
Biancheria doesn't want to see it get lost
Allen: bid results are much higher than amount budgeted by city capital funds, thus having the state pick up 80% could make this all work out

technical difficulties

Sorry, the WiFi has been funky tonight, so notes are scattered...I'll try to do a wrap-up tomorrow on what might have been missed.

School Nutrition presentation

Child nutrition report
National school lunch act created in 1946 as “a nutritional safety net”
families that qualify for food stamps automatically qualify for school lunch
plus income qualification from application
reimbursements are entirely from state/federal reimbursement plus food sales
enrollement of 24,368
free 15,894
reduced 1508
71% of the population free/reduced
15,867 lunches served a day of which 13,154 are free
trending upward (up to 72% as of today)
regulations are changing as implementing under the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010
mandatory protein
decreased required fat content
Many of the requirements are already being met
expanded breakfast program at 15 elementary schools: breakfast provided to all students in the classroom (schools with 80% or greater free/reduced eligibility)
all juices citrus or vegetable based
protein from sunflower seeds and soynuts
equals nutritional playing field for all students
specifications on weekly requirements of vegetables; increased consumption
increased accessibility to minimally processed foods
requiring students to take fruits or vegetables
reduction in average sodium content (25% for breakfast and 54% for lunch)
added 6 cents for lunch, but no increase in reimbursement for breakfast
required to raise equity in lunch prices
access to free potable water
Massachusetts: Nutrition Standards for Competitive Foods and Beverages Sold
water for free; milk fat-free or low-fat; n more than 8oz milk; no more than 22g of sugar per 8oz.
USDA fruit and vegetable program in 13 elementary schools during the school day in the classroom
must be uncooked and minimally processed: many are local
Farm-to-School: fruits and vegetables with a preference for locally grown
pilot in kindergarten initiative: 325 K students in 13 classrooms
 specialty crop grant

Monfredo: Bake sales: only at night or after school? under MA guidelines
Lombardi notes that these (and others) are still in debate
Monfredo suggests coming up with options for other rewards (and sales)
O'Connell: asks if we're using state and federal funds to supplement fully paid lunch
Allen: producing the meal for less than we're getting for federal reimbursement
paid meals a very small percentage of total
prices of paid lunches increased this past year due to federal requirement: paid price must equal free and reduced reimbursement
additional resources to improve quality of food
Is there an issue of kids who do not get lunch at all?
will there be kids who do not buy lunch at all?
Boone points out lots of kids bring their lunches
Lombardi: students who bring lunch though they are free eligible
scheduling lunches for maximizing programs
if our prices go up, will there be more kids that don't buy lunch (who would have paid before)?

Novick asks about online payment of school lunches: maybe by the turn of the year (hurrah!)
the trick is not only to get the food served, but to get the kids eating it, which we are successful at
something we do well

North auditorium

Petition before the committee to name the auditorium after the alumni of North High.
Passes unanimously.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wholly unuseful chart, Batman!*

You may have seen this chart on the front page of today's Telegram & Gazette, accompanying an article on education funding.
Wow. I'm not clear on what some of those columns even mean.
The first column seems to be some sort of per-pupil required average minimum, something which would vary widely by population, as it costs more to fund the education of children who have special education, English language, or other needs, and the state acknowledges this in their requirements. Worcester thus would have a higher number in this column than Weston, having, as we do, significantly higher numbers of higher need pupils. It's thus a fairly meaningless number, as all it's really telling you is that Worcester has higher numbers of more expensive educational needs, which I think we all knew.
The second number, actual average spending, takes the above not-really-relevant comparison, and compounds the error by tossing the grant funding in on top of our per pupil funding. Grant funding always sounds like lots of fun money, but public voting of grants has (I hope!) demonstrated that much of this money is extremely encumbered. We can't take Title II money and use it for elementary nurses, or Title I money and use it for science labs. Money for particular things has to go to those particular things, and grant funds are going to after school programs, teacher training, school nutrition, and instructional assistants.
This is different than municipal funds, which are not restricted. If the city decides it wants nurses in every elementary school, or languages more widely taught, it can pay for them out of municipal funds.

For the point of this article--is the city doing enough when it comes to education funding, in the opinion of those running for School Committee?--a chart making the comparison of this graph would be useful, one which shows how much the actual municipality is doing when it comes to education funding. This would include, certainly, what the state requires; it would also include what the municipality does VOLUNTARILY.

How much does Worcester spend over foundation? For FY11, 0.1%.

The chart you need to make this comparison is here. (If you can't get the dropout menu to work, Worcester is LEA number 348.) The column all the way to the right, "Percent Over/Under" is the one to read down. You'll see that Worcester has only broken 1% over foundation once in the past nine years (and plenty of us have clear memories of the work we did to get the city contribution up to that 1.5%, too).

To make the comparisons the T&G did:
Weston (LEA # 330) was at 80% over foundation last year.
Cambridge (LEA # 49) chose to spend 86.2% over foundation.
Boston (LEA # 35) was at 9.9% over.
Springfield (LEA # 281) was under last year, by 2%.
Fitchburg (LEA # 97) was at 1.9% over last year.

A few more of possible interest:
Framingham (LEA # 100) 41.8%
Pittsfield (LEA # 236) 12.7%
Fall River (LEA # 95) 3.2%
Lowell (LEA # 160) 1.7%
Holyoke (LEA # 137) 2%
Southbridge (LEA # 277) 9.7%
Chicopee (LEA # 61) 1.9%

My point with this last list is this: you don't even need to go after the high numbers in the wealthy suburban districts. Compare us with other urban areas, who face the identical fiscal challenges, state budget cuts, and balancing acts on taxation.
We don't come close to measuring up on what we do for our kids in Worcester.

*the pun is not as painful as the chart. Honest.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


The new Massachusetts district maps are up.
Of note: Worcester now has three reps that are solely city reps. Some of the district lines have moved, however.

This is what democracy looks like, Denver style: UPDATED

Big report from Denver on the big money pouring into the city school board election. The same story is playing out there as elsewhere: privatizing interests pushing an elected board which has a (vocal) minority standing against them (and, as it happens, their second superintendent in a row).
Now from Mayor Hancock comes this:

“I’m very nervous,” he said of the impending election. “I don’t believe the current board of education and its level and tone of conversation reflects the values of our city. I have painfully watched board of education deliberations on television. And as a former legislator, I was embarrassed by the discourse that occurs. No protocol, no decorum, just absolutely disrespectful of one another and the superintendent,  and no one talking about kids. It was painful to watch.”
Now, I'll admit that I don't watch Denver School Board meetings, and maybe they are lacking in "protocol" and "decorum." I'm suspicious, however, that this is less about procedure and more about content in the meetings. In an elected body, people are going to disagree (one hopes). There are going to be split votes. That's actually the way it's supposed to work. It's when all your votes go 7-0 that one should examine if things are working.

 UPDATE: Here's the word from the ground troops on one of the campaigns facing that big money:
As many major campaigns as I’ve worked on, and as much experience Emily has in the public policy arena, we didn’t realize that local races had become this corporatized. Maybe we were naive, or overly idealistic, but the point is that something has gone deeply wrong in America when elections about our local schools have becomes yet another chess board for oligarchs...
 along with wanting her to win, I also want our family’s experience to be a small, microcosmic reminder about how high the stakes now are in every level of our politics. Big money is intent on owning every public institution from the White House to the schoolhouse. You need to know that if you ever think of running for office — and, as important, you need to remember it the next time you get your ballot.
And on that big money and where it's heading:

...a few years ago, insiders say, Senator Michael Bennet, then Denver Public Schools Superintendent, went to Republican oilman (now-University of Colorado president) Bruce Benson. What followed was unprecedented campaign contributions from large Republican donors into school board races in Denver. The big contributions changed the face of Denver's school board races.
Two years later, a so-called "grassroots" group based out of Portland, Oregon called Stand for Children came to Denver. It's first organizer, Johnny Merrill, was open about the intent of the group: to impact the Denver school board races, and that Bennet had invited the group to Denver.

Make no mistake about it: this group, with an avowed agenda to undermine teachers, is specifically designed to siphon dollars from Wall Street and the Chicago investment community into local races across the country.

In 2010, for instance, Stand for Children spent unprecedented sums in Illinois in legislative races last election cycle, outflanking the supporters of traditional public education, resulting in legislation that killed basic protections for teachers in the state. The group's executive director subsequently bragged that in spending such huge sums of money, "individual candidates were essentially a vehicle to execute a political objective" - one aiming to fundamentally undermine traditional public education. He also bragged that "luckily it never never got covered that way" as "the press never picked up on" what they were doing.

In other words, this organization fully acknowledges that it's whole r'aison d'etre is to secretly buy education policy. And now this very same organization has joined with the biggest of big money donors to dump massive amounts of corporate cash into the Denver School Board elections.
It's happening all over, folks. Pay attention.

Cheating in NYC

In the ongoing tracking of erasure/overcoaching/cheating scandals, here's the report from New York City.

See also this report on the possible motivation behind cheating.

Big changes in the proposed ESEA draft in the Senate

Yesterday my Google Reader box was full of the education blogsphere yelling about the changes in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act proposal from Senators Harkin and Enzi. From a strictly political viewpoint, this appears to be about getting the votes together to get something moving (thus the bipartisan nature of the proposal).What were the changes?
The original bill, released last week, would have required all states to develop mandatory evaluation systems based, in part, on student outcomes. In the latest version, only districts that participate in the Teacher Incentive Fund—a voluntary federal program—will need to do evaluations.*
If you're following this, you can guess how the blogsphere's reactions went: local control, caving to the unions, authentic assessments of student learning, and so forth. Here's the politics making strange bedfellows bit, though: the proposal came from the Republicans. The biggest fans of it are in the teachers' union.
Marking up the bill starts tomorrow. 

*Note that this will not supercede state laws which have changed in response to Race to the Top, as in Massachusetts.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Before the Joint Committee on Education this week

I'm thinking this should be a regular feature...I'll try to get some links up on this over the weekend.
Tuesday is charter school bill day:
H170 and S186 are the bills requiring local approval of charter schools, or, if the state imposes it, the state pays for it.
H2722 increased accountability for charter schools
H1925 would require a 14 member charter study group
H1961 would require excess public school buildings be transferred to charter schools
H1935 would give charters to schools for 7 years rather than 5.

The Joint Committee on Education meets at 10 am at the State House (not sure which room yet). I'm writing up some testimony today.

Councilor Charles Yancey of Boston

Councilor Yancey, speaking this morning of Boston's need for an elected school committee. He has, for example, been advocating for years for a new high school in Boston. A 1995 study done by the City of Boston showed a need for two new high schools. It has gone nowhere.
(hey, who knew we were doing so much better than Boston on this one, Worcester?)

Posting from the Citizens for Public Schools conference

I'm at the Bayside Expo Center today at the Citizens for Public Schools conference. I am participating as a speaker, but I'll post notes as I can.

"Our democracy is at stake...a few people...under the pretext that their way of doing things which have ruined the economy are the best way of running public education...Shame on those who would offer our children no better than a lottery." Ruth Rodriguez-Fay

Friday, October 14, 2011

North High dedication on Sunday

The official dedication of North High School will be on Sunday at 1 pm in the school auditorium.
Refreshments will be served following the program, and students will be offering tours of the school.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Mr. Klein is not taking questions


reports coming in from Atlanta

..on their cheating scandal:
... the AJC is reporting that an educators’ ethics committee looking at the APS cheating scandal this morning voted to  yank the certification of 11 Atlanta teachers and administrators implicated in the cheating investigation. Final approval for the actions must come from the Professional Standards Commission.
And it'll be public when it does.

Here's one for the data geeks

I'm assuming that some of you are just reading School Finance 101 directly, but in case you missed it:

Not only is the graphing faulty...
Not only is grasp on statistics in question...
The information is MADE UP!


Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hope in California

Governor Jerry Brown last week not only vetoed Senate Bill 547; he wrote a scathing veto statement that called into question the values being put forward in American education currently. It reads in part:

Over the last 50 years, academic “experts” have subjected California to unceasing pedagogical change and experimentation. The current fashion is to collect endless quantitative data to populate ever-changing indicators of performance to distinguish the educational “good” from the education “bad.” Instead of recognizing that perhaps we have reached testing nirvana, editorialists and academics alike call for ever more measurement “visions and revisions.”
A sign hung in Albert Einstein’s office read “Not everything that counts can be counted and not everything that can be counted counts.”
SB547 nowhere mentions good character or love of learning. It does allude to student excitement and creativity, but does not take these qualities seriously because they can’t be placed in a data stream. Lost in the bill’s turgid mandates is any recognition that quality is fundamentally different from quantity.
Read the whole thing. Well done, sir!

Why did no one move out of failing?

I know I'm not alone in wondering: with 55,000 tenth graders who had their scores raised by the (now caught) error, why is it that not a single one left the "failure" catagory? How is that possible?
I asked the Administration this at Thursday's meeting, and here's the answer: while the chart that converted the raw score (how many a student got wrong) to scaled score (something in the 200's) did change between 2009 and 2010 (thus causing the error when the company used the wrong chart), the number of answers wrong that would give a student a failing grade did NOT change between 2009 and 2010. It DID change for the other categories. Thus, if you took the test in 2009 and got a raw score of either 13, 14, 15, or 16, you got a scaled score of 218; if you took the test in 2010, the same is true.
In every other category--Needs Improvement, Proficient, Advanced--where the break between those fell changed between 2009 and 2010. The error in the chart thus gave kids right on the line the chance to move up.

And incidentally, my motion to invoice the DESE failed 4-2 on a roll call last week, so we're picking up the bill on resending.

ESEA is moving

We don't have much on it yet, but it appears that the renewal of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act is moving on the Senate side.The Senate bill is comprehensive (unlike the House bills which have taken it piecemeal); it also takes away states having to report to the federal government. As for testing:
The draft would require states to use exams that measure individual student achievement and academic growth, and would leave it up to the states to decide whether the exams would be given once a year or several times a year. Tests are mandated at least once between grades 3 and 5, 6 and 9, and 10 and 12.
States' accountability systems would take into account student scores and high school graduation rates for the preparation of publicly-accessible report cards for each school. Instead of NCLB's specific targets, this version of ESEA would only expect "the continuous improvement of all public schools in the state." If states choose to rate schools by the degree to which student test scores have increased instead of the raw number of students who pass the exams, they would have to report their methodology to the federal government.
Not clear how this will fare in the Senate (there's been a lot of talk about it ahead of time), not to mention the very big gap between this and the way the House is tackling it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Accident hits South High community

The fatal accident that happened this morning took the lives of two South High kids ; another South High student is in critical condition.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Help send the South High Marching Band to DC!

A shout-out and commercial here for the South High Marching Band who have been selected by the Governor to represent Massachusetts in the National Independence Day Parade on July 4, 2012.
This is a great honor.
They need our help to get there, though! It will cost $40,000 to get the band there.
You can find out more at their site here.

motion to add IAs

Motion from several members to consider hiring additional IAs for kindergarten classes of 20 or more kids
"this is where our achievement gap begins" says Monfredo
Boone notes that this would cost $750,000
Going to F&O

Questions on MCAS report

Mayor: "while the President is mentioning UPCS as one of the best schools in the country, it's a Level 2 school"
failure of this data
"doesn't tell the whole story"
Boone: "Much better way of recognizing the sound progress in our schools"
"overly cautious that we not use one measure but multiple measures" O'Brien

O'Connell: appears that we've had success with our tenth graders
"seeing some declines" in grades 5-8
notes different cohorts
Any plan to review curriculum in those grades? issues that need to be addressed?
Are we not preparing our students to excel the appropriate level?
Boone notes that science has not been taught
Mulqueen: "new literacy in each of the content areas"
to think like scientists, to think like mathematicians
curriculum review will do that

Monfredo:"in past years...emphasis on math and language arts"
letters to Level 1, to commendation schools
"lack of growth in math"
Boone: "more alignment with the standards of the expectations across the board"
"nationally mathematics continues to be a concern"
Monfredo asks about after school programs
Mulqueen cites innovation schools

Novick: sorry, I had quite a few...
whiplash to be spending all this time on this after all the criticism heaped on the MCAS at last night's forum
 there may well be new Level 4's; we don't know for sure, and we don't know when
Yes, there were schools that dropped from Level 2 to Level 3 (three, I think was said?)
Motion to bill the state for resending MCAS to 10th graders
Motion to for an update on common assessment and on NCLB waivers

Foley: comparison group would be other urban districts for CPI
question of whether we will have 72 schools statewide that are Level 4; so far we have 36

Mullaney: are you mailing to every tenth grader, or just the ones that had the change?
probably just the new ones, Perda
Boone points out that there is  parent information on the department website
"why does the state think that any parent really cares?" asks Mullaney

Biancheria: what are we doing for middle schools that aren't innovation schools?
"alignment between the frameworks and the standards" says Boone
Biancheria questions what we are getting from Focus on Results for all the money we are paying
"we still have a tremendous amount of work to do"
science and social studies shouldn't be an afterthought; asks what we can do to bring science to the same level that math and English are
Boone: "we shouldn't have to have a test to teach social studies"
Mulqueen: essential lab components

MCAS 2010 report: report of the superintendent

You will find the report here. Being delivered by Superintendent Boone; prepared by David Perda (who uses the lamp of learning!)
"an uneven instructional time as it relates to science at all levels"
comparision with the state: for this year ELA all grades 87.2%; for us 76.1%
"pretty flat year" for both state and us
for math 79.9% for the state; 67.4% for WPS
Student Growth Percentiles "a year's worth of progress in a year's time"
about half of students show "expected" growth annual: state says that this is where they expect states to be (half the kids do a year or more; half do less)
range of 40-60% within what the state wants
"need to see all students regardless of language needs, disabilities...are making progress"
"by the end of third grade, students should be reading to learn"
"continue to refresh and enhance our technology opportunities"
mention here of the waiver being applied for by the state for NCLB
AYP made by Doherty, Tech, LakeView, West Tatnuck, Nelson Place,Worcester Arts
AYP made in math by Union Hill, Midland, Chandler El, Flagg
AYP in ELA: UPCS, Forest Grove, McGrath
"very strong performance, yet failed to meet" made for waivers
special commendations from the state: Columbus Park 60% or higher for two years; Nelson Place and West Tatnuck, narrowing proficiency gaps over two years for high need students
Levels: majority of schools are Level 3 schools
Columbus Park, Forest Grove, LakeView, Wawecus Road, Worcester East Middle moved from Level 3 to Level 2 this year
Grade 10 mathematics needed to be corrected: a high school junior found the mistake
scores of 1049 changed; 68 students changed levels
slight increase overall in CPI for most schools

Chapter 74 approval for North High

North High for health science
Tech for biotech
Tech for vet services

Chapter 74 funding coming from the state on these programs!

Honoring summer programs

Lots and lots of people here this evening to be honored for their work with summer programs for kids in the Worcester Public Schools.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Superintendent's State of the Schools Address

I see from my Twitter feed that the Superintendent will be delivering a second State of the Schools Address on October 24th at 7 pm at North High School.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Race to Nowhere

not liveblogging, as glowing screens are so distracting, but I may post from the post-film discussion.

Hope on the Board of Ed

Over the weekend, Professor James E. McDermott, former South High and University Park English teacher, current professor at Clark, and, not-so-incidentally, current member of the Massachusetts Board of Education, gave the keynote address at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I have, with his permission, posted the whole of his address here. I'd highly recommend the whole thing, particularly for any who have given up on any in Malden having any idea on how education actually functions in a classroom; an excerpt to pique your interest:

Uncommon teachers understand that the MCAS test is misnamed; it is not comprehensive assessment system.
They shake their heads at the Orwellian notion that the MCAS Growth Percentage Profile demonstrates actual growth of a real human being.
Uncommon teachers’ souls often seem way out of sync with educational policy. To them policy seems overly politic, meticulous, cautious, trite, and common– directly in contrast with fantastic learning that requires openness, imagination inspiration, innovation, wonder, whimsy, and wit.
 Thanks for your service, Professor McDermott. You give the rest of us hope.

Not so fast on the firing

I haven't seen this reported anywhere else (?), but the National Association of Elementary School Principals are reporting that part of the waivers on NCLB will be not being required to fire principals to receive school turnaround grants:
Specifically, the regulatory relief package now includes a mandatory review of the current principal rather than his or her automatic dismissal as the first step in implementing any federal school improvement model. This represents a significant shift in the administration’s previous requirements calling for the principal’s immediate dismissal when a school implements one of the models, which enables a district to receive federal School Improvement Grant funds.
Big news.

the "manic energy" of Joe Nystrom

South High's Joe Nystrom is on the FRONT PAGE of today's New York Times. Best part of the article:

The teacher’s manic energy and persistence may be one reason for his success. In his first-period class the other day, Mr. Nystrom outlined the meaning of basic vocabulary words in statistics — sample, parameter, inference — and then went over nuances.
Using an overhead projector, he drew a contingency table relating the relative preferences of males and females for hip hop, country and indie rock music, then used the table to explain marginal distribution.
Some students struggled to understand the table, and he explained it again — until Ashley Tran, a 15-year-old sophomore, interrupted.
“Oh, I get it!” she exclaimed.
“My favorite sound!” Mr. Nystrom said.
A few comments on the article: reporter Sam Dillon is right to point out that this success has as much to do with expansion of opportunity, encouragement from administration, and convincing students they can do it as it does with paying either teachers or students (which has mixed results). I can only imagine Joe Nystrom had to have said a thousand times that it was a community effort to get that message into the article at all; not, one would imagine, easy to do when being followed around by a New York Times reporter, so well done.
The "violent reputation" is, I think, overplayed (and has been for at least 22 years). It was a tragedy. The larger reputation of the school is hugely more than that, however.
And "gritty"? Mr. Dillon, Worcester hasn't been gritty since at least the 1940's! C'mon, let's come up with something other evocative adjective!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Articles of faith (in education)

h/t to Andrew Sullivan for pointing me to this excerpt from Getting Schooled in Harper's:

In the increased emphasis on data and the imposed emphasis on standardized jargon and tests, including the standardized inanities that result (no student I meet seems to believe that the universe formed in six days but a disturbing number insist that an essay is always formed in five paragraphs), I sense the encroachment of the totalitarian “business model” that has destroyed family farming as a way of life, of the same itch for arcane nomenclature that has turned literary criticism into a pseudoscience. A veteran foreign-language teacher still going strong since my last stint at school says to me with a sigh, “I’m afraid the day of the teacher-as-artist is drawing to a close.”

Always check your work

I don't know any more than what's in the paper on the MCAS scoring error that's resulted in over 3000 ten graders having a higher proficiency catagory than were first issued, raised the scores of 55,000 students, and even changed the percentage of schools that reached AYP. I assume it will come up at Thursday's School Committee meeting, as Superintendent Boone's report this week is on MCAS results. I do want to call attention to this telling piece of the article:
The state learned of the issue Wednesday after the principal of Westwood High School and a student from Newton North High School separately contacted the department about the issue after comparing raw scores, scaled scores and performance scores.
The company to which the state pays millions of dollars a year got it wrong. The state department charged with overseeing the results didn't catch it. The only reason that we know that this error happened is because a principal in Westwood  and a high school (one assumes) JUNIOR did some math and called the department!
And so it was caught...this year.
Do we know that this has never happened before? That maybe some other year no one outside the system did the math? That perhaps some of the kids that failed and didn't graduate, some of the schools dinged as "underperforming," some of the labels put on people and systems were done so, not because the kids did the math wrong, but because the adults did?

We are forever being told that kids, teachers, principals, schools, systems are failing because of this test.
What if it's the test that's failing?