Monday, September 29, 2014

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 2

The Worcester School Committee has a regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, October 2, at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.

In addition to our regular approval of the public session minutes of the previous meeting, you'll see we're approving (and releasing) the minutes of six executive sessions. In each case, the reason for it being an executive session has expired. Kudos to Dr. Friel to getting these out! Score one for open government!

We're recognizing the donations from two groups who have helped to start our students' school year off well: Cradles to Crayons and Reliant Medical Group.
We also have a new section, giving our student representative a chance to speak.
The report of the Superintendent is on the Family and Community Academy.
Colleen O'Brien has retired and we have several new appointments.
We'll be hearing from Jen Carey on Friday's "Worcester: the City That Reads" event (more on that to come!)
Mr. O'Connell is bringing in a document on travel abroad for consideration.
He's also concerned about gym floors, Constitution Day, and AP Mandarin Chinese.
We are being asked to accept a donation for the special education department in memory of Paul Piuze, who was a special ed bus monitor. His family asked that donations in his memory be made to the special ed department.
We have several requests for recognitions.
Miss Biancheria would like the job description for the position of principal of Worcester Technical High School.
She'd also like a report on raising MCAS scores and a description of college nights at high schools.

We'll also at 6, be having an executive session for an update on our negotiations with nurses.

Want a winning strategy in the November election?

Education is the issue candidates can win on. But not just anything in education:
That survey also found that a majority of Americans do not support current public education initiatives – such as new standards and teacher evaluations based on test scores – that most political candidates are touting as "reform." When asked what they think are the biggest problems that public schools in their community deal with, Americans of all political persuasions cite "lack of financial support" number one.
I have yet to hear anything like this from anyone running, for example, for Governor of Massachusetts. Plenty of us are waiting.

It's not news until it happens in Newton

Or Andover. Or Milton.
A front page story in the Boston Globe this morning points out that there are fewer schools in Massachusetts that are in the Level 1 accountability level this year; moreover, some of the schools that are now Level 2 are in THE SUBURBS.
Much like how the No Child Left Behind 100% proficiency level didn't become problematic until it hit the suburbs, it appears that the fickle nature of MCAS levels isn't front page news until it also hits the suburbs.
At least James Vaznis does us the favor of explaining something of how the levels are calculated:
Schools must cut in half gaps in achievement among students of different racial, academic, or socioeconomic backgrounds by 2017. Schools must demonstrate progress each year in reaching that goal to attain the top rating. The requirement applies to both MCAS scores and high school dropout rates.
In the super-competitive suburbs, the rating drops are raising wide-ranging questions, from what the declines say about educational quality to whether the state is relying too heavily on test scores — and splicing it too many ways — to accurately judge school performance.
Relying too heavily on test scores? Where have we heard that before?

As I said last week, to be at Level 1, you have to have met EVERY goal, including closing the gaps with EVERY subgroup. Miss one? It's Level 2 for you. And for every school that claws its way up from Level 3, a different school must necessarily fall into Level 3.
 If among those goals is cutting gaps to half, and half again, there is a point, perhaps, at which Zeno's paradox kicks in: you can approach zero, but you're never going to get there. Or if you get there, you're not going to stay there every year.
So, can we agree that this is a silly system? And start hearing about new ones? It's past time.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Watch those endorsements

Within the past twenty-four hours, it has come to my attention that the Connecticut Education Association has endorsed Governor Malloy, and that the Providence Teachers Union has endorsed former Mayor Buddy Cianci.
What the...?
If you don't know about Malloy, Jonathan Pelto of Wait, What? above has the rundown. I think if you're in New England, you're familiar with Cianci's history.
Frankly, I'm horrified by both.
If you're a member of a union, take a look at who is on the committees that make these decisions. I'll say honestly that I was surprised by some of the endorsements offered by the MTA this fall, as well, knowing the voting records of some running for re-election. If your vision from the classroom isn't being accurately represented by those speaking on your behalf...time to organize.

Missing kids at Boston charters

Excellent point today by former Brookline High headmaster Bob Weintraub about the missing kids in some Boston charter reports:
In charters that enroll students in grades 7-12, enrollments in grade 10 are often significantly lower than enrollments in grade 8, and scores on the grade 10 MCAS are dramatically higher than scores in grade 8.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Late breaking resolution before the MASC delegates assembly

The Delegates Assembly of the Mass Association of School Committees meets on November 5 this year. I just received my delegate's manual in the mail, and there's an addtion to the resolutions for us to consider:
WHEREAS many districts have expressed immense concern relative to our state's evaluation instruments, and:
WHEREAS assessing student achievement is important to all school districts:
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education conduct further examination of options for a state evaluation and accountability system and to substantially involve educators and school committee members in the process of choosing an assessment instrument, and to refrain from committing to any instrument before this process is complete.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

For the preservation of their rights and liberties...

I was invited in August to do an Ed talk at the MTA Summer Conference. Here's my talk on educating the whole student with the "Gloomy Pedagogue."

And thanks to the MTA for the invitation! I had a great time.

Monday, September 22, 2014

"Hartford admitted a Trojan horse to disrupt public education and disable democracy"

And should you ever wonder about why things like public acceptance of grants (along with backup documentation) matter, read Sarah Darer Littleton's blockbuster piece this weekend on the tangled web of private money and lack of public process in Hartford.

A little rebellion

I'm seeing much excitement on social media over the town of Tewksbury's town warrant article rejecting PARCC and the Common Core, which has been championed by the town's Republican town committee (article 17; scroll all the way to the end):
THEREFORE: We reject the use of the Common Core State Standards and the associated testing known as PARCC (Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers) which stifles academic freedom and achievement, and return control over education of the local school district of Tewksbury, Massachusetts. We choose to use the previous Massachusetts academic standards and associated testing, known as MCAS, which has made Massachusetts’ education number one in the nation and competitive with the top ranking countries on international standardized tests.
This is on Tewksbury special town meeting warrant for October 7, along with 16 other warrant articles.

 Let's first of all point out again that if your concern is with the Common Core, insisting on the use of the MCAS exam doesn't avoid the Common Core. The Massachusetts Board of Ed adopted the Common Core standards in 2011; the MCAS has been changing since then to align with them. Whatever test students in your district take in the spring, it will be Common Core aligned. There is no non-Common Core MCAS to return to.
The Mass Board of Ed adopted those standards to replace standards that they had adopted in the 1990's (1995 for most, 1997 for ELA), as part of the 1993 Ed Reform law in Massachusetts. It isn't as though every district in Massachusetts was doing its own thing until recently; we've all been on the same standards statewide for some time. The power to do so is given to the Board by Mass General Laws, Chapter 69, section 1D, which simply states:
The board shall establish a set of statewide educational goals for all public elementary and secondary schools in the commonwealth.
What is to be included in those standards is included in the rest of the section.
Later on in the same chapter is the (oft-cited last year) 1I section regarding testing:
Section 1I. The board shall adopt a system for evaluating on an annual basis the performance of both public school districts and individual public schools...>The system shall be designed both to measure outcomes and results regarding student performance, and to improve the effectiveness of curriculum and instruction.
(If you're interested in this, I'd recommend reading the whole section, as it spells things out in some detail, though I'd question that all of it is actually followed)

My point is simply this: according to Mass General Law, the state gets to set the standards and the state gets to pick the test.

None of this to say that I don't encourage, as Jefferson had it, "a little rebellion now and then." I'd just encourage us to all get our facts straight when we do so*, and to acknowledge against whom the rebellion is taking place. Here, it appears that Tewksbury is rebelling against the Mass Board of Education and the Massachusetts Legislature (through the laws it has passed).In other words, this isn't an action that Tewksbury takes unilaterally; they're challenging the state's authority.

While the vote in Lee County, Florida, to opt their district out of state standardized testing went viral, it also was rescinded within a week, at least in part due to threats to their state funding. I don't know if Massachusetts will do the same to a similar challenge, but it wouldn't surprise me. It's thus important to recognize what else is on the line.
My guess is it starts at about $12.5 million, from Tewksbury's own FY15 budget projections (see slide 8). The town of Tewksbury is receiving that much in chapter 70 state aid for education for FY15. That's a substantial amount for anyone, but it's very significant in a school budget of $48 million. That's before we look at state and federal grants, which are also administered by the state. Is Tewksbury prepared to pick up an additional $12.5 million plus of its school budget? There's nothing about that in the warrant articles.

*I'm limiting my focus here to the possible outfall of passing the warrant article, not the relative merits of the article itself. It's clearly drawing on questionable sources that have incorrect information. Also, setting aside the lack of subject/verb agreement in the last sentence, citing the MCAS as being responsible for any academic success is not well informed.  

Smithsonian Free Museum Day is Saturday!

As a way of extending the access that the Smithsonian offers in their museums (free every day they're open), this Saturday, September 27 is Smithsonian Free Museum Day. Print out the ticket on the page for free admission for two adults on Saturday.
There are lots of museums involved, including both the Ecotarium and the Worcester Historical Museum.

Friday, September 19, 2014

2014 MCAS results for Worcester : WPS press release

You can find the press release, with the school and district scores and Levels, online here.

And regarding Level 4's: here's a post from me from earlier this year on what that does and doesn't mean. 

UPDATE: I was going to do a separate post on how the bouncing among Level 1,2, and 3 doesn't mean much, either, but it's perfectly captured in this from the T&G article:
Lake View School in Worcester, for example, dropped from Level 1 to Level 2 this year. Ms. Boone explained that as a small school, shifts in scores of one or two students will have a larger impact than at a larger school. Gates Lane, which also went from Level 1 to Level 2, has a large special education population. Last year the school was able to meet targets for that subgroup; this year, they fell slightly below. 
Again, Level 1 just means you met your targets and 95% of the kids took the tests. Level 2 means you didn't hit all your targets, as above. And if a few more schools did better on their targets, it's not hard to fall into the bottom 20%, making you Level 3.
It's a chart, and people like charts. There isn't a whole lot behind the chart, though.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

School calendars

On a motion from Foley, 2015-16 is approved
2016-17 and 2017-18 are sent to Finance and Operations for further discussion
Note that the change proposed starting that year (2016) is that we start with a full five day week of school the last week of August (as opposed to starting on the Wednesday before Labor Day, as we did this year, and will next year). Please let us know what you think!

UPDATE: I was asked why this has been proposed. (Please realize here that I am paraphrasing what was said to me.) There is concern from some in school in what is a gradual start, as Worcester has had these past few years. We start on Wednesday, attend three days, and have a three day weekend. Then we attend four days, and have a two day weekend. Only then (the second week of September, generally) do we have a full five days. It makes for--this is my word, though I am not expressing my opinion--a choppy start.
This is not about what day we get out at the end of the year; it would only move that back by two days, and we generally don't cut it too close on the end of the year.
Vacation weeks of February and April we can talk about, but there the issue generally is other districts: we have children whose parents teach elsewhere, and teachers whose children attend school elsewhere, and most districts do a February/April break pattern (in Massachusetts).
The Finance and Operations subcommittee is myself, Jack Foley, and Hilda Ramirez. Contact information is here. 

International Walk to School day is Wednesday, October 8!

Plan to celebrate with us on Wednesday, October 8! 

Comments on report

Monfredo: hope everyone sees that our school system continues to move forward
most impressed by positive test scores
schools look fantastic: many others in

and then I asked a whole lot of questions,which I will write up later. The mayor mimed wiping his brow when I finished.
asking that the report be shared more broadly; thank admin for prompt responses to queries as school opened
Could we have the ad that ran on college enrollment? Could it be shared with Council?
Do we have an MOU on One City, One Library yet? No, but making progress (largely due to turnover in WPL leadership)
Do we have a data wall policy? Not yet, but coming soon.
Any policy or guidance on teacher use of websites and such with sharing information about students? Also will be included in that same policy
math curriculum is citywide? Rolling out now, so not all schools as aware as others
science and social studies "half the year for a full year of curriculum"
scope and sequence being worked through; communicating with principals

Biancheria: "acting assistant principals" and non-acting? what's the difference?
Luster: means that they haven't been hired through the process; will be posted in January and then hired
enrollment: WEMS? They increased by sixth grade last year
Biancheria: innovation labs...woven into sixth, seventh, eighth
ELL program: does that advance them further? or is that stand alone?
increasing number of students who are taking AP courses
enrollment of college courses: yes, get them twice a year
at 75% on free and reduced lunch; do we see it increasing? Always fluid
Asks for MCAS information to be sent by paper

O'Connell: 85 teachers to Eagle Hill
secondary class size? Yes, coming
MCAS information coming broken down by school and demographic?
trends, by year, by grade level and by content, and Levels of schools
Is this the first time that we've done an online requisition? Paper until now?
Had been moving there, now there

Opening of school report

Can be found here
My notes here are going to be light, as much of the info can be found in the report itself: posting as we go

As of right now, WPS enrollment is 25,397, which is 483 students up from last year
(That isn't our official enrollment, as we won't do that until October)

High school enrollment increase of 3.6% (overall)
Middle school enrollment increase of 0.7% (overall)
elementary is going in both directions: largest increases at Burncoat Prep, Vernon Hill, Chandler El, Rice Square, Chandler Magnet (and all are double digit percentages)
Largest percentage drop in elementary at Goddard, Clark St, Tatnuck Magnet, Wawecus, Columbus Park (none of which are a trend)

Classroom teacher to student ratio is 1: 22.2
adult to student ratio is 1: 20.9
(in both cases in elementary, and there is variation across classrooms)
302 of elementary classes have fewer than 23 students
208 of 23-26 students
59 classes of 27-30 students
2 classes of 30 or more and both are due to space
(and those numbers don't balance yet, as shifts are happening)
October 1 report will be sent to school committee

while there are positions eliminated, there were also new hires (due to retirements and resignations) 203 new hires
there also were 2641 payroll changes
WPS has 3840 employees, making us the city's third largest employer (after UMass Memorial and UMass Med) (and that doesn't include coaches or after school programs)

piloting the electronic report card in 8 schools
last year, evaluated the K-12 arts magnet program
rolling out literacy plan
Family and Community Academy happening
5 new courses happening this year
Diesel Automotive added at South High
PSAT test now available to all 10th and 11th grade
expansion of ABA service delivery to children with autism
district-wide mathmatics pilot is underway
professional development institute for grades 4,5,6 and 10 teachers this year
more work with K-3 and grade 9 (they had the institute last year)
Universal Design for Learning for all coaches and liaisons ('how do we think about instruction in a meaningful way')

Now serving 12,000 breakfasts served daily and 15,900 lunches
22 elementary breakfasts in the classroom (over 400 classrooms)
75% free and reduced lunch eligible students
14 schools added for the state fruit and vegetable grant
Over the summer, over 13,000 students were served over the summer; 50,000 meals over July & August. Another truck coming, so that will be even bigger next summer.

96 large school buses; 135 smaller buses
12,320 students transported each day
10,000 miles a day; 1,800,000 miles a year

last year we were awarded $38,6 million grants (70 grants of which 24 were competitive)
online requisitioning over vendor portals for school and office supplies

Several MSBA projects either completed or ongoing
boiler WILL BE IN for October 1 (hooray!)
window projects ongoing at Columbus Park, Worcester Arts Magnet, and Tatnuck Magnet; completed at Chandler Magnet
and go check out those nice new windows and doors at Chandler Mag!
and all the good stuff on this list here

7500 new computers and monitors out there (and we recycled over 70 tons of electronics as a result)
district internet speed has doubled (hooray!)
completed the transition to the web-based student information managment system


Athletic academic requirements (supplemental agenda)

Boone: conversations and debates about the calculation of the 2.0 GPA for the district
not a movement away from what has been a standard
had to align calculation with the grading structure
last year there was a one year waiver for a transition to occur
entering this year "faced with a few--very few--students have met all the requirements of participation" of 70 in at least one class
proposal to it allow a one time waiver during their high schools years if they do not meet the C average on all year long courses in the previous academic year. They must have a final course grade between a 65-69
does not apply to students with a 65 cutoff
"will allow students to play this year, and allow them to recover if they have a difficult course"
"students first, then athletes"
be sure that no student misses out on their eligibility
not asking to step away from the 2.0 adopted last year
"once you use it, you have used it"
"only for grades 10, 11, and 12" not 9

O'Connell: appreciate rationale
does it apply for an entire year, if someone wants to play three seasons of sports
Rodrigues: if I'm a tenth grader, and I'm not eligible due to grades, if I use it in fall, then I can't use it again"
Does it apply for the full year?
for winter and spring you have to pass a 65 or better for four year long courses
so this only applies for fall semester; winter and spring are based on the current year courses

Novick: did fall sports athletes know of the GPA calculation? We're not sure that all did
If admin wanted to recommend a full year on last year's waiver, assuming that not all fall athletes did know, I'd vote for that
Not comfortable with the floating "get out of jail free" care to be applied anytime

Biancheria: have heard from parents, how are we getting this across?
Boone: directly communicated to all current athletes, know all coaches were aware, know all principals were aware
should school committee approve, will send to all high school students
will meet with athlete director, principals, coaches: "a strong coach doesn't just maintain" contact during the season
students have to be both students and athletes

Monfredo: motion to review policy in May for recommendation from administration

O'Connell: report from principals

Policy passes and is reconsidered
(6-1, Novick opposed)

Supplemental agenda

coming in this afternoon (and "unable to be foreseen by the chair"):
 a supplemental agenda on athletics 

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Athletic GPA waiver to adjust? We did that.

It looks as though there's a petition up* around GPA and athletics, or so my in-box shows me. The request is for an adjustment period due the change in GPA requirements for athletics. 
The thing is, though, that we already had an adjustment period around athletic eligibility. Last December, we instituted at two season waiver on GPA requirements for sports; you can find the proposal from administration (which was for a one season waiver; the School Committee expanded it) here. That was done, not because the athletic requirement changed, but because the GPA calculation changed. That GPA calculation change was codified in the handbook changes passed last May. 
The requirement to play fall athletics is to pass four yearlong courses with a 65 or above, and have an overall average for all yearlong courses of a C or above (for the preceeding year).
I know that athletes knew about the proposed changes, because my in-box was busy last December when we were discussing the waiver initially. Thus fall athletes (for whom last year's grades determine eligibility) knew two marking quarters in advance of what eligibility requirements would be for this fall. 
And if you see this sort of thing around, please check in! 

*no link, as is ridiculously spammy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Worcester School Committee meets September 18

The Worcester School Committee has its regularly scheduled meeting this Thursday, September 18, at 7 pm at City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
First up, recognitions! Worcester Tech English teacher Caitlin McCarthy is being recognized for her Kathleen Roberts Creative Leadership Award from the MTA. Ms. McCarthy was recognized for her work on diethylstilbestrol (DES) (a synthetic estrogren) and its impact on those who have been exposed in utero. For more on that, see here
We had a great event this summer, seeing some nice work at Worcester East Middle School's library, due to their librarian Sarah Kopka and the grant she received from Heart of America. That, with volunteers from AbbVie, led to a lovely library!
Jennifer Cordero, a student at Doherty, was selected for the Hispanic Youth Research and Leadership program at the University of New Mexico.
And the Worcester Bravehearts baseball team, along with others, instructed some of our youth in solar and STEM topics this summer.

The report of the Superintendent is (my personal favorite) the opening of school report! The presentation is not yet posted. Should you want to know how the beginning of school went, or all those numbers that go into running a system of 25,000 students, this is the report for you!

"Worcester: the City That Reads and Smiles!" kicks off on October 3. We're going to be hearing from Jen Carey on that during the meeting. 
A recommendation from Mr. O'Connell coming in that we acknowledge the late Rep. Binienda.
Mr. O'Connell wants to try out standing desks. 

We have this great list of facilities work that was done over the summer. 

We are being asked to approve three grants: one for $16,500 from the Mass Biotechnology Education Foundation for science equipment for Worcester East Middle School; $15,000 from the Verizon Foundation for STEM education for grade 5; and $31,200 for "professional development innovation" from the state (I don't know what that last one means, either, but I'll ask.)

Mr. Monfredo is asking about additional bullying prevention programs for October, and the bowling club at Tech. 
I'm asking that we give our student advisory council space on the agenda. 

And it's INTERNATIONAL WALK TO SCHOOL DAY on October 8; please plan to celebrate!

Miss Ramirez proposes honoring Candles to Crayons.
Ms. Biancheria is asking for a review of procedures for kindergartners getting on and off buses.

We're being asked to approve school year calendars through 2018! 
We're being asked to approve the appointment of a nurse.

And we have two items in executive session (which starts at 6, which is going to be interesting, as the City Council now has a meeting at 5:30): collective bargaining with nurses, and an update on litigation. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Nelson Place Public Hearing (Feasibility)

Meeting tonight for a public hearing on schematic design. The presentation is up online here.
Posting as we go! You can click to make images bigger.

Julie Lynch: Feasibility Study for Nelson Place; in the third stage for that; Preferred Schematic Report completed.
now going through introductions
Overview of concerns from public, then schedule (if project approved), then progress made over summer, then Q&A

Reminder that School Building Committee update October 27; Meeting and vote December 8

Part of presentation to MSBA will be budget as well as project, "That's the number we have to stay with" once the project is approved

two level plan for 600 students, 100 staff + 20 staff visitors
"since we have last met, we have met in a lot of detail with the school and the school administrators...think we really have a plan that meets the program and a lot of what we have talked about in the past"
single entrance with central lobby with cafeteria and gym and librarynext to it; both accessible after hours, with rest of building able to be locked off
lower floor 5th and 6th grade looking over western side
upper floor 1st and 2nd grade with upper level
"school did feel it meets their program...feel that's important to know"
review site plan, next to neighborhood, answer questions you had the last time
went to ConCom a month and a half; wetland area was deliniated and bounded as flagged
test pits and test borings in August
geologic similar to maps from the 50's; ledge depths are much deeper than we had thought THUS LESS BLASTING

bus drop-off reoriented closer to street
main access now aligned with Nelson Drive (?); two exits
secondary access in back; minimizing width with wider cleared space
minizing land taking at Hapgood; land taking and land giving based on "sheer geometry of site" at upper entrance

Looking at cladding that allows exterior of building to go up very quickly, take down gymnasium; move kids into new building; demolish old building and landscaping
parking during construction: "city is entertaining 'construction manager at risk'...parking off site...once parking lot down, front area for play, parking behind the building, teachers and staff also parking off-site"
scheduling things to minimize noise; "obviously, you're all in the backyard, and that is noted"
Q: make-up air unit? (fresh air exchange) location of boiler. Try to minimize heat leaving the building
energy recovery units? yes, with all the major units. Some of work-up showing numbers similar to buildings considered net zero
Q: access road? Paving material? Haven't decided yet. Probably going ot be asphalt, haven't decided yet. Lighting? Plowing? Concerns about safety, possibly lighting; plowing will have to happen. Met with security consultant. Request for zero to no lighting on the access road, 100% permeable surface. "very difficult to operate in this climate" suggestion for grasscrete (which is, to editorialize for a moment, totally possible). Looking like there will be bollards to block off the road most of the time (that can be run over by a fire truck)
Q: will this building be a parking lot? Yes, part of it. People didn't want to see a sea of parking.
Suggestion that access road has low lighting (like a movie theater); would light pathway and be less intrusive
Q: could parking be moved around to front? Responding to neighborhood concerns in not having a sea of cars. Response that neighbors would rather see that than more trees come down.
This enables larger play space, "not just for schools but for the community"
Ledge? Can't speak to exactly where, will be some blasting on the site, geotechnic engineer very experienced. Pre-blast survey includes current building, including screwjacks and etc
Q: when blasting is done, students here? Try to do off-hours...."wouldn't speculate one way or another...will depend on where blasting is being done"
Q: structural safety of building during blasting? Still being monitored, assured that building in current condition is safer than it was built originally; other monitors brought in as well
Q: Radon? Worcester has high radon...underslab ventilation in place with vents on the roof. City View, Worcester Tech, North...have that...already in budget
Q: land on Hapgood? City asked to mitigate taking. Also space between driveway and backyards? moved up, "I'm going to guess, 40 feet" also "we don't have to take all that property and keep it...trying to mitigate as much as we can"
a bit of a back-and-forth here about specifics on visiblity, plantings...
Request that the back parking lot be reconsidered "That's trees and animals that are never going to come back" Looked again at parking regulations; less than half of what would normally be provided for a school building; more in keeping with green building "don't want to pave any more than we have to, either"
Q: an incentive to meet schedule? "Time is money" Also Owners Project Manager keeping track and on schedule
Q: cut and fill analysis? Yes, really rough "50,000 yards cut and fill...roughly equal" Q: how many truck trips? Hoping to keep much of material on site. Hope to reuse a lot of it
Q: are you required to have that access road? My understanding is not. Request that you leave that out. Is result of security consultant "in wake of Sandy Hook" for another access besides front access and beyond Assumption access (oh, for Pete's sake)
grade incline on back access road? Steep, is short version
Argument that the back road is unnecessary, also opens up to more use of woods, possibly by Assumption
Q: drainage? water flowing through wetlands from one to another. "No the two wetlands are absolutely not connected in any way or form...isolated land subject to flooding" No increase in post-flows than previous conditions. Underground detention system installed. Will look to file with ConCom next spring with detailed numbers. 
Concern about current flooding already; blacktop increase leading to increase in waterflow (this at upper end of property running down onto and across Nelson Place Road now; bet it was a stream before we had houses here)
back and forth here about who sees the parking and who doesn't
Response that some schools bigger schools have less parking (to which the response is, 'and it's a big problem')
walking path along top of wall along Nelson Place (with fence along top if needed)
Q: could Hapgood get sidewalks? Not part of scope of work, but yes, good idea. DPW points out abutters would pay for sidewalk. 
Q: Construction access? Probably along current gym. 
Q: Roof? Partly flat (with solar panels) and sloped in parts for "charm" "significant portion of flat roof"
Long warranties on roofs installed on city buildings
And that's it

What are vocational schools for?

An article today on the front page of the Boston Globe points to the number of jobs for which it would seem vocational school graduates should be qualified that are going empty. There's some back and forth about the number of seats in the state at vocational schools* but you have to read all the way to the end to get to what's really up:
Buck Upson, retired chief executive of Pioneer Tool Supply, a Western Massachusetts distributor of manufacturing equipment, said the competition for vocational school spots allows administrators to select top students, many of whom go to college, while those with imperfect academic or discipline records — arguably, those who might benefit the most from vocational education — are left behind. 
“The kids that need the break, that don’t have the option to go to college, are being bypassed,” he said.
“You’re filling the chairs with the wrong kids.”

The thing that I find most interesting about this is it's COMING FROM INDUSTRY. Get any group of school committee members, or district administrators, or state reps, together, and the above is hardly news.
The kids whose parents might own a small business--say they're plumbers or carpenters--are often finding that their kids can't get into the local vo-tech school (a school where in many cases their parents went) because kids with high test scores, perfect attendance, straight A's, and perfect discipline records are taking all the slots.
But are those kids going to be plumbers? In most cases, no.
The merest suggestion of this, though, is enough to bring in vo-tech administrators en masse. I don't think it's going to be heard until industry points out that they aren't getting the workers they need out of the vo-tech schools. And at some point, I assume the Legislature is going to realize that vo-tech schools are about twice as expensive as non-vocational schools, and maybe consider about what they think they're doing with that money and check to see if it's what they're actually getting.
Sending kids to college is great.
So is having enough plumbers.

As a side note, which probably deserves it's own post, check out those charts next to the article are the racial distribution at vo-tech schools. 
Should you be wondering about Worcester: the district is 38.7% Hispanic/Latino; 35.8% white; 14% black; 7.7% Asian. Worcester Tech is 34.6% Hispanic/Latino; 44.5% white; 12.4% black; 5.7% Asian. All numbers from the FY15 budget book. 

*note to the Globe: I'm not sure what a "free-standing vocational school" means, but Worcester Tech was opened in 2006, which is a bit more recently than thirty years.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

When data isn't a bad thing

As part of an interview earlier today, I was asked if I thought it was time that we got rid of "all this data" and the focus we have on it. My answer was something like part of this.
"Data" is just a fancy name for information, and information is a good thing for parents deciding on schools for their kids, for students to know what's going on with their schools, for teachers deciding on jobs...for all of us. The problem with "data"at the school level is that we've made the word mean too little, not too much.
Colorado, as linked above, is now providing statewide data on which schools have full-time nurses, school-based health centers, and thirty minutes of recess. THIS IS A GOOD IDEA*.
Here, off the top of my head, are other things I'd love for us all to know about our kids' schools**:
  • class sizes
  • access to library (with information on how often they go)
  • amount of time spent studying social studies and science (for elementary)
  • minutes of gym class, music class, art class
  • if there is an art room, a music room, a gymnasium
  • if there is a playground
  • broadband speed access in the building
  • ratio of students to: assistant principals, guidance counselors, adjustment counselors, nurses
*What I don't like is the idea of tracking individual health stats (BMI, anyone?) for students. 
**some, though not all of this, is available for Worcester Public Schools in the annual budget. Think about your own list, and let's work on this.

Why do teachers quit?

New research on why successful teachers leave the classroom:
“As previous research has shown, it is not, contrary to popular opinion, students who drive teachers out of the classroom,” Dunn says.
But the negative factors—including lack of quality instruction time and low salaries—outweigh the positive aspects of teaching and lead teachers to quit... In addition, lack of support appear to play an important role. Teachers need more than professional development—they also need personal support, even if that’s a colleague or an organized group to talk to about the pressures they face, Dunn says.

Tufts and Citizens for Public Schools event on federal ed policy (updated with link to registration)

Coming up on Monday, October 6, an event sponsored by Citizens for Public Schools and the Tufts College for Citizenship and Public Service:

With Test Resistance Rising Nationwide, What's Next for Federal Education Policy?

6:30 pm,  the Granoff Music Center, 20 Talbot Ave., Medford, MA

Speaking will be Lisa Guisbond from CPS, Congressman Michael Capuano, and Senator Pat Jehlen

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Nelson Place School Feasibility Study Public Hearing

There will be a public hearing on the Nelson Place Feasibility Study next Monday, September 15 at 7 pm at the school.
The presentation will be posted in advance of the meeting (and I'll link when it does).

And a few dates in advance: the Schematic Design Review for the Building Committee is scheduled for October 27 at 7. The review and vote of the Schematic Design is scheduled for December 8, also at 7. All meetings are at the school, and are public meetings.

Did you vote yet?

Did you vote yet?
Polls are open in Massachusetts today from 7 am until 8 pm. 
If you have children in your life, please bring them with you. Yes, I know it can make it harder. We get new voters by bringing up kids with the idea that this voting thing is something that we do, though. Take them with you, explain what you're doing, answer their questions. 
This is among the best civics education we can give them.
Go vote! 

Monday, September 8, 2014

Why you should go vote tomorrow (education edition)

Hey, Massachusetts! We have an election tomorrow!
Tomorrow is the Massachusetts state primary. If you are a REPUBLICAN, you can go vote for Republican candidate for governor (and candidates standing for nomination uncontested). If you are a DEMOCRAT, you can go vote for a Democratic candidate for Governor, for Lieutenant Governor, for Attorney General, for Treasurer, and (depending on your district) possibly a Senator and a Representative. If you are UNENROLLED, you can pick which primary to vote in (and it doesn't change your political registration).
For those in Worcester, you can find the list of who is running here. And you can find where you vote here.
I am a huge fan of voting and urge you to do it whenever you are given a chance; in my own case, that's because women have only been voting in the U.S. for the lifetime of my grandfather (he turned 95 in March, and he would tell you to vote, too!). BUT here are why many of the above offices matter specifically in terms of education:

For Governor: the Governor appoints the members of the Board of Ed. They, in term, set policy for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (deciding things like what tests we give and what standards we follow), plus they appoint the Commissioner of Education, who manages education in the state. I think for many years, many of us just sort of ignored the Board, as there wasn't much that happened there that had much of an impact. If nothing else, Race to the Top changed that. These decisions matter, big time, to what's happening in classrooms across the state.

Likewise on Lieutenant Governor.

For Attorney General: among the responsibilities of the AG is enforsement of the Open Meeting Law. If you want decisions made in public--and you want public officials held responsible when they aren't--pay attention to this position.

For Treasurer: in addition to overseeing the finances of the Commonwealth, the Treasurer serves as chair of the Board of the Massachusetts School Building Authority. Those new windows, boilers, roofs? A new Nelson Place? New high schools? That all comes from MSBA. We've been well-served lately, Worcester: who is in this position has something to do with what happens next.
And here's the only endorsement, or rather lack thereof, that I'm going to make: please note that Barry Feingold, running for this position, was the originator of the Senate version of the charter cap lift bill. He attempted to amend the bill that came from the House to not have the state pay for current charter schools before creating new ones. This is not a fiscally responsible position. Choose otherwise.

For Senator and Representative: That charter cap bill above? It was stopped in the Senate, and instrumental in that were Worcester's two senators, Chandler and Moore. The only 'no' vote in the House from Worcester was from Represenative Keefe. Our chapter 70 aid, circuit breaker reimbursement for special education, kindergarten grants, and, frankly, funding for just about every other corner of education in Worcester (and, to varying degrees, across the state)? It comes through the Legislature. Laws on everything from the school safety plans we have in place to the number of charter schools we have to how we decide who graduates? Again, that all comes through the Legislature. We need good people in these seats who are well-informed on education policy (or are willing to learn!).

Polls open at 7 am tomorrow and they stay open until 8 pm (or until the last person in line at 8 votes). GO VOTE!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Speaking of over testing...

This just came through in Commissioner Chester's weekly update:

In particular, I’m committed to understanding the concerns about the amount of testing that is occurring in Massachusetts schools. I plan to initiate a study of federally-, state- and locally-required assessments and their uses in our schools. As I meet with professional organizations and visit schools in the year ahead, I look forward to hearing from you on this topic and others.

Well, then...

Let's clear a couple of things up about the PARCC/MCAS bit

I keep seeing some misconceptions circulating around these PARCC/MCAS votes (like the one we took last night in Worcester) that it would be good to clear up.
I've seen the idea circulating that a vote to use MCAS this year is a vote to stay with the same paper-and-pencil test that we've been doing for over a decade. That isn't the case. When I said last night that there's a strong likelihood of the PARCC being adopted, I'm going by what I've seen in Board of Ed meetings, but, even if that doesn't happen, we're not going to be staying with the same paper-and-pencil test. Whatever the test is in 2016 and forward (or whenever they manage to roll it out) isn't going to be the same test.
I've also seen this notion that somehow we're avoiding the Common Core by staying with the MCAS. Not the case. The MCAS itself is now aligned with the Common Core; it has to be, as the Massachusetts Board of Ed adopted the Common Core in 2011, what we are teaching in classrooms now is Common Core-aligned, and thus the state test was changed to fit that. Whichever test we give kids is already Common Core-aligned. So if your concern is with the Common Core, neither test avoids it.
I'll add again what I said last night: this is the wrong question. The MCAS is not a good test, and, after twenty years of testifying and otherwise fighting against it, I'm certainly not going to vote to stay with it. The PARCC isn't an improvement in how it assesses kids. This is a missed opportunity to look at how we check on how kids are learning. We already have an item in Accountability to look at which standardized assessments we give kids and how much time that takes; I'm going to continue to push us in Worcester to stop our dependance on them and move towards more authentic assessments.
And if your concern is with Common Core, PARCC, standardized assessments as a graduation requirement and such, I'd urge you to start joining me at Board of Ed meetings if you're able.

Oh, and the Board of Ed is appointed by the Governor. The Democrats have a primary next week, and the election is in November. I'd recommend taking a close look at the candidates' positions on these issues, because it does fall under their purview.

Bus incident on Wednesday

If you're on Facebook, you may have seen a video from Wednesday circulating of some kids not being allowed off of a bus. I'm thus publishing here the information we received from the superintendent that evening, which also included notice that one of our preschools had been brought inside as the WPD was investigating a shooting:
We were notified by the Durham supervisor today that one of their school bus drivers was assaulted while dropping off students from Quinsigamond School. Based on what we know at this point:
The driver of the bus was dropping off students this afternoon at the intersection of Harlem Street and Perry Avenue. The driver was attempting to ensure that kindergarten students were matched with the proper parent before releasing them from the school bus. Parents became impatient and insisted that the driver release all the students immediately. When the driver refused, one or more parents started to enter the school bus. The driver informed them that adults are not allowed on the school bus with students on board. They refused to leave and the driver was instructed by the Durham supervisor to close the entrance door . Parents broke the door and entered the school bus. One or more parents went to their child on the school bus and removed them. The school bus driver was also physically assaulted, struck at least two times in the face.
 The driver called by radio to the dispatch office for assistance. The Durham dispatch office called the Worcester Police Department and several officers responded to the scene. An ambulance was also dispatched. Durham sent a safety supervisor and dispatcher to the scene. Durham was instructed to notify Rob Pezzella and Quinsigamond School of the incident.
 The Quinsigamond School Assistant Principal had responded to the scene. We understand that the police investigation is on-going and Durham will be turning over the video recording to the WPD to assist them in their investigation.
We certainly hope that the driver’s injuries are not serious. In both of these incidents, teachers, staff and bus driver took action to protect our students. We appreciate and salute their efforts. We will notify you of any updates regarding the bus situation when additional information is available. That bus stop will be monitored for the next couple of days.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Secondary class size report

O'Connell notes high numbers in middle school classes:
should we be doing something about it?
Allen: what you're seeing...trying to maximize number of students have
middle schools have a six period day; four classes of students (125 students over that); high schools have a seven period day
in better budgetary times, could increase number of teachers to spread out number of students per class to bring down class size
O'Connell: is there a tax on student energy though he's talking about having 140 students, which isn't indicated here
Allen: not carrying that many students unless they have chosen to
O'Connell: is that the best answer?
Allen: it is done because there is a need for that to happen at that school; up to now, teachers have been very willing to take that extra period

Questions from the members

posting as we go
Monfredo: why are some schools using paper for PARCC?
Boone: lack strong technology infrastructure, scheduling
Perda: assessment of all schools readiness for PARCC; comprehensive review of all machines available and of network speed
factored into decision; some preferred to do paper, even if they had the technology to do computer

O'Connell: urge colleagues not to adopt the recommendation
not in the best interest of children, parents, teachers, schools; staying course on MCAS
"children thrive on consistency"
"have the drill down quite effectively...go into test really well-equipped"
instructing in new technology will take away from regular instruction
MCAS gives some sense of somewhat confusing data for parents to figure out how kids are doing
transfer of information "a challenge"
teachers to spend time on instruction with new test; more time lost from instruction
real carrot for using PARCC as hold steady on accountability "safe harbor"
"ultimate success depends on how students are doing"
suggest that our best course at this to hold the course
Boone: we should value the voice of our principals...the idea of the carrot was not the decision on why they decided to use PARCC
standards in the curriculum are the same regardless of the assessment; teaching curriculum to meet the standards, we're not teaching the test

Foley: not a great supporter of the test
full portfolio of assessment is the way to go
"stay with MCAS allows to stay on academics; I'd argue that there's a lot of time in the classroom that'd be spent on academics if we" got rid of these tests
same approach on MCAS
it isn't going to stay the same, regardless; this gives us a chance to test it out
Petty just came in

Novick comments: (this is sorta what I said, but I forgot the keyboarding note. Dang.)

Biancheria: glad to see conversation and decisions made with principals
recommendation for Jacob Hiatt to take PARCC; but a high number of students opted out there
Goddard has 10.4% opt out; but taking PARCC
"not just one test, not just one assessment"
test makes determination of how students are doing
consistency lacking in what is going on with schools (due to state not making decision yet)
"down the road, there might be something else"
"I am at the level of waiting for something else"
which principal (new or last year) made a decision?
Boone: on point of consistency, number of students that were scheduled to tested; this was a sampling
Biancheria: 90% of refusal of students to be tested
Boone: Worcester Tech had students taking industry certification then; some students were taking AP
Perda: student results were not being provided, that's one reason people opted out; also, students taking the field test also had to take the MCAS last year
"I feel that we have two bad choices in front of us"

Petty: know there are some concerns, but we're going to move ahead in the future
passes 5-2
motion to suspend rules- 5-2
motion to reconsider: fails 2-5

State Assessment Recommendation: report of the Superintendent

Boone: also providing opt out and rates of participation of the PARCC field test  (as requested)
total opt-out of both tests: 7.8%
Timeline: two year test drive of PARCC from BoE in November 2013
field test in Sprig 2014
decide on what we're doing by October 1
Spring 2015 PARCC and MCAS testing
Fall 2015 results on both tests coming back
ALSO: Board expected to vote on adopting PARCC or "new generation of MCAS"
2016 either PARCC or "next generation MCAS" will go forward
2100 students in WPS were field testing PARCC
Parental and student opt out: spring assessment 4.3% opt out
End of year assessment: 10.9% opt out
"one of the reasons that we heard from May field test was running into AP tests and others, so parents opted them out of that field test"
district decisions on if PARCC or MCAS next year
students through class of 2018 must pass grade 10 MCAS from graduation
"will phase in the new graduation requirement"
most districts needed to select PARCC or MCAS; it was running nearly 50% this summer
Boston, Worcester, Springfield could choose a hybrid model
met with principals last spring for what their preferences were; also, computer based or paper version; also subject tests
students and schools WILL RECEIVE RESULTS this time
Accountability rating from 2014 will remain rating for 2015; can improve, cannot fall back
schools technologcial readiness; what are student technology skills; can schools experience PARCC?
questions around training of staff for PARCC/MCAS
16 (41%) are asking to do MCAS
23 (59%) are asking to do PARCC: 18 on paper; 5 on computers
3 of the 7 schools serving 9-12 would like to try some grade 9 or 11 students using the high school tests; one serving 8th grade students would like to try Algebra I test
request is to approve school by school recommendation

Central Mass Special Ed Collaborative report

Note that Vice Chair Monfredo is chairing
We've got the quarterly report as well as a renewal of contract with the Collaborative.
Novick: note that the collaborative is seeing increased numbers of children with autism and trauma history (as are WPS generally)
O'Connell: FY14 operativing budget projecting a use of surplus of slightly over $1 million. Allen notes that it is being used to freeze our tuition; "it's a benefit to the sending districts"
Biancheria: PBIS, positive effect on their behavior, children talking about it, would like to receive more information about how that is working for them.

On contract: Boone: have been collaborative agreements in the past, first agreement established 1975
one of the agreements of the new collaborative law
state department provides "what they call technical assistance, what we call 'okay, we have to do this'"
Webster looking at this next week
contract here for School Committee approval
O'Connell notes that most collaboratives have many members, unlike ours, which has just Worcester and Webster. Most of the action comes from Worcester. Should we have a weighted board, "this is bascially a Worcester organization with a touch of Webster"
Boone: understanding that the law provides for a one-for-one representation
"we've never found an issue where either Worcester or Webster felt under or overrepresented"
apply overall fiscal and leadership hats over the program
O'Connell: tuition rate is a factor; "annual per pupil rate less 15%" for districts with fewer than ten students; are we giving Webster a discount?
Boone: Webster has more than ten students; tuition rates are driven by services needed by students
non-member districts "buy seats" for students that are in need of services
O'Connell: why do we have the 15% discount then?
Boone: it's in the law; different calculation for districts that fall below ten students; much of the concern about fiscal concerns and organizational concerns
O'Connell: support adoption, but contact state around weighted composition; would like notice of the board meetings
Boone: meet open meeting law requirements, meetings posted, agenda posted

Mary Baker, Executive Director of collaborative
getting contract through state, "arduous at best"
"spirit of chapter 43 is that every member would have an equal say"

Novick: could we see the fee structure?
Ramirez: similarly, why is the fee structure not laid out in the contract?
Boone: fees are set as part of their budget
Treasurer has to certify that we have set a fee structure and that it has been provided in the budget

contract approved

A few comments on PARCC and MCAS

I don't do a great job of blogging my own comments in School Committee, so here's a write-up of my notes on tonight's vote. Typed up pre-meeting.
We aren't having the right conversation about assessment. The conversation we should be having is "how do we most accurately and authentically assess our students."
Instead, we're having a conversation about which of two poor assessment systems we have each school go with. I've spent twenty years speaking out on the failures of the MCAS to assesss our students accurately; I'm under no illusion that it's any sort of superior assessment system. While it's been lovely to hear this message from DESE this past year, they are doing so simply in defense of the PARCC.
I'd hoped that the PARCC would be an improvement. I spent a good bit of time running through their sample questions online, though, and discovered that not only did it have the technology glitches that I expected, it had some of the same lousy questions that I've seen on the MCAS: "find the main idea" in which the main idea was not a choice; "defend your answer with quotations from this list" in which none of the quotations were a reasonable defense.
Thus my first question, through the Chair to administration, is is the state or the PARCC consortium taking any sort of feedback on the items themselves?

We should be using this opportunity, rather than to figure out this "new" system, to ramp up our own authentic assessments. We have some great ones happening already: the Gateway projects that University Park does; the similar projects adopted Goddard Scholars; science fairs and book projects. Let's work with our schools to stress those assessments.
Likewise, schools that are going with PARCC are going to have two rounds of that test. Has, through the chair to administration, this been addressed with the schools in terms of other standardized assessments they're doing? Has the spring MAP been dropped? I'd like a report on the overlap and how it's being handled.

I recently read an article from the Texas Observer in which Professor Walter Stroup calculated that as much as 72% of what was assessed by the Texas STARR test was how well the kids could take the test: you could swap out questions and even subjects, and you'd get nearly identical results. I haven't seen anyone do anything quite like that with our tests, but a similar result wouldn't surprise me. One thing that is clearly going to be tested by this test is the facility with which our children can respond on computers. I know that there is a popular idea that this generation is that of digital natives. This is not as true as is believed. It also is a world away from Minecraft to typing a long composition on multiple sources of reading material. I would like us (motion) to send a letter to DESE, expressing our concern about the degree to which the use of technology is unwittingly being assessed. We really need to stop using tests that have these "hidden" assessments in them; they are not fair.
I'd also like to make a motion to lay some clear plans on getting our kids keyboarding as part of their schedules. If we're moving to online assessment (whatever it's called), we need to be sure our kids have every advantage we can give them on it.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Instrument rental night!

The Worcester Public Schools are having an instrument rental night tomorrow (Thursday) from 6 to 7:30 in the Burncoat Middle School cafeteria. Several local rental places will have instruments available to try out, will be able to answer your questions and set up rentals and sales.
Note that all WPS students in grades 3-6 are eligible for free instrument lessons, either during the day at their school or at a few locations after school (where and when is still being arranged).

Agenda this week includes next year's testing plan

The Worcester School Committee meets tomorrow night, back at our regular 7 pm time at City Hall. You can find the agenda here.
As you may have seen in today's paper, the biggest item on the agenda this week is the PARCC/MCAS decision, which is the report of the Superintendent. The recommended list is this:

 PARCC: Chandler Magnet, City View, Clark Street Community, Columbus Park, Elm Park Community, McGrath, Gates Lane, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Jacob Hiatt, Lake View, Lincoln Street, May Street, Quinsigamond, Roosevelt, Thorndyke Road, Wawecus Road, Woodland Academy, Worcester Arts Magnet, University Park Campus School, Claremont Academy, Burncoat Middle, Forest Grove Middle and Worcester East Middle. 

MCAS: Belmont Street Community, Burncoat Street, Canterbury, Chandler Elementary, Flagg Street, Grafton Street, Heard Street, Midland Street, Nelson Place, Norrback Avenue, Rice Square, Tatnuck, Union Hill, Vernon Hill, West Tatnuck and Sullivan Middle. 

Note that in addition to the grades 3-8 tests above, all tenth graders will take the MCAS, and several schools are asking to take optional tests: Burncoat Middle would like to have their eighth graders try the PARCC Algebra I test; Burncoat High would like to have some ninth graders take the ELA test; Burncoat High would like have some eleventh graders try the Algebra I and Geometry tests; UPCS would like to have some eleventh graders try the Algebra II test; and Worcester Tech would like to have some eleventh graders try the ELA and Algebra II tests

In addition to that list, note that the report ALSO includes the information about which schools had students opt-out of the pilot test last year. Some very interesting stats there!

We are also having a report from yesterday's Teaching and Learning subcommittee; getting our usual update on new hires (Welcome!); possibly talking about class size at the secondary level (note that those are last year's numbers); approving a few prior year payments.
We're also being asked to approve a new early childhood director, Laurie Kuczka, and some new nurses.
We have the quarterly report of the Central Mass Collaborative and we're being asked to approve a new contract with them.
And speaking of contracts, we're getting updates (?) on contract negotiations in executive session.

Site council training!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

TLSS liveblog: dropout prevention, math curriculum, dual language, prescription drug abuse

posting as we go

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

Sorry for the late notes on this.
Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports standing committee meets today at 5: 30 at the Durkin Administration Building, 4th floor. You can find the agenda here.
The big item on the agenda is an update on the curriculum review process, specifically looking at elementary level math curriculum. We have a PowerPoint on that, but it looks as though much of this is going to be discussion.
We're also getting a response to Mr. Monfredo's request about an early warning system for dropouts.
We have information regarding the abuse of prescription drugs by athletes (per the request of Mayor Petty).
We're also tackling all of the items dealing with dual language programs.
And if you can't make it, remember these are always broadcast live on Channel 11

Attendance phone call issue

Families should have received this as a Connect-Ed, but FYI: 
Upon activation of the Connect Ed Attendance Calling this morning, we discovered that parents may have received incorrect information regarding their child’s attendance.
Shortly after, we sent a district-wide Connect-Ed message to all parents acknowledging the potential error and asking parents to disregard any incorrect message received. We are checking our internal system and also working with BlackBoard to rectify the issue.

Monday, September 1, 2014

WPS weathers the storm: UPDATED

We've just received the following from Superintendent Boone:

Last night's storm provided great excitement, heavy wind & rain, lots of lightening, and of course, spawned a tornado. Members of our Finance and Operations Team have spent the day assessing the storm's impact on our schools.  Once again, WPS was spared the brunt of serious damage from the storm and tornado. 
Below is a summary of issues that have been addressed today: Millbury Street Head Start was the only building to lose power. This outage was created by a neighbor's tree snagging power lines as it came down during the tornado/storm. Power remains out there now, however, National Grid crews are on the scene and we expect power to be restored by5:00 pm today, so that building should be available for its programs on tomorrow.  
Burncoat Senior HS, Nelson Place, Worcester Arts Magnet School, and Goddard Elementary each experienced water intrusion as a result of the very heavy rain.  That cleanup has been underway and normal school operations are expected in those sites tomorrow.  
City crews are out working to clear streets and sidewalks in the Grafton Hill and Vernon Hill areas so that buses and children will be able to navigate safely to school tomorrow morning.  
I want to express my appreciation to Jeff Martin, Tom Barrett, Brian Allen and all members of the district's trades and custodial crews for the rapid and highly effective response to this weather event! As indicated during the school opening message, these team members worked very hard to have our school sites ready and now they continue to work to restore that readiness for Tuesday morning!  
So, schools will be open and operating tomorrow under normal conditions!  Should anything occur throughout the evening or overnight to impact that, I will notify you of changes.

UPDATE: Mr. Allen just let us know that Millbury Head Start has their power back on.