Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Transportation isn't only about cars

...but you'd think that was all that matters from the current Transportation bill before the House.
Speaking as a School Committee in a community where we have entire schools that get there by walking, this is insane. 
Please get in touch with your reps and tell them that walking and biking are transportation, too. Ask them to support the Petri amendment.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Federal government seeking ways to stop cheating on standardized tests

The federal Department of Education is seeking information on preventing cheating on standardized tests.
From the Federal Register:

For these reasons, this RFI seeks solutions; advice; technical information; legal, regulatory, and policy approaches; and other input from the public regarding best practices for the prevention, detection, and investigation of alleged or actual testing irregularities. Through this RFI, the Department also seeks to gather information and suggestions for SEAs and LEAs on how they can address these issues.
(RFI= Request for Information; SEA=State Education Agency; LEA=Local Education Agency)
Comments are due February 16. The specific questions they'd like answered are here, though you do not have to answer any or all of them.  You can submit them electronically here, or send them in to:

Mr. Carlos Martinez
Office of Elementary and Secondary Education
Attention: Testing Integrity RFI
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue SW., room 3W104
Washington, DC 20202-6132

And do remember that public comments in response to an RFI become part of the public record, so make sure you write only what you'd be comfortable seeing in the public media (and speaking from personal experience, commenting on in the press).

WPS FY13 budget updates now online

You will now find all the Worcester Public Schools FY13 budget updates online here.
It will be updated as we go.

Worcester School Committee meeting Thursday

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday at 7 pm at Worcester Technical High School. You can find the agenda here.

The report of the superintendent this week is on the curriculum review process. The idea here is that each subject will periodically have a curriculum review; we'll be starting with math. We are in very early days, as yet on this (they're looking at data right now in math), so much more to come. This is partly pushed by Massachusetts moving to the Common Core, but it is also is a chance to look at what we're teaching, why, and how that's going. If you have any interest in curriculum and how it's working, Thursday's report is a place to start.
There's a series of requests for information and reports that are going to administration and various subcommittees, including a request on working windows, third grade reading, information on school profiles, the ever-popular Read Across America day, and secondary report card comments.Also, guidance counselor course load, ninth grade course selections, and career and technical education month.
We're also being asked to accept a grant from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation for ESL classes around the city (particularly for parents); the plan is for ten more classes. Also, a grant from Target for pre-schoolers and kindergarteners from Canterbury Street to go to Heifer Project at Overlook Farm for a field trip (how cool is that?).

I know there was great angst about the meeting not being broadcast live last time (no, I am not kidding). I know that they've been working on it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

We're not gonna take it...UPDATED

I'm not sure what it is that's given the sudden push, but I've had a series of "we're not gonna take it" posts from teachers come across my screen recently.
There's this, from Chicago:
She wrote in her suicide note that the major reason for this drastic act was work-related. According to her colleagues, this woman took her own life because of the bullying and fear she experienced at her school.
As I discussed this event with a friend who is a current CPS teacher, he mentioned that in the comments section of the article many non-educators were shocked and horrified at this tragic happening but were also quick to assume that the woman must have been "soft" or had some kind of underlying mental health problem. But, he quipped, when many CPS teachers heard about the incident, they just shook their heads and said, "Yeah, I can see that happening."
This, from Seattle:

In my perfect world (where chocolate was handed out free of charge and nobody was lactose intolerant), the Public School System would be set up in such a way that every single child reaches their potential. It would be a place where we recognize that none of us are ‘typical’ and our uniqueness is celebrated. ...We would celebrate the academically skilled along with the artistically skilled, athletically skilled, mechanically skilled and socially skilled. We would work hard to reduce the negative impacts of poverty and chaos.
 And this, from Topeka:

In what other profession are the licensed professionals considered the LEAST knowledgeable about the job? You seldom if ever hear “that guy couldn’t possibly know a thing about law enforcement – he’s a police officer”, or “she can’t be trusted talking about fire safety – she’s a firefighter.”
In what other profession is experience viewed as a liability rather than an asset? You won’t find a contractor advertising “choose me – I’ve never done this before”, and your doctor won’t recommend a surgeon on the basis of her “having very little experience with the procedure”.
Know hope?

And another one from New York City:
 here is a grave negligence, I believe, when the public gives the work of education over to bureaucratic and market forces. More than politicians and the invisible hand of markets, it is teachers working as professionals who recognize that students are not numbers to be thrown into global economic wars, but rather lives and bodies—bodies that sit in desks, that suffer, that grieve, that matter uniquely in the future we wish to create. It is, indeed, the charge of the teaching profession to further the work of education, in consideration of our children, our society’s needs, our changing world.

More on the Governor's FY13 budget

Having now gotten the Worcester Public Schools administration's budget memo (updated with link) as well as one from the Mass Association of School Committees, here's a bit more on Governor Patrick's proposed FY13 budget as it relates to education (and, specifically, WPS):
  • The change in the WPS foundation budget, including the 3.65% inflation factor and the enrollment changes, is a $12 million increase. That's $10.4 million in the inflation factor and $1.5 million in enrollment changes and shifts. In total? About a 5% increase from the state.
  • Due to the increase in the city base funding plus the required growth factor, the total city contribution is up 3%, or $2.8 million.The city is expected this year to contribute--this would be minimum contribution plus the $660,000 the city has contributed the past few years over--$97 million. 
  • That means the city is expected to contribute about 34% of the budget.
  • This shakes out overall [city and state] to a 4.1% increase, or $11 million.
  • Charter school and choice tuition have increased $1.8 million, and the reimbursement amount has increased $940,000. Charter and choice tuition in total is projected to be $28 million for FY13, while reimbursement from the state is projected to be $4.7 million. (Yes, that does mean the state is funding only about 17% of the charter and choice tuition.)
  • HOWEVER, the Governor is level-funding charter reimbursements, AND the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has once again created new charter schools: THUS, once again, we have Beacon Hill giving the same amount of money and Malden dividing it even more ways. We will thus, unless someone fixes it, be underfunded on charter reimbursements for year two (Hint: here's a place the House and Senate could really be of assistance!). 
  • ALSO remember that part of last year's budget was $2.4 million of Education Jobs funds. There is no more. 
  • ...thus leaving us projecting a deficit of about $1.3 million. Not zero, but significantly smaller than in years past.
  • I haven't yet seen numbers on the Quality Kindergarten Grant.
  • The Special Education Circuit Breaker is level funded at last year's (increased) level.
  • The Governor has budgeted $10 million in "Gateway Cities" initiatives, including early literacy and kindergarten readiness, student support councilors and councils, ELL enrichment and academies, and a statewide innovation fund. That's all being done through the state office, which makes me assume we're looking at state grants (for which Worcester would be eligible). I don't know much more on these yet (and it will, of course, depend on the House and Senate's willingness to fund them).

That's what I have for now! Good time to get in touch with legislators about priorities!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Got a trumpet in the attic?

If you've got an instrument gathering dust, we'll take it!

Worcester Public Schools and WICN 90.5, the NPR jazz station in Worcester, announces a collaboration called Instrumental Partners. The program will collect used musical instruments from Central New England residents for the benefit of public school students.
All instruments will be accepted: brass, wind, string, percussion, acoustic, electric, etc.
WICN will ask people to check their attics, closets and basements for instruments no longer used. “One instrument, placed in the right pair of young hands, could mean everything to that student’s future.” Weston said. The drop off points for the instruments will be the Hanover Theater on Main Street in Worcester, and the WICN studios in the Printers Building, 50 Portland Street.
 First priority is getting South High what they need for the parade in D.C. on July 4th (and yes, they're taking monetary donations as well!).

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tough week

...for education in Tennessee. The same week the Board of Education proposes bringing back being able to reprimand teachers for actions taken outside of school (and you wondered why teachers fought for tenure?), members of the Tea Party, as part of their proposals--sorry, demands--to the state Legislature, said that the group wants to address:
an awful lot of made-up criticism about, for instance, the founders intruding on the Indians or having slaves or being hypocrites in one way or another.
(more here)
I think Molly Ivins said it best: "It is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America." There's a reason why there's a three-fifths compromise in the Constitution and it wasn't due to make-believe.

Resegregating Wake County

There's so many things wrong with some of what's being said around the reversal of decades of desegregation efforts in Wake County, North Carolina, that it's difficult to know where to start. How about concentrating poor kids in high-poverty schools does not improve student achievement?

Looking for youth to apply to Worcester's Youth Council

Forwarding this from the Youth Opportunities Office: 
As you may have heard, the City of Worcester Youth Opportunities Office is looking to establish a Youth Council.  The Council will be made up of 11 Worcester youth between the ages of 14 to 21.  There will be 5 district representatives and 6 at-large. 

There is a competitive application process that will require youth to complete an Application, Essay, Commitment Form, Parental Consent Form and submit 2 Letters of Recommendation.  The deadline for submission is March 1st

The deadline is quickly approaching and we would like to get as many submissions as possible.  Applications can be downloaded by going to www.yooworcester.com. Click on the Youth Council Tab and download the attachments.
Please share this with people of ages 14 to 21!

State of the Union: education

Sorry, running a bit behind on the news here...
There was (as has been usual in this administration) a significant section of President Obama's State of the Union message on education on Tuesday evening.
The sections on college tuition and on dropouts have gotten most of the press here. Today's New York Times tackles the true cost of kids dropping out of school today. That tackles it from the national economic front; the personal and social costs are also high.
I assume at the end of this we'd like to have well-educated citizens of the world, rather than people who have filled a seat for another two years. If so, we're once again tackling this from the wrong end. If you've got thousand upon thousand of high school students dropping out, in what certainly seems clear violation of their own best interest, we're better off asking why rather than banning it.
We need better alternative education programs, and more of them.
We need night high schools.
We need an increase in vocational education. 
We need more and better support structures--guidance counselors and others--who catch the kids who are headed out, find out what's up with them, and get them what they need to stay in school.
And for those who persist in heading for the door, anyway, we need continued contact with them, to get them a GED or career training or what they need, recognizing that it is possible to drop out, pull yourself back together, and make a meaningful life for yourself.
Making another rule about what kids can't do doesn't do that.
As has been caught by nearly every commenter on EdWeek's coverage, it is a contradiction to cite as one of your values "to stop teaching to the test" at the same time a centerpiece of your education policy is evaluating teachers based on test scores.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Two children missing in the Vernon Hill neighborhood: FOUND!


{We're asking that you PLEASE keep an eye out for two children from Vernon Hill School who are missing. The T&G has the details here. Bella is ten and a fifth grader; Landon is eight and a second grader.
UPDATE: They may be hiding, thinking they're in trouble, and they could be over as far as Grafton Street. Please, if you're over that way, go check your shed and under your porch! }

And it was passers-by that found them.

Governor's FY13 Budget

I'm sure we'll be getting more analysis as the week goes on, but right now we know that Governor Patrick is proposing $210,364,137 in Chapter 70 aid for Worcester for FY13. That's in comparison with $201,135,279 for FY12.
That's only the state side, 'though: the state has up the summary of contribution for city and state: city's minimum contribution for FY13 is $88,586,175, which is up from $85,772,826 for FY12. Remember, the city's contribution is based on local wealth and tax revenue calculations.
Together, those make up the net school spending amount for FY13, which is $298,950,312; note that number includes charter school assessments (which are also up, and which I don't yet have). That's looking about where our budget update from last week put us.

I will give you more information as I have it.

Jeff Mulqueen: Pentucket Regional Schools Superintendent

Congratulations to Chief Academic Officer Jeff Mulqueen, on his selection by the Pentucket Regional School Committee as that district's next superintendent.
(Pentucket is West Newbury, Merrimac and Groveland, up on the North Shore)
Petnucket's superintendent is retiring at the end of this school year.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Community contribution over minimum

A few notes on the above chart (which if you click on it will become larger), which I thought might be of interest, given today's editorial*:
  • Worcester is at the top, for the purposes of comparision, followed by communities that surround us (where parents may or may not opt for school choice), followed then by communities with which we are sometimes compared. You'll note that no one contributes at the level that Worcester does.
  • Communities that do? Lawrence and Springfield.
  • While there are communities that have fallen off on their contribution over foundation in recent years, they are communities that had a better record in prior years.
  • Several communities--see Northbridge and Pittsfield, for example--have actually stepped up their community contribution in recent years.

*which should include my colleagues Jack Foley, John Monfredo, and Brian O'Connell as co-signers.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Mass Budget presentation: Coming to Worcester!

Please join the Worcester Public Schools
the Worcester Educational Collaborative
the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents
the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials
the Massachusetts Association of School Committees
by the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
Wednesday, February 15
7 pm
North High School
140 Harrington Way, Worcester

Public education: of all, for all

h/t Ruth

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's a site council?

I got this question this afternoon at the Worcester Government 101 panel put together by the Worcester Free School. I try, as I get questions that seem like others might have them to post them here. And send those along! I'm always glad to field them.
When we refer back to the Ed Reform Act of 1993 in Massachusetts, we're usually referencing two things: the MCAS or the foundation formula. Both are a result (direct or otherwise) of that Act. There are a number of other things that happened them (School Committees stopped directly hiring most of the employees of the schools, for example): among them was the creation of site councils.
Because another aspect of the Act was to move an increased amount of control back to the school (from the district) level, the Act set out a group of people to assist in the leadership of the school. While the principal was given increased autonomy in budgeting, policy, and staffing,* the law set out an advisory council for the principal, to ensure that those with a vested interest in the school had a voice in running the school.
Each site council consists of parents (generally at least two), teachers (again, usually two), community members, and (at the secondary level) a student. They are public meetings, so anyone can attend.
Thus the site council serves as an advisory council to the principal on matters of budgeting--they are required to review the school budget--and policy. In Worcester, site council members commonly are called on by the district when it comes to hiring a new principal for the school.
Site councils meet monthly and the meetings are statutorily required to be public. The dates and times are posted on both the city website and the Worcester Public Schools website. Any member of the public may attend any site council meeting, and if you're interested in what's going on with a school, I'd enthusiastically recommend you do so!

*in theory if not in practice, always.

What's the deal with local aid?

I asked a few of the financial mavens I barrage with questions to explain unrestricted local aid to me last year, and I was met with, more-or-less, a head shake. Now I understand why.

The Mass Budget and Policy Center tackles the other half of the state budget that has a lot to do with local budgets: unrestricted local aid. A few highlights:
  • there isn't an overall formula
  • changes in calculations haven't taken into consideration changes in wealth that have happened in the past several years.
  • there have been cuts and restorations, but they've been the reverse of progressive.
  • reform is difficult (maybe impossible) without increases in revenue
Well worth reading!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Good news at the state level on FY13 budget

Both the Boston Globe and State House News are reporting that Lieutenant Governor Murray today told the Mass Municipal Association that Chapter 70 aid for schools for FY13 will include a $145 million increase, and that districts will be fully funded or greater for their foundation budget.
The full proposed budget will be released on Tuesday.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Burncoat Prep Level 4 plan

I should perhaps point out that due to technical difficulties, this meeting is not being broadcast live.

stakeholder group finalizing their report
presenting to school community next Wednesday, January 25
then that plan goes to superintendent, who creates plan to present to School Committee
Feb. 16 School Committee meeting: presentation of turnaround plan by Superintendent Boone
possibly vote on School Improvement Grant at the same time
faculty had already been working on changes under innovation plan
next set of timelines: potential work outside of collective bargaining agreement
School Improvement Grants are available
require district to choose one of four options:
  1. close school
  2. outsource school
  3. replace 50% of faculty plus principal
  4. replace principal plus annual evaluation of staff (plus)
Boone intends to pursue money, as in past two, if School Committee approves
none of these four models represent a pancea for scuccess
"my recommendation for a model represents no lack of confidence" in school leadership
"very clear...not a statement of lack of confidence for principal and leadership team"

 Essential conditions are still in play: extended learning time is still required, as are specific professional development
increased attention to English Language Learners

FY13 questions

mentions lack of agreement by Congress, thus sequestration: significant cuts in federal funds
managed federal funds very well; no major cliff
glad not to see double-digit deficit to start the conversation
slide for instructional costs: static level since FY02
actually a 25% reduction in what we can buy due to inflation
short where we'd hoped to be

FY13 budget presentation

Governor releases budget next Wednesday
continue with zero based budget approach
"not going to step away from our process as we've started to do this work"
posting as we go

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

MassBudget FY13 forecast

And while I'm posting MassBudget reports, here's their FY13 forecast.
It's bleak.

Unseen corners: Goddard School

Part of an occasional series of photos of corners of the Worcester Public Schools you may not have seen:
Sometime back, I posted photos of the windows in the Goddard School of Science and Technology's auditorium (which also included the classically designed ceiling). I've since been told the windows are from Tiffany.
You know that Goddard was South High School; did you know that Robert Goddard was class president during his senior year and wrote the alma mater for South?

Today, Principal Marion Guerra was kind enough to take me around the school. Here's a few corners you may not have seen of Goddard:

This is the original gym floor in the old South gymnasium. It is parquet: yes, like the Celtics play on at the Garden.

Scattered around the building are murals painted, which really brighten up the walls. Many, as Alice below, are scenes from books.

Like many of our buildings, the place to go is the top floor. Goddard has enormous windows (it was built to be run without electric light). Here's the view from the third floor, looking out towards downtown, over University Park.
 I didn't take photos of the beautifully shiny wood floors, the transom windows, the cheerful ('though in a basement) art room, and all the nooks of a building built over a hundred years ago, all busy with over 600 students and accompanying staff learning.
With thanks to Ms. Guerra for her time and the enthusiastic history lesson!

Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow: UPDATED

The first regular meeting of the Worcester School Committee is tomorrow evening at 7 pm at Worcester Tech. You can find the agenda here.
In addition to recognizing the work recently done at Doherty by Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, approving minutes, filing a number of retirement and other personnel items coming in, and a variety of new business being sent off to subcommittee, we are getting our first report on the FY13 budget (yes, it's that time of year again; check out the report! It should have a works cited page!) and getting an update on Burncoat Prep (which you'll remember has Level 4 status).
Burncoat Prep backup still to come.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Discussion on MassBudget presentation

Rep. Lewes: These aren't just bars on charts; these are our kids.
Some changes made in the budget in 2006, but there has not been a comprehensive reconsideration of the foundation budget.
HB 153:to reconsider the foundation budget
Coalition for Student Success: educate folks about issues around education funding and advocate for a reconsideration of the foundation budget

  • concern from a higher wealth district (that gets 6% from the state): people are moving out due to property tax. Believes chart needed on MSBA funding (as that affects tax bills). Complaint that this hurts those with the income tax. Also some lambasting here of school committee not overseeing spending closely enough. Answer that this is diagnosing what the problem is.
  • Suggestion that reconsideration of foundation budget should happen every ten years (original law assumed reconsideration every five years)
  • School committee member (from North Reading) gets up and gives a rundown of every way in which they've worked on saving money (problem with teachers' union); drastically change contribution of health insurance. Expectation from reps that there will be something taken up this year
  • School committee member from Medford (I think?). Housing growth causing growth in special ed.
  • Winchester school committee member: health insurance projections. Variables in health insurance amongst communities. MassBudget replies that they could look at national data where copays and contributions are; compare to where it should be. What's a reasonable and just level?
  • Are not spending enough to meet our Constitutional obligation AND we're not doing what we were required to do under the lawsuit settled in 2001. Challenge from Senator Pat Jehlen that THIS should be the top education priority (not increasing MCAS testing, she notes). The adequacy study is not being reported out of the education committee tomorrow. Shouldn't it be?
You can use the MassBudget interactive tool to look community by community.

MassBudget presentation on the foundation formula

MassBudget and Policy presenting on the foundation budget
You can find the report they're discussing here.
Lots of aides here today, as the House is in caucus.The room is packed, 'though: people standing against the walls.
Noah Berger and Luc Schuster are here to present today. Representative Lewis is introducing.
This study was paid for by Mass Association of School Business Officials. (That's the finance people.)
posting as I go...will clean up my spelling and such later!

Friday, January 13, 2012

New seats

And as we haven't yet had a school committee meeting, here's a preview of our new seats (we pull for them before the inauguration:

Left side (as you face the rostrum):

Right side:

notes from January CPPAC

Notes from CPPAC January 12, 2012
Barbara Sergent presenting on Title I
authorized in 1965 under LBJ: "to level the playing field between advantaged and disadvantaged children"
ESEA is up for reauthorization (note that Title I is part of that)
waivers being offered by the Obama administration, which does affect Title I
"supplemental federal funding for improving student achievement in high-poverty schools"
Title I is school-wide (not specific to particular children)
30 out of 33 elementary schools are Title I schools in Worcester, and the funding is used school-wide at those schools
Title I is used to support: preschool programs, IAs, coaches, literacy tutors, parent liaisons, PD, parent/family activities, supplemental educational services, and instructional materials
all schools were encouraged to offer a Title I informational session, along with a literacy evening
districts are required to offer school choice to students enrolled in a school that has not made AYP; note, however, that if 27 out of our schools are deigned "underperforming," that does not leave much room for movement
Most parents choose not to move their children (this is true nationwide, incidentally)
yearly NCLB report cards are sent home
School compact signed by parents, students, teachers required by Title I
information related to school activities must be sent home in a format and (as practicable) language parents understand
Organizing a Title I parent council: scheduling meeting for February
I asked for a bit more information about this being up in the air today; it seems there's some chance that states that requested waivers MAY (we don't know) have their Title I funds cut. We don't know yet.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

On the morning commute

This afternoon the Worcester School Committee received the following email from Administration:
As you know, this morning’s commute ended up being worse than originally forecasted.  Based on information available to us early this morning at 4:30 when we need to make a decision (including real-time road conditions and the forecast of the snow turning to rain) we decided not to implement a 2-hour delay or cancel school.  We had school plant crews out early this morning to make sure parking lots were accessible and building custodians worked on walkways.   We were also in communication with DPW about their plowing operations and road conditions.  Most other school districts in the area did not have a delay either (other than Leicester that canceled and some communities south of Worcester). 

The road conditions did present challenges in spots for school buses to reach certain locations, but not any different than other storms in the past.     There were no accidents involving any WPS or Durham school buses this morning.

As this was a difficult storm to forecast, it was also a difficult decision to make this morning.  Road conditions are reporting to be improving for a normal release time this afternoon. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Yes, money matters

Just in case you'd somehow not gotten this clearly, Bruce Baker did a research review.

New statewide testing protocols

Just out yesterday from the state: new statewide MCAS testing protocols. You can find the protocols here; the sample document that principals have to sign is here.All principals must now undergo state training, must document the distribution of materials, and must require non-disclosure agreements of all those administering the test to those with disabilities. Superintendents must obtain signed copies of the security vow from each principal.

And if all of this sounds familiar, it's parallel to some of what was required in Worcester last year, after the Goddard investigation.

That's going to hurt

Among the grants cut in the compromise budget? Teaching American History.

House Education Committee completes two final bills

...and they'd dramatically change the role the federal government has in education, if they move through as written.
(You can read the bills here.)
While the grades 3-8 testing requirements remain, as does the requirement to report by subgroup, the House bill does not require science testing (which the Senate bill does require).
However, the bills:

  • Scrap adequately yearly progress, similar to the Senate bill and the Obama administration's No Child Left Behind (NCLB) waiver plan. In its place, the House bill gives states the authority to develop their own accountability systems as long as they include annual measures of student achievement, annual evaluations of schools based on student achievement and closing achievement gaps, and school improvement interventions—overseen by school districts—for the lowest-performing schools. The House bill would also eliminate the School Improvement Grant program.
  • Eliminate all maintenance of effort requirements for states and districts, which require states and school districts to maintain their own education funding at a certain level to access federal funds.
  • Eliminate the highly qualified teacher requirements, and instead require states and districts to develop local teacher evaluation systems that use multiple measures of evaluation; incorporate student achievement data; include more than two rating categories; are tied to personnel decisions; and are developed with input from parents, teachers, and other staff. In contrast, the Senate bill maintains the highly qualified teacher requirements and only requires teacher evaluations for districts participating in competitive grant programs.
  • Limit the U.S. secretary of education's authority. As a clear response to U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan's support for the Common Core State Standards and his NCLB waivers, the bills assert that the secretary has no authority to address state standards, assessments, or accountability, and may not coerce states into entering into partnerships with other states.
(emphasis added)
So, yes, they aren't fond of Race to the Top, for example, nor the new systems this administration has required around School Improvement Grants.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Valentine Contest time!

It's time for the annual Worcester Historical Museum Valentine contest!
As per usual, the contest is open to children in grades 3-6 (or the equivalent) who attend a Worcester Public School, are members of the Worcester Historical Museum, or hold a Worcester Public Library card.
Valentines must be historic, contemporary, or verse; must be made of non-perishable materials; and must be no larger than 11 inches in any direction. I'd recommend a close reading of the rules.
Entries are due by January 27 at 4pm at the Museum.

(I've uploaded the full description here.)

What those common assessments might look like

There's a good round-up of what we know so far about the new common assessments over at EdWeek.
It may be useful to recall that Massachusetts is a part of the PARCC group.

Common no more

You may have thought that there was a general trend towards commonality in curriculum right; not so, says New Hampshire:

The state House voted 255-112 and Senate 17-5 to enact H.B. 542, which will allow parents to request an alternative school curriculum for any subject to which they register an objection...Under the terms of the bill, which was sponsored by state Rep. J.R. Hoell (R-Dunbarton), a parent could object to any curriculum or course material in the classroom. The parent and school district would then determine a new curriculum or texts for the child to meet any state educational requirements for the subject matter. The parent would be responsible for paying the cost of developing the new curriculum. The bill also allows for the parent's name and reason for objection to be sealed by the state.
Everyone immediately thinks of health class and science class, but the article rightly notes that this could also rapidly get into the phonics/whole language and new math debates.

On the heat

or lack thereof. The Worcester School Committee received the following from Mr. Allen this afternoon:
It is clear that the recent cold weather has had an adverse impact on some of our heating plants and we are taking the necessary steps to address these issues as soon as possible so as to minimize any impact on instructional time. 

We have received the most communication regarding Doherty High School.  The immediate response that we will be taking is an earlier starting time for the heating system during the colder weather.  This should mitigate much of the overall building problems that has been experienced at the school.  However, the school does experience significant heat loss; first when the rush of students enter during the morning (with doors being opened for extended times) and during the day due to the condition of the school’s overall building envelope.  This also contributes to the variances in temperature within rooms and is not a new issue.  This is the condition resulting from of the non-insulated, single paned windows that surround the entire building envelope.  This is one of the reasons that we have identified Doherty High School as a project for major renovation under MSBA.  We will continue to work with our HVAC and building custodial staff to address daily, localized issues at the school.  We believe that turning the heat on earlier and some other steps will mitigate the problems at this school.

We have also experienced problems at other schools this week, including WTHS, McGrath, PIC, Quinsigamond, and Fanning.  These were primarily related to building controls and remote communications issues and have been resolved.  We’ve also had problems at North High and those issues appear to have been resolved through the construction contractor.  The building needed adjustments to the building controls based on the commissioning process of the school while in full operation. 

Jim Bedard is meeting with the HVAC lead tradesman each morning to review the status of all buildings and deploys necessary resources to address any issues.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Preschool and kindergarten registration is open

Parents of preschool (4 by December 31, 2012) or kindergarten (5 by December 31, 2012) are welcome to register their children for the respective programs at the Parent Information Center at 768 Main Street in Worcester.
To register, bring proof of residency (a utility bill will do), proof of age, and vaccination record with you.
Half-day preschool is by lottery at the individual school; lotteries for slots available will be held on March 23. You have until March 16 to apply. You can find a list of which schools have preschool here.
Kindergarten is at all schools; admission to the magnet programs is according to space and lottery.

The overlooked benefits of physical activity

Yet another article on the research. Yes, it increases test scores, but also GPAs and classroom behavior. Why are we arguing about time spent in gym and recess, again?

And yes, WPS policy does say 30 minutes a day. It can be inside at the discretion of the principal, but it does have to be 30 minutes, total, DURING the day.

More of the same

And just in case you were wondering, Mitt Romney's education policy is, ah, just about identical to Barak Obama's.

"Accountability is something that is left when responsibility has been subtracted."

I'd urge you to read all (it isn't long) of the article from The Atlantic titled "What Americans Keep Ignoring About Finland's School Success." Just about everything important, it turns out:
Since the 1980s, the main driver of Finnish education policy has been the idea that every child should have exactly the same opportunity to learn, regardless of family background, income, or geographic location. Education has been seen first and foremost not as a way to produce star performers, but as an instrument to even out social inequality.

(emphasis added)
Read the rest; the title quote is from Pasi Sahlberg, director of the Finnish Ministry of Education's Center for International Mobility and author of the new book Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland?

Monday, January 2, 2012

Inauguration Day

The 2012-13 Worcester School Committee taking their oath of office (the above swiped from clbergpowers' Twitter feed)

I will be serving as Vice Chair this year.