Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Calling young actors!

The Hanover Theatre is auditioning actors aged 8-13 for the part of Tom of Warwick in Camelot! All the details are here.

Monday, March 30, 2015

While I am not at Nelson Place

...it appears that Steve Foskett is, so you can follow his livetweeting.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Professor Jack Schneider, professor at Holy Cross, "Measuring School Quality Beyond Test Scores"

Posting these now as I couldn't get on Blogger in Medford High. All notes mine, and Prof. Schneider has the distinction of being one of the few people I've run into who talk faster than I can type. The below is my best:

Jack Schneider, presentation to MASC Division IX
Measuring School Quality Beyond Test Scores
“let’s start with what we have: state data and where most people get it” on the DESE website
limitations for policy and governance
clear quantifiable aim for, for example, raising SGP
don’t have the same information for, for example, educating the whole child
not same easy access to data
sends a message: if you don’t measure what you care about, you’ll start caring about what you measure
at most basic level, poorly designed interface
most people engage through Globe’s ranking ordering of MCAS performance
has more to do with family education and socio-economic
sends message of some schools are good, some are not
sends message of false precision: that we know what the number one and two schools are
which we don’t
“Dreamschool finder” reaction to Globe’s “Dreamtown finder”
“catagory called ‘hipster’ which if you ranked really high, you naturally have to live in Somerville”
if you ranked education really high, his hometown didn’t come up
“as long as schools were highly valued, you couldn’t get to Somerville”
if you dropped schools, you could get there
they were using SATs scores and another variable
whomever at the Globe was savvy about dealing with people, offloaded it all onto me
looked at the available data, have to work with that
some of the available data doesn’t stink: college aspiration data, survey of students about plans to attend college
can have a lot of low income students and still convince them that college is an aim
looked at available data: six categories
I wanted to use “the less bad use of available data” but became “Dreamschool finder”
tried to be a little fairer
did not rank order schools: had to input values
“good schools are about good fit as much as they are about a generic high-quality performance”
eventually talked about what other people should do in Somerville: put out RFP
was convinced that “it was going to be some huckster” who would do it
put together a team to propose starting with a blank slate
“What do people actually care about?”
a lot of polls used to build a draft framework to reflect what we believe a good school does
Somerville “pretty representative” of the US as a whole
began holding focus groups to amend the draft framework of what people care about in schools
made fewer and fewer changes over time until we got to a place where more and more people were looking at the framework and agreeing that those are their values in schools
“why we think the things we do about schools”
interesting to see teachers, administrators, parents, community members look at it and agreeing, common ground
Two large divisions: essential inputs and key outcomes
inputs: teachers and teaching environment, school culture, resources
outcomes: indicators of learning and character and well-being outcomes
for academic outcomes: using only growth and developing portfolio assessments
“there are ways to ask teachers questions to ensure an honest response: ensuring anonymity and collating at the school level”
School Culture: safety, relationships, academic orientation
every category is made up of subcategories and every subcategories has multiple measures
cannot presume precision
bring thirty measures to the task assuming that some will fall short, but eventually will get to answer
“don’t just want absence of bullying, want trust between students”
lots of questions to ask: absence rate, on time graduation rate, academic press questions of students: how much does this teacher encourage you to do your best? when you feel like giving up, how likely is it that your teacher will encourage you to keep trying?
have some measures of asking teachers: what do you see in the hallways? how much support do you have?
when asking questions of teachers and students, dozens of scales of measure
Data collection: all students grades 4-12
all teacher surveys (developed a sped survey specifically to be sure those students weren’t missed)
district data (teacher turnover)
state data (SGP)
data compilation and visualization:
web tool for School Committee and district leaders: secure portal just for them
able to attach measures to things schools and district care about
web tool for the public, as well: to be able to say that public can make more informed decisions and would strengthen the schools
many parents are desperate to advocate for their schools but don’t have the language: too often dismissed or that they themselves dismiss as it’s non-expert (in language) knowledge
imagine if they could say “this is what we care about”
“we’re hearing from parents that this is what they want to change at their school”
“the vision that parents have is the vision that matters: the schools belong to us”
urban schools are so badmouthed, so pilloried
wasn’t always that way, people clamored to get into urban schools, as those were the place to be
“very powerful stereotype of urban schools, that is then reinforced by that data we have” from MCAS rankings
“of course if you talk to the parents whose children have gone there, they seem pretty happy”
“if you’re in a school during off-hours and there are kids in the hallways and they’re working and they’re happy: that’s a good school”
currency of the realm is data: that’s the language people are talking now
question about equity: measurement of resources
enough measurements tell you where there are issues: and thus what can be fixed or needs to be fixed
“we’ve got a great principal, great teachers..the problem is resources...you can then activate” those who want to improve their schools and give them direction on energy
“public schools don’t market themselves” ad on T for charter schools or private schools
“exact opposite of what happens with public schools...slick version of reality” that’s being sold
“public schools aren’t even in control of the version of themselves that’s being presented to the world”
only a benefit that she was exposed to one more kind of thing
public schools aren’t even in control of the version of themselves that’s being presented to the world
“I believe a lot of our problems are solved if our kids go to school together, but our kids don’t go to school together, because parents have had the bejeezus scared out of them”
parents told this story that they can’t stay in cities, or, if they stay in cities, they have to send their kids to other schools
Q on ensuring all kids are paid attention: disaggregation of data, producing snapshots of all subgroups
“absolutely something that needs to be done”
school “fit is as important as whatever the generic good qualities of a school are”
parents need to figure out “who’s my kid, and how do make sure that” a school is right for my kid
Q measuring family background of kids in schools not accounted for within data
also levels of ELL and levels of special ed
charters taking least disadvantaged of disadvantaged: parental engagement...and “let’s look at the correlation of parent engagement and higher test scores”
Belsen: huge battle over what the purpose of a public schools: creating those for a job market. If you believe it’s more comprehensive than that, then you get a different picture.
Globe is pushing civics education: “well, who in the heck pushed it out?”
broader picture of what we want school to do
colleague refers to the “learnification” of schools: implies that everything in schools are something that can be measured
“the way to counter that is with the voices of the American people”
have evidence that this is what people want in their schools
“if all you do is measure two subject areas narrowly” then that’s all that’s going to get done
Q special education: if kids with particular needs don’t test well, and results bear that out
how to be more persuasive?
Schneider: focus group with special ed teachers: what Qs don’t apply to your students, what Qs aren’t here that should be on here to give us a picture of what your students are doing in the classroom
“every one of my kids has a personal goal, and when they meet that, it’s the best thing that happens to them all year”
gave students cell phones and texted them questions: have an 80% response rate on questions
building with real-time data: helping teachers use data to improve what they’re doing in the classroom
professional development site driven by what is known about (for example) around school climate
“and guess what? Suddenly you’re treating educators like professionals”
might make a difference and might also turnaround this slide on job satisfaction for teachers
“we’re better at our work when we are satisfied in our work” and are more likely to stay around
“and guess what? There’s data to show that” teachers who are in the classroom longer DO know more
Q on implementation: capacity? and how to continue? Much work is done and can be a starting point for other districts
thinking of starting a non-profit so “we could pay some people to come in and do the work” to create the framework specific to community
doesn’t take a lot in money: people have a lot of good systems and processes
creating a group so that this is self-sustaining with someone working quarter time to sustain it
in interest of urban superintendents, in particular, to ensure that measures are done in a more broad way
Q something that could be instead of the more corporate planning process: strengths, weaknesses, coming up with goals that are measurable...simplified process that could be done at the school council level for school improvement plans which are too driven by test scores; parents want to talk about school climate, rather
Schneider: easy first approach from broad categories of inputs and outcomes
want this to be an educational device: want parents and community members to learn more about each measure
something like “hallways are dark and dingy” when it’s backed up by the same data being used by system
“felt sense of things real and important” but set up against quantifiable; falsely set up against each other
Q found that student surveys are one of the most consistently reliable sources of information on teachers
questions put in words that are meaningful to students: test Qs with students, then take responses to teachers…”long iterative process”
Schneider: set up “so we can give everything away”
support schools as low cost as possible
student data currently being tested against other data across the country: going to be tested for strong correlation along with other student data
Q open sources would be useful, anything developed put back into open source; thinking of trying to have anyone who uses inputs data for aggregated data to start to understand across districts
interesting Q, not going to answer...don’t want to require entering data that requires student responses
at same time does empower communication and transparency
Q (this from a sped teacher) “comments about rigor, which is a word that I’ve really come to despise”
in grade 2, I give eight standardized tests a year
when people come in and give a snapshot look, not looking at everything that’s going on
students persevering in a task, sitting a chair “that’s important”
“we’re trying to teach in spite of everything they’re telling us to do”
Schneider: comment that parents support you
parents feel that standardized tests tell them the LEAST about teacher conferences of all the information available to them
tests don’t even aim among their aim of what a successful school does
Schneider: PARCC and MCAS are like a blood pressure test or a temperature
sometimes a high temperature is really bad, but some people’s temperatures run a little high
“when a good doctor says, ‘hey, you don’t look so good’ what is that even based on?”
Comment that this is a grassroots activism, start proving workable
Schneider: willing to work with districts in whatever way we can; want to be able to part of ongoing conversation
once we build it, we can give it to you
some basic texting thing, small costs involved
Comment (Belsen) sustainability of some of these gains on MCAS and so forth: don’t go on and complete college in same numbers, SATs, jobs long term
“inability that the gains that are leading the charge for this expansion are not sustainable and don’t really produce real gains long term”
fighting against a juggernaut that tells us what is
Sen. Jehlen: “you have more power than you realize”
bunch of bills in the Legislature: people will say ‘there’s nothing we can do; we need the information’ Now you have something to say.”
“Don’t underestimate how powerful you can be as the voices of your community.”

Friday, March 27, 2015

Nelson Place easements revised

I'd been told this yesterday, but it's always good to have the Council agenda confirm it: 
Assumption College has withdrawn their request for an easement across Worcester Public School property. They are, however, still granting the easement which will allow emergency back access to the new school. 
Thanks, Assumption! 
And remember, there's a neighborhood meeting at Nelson Place Monday night at 7. I can't go, so we'll have to depend on others for notes. 

All means all

I've been doing a good bit of thinking since the Monday/Tuesday whirlwind Board of Ed meetings, which were the first in which the consequences of last November's election came home to the Board of Ed. Where Governor Baker is on public education hasn't been a mystery, and he'd certainly made that clear in his inaugural address. That was followed, of course, by his choices of Secretary of Education and Board Chair. This was the first meeting at which both men were present and participating.
I'd say the most telling moment of the meeting was when we pivoted from a long section castigating Holyoke--a district which is 78.8% Latino and 47.7% of students do not speak English as their first language--to a section praising Mystic Valley Charter--a school which serves cities with significant ELL populations, which somehow has not a single ELL student. Secretary Peyser made a motion, supported by Board Chair Sagan, that Mystic Valley be granted their enrollment expansion, despite their board not having the training that they are required to have under Mass General Law and have been told repeatedly they need to have, and despite their having this mysterious lack of ELL students. In other words, they could simply be trusted to fix their violation of rules and regulations, despite a clear history of their not having done so.
Sagan opened the meeting with his own sort of statement of principles, in which his and his family's history with MATCH Charter figured largely. To hear him state that his own top priority is the child for a school whose attrition rate looks like this:
(Thanks to John Lerner for the chart)
...is to doubt how much the individual child actually matters. Where did the 17 kids go between freshman and sophomore years? Or the 10 kids between sophomore and junior years?
I'll bet that most went to the Boston Public Schools. Because they, like all district public schools, take everybody.
Every kid. Every day.

Public education isn't about how high you can manipulate your MCAS scores or your graduation rate. By Constitutional mandate, public education is in the "different parts of the country and the various orders of the peoples." All of the country. All of the people.
Not just the ones whose parents can show up to sign them up or the ones who do well on MCAS.
Every kid. Every day.

All means all.

Charter-izing "turnaround districts"

Here's Secretary Peyser on Boston Public Radio this week:
Currently, low-performing school districts can be taken over and operated as Horace Mann charter schools, meaning that teachers are still in the union, for example, but don't have the same protections as in district schools. It's a model Peyser says he'd like to expand to include other kinds of charters too.
"I would love to have the ability to use commonwealth charter schools, which are the ones that are totally free of district control—they don't have teachers in the union*—I'd love to see them have the same opportunity," he said.
Yes, that means he'd like Level 5 districts to be "charter-ized" like New Orleans has been. And how has that worked for New Orleans?
 Flooding New Orleans with charter schools has been disastrous.
Here's what the parents think:

Note that this would require a change in Mass General Law.

*Small correction: there are charter school teachers in Massachusetts that are unionized.

Friday linkages

An ICYMI list for the weekend: 
  • John Monfredo, Jack Foley and I (among others) were at a presentation this morning by the Building on What Works Coalition, a joint project of Mass Inc, Mass Business Alliance for Education, Mass 20/20 and some others. They're calling for a three year $75M competitive grant program open to districts with 50% high need students or above for early childhood ed, extended day, and innovative programs. I don't want to speak for others, but my sense that they were met with some polite skepticism here in Worcester. I know that Mr. Foley spoke for my concerns as well when he spoke of the importance of a focus on the Foundation Budget Review Commission and the core funding of education in the state.
  • Important detail from the Brookings report on the gender gap in reading (as flagged by Libby Nelson at Vox) that the much-praised Finnish PISA test results, which lead the world, rely entirely on girls for their superior performance. As per usual with Brookings, I have my doubts about some of their other points. Nonetheless, good catch.
  • If like me you have a soft spot for a literary spoof, you'll enjoy Scot Lehigh's take on Boston 2024 via Poe.
  • Novelist Richard Russo is helping to raise funds for his hometown library, which he credits for much. 
  • Looking ahead to the presidential election, here's Hillary Rodham Clinton's relationship with various education perspectives. 
  • Education Next has a "Defense of Snow Days," with some research showing that days off don't hurt student performance (yes, on standardized tests) but student absence due to snow on days there is school DOES. 
  • And Jarrett J. Krosoczka shares a bit of excitement on reading

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Music Magnet Spring Recital

The citywide Music Magnet program housed at Burncoat High is holding their spring recital:
Monday, March 30
7 pm
First Unitarian Church
90 Main Street
admission is $3

City that Reads donations!

Worcester: the City that Reads! is launching its annual donation drive, so please clear out your bookshelf and send them in!
Please donate a new or gently used books, Pre-kindergarten to grade 8, at the following sites from now  to May 15th.
  • People’s United People’s Bank ( (all six city branches) including the town of Shrewsbury,
  • Worcester Public Library
  • Commerce Bank (all four city branches) including Holden
  • Bay State Savings Bank (all branches)
  • Bank of America ( at Tatnuck Square)
  • TD Bank ( all branches)
  • Stop and Shop on Lincoln Street
  • Stop and Shop on Grafton Street
  • Stop and Shop on West Boylston Street
  • Shaws Market on West Boylston Street
  • RSVP and the Senior Center on Vernon Street
  • Worcester Credit Union
  • Starbucks Coffee on one West Boylston Street and in Auburn
  • Panera’s on West Boylston Street
  • Austin Liquor at Gold Star Blvd
  • Jewish Community Center on Salisbury Street
  • Leader’s Way – Kung Fu Academy on Burncoat Street
  • Greendale YMCA
  • Main Street YMCA
  • Bagel Inn on Main Street in Holden, Ma.
  • St. Vincent’s Hospital at the entrance door on Summer Street
  • Summit Elder Care on Grafton Street
  • Worcester Public Schools School Committee Office – 20 Irving Street
  • Worcester City Hall at the City Manger’s Office
  • Anne’s Books Shop on James Street in Worcester

Bills before the Joint Committee on Education

I'm currently reviewing the (edit) House bills that have been referred to the Joint Committee on Education.
Notes coming here as I have them!

Puzzled on Nelson Place: **UPDATED**

So this is odd...I was going back through some notes on Nelson Place, and the City Council voted the emergency access easement (which goes over Assumption land to the back of WPS land, as discussed several times at Building Committee meetings) on their February 3 agenda; see item 8.6A. While the Manager's memo refers to "two temporary easements donated at no cost," (see page 1) and thanks Assumption, the Commissioner's memo (see page 3) says "The emergency access easement and two of the temporary easements are over land owned by Assumption College and donated to the City of Worcester."
...so the easement has already been accepted. Thus why any easement swap with WPS land would be necessary is unclear...

**UDPATE**even with the new prefacing memo that the City administration has now posted on this item (as of today?) that mentions the land taking and that the "easement agreement defines responsibilities and rights of both parties over the temporary and permanent easements."

And I'll point out again: the proper body before which an item regarding the easement on a WPS school should appear is the School Committee. And this still has the triangle allowing Assumption access. 
As this is before the Planning Board tomorrow night, I'm sure hoping someone clears up who has legal rights to do what where.
Seriously weird.

Wednesday morning note: the Council tabled the item, with the Mayor commenting that the item needed to go before the School Committee.

Board of Ed in April

Monday, April 27 EVENING in HOLYOKE for public hearing on proposed state receivership

Tuesday, April 28 MORNING in FITCHBURG for joint meeting with Board of Higher Ed

Tuesday, April 28 AFTERNOON/EVENING (in Fitchburg?) for public hearing on PARCC

All subject to change, but that was the plan as of this morning.
and as a side note, the level of consternation about a Holyoke/Fitchburg overnight makes it clear how eastern-dominent the Board of Ed is

ESEA waiver: changes in accountability system

ESEA: 50th year
Duncan waivers to allow states to have proposals other than what law calls for
operating under five level accountability system because of waiver
in renewal year now
without a waiver renewal, we'd revert back to NCLB
law could be renewed, but might not
three modifications:
  • additional credit for ELLs who made major progress for students who made progress in English language proficiency 
  • additional time for students to increase their proficiency in English before they participate in accountability system, but only on growth, not on overall score
  • reduce number of students to consitute a cohort from 30 students to 20 students
Peyser: Q on credit on ELLs gaining on English abilities: how do you get credit
SGPA (Student Growth Percentiles on Access) Peyser comments that we needed another acronym
60 is very strong growth, a median that's high will provide a boost
Peyser: assume that this represents a floor rather than a ceiling? if we wanted to change it higher,we could? yes
Peyser would love to learn more about the pattern of students who are moving up the Access scale
Waiver carries unanimously

LGBTQ safe and supportive learning environments

Chester: have modified self-identify sections
sure that recommendations are consistent with law, which added general identity as protected class
Roach: can think of no area in which the Department's leadership has been more important for tolerance in disposition
have come a long, long way
Willyard: work that has been done, "one step closer to every student being able to leaving their house every day with a smile on their face, not having to worry about being tormented because of whom they like"
passes unanimously

Mystic Valley Charter renewal

which magically has no ELL students, despite drawing from districts with a significant population of ELL students

looking for expansion of student body
have had concerns around process and governance
refreshes it's process
"confident that the school has sufficiently addressed those concerns at this time"
remaining concern for me
"none of the students for now are English Language Learners"
"very difficult to reconcile if the school is giving access to a representative" student body
wondering if ELLs are enrolling, even in proportion to district, but lacking IDing them
recommending expansion if they address that and other board issues
"before enrollment increase begins," address enrollment
also board needs training, and enrollment process
Roach: rough number of ELLs in sending disricts
Malden and Everett: significantly higher than zero
didn't they know that this would come up?
Mystic Valley has argued that their direct instruction model moves kids along quickly
Roach: what does this suggest about the likelihood about getting this done?
genuine misunderstanding about processes
Willyard: wouldn't want to move forward with expansion without their dealing with their issues
bring up wait lists
will support this request, but these conditions need to be taken seriously
Stewart: received an email from the Vice-Chair of the Melrose SC, raised several points,
details Ms. Driscoll lays out here supports my not supporing this
governance training should be in process from the beginning
Stewart will vote no
Sagan "would remind us that the key is if they're educating their kids and the results are very strong"
McKenna: revising policies and procedures for ELL isn't asking much of them
have been renewed three or four times with the SAME CONCERN
DESE: either representation is an issue or identification is
Peyser: enrollment pattern of school? bulk of students come from kindergarten
overall data suggests that they're doing a good job of bringing students up to level
home language survey being done?
DESE; what they're doing with the information and if they're assessing all the children that they should be
Q: recruitment?
DESE: seem to be reaching a broad demand, as many as half of Malden kiindergartners
see this as an opportunity to make progress: if they do not get this, they do not get these seats
Sagan: if conditions are met, allow expansion after a year
McKenna: if we pass this, they have a year to fix enrollment
could only be done for incoming class of 2016
Peyser: substitute amendment which he has typed up
maintain conditions as currently exists but allow 50 kindergartners for this fall
"must be held accountable for complying with conditions"
"entirely possible to ensure conditions are being met, to allow students to begin career at Mystic Valley in the fall"
Willyard: just kindergartners?
Sagan: clarifies that it's just kindergartners even next year
Peyser: and if they didn't meet it, they'd go back to their cap and no further growth
amending amendment to require kindergartners to reflect ELLs in their communities
Peyser: can't require that
Noyce; don't feel that this doesn't reflect a very robust attempt to recruit a diverse population
if only draw from current waitlist, cannot get as diverse an enrollment
Peyser's motion fails
Original motion: passes 8-1, Stewart opposed

Board of Ed: Holyoke district review

I should perhaps note that there are reports that students at Holyoke High are walking out as this discussion is happening
Sagan: we do not recognize the public to speak at this time, that was at the beginning of the meeting
"we're going to have an orderly meeting"
Chester: I am going to ask this Board to take a vote on receivership either in April or in May
will have to happen after public comment and meetings
seven or more year process
"my concerns about Holyoke are wide ranging"
and so, Mr. Commissioner, are Holyoke's
we know the consequences for students
"this is not blaming teachers, not blaming the superintendent..."
"I start with the assumption that there's very strong teaching going on in Holyoke and lots of strong administration going on"
"despite those strong pockets of instruction"
"needing to move a system that was not knit together in a systematic way to provide strong instruction"
"was struck when I visited the Union Hill School in Worcester"
Have made tremendous progress: now a Level 1 school, asked what the biggest challenge
staff members who identified students and staff members as biggest challenge were not those she wanted to work with
"have little confidence that short of the tools that receivership provides can get the kind of turnaround that Holyoke deserves"
initiatives around alignment of vision with central administration
"pervesive low student achievement"

Sagan: history and reason for visit moving up
Chester: concerned about having visit conducted in April "would be a delay that I didn't want to experience"
Sagan: input from parents? Where?
DESE: "all go into forming emerging themes" not a transcription
"did not necessarily lead to a specific finding that could be in the report"
Noyce: what additional information did you get from talking to School Committee?
DESE: was there to present
Noyce: you didn't have any questions for them? No
Stewart: a number of questions about Holyoke, I really need to understand the data
methodology: wasn't clear to me that all were with consultant
DESE: they weren't . One affialted with Cambridge Education: retired superintendents, retired school business professional, tied to six standards we're doing
Stewart has a review team? Yes
six areas: not one for family and community engagement
"included under student support standard" says DESE
Stewart: standard amount of time in classroom? 20 and 30 minutes
Stewart: documented how? standard rubric: 25 different themes in environment, teaching, learning
Willyard: what is it going to look like in the district from the student perspective?
Chester: Board has authority to vote receivership, then launches a process of developing a turnaround plan
may have longer school day, longer year, different curriculum
"for students, it's largely transparent"
Roach: heard in public comment the commitment of the teachers' association to improving the conditions in Holyoke, yet in recommendations of report, culture that was somewhat antagonistic
"assuming they're operating in parallel universes, there doesn't seem to be any effort to work" together
district working in its track, teachers working in their track
DESE responds yes
Roach: would identify that as most troubling
Sagan: observed that students are not recieving high order instruction: why?
DESE: not sure we gathered the appropriate level of information to know why, but not happening in classrooms
Q to Chester: was there this kind of opposition in Lawrence?
Chester: there was opposition in Lawrence, mayor embranced...that may be a little strong of a word...endorsed state receivership, union opposed, School Committee did not endorse
Q: what is condition in Lawrence today
Chester: seeing much more cohesive district with all parties rolling in the same direction
just going to comment here that you can't really ask the SC, as they have no power
Chester: very public in rationale for receivership, met with public, faculty, union
message that this is not about blaming folks in the room, need folks who are up to the challenge who are willing and commited to provide for the strong education for the children of Holyoke
have to be willing to be part of that change
carrying message to the community of Holyoke
McKenna: in response to Willyard's Q, everyone who works has to reapply
Chester: not quite what happened in Lawrence, is allowed, were people who left on their own volition
McKenna: would like to have definative data
new superintendent has been there a year and a half
rubrics on teachers: "when I looked at them I was extremely encouraged"
teachers earlier today said that they need more PD on Common Core
DESE: has made strides in providing professional development for teachers
one challenge review team found, limited imput of teachers in designing PD at district level
Q: where do you see the pockets of excellence in Holyoke? and compared to Lawrence?
DESE: several areas of strength, primarily in central office arena
district under accelerated improvement plan, was not surprising (and I think that they just took credit for that)
and he doesn't list the other strengths
wasn't involved in Lawrence, declines to compare
many of the questions of Holyoke SC were preceeded with needing more time
support for Dr. Paez
DESE has not received comment from business community
upon correction from a member of the public, Holyoke Chamber of Commerce weighed in against recievership
and after small lecture from Sagan around public process
Chester: met with School Committee, have not seen progress
have never visited a school that did not see pockets of excellence
"think we've understated that" tension between union and administration
Holyoke operates with two high schools: look at history of two institutions and how teachers are assigned and how students are encouraged to apply "it's alarming"
as recently as two years ago, Dean had a graduation rate of 25%,now up to 40%
this is being challenged by those from Holyoke, who are now being threatened with being removed
"take on this work with a huge dose of urgency and humility"
Sagan now pushing Board to be "very limited" in questions
Stewart: Title I funding: capacity issue is huge for me on this
information and data on Holyoke: assessment after influsion of $13M of state's outcome in that regard
Chester: receivership provides tools that didn't exist in the past
McKenna: who took over Dean?
Chester: first round of level 4 schools in 2010, district has had two different partners in running Dean
Sagan: process began five years ago when Legislature looked at schools in Massachusetts and put into law different responsibilities
or alternative, the Legislature looked at the budget and decided that they needed Race to the Top funding
Sagan: do we believe that the district on the current path has the result of getting there fast enough or if it needs other tools
we also know that there are great teachers or other
"need to affect the outcome for as many young people as we can"

Update on "key state initiatives"

and we've got a PowerPoint: let me know if you want photos of it
curriculum frameworks, educator evaluator, PARCC, and district assessments

Framework implementation proceeding by not complete: 80% have implemented curricula, but only 53% have textbooks and other materials
most agree it will have a positive impact, but most feel that they need more training
Educator evaluation: most agree it provides more meaningful feedback, opportunities to reflect on their practice
most view their evaluation as fair
majority of principals view system as fair, fewer than half of teachers view system as a whole as fair
District Determined Measures; challenging piece of work
less than half have ID'd administration and scoring protocols, set parameters for growth, or systems to manage data
time and funding viewed as major impediment (not negotiations)
On PARCC: need more training on technology portion
60% of principals feeling mostly or somewhat prepared
most students who were in field test felt that questions covered material that they had covered this year
principals and central office are generally more positive on reforms than teachers are
but generally improving over time

District assessement practice: survey of superintendents (or of the 36% that responded)
most said they used to see if they'd met learnign goals or academic needs
less than half to preparet of MCAS or predict student performance
uh, let's look at the way you asked the question there
55% felt had right amount of time;
driven by district level rather than school level
"representative sample of districts": 35 districts
in each case talked to a district level person and a school level person
average of district required assessments of 6.7 tests
Level 2 districts and districts with low proficiency levels require most tests
time preparing for tests: large majority spend 5 day or less
did not see a difference between ELL and special ed students
I'm just going to observe here that there is a lot of head shaking going on in  the audience, particularly from educators
"really challenging for districts to quantify"
Achieve has put out a tool on that: four districts going to go through it with us

PARCC update

Wulfson: "in general, testing has been going smoothly...some small glitches"
online testing started last week
about 44,000 tested completed thus far
"had the benefit of being one of the last states"
paper and pencil version of PARCC and MCAS window opens this week
small number of inquiries regarding "so-called opt out provision"
advice we've given is that there is no opt out provision under state law
"having said that, we advice districts to deal sensitively with students and parents"
Sagan asks if students are given option
Wulfson: all students given option, if decline, marked as absent
hearing it is not too many
studies coming: looking at content by college professions regarding level of work
administer PARCC and MCAS to college freshmen
upcoming dates of public forums
"will be plenty of opportunties for various stakeholders to weigh in"
controversy nationally about Pearson monitoring social media
"something we have done for many years and have done with our own staff...considered good practice without MCAS"
not going into personal information on Twitter or Facebook
looking for student who sneaks a cell phone into a test and posts a photo of an exam question
Pearson does not go to schools; Pearson goes to DESE, superintedent goes to student, get post taken down
"longstanding practice"

Wulfson (in response to Q from Roach); moving into that space (of online testing) regardless of vote for PARCC or MCAS
McKenna asks number of states in: 12 states administering
a lot of discussion nationally, particularly in states where commissioner is elected
"can't predict to you what will happen"
Bickerton: many states "taking wait and see"

Stewart: parents who have expressed a concern about the PARCC, not sure why MA would give up test that has led us to be fourth in the world if we were a country
Wulfson: MCAS set as minimum level of proficiency needed to graduate from high school
'though test has been successful, part of feedback from college and business is students who passed MCAS were not necessarily succeeding at next level
revisit to put students on path after high school
"not a Massachusetts way" of doing English and math
Chester: when testing contract rebid, anticipated doing more online components, could do due to state recession
Stewart notes Rennie Center concerns about technology needs
"found the interface to really get in the way...could not see the full problem" when doing math
various dragging and dropping of texts for ELA
"going forward I'll be looking" at technology
Wulfson: Q we're very interested in answering
students more comfortable in front of a keyboard than writing something out

Willyard: "putting student first, the test second"...consequences for students who refuse
Wulfson: "we're advising schools that we don't think any discipline is called for"
students will get results, but districts held harmless
Willyard cautioning ability on testing of critical thinking

PARCC public forums

Locations TBA:
  • Tuesday April 28 3-6 pm
  • Monday May 18 4-7 pm
  • Tuesday June 9 4-7 pm
  • Monday June 22 4-7 pm
  • Tuesday July 7 4-7 pm

Public comment before the Board of Ed

Public comment
Educator survey results:
a Teach Plus fellow and teacher at Salem Academy Charter School, Carli Fleming
recommendation regarding PARCC assessment: that it be adopted
"support my students in their mastery of the challenging Common Core standards"
"I need a test I can use as a tool"
Teach Plus hosted an event to review PARCC sample items and completed surveys about their views
those who did felt it was a higher quality assessment
continuous review of questions
"we know that this will be a hard transition to a new test..."
Teach Plus is releasing the results of their survey today

Barbara Madeloni, MTA president, speaking on Holyoke
reviewed state report from DESE
"undercuts the foundation of public education...our schools represent and are governed" by democracy
"find it astonishing that it does not include a picture of lives of Holyoke students"
or wide disparities in resources between Holyoke and other schools
"a long way to go before our children's education are not determined by the color of their skin, their first language, or the size of their parents' bank accounts"
Holyoke teachers' union holding public forums with parents
any plan must take into account needs of community
early childhood education
reduce class sizes
stop endless paperwork, time to teacher
addressing children's social and emotional needs
urge Board meeting in April to be held in Holyoke
"educators and parents deserve no less"
to a round of applause at which Sagan says that he'd like comments to be make "without editorializing" at the end

Dorothy Albrecht: high school teacher from Holyoke
"askinng you allow us to retain some piece of our democracy in Holyoke"
parent as well as teacher
child was more than ready: "graduates with honors in May before heading off to medical school"
"would be a travesty to see our schools taken away"
students getting into top colleges
"the taking of public schools in cities that struggle with poverty is anti-American"
note that Lexington and Concord's schools will not be taken over
father became president of the school board without a college education

Linda Cahill: LBGTQ recommendations:
parent and nursing supervisor
whose transgendered son commited suicide as a college sophomore
"I consider myself a well-educated individual, but I did not see this coming"
vowed to myself that I would stand up for these children and suicidde prevention
urge you to pass these principles

statewide charter school collaborative: from Mass Charter School Association
has been awarded a $2.1M grant for a statewide charter school collaborative
"to serve all students better"
"our schools have particular challenges in serving special education students because they are small"

Odd that there's a discussion here about if others were denied time to speak due to the number of people who had signed up. This isn't many.