Friday, January 30, 2015

Monday education panel at Holy Cross

I'll be out of town, but of interest!

Holy Cross will hold a panel discussion titled “Urban Education in the Era of Accountability." Panelists include Melinda Boone, superintendent of Worcester Public Schools; David Roach, vice chairman of the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and a member of the faculty at Holy Cross; and Ericka Fisher, associate professor of education at Holy Cross and author of “Educating the Urban Race: The Evolution of an American High School” (Lexington Books, Dec. 2014). The panel, which is free and open to the public, will be moderated by Jack Schneider, assistant professor of education at Holy Cross. Fisher’s book will be for sale at the event.

Sparked by the release of Fisher’s new academic book, the panel discussion will center around the state of urban education in the era of accountability and focus on student-teacher relationships, shifting demographics, including diversity and mobility, and the consequence of testing.

“Educating the Urban Race” is based on 10 years of research at urban schools. The book utilizes historical and quantitative data, interviews and observations, to provide a comprehensive view of the many factors at play that merge to create an urban high school. While the central case study focuses on Burncoat Senior High School in Worcester, Mass., the book takes a serious look at policy issues and urban education at a national level, and includes a broad survey of American public education dating back to the 17th century.

The panel is sponsored by the Worcester Education Collaborative, the education department at Holy Cross and College Marketing and Communications at Holy Cross.   

Monday, February 02

6 pm
Rehm Library, Holy Cross, Worcester 

And a friendly reminder from the Commissioner

Just in case we were wondering:

Snow Days and School Year Requirements:

This week saw many districts close for two days or more because of the blizzard. All days lost to health, weather, or safety emergencies between the first day of the school year and March 31 must be made up by rescheduling full school days to ensure a 180-day school year. More information is available online.

Thursday, January 29, 2015


The Worcester Public Schools will open on a TWO HOUR DELAY on Friday. 
Please get your sidewalks cleared!

And today in totally meaningless math

Ah, I see that WalletHub is back at it again with another round of "we took this number and this number and did some math and pretended that means something!" No, seriously:
 WalletHub divided each city’s aggregated standardized test scores in reading and math for grades 4 and 8 by its total amount of education spending per capita.
Riiiight...that's real research there, folks. They're using a test score calculation with no relation to anything: they're comparing test scores across state lines, which means different tests, and they aren't norming the scores against...anything? Per capita education spending has a real relationship to the number of kids in your school v. your total population (this is why Boston would do "well": they don't have as many of their kids in public schools versus their total population). And the kids that are actually in your schools impacts both your spending and your test scores.
They do say that they adjust for special ed, low income, etc, but don't specify how, so I guess we just should trust them?

Unfortunately, it appears that GoLocal has decided that this is a swell news story and has decided to run with it (that's a Do Not Link url, for reasons that will become clear), and a colleague of mine has decided to repeat the same arguments regarding WPS spending that have been voted down for several years running because they have no merit.
Well. Election papers are available March 3.

Here's the thing: I've actually held off on posting anything about GoLocal's education coverage, because I'd just as soon not call attention to it, as it is so often just so very wrong. It was a sore temptation when this article about pilot schools came out which was wrong in every particular: that isn't the history of pilot schools in Massachusetts, that isn't the Worcester history on deisolation, deisolation has very little to do with our transportation spending, and pilot schools are innovation schools before we had innovation schools. But, these are arcane details, possibly, so I let it pass. That is, though, when I decided that I'd stop returning phone calls from GoLocal (a tough choice for me, because I return phone calls from everyone), as they're not only wrong, but they refuse to be corrected. Being unwilling to learn is where I draw the line.

So, should you need to clear your head with some meaningful math, here's some coverage of some actual research on school spending and student learning:
More spending on public schools can significantly improve the lives of disadvantaged children, asserts a working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research. The amount a state spends on each low-income student can make or break his or her chances of finishing school and earning good wages later on. In short, its authors wrote, "investments in school spending are worthwhile."
That's coming from the National Bureau on Economic Research. The paper is here.
And in general? Please consider the source of your information.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Wednesday update from Superintendent Boone

We've just received the following from the Superintendent:

​​Good evening!

Today was a full day dedicated to assessing and intervening to ready our schools for reopening. Brian Allen and Jeff Martin spent almost the entire day surveying the status of each school campus. Most of our schools are in really good shape with just some minor cleanup required. There are several of our larger campuses that need major plowing and several other campuses need entrances widened along with parking lot cleanup. The modular unit inspections will occur tomorrow with support from the city's Inspectional Services staff. We conduct these inspections following the accumulation of significant snowfall on those roofs.

At the invitation of City Manager Augustus, we participated in a conference call with various department heads discussing the city's recovery and cleanup efforts. We were able to inform the group of the work underway in WPS and to discuss thoughts around our decision making process regarding school status. City Manager Augustus and his team continue to provide collaborative and direct support to assist in our preparation to reopen schools.

In addition to the final work that is needed on our campuses, we have provided information to the city regarding the monumental snow mounds on corners which can pose safety hazards for walkers to school as drivers may not see students over those mounds and students may have to step into intersections to see if it is clear to cross the street.  The widening of side streets that is underway by the city will definitely support our buses that have to navigate streets to complete routes.​

The statement we've coined this week is that historic snowfall results in herculean efforts to clean up! Our WPS staff are giving that herculean effort and the collaboration with the city makes the heavy lifting a little less stressful! Moving 34.5 inches of snow is no minor task especially when you multiply that by 44+ campuses!!!

Schools are closed tomorrow and we're hopeful that the extra day for both the schools and the city to improve travel and access will allow us to open schools on Friday. I will make that determination tomorrow afternoon. The forecast for additional snow tomorrow night through Monday has us watching forecasts very closely!

Continue to be safe as you travel to and from and as you continue cleanup efforts in your homes! Please feel free to contact us should you have questions.


Due to ongoing cleanup efforts across the city, there will be NO SCHOOL on Thursday, January 29.
Please take this chance to be sure your neighborhood sidewalks are clear! 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Update from Superintendent Boone

Earlier this evening, the School Committee received the following from Superintendent Boone:

The Blizzard of 2015 is holding on and not letting go of its grip!  Our snow plow crew has been working all night and throughout most of the day to keep emergency access open to our schools during the storm. Obviously, this is a very difficult storm to stay ahead of due to the winds creating major drifting of the snow. We are also currently experiencing one of the heavy snow bands that is increasing our snow fall total!
We have been working very closely with the city's Emergency Operations Team and DPW. City Manager Augustus and I have been in regular contact throughout the planning for and now through the storm itself. We supported WTHS as an emergency shelter and  provided a custodian, nutrition helper and nurse onsite. The city closed that school as a shelter at approximately 1:30 pm today.
Due to the ongoing storm and what will be significant cleanup requirements, schools are closed tomorrow for WPS. If the travel ban for Worcester County is lifted by 6:00 am tomorrow morning, DAB will open on a two hour delay. I wanted to be sure that full year employees would have ample time to clear snow to allow them to head to work tomorrow safely and not attempt to rush for early opening.  If the travel ban is not lifted by 6:00 am tomorrow morning, DAB will be closed. This information has been sent out via Connect Ed messaging, provided to TV and print media, posted on Facebook, Twitter and the district's website.(Note: as the travel ban ends at midnight, that means DAB opens on a two hour delay tomorrow.)
I am so appreciative of the efforts by facilities and operations leadership and staff in helping us successfully navigate what will be an historic weather event for our city! Thanks also to City Manager Augustus and all of the city's leadership in what has been great collaboration throughout this storm.
My next update will be sometime tomorrow after the full impact of the storm on the schools has been determined and to provide information on school operating status. Stay safe and warm!

No school Wednesday, January 28

No school tomorrow!
DAB opens on a 2 hour delay if the travel ban is lifted by 6 am. 

This puts the last day at June 18.

Call by 2 pm

...on if Worcester will have school tomorrow. 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Worcester Tech is open as an emergency shelter

As of 8 pm tonight (Tuesday), Worcester Technical High School is open to all in the Worcester region for emergency shelter. Call the DPW at 508-929-1300 if you'd like more information.

And the DPW is open throughout the storm, should you need to contact them. 


Worcester Public Schools will be closed tomorrow (and the administration building is CLOSED).
Stay safe! 

Vernon Hill School

Part of my periodic series of inside looks at WPS. As always, if you click the photo, it'll make it bigger.

I was over at Vernon Hill Elementary today, ahead of the impending blizzard. If you're a Worcester resident of any duration, you probably know this building, built in 1931, as Providence Street Junior High:

The front entrance brings you straight through the lobby and hallway into the auditorium, where the stage is backed with a mural of the school:
(That's the new math materials in all those boxes!)
Here's what the room looks like from the front: 

Back out in the entryway, there are two murals. 

It says: "The intrepid Diggory Sargent. 
The mural on this wall shows the Indian attack upon the Diggory Sargent House-hold and the subsequen removal of his wife and children to Canada. This school now stands up what was once Diggory Sargent's land.

The attack on the Sargent family happened in the winter of 1703/04 during the second attempted English settlement of Worcester. Sargent had served as an English soldier durin King Philip's War and is said to have refused to leave Worcester even during the conflicts on the edge of English settlement. He was killed in the attack; his wife was killed shortly thereafter. The children were among those carried to Canada; some later returned in Massachusetts.

"The peaceful Indians of Packachoag on the opposite wall.
The more peaceful activities of the Indians are depicted.
John Eliot, Captain Daniel Gookin,  and Sagamore John are here shown in the of Nipmuck Indians atop Packachoag Hill where Holy Cross College now stands."

Eliot, known as "missionary to the Indians," who translated the Bible into Algonquian, shown with Daniel Gookin, Worcester County Sheriff, who was among those charged with founding Worcester, and Sagamore John (Horowaninit of Packachoag, who lead the Nipmucks in the area during early times of English settlement). 

"These mural paintings were made possible through the generosity of the Saint Wulfstan Society, the efforts of the Worcester Public School Art League, and the gifts of the graduating classes 1937B, 1938A and B, 1939A and B, and 1940A and B of the Providence Street Junior High School. Both murals were painted by Will S. Taylor, who attended the Worcester Public Schools before becoming on of the country's outstanding mural artists and a student of the lives and customs of the North American Indians."

EDIT: activities AFTER 6 PM cancelled

Due to the impending snowstorm, all evening activities (AFTER 6 PM!) for the Worcester Public Schools are cancelled.
Also, the Board of Ed meetings for tonight and tomorrow have likewise been cancelled.

Prepping for Tuesday's storm

Here's the latest update from City Manager Augustus regarding Tuesday's expected storm:

Note that the Worcester Public Schools expect to make a decision regarding Tuesday sometime tomorrow afternoon.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Board of Ed meets Tuesday

(And Monday night)
You can find the agenda here:

Yes, I plan to go and blog on Tuesday.

North High today

This evening, the School Committee received the following information from Superitendent Boone:


Today has been a very busy but uneventful day!  Let me provide an update on two situations – North High School and Worcester East Middle School.


North High School


Marco emailed you on Tuesday to inform you of a bomb threat at North High School and a couple of fights that erupted after students returned to the building from the evacuation due to the bomb threat. Since that time, Marco has continued to work with Lisa Dyer and her administrative team and WPD to investigate those fights and to investigate things that have been posted on social media alleging rumors of school disruption and perhaps violence at the school today. Our investigation has determined that Tuesday’s fights were planned and not related to the bomb threat. WPD investigation deemed that the rumors or threats were not credible. As a result, we made a decision to ask WPD to have an increased presence at the school today.  Additionally, Mrs. Dyer sent a ConnectEd message to parents and staff last night informing them of the rumors/threats that were posted and that the police investigation did not deem them to be credible and that normal school operations would occur on Friday.  Additionally, she informed parents of the police presence that would be on campus today. Also this morning, one of the local radio stations was broadcasting inaccurate and inflammatory information regarding the events that were alleged to occur at the school today. As a result, some parents came to the school to pick up their children early. Today there were 599 students absent.  We anticipated some absences due to the rumors of incidents.


Marco and I spent the entire day today at the school and there were no incidents. He has also held hearings with students from the Tuesday fights and appropriate disciplinary action has been taken. Along with Jen Roy, we have responded to media inquiries regarding the school status and events. I want to commend Lisa Dyer, her administrative team, teachers and students for all they did to create a normal instructional environment at the school.  WPD officers on site today also commented on their professionalism and obvious existence of systems to handle school operations.


Worcester East Middle School


Just prior to dismissal today, a student reported to an assistant principal that they had received a text indicating that a shooting would occur at Worcester East Middle School. WPD was called and responded to the school.  Dismissal occurred normally and without incident. We will continue our investigation into that situation. We feel strongly that this text was related to the other activities within the North Quadrant.


We will continue to monitor social media and other pertinent information throughout the weekend...Dr. Rodrigues and I will also have a presence at both schools at some point during the day on Monday.


Foundation Budget Review Commission hearing CANCELLED!

This just in from Rep. Alice Peisch: 
Please note that the public hearing scheduled for tomorrow at Nashoba Regional High School is being CANCELLED due to the weather. We will be rescheduling the hearing for a date in the near future and will let you know when a new date has been set. Please pass this information along to the members of your respective organizations.

Education bills filed in the Mass legislature

I've no doubt this isn't everything (I assume SOMEone is filing anti-public ed bills, as they seem to always turn up!), but if you're interested in what you might advocate for with your Senator and Representative, the MTA has a list that's a good place to start.
More on this to come!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Interested in what happened tonight?

My notes are in the posts below, but Tom Quinn from Worcester Magazine was there, and he liveblogged it! 

NEASC dues

Boone: share why this is here as a prior year payment
deep concerns with relevance and price about NEASC accreditation
spent a day studying the process as they were looking to shift their practices
"not just superintendents and schools in Massachusetts that had concerns"
schools continued to identify themselves as NEASC schools
our payment of last year's dues does not reflect our ongoing commitment
have concerns with the pace of change and the content of change
will be making a recommendation to this body
what has been critical for high schools is if it is needed for college admission
not an impediment for admission to college
a number of districts have withdrawn from NEASC
"not ready to make that decision"
still have some ongoing concerns

October 1 enrollment

the report is here
O'Connell: asks for individual class enrollment
Allen: motion on that outstanding item is to be reported in a Friday letter
waiting for 9th grade at Worcester Tech to be assigned
25,191 students as of October 1
497 students up from last year.
87.5% of students K-12 who are enrolled in school attend the Worcester Public Schools

and I said a whole bunch more...notes to come! It did get referred to Accountability.
UPDATE (from my notes): we not only have a rising enrollment; we have a rising rate of low income. Now reported at 74.5% of students, but is probably underreported, as students in secondary don't fill out the form
That's the district: in schools, rates vary from mid 30% to high 90%
While as a district, we do not disadvantage our schools with more low income students on funding--in fact, they may have an advantage due to Title I, for example--they do have a disadvantage when it comes to parental capacity in fundraising, which impacts the school in other ways.
Important to note as well, thinking of this weekend, and that "Truly diverse schools are an educational imperative," concerned as well about wide racial disparities among schools: some as high as over 70% white, some as high as 80% children of color. If we take our Constititutional charge seriously of education including "sincerity, good humor, and all social affections," we need to pay attention to that, and, while not forcing family choices, work for a more integrated system.
Refer to Accountability

Pilot schools

O'Connell: pilot program in Boston
"looks distinctly like the innovation program we have"
"program in their own neighborhood"
"as we look for ways to encourage students to attend their neighborhood schools"
Petty: superintendent has set out programs
"I just don't understand how this aligns with the goal setting of the Worcester Public Schools," especially as we already don't have enough money
Boston has taken
Novick: request for a roll call
don't know that we encourage families particularly to attend their neighborhood schools
we have innovation schools, supported by the state
this not needed or relevant to Worcester
Boone: schools were established prior to neighborhood schools
Boston is having a difficult time mananging the autonomies particularly with regards to budget
Monfredo: I'm not quite sold on this
go to subcommittee to gather more discussion
Boone: the challenge that is that when something goes to standing committee, ir requires a great deal of commitment from staff
"rather than going off in a direction that has a marginal chance of implementation"
O'Connell: opposition perspective
"do not have require any preparation from administration"
items that don't require any background
concern about deisolation
"this would have been a parallel to that"
Boone; "This is the first time that I have ever heard that administration does not need to prepare...I have repeatedly dealt with School Committee members who felt there was incomplete or late information"
has been the expectation that administration is expected to provide background information for the discussion
Petty: there's a lot of items, they do take it seriously
Motion fails on a 2-4 roll call

Lincoln Square Boys' Club

O'Connell "no particular plan" for it at this point
"if we're finding that this building would be useful for us" we should consider taking it back
should consider "if under today's circumstances we'd like this"
Petty: "If you want it, you can have it"
Foley: "building has deteriorated significantly...can't imagine that we can entertain any thoughts for what we could do with this building"
Petty: Manager is working very hard on that whole end of Main Street
"you can imagine the'd cost us another building to renovate it"
On a roll call the motion fails 5-1, O'Connell in favor

Young Writers' Conference at St. John's

Details are here! 

holding recognitions

I've asked that we hold a couple of items tonight, as we're thanking people for donations that we haven't received yet.

Worcester Tech principal

Intent is hire for July 1
ad will be provided to School Committee

petition from the EAW on North High

EAW petition regarding staffing at North High
North High faculty has signed the petition to you
referral here is to budget
"largest or one of the largest population of WPS  students but of the high schools it has the second lowest or the lowest number of staff"
"more staff in the building, is more people in the halls, more staff on duty"
"North High is a great school, and there are a tremendous number of great kids in that building"
numbers haven't kept up with the numbers of students
"you can do more with less under a block schedule"
"while we appreciate and recognize that it has been worked on, it needs more to be worked on"
guidance situation, "way way out of line with what it should be"
Petty: will have this at the budget meeting
Boone: certainly appreciate the communication from North faculty
"exemplifies the difficult recommendations made to the School Committee" last year
transition from block to
76.6 to 91...added nearly 20 teachers over last four budget
North High only high school slated to receive additional teachers this past year, due to enrollment
O'Connell: supplement from enrollment report for numbers in classes when sent to budget
also let North know when the budget hearing is
numbers at have grown substantially
same issue will arise this spring
staffing that are most vital to us
Monfredo: as a former principal that the schools go through
Novick: passing along from Miss Biancheria need for promise of students in building and new building being met
budget priority setting session
Foley: reconcile numbers that are here
Hearing this Saturday at Nashoba at 11 on the foundation budget (PLEASE COME!)
special education costs are costing $35M more a year
health insurance costs more than $25M more a year
if people could make it, it would be a powerful statement to make

It's here!

Parents and students: those big boxes you're seeing turn up in your schools is the new "Go, Math!" materials. They're here, and you should see them coming home just as soon as they get the boxes opened and sorted. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Nelson Place funding approved by Council

Worcester City Council just approved the funding for the new Nelson Place School.
...and the funding for the accelerated repair projects (>Clark St., Goddard School of Science & Technology, Union Hill and West Tatnuck!)

A few notes on joint committee

(we were elbow to elbow at the joint committee, so a few notes post-meeting)
Councilor Economou raised his disappointment that more wasn't able to be done to consolidate routes and possibly save money. Mr. Foley referenced the rundown from administration on the bus utilization numbers, which are very high (and was mentioned as such by the consultants); Ms. Ramirez spoke of the wishes we all have to allow for greater services for our students (which at this point we cannot afford). The bids are due at the end of the month; that will come back to F&O and then be voted by the School Committee.
In terms of Facilities, we have, of course, the great news about Nelson Place and South (I'm currently at Council to hear the vote for the funding of Nelson Place).
F&O voted the accelerated repair items (see earlier post).
We also spoke about the larger facilities issues facing the system. As South goes forward, as it is a quadrant high school, part of what we'll need to be looking at as go forward are the use of the building and the incoming population in the larger system. There is in process right now a master plan for the district; the initial pilot was done of Doherty and was just received by administration today. There was general agreement among the joint committee that having an impartial evaluation of all buildings as we move forward, and as soon as possible, is absolutely necessary.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Wow, it's been awhile!
The Worcester School Committee resumes its meetings this Thursday at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.
We have a petition from the North High faculty.
We do not have a report of the superintendent. We do, however, have (further down in the agenda) the October 1 enrollment report. 
Today's joint meeting will be reporting out.
We have some midyear appointments.
We also have lots and lots of suggested recognitions (check the agenda!).
Administration is reporting back on where CSX funds went.
We also have the timeline on a new Worcester Technical High principal appointment.
Mr. O'Connell is suggesting that we apply for a preschool development grant (though, reading the backup, it appears we should be urging the state to do so, as this is not a district level grant, but a state one).
We're being asked to receive a donation to special education in memory of Paul Piuze.

We're being asked to approve prior year payments of:

  • $5940 to the Town of Oxford (for a special education student).
  • $24,480 to NEASC for our 2013-14 dues
  • $4086.83 for transportation to Assabet Valley Collaborative
  • $1015.23 for bus repairs
  • $5282 for bus repairs

  • Mr. O'Connell wants to look into getting the former Lincoln Square Boys Club back.
    He also wants to talk to Tenacity and to AAA.
    And he'd like us to look at pilot schools (which are what Boston had for innovation schools before the state had them).
    Mr. Monfredo would like an update on students being CPR/AED certified.
    He's also bringing in a donation (?) for special education transitions.

    We also are being asked to accept donations of:

  • $17,488 from the United Way for Belmon Street School for iPads
  • $400 from Shaws for McGrath Elementary
  • $2503.04 from Lakeview PTO for their school.

  • And we have grants!

  • $20,000 from the state for alternative education
  • $75,000 from the state for our innovation schools (for professional development)
  • $13,141 from the state for "the Collaborative Partners for Student Success" program
  • $165,000 from the Health Foundation of Central Mass for the WorcesterHEARS project (more on that to come)
  • $5000 from Lowe's for Chandler Magnet for outdoor work

  • We also have the final FY14 audit for the Central Mass Special Education Collaborative.

    We do have an executive session starting at 6 pm to discuss collective bargaining with Educational Secretaries and to discuss contract negotiations with the superintendent.

    Joint Finance and Operations/ Education subcommitte TONIGHT!

    with apologies for the late update...I've been out of commission for a few days

    There is a joint meeting of the City Council Education committee and the School Committee Finance and Operations subcommittee. We're meeting tonight at 5:30 pm at City Hall.

    You can find the agenda here, though the agenda itself doesn't tell you much more than that we're meeting. The real information is in the backups.
    There is a facilities update, including the great news on both Nelson Place and South High from last week, and including administration's recommendations for accelerated repair projects, which are:
    • Flagg (windows)
    • McGrath (windows)
    • Grafton Street (windows, boiler)
    • Jacob Hiatt (windows)
    The F&O subcommittee votes these, then the full School Committee, then the full Council, before they are submitted to MSBA. The Statement of Interests are due by April 10 this year. 

    We also have the transportation information, much of which you know already if you have been following this. What's new is the School Bus Consultants report, which comes with an attached memo from administration regarding their findings. 

    While we don't have a written update on budget, I wouldn't be surprised if Mr. Foley asks for one at the meeting. 

    Friday, January 16, 2015

    Hearing on civics in Massachusetts

    Public Forum on Strengthening Civic Learning in the Commonwealth:
    The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education's Working Group for Civic Learning invites all interested teachers, administrators, policymakers and individuals to a public forum on Strengthening Civic Learning in the Commonwealth from 4:00-7:00 p.m. Jan. 22, 2015 at Millbury Memorial Junior/Senior High School. 

     The working group invites everyone with concerns and recommendations about preparing the next generation for citizenship. People who would like to speak at the forum will have up to three minutes to do so and should bring a written copy of their statement to submit to the working group.

    Participants are asked to register online. Anyone with questions can contact Kristen McKinnon at
    If anyone can go, I'd be interested. It's a bit too close to our School Committee meeting for me to make it!

    Municipal wealth is not a mysterium fidei*

    Cohen also referred to the “long battle cry of Chelmsford” to receive a larger share of state aid, pointing to Westford, which has a greater income per capita, greater property valuation per capita and the same school enrollment as Chelmsford, but is getting $6 million more in Chapter 70 funding. 
    I know it's budget season, and I know that makes people tense, but it isn't as though these calculations and numbers are a great mystery or secret of the universe, as seems to be postulated above regarding Chelmsford.
    The calculation of which community gets how much aid is the community wealth formula. Provided you've got Excel and can download 1.77MB, you can get the calculation for every community in the state from this page (the final option).
    The FY15 community wealth calculations are based on the 2012 property taxes and the 2011 income taxes paid in each community. From that we see:

    Property valuation (2012)
    Chelmsford: $4,987,917,400
    Westford: $4,000,201,300

    Income tax (2011)
    Chelmsford: $1,436,702,000
    Westford: $1,149,597,000

    So the answer is that Chelmsford has nearly a billon more dollars worth of property value and nearly three hundred million dollars more of income wealth than Westford does.

    And that's why Westford gets more state aid.

    I note that the town manager said "per capita" for both wealth and valuation. That isn't included in the formula, which operates on total community wealth, and I can't think of any reason why it would be. 

    *mystery of faith

    Watch Holyoke

    The next district that Commissioner Chester appears to be eying for state takeover is Holyoke. Note that the state already has brought in a receiver at Dean Technical High School in Holyoke, which hasn't been successful (at least by state measures). Parents thus are asking why it is that the state thinks it can somehow improve the entire district.
    Good question.
    Watch this one. Having the state takeover districts under the theory that they can somehow do it better is a terribly disturbing trend.

    Timeline on a new principal for Worcester Tech

    This just in from Superintendent Boone:

    • Beginning January 16 Superintendent notifies School Committee, Advisory Board, School/Community of the process
    • January 20-February 23 Superintendent, QM & HR meets with Advisory Board, School/Community
    • January 23 Post Bulletin
    • January 23 SchoolSpring
    • January 25 T+G/Boston Globe
    • January 28 (approx.) Education Weekly
    • February 23 Closing Date
    • February 24-March 5 Superintendent reviews candidates
    • March 23-27 Interview panel
    • April 13-17 2nd Interview panel
    No word on a hiring date. 

    Mississippi is dropping PARCC

    By State EdWatch's count:
    Mississippi's withdrawal from PARCC would leave 11 states plus the District of Columbia left in the consortium. The board's vote doesn't change the number of states slated to administer PARCC in the 2014-15 school year.

    There it is

    On next Tuesday's Council agenda:
    Recommend the adoption of a Loan Order in the amount of Fifty Seven Million Three Hundred Seventy Thousand Dollars and No Cents ($57,370,000.00) be appropriated to Account #91C7113C, Building Rehabilitation WPS MSBA Nelson Place, to pay for costs associated with the construction and furnishing of a replacement Nelson Place School at 35 Nelson Place
    Refer to CCM Item 8.6A 

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

    And back at the state level of politics

    Not a great surprise, since we knew they weren't fans, but the Pioneer Institute is calling for Commissioner Chester to be fired.
    UPDATE: I posted this over on Twitter:
    Pioneer got back to me with this:

    ...which is a little nonspecific. So I looked it up! The powers and duties of the secretary and the commissioner are spelled out in Chapter 69, sec. 1A, which says this about the budget:
    The commissioner shall propose a budget to the board; said budget shall reflect the goals and objectives of the board and the secretary of education, in this chapter called the secretary. The board shall review and make recommendations regarding the budget to the secretary. The secretary shall then prepare and submit a budget request on behalf of the department to the house and senate committees on ways and means, the joint committee on education, and the secretary of administration and finance.
    The Secretary thus fulfills his role as the connection between DESE and the Executive branch (which then proposes the budget to the Legislature). From this, it doesn't look as though the Secretary has actual veto power, though to interpret this generously, he presumably could refuse to forward the proposed budget to the Governor.
    ...which could get interesting...

    Annual testing in ESEA renewal

    With the issuing of Senator Alexander's draft language for a renewed Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the debates, particularly over annual testing, have commenced. The questions of who gets tested, when, how much, and what the results are used for are all up in the air, but largely the debate is getting oversimplied to "annual testing: yes or no?"
    Particularly with the big question of civil rights looming over the debate, I've been concerned by this oversimplification. I'm relieved, therefore, to see Bruce Baker add his voice today in a post entitled "Cutting Through the Stupid in the Debate Over Annual Testing." Baker says:
    Missed in most of the conversation are the valid, relevant uses of student assessments, and the different uses, and approaches to using testing, measurement, large and small scale assessment in our schooling system.
    Mixed in with this discussion of late is whether annual testing enhances the civil rights of children, or erodes them.
    I would have to quote all of Baker's post to make his point, so instead I will urge you to go read his post in full.  

    UPDATE: And consider this, as well:

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

    Nelson Place approved for scope and budget!

    plan is fall of 2017 open to students
    $58.2 million in total; $33.7 million grant from state


    SOUTH HIGH IS APPROVED to enter the MSBA pipeline!

    Foundation Budget Review Commission hearing January 24!

    It's official: the Foundation Budget Review Commission is holding a hearing in central Mass on Saturday, January 24 at 11 am at Nashoba Regional High School in Bolton.

    It is a public meeting, so please come!
    And if you can't come, you can send in your testimony to

    Full house at MSBA

    Full house at the MSBA meeting! Updating as we go...
    The districts for which there is a vote to eligilibity today are:
    • Attleboro:Attleboro high school
    • Brisol County Ag
    • Cape Cod Regional Vo-Tech
    • Clarksburg: elementary school
    • Fall River: BMC Durfee High
    • Lynn: Pickering Middle
    • Middleborough: high school
    • Saugus: high school
    • Taunton: James L. Mulcahey Elementary
    • Waltham: high school
    • Westport: middle school
    • Worcester: South High
    For those wondering what that means, that puts these schools at the beginning of the process here
    Bourne is being invited to feasibility for Peebles Elementary.

    Grossman opens the meeting by introducing Deb Goldberg, his successor as Treasurer who will be sworn in next week. High praise for MSBA at this, his last meeting.

    McCarthy's director report: visits, audits, invites to 2014 SOIs, 2015 SOIs now open (get your SOIs in!)
    Berkshire Regional and Swampscott both being removed today, as they could not get community support for funding for renovation/rebuilding of their schools.
    Nashoba Regional being removed for an accelerated repair

    In addition to the above, there will be three more districts considered for major renovation/ rebuild in March.

    Bristol County Ag has 25 buildings on their campus (That is going to be an interesting building committee!)
    Clarksburg (Did you have to look up where that is?) is here for its only community building. The superintendent is here, commenting that it was 13 below when he left home this morning, and he hopes the boiler holds up!
    The brand new mayor of Fall River, Sam Sutter, is here to support a new Durfee High School, which originally was an applicant for accelerated repairs. MSBA said no, encouraged the city to apply for a new school or major renovation instead.
    Grossman comments that these projects wouldn't happen "were it not for the constant advocacy of elected officials"
    Pickering Middle School built in 1917 in Lynn. Per their website, it cost $236,000 to build and $58,000 to furnish at that time. Also, Superintendent Cathy Latham said that she'd be here "with bells on" when they took Pickering, and she brought bells!
    One of the reps speaking on Saugus High says that the speeches are like the Academy awards. Current principal of Saugus High is a graduate.
    Waltham High School being represented by their mayor, who was in the second class to graduate from the school.
    Westport Middle School's state rep says that they need to figure out how to "solve the problem that exists in the town of Westport" The superintendent says that the middle school will close in June, due to PCBs. The building is 45 years old.
    Mayor Petty speaks of the legacy that Treasurer Grossman is leaving--Worcester has 12 buildings that have accelerated repairs, and one that is on its way to a rebuild--and mentions that South has its electrical system under the pool.
    Urge by a board member that educators put in place a clear education plan such that the building supports the education plan of the building.

    Note that the Board takes a SINGLE vote for all 12 projects.
    more updates to come!

    invitation to scope and budget:
    Renovation and repair at Sarah Gibbons Middle in Westboro: approved! Community votes on the bond on March 14

    Rebuild at Nelson Place in Worcester
    conditional on city securing land within 120 days
    fall of 2017 open to students
    $58.2 million in total; $33.7 million grant from state

    revenue up $16.3M greater than through same period (December) last year
    up 4.5%:  $375,497,000 for FY15

    Boston bound!

    Heading in on the train for the 10 AM Mass School Building Authority Board meeting where they'll be taking up both Nelson Place (as we've made it to the "let's pay for it" phase) and South High (to decide if we're entering the pipeline for major renovation/rebuilding). Big day for Worcester!
    Updates as I have them and livetweeting here. 

    Tuesday, January 13, 2015

    Manchester's rebelling

    I had missed this: apparently, Manchester, NH, is refusing to conduct the Smarter-Balanced test that New Hampshire has adopted. They've already lost funding over it once, though it was restored when the mayor protested, and they appear willing to lose it again.

    Federal hearing on overtesting on January 20

    It was a bit buried in some of the coverage of Secretary Duncan's doubling-down on testing yesterday, but Senator Lamar Alexander who now chairs the Senate education committee is holding a public hearing on overtesting on January 20. He plans, it seems, to use this as a launch for a renewal of ESEA without the annual testing provision.

    Monday, January 12, 2015

    We're on the MSBA agenda for Wednesday!

    The Mass School Building Authority Board meets Wednesday morning. Worcester is on the agenda twice:

    • Once for a vote on executing a project funding agreement with Worcester. That's to pay for Nelson Place. That's fantastic that we've gotten far enough to have the vote to pay for it. 
    • Once for a vote to invite us to eligibility. That's for SOUTH HIGH! Getting a vote to invite us in for eligibility starts the process of figuring it all out. 
    I'm heading in for the meeting and I'll post as I'm there. Hoping for BIG good news on Wednesday morning! 

    Sunday, January 11, 2015

    Foundation Budget Review Commission hearing in Northampton yesterday

    I wasn't able to be there, but there's a bit of coverage in the Valley Gazette. What I find most interesting is something not about education funding:
    Comments were not limited to numbers and statistics. Casey Pease, 17, a senior from Worthington who attends Gateway Regional High School in Huntington, offered heart-felt plea. “This is not just a game of numbers,” he said. “Education is not just a mechanical system. It is a human system.”
    Casey’s words prompted Chang-Díaz to ask Pease if he had any additional suggestions for the panel, which led to him saying the focus on standardized testing had to go — eliciting an eruption of applause from the audience.

    Friday, January 9, 2015

    We have a new Board of Ed member!

    Governor Patrick appointed a final new Board of Ed member before leaving office: Edward J. Doherty, who is appointed to the labor seat. Doherty is the former head of the Boston Teachers' Union and the former special assistant to the president of AFT-Massachusetts.
    He replaces Harneen Chernow (meaning he has big shoes to fill!).

    Sorry, this came out via email. The update will eventually be posted here. 

    "In truth" about charter school enrollment

    I've just left the following as a comment on today's Telegram and Gazette editorial by the head of the Mass Charter School Association:

    Mr. Kenen asserts: "In truth, charters serve the same population of high needs, minority and low-income children as their host districts, and have steadily increased enrollment of special needs children and English language learners (ELL)."
    This is not and has never been the case. A quick check of the 2014-15 enrollment data for the two Worcester charter schools Mr. Kenen cites demonstrates that neither reflects the Worcester Public School population, something which is most marked in the very "high need" catagory of which Mr. Kenen appears to be most proud. To wit:

    Students with a first language other than English:
    Abby Kelley 24.2%
    Seven Hills 36.3%
    Worcester Public 47.3%

    English Language Learners:
    Abby Kelley 7.1%
    Seven Hills 21.7%
    Worcester Public 35.1%

    Special education:
    Abby Kelley: 10.3%
    Seven Hills: 11.1%
    Worcester Public: 19.3%

    If Mr. Kenen wishes to speak "in truth," he would do well to get his facts straight before making such assertions on the editorial page or elsewhere.

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Baker inauguration and education

    On the day that Massachusetts inaugurated a new governor, we were also in the national press for once again topping the Education Week "Quality Counts" ratings, which is based on a child's chance for success in the state, the school finance system (both spending and equity in distribution), and K-12 achievement (link's not working). Massachusetts came in tops in the first and last, and tenth on the school finance. Our statistics are impressive on what our children are surrounded with in terms of educated adults, family support, and income, and children do well in education K-12. As for school finance, by EdWeek's measure, inequity between low income and higher income districts is what is holding us back...largely due to the out-of-date foundation formula, which is already being worked on. While I realize that much of this speech was written well in advance, there's some very easy lines to throw in here, which would cover both the "go team!" and the "work to be done" aspect of any inaugural.

    Instead, we got this (The Globe has the full text. ):
    I’m a proud product of the Massachusetts public schools. And to this day, I can still name almost every teacher I had growing up. They moved me, challenged me and made me feel like my opinion mattered. 
    Across Massachusetts, there are many talented and inspiring educators doing for their students what their predecessors did for me. 
    First, I have no doubt that all of the above is true and that Baker means it (he graduated from Needham High). I'll also say that this is the obligatory "praise the teachers" section, which then had every person involved in public education in Massachusetts bracing for what followed.
    I was in Lawrence yesterday witnessing firsthand the progress that’s been made in just a few short years there. Despite all their issues, and they have many, a renaissance is underway in their public schools. 
    Choosing Lawrence means you get a city other than Boston into the speech. It also just so happens to be the only school district in the state under state control. The elected school board lost all power under state receivership; the state receiver runs the show, reporting only to the Commissioner.
    This is actually kind of a weird example for Baker to choose. It gets him around the school committees, who I'd say are largely not fans of his ed policy, but it runs very strongly counter to the reason many vote conservatively: local control.
    Attendance is up. Dropout rates are down. Test scores and graduation rates are up. The school day is longer. 
    All true. All also done, much to the surprise of many, including myself, through direct cooperation and collaboration with the teachers' union.
    And Lawrence is hardly alone. There are exceptional schools in many of our most disadvantaged neighborhoods throughout the Commonwealth. Proving they can get it done for kids, no matter what their circumstances. 
    Makes you what to cheer, right? However, that "no matter what their circumstances" reveals the real heart of where Baker's coming from on education: poor, hungry, homeless, prenatally malnourished, not a native speaker of English, in an underfunded school? CIRCUMSTANCES DON'T MATTER.
    Circumstances do matter, Governor Baker. And many of those circumstances are related to things you control or are involved in as governor. Own up. This is shirking.
    But other schools really do need to step it up for the children and the families that they serve. Poor performance given the dramatic success of other schools can no longer be tolerated. 
    Here's where I miss Secretary Malone already: if you are in schools anywhere in Massachusetts, you will know that the VERY LAST THING that they need to be told right now is "to step it up for the children and the families that they serve." Speak to anyone from the IA in kindergarten to the high school English teacher to the assistant principal to the superintendent to the school committee: we have stepped and stepped and stepped, often poorly supported by the state.
    What sort of language is "no longer be tolerated"? This sounds like something your dad says when you stayed out past curfew. Who exactly is tolerating any such thing?
    And while traditional public schools will always be the backbone of our education, we need more high performing public charter schools in underperforming school districts to complement them. As I speak, there are more than 45,000 Bay State kids and their parents on waiting lists for these schools. 
    This is based on numbers the state warns against citing and the state auditor said lacked accuracy.There's also a presupposition that charter schools somehow are the answer to so-called underperforming districts; there's no actual evidence cited that districts are "complement[ed]" by charters. Quite the contrary. 
    It’s wrong for any of us to stand on a front porch or in a city neighborhood sympathizing with a mom or dad when they tell us their child is not getting the education to succeed in life and then oppose lifting the charter school cap or making the changes we need to ensure that every school is great.
    This is entirely untrue. MassLive has a good article on the challenges being faced in Holyoke and Springfield, for example. The bit that is missed in the article is that both cities are facing growing charter school population which, as you know, vaccuum resources right out of the public schools while serving a population that does not reflect the school population at large. See, for example, the analysis done by John Lerner on the attrition rates at some oft-cited Boston charters. This attrition thus concentrates a more needy population in the public schools while taking their support away. That's not something that's going "to ensure that every school is great."
    Quite the contrary, in fact.

    Thus on a day when it would have been appropriate to celebrate Massachusetts and its educational system (which does not exist in isolation), we got...a push to lift the cap on charter schools, mostly. This was the message of the new leader of the Commonwealth that considers itself the cornerstone of public education in America, with a specific dedication to public education in its Constitution, which is nationally celebrated for its leadership in educational excellence, and has in its very name a commitment to the wealth of all.
    A push for greater inequity. Heartbreaking.

    Let me also say: I would love to be wrong. I'll be watching. 

    Wednesday, January 7, 2015


    Due to the extreme weather conditions* forecast for tomorrow, Worcester Public Schools are CLOSED Thursday, January 8.

    *Windchill forecast for possible -30 degrees, at which point one can get frostbite in 10 minutes.

    Also, this is your periodic reminder that if you send "follow @worcesterpublic" to 40404, you'll get all of the Worcester Public Schools' tweets as text messages. 
    And for those keeping track: this puts the last day at June 16.


    In my earlier post on the City Council agenda, I missed this, which was caught by Nick Kotsopoulos:
    City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. is asking the City Council to adopt an $11.5 million loan order for window replacement projects at four public school buildings: Clark Street, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Union Hill and West Tatnuck. 
    These projects were already approved by MSBA; the city has to approve a loan order for the full cost, though the state will reimburse the city for 80% of the costs. All told, it should cost the city less than $2 million for these four projects.

    And stay tuned: the Statement of Interest period for MSBA for 2015 opens Friday, so we should have another round coming!

    Worcester preschool and kindergarten registration now open!

    If you have someone in your house who will be five by December 31, 2015, they can be registered for kindergarten now at the Parent Information Center (508-799-3194) at 768 Main Street. Please bring proof of the child's date of birth, proof of the child's immunization and test for lead, and proof of residency (a utility bill will do it). Kindergarten in Worcester is full day. Visitors to kindergartens are welcome:
    • South Quadrant - Week of February 3, 2014
    • North Quardrant - Week of February 10, 2014
    • Doherty Quadrant - Week of February 10, 2014
    • Burncoat Quadrant - Week of February 27, 2014
    (if you don't know what quadrant you're in, the list is here
    Remember that Worcester has school choice on a space available basis. We run magnet programs (in particular) at Jacob Hiatt and Worcester Arts, and a bilingual (Spanish/English) program at Roosevelt and Chandler Magnet. I'd recommend visiting!

    WPS is also now accepting applications for preschool at the Parent Information Center for children who will be four by December 31, 2015. Preschool is half-day and is offered at: 
    • Belmont Street Community School
    • Canterbury Magnet Computer-Based School
    • Chandler Magnet School
    • City View Discovery School
    • Clark Street Developmental Learning School
    • Columbus Park Preparatory Academy
    • Elm Park Community School
    • Francis J. McGrath Elementary School
    • Gates Lane School of International Studies
    • Goddard School of Science & Technology
    • Grafton Street School
    • Jacob Hiatt Magnet School
    • Lincoln Street School
    • Norrback Avenue School
    • Quinsigamond School
    • Roosevelt School
    • South High Community School
    • Vernon Hill School
    • West Tatnuck School
    • Woodland Academy
    • Worcester Arts Magnet School
    • Worcester Technical High School
    Generally, visitors to preschool are welcome; just call the school to set it up.

    Monday, January 5, 2015

    Boston schools "bracing"

    It must be coming up on budget season, because we had the early "the Boston school budget is going to be awful" article this weekend. Before we all get too carried away, I'd ask that you take a look back at this post from last year, as the Globe is leaving out some pretty significant information. State aid to Boston, for example, is dropping in part due to Boston being a community that, under the municipal wealth formula, can pretty much pay for its schools itself.
    You might also take a look at this presentation from BPS parents. While there are a few tweaks I'd make, it gives a good overview and good direction. And I'll take a look when BPS does its initial budget presentation to Boston School Committee, and pull together a post. 
    And don't panic; ORGANIZE.

    Nelson Place keeps rolling!

    Worcester City Council meets on Wednesday this week (I'm assuming to avoid meeting on Epiphany?). Among the loan orders the Council has before it is one for $145,000 to continue with Nelson Place.
    While they do not yet have an agenda out (and probably won't until much closer to the meeting), the Mass School Building Authority meets January 14 at 10 am. It is possible that they may take up Nelson Place at that meeting.

    School Committee meetings in 2015

    Here are the dates of Worcester School Committee meetings for 2015. We generally meet on the first and third Thursdays of the month, but, as you'll see, there are a few exceptions. All meetings are in the Esther Howland chamber at City Hall at 7 pm, unless otherwise noted.

    January 22

    February 5
    February 26

    March 5
    March 19

    April 9
    April 30

    May 7
    May 21

    June 4 [4 pm]
    June 18 [4 pm]

    July 16 [4 pm]

    August 20 [4 pm]

    September 3
    September 17

    October 1
    October 15

    November 5
    November 19

    December 3
    December 17

    While we're doing dates, June 15 is the current (as of 1/5/15) last day of school for the Worcester Public Schools. 

    Thursday, January 1, 2015


    Happy new year! A few blogging resolutions:
    • I see from reviewing the year that the local "what's the real story" sort of posts remain the most popular, and you can continue to count on them. It sometimes means some late (post-meeting) nights or early mornings, but if I know it about Worcester education and can share it (which is usually true), I will. We'll continue to clear up misconceptions, bust rumors, explain details, and get to the bottom of that which remains unclear. And as always, if you have questions, drop me a line! 
    • More state coverage! My CharlieCard is charged and ready; the Board of Ed meetings are on my calendar; Malden will see me monthly. As we get into the new Gubernatorial and Legislative sessions, I am sure that there will be state level issues to cover in Boston, as well. In my view, this has now reached the level that got me blogging in the first place: the coverage of vital education issues is so poorly covered at the state level that somebody has to do something. (See also Jerry Garcia.) 
    • I have a sneaking suspicion that there may be more need for the "are you kidding me?" kinds of posts. When it comes to articulated fury, then...more to come!
    In terms of School Committee, this coming week I enter my sixth year. We've got the IB school to sort out, and we'll be entering budget season (with [spoiler] a lousy inflation rate) before we know it. I've also got a list of a few pages of things that continue to niggle at me, from why we still have classrooms without recycling bins, to why we have schools that have inaccurate names, to how we better get kids into high school programs that really reflect their long-term interests and needs, to if we're reading any fiction in elementary school, to if we're actually going to get any worthwhile results out of the PARCC test this year (setting aside for the moment the question of if we ever got any worthwhile results out of the MCAS). And likewise, if there are things you'd add to that list, let me know! 

    I don't know that I say this enough: I am truly honored to be entrusted with a seat on the Worcester School Committee, and I'm looking forward to another year.
    Happy 2015! 

    Happy 2015

    So how did 2014 go?