Thursday, July 26, 2012

Transfers by school and reasons in accountability

You can find the report here. Pretty interesting numbers, incidentally.
O'Connell pulls out Doherty: any reason for high rate of transfers at Doherty? Anything schools should look at for retaining students?
Perda: struck by large numbers of transfers to another Worcester Public Schools
rate of mobility of Worcester families moving within the city
onus on the district to ensure there are relatively seamless transfers from one district school to another
strain on the classroom teachers
O'Connell: proof that it does happen; much for moving, strain of economy
does administration have recommendations for seamless transfers?
Novick: numbers on kids going to jail; we should know
would like to be notified on students being long-term suspended for disciplinary infractions
Biancheria: "confirmed dropout plans unknown"
review of numbers on dropouts: going back to chapter 74 programs
"we need to begin a process and an action plan...this is a decision that they are making that is going to affect the rest of their lives"
"mobility and dropping out are two issues" that we need to focus on
Perda references the different levels; there may be different practices at different schools
Perda reviews efforts going on: credit buyback, Challenge and Reach Academies, tracking kids earlier who indicators of possibly dropping out.
Biancheria asking for grade level of dropping out and grade level of transfers
Notes high rate of transfers: asks for tracking single students (could one have gone from Doherty to Burncoat to South? Yes. Looking at that.)
Item is held at the subcommittee level

Mandated reports and data submissions

This is an item coming through from the Framingham School Committee
Perda: "as demands for school districts to account for use of state and federal dollars have grown; there's a need for this; you begin to wonder how is this going to be use, is this really necessary? or is this just a program officer saying 'we're data driven'"
opportunities connected with grants management
research department and questionnaires that they send out to administrations and schools, sometimes with overlapping information
"not much thought on the burden of schools staff"
"what do we really need to collect?"
"I think would be well served"
O'Connell: this will be on the agenda for the November meeting of delegates of Mass Association of School Committee
motion that we recommend that our delegate vote in favor of this at the November meeting

Chapter 74 in accountability

We've got a report here on Chapter 74 (Chapter 74 is the chapter of the Mass General Laws that covers state funding for vocational education) and non-Chapter 74 career and technical programs in WPS.
O'Connell "trades that in the past would have been in the very heart and soul of vocational education" numbers are lower in ninth grade
is it that they haven't yet decided? Or are these trades falling off?
Perda: would be interesting to look at more data on this; would be happy to share that with us
"maybe we need to educate our students" from O'Connell
Novick: numbers lower in traditional trades; are we fulfilling our responsibilities with Perkins and Chapter 74 funding in training a workforce?
can we/ do we give kids information they need in order to make good decisions about the jobs that are needed (as many are in these trades)?
do some of these non-chapter 74 programs need to be spun up to Chapter 74? Can we do that?
Biancheria: students not accepted at Tech concerned that they can't get career training in high school
asks for a breakdown by site
comment here on popularity of robotics teams; connection with engineering
Perda offers to have Mr. Brenner come in for the next meeting
"not specific to our technical school...have the interest of expanding our comprehensive high schools"
"in line with our employment statistics across our city...what is actually the job market, what's the field?"
item held at subcommittee level

Accountability subcommittee: charter schools

The agenda is here.
Four items on the agenda, starting with one regarding charter schools.
We only have data on students who attended WPS previously; new information starts here
Perda mentions enrollment of blacks as significantly higher in charters than in WPS. Free and reduced lunch 62.1 % at charters; 70% at WPS.
Significantly different numbers on special ed: 11.3 on all charters, 20.9% at WPS.
O'Connell: knowing this going forward, outreach efforts going forward
"judging by Abby Kelley, and Seven Hills, a more affluent black population that has gravitated towards Abby Kelley, with a more Hispanic population going to Seven Hills"
effort made by these schools to attract particular populations
O'Connell do we have any idea if there has been particular efforts on outreach from charter schools?
Perda: speculation at this point, could very well be correct, could be recruitment going on
"May present some opportunities for the district"
"the grass is always greener on the other side...may feel dissatisfied...maybe I'll give it a try somewhere else"
O'Connell: "academic daycare...impression is that the school focus is on discipline"
suggestion on survey to add facilities; this was a parental concern previously
O'Connell further asks for an outreach effort after the results of the survey are known
Novick: can we break down by recent African immigrants versus African-American students? Yes.
Numbers on Seven Hills come closest to reflecting WPS and thus reflect our struggles
special ed numbers are way out of wack
series of motions here asking for financial impact, asking degree to which Worcester charter schools are meeting the requirements in the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap, asking for WPS to be at the Board of Ed when any of Worcester's charter schools (present or possible)
Biancheria adds that we invite our legislative delegation whenever this comes before the Board of Ed

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mixed news on federal grants

An update went out yesterday from the fed on sequestration for FY13. You might remember that this is the deal that Congress made: if they couldn't agree on a budget reduction plan, an automatic across the board (mostly) cut would happen. No agreement was reached last November, so sequestration kicked in.
What the Department of Education let us know yesterday is that those cuts will not kick in for FY13 funds. They will kick in for the 2013-14 school year, or for FY14.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The rest of the story? UPDATED

UPDATE: At 11:45, I was informed that the T&G has now put the full text up online. Many thanks!

I get it.
I know that our local paper only has so much space, only has so many resources...really, I get it.

But seriously, if you're going to run a story from the New York Times on the declining enrollment in some larger districts, cutting the story off halfway through, thus conveniently leaving out what that does to the districts, is...let's call it sketchy.Particularly when we all suspect this is going to lead us into another round of "oh, those lovely charter schools; do let's have more!" on the editorial page (and presumably with never a mention of an conflict of interest in doing so).

The T&G version is here.
The Times version is here.
Among what you missed if you depended solely on our local version:
Jeff Warner, a spokesman for the Columbus City Schools, said that enrollment appears to be stabilizing, but it can be difficult to compete against suburban and charter schools because of the district’s higher proportion of students requiring special education services. 
In Cleveland, where enrollment fell by nearly a fifth between 2005 and 2010, the number of students requiring special education services has risen from 17 percent of the student body to 23 percent, up from just under 14 percent a decade ago, according to the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. 
Such trends alarm those who worry about the increasing inequity in schools. “I see greater stratification and greater segregation,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. 
Educators are concerned that a vicious cycle will set in. Some of the largest public school systems in the country are in danger of becoming “the schools that nobody wants,” said Jeffrey Mirel, an education historian at the University of Michigan.
I'm really glad that Ms. Moton got help for her daughter's dyslexia at her charter school; many charters counsel those kids out.
Should you be interested in what those numbers look like for Worcester, you can find them as a multi-part, multi-page backup on our Accountability and Student Achievement agenda for this Thursday. The meeting is at 5:30 at the Administration Building, should you like to join us.

Wachusett budget adjustment

The Wachusett School Committee adjusted their budget last night, and they're also now in the market for a new business manager:

In a prepared statement, committee Chairman Duncan Leith said Mr. Brennan used faulty spreadsheets to guide district spending and failed to forecast growth in the health insurance budget, which led to more than a $2 million gap over the past few years. 
Ugh. A budget runs on projections. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Round up of missing links

Sorry for the slow posting: summertime! A few links you may want to look at:

  • Alfie Kohn on summer learning loss: " ...summer loss mostly applies to 'factual and procedural knowledge' such as 'math computation and spelling skills,' according to the 1996 meta-analysis that’s still the most widely cited source on the topic.[5] This echoes what we know about the whole idea of “time on task,” which turns out to have a much less significant relationship to learning outcomes when those outcomes are intellectually ambitious. More time reliably leads to higher achievement mostly when the task involves very little thinking."
  • Updates on Superintendent Carol Johnson: plans for a shake-up of top staff and the question of mercy and justice
  • The Sunday dialogue on standardized testing and the Common Core came through and it was pretty much unanimous: "Let us re-evaluate the principles our education system currently embraces and focus again on the skills and values that have made our society profoundly successful."
  • Mayor Bloomberg's "turnaround" process isn't working.
  • And h/t to Diane Ravitch for passing on this flash mob from Italy:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Chief Academic Officer

unanimous vote in favor of Chief Academic Officer Marco Rodriguez's contract
(it's essentially the same contract as Jeff Mulqueen's; annual salary of $143,000)

break for executive session

...but we'll be back to vote in open session!

Process for selecting a new special education manager

Timetable suggested here
publishing as we go

Special education director temporary position

recommendation of Marjorie Wetzel to fill the position for whatever time is necessary
O'Connell asks if the plan is to have her fill the position for the full year?
She plans to retire at the end of this year and has no interest in filling the position.
any change in salary will come back to the full committee

participation in crew

report on costs for crew: Biancheria
"We have said a number of times that there isn't a dollar amount that is attached...not a dollar amount to participate.."
"if we are looking at dollars that are much higher to be on the crew team than elsewhere, perhaps we need to look at this process"

On mandated data reports

Framingham has an opinion and we're considering signing on.
This will be on next week's Accountability and Student Achievement agenda.

Recognizing South's Band

setting a date for recognizing South High Community band
September 20th meeting

CHINS reports

sorry, on these last two, I've been asking questions, so not great notes
WPS files CHINs as non-criminal matters, so they don't result in arrests.
Boone speaks of other efforts ongoing on getting students behavioral supports in other ways

Arrest report

Note that these are school-based arrests (they happen at school for school reason)
Motions asking for arrests out of school for school reasons, for tracking what happens to kids then (as possible).

School choice report

How many in and how many out and where? Find it here.
427 went outside the district this past year and 89 came in.

O'Connell asks that we have some space still...could we add students to our rolls from outside the district?

Foley asks if we've surveyed the parents at the "sending" schools for parents who are sending their students out-of-district (with the schools that have the largest numbers of students leaving Worcester): motion for that.

Biancheria: does the schools with higher numbers have an unbearable strain on those schools?
Boone: choice seats are filled after WPS registration; no out-of-district student bumps a WPS student

Colorio: when do we ask students?
Perda: students departing get a survey in the mail after they've been out; this is coming out in Accountability this coming week
Colorio: survey going to parent: yes

Gateway to College

Gateway to College program with QCC
Boone "who are close to graduating, need some credit recovery opportunities, to reengage in high school"
Vice President Dale Allen from QCC presenting
"national model...initially started by the Gates foundation...out of school or at risk of going out of school....both a high school degree and opportunities for college credit"
"we're dealing with the same children and limited public resources"
QCC leadership team: Tammy Boyle and Kyle Brenner from WPS; meet weekly
opportunity to apply for $300,000 from Gateway to College out of Oregon
(Note: interesting group of funders)
The college was the lead in the application for the grant
$100,000 for staff and for a planning year, which is now over
now for full implementation
31 students now accepted (ages 16-22)
can only accept 60 students in the fall and 40 students in the spring
"understood and viewed as the fourth option" in the Worcester Public Schools
majority of students not only graduate from high school, but go on to attend a two or four year college
Mount Wachusett Community College has been running this for some time
a year's lag in the ch.70 funding (they're getting this year's money next year)

Monfredo: how is recruitment is taking place?
through community-based organizations and through WPS
follow the usual QCC schedule; generally takes a year and a half to complete high school
work with last host school for that student, and then test into QCC levels

Colorio: is there a way for parents to get their kids in now (for kids who may have already dropped out)?
Boone: reaching out to young adults, as well

Foley: will they still need to pass MCAS?
Boone: yes, if they have not already

Novick: full ch. 70 per pupil amount will be going to QCC for each of these students
still working out whose students they will be in tracking (for graduation rates)

Worcester School Committee liveblog: QCC

We're recognizing Quinsigamond Community College this afternoon for their support of the Worcester Public Schools.

I should note as well that we have a group of teachers here this afternoon from Russia studying public administration, living at Clark.
President Gail Carberry of QCC
Applying for federal funds for an Upward Bound program on math and science with Claremont Academy
working with WPS high schools to help assess students while they are still in high school on mathematics
"we're not everybody's first choice" but making sure that kids are ready wherever they go

Worcester School Committee meets this afternoon at 4

The Worcester School Committee has a July meeting this afternoon at 4 pm. You'll find the agenda here.
We have several reports from the administration coming back: one on the Gateway partnership, one of school choice (always interesting numbers), one on arrests of students within WPS, one on CHINs reports.
We're accepting a few donations.
Several items going to subcommittee for reports back from administration, including an invitation to the city auditor to address the city retirement system.
Administration is recommending that Marjorie Wetzel be appointed as the Interim Manager of Special Education and Intervention Services.
They are also recommending a timeline and process for an appointment of a new Manager of Special Education; expect some conversation around that.
Also, we're reporting back on the first meeting of the Exam/IB School ad-hoc committee.

4 pm City Hall

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Tuesday, July 17, 2012


And, in honor of that vanishing (alas!) bit of schoolteaching, an essay on chalk.
Check out the electron microscope picture of it!

Round-up of summer work

I know that several of you have wondered just what is going on at your neighborhood school as you're out and about this summer; as I've gotten several questions, I thought a post was in order.

  • If you've been by West Tatnuck and Worcester Arts Magnet, you may have noticed dumpsters. They are getting entirely new lighting, under an energy conservation deal National Grid has offered. We're only paying a fraction of the cost, and the schools will have new lights
  • New boilers are going in this summer at Union Hill, Worcester Arts Magnet, Quinsigamond, Claremont/Woodland, Roosevelt, and Norrback. Among other things, this rids us of the last of the "born to fail" round of boilers/chillers at those 1990-era buildings.
  • Solar panels are going on at Sullivan and at Worcester Tech; Tech is also getting a small wind turbine.
  • Attic insulation is going in at Quinsigamond, Union Hill (both buildings), Goddard, Harlow Street, Heard Street, Midland Street, and UPCS.
  • Goddard's upstairs bathrooms are being renovated.
  • Tatnuck Magnet is getting some replacement flooring and having the bathrooms renovated.
  • Window sealing, spot light fixture replacement, fresh air intake cleaning and balancing, and surface cleaning is happening this summer at Belmont Street, Burncoat Middle, Burncoat High, Chandler Elementary, Chandler Magnet, Clark Street, Columbus Park, Doherty, Elm Park, Flagg Street, Forest Grove, Greendale, Harlow Street, May Street, McGrath, Mill Swan, Nelson Place, New Citizens, Rice Square, South, Thorndyke, Tatnuck Magnet, Union Hill (new building), Wawecus, West Tatnuck, Worcester Arts Magnet, Worcester East Middle. Exceptions: West Tatnuck and Worcester Arts (as listed above) are getting entirely new lights; May Street, Chandler Magnet, and New Citizens are getting new windows next summer, and so are not having their windows sealed. 
  • There's a huge amount of smaller work (you can find it listed here under the ESCo projects) in the way of water conservation, sensors and timers, building infiltration work (getting rid of the drafts, you might say), and so forth.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Challenges to Superintendent Carol Johnson in Boston

The recent report that Superintendent Carol Johnson did nothing after one of Boston's school principals was arrested and jailed on a domestic assault charge (five weeks after his wife gave birth to their son), a charge to which he plead guilty, and that she later wrote him a letter of recommendation has stirred things up in Boston. Per
Boston School Superintendent Carol R. Johnson took no disciplinary action after one of her headmasters was arrested and briefly jailed on a domestic assault charge, and even wrote a glowing letter of support to the judge who sentenced him. 
Rather than put Rodney Peterson on administrative leave — a common practice in government when an employee is arrested — records show that she did nothing, not even informing City Hall attorneys of the charges against the co-headmaster at one of Boston’s three exam schools.
City Councilor John Connelly (who chairs the Council's Education committee) called for her resignation; School Committee member Mary Tamer called for a Committee meeting to discuss it, which the chair, Rev. Gregory Groove, refused to call. Parents started a petition on calling for her to resign or be fired; read more about it here. Supporters then had a rally in her support, one which administrators apparently encouraged employees to attend
Oh, and Johnson's former district of Minneapolis has now noticed.

As Connelly points out in the above linked article, this isn't just about Peterson:
Connolly pointed to “chaos” during the debate over moving schools and closing schools and a state inspector general’s report in April on the school district overspending on textbooks, among other incidents. The school year had rocky start as the system struggled to get buses to schools on time, which led to Mayor Thomas Menino to step in.The troubles come as the teacher union contract remains unresolved.
Also, in May, the Massachusetts School Building Authority stopped payments to the Boston Public Schools due to vacant space and the use of three school buildings that have closed on which the district is still receiving state funds.

In all of this furor, however, I should point out that there's actually only one opinion that really counts.

Tom Menino's.

Boston has a school committee which is appointed by the mayor. They serve entirely at his pleasure. Thus the news that Menino supports Johnson effectively ends the conversation.

Schools on the Council agenda this week

There are several items on tomorrow night's City Council agenda regarding schools:

  • Item 9.31A and 17h is the $6 million loan order for rehabilitation for schools; this is two years of $3 million each.
  • Item 10A is the Committee on Education reporting out and includes the PowerPoint presentation that we received in our joint meeting. 
  • Item 11i is from Councilor Palmieri, asking for cleaning and mulch at the LakeView playground (which isn't at the school but in the park across the street).
  • Item 11j is from Councilor Economou, asking for an update on Nelson Place. We haven't had an official announcement of a building committee (as appointed by the City Manager) as yet; I have heard that the parent/neighborhood search process is on. Much of the committee is set by the requirements of MSBA (it has to have the Superintendent, the City Manager, the finance officer, the principal, etc). The questions regarding rehab/rebuild and location are ones that will be answered during the feasibility stage; one could even say that we CANNOT know this yet, as we have to look at all options during feasibility. 

Pinkie swear


Fun photo today in the T&G of Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren "pinkie swearing" for better schools yesterday at her Worcester event. I'd love to know that this means that a) we're going to have an actual conversation about education in this election and b) that we could have someone pushing back on the current national nonsense that passes for ed policy.

New Rice Square principal in the news

Our new principal at Rice Square School (coming to us from Nashua) is in the news up there.

Superintendent Mark Conrad said in April that Healey had expressed a desire to return to the classroom and asked board members to elect him as a special education teacher, which is the area of Healey’s certification.
The Board of Education accepted Healey’s resignation from Fairgrounds at its April 9 meeting and elected him as a special education teacher, with the school yet to be determined.
However, Healey said Tuesday that the special education position was a back-up plan. He decided in the fall to move on from Nashua, but he still wanted the special education teaching position to fall back on “in case things didn’t work out,” he said.
“I wanted to continue as a principal in another setting,” he said. “That’s what I was pursuing in February until I got this job.”
Healey is now principal at Rice Square School, a public elementary school in Worcester. He started work this month but has no plans to move from his home in Merrimack. The commute is about an hour, and he leaves early enough in the morning to beat the traffic.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Upcoming subcommittee meetings

I just got a number of postings from our clerk:
Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports will meet on Wednesday, August 1 and on Monday, August 20, in both cases at 5:30.
Accountability and Student Achievement will meet on Thursday, July 26 at 5:30.
Governance and Employee Issues will meet on Tuesday, August 14 at 3.

All meetings at the Durkin Administration Building, 4th floor conference room.

No Finance and Operations meeting for the summer.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

As much as they might like to deny it, money matters

Please read the excellent article in the latest edition of Commonwealth magazine on the Catch 22 the state foundation formula has now placed high need and lower income districts. The districts covered are Orange and Fall River, but (as has said by others) you could put Worcester in for Orange and tell the same story.
As local aid has dropped but required school spending has incrementally increased:
“That we’re having to argue over whether to fund the schools or keep a third shift of police is egregious,” said School Committee member Joan Cohen-Mitchell after a meeting this spring to discuss the town’s dire budget condition. “This is an awful situation.”
Kathy Reinig, a member of the town’s Board of Selectmen, says Orange’s back is against the wall. “We want to fund our schools above the required level, we want to provide services everyone needs—but we can’t,” she says.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why teachers need professional status

Because sometimes, if they don't have it, they get fired for standing up for our most vulnerable kids.

Governor's veto

Among the vetoes from Governor Patrick on Sunday was one covering the so-called "pothole funding"* which would cover a jump in needed funding by a district; the compromise budget funded this at $3.5 million for FY13. This was a reinstatement of an account we used to have but haven't had much of in some years.

*"For a reserve [$3.5 million] to meet extraordinary increases in the minimum required local contribution of a municipality under the requirements of section 3 of this act; provided, that a municipality seeking funds hereunder shall apply for a waiver from the department of revenue under section 122; provided further, that the commissioner shall issue a finding concerning such waiver applications within 30 days of the receipt thereof, after consulting with the commissioner of elementary and secondary education regarding the merits of such application; provided further, that funds may be expended to assist school districts whose target aid percentage exceeds that district’s chapter 70 aid as a percentage of foundation by 5 percentage points or greater; and provided further, that no funds distributed from this item shall be considered prior year chapter 70 aid nor shall they be used in the calculation of the minimum required local contribution for fiscal year 2014
And that, folks, is why we call it "pothole funding."

"...when education is decoupled from curiosity"

Interesting mediation on the meaning of education from Ta-Nehisi Coates in today's New York Times:
I was a black boy at the height of the crack era, which meant that my instructors pitched education as the border between those who would prosper in America, and those who would be fed to the great hydra of prison, teenage pregnancy and murder. That impulse still reigns today, and compelled by a disturbing range of statistics, it is utterly understandable. But for me it meant seeing learning not as an act of work and romance, but as a kind of hustle, a series of trials in the long effort to get over.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

New principal appointments: UPDATED

Superintendent Boone has announced the appointment of our two remaining principal positions: 

  • Daniel St. Louis will become the principal of University Park Campus School. As Dan currently (essentially) the assistant principal, he's a familiar (and much-trusted) face to all.
  • Kendall Grigg will become the principal of Goddard School. We have not yet received his resume, but my best Googling has turned up this reference, and this one, so it looks (and I'll fix this if I discover otherwise) as though he's coming to us from Grace Lutheran School in River Forest, IL.  UPDATE: Yes, that is Mr. Grigg!