Monday, July 29, 2013

New Principal at Thorndyke Road

I have just received the following from Superintendent Boone:
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Kathleen Lee as principal of Thorndyke Road School. Mrs. Lee has worked as an educator in the Worcester Public Schools for over 20 years and has served as an assistant principal for the past 6 years. Attached please find a copy of her resume.  A Connect-Ed message to the Thorndyke Road School staff and families informing them of this appointment is scheduled to be sent this evening. 
 Ms. Lee is currently the assistant principal at Quinsigamond School.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

update on One Library

continue to be working on this project
we continue to work on what's happening with this: met with them and facilities yesterday
two things going on:
(not gotten to the point of defining all the operational aspects)
site evaluations at each site, including timelines
best to have that level of specifics
fundraising continuing for facilities needs; some funding was already secured
Roosevelt is most ready: larger space, newer facilities
Burncoat Prep will be in a mobile unit: making sure that is safe
Goddard has active library space
Tatnuck Magnet: looking at opening space and removing computer room
security issues of keeping space for public access
public access only during non-school hours
working to define what will be out of school hours
will be an MOU relative to all of that happening
financial commitment is through fundraising
closer to when we will be able to have more to say
opening throughout the fall
still working out other details

Prior fiscal year payment

Totalling $7202.90
for translation and interpretation

request for a report on summer school

from Monfredo:
the number of students enrolled at each grade
- pre and post testing results
- attendance figures by school
- incentives given for attendance
- feedback from parents and
- suggestions for expanding summer school
  programs in both school settings and in the 
  community at large

Donation from Worcester State

for Chandler Magnet: $500 from their golf tournament

School Committee members on mid-year report

Petty thanks O'Connell and Foley for working on the evaluation process
remarks that this will be continued to the next meeting so you won't be hearing from several of us tonight
posting as we go

Mid-cycle report of the Superintendent

written report is here (back up is in the SC office)


Report is here
Biancheria asks that it be referred to Accountability
Boone asks if this is the appropriate committee; recommends TLSS
Bianchera: in looking at both, it could go to Accountability. Looking not at the curriculum, but looking at what they are accountable for
refer to TLSS

Twenty-first Century centers report

...which you can find here
Biancheria: applying only for Sullivan Middle? only one site?
Rodrigues: "evolves quicker than others"
"in view of sequestration, a number of changes were occurring"
districts can only apply for one site
looks as though Sullivan would be our best bet
Biancheria: "we've had many success stories with his; unfortunately that we're being limited at this time"
Rodrigues: must be driven by the staff: school level, not administration level
Biancheria: plans for other sites
Boone: "real consequence of sequestration"
monitoring real closely at the federal level
"we're staying on top of what's happening at the federal level, but unless something changes with sequestration..."
Biancheria: "looking for input from the staff members at the sites"
Novick: asks that the information about the loss of services due to sequestration be sent to our Senators as well as to Congressman McGovern

Citizen petition on coaching

We're hearing a citizen petition on coaching as it relates the teaching contract.
Currently, teachers have first dibs, so to speak, on coaching jobs, without regard to level of coaching ability.
Referred to negotiations

Worcester School Committee meets at 4

...or so...
The agenda is here.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

44 hours ahead of the meeting

...the Worcester School Committee just got Superintendent Boone's self-evaluation.

The meeting at which the evaluation is scheduled is at 4 pm on Thursday, after being postponed, at the Superintendent's request, from our second June meeting.

We have also been told:
 The evidence is voluminous and not included with this document.  Binders of evidence will be available in the School Committee office for review. 
The School Committee office is open from 8:30-4:30 tomorrow and Thursday.

In one of the three major responsibilities we have, we are to each have an evaluation ready for Thursday at 4 pm.

I really don't even know where to start with this one, but I thought this should all be public.

Putting this out there as a challenge

What do you think, Channel 11? Can we do one of these for the Worcester School Committee?

From Buzzfeed via Nicole

Monday, July 22, 2013

Teachers being replaced in Chicago

And a bit more from Chicago: while 2100 staff were laid off last week, the Chicago Public Schools also:
"...has committed to more than doubling its investment in the TFA program that trains college graduates for five weeks then sends them into schools for two years at a time. The Board of Education voted to increase its payment to TFA from $600,000 to nearly $1.6 million, and to add up to 325 new TFA recruits to CPS classrooms, in addition to 270 second year “teacher interns”."
And remember, in addition to the payment to TFA, CPS will also be paying those recruits and interns a teaching salary and benefits.

Not as bad as projected

The federal grant numbers came out late last week, and, while they are down from last year, they are not down as much as was feared or was budgeted.
We budgeted Title I at $9,531,837; it came through at $9,769,845, a difference of $238,008.
We budgeted IDEA at $6,964,442; it came through at $7,222,705, a difference of $259,263.
So, recommended allocations to come!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

NCLB "reversed" in the House: so is this good?

Since the press is running headlines like "House Votes to Dump 'No Child' Education Law" and the like, I've been asked questions (like this one) saying, "this is good, right?"
Before I answer that, a small cheer from me that you're following federal education policy!! Woo-hoo!

The answer is: in some ways.

The bill freezes in place the cuts to federal grants that were put in place due to sequestration; that's about eight percent, once they all kick in. Every Democrat in the House (including the entire Massachusetts delegation) voted against it, and from a quick conversation with Congressman McGovern earlier this week (and the record of the arguments made on the floor), I suspect that the cuts, more than anything, were a major concern for House Democrats.

If you read the blog regularly, you know that these cuts have been a major headache for us; I've been posting about sequestration for months. It shook out to about $3 million in cuts for us this budgetary year (and we're hoping that the cuts we made were enough; we haven't gotten our exact numbers from the state yet), and, let's be clear: these were cuts that hurt kids and hit classroom services. I'm particularly bothered by the 130 slots we lost from Head Start. This wasn't "fat" or "extras" or any of the other nonsensical talking points you hear bantered about when it comes to grant funds; there are kids in Worcester who are going to be hurt by these cuts.

The sad truth, though, is that federal grants have been shrinking for us for a number of years. At the same time, the things that have been tied to those federal grants (at both the federal and state level--witness, for example, the state continuing to weigh in on how we spend our Title I funds) has gotten more onerous. I don't advocate that we stop accepting federal funds, but they have become less than dependable, and in some cases, rather a pain.

Another bit about funding that is of concern: the bill that was passed turns Title I and the other federal funds into one giant block grant, with it being up to state authorities on how to use the funds ('though Title I schools couldn't lose Title I funding). For English Language learners (Title III) and the like, this is a problem, because it's going to be really easy to ignore certain segments of the population this way. Plus the bill requires that 3% of Title I be set aside for a "competitive grant program" for school choice or tutoring.

It doesn't renew Race to the Top, School Improvement Grants, Promise Neighborhood Grants, or Investing in Innovation Grants; I haven't been all that impressed by any of these (and a disturbing amount of that money is just going off to consultants), but if you watch federal funding, it's worth noting.

It also eliminates maintenance of efforts requirements: currently, states have to spend a certain amount to get federal funds (so they can't replace federal funding for local funding). Removing that requirement is not a great way to improve school funding ("you're not spending enough on your local schools? Hey, that's ok, have some federal funds, anyway!").

Finally, it (as noted earlier this week) eliminates any federal requirement that teachers be assessed by student outcomes (which usually just means "score teachers by their students' test scores") and it also eliminates the requirement that states set specific goals for student achievement, either generally or for specific subgroups. There's concern from a number of groups that this could make it easy for those subgroups to get ignored. That's certainly possible ('though the current waiver system has led to things like this nonsense in Alabama), 'though the current system of judging students of any group by just test scores has been pretty lousy too, and has meant that some of those groups of students are spending a great deal of their time in school getting ready for tests rather than getting an education. Thus, that's mixed.

Now, that's the House bill. The very important other thing to keep in mind, though, is that this bill stands no chance of passing the (Democratic) Senate. Thus once the Senate gets around to passing an education bill, the conference committee is going to have their work cut out for them.

Speaking of which, not a bad time to get in touch with your Senators!
And, thanks for asking!

Friday, July 19, 2013

More from Chicago

Today over 2100 teachers and staff in the Chicago Public Schools were laid off. Because that's getting up into "numbers so big they don't mean anything," that's about 2/3 of the teaching staff of the Worcester Public School, or about half of all of our employees.
This is part of the same mess I posted about yesterday--the Chicago Public Schools' budget gap, which is estimated at $1 billion. The crazy thing about laying off staff to close a budget gap, however, is this: when a public school district lays off an employee, and that employee becomes eligible for unemployment, the unemployment must be paid by the public district laying off the employee. Thus a district really doesn't save as much by laying off staff as you at first might think, since unemployment has to go up while the salary line is cut. It's not by the same amount, but it is substantial. If you've heard this discussed by the School Committee here in Worcester before, you might remember that most of the savings actually comes in the employee health insurance. I haven't seen any estimates from CPS on how much they are projecting them would save, but, then, I would be concerned about their numbers regardless.

And on a related note, the Chicago Tribune is reporting today that the Chicago Public Schools have recently replaced lighting in several of their schools that they plan to close. What's more, without an equivalent to MSBA to pick up part of the cost on a major project, the administration has set up a program whereby investors can get their money back and more by receiving the savings created by more efficient lighting...
...except that isn't going to happen if the lights are never on, or the building is sold.

Our new mobile food truck!

This morning we unveiled the new Worcester Public Schools mobile food truck at Vernon Hill Park! It went to work on Wednesday of this week. It was donated to us by the Worcester County Food Bank, and funded by the Our Family Foundation of Stop and Shop, 'though the food comes through the USDA.

A lot of our kids in the city are dependent on free breakfast and lunch for healthy eating, and summer can be a hungry time for them. This truck gets breakfast and early dinner out to where kids are.

Any child under 18 can come by the truck when it is there, Monday through Saturday, and be fed, no questions asked.

The food truck is at Vernon Hill Park for breakfast from 10-10:30 am and for dinner from  3-3:30 for dinner. The food truck is at Bennett Field (in Webster Square) from 11-11:30 am for breakfast and 4-4:30 pm for dinner.
The meals (and the truck is equipped to handle 1000 meals at a time) are being prepared in the North High kitchens, and the refrigeration means that we're able to get much more local produce out to our kids!
Currently, only one in seven children eligible for summer food from USDA gets it. That's a lot of hungry kids, so please spread the word!

And if you missed this article from rural Tennessee, demonstrating the importance of these programs, I would urge you to read it. 

And while we're talking teacher evaluation

...Bruce Baker has a good rundown on how evaluating teachers, or teachers' prep programs, by student test scores, really doesn't work.

What else is in the House bill that passed?

The continuing excellent coverage from EdWeek gives the rest of what is in the House bill (that passed 221-207, with 12 Republicans voting against):

States would no longer have to set specific goals for student achievement, either for all kids or for specific often-overlooked groups of students (such as students in special education and English-language learners).
When it comes to money, the bill would lock in the across-the-board cuts to federal spending (including education) put in place under "sequestration." That was a key Democratic talking point during floor debate.
And the bill would turn the Title I program for disadvantaged kids into a giant "block grant" of sorts, giving school districts the freedom to move federal dollars among programs for ELLs, neglected and delinquent children, rural students, and Indian children...
the measure would get rid of "maintenance of effort", the wonky name for the requirement that school districts and states keep up their own spending at particular levels in order to tap federal funds. AASA and other groups unsuccessfully tried to persuade lawmakers to allow for votes on amendments to reinstate maintenance of effort, but to no avail.
But, under the bill, states would have to set-aside 3 percent of their Title I funds for a competitive grant program that would allow districts to offer school choice or free tutoring.
The bill also would prohibit the U.S. Secretary of Education from imposing any conditions on states when it comes to standards and assessments, or from asking for any changes to state standards. (That appears to take direct aim at the requirement under waivers for states to adopt college- and career-ready standards.) And in fact, the bill specifically calls out the Common Core State Standards, which have been adopted by 46 states and the District of Columbia.
There are also no renewals for any of the Obama administration's favorite grant programs, including Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, the School Improvement Grants, or Promise Neighborhoods.
The Senate has passed a bill out of committee, but there's no word on when (if it all) it will come to the floor.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Junk teacher evaluation OUT of the House NCLB reauthorization!

Just in tonight: the conservative Republicans in the House have pushed chair of the Ed committee Rep. Kline, and they've gotten him earlier this evening to accept the amendment that removes the requirement that teachers be evaluated by student outcomes. If you need a reminder on the ways in which this sort of assessment of teachers is junk science, read here, or here, or here.  It's a lousy way of evaluating teachers that all the states that took Race to the Top money signed up for. While we haven't had to implement that part yet, it's going to be a disaster.
So taking it out of the national model--heads up Democrats!--is a GOOD IDEA. It is GOOD FOR STUDENTS. It is RESEARCH-BASED.It is something you should support (even if it's coming from the guys with (R) after their names)!

Possible vote on the full bill--which, don't get me wrong, has plenty of lousy stuff in it--tomorrow.

They need some help with math in Chicago

Remember Chicago? Remember how they made their budget based on class sizes of 30? Remember how they closed 50 schools? Remember how that was supposed to do a lot to close the budget gap, but then they cut $94.5 million anyway?
Yeah, that.
The Chicago Public Schools administration has been continuing to say that it has cut Central Office spending by $600 million since 2011. That's kind of amazing, since the Central Office's budget this year is $233 million, an increase from $200 million. And it's got Sarah Karp, for one, trying to figure out where these numbers have come from, which is then followed up by Steve Rhodes.
Most telling quote of all?
CPS spokeswoman Becky Carroll admits it would be impossible to find evidence of the reductions in the official budget book. “It is not the way it works,” she says.
You know, maybe if someone out there actually answered to the public in some way, it would work that way...

Yes, an Osmond did just propose eliminating compulsory public education in Utah

That would be Utah state Senator Aaron Osmond* advocating on the state Senate blog for an end to compulsory schooling of children.
So, okay, ha, ha, funny, funny, and so on. But if you go over to his website (that's the link of his name above), the very first thing for which he is advocating is:
The Opportunity for a Free Public Education in Utah. Our State Constitution requires that we provide a free public education for every child in the state. As such education is and should continue to be a top policy and funding priority for the Utah State Legislature.
...which doesn't sound a lot like a guy who's planning on getting rid of K-12 ed. Moreover, if you read what he actually was writing in the blog post, he doesn't get around to abolishing schooling until the very end. The rest of the post has some of the nostalgia for a non-existent past (education for all those who wanted to pursue it unless you were the wrong sex or color...all teachers were respected and admired...that's just wrong), some reaction to parents who aren't involved (reflected by some of the comments), and some misunderstanding of how public education works. For example, every parent (in, so far as I know, every state; certainly in Utah) has the ultimate authority of the education of their child; the state is held to have a compelling interest (which is why they can check in on homeschooling to a greater or lesser extent), but the parents have the ultimate interest. That wouldn't need a change. And parents can make the decision not to send their children to public school. Public school also is already an opportunity and one which can be lost (to some extent) if particular norms are violated. Again, this is already true.
What's missed by this is the compelling public interest the state--and we as a community and nation--have in the education of children and the blindness to children without adult support as was beautifully pointed out by state School Board member Leslie Castle.
Most of the rest of what he's advocating for both on the blog and on his website is pretty standard for conservatives on education; a lot of this is feeding the conversations around NCLB renewal. So while the elimination of public education is catchy, the mixing of parents' rights and a rose-colored view of the past isn't really that far out there. As he says he's going to file a bill, expect to hear more on this.

*Yes, those Osmonds. He's a nephew of Donny and Marie

Two WPS losses

I know not everyone follows the obituaries closely (or is around to see them). In case you missed them:
Condolences to my colleague Jack Foley on the loss of his father Paul.
The calling hours for Mr. Foley are 5-8 PM on Friday, July 19, 2013 in the Britton-Wallace Funeral Home, 91 Central St. Auburn. His funeral will be held Saturday July 20, from the funeral home with a Mass at 11 AM in St. Peter's Church, 929 Main St., Worcester, MA. Burial will follow in St. John's Cemetery, Worcester.

Condolences also to former Worcester Public Schools superintendent John Durkin on the loss of his wife Joan. 
The calling hours for Mrs. Durkin are from 4pm-8pm, Friday July 19, 2013 at Callahan and Fay Funeral Home, 61 Myrtle Street, Worcester. A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Saturday, July 20, 2013 at 11AM at Blessed Sacrament Church, 551 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA. Burial will follow at St. John's Cemetery.

North High principal appointment

I have just received the following email from Superintendent Boone:
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Lisa Dyer as principal of North High School.  The appointment is effective beginning the 2013-2014 school year. 
Ms. Dyer is currently the manager of staff development for WPS; she previously was an English department chair, and, at one point, an English teacher at North.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

ESEA coming out of Rules

Here's a great rundown on how the amendments faired coming out of Rules. Debate on the floor tomorrow.

Whoops on the Chandler Magnet update

We had a typo in the Chandler Magnet update we got on Friday. It should have read:
Chandler Magnet School:   The school will have all exterior windows and doors replaced as part of the MSBA funded projects.  All exterior doors, gymnasium windows, ADA upgrades and any exterior masonry work will be completed this summer.  Given the size of this project, it was fully anticipated that this work would take two full summers for completion.  The City has already received approval from MSBA to complete this project in Summer 2014.  Other than the work listed above for this summer, all other work will be scheduled and completed next year. 
Thus, gym windows (and all outside doors) replaced this summer (plus bathroom upgrades!); all other windows replaced next summer.
Sorry for the confusion!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Commissioner Chester backing off of PARCC?

While these weekly updates are usually up online, the last few don't seem to be. I've uploaded this past week's here
In last week's Commissioner's update, Commissioner Chester gave some additional information about the new PARCC test to come. While there's some information about field testing (happening this coming spring), technology needs, and competency determination--MCAS will be required for graduation through the class of 2017--there's also this language, which I have not seen before:
Later this fall, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will discuss and vote on a transition plan with the understanding that, as the Governor and Commissioner have committed from the outset, the state will only adopt PARCC if it proves to be as good as or better than our current MCAS assessments.
emphasis mine
Interesting language coming from the Chair of PARCC's Governing Board 

If you want to get these updates yourself, send an email with "Subscribe EDU update" followed by your name in the subject line to .

Point/counterpoint on the Common Core

This month's edition of Commonwealth magazine has Commissioner Mitchell Chester defending the Common Core, Jim Stergios of the Pioneer Institute attacking it, and then each going for another round. Gets surprisingly personal towards the end.

As it happens, I think they're both partly wrong--the Mass Standards were stronger and it was a political move; the dependence on the MCAS has not made us a stronger state academically--but this is the second time recently I've seen Chester being somewhat defensive about the academics of the choices made.

Also, it was recently called to my attention that the BBC noted back in February that the UK Education Secretary was basing their system off of the Massachusetts system--the one we had before the Common Core.

Monday, July 15, 2013

ESEA reauthorization goes to the floor: WEIGH IN!

ESEA is heading to the floor this week and now is the time to talk to your Representative about it!
Today at 4 pm was the deadline for amendments to the bill that came out of committee; you can find all of those amendments here.  You'll note that among them is Rep. Miller's substitute bill (number 12 in the list) which (as previously noted) is pretty close to much of what the current administration has been doing.
There's also a number of other issues that are hit in these; among them:

  • and one that I'm a bit excited to see: a bipartisan call for an end to the grades 3-8 testing requirement. This is from Rep. Gibson of New York and Rep. Takano of California 

That isn't all of them; that's just the ones that jumped out at me. I would urge you to get in touch with your rep (you can contact them from the House of Representative page) and WEIGH IN!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Interview with Joan Herman on the new assessments

If you're interested in the new assessment systems, you might take a look at this interview with Joan Herman who is the former director and current senior scientist at the National Center for Research on Evaluation, Standards, and Student Testing (CRESST) at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is advising the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium. Lots of interest there, 'though this bit jumped out at me:
From a technical point of view, what do you think are the appropriate and inappropriate uses of these test results?I worry about the results being used in value-added models for teacher evaluation. The results can give us a general barometer of where individual kids are relative to the Common Core standards. I think they will enable us, combined with information on school characteristics, to identify schools that are doing particularly well and those that aren’t. But I worry about making fine-grained distinctions between schools, teachers, and individual kids based on relatively minor differences in scores. Any score is an estimate.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Extensive update from Finance and Operations today

You can find this Friday's letter from Superintendent Boone here; most of it is an extensive update from Mr. Allen regarding Finance and Operations.

  • Not great news on the budget (that Governor Patrick signed today): due to the way that the charter assessments shake out, we've got $265,984 to make up in FY14. Expect an "adjustment" (that's a cut that'll go to Worcester's charter schools) sometime this fall.Not in the memo, but on the good news front: the state budget took the Senate's number for McKinney-Vento reimbursement, which was the higher of the two. As the city has now recognized this as a reimbursement for a service provided by the Worcester Public Schools, but used the House number to do so, we have a conversation to have with Council.
  • We don't know about federal grants yet, but we will later this month.
  • We'll be leasing four classrooms from the YMCA this fall for Chandler Magnet students; no word on which classes yet.
  • The city is transferring 6 Claremont Street (a tax-title property) to the Worcester Public Schools for Woodland/Claremont use. The plan is to use the current (Woodland Street) parking lot as a playground (Woodland only has a teensy paved spot to play on now) and move staff parking to the 6 Claremont lot.Super cool that the city administration is seeing kids having space to play as a worthy use of space!
  • Kindergarten is nearly at what we projected already (and there are always more who register as it gets closer to the fall), so it looks as though most of those reserved six teachers are going to be teaching kindergarten.
  • On facilities, apparently MSBA is SO successful that we're now backing up window manufacturing! Jacob Hiatt is on track to get their boiler this summer. Caradonio New Citizens is also on track to get their boiler, and should have their windows by fall; if they don't, they'll be finished over weekends. May Street and Lake View are going to have their exterior windows done this summer, all others done this fall over weekends (May Street's gym will get done this summer). Chandler Magnet is having all exterior doors and windows done this summer, which is a surprise: it's a big enough building where it was projected to take two summers! Note that all of the above is MSBA reimbursed work. Vernon Hill's exterior masonry is getting fixed this summer (no more scaffolding!). Heard Street's roof is contracted out, and it is hoped that it will be done this summer. And finally, Worcester East Middle's science labs (at a base level; no reworking of gas or water lines or any other rooms) is being contracted out to be done for next year! In response to a reader question: Yes, we're still on track for Columbus Park, Tatnuck Magnet, Worcester Arts Magnet, and Worcester East Middle work, but those projects were just approved on June 5. That work would be for next (we hope!) summer.
And finally, I'm just going to quote Mr. Allen's final paragraph:

Jack Navin, the district’s Coordinator of Maintenance and Custodial Services and Robert Alvarado, the district’s Working Foreman, both recently retired after a combined 80 years of dedicated service to the Worcester Public Schools. In addition to their “normal” workday, both Jack and Bobby have been critical members that worked tirelessly through hurricanes, blizzards, fires at schools, and other events. Their dedication and support of school operations were certainly second to none, and the combined loss of institutional knowledge will be difficult to replace.

To which I can only add, they will both be missed.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Another on 20 years of Ed Reform

In my earlier links to two decades of Ed Reform posts, I neglected to link to Glenn Koocher's post at the new Mass Kids Count blog (disclosure: to which I've been asked to contribute, 'though I haven't yet). Glenn is the Executive Director of the Mass Association of School Committees, and the post is just like Glenn: spot on, with dry humor.

And here's a bit more on the House ESEA renewal

Questions on if the Republican bill can be sold to conservatives in the House.
If you're looking for their arguments, they're here.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vallas to leave Bridgeport immediately

In an update to an earlier post: Judge Barbara Bellis has dissolved the stay on the judgment that Paul Vallas must leave his position as superintendent of schools; he's to leave the position immediately.

Last minute budget balancing in Haverhill

As a member of the body elected to provide general fiscal oversight of the school system, I think it's important to post something like this once in awhile to remind us all of what is not happening in Worcester.
For which we are all profoundly grateful.

The Joyce Foundation in Chicago

This is another of those "follow the spaghetti" articles on influence and money in education. This time, it's on the Joyce Foundation in Chicago.
Also helps if you're wondering where our new Secretary of Commerce came from. 

On current standardized assessments

The blogger's point is larger (it's a good post on having honors classes better reflect the school population), but I did think this paragraph worth citing:
In terms of using test scores like standardized tests, the fact is that the current tests stink. I mean they really stink. Sure, they might give an indication, but they are chronically biased in favor of certain demographics and are out of touch with today's kid. Having a student apply through a process that assesses by multiple measures is a fairer option because they can show us that the number of their test score does not represent them.
Kids are more than an MCAS score.

ESEA reauthorization: maybe a floor vote

The spring rush got away from me, so it has been some time since I've done any sort of an update on the re-authorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in Congress. Sorry about that.
Back in mid-June, the Senate Education committee approved a (Democratic) renewal, which in many ways looks like the Obama administration's NCLB waivers. However, there was here, as there has been elsewhere, some concerns raised around the impact of federal regulations (and spending) on rural schools.
The following week, the House Education committee approved a (Republican) renewal, which kind of goes in both directions: it keeps the 3-8 testing, but leaves accountability decisions up to states, reverses maintenance of efforts (on spending) requirements, would require teachers to be evaluated based on student performance, and tosses a whole bunch of lines of financing together into one pot. There's been some concerns raised on keeping the attention of districts on, for example, the performance of special education students.
There's a chance that the House will be considering this bill sometime soon, and I'd recommend that link on "what to watch" for further reading. Personally, I'm totally fine with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce not supporting this bill, but the civil rights community has a point. Watch that Title I conversation, in particular; Title I is seen as a big pot of money that everyone wants a part of. As the K-12 education blog points out as well, nobody here is dealing with the major objections that have been raised for years by parents and educators, so...let's say I don't have a lot of hope of anyone actually fixing anything here. Sorry about that, too.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

That's a lot of graduation speeches

And with the season we've just finished, I'd be remiss if I didn't express awe of John Liu, New York City Comptroller (and, not incidentally, candidate for mayor) and his 47 (and counting) graduation speeches delivered this spring:
Mr. Liu’s single busiest day on the graduation circuit was June 24, when he spoke at nine institutions, six before lunch.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Teachers! DESE wants to hear from you!

THIS WEEK, DESE asks that teachers review and take a survey on the proposed Core Course Objectives. These will lead (eventually) to the District-Determined Measures of teacher competancy in the new evaluation: YOU WANT IN ON THIS!
Please do this yourself and pass it along to your colleagues across the state!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Legislative budget

I'll do a full rundown on the state budget once the Governor signs it, but if you're interested in what the Legislature agreed on, take a look at the Mass Budget and Policy Center's look
Several K-12 grant programs receive increases over FY 2013 levels. Of note, the FY 2014 budget provides increases of (Children's Budget program links embedded):
  • $10.6 million for the Special Education Circuit Breaker, which appears to fully fund the statutory reimbursement rate of 75 percent. Total funding for FY 2014 is $252.5 million.
  • $4.5 million for Charter School Reimbursements, bringing total funding up to $75.0 million. It is important to note that a supplemental budget for FY 2013 that has passed the Legislature and awaits action from the Governor includes an additional $8.0 million for these reimbursements for FY 2013.
  • $1.0 million for Innovation Schools, which would fund competitive grants for school districts planning, implementing, or seeking to enhance Innovation Schools in Massachusetts. This is a new program for FY 2014.
  • $500,000 for METCO, bringing total funding up to $18.6 million.
A few other programs would be cut from FY 2013 levels. Of note, the FY 2014 budget provides decreases of:

That's uncommon, all right!

You may see something about how the system of Uncommon Schools received this year's Broad charter school prize.
And when you do, you may want to go check out that--no other word for it--uncommon suspension rate they have over at our local piece of the system.

And I have to say that I find this speech from Secretary Duncan at their annual convention depressing; we have a Secretary of Education who has so little understanding of both research and systems.