Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mayor Petty assigns committee assignments for 2014-2016

Mayor Petty announced this term's subcommittee assignments for the Worcester School Committee.
And there are changes!

Accountability and Student Achievement
Dianna Biancheria, chair
John Monfredo, vice chair
Brian O'Connell

Finance and Operations
Jack Foley, chair
Hilda Ramirez, vice chair
Tracy O'Connell Novick

Governance and Employee Issues
John Monfredo, chair
Tracy O'Connell Novick, vice chair
Jack Foley

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports
Brian O'Connell, chair
Dianna Biancheria, vice chair
Hilda Ramirez

And just a reminder here that the Worcester School Committee votes in their own vice chair (it is not, as the Council's is, set by municipal charter) during the inauguration. Our vice chairs serve a single year term; it will rotate next January.
We'll also pull seating assignments (pull, yes: it's random!) and vote in our rules on Thursday.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Friday, December 20, 2013

Decking the halls

Or, in this case, the Durkin Administration Building...

With thanks to Jim Bedard and the Facilities crew for making us festive!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

opting out of PARCC

Colorio according to our policy handbook, parents do not have to have their children participate in the PARCC test
"not sure that parents understand their rights"
process for parents who cannot keep their child at home that day
Boone: one clarification: did request a waiver for certain schools
Mayor: can parents opt out?
"not a general rule of thumb"
Motion from Novick that language in the policy handbook be included in the communciation to parents from us on PARCC

H450: health curriculum bill

Colorio: health curriculum customizing at local level
You can find the text here
concern over losing local and parental control

don't read the same concern here
"shall provide medically accurate, age-appropriate education"
"I think we owe it to our students and to our children"

Novick: amend to refer just the bill (without comment)
O'Connell notes that we should let Ms. Colorio know when the item comes before the committee

reviewing academic eligilbility standards

O'Connell: expected to be able to play sports; were eligible under previous requirements, not eligible now
administration recommending a one time waiver for this season
what happened is we changed the GPA calculation
 Petty: what about spring sports?
Boone: rules didn't change; it has to do with college standards around grades
conversion of GPA to the 4.0
MIAA requires take 4 core classes and pass 4 core classes
Rodrigues: would agree that we could extend it to spring sports?
would give more time for administration to work through the issue
Novick: concern about not having a GPA requirement for the next two seasons
some back and forth here about calculations
waiver passes 6-1

items under warranties

Biancheria: expressing concerns about the elevator and the TV in the principal's office that's supposed to be hooked into the security at North High School

Boone:  different way of doing buildings before MSBA; North was built under the transition
concerns about systems at North
challenges of the design pieces
Allen: oversimplification to suggest that facilities is not on top of this
"I think that you get what you pay for...the facilities budget has been lessened over time"
"don't have the luxury of putting money into simple care and maintenance"
Mayor requests a report on the issues of North High since it's open
Boone: reminder that WPS did not have direct oversight of construction during the process of building North High; "we have not ignored the challenges in that new building"
O'Connell: key issues as we deal with Nelson Place School
"inter-relationship between the state, the city, and ourselves"
"there is a real issue...occur because of the lack of oversight from those of the school system"
"state is building in some key oversight"
suggests a commissioning agent in place during construction (who is paid for by us)
Novick: no one is more frustrated than Facilities staff
MSBA also considers North a legacy project and, we hope, has learned from it

change in rules: Open Meeting Law

We've adopted a change in rules on a two-thirds vote (O'Connell and Monfredo against) that all items will be submitted to the clerk, who will circulate those items to members. Members may contact the clerk if they wish to co-sponsor any items. Those co-sponsorships will be announced by the Mayor at the meeting.

Additional funds

the item is being held as Administration needs to do further analysis on where to put that best; we'll have a report on that recommendation at our next meeting
Boone notes that we've had some significant increase in needs of autism

Biancheria: asks for $25,000 for safety
and for an additional assistant principal at North
comments that we need to take another look at North High; concerned with time frame on hiring new staff

Boone: have taken care of what is needed due to what is in classrooms
clarifying we'll get the report and when we'll vote it
note here that technically we have a meeting at the inauguration, as we adopt our rules and we vote in a vice chair

Superintendent's evaluation: self-evaluation

regarding the 2012-13 goals
Timeline change:
  • all individual evaluations from School Committee members due to the clerk on January 13, including Ms. Colorio's (as the superintendent is evaluated by the group that has worked during that year)
  • School Committee's evaluation on January 23 (note change of date: there will be no January 16 meeting)
 working on electronic version of form and of evidence
(we have a print-out tonight; it's not up online yet. I will link once it is.)

Short version: Superintendent Boone has rated herself proficient in Instructional Leadership, Family and Community, and Professional Culture; exemplary in Management and Operations.
Of the five goals: she has marked "significant progress" on strengthening communication and safe and secure schools; she has marked "some progress" on percent of students proficient in reading, ELA, and math; increase student achievement through instructional strategies; and focus on percent of students completing high school coursework for college and career readiness.

Honoring Donna Colorio

Giving her the traditional WPS chair which she's sitting in center stage
Biancheria says that she's brought a whole new meaning to the word "park"
"not only the Common Core, but to find the common ground"
 "not the months that are spent, but the time that you took to look at the items with concern"
when she moves to go back to her regular seat, the Mayor tells her she's stuck there
O'Connell: :"what I certainly look for in a new committee member is somebody who will do their homework"
"it's a bonus when a member is truly independent"
"very thorough and very well-informed"
"she leaves us at this time on an upward trajectory"
"that she might perhaps look at this as a two year hiatus"
I spoke here about the importance of all of us being able to work together and of the advocacy being brought where more decisions are made in Malden and in Boston
Monfredo: "try not to be redundant...only thing that's missing is that cup of coffee"
Foley: "we know you need a rocker, so we'll give you this chair as well..."
running for office is not easy, "thank you for running, for serving..."
Mayor comments that if she does win again, she doesn't get another chair

Colorio: thanks everyone
"it was very enjoyable, enlightening"
"it is an honor" to serve as an elected official
putting us all on an email list "so you can't miss me too much"

Contracts, contracts

With the EAW--the teachers!, with tradesmen, and with plumbers and steamfitters, plus our non-represented employees.
All through (and pass reconsideration) tonight.
I saw Jackie Reis taking notes, so I'll leave it to her to get the details out.

Nice work, Pittsburgh!

Congratulations to the city of Pittsburgh, as last night their School Committee (which includes some newly elected members) rescinded their contract with Teach for America and voted to stop the process of closing an elementary school.The decisions to have the contract with TFA and to close the school were among the last ones made by the outgoing board.
Full story over at Yinzercation.

The amazing Thomas Wentworth Higginson

Can I recommend that you read Mr. Southwick's column today on Worcester's Thomas Wentworth Higginson? He's most famous, probably, as the publisher who encouraged Emily Dickinson in her poetry, but he was so very much more.
As a Worcester School Committee member, I have a special fondness for this:
As a member of the Worcester School Committee he was the sole supporter of Catholic parents complaining about having their children read to from the King James Bible. For that he was dropped from the committee.
 (it was the 1800's. Worcester also fired a superintendent for seeming too fond of the Catholics.)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Nelson Place Building Committee

update on the building committee
Petty has selected January 6 at 7 pm at the school for the first meeting of the building committee
architects selected are Lamoreau and Pagano

request for consultancy on transportation

has been bid, vendor selected
project just starting
90 day window
report will come back to joint committee

Facilities to date

report on most recent spending
O'Brien: good point to jump off for building study
update from Allen on accelerated repair projects
Worcester East Middle still under review by MSBA
 "MSBA is not considering the high schools as part of the 2013 Statements of Interest"
currently working on specifications of the master plan
will be completed in next 30 to 60 days
Foley: funding master plan?
Zidelis: funding will be available if the City Manager says it will be available
O'Brien recalls that it was in the capital budget, but how much
Zidelis: "if the City Council and the City Manager says it will be funded, there will be funding"
Foley: key to open the door to funding from the state
Allen: non-MSBA projects: about $1 million that will not be MSBA projects
"as a part of our $3 million" for capital funding
"these are things that can no longer be put off"
this will affect the amount that we can apply for for MSBA (as we have to have the 20% match)
O'Brien: what is the general strategy policy on playground repair?
Allen: PTO's responsibility for repair and replacement
safety audit on all playgrounds done recently, referred to F&O
surface replacement the most common
 ESCo: solar panels on Forest Grove and Norrback; ground at the rear of Worcester Arts Magnet; carport arrays at Burncoat High, Sullivan Middle, and South High
once fully operational, will provide nearly one-third of electricity for those buildings in aggregate; 8% reduction in net electricity costs for WPS
Foley: asks for it to be incorporated into curriculum

Joint subcommittee : Net School Spending

And check out this fun facilities backup that we have on this agenda
The agenda is here
Allen: update on Net School Spending 
met Net School Spending earlier this school year
Board of Ed has clarified (as of June) that municipal side employees: can count salaries, but not benefits towards school spending
places Net School Spending under $1.9 million for FY13; due to carryover now $2.3 million under Net School Spending
"clarification of the agreement"
have a change the way that we calculate municipal expenses, which will require change in our agreement; "a new agreement will be needed prior to the submittal of next year's financial report"
Zidelis: find it illogical, but the change has been voted by the Board of Education
on one side they count towards education, on the other they do not
"will be governed by that rule prospectively"
"have been discussing the need to amend the agreement" which dates back to 2007
O'Brien: good work on moving forward
Zidelis: focusing not just on Net School Spending, but the total cost; "the global picture of the cost of education is our new mantra"
Foley asks for the charter school reallocation
Allen: charter school formula is a per pupil formula; recalculation of per pupil allocation quarterly
tuition assessment went down about $2 M; lost about $800,000 in charter school reimbursement
that just under $1.3 million was moved last night in Council
targeted areas already sent aside
"going forward those students will be counted in our foundation budget as of FY15"

Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night

The Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night at 7 pm for our last regular meeting of this year.
You can find the agenda here.
It is Ms. Colorio's last meeting with us, so we'll be recognizing that. We also have both Sheila Harrity and South High coming in for recognitions.
We also have the (as yet unreleased) self-evaluation of the superintendent. We were originally scheduled to do the superintendent's evaluation at this meeting; the self-evaluation not having yet appeared makes this not possible.
We have another round in the question of legal opinions on PARCC, this time on the question of if refusal would impact funding (a moot point, as the committee voted to participate in the pilot).
A member of the public is petitioning for the installation of security cameras at Woodland Academy.
We have a report coming back from Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports.
We're accepting some retirements and approving some appointments.
City Solicitor David Moore is weighing in on co-sponsorship.
We're getting a request for a report on items not covered by warranties.
It's being suggested that we thank outgoing City Manager O'Brien for his years of service to the City.
We're approving a prior year payment (for special education) of $1305.65. 
There's an item coming in on alternative placements, one on the (now vacant) St. Paul's school building, one of recognizing Doherty's Division 4 champion football team, one to recognize Coach Mulcahy on his selection of Patriot Coach of the Year, one to figure out how much PARCC is going to cost us, one on House Bill 450, one that we review our evening introductory programs, and to inform parents of their right to opt their children out of PARCC pilot testing.
We've got a request that we waive the academic requirements for competitive sports for one season.
We also need to decrease our reimbursement per mile (per the IRS) from $0.565 to $0.56 per mile.
We're being asked to accept a $5000 grant for Jacob Hiatt.
And we've got a budget adjustment to review and consider!
Plus, an executive session which includes:

To conduct the disciplinary hearing of a student and to do so in Executive Session to protect the statutory privacy rights of the students under Chapter 30, Section 21, paragraph 7 and Chapter 214, Section 1B of the Massachusetts General Laws.
To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining for the following groups if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining or litigating position of the public body and the chair so declares:
Plumbers and Steamfitters
To conduct contract negotiations with non-union personnel
            Non-represented Employees

FY14 transfer to WPS

Among the myriad of things the Worcester City Council did last night is make a few adjustments to the FY14 budget ahead of setting the tax rate. In the case of the schools, the closure of Spirit of Knowledge meant that an adjustment had to be made in the education allocation, particularly if the city wished to stay above Net School Spending. Thus $1.2 million was moved to the WPS line. 
I would suspect that we may be getting a memo ahead of tomorrow night's meeting with the administration's proposed allocations (which we got a preview of in Mr. Allen's last memo), as we have needs to take care of. I'll post if and when we do!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

We're on for Wednesday

Worcester Public Schools expect to run on a normal schedule for Wednesday, December 18.

Update from Superintendent Boone

...reporting that all WPS buses had completed their routes and were off the road by 3:30. There were no accidents. The last children were picked up from late pick-up by 4 pm. 

Call to be made on tomorrow later this evening. 

And a word of thanks here to our bus drivers. Thanks for getting them all home safely--again--today. 

TLSS subcommittee cancelled

This afternoon's Teaching, Learning, and Student Support subcommittee meeting, scheduled for 4:30, has been cancelled. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

TWO HOUR EARLY RELEASE on Tuesday, December 17

Tomorrow, Tuesday, December 17, the Worcester Public Schools will have a TWO HOUR EARLY RELEASE.

There will be no morning or afternoon preschool. 

There will be no afternoon or evening programs. 

More information coming soon on worcesterschools.org 


A two-hour early release means all school ending times will be exactly two hours earlier than normal.
Tier 1 schools will release at 11:43am
Tier 2 schools will release at 11:50am
Tier 3 schools will release at 12:00 pm
Tier 4 schools will release at 12:20pm
Tier 5 schools will release at 12:50pm
Tier 6 schools will release at 12:30pm
Tier 7 schools will release at 1:10pm
Tier 8 schools will release at 1:10pm
Special Time Schools:
Burncoat Prep will release at 1:25pm
Union Hill will release at 1:25pm
Chandler Elementary will release at 1:25pm
Jacob Hiatt will release at 1:35pm
Woodland Academy will release at 12:13pm
Claremont Academy will release at 12:20pm
City View will release at 2:10pm
McGrath Elementary will release at 2:10pm
ACT Program will release at 12:35pm

And yes, lunch will be made available. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Farm to School Interns and Volunteers needed!

You've heard me speak before about the very cool Farm to School Kindergarten Initiative, which gets our some of our littlest kids out to farms that grow food that they eat.
They are looking for volunteers and interns:
The Massachusetts Farm to School Project's Worcester Kindergarten Initiative is looking for interns and volunteers! The KI is a nutritional and agricultural education program for very young public school students here in Worcester. This semester, we are hoping to bring on a team of three interns and a group of five dedicated volunteers to help us with our work. If you are interested or would like more information, please email your resume and questions to Isabel at isabel@massfarmtoschool.org or Lauren at lauren@massfarmtoschool.org.
It's a great intersection of agriculture, early childhood ed, nutrition, urban/farm linkage...good stuff!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What MCAS scores don't tell us

...and what teaching to it doesn't do...
It's worth giving this report from WBUR today about a new MIT study about MCAS scores and "fluid reasoning."
If you’re a kid who’s lucky enough to go to a school that boosts your performance on standardized tests like the MCAS, you’re scoring higher because you know more, but probably not because you’ve gotten smarter. And by smarter, I mean better at certain measurable cognitive skills that psychologists call “fluid intelligence” or “fluid reasoning” — like working memory and problem-solving in a novel situation.
You can find the MIT summary of the report here

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Upcoming meetings

  • There will be a meeting of Teaching, Learning, and Student Support this Tuesday, December 17, at 5:30 at the Durkin Administration Building.
  • There will be a joint meeting of the City Council's subcommittee on Education and the School Committee's Finance and Operations committee on Wednesday, December 18, at 4:30 at the Durkin Administration Building.
  • We'll also have our regular School Committee meeting next Thursday at 7 pm at City Hall.

FYI on Worcester transportation

With the attention today on Atlantic's bankruptcy, I'll call to your attention this paragraph from Mr. Allen's memo of Friday:
We use Atlantic Express for a limited number of out-of-district special education and McKinney-Vento van transportation services.   We were notified this week that Atlantic Express will cease operations on or about December 31st
This will require us to find alternative out-of-district transportation for up to five routes to begin after the vacation period.  We do not anticipate that this will be an issue for us, but wanted to share this information that you may see on the news and know the impact for the WPS.  

Sorry for the weird spacing earlier; posted by phone

Monday, December 9, 2013

Night at the Oscars

If you haven't had a chance to see it, below is the entire "Night at the Oscars" by the arts magnet program.

Congratulations, Coach Mulcahy!

We've just received the following from Administration, coming from Andre Tippett, the Executive Director for Community Affairs for the New England Patriots:

 Our committee has finalized our voting process and we would like to visit Doherty High School to honor coach Sean Mulcahy as the New England Patriots High School Coach of the Year winner for 2013...
The New England Patriots Charitable Foundation will donate $2,000 to Doherty High School football program in coach Sean Mulcahy name in recognition of his Coach of the Year selection. The visit and presentation will be featured on the Patriots weekly television magazine show, Patriots All Access, which airs at 7 p.m. on Friday’s, on WBZ-TV in Boston and will be available immediately after onPatriots.com.

The award will be presented at Doherty tomorrow. 

Clothing needed for Andy's Attic

Have you found some pairs of mittens that don't fit this year? Some outgrown boots that have lots of life left in them? Andy's Attic over at South High could use them.

Andy's Attic is in particular need of winter coats, winter boots, sneakers, hats, mittens, gloves, belts, backpacks, men's sweatpants, pajama bottoms, new socks, new underwear, baby clothing and fleece jackets. Donations can be dropped off at the high school, 170 Apricot St., or on Sundays at Worcester Community Church of Christ, which meets at Temple Emanuel Sinai at 280 May St. Student Aaron Maday, a junior, is a member there and can help bring them to school.

For more information on how to donate to Andy's Attic, call South High at (508) 799-3325 or contact Ms. Foley at Christine@foleymail.com. The group accepts money in addition to clothes.
I'm told that they are particularly in need of children's clothes of all sizes.
And thanks for your generosity!
Also, speaking of needs, please do take the time to read the first chapter of this New York Times series looking at one child's experience with homelessness. 

Two hour delay

On Monday, December 9, Worcester Public Schools will open on a two hour delay, with no morning preschool. 

Saturday, December 7, 2013


Division 4 state champions!

PARCC presentation for MASC

by Bob Bickerton, Senior Associate Commissioner for DESE
Maureen LaCroix, Special Assistant to Deputy Commissioner

And they're holding all questions to the end. Posting as we go

Friday, December 6, 2013

Where the money is coming from (and a few more updates)

If you read carefully this morning or were listening last night, you got this, but for those who were wondering how the projected budget gap will be covered, Mr. Allen has the answer in today's Friday Letter:
It is expected that the City Manager will recommend to the City Council that an additional $1,258,321 be appropriated to the Worcester Public Schools to reflect the tuition assessment change.
The Administration will provide a full report and the recommended use of these funds for the December 19th School Committee meeting. These recommendations will primarily focus on (a) identifying resources necessary to reflect increased enrollment at schools resulting from the SOKCS closure, (b) address the FY14 budget shortfall identified in the First Quarter Budget Report, and (c) make strategic investments to best position our resources in anticipation of the FY15 budget.
Look for this on the Council agenda when that comes out later this afternoon. 

In other news, there have been heating issues across the city; this year, whether you're too hot or too cold appears to be almost random. Here's the latest from Mr. Allen on that:
The Facilities Department has been working to address a number of heating issues at schools this year, whether too hot or too cold, with many of the issues likely related to the implementation of ESCo projects with the City and Honeywell. The WPS is fully aware of each of the issues in the school and the Facilities Department is working daily with the City and Honeywell to rectify these situations.
And if this is affecting you, believe me: your frustration is heard. And shared!
And speaking of Facilities, the latest on the repair projects:
New Citizens Center: The boiler replacement portion of the project is complete. The window replacement portion of the project is essentially complete with punch list items remaining.
Lake View: The window replacement project is nearly complete with some trim work and door replacement work remaining
May Street: The window replacement project is fully underway at the school and is progressing towards completion in the next 45-60 days.
Chandler Magnet: The window replacement project will begin (as scheduled) in the Spring 2014 and continue through the summer vacation period.
Nelson Place: The building architect has been selected and the feasibility study process will commence with building committee meetings/input as well as the input from other building stakeholders.
Worcester East Middle Science Lab: The project continues with expected completion in the next 45-60 days.
Heard Street Roof: The project continues with expected completion in the next 45-60 days.
And new computers are on their way!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Don't panic at the headline

The T&G coverage leads with our projected budget shortfall.

Don't panic. There's a reason why we do quarterly budget transfers--we move money around--plus the charter adjustment will help. The report we received in subcommittee is here. Report on all of our accounts (as of mid-November) is here.

UPDATE: And if you're wondering why legal costs are up: it's a negotiation year (and we have outside counsel for that) and we were facing a fairly large lawsuit that took a lot of time.

Increase in students: increase of budget?

Biancheria: students back from Spirit of Knowledge, need for supplies for students that have enrolled
Boone: enrolled in seven different schools
all across the city (except Worcester Tech, as there's no midyear enrollment there)
nominal to moderately significant
Allen: generally instruction supply dollars are based on enrollment a year ago
changes our charter school tuition and reimbursement; happens quarterly
would happen later this month
City Council sets tax rate next Tuesday; finalizing with city what the change and increase funding to Worcester Public Schools would be since Spirit of Knowledge
in a Friday letter tomorrow, ahead of the City Council agenda coming out tomorrow
allocation recommendation on December 19 meeting "really in three areas":
  • placement of Spirit of Knowledge students
  • budget deficits
  • resources for FY15


Mr. O'Connell is asking that we let DESE know that we support any efforts the Board makes towards retaining cursive.
Novick: are we under the impression that we teach cursive now? class by class effort
Rodrigues: teacher run, should be starting in middle of second grade
Novick: suggest that we ask for how we teach cursive now; added to item

Model UN

now at Sullivan and South
O'Connell looking to expand it into other schools
teacher from Goddard Scholars explains the program
presently the only programs in Worcester: would like to make a presentation
"never had a student not come back and stay that it was not a positive experience"

PARCC unfunded mandate

Colorio: costs seen in standing committee
motion for reimbursement unless the money is funded
Novick: to request that the state auditor look into the unfunded mandate
Both motions pass
O'Connell asks that we ask DESE to deal with the issues raised on accomodations

PARCC testing: delay until there is adaptation

O'Connell's motion
Colorio: on the agenda right before the Board of Ed vote on pilot testing PARCC
"very scary this whole thing"
more days taken away from teaching and learning
budget this year has already been developed, submitted and approved
unfunded mandated
"attempts to accommodate" were insufficient
"our children will become products of a D.C. thinktank"
quoting from a letter we received today

Finance and Operations report

Foley reporting out:
Three areas of note in shortfalls:
  • personal services: higher than usual legal costs
  • tuition account: third party services and tuition
  • workers' compensation: continue to underfund it at budget time
F&O will have a report coming out on workers' comp in our next meeting, so we can better and more accurately budget for FY15
O'Connell notes that this year's budget had no changes made in the budget from administration's proposed budget, that FY13 had only one minor change
asks about special education and tuition
Allen: "the budget is a living, breathing document which changes every day"
number of special education students has changed since budget was passed
looking to fund workers' comp at an "appropriate" level for FY15
O'Connell: why is special ed going up?
Rodrigues: moving population, increasing need, increasing specificity
O'Connell: do we need workers' comp insurance (so they can look at what we do to see if we can bring down workers' comp)?
Allen: "work closely with the city" on workers' comp; have done analysis and work place training
O'Connell suggest revisiting the question in February and March

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Bet you didn't see this in the PISA coverage yesterday

Massachusetts, were it an independent country, would score third in the world on PISA.

Remarkably, the Commissioner did not mention this in an coverage that I have seen on this. 

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

"picture of educational stagnation"

Oh, Arne...
If you're anywhere in the education universe today, there's a good chance you may hear some mention of the PISA results. These are the Program of International Assessment results from last year's test, released last night. PISA was taken by 15-year-olds in reading, math, and science in 65 countries, including the US; three US states received their own results: Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Florida.
If you look at the above summary (that's Valerie Strauss, reprinting the basic rundown from PISA) you can sum up the local angle this way:

the US is doing about the same as it has been, and Massachusetts is continuing to rock the curve.
Enter the spin machines.

I'd say that Motoko Rich, from the New York Times, probably summed it up the best:
In the midst of increasingly polarized discussions about public education, the scores set off a familiar round of hand-wringing, blaming and credit-taking.
If you follow education at all, you can probably take it from there, which gives us the quote in the title from our U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. I think it's fair here to point out that he became Secretary of Education in 2009, which is when the test was last taken, so if we're looking for top-down accountability, we can start there. We've got hand-wringing from business groups about global competition (at least this time I'm not seeing any read "Shanghai" as "all of China," so at least we've gotten that far).  We've got teachers groups pointing out that we've still done basically nothing on child poverty. And we'll have some complaints about the lack of standardized testing to measure what really matters.
I'm not giving links to all of the above; you can find it all in that NY Times article.
The Massachusetts results, of course, leave our educational leaders in a bit of a bind. They've been busily assuring us that everything's not been great, and so we must abandon the Mass state standards and the MCAS for the Common Core and the PARCC. You'd think that might put them in a tough spot going forward.
But bless our Commissioner; he never lets me down.
Here he is in the Globe this morning:
“We have a lot to be proud of in Massachusetts,” said Mitchell Chester, state commissioner for elementary and secondary education. “We have another marker showing our students perform better than most others in the world. But we still have room for improvement, particularly in math and science.”
...cue the comparison with Shanghai.
I'll leave it to others more knowledgeable about I than Shanghai to fill you in. Yong Zhao points out that the East Asian countries that have had rising PISA scores in recent years aren't satisfied with their educational systems' focus on testing. And Tom Loveless gives us this on Shanghai:
Shanghai’s population of 23-24 million people makes it about 1.7 percent of China’s estimated 1.35 billion people.  Shanghai is a Province-level municipality and has historically attracted the nation’s elites.  About 84 percent of Shanghai high school graduates go to college, compared to 24 percent nationally. Shanghai’s per capita GDP is more than twice that of China as a whole.  And Shanghai’s parents invest heavily in their children’s education outside of school.  According to deputy principal and director of the International Division at Peking University High School, Jiang Xuegin:
 Shanghai parents will annually spend on average of 6,000 yuan on English and math tutors and 9,600 yuan on weekend activities, such as tennis and piano. During the high school years, annual tutoring costs shoot up to 30,000 yuan and the cost of activities doubles to 19,200 yuan.
The typical Chinese worker cannot afford such vast sums.  Consider this: at the high school level, the total expenses for tutoring and weekend activities in Shanghai exceed what the average Chinese worker makes in a year (about 42,000 yuan or $6,861).
Anyone want to place a bet on Commissioner Chester advocating that we increase our educational spending in Massachusetts accordingly?
In addition, I have a real issue with this gamesmanship. The U.S. has not "dropped;" it's doing about the same. We've dropped in the rankings because other countries are improving their educational systems.
Isn't that good?
Do we really want to live in a world where we're doing better than everyone else because they're failing to education their children? More and more countries are spending more on education, educating more of their children,  educating their children for more of their lives.
This is a good thing!
I really, sincerely, do not care if we beat Shanghai. Or Finland or Poland or South Korea.
I do care that all children in rural China and Somalia and Afghanistan get a good education, regardless of how much education their parents have, where they live, if they're girls, or if they're wealthy.
That's the sort of world I want to live in, even if it means we fall in the PISA rankings.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Worcester School Committee meets this Thursday!

two more meetings this year!
The Worcester School Committee has its regularly scheduled meeting at 7 pm on Thursday at City Hall. You can find...hmmm, no, you can't. Let me get back to you on that. UPDATE: agenda is here. 
You might remember that we had a super-short meeting last time, and many items were held, as both Mr. Foley and Mr. O'Connell were not there. Those have all carried over to this meeting.
We have several recognitions, including the Quinsigamond Land Task Force for cafeteria tables, Worcester Tech for the PRIME Manufacturing award, Team BEMANY for the solar decathlon, the Alden Foundation for their funding of field trips, and Mr. Allen for the Professional Eagle award.
We're getting the Finance and Operations report back from November 12.
We have some retirements and appointments.
We have more than one PARCC item: one on delaying implementation until student accommodations are done, and another recognizing it as an unfunded mandate. To that end, incidentally, you might take a look at this letter that Commissioner Chester sent out to superintendents (no, not to School Committees) regarding the state's authority regarding field testing. As this will be coming up on Thursday, no comment from me on this.
We're inviting members of the Model United Nations team at South to come make a presentation to us about possible expansion.
We're setting some dates and doing some recognitions, including one for the great work of the teachers and students involved in the "Night at the Oscars" program (which is now up online...I'll post it in a bit!).
Mr. O'Connell is concerned about cursive.
We have an item coming in regarding bumping teaching assistant principals to full assistant principals.
Miss Biancheria is asking for an update on the finances around our recent enrollment increases.
She is also asking for an update on 504 plans.
We will also have an executive session (as per usual) at six. 

By the way: you'll see that the agenda has a somewhat irregular profile when it comes to co-sponsorship. About halfway through the time since the last agenda, we started using the system the Attorney General has required in order for us to be in compliance with the Open Meeting Law. Thus the later items are sponsored only by a single member; all co-sponsorship must be done from the floor during the meeting.

It's back...

The WPS Parent Portal is back up! And it looks as though we'll get the online lunch account additions back this week!

PISA scores come out tomorrow

...and Jersey Jazzman is celebrating.

Annual Joe and Shirl Scholarship auction

The annual Joe and Shirl Scholarship auction to fund children's art classes at the Worcester Art Museum is going on now! This is the yearly drive that children's author and illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka* does in honor of his grandparents, who were those who made sure that he had art to get him through.
There's some things over there that you certainly aren't going to find anywhere else, and it's the perfect combination of Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday, so why not go bid?

*Gates Lane alum. Yes, I've mentioned that before.