Friday, February 24, 2012

Family income = a top ten list

Everyone would like an easy answer in education.
We want an easy way to tell the good schools from the lousy ones. Thus the top ten list.
Lists give us the illusion of control over something that is complicated. They're neat, and they feed into our human wish for a narrative of winners and losers.
It is, however, an illusion, and this recent version is again based on factors that tell us very little about education in those schools.
GoLocalWorcester creates their top high school list through three factors:
  • SAT scores (broken apart by math and English)
  • MCAS scores (broken apart by math and English)
  • per pupil spending
Let's take these backwards: per pupil spending in Massachusetts is (as I've gone over here before) at least partly determined by the foundation budget (here's Luc Schuster for a refresher, should you need it). The minimum per pupil funding required is going to average out to be higher for a community with more special education pupils, or, more tellingly, for vocational pupils. To ignore this is to ignore the heart of how education is funded in Massachusetts.
Now, clearly, every community on here is not settling for minimum funding of education, and certainly that matters. A community that chooses to fund education over what the state requires is choosing to make education a priority*
However, that does go along with two other things: first, it argues that the community, and that community's parents, prioritize education over other choices, and perhaps have the freedom to do so. A public community choice argues that private choices--around how family funds are spent, around how family free time is spent--may well also be educationally focused, and that the parents of children in that community can make those choices (are not, for example, working several jobs to make ends meet, or are adjusting to a new culture, or are not present for the child at all).
It also goes along with the communities that have resources they feel can be freed for education. A quick glance down this list bears that out. These are communities with high property values and higher family incomes.

And that brings us to the other two data points used.

Tests are numbers and people believe numbers. We have a tendency to think that numbers exist in a vacuum, swayed by nothing outside.
SAT's, however, clearly correlate with family income**. You can see here for the latest round of this analysis. This, along with other troubling correlations including race, is why a growing number of colleges have stopped using them (well, that, and they're not a great predictor of college success, either).
The MCAS suffers from the same correlations; as W. James Popham points out, it's really difficult to design a standardized test that does not (more from him here; see also Alfie Kohn).
Thus we've got three shots at family income, plus a dash of the foundation formula measuring what makes great central Massachusetts high schools.
Unfortunately, this does nothing to help us discover what those schools do with the students who walk in the door, whatever their family income or other background.
This just isn't a useful measure of education.

*I'm ignoring here the school GLW declared number one, Mass Academy of Math and Science. MAMS is unlike any other school in the state, in that it is funded directly from Boston. To be honest, I have no idea how their per pupil funding is calculated. They also are a school of only 11th and 12th graders that has strict admission standards, requires pupils to provide their own transportation, and draws from all over central Mass, so they're an outlier all around. I'd put Advanced Math and Science Academy in a similar category, except for the funding, as they, too, have control over their school population (as a charter).
**If you follow the links, you'll see there's a correlation with parent education level, as well, but it is outweighed by family income.
And yes, post hoc ergo propter hoc.

And one more meeting

This one would be a bit of a challenge to track as a member of the public, but it is indeed posted and it is a public meeting!
The Standing Committee on Finance and Operations (of the School Committee) and the Education Subcommittee (of the City Council) will be conducting a facilities tour with the Massachusetts School Building Authority and State Treasurer Steve Grossman (the office of the Treasurer oversees the MSBA) on Wednesday, February 29.
The city group is meeting at Burncoat High at 8:30, and heading to Nelson Place for 8:45, where they are meeting with those from the state. After a tour of Nelson Place, we'll be leaving for Doherty at 9:30. The tour there starts at 9:45. After touring Doherty, we will be leaving for South at 10:15. The tour of South will start at 10:35.
And again, yes, you're welcome!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Getting kids the services they need

Rick Hess raises some good points today about the best ways of providing services for kids who have particular needs. Any system walks a line between wanting kids to be in the school they want to be in (be that their neighborhood school or otherwise) and putting kids where they can best (and yes, most cost effectively) be served.
The only part of this issue that I don't see him dealing with here is the effect concentrating a population has on an individual school. This is most clear with test scores: if you're concentrating a population (whatever the group may be) of kids who may not easily get great test scores, you are guaranteeing that school a lower ranking (or, in Massachusetts, Level). There are other strains that it puts on a school; we've seen that with putting multiple classrooms of kids with behavioral disorders in a school, for example.
I don't think that we talk enough about this as a system or as a state. If we are to serve our kids effectively, we need to be able to place them without concern for if it's going to send a particular school plunging from Level 3 to Level 4. We also need to think about what the needs of a school are if a population with particular needs goes up.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where does the money go?

The Denver Post asks "Where does the School Turnaround Grant money go?"
(A reminder: the STG program is what Massachusetts Level 4 schools get if they choose one of the four "turnaround models," thus at a minimum firing/"reassigning" their principal.)
First of all, I'm really glad to see they're asking. There's millions of dollars going to what is theoretically this effort; seeing in what way--if any--that money touches kids is an excellent track to be following.
And may I just ask now: please, please will someone do this for Race to the Top?
It's a three part series, and I'd recommend part I as being, far and away, the most important. The short version of what they found?
In Colorado — one of the few states willing to tally such spending — consultants are taking home 35 percent, or $9.4 million, of the $26.6 million that came to the state from the U.S. Department of Education in the past two years.
Really, this goes back to what many of us have been pointing out about this and other federal initiatives: there's real money to be made here, and lots of people have their hands out. The assertion that there simply are not this many good consultants in the country is entirely right, and this notion that you can just fly someone in (literally) and have them turn your school around for you is misguided, to say the least. 
There's a few parts here that are a problem: the question around where the money should go, for one. The article questions giving it to the schools, but the push right now is (at least in name) for community control, so running this from the central district office is not going to get you there. The notion that there should be a jump in test scores immediately (if not sooner), and how dare they fund these schools for a second year completely ignores the reality of a school that has gone through upheaval (yes, we've got people weighing in who don't know what they're talking about. Again.).
The second* and third parts of the series track the same way: you fire the principal and replace at least half the staff, and you're expecting the children's test scores to go up in every case across the board? This ignores the reality of schools as a community where children need to feel secure to do well. And just fire those pesky teachers, because clearly that--not lack of preparation coming in, children's needs outside of school, even the sinking school--is the only thing that matters when it comes to the children's success on tests. And don't even bother suggesting that there could be any other measure of success beyond those tests!
I was a bit encouraged by some of what else the Post reports grant funds being spent on:
Greenlee principal Laurie Grosselfinger said grant money is being spent on classroom libraries; new technology, including smart boards; literacy coaches; and after-school tutoring.
Farther down, another school has expanded preschool and full-day kindergarten. No mention in any of this of dealing with much outside of school: housing, nutrition, physical activity, safety, mental health, other family needs...all the rest of what we know goes into having kids who are ready and able to learn when they get to class. That's pretty disturbing, as it continues the myth that what happens outside the school somehow stays there, rather than coming straight into the building with every kid.
Which it does.
Yes, you could do this with Worcester. You'd want to pull information not only from the School Transformation Grant, but also the Race to the Top funds, as that also was spent in part on the Level 4 schools. Offhand, I'll tell you that most of the money went to extended day--required by the state--and professional development for teachers. Some of the RTTT funds went for a half-time librarian for each building (they share one) and expanded school adjustment counselor access.

*but, by gosh, those kids have matching polo shirts, so surely test scores are rising! 

Subcommittees next week

The agenda for each of these won't be posted until Friday, but for those trying to schedule next week, there are two Standing Committee meetings:
  • Finance and Operations meets on Monday at noon.
  • Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets on Tuesday at 5:30 pm.
In both cases, room 410 at the Durkin Administration Building.

Monday, February 20, 2012

They're building that airplane again*

 New York Times article today on the new teacher evaluation systems being put in place around the country has this excellent quote:
States “are racing ahead based on promises made to Washington or local political imperatives that prioritize an unwavering commitment to unproven approaches"
 We don't know if it works BUT we're going to do it, anyway.

*inside reference: the analogy that keeps being made to much of what is being pushed at the national level--teacher evaluation, school "turnaround" systems, Common Core transition--keeps being likened to "building an airplane while you're flying it." This is the analogy, I should point out, often being used by the proponents of these systems, making one question their facility with analogy, if nothing else.

Mark of a good leader

He checks the bathrooms.
When Dr. Hall was the superintendent, she covered one wall in her office with bar graphs showing the test results for all 100 city schools.
After Mr. Davis became superintendent, he took the test scores down and replaced them with large color photographs of Atlanta schoolchildren.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Jon Stewart gets it

Mr. Secretary, here's the deal: when Jon Stewart says to you, "These teachers have a little bit of a problem with this Race to the Top," this is NOT the time to talk about all the states "being innovative."
The teachers have a very good idea of just what that "innovation" on the part of the state is--and one of those teachers is Jon Stewart's mom

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President Obama's FY13 proposal

I should open by saying that this stands little chance of passing as proposed.
President Obama presented his budget request to Congress on Monday, and the proposals lines up with what his administration has focused on so far:
the Race to the Top franchise, launched under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, would get $850 million, a big jump from the current year’s level of $550 million... a $100 million increase to the nearly $300 million Teacher Incentive Fund, which provides grants to districts to create pay-for-performance programs...
Promise Neighborhoods, which was drastically underfunded for such an extensive program, is up for $100 million.
Worryingly, some bread-and-butter programs that districts really depend on are slated for level-funding:
...Title I grants to help districts educate disadvantaged children would get $14.5 billion, and special education state grants would get $11.6 billion...
And note that these, unlike RTTT, are programs with a long track record of making a substantial difference in kids' lives and educations. 

And if you haven't had enough of competitive grant programs, here's a new one:
...the $5 billion proposal for a new, competitive grant program that would help states take what the administration is billing as big, “bold” steps to overhaul teacher quality. For example, states could use the funds to revamp colleges of education and make them more selective, make sure teachers’ salaries are tied to student achievement, improve professional development and offer teachers more planning time, and craft new evaluation systems.
Combined that with the proposed changes to Title II:
Mr. Obama also wants to direct a big portion of the nearly $2.5 billion in funding that states now use for class-size reduction and professional development to a competitive grant program. The proposal would siphon off a quarter of the funding—$about 620 million—for competitive grants that focus on a host of teacher-quality issues, including expanding the number of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics teachers, and bolstering teacher preparation
and you've got a) local budgetary messes and b) even more business for the grant-writing department. As this administration has a lousy record when it comes to tying these grants to actual research on what helps kids...not a great direction.
However, there is a request for $30 billion to work on school facilities!

Graduation season is coming

Last night, School Committee members drew their assignments for speaking at graduations.
I'll post the full list when I get it; I have North High, Worcester East Middle, and the Creamer Center.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Start talking about PARCC

the new PARCC assessment is coming!
are we going to do both PARCC and MCAS some year?
PARCC requires technology, too, that we don't have
...heading off to Accountability

Challenge and Reach Academies

what staff members are determining that the student is moved?
School administration does so, 'though central admin may
"similar to the process of a student transferring to the Creamer Center"
parents always involved: team approach, looking first at supports in the schools
average time frame from recommendation to student enrolled?
no data as yet: request for a report

TLSS report & F&O reports

both accepted as read
We should note that we got a petition this evening from the South High Community with over 150 signatures, asking that we keep them very much in mind!

Committee comment on Level 4 school: Burncoat Prep

again publishing as we go
Colorio: teachers will turn this school around
"vested in their students"

Level 4 stakeholders recommendations: Burncoat Prep

publishing as we go
 Boone: teams of community members for parents and others in attendance to make recommendations, plus stakeholders' group, whose membership is laid out in the "Act Relative to the Achievement"
School kid-friendly, staff had done research, provide support necessary for teachers to be successful
prep work done around 11 Essential Conditions 
a lot of momentum at the school, particular at building a strong student and teacher culture
Faculty and staff had done work prior to school being declared Level 4; had assessed themselves by 11 Conditions in the fall
programs that centered around the success of each child
90/90/90 article: mini-book study
"thriving with teachers who believe deeply in their craft"
instructional group: easier due to the work done by faculty prior
nearly all of the recommendations related to teaching and learning
initiatives already in place & changes to made
wraparound coordinator and adjustment counselor
when students' basic needs are met, more likely to succeed
professional development
"to foster a life-long love of learning"
"areas of need and areas of strength" in use of data
even greater level of detail
recommendation for lengthened day: by 90 minutes (note that at Burncoat Prep this would require transportation)
Community and parent engagement: parents what they want for their kids
"strong relationships with families" especially ELL
discuss assessment practices: report cards
social events with families to engage them
strengthen PTO: offsite meeting, flexible times, childcare
"hopes, dreams, and wishes for the students"
include parent feedback in assessment of school

Boone: heard that work done by school before Level 4 allowed process to go through
Year of level 4 schools: what has been working in those schools

*for concerns about this article, see EdWeek

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Fun budget tool

Here's the budget tool that was referenced tonight:

Suggestions and questions

Could we use the statewide average in special education, rather than the (under) assumption that the state currently uses?
Is there more reform to be hand in health insurance?
The deficit in underspending on teachers: is that salaries or numbers or both?
Salaries are right in line with the assumption made. It's numbers of teachers in the classroom that is under the assumption.


Are we once again facing an inadequate funding of education in Massachusetts?
And remember that last time this resulted in a lawsuit!

A few things to remember: Cutting Class

  •  Higher wealth communities have spent over the minimum required in order to make up for gaps in funding.
  • Health care inflation has grown 2 to 3 times the rate of inflation factor in Ch. 70 law. Note that the original proposal would have included different inflation factors for different sections of the formula. That was not done. 
  • special education percentages were set low intentionally to minimize number of kids on IEPs. This has been compounded by number of kids that are now HIGH NEED students. (Number of kids that are on IEPs has remained fairly constant, but the mix of students served has changed.)
  • 32% less spent in lower-wealth districts on regular ed teachers than assumed by the foundation formula.
  • districts in general spending 1/2 of the assumption for technology
  • only the wealthiest districts spend what the foundation budget assumes on professional development.


Mass Budget and Policy Center presentation  
Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget's Core Education Program
7 pm
North High School

Please come!

And I won't liveblog the presentation, as I've already done that, but questions I will blog if they get interesting.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Excellent choice!

Congratulations to Jack Navin on being awarded the Thomas Green award this year! HUGELY well-deserved!
Mr. Navin is who I go to with those pesky history questions like when South High moved, or whatever happened to English High, or...if he doesn't know from first-hand experience, he probably remembers being told by someone who DID know first-hand.

Yes, you can learn in a parking garage

I would just like to point out that this teacher--and every other teacher who "gets it" that kids need actual background knowledge to do more than decode and then DOES something about that--is awesome.
Reading isn't only about what's on the page.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The Worcester School Committee will have a pre-February vacation meeting this Thursday at 7pm at Worcester Tech. You can find the agenda here.
Big report coming in this week: we will be getting the stakeholders' recommendations for Burncoat Prep this week. More on that to follow!
(Side note: this is the report the stakeholders came up with and presented to the superintendent as she/the administration put together the Level 4 plan for the school. Thus the School Committee is really getting this report as a courtesy at this point; we aren't voting on anything yet. I just has to check that myself.)
Two subcommittees met and are reporting back (TLSS and F& both cases, notes are posted on here. Agenda backup to come.)
We're getting a report back on how the revamped Challenge and Reach Academies at Fanning are working.
A number of items going out to administration, as well.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tonight's PowerPoint on school buildings

 I posted the link to this farther down, but we got some questions tonight on this; reposting so it's easy to find. Hat tip to the crew at F&O for a good survey (and nice historical perspective)!
I've put the full color version up here (I'm told it will make the WPS website soon).

Community comment: school buildings

On South High Community:
These from Farrell, Nystrom, Shea, and Wynja
We see that South was built in 1978, but 150 kids in 6 classrooms in one room
"doing a disservice to all of them"
tough to "pick up a second language when 15 other people are talking"
kids learn from novelty; open classroom arrangement forces teachers to be "limited in novelty and movement"
from a parent: "what my kids say at home [is] it does not get easier, they do not get used to it"
"they deserve a room with walls"
"on an hourly bases [I] have at least three students who wish they had walls"
kids "have a thirst to learn...need to know that this is a place that they can learn"
they "kind of feel like they're the bottom of the barrel"
about tonight's meeting, asked "why is it at Doherty; why isn't it here?"

On Doherty Memorial High:
even when first built, was "not ever big enough to accommodate" the population
issues of parking, the cafeteria
"never have had athletic fields" to play at home
district basketball can't play at home
need to consider "the footprint we are on: is this a big enough space?"

Also, Mr. Scott raised concerns about environmental impacts on children's health


I'll catch my notes up later...low battery
This is Maureen Binienda, principal of South High
temporary walls/partitions from UNUM
had to take down the temporary ones from 1978 over the summer, as they were damaged.
ones donated from UNUM; more to come once they move
ideal would be putting up walls
need more than visual barriers; need sound barriers
"ideally we really need walls..."

O'Brien announces that Treasurer Steve Grossman will be coming out to visit and tour some of our schools on February 29th (the Mass School Building Authority is under the Treasurer's department)

come spring, doing a series of public meetings and hearings regarding school buildings and repairs
"would like to do a meeting at Nelson Place, as well as Worcester East Middle"

Foley: "reverse inter-high championship as to who has the worst facility"
"we've heard you and we know the challenges that are there"

Joint meeting on school buildings

Just getting started on school buildings...posting as we go...
O'Brien says the greatest challenge we hear about are the facilities.
"This is the most important work that I think either body will do in the next two years."
cites surrounding communities that have built new high schools...quality in the facilities
"tonight is a first step..."
I've uploaded the presentation in color (it's worth it!) here. 
Allen:  newest building is 6 months old; oldest school is Grafton Street is 133 years old (the Taylor Building, for Head Start admin is older; 170 years old)
average age of 70: testament to our maintenance
all schools have been converted to natural gas except Union Hill and Worcester Arts (which will be converted through ESCo), leaving New Citizens, Harlow Street, and Foley Stadium
rundown of rehab done 2000-10
$7.7 million in rehab for 2011-12:
ESCo projects through Honeywell: signed in June 2011
should reduce City and School energy costs $1.4 million annual for next 20 years and reduce CO2 by 6000 tons annually
about $16 million investment into the schools
this is on top of computer power management upgrades and lighting upgrades, already resulting in $200,000 in electricity savings
next steps on PCB abatement:  $1.3 million in removing unlabeled ballast, interior dust, stained fixtures, plus sealing window glazing and cauking
that work is planned for spring and summer 2012

School buildings meeting: TONIGHT 7pm

Please join the Worcester City Council Subcommittee on Education and the Worcester School Committee's Standing Committee on Finance and Operations tonight for a meeting on school buildings. We're meeting at 7pm at Doherty Memorial High School. You can find our agenda here; click on the highlighted item number to get to the presentation.
I will try to liveblog the meeting; I'm not sure what the setup at Doherty will be, though!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

And speaking of biking to school... cool is this?

Widening educational gap between rich and poor

For some reason, two studies that came out back in the fall have been getting press this week (including substantial coverage in the New York Times). Both were part of a compilation of studies Wither Opportunity? put out by the Russell Sage Foundation and the Spencer Foundation examining widening opportunity gaps in education based on family income over the past several decades.
One of the studies, "Gains and Gaps: Changing Inequality in U.S. College Entry and Completion" (to quote from the abstract):
...find(s) growing gaps between children from high- and low-income families in college entry, persistence, and graduation. Rates of college completion increased by only four percentage points for low-income cohorts born around 1980 relative to cohorts born in the early 1960s, but by 18 percentage points for corresponding cohorts who grew up in high-income families.
From the Times article:
The University of Michigan study, by Susan M. Dynarski and Martha J. Bailey, looked at two generations of students, those born from 1961 to 1964 and those born from 1979 to 1982. By 1989, about one-third of the high-income students in the first generation had finished college; by 2007, more than half of the second generation had done so. By contrast, only 9 percent of the low-income students in the second generation had completed college by 2007, up only slightly from a 5 percent college completion rate by the first generation in 1989.
In the Stanford study, which looked at standardized test scores:
The achievement gap between children from high- and low-income families is roughly 30 to 40 percent larger among children born in 2001 than among those born twenty-five years earlier.
As the Times correctly notes (and illustrates with a chart), this has been happening at the same time that achievement gaps between white children and children of color have been substantially narrowing.
I should perhaps point out that the Times then goes on to blow it by throwing around a lot of conservative economic theory (no,wait! Income doesn't matter! And it's all the fault of the dang War on Poverty, anyway!), which doesn't precisely forward the conversation. Rather than ending on the note they do ("The cupboard is bare."), I'd suggest that we go back to the middle of the article, which hints a start of a solution:
“The pattern of privileged families today is intensive cultivation,” said Dr. Furstenberg, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Add that appropriate pre-natal and VERY early childcare, and we might start to get somewhere. The cupboard isn't bare, after all.

Desegregation before Brown

I did not know of the Méndez vs.Westminster case out of California, but it's an important piece of American educational history.
When Sylvia was 8, her aunt, who was a lighter-skinned Mexican-American with a French-sounding name - Viadurri - took her to the “white” school to enroll her with the Viadurri children. When school officials refused to admit Sylvia and her brother while at the same time accepting the Viadurris, it set off the battle.
“I started crying and I go home and I tell my mother, ‘They don’t want us in that school,’ and my mother said, ‘We’re going to fight for you, because you’re just as good as they are and we’re all equal under God! Of course you’re going to go to that school.’”
And she did. And the California school system was desegregated in 1946, eight years before Brown v. the Board of Education.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

We've got the waiver: now what?

I got this question from a friend on Facebook, and one the old teacher principle "If one asks, several are wondering," here's an answer:
So, we all know this waiver is a big deal, but what does it actually mean for your local school?
  • The first big thing it means is that there will no longer be any schools "not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress." AYP is gone. This will particularly be telling for the schools that had hit the tough part of the curve: going from 96% to something higher, for example. You won't see anything about this in Massachusetts reports anymore. It won't probably actually change anything in your school, other than a principal's report. What it SHOULD do is allow any school that doesn't have difficulty on the MCAS to pay attention to the rest of education. That's the theory.
Much of the rest of what I'll talk about below was going to happen, anyway, because Massachusetts has Race to the Top plans. To get a waiver, a state basically had to sign up to do the RTTT agreements. Massachusetts was already doing these (and so it's not a huge surprise that the waiver came through).
  • Demonstrate adherence to college and career ready standards, which really meant adopting the Common Core standards. You've already heard about this going on, right? We're shifting away from the Massachusetts frameworks to the standards held in common with other states. That's going to change the curriculum.
  • Levelling: each school is a Level 1-5. Again, this has already happened for two years running, per the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap. It's based on MCAS scores, still, 'though they're crunched in several different ways, including how subgroups are being served. In function, unless your school is Level 4, this is probably something that's only affecting real estate prices. This basically is your new "instead of AYP" label.
  • Teacher evaluation: you had to tie them to student "performance" (which, yes, means test scores). Again, already in the new regulations via Race to the Top; already being implemented in Level 4 schools this year, in Race to the Top districts next year, in the rest of the state the year after that. No change.
The Fed was quite adament that they were offering "freedom" in return. Here's the one place I can see that:
  • Funding: here's where you may see a difference in schools that have been getting supplemental funding due to low MCAS scores. The state is no longer going to mandate the transfer option (the right for a parent to send their kids to a higher-achieving school after so many years with poor scores). They are also no longer going to mandate supplemental services (that after-school MCAS prep that many schools in Worcester offer, for example). The idea is supposed to be to "free up districts" to make what decisions they like on how best to serve their kids with those funds; what that looks like on the ground is anyone's guess at this point. The state is specifically calling out the Eleven Essential Conditions that they've been requiring of the Level 4 schools, which include students’ social-emotional needs and family-school engagement, so we could see an emphasis on that.
More to come as I have it!
UPDATE: Or you could just read Diane Ravitch

The waivers are coming, the waivers are coming!

President Obama will be announcing the first round of NCLB waivers today. According to the Associated Press:
The first 10 states to receive the waivers are Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oklahoma and Tennessee. The only state that applied for the flexibility and did not get it, New Mexico, is working with the administration to get approval, a White House official told the AP.
Now to see what that means on the ground...
I'll update this post as more comes out today.
UPDATE: The Boston Globe has this report, including the key:
...under the waiver that Massachusetts will recieve, the 100 percent proficiency rule will disappear. In its place, the state is setting a requirement that local schools must cut gaps of achievement among students of different races and other backgrounds in half by 2017.

UPDATE 2: For some reason, DESE has not posted the press release they sent out. The first part is the sort of "he said..." you would expect. I'm posting the pertinent details after the jump.  

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

NYC Students fighting for their schools

I was visiting with someone over the weekend who works for the NYC public schools, and she told me how proud she is of these students.
On February 1, students from at least five New York City high schools walked out of class to protest the planned closure (yes, another round) of 25 NYC schools and the "turnaround" of 33 more. A note from the students is here.
The Panel for Education Policy (NYC's school board, entirely appointed by the mayor) votes on the closures on Thursday. 
It looks like the students' criticism of Mayor Bloomberg's education policies is shared by others.

Lunch Lady = superhero

There was a fun profile of WPS alum* Jarrett Krosoczka in the Boston Globe this weekend:
Back in 2001 Jarrett Krosoczka was visiting his old elementary school in Worcester to talk to students about his first book, “Good Night, Monkey Boy,’’ which had just been published. While he was there, he ran into the school’s longtime “lunch lady,’’ Jean Cargilia, who started chatting about her grandchildren.
“I was like, Wait a minute, you leave the cafeteria? You have a life outside this?’’ Krosoczka says. “Even at 23, I’d never thought of that.

Krosoczka has established a scholarship fund at the Worcester Art Museum in honor of his grandparents; when WPS cut arts funding, he took a class at WAM that piqued his interest in illustration.

*(Gates Lane!)

Joint Council/School Committee meeting on buildings

There will be a meeting of the Education subcommittee of the Worcester City Council AND the Standing Committee on Finance and Operations of the Worcester School Committee at 7 pm on Monday, February 13 at Doherty Memorial High School.
If you are interested in buildings, re-building, repair, facilities and the like, please come!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Books not reflecting all of us

By now, you've probably heard of the difficulty George Lucas had getting Red Tails made.
Is something similar going on with children's literature?
Also, check out Kids Like Us for books that do look like all of our kids!


Some districts are working to cross the tech divide by embracing "BYOT"...Bring Your Own Technology.
Yes, that does mean you have to rescind the ban on cell phones.

Compass Survey presentation

This morning, the Compass project presents the results of the 2011 survey on youth homelessness at 9 am at North High.

Monday, February 6, 2012

TLSS: Curriculum review

I should point out here that the giant binders you may have seen before each committee member are the backup on this item (and will be added to going forward). So far as I know, it is not yet available online.
Also note that this will be a more-or-less standing item at all TLSS items going forward.
Mulqueen notes the introduction to this at last week's School Committee meeting and Saturday's community meeting on the Common Core.


Mulqueen: notes of inventory done
coming to School Committee as a budget proposal
Biancheria questions the lack of storage for mats
securing mats, says Athletic Director Shea
Biancheria comments that she looks at cheerleading as a sport
asks where they're storing other equipment for other sports: aren't they locked up somewhere?
Mulqueen if we have funds for buying them, we then can work at securing them
Biancheria asks that there be a conversation around storage now
Shea: notes that Burncoat has a dance team (may be a switch-off)
distinction between teams and clubs: teams get transportation to get to competitions


draft press release on homelessness on working with other community agencies
Biancheria: approximately 2200 students
I'm going to mention again that we count, as required, all students in foster or community care as homeless students.
working on a community effort

TLSS liveblog: foreign travel

As the City Solicitor has made the quick trip up from City Hall for this meeting, the item on foreign travel is being take out of order. Publishing as we go...
David Moore notes that new regulations require CORI or CORI type checks on all drivers and others, plus extensive exploration around transportation. Training and planning around political issues, as in Egypt currently. "Formidable issues" is what he says.

Standing committee today

The standing committee on Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets today at 5:30 in the administration building. There are three items on the agenda: homeless students, status of cheerleading, and curriculum review. There is a chance, I am told, that foreign travel may also be taken up; it depends on the City Solicitor's schedule.
Hoping to manage a liveblog!

Friday, February 3, 2012

New ESL classes

If you're wondering where those new ESL classes are, here's the complete list:
  • Burncoat Middle School, Monday and Wednesday, 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Canterbury Magnet, Tuesday and Thursday, 3:00-5:00 PM
  • Chandler Elementary Community, Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Elm Park Community School, Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Goddard School of Science & Technology, Tuesday and Thursday, 3:00-5:00 PM
  • Greendale Head Start, Monday and Wednesday, 9:00-11:00 AM
  • Quinsigamond School, Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30-7:30 PM
  • St. Agnes Guild, Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Union Hill School, Tuesday and Thursday, 5:30-7:30 PM
  • Woodland Academy, Tuesday and Thursday, 3:00-5:00 PM

Sign up through the Adult Learning Center at 508-799-3171

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Not a great connection tonight

Sorry for the somewhat spotty notes; my connection tonight was not great. I also dropped a bunch of my notes on the curriculum review, which were significantly more lengthy.
A few important points on that (from recollection):
  • while we're starting with math, this is the first subject going through. Other subjects to follow, English early on, due to the Common Core changes, but science and social studies, too.
  • there is no intention of starting the "math wars" here in Worcester. We're setting up what the kids ought to know. We're then defining it by when they need to learn what; THEN finding materials that cover this. This isn't as simple as "are we replacing Everyday Math?"
  • in terms of timeline on math: scope and sequence (the "what/when") should be finished by spring. The hope would be that we then could be looking to do pilots of different programs/ materials the year after next, with actual implementation (assuming all works) by the year after that
  • If you are interested in this, you might come to the Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports subcommittee meeting on Monday at 5:30 in the fourth floor conference room at DAB.

Compass Project on youth homelessness

Laurie Ross, co-director will be presenting on the survey they've taken on youth homelessness on February 16 at 9am at North High.

Review report card comments the secondary level.
to answer your question: the field on the progress report can be typed in; that on the report card (which has a strict character limit) cannot. Maybe we can fix that long term. In the meantime, we'll at least look at the comments.


Colorio requesting a list of windows that don't open and how much it would cost to fix them
referred to F&O

publicizing success

Monfredo: Outstanding activities and performances that happen in our schools
"no longer be quiet about our successes"
"I'm looking for an ad-hoc committee to come up with a plan" by April
special events to be publicized: who is in charge of that?
"one person to be in charge of that"
Petty: "maybe we just need a good communications person in the school department"
Boone: "Amen"
Biancheria: concern about cost and budget in communicating

Curriculum review

Boone: 2009, started conversation around a curriculum review process
revision due to Common Core
Review the process
Mulqueen: every area an area for improvement
Continue on in perpetuity

US Tennis Association in Worcester

The T&G caught some fun photos* from yesterday's USTA Kids Day down at the DCU Center. There were over 300 kids from three city schools down there for the afternoon, learning racquet skills and meeting players, who also seemed to be enjoying themselves.**It was very well run, and entirely covered by USTA (including at least six buses, which don't come cheap!).
Many thanks!

*including Governor Patrick returning a volley to Venus Williams. Alas, it appears no one caught Superintendent Boone, who was also there, wielding a racquet!
**I personally intend to start cheering for Sloane Stephens, who was incredibly patient and fun with the kids. She's an up-and-comer: watch for her!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Speaking of parent power!

Parents Across America is proposing a school governance structure based on Chicago's Local School Councils:
To provide the opportunity for such authentic parent involvement at the local school level, PAA recommends adoption of a school governance model based on Chicago’s Local School Councils. 
LSCs are duly elected, parent-majority bodies at nearly every Chicago public school. They have real power – including hiring, evaluating and firing a school’s principal. LSC’s oversee a school wide process of program and budget evaluation, planning, and monitoring that offers the kind of collaborative effort researchers say is needed to make local reform succeed.
 (Briefly: this are a bit like Massachusetts site councils, except they are thoroughly duly elected, majority-parent boards, with broader powers, including evaluating the principal.)

Remember the principal in Dallas

who pushed her teachers to only teach reading and math?
She was fired in Dallas. She's just been hired in D.C.