Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Accountability: time on testing

audit is here
survey is here
Perda: in lieu of working with other surveys, we did our own internal review of testing
"it's what we do on an annual basis"
Amanda Kershaw, organizes test for district
document that wasn't prepared especially for this meeting; have had around for several years
informs new staff of what the bird's eye view of student assessment is for the district
share at beginning of the year, but then review with principals
"how are the district-based test working? are these tests yielding the instructional interventions that allow you to optimize learning?"
Then taken to instructional team at district level
extent to which these measures are getting the job done
"weighing the balance of making sure that we have an entire system of testing that makes sense for the district"
Kershaw: Early screening before kindergarten
DIBELS to assess skills of early literacy in kindergarten and grade 1
given on iPads (files are uploaded in advance)
group students "into red, yellow, and green"
"to ensure the lower students and the benchmark students don't have an increasing gap"
Fountas and Pinnell: used K through 8
required in grades 1 and 2
use benchmark three times a year up through grade six
"very valuable for our teachers allow to match reading level"
allow them to match students to books and create reading groups
"what's really special about the MAP and why our schools love it" is that the questions respond to the student's ability
"goal setting" assessment in our schools
required in the fall for all schools
in the spring has been optional for the past two years, especially with other testing going on in the spring
ELA MAP testing optional in the winter: no time to make instructional changes before MCAS

O'Connell: teachers say overwhelming amount of testing, but teachers seem to see use of the ones we have control over
rock and hard place
tests over which we have control are seen as valuable
would teachers want to increase the amount of testing in use of MAP?
Perda: feel more comfortable with introducing some options
several schools using innovation
district "don't want to mandate folks to use these tools if they aren't making wise use of the data"
"one size fits all model is becoming a thing of the past"
particularly with ACCESS: "has been a little bit time consuming"
WIDA is moving ACCESS to a computer-based approach: move away from tying up adult one-on-one assessment
O'Connell: clear rationale for what we do
Novick: would like to see answer to how useful teachers find state assessments
(this year, half not so much, as PARCC doesn't come back til November)
find interesting that teachers find state assessment too time consuming; less so for district assessment
would like to see how much time per student and how much time per class (that's a motion)
Fountas & Pinnell used as a lockbox: kids know their numbers, are limited to reading in that section; F&P even says themselves not what it is to be used for
MAP shared only number: means nothing for kids
kids need to know what they need to work on
MAP adjustment is great, thus problem that state using PARCC (which doesn't adjust) rather than SBAC (which does)
Perda: MAP has retooled their reporting system
getting easier to get information of arrray of student and school reports, available to teachers
Kershaw: MAP we get time spent on testing
F&P is pencil and paper, so more difficult, but perhaps more informative
MAP: learning continuum, not just a writ score anymore, gives you all of the learning goal that the student is ready for
teacher can have the student circle the one they're going to work on, not just a score from the teacher
Biancheria: need more detail for testing
too many teachers saying too much instructional time lost to testing
change survey question to be sure only teachers responding who administer (or use) test
conversation we have to continue
Monfredo: many educators have said it's helpful, as it's diagonostic and they can use it for results
"there is too much testing"
but not so much what the district is doing, what the state is doing
"DESE isn't listening"
passed item to call for statewide moratorium on accountability levels
Biancheria motion to hold

Perda: going to be doing some additional training with staff so they can make most use of testing we do

Accountability: school start times

Perda: I had a good time, sorry for the heavy backup, I might have gotten carried away
I had a good time learning about
history 2000-01 when the committee took this up
Professor Wolfson, formerly of Holy Cross, now in Maryland
"pretty rare that you find...something that is so heavily one sided in one way or another"
literature from educational side, biology, economics, from other school systems
"all saying we see benefits from seeing kids start school later on"
challenge for district is how to do it
complex school system with a lot of activites and bussing and after school system
"it would take a lot to change"
"from the research you've read it, it's clear: you should do it"
Biancheria: received a number of calls on
look forward to having the discussion this evening
discussion in a process: would start the conversation, not looking for a vote today
look at pilot program for one of our schools?
"significant impact on student achievement"
duration and time of day one is expected to function
"clear that we have to look at this as something we may need to change"
shifts that people work and a change of shift
wonder what EAW would have to say; look to have what we do in the best interest our students
have input of everyone
O'Connell: US Air Force Academy moved time later
"I agree with you...all of those factors runs in favor of a later start time"
"only when you start to mix in other factors"
sports, taking care of other students, jobs working longer
"would like to see us take a focus on our academic students"
"may be most pivotal for the students that we most want to reach" (as sleep is more disturbed for more economically disadvantaged students)
"cut through issues" that may hold back
work on this over the next academic year
Novick: overwhelming evidence across the board: need to move the item forward
not social but biological: student biology shifts
more sleepiness leads to greater rates of depression
association of poor sleep habits and lower socioeconomic status
later start times: less tardiness, better attendance
coaches saw students who were less tired and more alert
students were calmer
fewer referrals
parents report children who were "easier to live with"
student did less risky behavior
fewer car accidents
Novick: recommendation of committee that move forward with discussion to implementation (with speed, adds Mr. O'Connell)
Biancheria asks that discussions start with teachers and parents
O'Connell asks that backup be referred to TLSS (but that we're taking our copies with us
Item held in Accountability, but committee encourages discussion to carry on in other subcommittees for "how it would work"

Accountability and Student Achievenment : accountability plans

You can find the agenda here. 
We have the ones (from last year) from Burncoat High, Claremont, and Forest Grove. Reminder that by Mass General Law we may review, but do not approve, School Improvement Plans.

Accountability plans
(we're looking at last year's plans; this year's plans are being developed)
drafted by principals with instructional leadership; they take it to the other principals; brought to school site councils; then to central admin
process runs pretty smoothly
sometimes get questions about their not being as comprehensive as they should be
should be aligned with goal areas for the distrct
keep plans as managable as possible
Biancheria (speaking specifically about Burncoat): when we look at action steps and best practices, is there a way that the district can gather best practices that work?
Perda: not specifically from school accountability plans themselves, more the conversations that take place at district meetings
benchmark assessment started by Vernon Hill, carried to district from their success
material that could be done to start the conversation
is there a report that comes back to admin at the end of the year?
Yes, came in last Friday (started writing at the end of the year) to Perda's office
student achievement measures "are heavy on the MCAS" thus are due after the tests come out
Biancheria: concerns me, as "more than just one test"
can people view the plans?
Yes, they're on the district website
Biancheria: asks that there be a hard copy at each of the schools
O'Connell: Burncoat lower number of students who don't graduate
any sense of how Burncoat is informing site council as a means of informing
Perda: have a review of the accountability plan
formal mechanism for providing feedback
"to be sure the priorities truly represent the values of the school community"
O'Connell: almost have the council is from outside the school
going beyond the school improvement plan
Biancheria (on Claremont): interesting how they reviewed what they were interested in
more students take Clark classes: terrific opportunity, look at how we prepare students for college courses
acronyms used: have a resource page for them
Perda: glossary, so anyone can look it up
O'Connell: middle school MCAS scores
Perda: something that was just being discussed at senior staff
Claremont had some terrific progress in their schoolwide data
also seeing transition points from grade 6 to 7 and 8 to 9
"is it a little easier in a place like Claremont where they aren't changing buildings?"
what are the best practices and can they be replicated elsewhere?
Novick: exemplar in actually being comprehensive in their needs analysis
looking at it as a school-wide chance to evaluate all (not just MCAS) is going on in the building
Monfredo: looking at chronic absenteeism
Biancheria (on Forest Grove): reaching every family
student mentoring program with teachers
middle school, not easy for them to make adjustments, not only as how we move them along, but from each other
O'Connell: intermural after school program
math programs
Perda: connecting back to connecting with parents; drop off from elementary to middle to high
the extent to which we can stem that tide would ease that transition
engage in every facet of their children's education
Novick: how to make this oly about MCAS scores, but about more broad based questions of school functioning
Perda: would be hard pressed to see a school that isn't looking beyond MCAS for their strength and weaknesses
Novick: how do we communicate that other information should be shared?
Perda: make this a shared document? Geting it into a wider audience, wider readership
Monfredo: submit best practices on school climate or school environment
sharing ideas with one another

Feasibility for South High!

South High is IN for Feasibility as of this morning's MSBA Board meeting!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

2015 All-State School Committee

I'm really honored to be selected for the Mass Association of School Committees' All-State Committee for 2015.

I truly love what I do, and I appreciate being recognized for it. 

And speaking of facilities master plans

 Boston today announced an 18 month plan to create a 10 year facilties plan for their schools.
Over the next 18 months, the Mayor's Education Cabinet and BPS will work with consultantSymmes, Maini & McKee Associates (SMMA) to develop a comprehensive set of recommendations that will be submitted to Mayor Walsh, Superintendent Tommy Chang and the Boston School Committee by the end of 2016. 
They're using the Twitter hashtag #BuildBPS.

Ours? Still waiting on city admin...

A few thoughts on the Foundation Budget Review Commission meeting UPDATED

Some of this recapitulates what I put in italics in the liveblog

I should start by noting that the Commission now has a month left in its extension, as its work is due the first of November. With the taking on of David Bunker, this means that effectively the commission has outsourced much of the work (as much of it remains) to the consultant.
Also, if indeed Mr. Bunker is the CFO of the Secretary of Education's office, is he on leave to do this work? Or being dispatched by the Secretary to do it? And if he works for the Secretary, doesn't that compromise his position as an independent artibiter, answering to the whole committee? This wasn't addressed at the Commission meeting.
UPDATE: Aha! Bunker left the office after a transition period after the change in administration (in other words, he worked for Secretary Malone; he was part of those leaving when Peyser came in as part of the Baker administration). And thanks to Senator Chang-Diaz's office for the additional information.

I'm also dismayed at how far removed much of the discussion remains from what the committee's purview is. Massachusetts has had, since 1993, a progressive education funding system in response to McDuffy. We do not anymore. Progressive education funding means that those with greater needs--both students and districts--receive greater support. This is what underpins the entirety of the foundation budget. I continue to not hear a great deal about this.
Connected to that, we heard yesterday floated the idea that they really should be looking at districts that have smaller amounts of spending with high test scores. This is specifically mentioned as something that cannot be a measure in the Hancock decision; equity of resources may not be denied even if districts manage high test scores with them.
Likewise, there was a suggestion that districts with spending over foundation and higher test scores should be looked at...missing that districts that can spend over foundation are generally higher income districts....which correlates with higher test scores.
And, as has been repeated particularly by Senator Jehlen, test scores cannot be the measure of a quality of education.
I'm confused as to why the Commission would be recommending that anyone look at Race to the Top grants. I know this is quite a few years back now, but we couldn't use Race to the Top funding for just anything; the application of those funds was very narrow. Here's the list of what Worcester used it for. That's completely unrelated to anyone saying, "What are your greatest needs?" or "Where are your greatest funding gaps?"
I'm stunned that somehow inflation has dropped off the list. We missed an entire year of inflation. The state set another year's lower. And we're in a year in which we're looking at a negative inflation factor for FY17 unless something dramatic changes.
There's also still not a real recognition of the need to move on low income. In fact, yesterday, this was characterized as something the Board of Ed needs to do; it isn't. The Legislature and Governor need to change Chapter 70. That has to happen before (or in, maybe, though that would leave us all wondering what our budgets are) the next budget.
Finally, the ongoing mistrust of the local budgetary authority--yes, that would be school committees--is insulting, frankly, and far removed from the actual work. The need to tie new money to particular areas, with no regard to what local budgets have done; the wish to track every new dollar for particular yields (even if there are overdue needs elsewhere); the overarching and pervasive sense that Massachusetts, with some of (possibly the?) closest tracking of education spending in the country somehow has dollars frittered away, is completely removed from reality. Every public district in Massachusetts passes a public budget in public session after public hearings. We are legally mandated to. We are publicly questioned on our decisions and must be able to defend them.
And, yes, we do know how to spend our budgets better than either Boston or Malden do, thank you.
The simple fact of the matter is that the foundation budget is undercalculated by AT LEAST two billion dollars. This isn't "new" money that may flow to districts; it's money the state (in many cases) owes public education. They've been borrowing classroom dollars to pay special education and health insurance costs for years now. That's a backlog that has accummulated in districts across the state. Those dollars cannot rightfully be tied to new strings, as these are in fact old dollars. They're just ones the state thought that they could ignore.
Time's up on that.

Call for a three year moratorium passed by Oxford the one passed by us in June.
By my count, that brings us to: Arlington, Cambridge, Greenfield, Hampshire Regional, Melrose, Oxford, and Worcester.
It was also passed by the Boston City Council last week.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Foundation Budget Review Commission September meeting

I'll update as we go once we've started..
Looking at the overhead, it appears that Melissa King from DESE is presenting on "in-district special education costs compared to foundatoin budget--revised"
Chang-Diaz announces that they have appointed a consultant (and I totally did not catch the name; this room swallows sounds...David Bunker!)
minutes accepted
David Bunker (consultant) "walking through his work plan" per Chang-Diaz
he was legislative aide to Hal Lane (who he had as high school principal which means he's a Wachusett kid!)
research director for Joint Committee
elected as state rep, then to House Ways and Means as Director of Special Projects
CFO for the Executive office for Education (I just looked this up on Linked in. Does anyone know if he's getting the time off to do this or is doing it as part of his job? UPDATE from Senator Chang-Diaz's office: he left after the change in administration.)
Thank you to Senator Jehlen for saying she can't hear! Me, either!
summarize work proposal: a month left, choices to be made over the coming month
how can we use that time to be sure that places with an achievement gap get the resources they need, particularly for ELL and low income students
also other foundation assumptions that we will look at "as we can"
not only about research, but about writing final report
discussing with people in the field what they think might be useful
looking at national research
reviewing RTTT requests: many letters from superintendents referenced RTTT
asking members of the commission who would be most useful in consulting
"high achieving districts serving high numbers of low income and ELL students"
"what do you think you need and what are your recommendations about the effective use of money"
"effectively both principles will be woven in"
talking "especially to superintendents, or administrators with some business background, and business managers"
"teachers or administrators with some teaching background"
Chang-Diaz: talk about catagories of what is discussed and who is spoken to
Jehlen: didn't see any weighing for vocational students
Chang-Diaz: would push back on adding to the list at this point
Q1: what extra resources are needed to address the achievement gap particularly for ELL and low income students?
question is always is this something you want everyone to do or something you need to focus on particularly for these needs
whether there is any capacity to or interest in to discuss concentrations of poverty
Q2: review of national literature on weighings; national research of best practices
"fair amount of literature about that"
district level spending data, state level spending level
Race to the Top submissions, one suggestion that some had was how much they thought they needed for Race to the Top
"they may not have told us everything they need, but" may give some direction
interviews with the field
other suggestions of non-achievement gap districts
look at places that are spending above foundation:and where the funding over foundation (once special ed and health care are paid for) is going
fairly tight timeline
one meeting between now and the end of October to bring back information and then start writing for the end of October
Chang-Diaz clarifies that district-level spending data
Verdolino questions if the commission has "adequately" addressed the special ed and health insurance
he comments that "this is about my package" (thus that question will not be addressed by him)
MTA: look at current allotments to see if existing ratios can accomodate increases, if not, they may need to be changed
"We're only interested in catagories that will address the achievement gap?"
"just to be clear, we're not going to do anything about student-teacher ratio or other items, under this model?" Agreement
Chang-Diaz: is the allotment that's currently written into the foundation budget enough to produce success? He'll attempt to answer that question. The answer may be we don't know. It may be that it's not sufficient everywhere. Or the answer may be that it needs to be adjusted to communities that have high concentrations of low income or ELL.
"those populations exists in many places"
MTA: "the middle class kid, wherever, has an interest in a lower class size as well"
"it looks as though we're going to take up all the issues besides the inflation factor"
Agreement. If other things are going to be fixed, may not need to be fixed (!!)
MASS rep: cautionary notes
"when we're talking about district spending above the attention" to where it goes
what are we using for achievement? MCAS? PARCC? are we also using ACCESS for ELL students?
highlight on ELL allotment; recommend bumping up allotment in K-8 fo gaps of students that have come from elsewhere
Reville: outcomes model versus an input orientated model. What are we looking for in the end?
are you coming up with interventions that have been successful and how much those are? Are we going to be categorical as we ask for additional increments?
response: trying to stay away from specific interventions
bulleted points were taken from the initial report
"district's existing flexibility on what interventions are being used"
Reville "trying to discover what works and what doesn't work before we put in more money"
hope that if the evidence suggests that these types of interventions work that you'd include that so we can include that in our deliberations
Chang-Diaz: districts that co-chairs have suggested that he focus on
districts that are spending above foundation and showing strong outcomes as a district
what are they putting into professional development, etc? to get these strong results
we're not going to acknowledge that most of the districts that fund over foundation are also higher income districts that also would have higher test scores, anyway? Also just got a reminder that the Hancock case said that lower spending districts with higher test scores were NOT evidence that funding wasn't needed
MBAE: may not be right to look at district, rather than individual student needs, suggest looking at individual student needs and management and controls
Wulfson: intervening school level: may be "interschool distributional effects"
where the money for the kids who go to that school actually go to that school
Jehlen: how do you know a high achieving district? Student scores in achievement or in growth
"at this point, we almost have to look at both"
Reville: is there looking at low spending districts with high achievement?
correlation with school practices
Peisch: identifying districts with high populations of ELL and low income that are high achieving (most relevant)
Verdolino: (who suggests that if MASBO sees this, his job could be on the line) Title I is by defintion is by defintion a low income grant; if low income dollars were to segregated into a specific pot, you'd have accountability. Otherwise, I don't know how you'd have accountability
gets to be "very difficult in the cost accounting"
Chang-Diaz: other things you'd encourage David to have in his interview questions
Moreau: a little dubious about the scope he has here
very early on identifying two major expenses, yet major overhaul not being in the cards
low income increment is going to need to be address by Board regardless
no, it's going to need to be addressed by Legislature
should outline some general principles for that work
day coming for greater granularity for spending "that in and of itself will be an enormous task" suggests thus outlining it
Verdolino: are enough dollars being devoted to performing this?
might also ask if you were allowed to spend foundation budget on that category, would that be sufficient?
Jehlen: Education Trust report: assume that low income should be 40%; ours is around 30%. Should be thinking about that question as well
Schuster: comparing staffing ratios to budget will be hard statewide, but could be done district by district
could be done, would be very instructive
MASBO has undertaken exactly that; "we may be able to put that in front of you"
Schuster: schedule? Commissioners should get thoughts to Dave how?
will be sure his contact information is shared
MBAE: don't think should look at current models; should ask what districts are doing to reform their staffing models "to make new models more appropriate for kids"
MASBO working on a model, reminder going out to members who are working on it
Jehlen asks for draft ahead

in-district sped: Melissa King from DESE
some of this is looking at the same thing as previously
"only eight slides"
"What we have to say about this is pretty aggregated"
on average districts spend a lot more than is in the foundation budget
actual cots $30,161 vs $24,368
adding recommendation from commission brings it to $37,589
about 7% increase in budget and in enrollment
foundation budget is calculated using an estimate of time receiving sped services
categories don't line up precisely, nor do actual costs
not definative, if you look at sped placement, full inclusion is up to 20% of the time receiving services
could have wide variation depending on what you assume
by and large, districts spend more than is alloted for in the foundation budget
"why is there a difference in cost? Well, there are more teachers on the ground."
I totally can't read these charts, BTW...I'll see if I can snag one to at least take photos
"Obviously, staff being the biggest cost driver"
Rep Ferguson: "this was a huge issue that we spend hours talking about and looking"
"grossly underreported and underrepresented"
districts doing a great job keeping our kids in and sending them out to costly programs
This has been the biggest issue brought to me
Moreau (who says he's attempting to channel Moscovitch) need for better data and how it correlates
MASS: change in best practices from 1993, very few subseparate classrooms where teachers with only a small handful of kids
special ed teacher assigned to a co-teacher within the classroom
"that means you need more staff to be able to pull off the best practice for our students who need the support of best practices"
Verdolino: "I suspect you're employing those staff...if you look at most important lines of teachers, teaching staff and in school staff"
may actual being spent, but money is coming from outside of that category
quick math $650M short
"that's the magitude of the issue in a nutshell"
Schuster: "very clear...actual staffing levels is over 30% below foundation budget for actual teaching"
"are we wasting money by hiring more teachers than we need ?"
"I don't know what the right answer is" wonders who would know correct staffing level
"I don't know that we need much more data beyond that"
MBAE: question is how do you address the gap? address the gap going forward
"just appropriating more money wouldn't do that"
also remember Commissioner that there are programmatic ways that the gap could be addressed
Moreau: if we have no capacity to know what we're doing and trace what we're doing, we don't know how it's being spent
"general notion of more intent services" is good, but problem with going beyond
"probably being services being delivered to the student being delivered to the student by the classroom teachers"
"perhaps the gap is in" what the regular classroom teacher isn't delivering
Reminder that IEP services must be delivered by a special education licensed educator
Chang-Diaz: how predictable are the needs from year to year? are you able to pretty predictably set a budget?
within a range (of 10%) it's predictable
know that the more we do inclusion, we increase class size
Chang-Diaz question about "other teaching services" being higher
need for guidance and such being higher in that population
only way to determine actual need under language delay and such is to test in both languages, also need to translate IEPs into different languages for parents

MBAE: improve quality of information that state has:
establish a data advisory committee overseen by DESE in collaboration with executive office
"effective and efficient allocation"
add, beyond usual suspects, charter schools and collaboratives
major goals would be improving financial reporting
people who use the data express some frustration at quality and consistency of data
work to strengthen department's capacity to report and develop local capacity to use the data well
report annually to Board of Ed and Joint Committee chairs
exploration of what finacial impacts of reporting would be
anticipation of increased costs: "impossible to predict what that would be"
"want to be sure that the ways districts report don't become the tail that wags the dog of how programming is done"
only recently has Title I allowed to provide services across the whole school "so tail doesn't wag the dog" and accounting doesn't create the programming
"don't want to create the same problem that finally got solved for Title I"
state really does need more data around things like inclusion
presumably "effective and efficient" ways to do inclusion, likewise ineffective and inefficient ways
some back and forth about teacher salaries and what level of information the state gets; upshot is that teacher salaries are public record
MBAE: think that groups made up "of the usual suspects" start with current model
also should include early childhood
Reville: doing this as part of our report? Yes. And this is assumed to be under authority of Commission to establish?
Peisch: think Commissioner could, but we might consider if we want to do so
so far, both teachers' unions and the vocational association have asked to be included
Does this have a defined life? Imagine it being a committee that would end
"can be eliminated when it is no longer needed"
Verdolino: a lot would depend on the training and implementation phase
bringing them in increases the chances that they could play a role in implementation
Jehlen: want to be really excited about streamlining and duplicative reporting
make sure we include all resources
"how do you know what is effective and efficient if you don't know what the goal is? If the goal is increase MCAS achievement, what's efficient is eliminating art and music."
admission that this won't necessarily result in fewer reports being required from the state
Chang-Diaz: what's your reaction to this overall?
must be linked to what the use of the data is and how it improves work in classrooms
MOTION to include in Commission report
Moreau: there are creative minds out there that would come to the table, but they can put something together without having any feel for what it MEANS to the field; thus crucial to have those doing the work at the table and should include IT

after a break, Commission now looking at Part B of the other options before them:

  • Limit the use of new funding to investments in the following initiatives to be described in a publicly accountable benchmarked school improvement plan. The parameters of those individually crafted plans would invest from the following priorities: (1) Provide greater support for low-income and ELL students; (2) Expanded teacher professional development; (3) Hiring staff at levels that support improved studentperformance; (4) Purchase and implementation of technology and instructional materials; (5) Expanded learning time (day / year / venue); (6) Add instructional coaches; (7) Provide wrap-around services that engage the entire community and families in strengthening the social emotional support system for students; (8) Provide common planning time for instructional teams;
  • Designate an investment component of the Foundation Budget and require that funds allocated to the investment accounts be spent on those investment items. Underscore the importance of these investments by requiring each district to report annually on how it intends to spend its investment funds, how it intends to measure its success, and (after the first year) whether itsucceeded in reaching its goal;
  • Establish a better data collection system that allows for greater access to school-level expendituresand data; 
  • Ensure that additional funds attributable to low-income and ELL students are spent on programs and services that support the needs of those particular students; and
  • Establish an innovation fund distributed competitively to meet specific goals asking if there are differences among suggestions

MARVA concern about competive granting which measures ability of districts to write grants
MTA: last one, adding a fund outside of the foundation budget: "how does that fit into accountability for additional funds"...different category
agreement from Chang-Diaz
"foundation budget shouldn't have anything to do with competitive grants"
MBAE: legimate question on if it should be included, but different fund for supporting ideas that are most promising ideas could have some sort of support
Peisch: certain tension between ensuring the money is well-spent and every district and every school has its own challenges, and what may be the best way to address a challenge in one school may not be the right answer for all
"have to really consider what is the best way on the one hand that the dollars get to the students that need them...and at the same time ensure that the people who are on the ground can make the decision that serve the students best"
going to require a fair amount of thought
suggest maybe looking at proposed language for the next meeting
MASS: innovation fund interpreted as start-up funds, where is sustainability after two or three years
careful of word "services" (which for Title III doesn't mean 'salaries')
MASC: distinction of "new funding": is it new funding with respect to fully recognizing special ed and health insurance or is it recognizing services to ELL and low income and such?
can understand concern of Legislature that there be some accountability issue there;if you recognize the funding that I'm spending on special education and health insurance, why wouldn't I then be able to fund art or music (or whatever had been cut meanwhile)?
also, accountable to local district voters
And also, who is going to measure it?
response that it would be included with school or district improvement plan (one of those don't run through SC)
additional funds if I receive them, additional funds will go to restoring programs lost; I don't have the flexibility in here
suggestion is "and development of whole child"
Chang-Diaz: tool for soft accountability for parents to value
MASS: to me, where community places values
Hatch: not sure you can even measure "new funding" unless you run old formula versus new formula and some districts wouldn't get any more than minimum aid
Moreau: perhaps it's simple staying in the same Reville "loose and tight" accountability
performing low, have to report more strictly to state; performing higher, less to state
in hearings, very many different thoughts: individual districts can get funds for the specific needs for a particular area
just going to interject here that the utter mistrust of local government by state authority in these sorts of things is appalling
Question is if those categories are all covered in question 1
MASC: infrastructure: maybe cut custodians, maybe cut routine maintenance
all of which are bad policy, and that's not included in here
Chang-Diaz: at some point, as we begin to broaden the area, the point becomes meaningless
"if this is the new money here, can you spend the old money on buildings?"
putting discussion on hold, bringing forward at next meeting
Peisch says forward language to chairs for next meeting for David Bunker
Next meeting is October 16

Foundation Budget Review Commission is BACK

After a summer hiatus, the Foundation Budget Review Commission is meeting today at the State House at 9:30 in hearing room A1 (which is in the basement, if memory serves). I'm heading in on the train to take notes.
As the initial report took up out-of-district special ed (though not to the degree necessary) and health insurance, they'll be looking at what's left at this point. The list they've put together is:

  • in-district special education 
  • low income increment
  • ELL increment
  • mental health/ wraparound services
  • Professional development/common planning time/instructional coaches
  • extended learning time
  • technology
  • full day preschool
  • K-3 pupil-teacher ratios
  • operations and maintenance
  • inflation adjustment
They're also going to be looking at their effective use and efficiencies charge, and they've floated several items on tying expenditures to particular uses. 
Notes to come!

District SPED cost rate
income increment
ELL increment
Mental Health/Wraparound ser
PD/Common Planning Time/Instructional coaches
Extended learning time
Full Day Preschool
3 pupil:teacher ratios
Operations & maintenance
Inflation adjustment
District SPED cost rate
income increment
ELL increment
Mental Health/Wraparound ser
PD/Common Planning Time/Instructional coaches
Extended learning time
Full Day Preschool
3 pupil:teacher ratios
Operations & maintenance
Inflation adjustment
District SPED cost rate
income increment
ELL increment
Mental Health/Wraparound ser
PD/Common Planning Time/Instructional coaches
Extended learning time
Full Day Preschool
3 pupil:teacher ratios
Operations & maintenance
Inflation adjustment
District SPED cost rate
income increment
ELL increment
Mental Health/Wraparound ser
PD/Common Planning Time/Instructional coaches
Extended learning time
Full Day Preschool
3 pupil:teacher ratios
Operations & maintenance
Inflation adjustment

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 1

Our first October meeting is at 7 pm on Thursday. You can find the agenda here.
There's lots going on this week. We have several groups coming through for recognitions. Mr. Monfredo has filed for reconsideration of the item on preferential hiring for in-city applicants for jobs. We have all the minutes from this past month to approve, plus the language of the school committee section of our policy handbook to approve.
Then onto the rest of the agenda.
The report of the superintendent is on the arts magnet program in the Burncoat quadrant.
By Thursday, we will have three standing committee reports: Teaching, Learning, and Student Supports, Governance, and Accountability (see my previous post).
We have a few more HR updates as we're still beginning the year.
We have the held item on parking around Temple Emanuel back up again.
Mr. O'Connell is concerned about the costs of the Affordable Care Act (particularly around, if I'm reading this correctly, the so-called "Cadillac tax").
Mr. O'Connell wants to look at MCAS scores, and PARCC scores, and AP scores.
We're being asked to approve a prior year payment of $6,487.80 for translation.
Mr. Monfredo is asking that we support Senator Flanagan's S 2020 regarding opioid testing for students. 
We're being asked to accept a donation from Doherty graduates of $10,619.15 for Doherty (I believe I see the cleaning up of student activity accounts happening here).
I'm asking my colleagues to look at the resolutions that are before the Mass Association of School Committees Delegates Assembly next month, where I'll be representing Worcester. 
Miss Biancheria is asking for an update on crosswalk repainting.
She'd also like a report on the number of students who are homeless and what schools they attend (This one is screaming 'FERPA violation' to me; we'll have to see what admin says about how this could be reported)
Miss Biancheria would like to know how we hire consultants.
She'd also like to honor Maureen Binienda for "developing innovative ways of providing healthy food" to students (which I think we already did?).
Mr. O'Connell wants to providing mentoring through the Chamber of Commerce.
Administration asks that we honor the Worcester Senior Center African American Seniors Group for their donations to our students.
Mr. O'Connell wants to know that our site councils are meeting.
And we're being asked to approve a prior year payment of $162.73 for three citywide gym teachers.

Accountability meets this week

The Standing Committee on Accountability and Student Achievement has its first meeting since May of 2014 this week. On the agenda:

School accountability plans! Per Mass General Law, we do not approve school improvement plans, but we may review them. This week, in our periodic sampling, we are looking at the plans for Burncoat High School, Claremont Academy, and Forest Grove Middle School.

Secondary school start times! We have a BOATLOAD of backups on this (so just check out the link to the main agenda, above). For those following this, know that we have an item on it in EACH standing committee right now, and the idea is to review the research here first, then to move to the "how would it work/how much would it cost" in TLSS and F&O, and then (if we get there) move it to "what needs to change" in Governance.

Testing audit! It turns out that we've done some work on this: we have a report on student assessment done in house and we have the results of a WPS teacher survey on this issue.

Full confession: I have as yet looked at none of this. 

That's 5:30 on Wednesday in room 410 at DAB.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Governance and Employee Issues

Agenda is here

Wellness policy relating to Safe Routes to School
The district will support active transport to and from school, such as walking or biking. The district will encourage this behavior by engaging in activities such as: designation of safe or preferred routes to school, promotional activities such as participation in International Walk to School Week, National Walk and Bike to School Week, secure location for storage of bicycles and helmets, instruction on walking/bicycling safety provided to students, promotion of safe routes program to students, staff, and parents, and documentation of numbers of children walking and/or biking to and from schools.

home rule petition to permit the award of civil service appointment to provisional custodians
Brophy: not only custodians, other employees, and not only WPS, but City
Monfredo: send to City manager

tax exempt status on a simple and expedited basis for PTOs
they're their own independent entitiies
circulate the information but find out if they're independent

Clark Street library, name it after Eileen Barbieri

homeschooling language for the policy handbook
which was already approved and is in the handbook for this year

social media policy was put out in a bulletin and was reviewed with employees
policy was passed by School Committee previous year BUT was not sorted out with EAW prior to this year, so was distributed and reviewed for this school year
motion to file

Superintendent's evaluation: to include outgoing members in the evaluation of superintendent
(in other words, those who worked with the Superintendent are those who evaluate the superintendent)
point by Foley and Monfredo that this shouldn't happen, anyway, as we're supposed to evaluate the superintendent before members leave office
language that the offer is made, but outgoing members may if they choose

Committee meeting on vision, goals, and policy

You can fnid the agenda here 
Backup on policy is here 
Reviewing the changes

HELD until the next meeting in October

Kootcher: aligning goals of committee with goals of superintendent
superintendent goals need to be considered in light of this
integration of policy and budget in practice
topical heading related to the goal may be selected
SC needs to decide which kind of goals they want to pursue
goals for the committee and/ or goals for meetings
many committees deal with their dealings with the public
many look at their role in improving student achievement
time for the School Committee to think about what its individual goals should be
Superintendent's goals related to district improvement and student learning
professional development for School Committee members, both as a body and for the community
district engagement: how their work may effect the social and emotional well being of students
fiduciary responsibilities of School Committee
most prudent School Committees take three or four goals
given that the Superintendent has been extremely specific in establishing student learning goals
"how what you do affects student achievement, public credibility, and moves the district forward"
get three or four priority areas on the board; identify the roles of the School Committee, then figure out how the role of the School Committee translate into those goals
"standards to which School Committtees are held are higher than about any other role in this country"
School Committees are held to a higher standard, to focus policy and to focus on direction; leave the management to the Superintendent (and City Manager)
in a plan E charter, it makes it a crime for the City Council to interfere (or try to) in the management of the city
"of course there are disagreements about what that intervention is"
"we fight very hard to get our members policies orientated on policy...and stay out of the weeds"
keeps the bad guys off our back


community outreach (suggestion was public hearings)
students (at risk,
student achievement (reading, student learning, district achievement, students at risk, absenteeism)
safety/ environment (community use, facilities,
professional development (annual self evaluation, training, code of ethics,
policy review
community outreach (forums, conducting meetings)
culture of visibility, transparency

"as a school committee member, there are many things you may do that you shouldn't do"
maintaining your own role,"that creates a very clear link between your role and the ethics law and the code of ethics"
Foley: "it's high level rather than operational"
using policy, budget, public discussion of student can we advance the goal of student achievement
school committees have driven the focus on socio-emotional growth for students
"the board regulates itself"
"pay very close attention to policy, as you're binding yourself"

student achievement
professional development
education leadership/ community outreach
poicy review

putting those priorities into words and saying 'here's how we're going to do it'
not hard to put words to this
suggestion that the Mayor appoint a subcommittee to wordsmith policy
Mayor appoints O'Connell, Ramirez, and Novick to wordsmith goal language: Novick appointed chair

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

TLSS meeting: notes

agenda is here

School Finance update for Board of Ed

Hatch: Foundation Budget
reminds that part of charge was "efficient and effective resource allocation"
"was a lot of good discussion" around that
preliminary report : actual spending on health care is $1.2 billion higher than foundation budget recognizes; recommendation to increase the benefits rate
benchmark active employee insruance to GIC municipal average
add in retiree health insurance
separate inflation factor
special ed assumption is 15% of students receiving services 25% of the time
raise to 16%
out-of-district increase to capture actual cost before circuit breaker is triggered
Hatch: expensive proposition
fixes don't fully fix the model ...though Hatch argues that this is because not enough districts are on GIC or GIC like plans
$800M to be phased in, but it isn't all state aid
Sagan: where is that money now? Aren't districts spending it now?
Wulfson: being pulled out of other district needs
the increase in required spending might not be equivalent to the amount of state aid
Peyser: primarily relevant to the districts spending at the foundation level
Sagan: but this would be pure relief to those
Peyser just used an illustration that only sorta worked
Craven: once the money goes through the formula, the state doesn't have the mechanism to say "gee your health care costs only went up by 2%"
Wulfson: that's part of what's up for consideration
"if there's going to be some large increase in chapter 70 aid, will there be some requirement that the aid is spent effectively, efficiently"
Hatch: doesn't have to be done all in one year
report has a list of potential areas for discussion

Wulfson: low income increment and community eligibility
measuring poverty in school district enrollment; free and reduced lunch numbers used in Ch 70 and in accountability measure
current year 48 districts participating; 200,000 students, 21% of students in the state
"I just read that Worcester has joined and their participation is up 9%"
using data from department of health
ongoing statistical analyses and discussion with stakeholders
monitoring other states' response "at this point the federal government has not stepped in. We think at some poin they will. I think they were as flummoxed by it as we were."
using new measure for entitlement grants (which largely use census data, anyway)
chapter 70 needed: going to need to go to Legislature
school and district accountability: hold harmless provision this year; may require adjustments future years

Peyser: if you don't know who the low income students are, how do you have a target for low income students?
Carried forward from last year; if the target doesn't increase
"can't do any worse"

Wulfson: no student will lose a free lunch as a result of this change
40% match to be eligible for CEP

Craven: don't forget MSBA!

Board of Ed on Level 5 schools

Here's the report
comment on what a difference having it be the second year of the plan rather than the first
at least two weeks of PD, some had three
families coming back and choosing to be there
change in leadership at two of the schools
Stewart: issues around family and community engagement: how did they re-engage stakeholders?
is the Dever still doing a bilingual program?
program is offering Spanish for all students, as it was last year
on family engagement: person who is in that role, focused on outreach
18 buses come in, kids from all across Boston
not expecting parents to come into the school, having school come to the families
Morton: see best practices and share with each of the schools you were working with
Morgan lack of preschool: Morgan principal wanted preschool for kids from her neighborhood, so kids will stay and attend kindergarten

Student Assessment report: recap at the Board of Ed

backup here
Chester: fiscal implications and final results on study on testing time for today
report: cost variables around assessment choice
spending has risen: spending $24M on state appropriation this year, another $13M in federal grants on assessment
FY14: $32M
FY15: $37M
FY16: $37M
less than 0.5% of our annual appropriation
includes DESE staff and assessment contracts
"Very important dollars to the program, but very few dollars to the state budget"
contracts are with Pearson [$14M] (for PARCC), Measured Progress (for MCAS)[$16.6M], and WIDA [$2.1M] (for ACCESS)
predicting future costs depends on numerous variables:
  • PARCC is driven by student volume (beyond MA) and optional services chosen; price agreement with Pearson is good through FY18, possible to renegotiate in FY17; how many computer v paper affects costs. Computer based test is $24; paper based is $33 (for grades 3-8, both subjects together per student); computer based is $12.50; paper is $18 (for high school per student)
  • MCAS needs a new procurement in 2016-17 school year; revision to current tests and addition of grades 9 & 11. Any changes would have to go out to bid. Not a true representation until we specified what we were looking for. "looking at a good solid year to pull it off well" though Chester adds they'll pull together "likely benchmarks" for Board. Not "an apples to apples" comparison, but about $42 per student (which is from FY14, when all students were taking MCAS). We're in the first of two one year extension periods.
"Presently there is no clear conclusion that either assessment is more or less expensive than the other."
cost models depend on what we want to assume: more computers? less human scoring?
Chester: artificial intelligence scoring; can teach a computer to score essays
"our assumption is that we would want to continue human scoring until we're certain" of the artificial intelligence scoring
Willyard "for the cost is worth giving up control, if PARCC is less expensive"
Fryer: shouldn't take the numbers too literally at this point, "I'd imagine Pearson at least knows" how much each state in saves us
"what are the economies of scope? What are we getting economically from this consortium?"
Chester: primary consideration should be the quality of the assessment
PARCC was paid for, not by states, but by the federal government "about $185M development effort"
If we were to develop this "it would be a pretty substantial cost"
Fryer: should separate this into a discussion about governance and a discussion of the quality of the test
"if we don't know the costs and we don't know the quality in five years" (on PARCC)
McKenna; who owns intellectual property?
Wulfson: owned by consortium of states, make it available to states at a cost who are not a member of the consortium
McKenna: interesting option, wouldn't be under consortium, but could use work
Wulfson: wrestling with degree to which having other states do that weakens the larger point of consortium
Peyser: can you be in the consortium and not contract with Pearson? No.
Wulfson: online test which uses the Pearson online platform; cost to develop our own would be prohibitive
Willyard: could use platform of Pearson without PARCC content? possibly...
"but there's options, then"
response to Fryer: three tiers of pricing, those are in the bottom tier, 'though we're slightly below the bottom tier, but Pearson is holding the price
"consortium could grow in future years, as well"
McKenna: anything that protects the upside of costs?
Sagan "the Hotel California problem"
McKenna: they can only raise costs by X amount ever
Wulfson: state procurment, can only have contracts for so many years
have made several changes in testing contractors over the years
for the life of the contract you're protected on the price
Stewart: saw stats on district support for broadband etc; any sense in how long it will take to get everyone there?
Wulfson: question of politcal will, not just suburbs funding, but some of urban areas
question of what this board sets as a policy
if we set it by 2017, "I have no doubt that we could make that happen"
Chester: whole conversation about if there should be one contract or should there be more than one model
Smarter Balanced (SBAC) is the other
very different models: governance does not involve Commissioners, test is held by UCLA, each state finds test deliverer
"Smarter Balanced experience have been incredibly variable"
Nevada in lawsuit over it; others had a great experience
"very little confidence in comperability"
"PARCC consortium has had a very successful administration"
"nobody crashed and burned"
80% of students (across states) took it online
McKenna: how many states are in SBAC? 18
Peyser: about cost: numbers for various components within PARCC; questions averaging
has there been a negotiation in the services that are provided? Same services of MCAS and PARCC
Wulfson: hard one to answer, tests at very different stages
Morton asks for some guidance on the governance issues: need to know what control we'll have, what control we'll lose, what the impact on costs will be
Wulfson: will happen next month
Morton: interested in school districts that are not up to speed on technology
Sagan asks that it be by area as well as demographic
Chester: next month, Monday and as much of Tuesday as necessary for dicussion
a number of studies to look at
"hope to bring some educators in to look at the assessment"
"...going to be snowed with opinion about what you should and shouldn't do. All of that is important. Some of that opinion is based on actual experience with the test. Some is based on those with no experience with the test."
Sagan: "sure that we aren't getting out on time" at the October meeting
McKenna asks that the reports coming out from the Secretary's office be shared as early as possible
Fryer asks for specifics about governance model on paper; Sagan wants to hand it to the "guy from the consortium" and see if he agrees with what we think is the governance model
Willyard asks if we can reach out to states that have dropped out; back and forth over if that's political grimace from the Commissioner at this
Stewart: impact on teaching and learning at schools on decision
Chester: "you've had some phenominal experience at that in the Lexington School Committee"
shine the light on achievement gaps "at what are otherwise lighthouse districts"
"in addition there's a lot of feedback that educators get"

PARCC perceptions
survey done by Stand for Children/MassInc of principals (285)
TeacherPlus teacher survey (1014 teachers from across the country)
computer based survey of students during PARCC (about 127,000 students)
survey of test administrators (693 for two)
pricipals: nobody thinks PARCC is less demanding; 40% think it will better assess critical thinking
TeachPlus (not a representative sample) 72% of the ones from MA thought it was a higher quality assessment
McKenna: were these TeachPlus teachers?
PD was run by TeachPlus? McKenna points out that TeachPlus has come out strongly in favor of PARCC
Doherty: "it's not a grain of sand you have to take it with; it's a bucket of sand"
McKenna: "they have a certain ideology that some teachers would adhere to and some would not"
more and more test administrators have used a computer based test
only about half feel that the online training got them ready to administer the test
asked administrators if most finished early/on time: large majority finished on time or early (a little higher on computer based rather than paper)
students said most questions were not on things that they hadn't learned
half/ish say it was easier or same as their schoolwork
almost all finished early or online
about 2/3rds said that they preferred computer
a quarter said that they had technology interface issues
Chester: raised question if adults are putting a ceiling on what students are capable of; adults concerned when kids were not
Fryer asking for the rest of the responses

District assessment practices: 
surveyed 38% of superintendents
interviewed a representative sample of 35 districts
4 districts had case studies more in depth
challenging for people to respond off the cuff as to how much time they spend on things
find comparable for student performance
most commonly used for "addressing student needs"
state required: two tests, two sessions per test
elementary average 8.3 sessions
middle 7.5 sessions
high school 5.6 sessions
Sagan: consistent in time? No, approxiamate
Peyser: 19 sessions is summative across all grades,
district 60%, state 40%
interesting variation across these districts: one district spending 1 day up through grade 8 and 4 days grade 9-12; 8/12 days in elementary
Willyard: district 4 I can relate to the most; adds up his days of finals, actual MCAS & PARCC, mock MCAS and PARCC
"when we talk about only a couple of days, five or less...a lot of [students] chuckled at this"
"do we know if this really the sentiment of all schools in the Commonwealth"
Sagan: it's hard to reconcile this with the experience in the classroom
preparation for MCAS assessment: curriculum and instruction, some test-taking strategies
how to plan for schedule of MCAS: districts allow schools to set schedule, little new content on test days, "minimal disruption for most non-tested students"
Noyce: what should we do?
Chester: the longest one, isn't an extreme isolated example
assessments that aren't particularly contributing to instruction so districts could abandon
Fryer: compare with student growth and share best practices
Chester: this goes back quite a ways
often a mindset that you do some very narrow preparation
"my understanding is that it is those insitutions that aim high in terms of intellectual mission...don't need that narrow prep"
Moriarity: recommendation against holding assemblies; it's counterproductive