Monday, March 31, 2014

Nelson Place March update

Reminder: in a Feasibility study phase
updating as we go...
"have gotten back to us with some comments on how it could improve" before going on to the next step
going on to analyse the three options
Next public hearing: May 17 at 7 pm regarding Preferred Schematic Design
Vote: June 4 at 7 pm on Preferred Schematic Design

Boston parents are holding a bake sale

Hey, they only need to sell 61 million cupcakes!

Out of paper?

A bit of a supplies update for those Worcester parents out there who might be getting pleas for school supplies now:

Back at the second quarter budget report, which we talked about at the end of January, we got the news about the Spirit of Knowledge students returning to WPS and the large increase in students with autism in the district. As part of that report, we received a report that the $10 per pupil of supply funds that customarily is frozen until the second half of the year would need to stay frozen to balance the budget.
I suspect that for many this got lost in the larger numbers surrounding the SoKA students and the increase in special education, but it is one that you now may be hearing about.
Also, keep this in mind for FY15, as the worst case scenario calls for a cut in the per pupil supply budget of $5 each. 

A few WPS items on tomorrow night's Council agenda

Tomorrow night's Worcester City Council agenda has a few WPS related items:

  • The repairs to Worcester East Middle School via Mass School Building Authority are on the agenda to be approved by Council prior to submission to the state. You might remember that, when we applied for a boiler, windows, and a roof, the state came back and said, "we could do that, but you actually need more than that." This application covers that (essentially a full systems upgrade).
  • Stephen Quist (that'd be Q) is asking for "an update on the previously voted request for an operational audit of the Worcester School Department." This came out of last year's budget back-and-forth; eventually, the Council decided that all they wanted was a transportation audit, which I believe is currently underway. 
  • Councilor Economou is looking for a committee from the business community to look at city and schools for duplication of services. If you're a Council watcher, you've seen this before. Possibly a good time for reminder that the Worcester Public Schools are the third largest employer in the city of Worcester, after UMass-Memorial hospitals and medical school. We employ close to four times as many people as the city; nearly all of them have various types of certifications and trainings that must be constantly tracked and updated. 

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Three things to read this weekend

  • This column, by Clare Higgins, former Northampton mayor, on the conflict in charter schools and their funding.
  • This article from Salon, on the underserving of marginalized kids by charter schools, with this great quote by NYCLU:  “All kids have a right to an education, not just the ones who are easy.”
  • This column from the New York Times, with probably the most insightful view on parental opt out of standardized testing that I've read yet. 

And one more! 
  • This article from Holy Cross professor Jack Schneider on how public schools' main issue may be that of branding. 

Meeting dates for Nelson Place

There have been some changes on meeting dates for Nelson Place:
  • This Monday, March 31, there is still a public hearing at the school. It is now, however, an update on the project, rather than a hearing on the Preferred Schematic Design.
  • On May 19, there will be a public hearing at the school on the Preferred Schematic Design.
  • The vote on Preferred Schematic Design is currently scheduled for June 5, 'though that will be changing, I suspect, as that's a School Committee meeting. UPDATE: Moved to June 4.
All meetings at 7 pm at the school.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Mystery of the Blueprints

...or how there was more than one Classical High.

Earlier this week, I was in the Facilities office, where they keep the blueprints of all of our schools, and I was asked if I could help clear up a mystery. In the file for the Durkin Administration Building, there were pages and pages of blueprints, and it was clear on going through them that they were of at least two different buildings. What was the story?

I pulled the following together from the research I did last year for the Exam/IB Committee report introduction; the introduction does a Worcester Public School history in a few pages (if you didn't read it, it's online here). All of this information is pulled together from several days of research in the library of the Worcester Historical Museum, which is a marvelous place. Any errors--and I'd be interested if you find any!--are of course mine.

By 1871, the coeducational* Worcester Classical and English High on Walnut Street was running out of space. A new building, designed by H.R. Richardson and built by Norcross Brothers, with a portico and a central clock tower, was built on the property at Walnut Street, Maple Terrace, and Maple Street. Known either by its full name or simply as Worcester High School, this was the public secondary school for Worcester for two decades.
By 1892, due to the growth of secondary ed and new ideas about education, the district decided to split the Classical and English programs into separate schools. A new building, English High School, was built on Irving Street of Greenfield brick with brownstone trim; it cost $100,000 to build and had a 35 foot tall flagpole on the roof of the tower.
The property on Walnut Street thus became know simply as Classical High School.
In 1911, North and South High schools opened at their original locations. As they were running the same program as Classical, there were not as many students enrolled in that program.
So, in 1914, due to changes in enrollment, Classical High moved to Irving Street, where it would stay until it closed in 1966.The English program somewhat merged and evolved; it was a new High School of Commerce that opened in the Walnut Street building, and it would be known as Commerce until it closed in the mid-1960’s, as well.
During the course of the early 1900’s, additions were put onto both buildings. The Walnut Street building had at least two additions: one small wing, and the entire building that still stands on Walnut Street (and says “COMMERCE”) today. The Irving Street building had north and south wings that came down in the 1938 hurricane.
The Walnut Street building--Commerce--was sold to Paul Revere Life Insurance in 1966 and the original building was torn down for their new office building.
The 1892 building on Irving Street today is the Durkin Administration Building. 
*Secondary education went co-ed in Worcester in 1847 and was highly controversial. Fodder for another post!

I just can't even...

When the T&G editorial board, in yet another episode of Hopelessly Devoted to Charter Schools, gives us this line:
and sever any link between funding and the lifting of charter caps
 ...they've just made it clear that they are so far removed from reality that they're not even worth responding to.

What Boston students want to see in their next superintendent

From the young people of the Boston Study Advisory Council, the YOUNG Coalition, and Youth on Board.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

It's the zombie education bill!

It's not dead yet!

Rep. Alice Peisch filed a substitute education bill this morning for the bill that came out (without being recommended) last night. It's now in House Ways & Means. Summary of the bill (from State House News):
According to a bill summary, Peisch's bill (H 3984) authorizes the education
commissioner to designate a subset of Level 3 schools as "challenge
schools," which include schools that score in the lowest performing 20
percent statewide that are most likely to be designated as underperforming
(Level 4). "Challenge schools" would be required to develop two-year
turnaround plans, similar to the turnaround plans required for
underperforming (Level 4) and chronically underperforming (Level 5) schools.

The bill also maintains the statewide cap on the total number of charter
schools that can operate at any given time, which is 72 Commonwealth and 48
Horace Mann charter schools.

The legislation lifts the current spending cap on charter school tuition in
the lowest performing 10 percent of districts from 18 percent to 23 percent
of net school spending, if the charter meets certain criteria, including an
"opt-out" lottery process, or the charter school is specifically designed to
serve at-risk student and/or dropouts.

In the "opt-out" lottery process all students would be eligible to attend
the charter school under the district's assignment policy without any
required application process for the school. Parents of students selected
for admission through the opt-out lottery process may choose not to accept
the admission offer.
You can read the whole bill here.
Having skimmed it, here's a few thoughts:

  • I don't want to do a turnaround process and stakeholder group for every Level 3 school in the district. I know that it would be an enormous time and energy sink, and I don't think that it would be a productive process for the schools or for the district. (And I know that this is somehow supposed to be the sweetener for school committee members; it didn't work for this one.)
  • The language around backfilling, open lotteries, and such are only for expanded or new charters. It doesn't fix the very real problems of those already in existence. 
  • There is no language around financing at all, which is the purview of the Legislature, most particularly that of the House.
  • Lifting the spending on charters to 23% of--let's be honest here--city education spending is nightmarish. That's close to a fourth of our budget, gone, to schools that do not, will not, and are not being required to serve all of our kids.
It's a bad bill. Vote it down. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

No action taken on charter bill

As there was no action taken today by the Joint Committee on Education on the charter cap bill, the bill be reported out with "adverse recommendation." That doesn't kill the bill, but it does open up a whole new can of worms on what the Legislature can do.
Keep an eye on it, folks!

Are you in Boston this afternoon?

While the focus of the protest is around Boston Public Schools' budgetary woes, they'd welcome other support! (And something we can all agree on: they've GOT to knock it off with creating schools that they aren't paying for!)
4:30 pm
State House

Amendments to charter school regs

Commissioner: received considerable comment
have made some changes as a result of the comments received
links growth to changes in accountability process
changes include growth, but "nothing specific in the regulations" on calculations (?)

Commissioner and DESE on vocational education

Commissioner vo-tech "victim of its own success"
started a work group: try to become pro-active rather than being reactive
called in by legislators and educators
always reacting to the concerns that are raised
made some recommendations
launch conversations with you: "would like to codify some of where we land"

Testimony regarding Level 5 plans

Big turnout today for people from Boston schools declared Level 5, with objections from parents and teachers regarding the Commissioner's plan for "turnaround" those schools
In particular, the Holland school would lose a dual language program as part of the proposed plan.
Parent who came and testified that much of what the parents wanted were not in the plan
Teachers very concerned about what will happen with students in dual language
"when you cut the good program, you cut the opportunity of the children, and we go backwards. We should not cut what is working"

Testimony on charter regs

Senator Pat Jehlen
Testimony on charter regs
13 senators and 11 representatives sent a letter urging an expanded use of growth
achievement essentially a matter of income rather than effectiveness
"reject that schools should be judged by what they teach rather than where they come from"
"when schools are labelled 'underperforming' they don't just lose money"
they lose community standing
should not stigmatize schools which are allowing for growth
"the label comes with disruption"
"as long as achievement outweighs growth, Boston will always be at the bottom"
but 2/3ths growth means Boston is no longer in the bottom 10%

And my testimony is here

Vo-tech testimony from superintendents and principals (of vo-tech programs)

a number of vocational technical superintendents and principals here concerned that the Board will be reviewing admissions requirements for vo-tech programs. Running some testimony together here.
"respect roles"
sometimes responsibilities and roles get blurred
"request our active participation so (vo-tech) not be compromised and minimized"

Notes on the Board of Ed: introduction

Chair notes that Duncan has visited "clear how much he cares about engaging with teachers"
students making the case of how the Common Core is improving their education

Heading in for the Board of Ed!

I'm heading in to the Board of Ed meeting in Malden this morning to offer testimony on the proposed charter school regulation changes, as voted at our early March meeting.
Liveblog on at least that sure to follow!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Worcester compared to surrounding communities

Note that Worcester has school choice students in all of the above surrounding communities.

Note that all of the above communities receive significantly less state aid for education, and so devote a larger share of local resources to meet minimum local contribution.

Worcester's local required contribution over minimum against state average

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Worcester's spending in relation to local required contribution to education

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Notes on the March FY15 budget update (or "the bad option and the even worse option")

I thought it would be useful to give a bit of an overview of what the March update looks like.
There have been two major changes from the information that we were given in January:
  • Updates from the state have changed the federal grant projection; now projected NOT to be subject to 8% cut under sequestration, a $821,248 positive change.
  • Also, WPS is projecting a budget in which the city MEETS Net School Spending requirements: a $2.75 million change in foundation (that's the gap reported out late last year), plus a $660,000 non-foundation addition.
This is thus anticipates a $4 million addition--nearly all due to meeting Net School Spending--to the revenue available from last year

While we still need $27 million in increases, administration is now, thus, projecting a $23 million gap.
(Do note that this rests on the assumption that the city will AT LEAST meet its minimum obligations.)

The first proposed solution to this continued gap is to defer all of the following needs, all of which were requested by principals:
  • 16 elementary teachers to deal with class size
  • 11 secondary teachers to handle course choice and selection needes
  • 5 special education teachers to appropriately serve that growing population
  • 9 English Language Learners teachers to appropriately serve that growing population
  • 19 Instructional Assistants to assist with special education students and others
  • 19 tutor positions to give individual and small group assistance to students
  • 6 school-based clerical for registration, parent, and other front office needs
  • 2 school nurses for better coverage of schools
  • 6 assistant principals to appropriately staffing schools
  • 4 instructional coaches for assisting teachers in professional practice
  • 3 credit recovery computer lab staff for students who are completing their studies despite earlier issues
  • 2 school safety for security reasons in schools
  • 1 wraparound coordinator to extend that service to another school

It also requires deferring:
  • assistant principals in elementary schools that currently do not have them full time
  • instructional assistants in every kindergarten classroom
  • needed school safety equipment
  • overdue maintenance on elementary school playgrounds
  • upgrades to wireless technology to better cover schools
It will also mean that we do not plan this year for any sort of exam or selective admissions school.
WPS will also not fund the Other Post-Employment Benefits trust fund for this year

All of that still leaves a $7.6 million budget gap to cover, though.

To cover that, there will be restructuring and reductions in every department and restructuring, reducing, or eliminating of programs throughout the system.
It will also require the loss of:
  • 11 tutors
  • 20 elementary teachers
  • 6 middle school teachers
  • 14 high school teachers
With those cuts, the number of elementary school classes projected to be between 23 and 26 will jump from 211 citywide to 235.
At the secondary level, as Mr. Allen said on Thursday, there would be fewer options available for individual students in courses due to loss of courses in the full school schedule.

All of the above is with a projected meeting of Net School Spending, however; should the city not fund up to Net School Spending, the following additional cuts would be needed:
  • 11 elementary teachers
  • 16 middle and high school teachers
  • 2 school nurses 
That would have the effect of raising the number of elementary classes between 27 and 30 from 53 to 70 citywide.
At the secondary level, as Mr. Allen said on Thursday, it would mean the reduction of some sections, the elimination of some courses, and loss of some Advanced Placement courses.

It would also cut $5 per pupil from the instructional budget, bringing back down to $63 dollars per pupil.
It would mean the loss of all community school funding.
It would also cut all athletics (and as Superintendent Boone commented on Thursday, she doesn't do that lightly).

Quick reminder here from me: WPS has two major revenue sources, the city and the state. The state pays for 70% of the school budget.

I have embedded below Thursday night's presentation by Superintendent Boone and Mr. Allen giving this update.
As always, more to come.

What do I think about the FY15 budget?

Here are my comments from Thursday night.

Friday, March 21, 2014

World Down Syndrome Day: video

Because Down Syndrome is caused by a triplicate of the 21st chromosome, March 21st (3/21) is observed as World Down Syndrome Day.
I came across the following video, a letter to a future mom, on 22 Words, and I kept it for today.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Massachusetts update on charters

If you didn't read EduShyster today on the charter cap lift craziness, you really should.

What does the Worcester Public Schools' letter to parents about PARCC say?

I have only a hard copy, so I'm typing this. It's late and it's been a long day...all typos are mine.

March 19, 2014

Dear Parent/Guardian:

As you may have heard, Massachusetts is a participating state in the Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, a multi-state project to develop a next-generation, computer-based testing program. The goal of PARCC is to measure student progress toward the state's new academic learning standards in English language arts and mathematics.

Over the next two years, Massachusetts is piloting the PARCC test in schools throughout the state to see how well it measures the state's learning standards and to help determine whether it should replace MCAS, the state's current testing program. I am writing to inform you that your child's class has been selected for participation in an English language arts or mathematics field test between March 24 and April 11.

The purpose of the field test is to allow schools and students to experience the new test before it counts and to allow PARCC developers to ensure that the test questions are fair, on grade level, and measure the intended skills. I would like to assure you that your child will not receive a score or grade based on the PARCC test. Should you choose for your child not to participate in the field test, please notify your child's principal prior to the testing date. Your child's school will be notifying you of the testing dates soon. There will be no academic or disciplinary penalty for not participating, and appropriate accommodations will be provided during testing time.

If you wish to learn more about PARCC, please visit the web site of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at If you have additional questions, you may contact Worcester Public Schools' Office of Research and Accountability at or, as always, ask your child's principal.

Melinda J. Boone, Ed.D.

open principal positions

Biancheria: something that I'm more than interested in
seven positions: any plan on how we're going to be replacing them?
Boone: process: advertising, screening, and replacing principals
six of seven have stakeholder processes: teachers, parents, and community partners
then recommended to superintendent
Chandler Elementary directly appointed due to Level 4 status
"same process using this year as last year"
asking for an update on where we are in the process in a Friday letter
first round of interviews have been completed
rolling forward on second round of interviews now

I expressed a concern I've gotten from parents regarding a gap between parents being invited to participate in process and actually getting to.

School dude

If you're wondering how our School Dude work request system, for repairs to facilities, works, we have a backup (with a flow chart!) tonight.

Comments from School Committee on FY15

And you're just going to have to catch me on replay

FY15 budget update

big difference in this update is that the federal grants will be LEVEL FUNDED
that's a $4 million difference from the January update, due to our NOT being hit by sequestration
"at least net school spending level of budget"
this is projecting the $2.75 million gap in net school spending being closed
"optimistically planning" for no impact of sequestration
cost estimates have not changed
I'm just going to break in here and say that I'm seeing something that I have NEVER seen before: Councilor Tony Economou is here for the budget update. I've never seen a City Councilor other than the Mayor at a School Committee meeting.
List of identified needs and program improvements
Funding needs compared with revenue increase leaves a $23.2 million
Proposed solutions to the remaining $23.2 million gap:

and then:


If our budget is BELOW Net School Spending, we'd need to cut further than that:

Wondering about elementary class size?

So what did Worcester do on PARCC?

  • you have the right to opt your child out, as has been the position of the district all along. Note that there was no vote taken on that tonight, as this was never an item before the committee.
  • we have a letter coming home to all parents and families from administration making this clear. As this letter already existed and now is public, we voted to file the item regarding this communication. 
  • there will be no statement coming from Worcester to the state regarding this issue; we will not be objecting to their position or legal argument. Note that this is a reversal of our previous position.
Or, if you're still confused, you can read Thomas Caywood's article, because he's got it right. 

Reconsideration: updating as we go

motion to reconsider passes 5-2: discussion opens

May Street gym floor

If you're interested in donating for a new gym floor for May Street School, you can donate here.

March update on FY15

You can find it here.
It's not good.
The meeting starts at seven.

Worcester School Committee meets TONIGHT!

Worcester School Committee meets tonight! You can find the agenda--and one of our two (rare) supplemental agenda--here.
Very quick overview today due to time constraints ('though it's also a short agenda): we have our Valentine award winners coming in tonight.
Two major items on the agenda:

  • The first is the (oft-written of) reconsideration. PLEASE NOTE: nothing that happens tonight changes the basic standard that yes, you may, as a parent, opt our child out of taking the pilot PARCC exam this spring. Should reconsideration succeed--we have to have a majority vote to even reconsider the motions--we are deciding if everyone (parents, teachers, principals, the School Committee) should have the administrative protocol around opting out, and if we should forward to the state a letter, like those of other districts, stating our legal objections. If reconsideration succeeds, then we will have this discussion. If it fails, the vote from two weeks ago stands. If we have the discussion, we have a revote of those two issues.
  • The second very important issue being discussed tonight is budgetary priorities. We have this backup regarding this item; take a look at page 2 for a nice overview of where the schools are at in how we're using our resources. The School Committee will be speaking to this issue individually and possibly at length. I would urge you to at least watch this portion of tonight for an update into the thus far fairly horrifying budget projections. 
I hope to get to the rest of the agenda--several donations and grants coming through! prior year payments! committee reports--but should I not, go take a look. 
And remember: the meetings stream live through Channel 11.
I will, as per usual, liveblog those portions of the meeting that I'm not speaking during. Should anything of particular note happen, I will endeavor also to get it out via Twitter.

Bickerton: "We're not going to force the kids to take the test."

The Metrowest Daily News was at the PARCC presentation in Framingham on Tuesday, and they capture the information well from that night:
Bob Bickerton, senior associate commissioner at the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, said the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993 does not give the state the authority to allow students to not take a standardized test, but that "common sense prevails from that point forward." 
"We're not going to force the kids to take the test," he said.
And, in a response that I find even more intriguing, we have this from DESE spokesman J.C. Considine:
"Districts have experience in this" with the MCAS, he said. "They have ways of handling students who may not want to participate."
...which would mean that it's up to districts on everyone doing MCAS?

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Asking DESE for clarification

This afternoon, I sent the following off to DESE:
Good afternoon: 
I called Commissioner Bickerton's office with this query earlier today, and I have since received more questions myself, thus the follow up email. 
We have been told repeatedly over the past several months that there is no opting out of the PARCC pilot. Last night and today, I have heard several reports of Commissioner Bickerton stating last night that parents may, without consequence, opt their children out of the PARCC pilot*. I have since had a similar exchange related to me from a parent with Mr. Lee, with the 95% participation caveat from NCLB for districts opting those piloting out of the equivalent MCAS. However, I have seen nothing officially from DESE. 
I would ask, for the sake of any and all of us fielding questions out here that you please send out a clear statement on this via districts, MASS, MASC, and the like. I would appreciate being able to cite the Department directly, rather than heresay. 
Thank you very much for your time and attention, 
Tracy Novick
*yes, I know that there's a video of this exchange as well, though it's part of a larger exchange.
Should I hear anything further, I will of course post it here and elsewhere.

Two updates statewide on opting out of the PARCC pilot

First, Tantasqua in Sturbridge joined the list of districts that have publicly voted to allow parents to opt their children out of the pilot of PARCC.
Second, I'm getting multiple reports--though none in the press--that Senior Associate Commissioner Bob Bickerton at last night's PARCC parent information night in Framingham said that the state's position is that  parents may opt their children out without consequence. I'll see if I can get some confirmation on that today.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

improving the truancy rate: TLSS

Several groups working on this now
Biancheria: how do we know what is working and what isn't working at this point?
 Rodrigues: Truancy forum was community awareness
"how do we support the community in the awareness piece?"
"not about blaming and pointing fingers; it's about supporting everyone"
support in the moment of challenge, but getting the children to school every day and on time
Biancheria: how do we know what we're doing is working? and how to go forward with what is working?
Rodrigues: informing parents and talking to parents about this
reasons why a student is late or absent from school, day in and day out
a parent walking a young child to school with a younger sick child at home, for example
"everyone has a part in this"
how can everyone help, to what capacity
Biancheria: can we get the partners and can we get an update in the spring
"good news to hear, especially with our partners on board"
Rodrigues: updates in a Friday letter
Ramirez: marketing campaign for parents
transportation does get in the way in older kids; "public transportation is expensive, too"
Monfredo: many older kids aren't coming to school because they are frustrated in school

Reading on grade level: TLSS

Back-up on this one is here  Also talking about this item 
Monfredo speaks of closing the readiness gap before school

Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports meets at 5:30 today

My apologies for not doing an agenda rundown earlier; you can find it here:

I do plan to attend, and I'll do some blogging while I'm there. 

Speaking of PARCC, Florida's out

And speaking of PARCC, as of yesterday, Florida is definitively out.

Gates survey of teachers

This Gates Foundation-funded survey of teachers that was released earlier this week mostly got attention for teachers' answers regarding the Common Core. I found, though, something else that was perhaps more of note:
While 69 percent of respondents feel that teachers’ opinions are heard and valued in their schools, this number decreases dramatically at the district (32 percent), state (5 percent), and national (2 percent) levels. Of teachers who feel their voices are heard at the district, state, or national levels, 96 percent expressed satisfaction with their jobs; only 74 percent of teachers who feel they are not heard at all expressed job satisfaction.
(Full credit: ASCD pulled those stats from the report)
Next time you wonder why teachers are unhappy, wonder how often they're being meaningfully consulted and listened to.

Additional Nelson Place public hearing scheduled

I've just been told that an additional public hearing on Nelson Place has been scheduled, AHEAD of the next vote of the building committee on the Preferred Schematic Design.
The meeting is on Monday, March 31 at 7 pm at the school.

Please come and please spread the word!

Monday, March 17, 2014

How many kids ARE in remedial classes?

If you read my notes from over the weekend, you'll know we had a little back-and-forth about college preparation. I keep hearing this statistic that 40% of Massachusetts graduates end up in remedial classes in college, and this is why we need--fill in the blank--the Common Core, PARCC, better teacher evaluation... It hit me over the weekend that we don't have any way of knowing that, as we don't have the data from the kids who go to private school, which, when I asked, Senior Assistant Commissioner Bickerton then added to his citation. (You can find my notes on that here; it's where the all caps are.)
It seems Secretary Duncan got caught in the same trap on his visit to Massachusetts, and Carol Burris pulls out the actual numbers here.
The conclusion (beyond that everyone should check their numbers?):
Using the above, I estimate that the percentage of students in Massachusetts who attend four-year colleges and take remedial courses is roughly 17 percent, not the 40 percent that Duncan claimed.
That's a pretty significant difference, there, people.

March 6 deliberation on PARCC field testing

Here is the Worcester School Committee's March 6 deliberation on the PARCC field testing:

(You can find the full meeting posted here; scroll down to the bottom of the page and look for March 6.)


Now it's time for a crash course in...parliamentary procedure and the Worcester School Committee rules!

The Worcester School Committee functions on Robert's Rules of Order plus our own (adopted) rules of procedure, which you can find online here. Rule 21 is the one on reconsideration.
Reconsideration is just what it says it is: it's a motion to say "hey, let's think about that again!"* Any member may file for reconsideration of an item within 48 business hours of the date of the original vote. Thus:
  • Mayor Petty had to have filed for reconsideration by close of the day on Monday, March 10, as the original vote was taken on Thursday, March 6. 
It is the first item to be taken up at the next meeting--you can find it on our agenda here--and it can only be done once (you can't reconsider a reconsideration). It cannot be deliberated. The motion for to reconsider must pass before the motion can again be deliberated and revoted.
Also, all reconsiderations come back as "Administration/[member who requested it]" thus there is no significance to Administration being listed on this. Their position--which was in advance of ours--has not changed regarding children who opt out heading to a different room to read or do other work.
The item(s) listed are a conglomeration of all of the motions made during that portion of the meeting; we voted regarding sending a letter and we voted regarding the administrative protocol being shared with ourselves and the public. We actually only voted twice.
We also voice voted, though the Mayor** did ask if anyone wanted a roll call. No one requested one. 
I haven't had a chance to do it yet, but later today I will clip the portion of the March 6 meeting of the deliberation and post it for those who might be interested. 

*for those who watch our meetings: you'll most often see a call for "reconsideration" DURING a meeting; as reconsideration can only be done once, doing it during the meeting precludes any of us from calling for it later; this puts the vote immediately into effect. Otherwise, votes wait 48 business hours until they are in effect. 
**for those not from Worcester: Worcester has a Plan E form of government. As such the mayor serves as a member and chair of both the City Council and the School Committee, but his powers do not extend beyond that.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Meanwhile, back at the budget

We do have this rather looming important issue in Worcester: we've got to figure out how to get our schools open for next year.
Lucky for us, this has not escaped the attention of Nick Kotsopoulos, who, after attending our joint subcommittee meeting early this week, devoted his Sunday column to the Worcester Public Schools' FY15 budget.
Read it. Pass it along.
And then get in touch with Council. You'll find their email information to the right.

Know a fantastic alum of the Worcester Public Schools?

Nominate them for this fall's WEDF Distinguished Alumni and Friends award!
Nominations are due May 15; the awards are in November.
Not sure if they've already been honored? There's a list at the link. 

Another round of national coverage for Worcester

Ravitch mentioned EduShyster's extensive post on Duncan's visit to Massachusetts.
She appears to be catching up on her Worcester reading, though, as she posted this today, linking not only to the T&G's editorial, but calling out the Mayor.

We are having a lively time lately, aren't we?

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Parents Opting Out on PARCC pilot

And speaking of which, Citizens for Public Schools (I serve on their board) has put together this "What We Know: Opting Out of PARCC Pilot Tests" which I've also linked to on the sidebar.
They've also started a list of School Committee actions on PARCC piloting.

Bickerton on opting out

Lest these quotes, which were part of the Q&A at the end of Senior Associate Commissioner Bickerton's presentation today on PARCC, get buried, I'm pulling them out here. 

Regarding parental opting out:
 Our formal answer is 'there's no authority to let you opt out' ...In the world of reasonable adults, if a kid shows up, and says 'my mom told me not to take this test,' nobody is going to march him into a room, sit the kid down, and force him to take the test.

And specifically regarding Worcester's actions (which no one brought up by name; he did): 
Worcester voted to opt out, we believe that they had no authority to vote to opt out, but we're not going to do anything about it.

DESE on PARCC in Northampton

Because I'm a glutton for punishment  interested in how this keeps changing, I'm at Smith Vocational-Agricultural School in Northampton for another round of "PARCC and the Common Core in Massachusetts" with Bob Bickerton, which I liveblogged in Worcester here.
While I won't live-blog the parts that are repeats of the presentation, I will post as I see things that are new or different.

Friday, March 14, 2014

How much is the charter school reimbursement underfunded?

Just heard this number today: the charter school reimbursement is currently funded 62% for FY14.
How much is that short?
Were the reimbursement fully funded by the state, it would be $350,000 for the Worcester Public Schools.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

And speaking of PARCC

Interesting article from Cambridge on the state's presentation there.

Add Peabody

Received the news via email this morning: on parental opt out of the  PARCC pilot, you can now add Peabody. The School Committee there voted 5-1 last night to respond to DESE's letter regarding the legalities of the issue and to allow parents to opt their children out. The sole dissent came from a member who wished to leave PARCC all together.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Cityside funding for FY15

Some coverage from Clive McFarlane this morning regarding the schools not meeting net school spending and the question of what will happen this year. And it's clear the editorial board neither watched the meeting nor very carefully read their own paper's coverage of Monday's meeting.
And if this concerns you--and I hope it does--I'd recommend attending CPPAC (the citywide parent and community group) tonight at 7 pm at the Worcester Public Library. They'll be doing some strategizing around FY15.
No liveblog from me on that or anything else today: two DPH meetings (playgrounds and walking to school) and tonight, I'll be at the Mass Association of School Committees' Board.