Sunday, January 31, 2016

"Tested" at Clark University


A documentary by Curtis Chin

Higgins Lounge at Dana Commons


The gap in opportunities for different races in America remains extreme. Nowhere is this more evident than our nation’s top public schools. In New York City, where blacks and Hispanics make up 70% of the city’s school-aged population, they represent less than 5% at the city’s most elite public high schools. Meanwhile Asian Americans make up as much as 73%. This documentary follows a dozen racially and socio-economically diverse 8th graders as they fight for a seat at one of these schools. Their only way in: to ace a single standardized test. Tested includes the voices of such education experts as Pedro Noguera and Diane Ravitch as it explores such issues as access to a high-quality public education, affirmative action, and the model-minority myth.

Q&A with filmmaker Curtis Chin: 4:30 - 5:00PM

Light refreshments will be served. 

Co-sponsored by 
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion 
The President's Office

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Worcester school start times?

It also appears (?) as though school start times are on the TLSS agenda for Monday at 5:30.

Worcester Superintendent search this week

A few big things happening this week in the Worcester superintendent search:
  • There are two community forums this week at 7 pm. Tuesday night, it is at Doherty; Wednesday night, it is at North. The item the Community Involvement Committee has for these is "To take testimony relative to the qualities that the staff of the Worcester Public Schools and community of Worcester are seeking for the position of Superintendent of Schools." It appears that this will be it for public involvement in the process, so, if you wish to be involved, that would be the time to get involved. 

  • What's a little odd about this is the Search Committee already has a draft job description of the superintendent, which they are considering, at a meeting that they have scheduled for 7:30 on Wednesday, also at North (so, I'm assuming, following the public hearing). There is also a draft job application, and a draft evaluation form, which they are also considering at that meeting. A few things of note: the job description requires no degree higher than a master's, nor does it require that the person be certified or certifiable in Massachusetts (which I hope is an oversight); a PhD and the (legally required) certification are listed as "desired" capacity. There is also no specific requirement around administrative (or, for that matter, teaching) experience.
  • The application has three essay questions: How do your experiences and education best qualify you to serve as superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools? What is your philosophy of education and how do you envision carrying this out as superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools? What do you anticipate your preliminary or initial goals will be as superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools.
  • <All of this then is reported out at Thursday night's meeting of the Worcester School Committee at 7 pm at City Hall. 

And budget wonks, note: the preliminary numbers for the FY17 budget are the report of the superintendent on Thursday, as well.

Ending the school-to-prison pipeline conference

Ending the School-to-Prison Pipeline Conference
for Civil Rights Advocates, Educators, Students, School Resource Officers
and Health and Human Services Providers

Wednesday, March 2, 2016
8:45 a.m.  – 12:45 p.m.

Harvard Graduate School of Education
13 Appian Way, Askwith Hall
Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

Deadline to register is Friday, February 26th

The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts

The Harvard Graduate School of Education

The registration form can be found at


Carmen M. Ortiz
United States Attorney
District of Massachusetts

Chief Judge Steven C. Teske
Clayton County Juvenile Court
Jonesboro, Georgia

Stephen Spaloss
Regional Vice President
City Year

For questions, please email  or contact Cara Henderson at 617-748-3269

"immigration policy is education policy"

Excellent read from The Atlantic on the impact that immigration raids has on kids and on their education:
Educators, advocates, and community and elected leaders are questioning the untold hardship on schoolchildren as America limps along with seemingly complex, confusing immigration laws and regulations....Researchers linked the threat of detention and deportation to poorer educational outcomes, concluding: “U.S.-citizen children who live in families under threat of detention or deportation will finish fewer years of school and face challenges focusing on their studies.”

Friday, January 29, 2016

DESE on opting out/ test refusal

In today's Commissioner's Update (which is not yet posted online) DESE has issued guidance to districts regarding students who refuse to take state standardized assessments this spring:

Refusals to Take an Assessment: 
As the spring assessment administration nears, please keep in mind that participation in statewide assessments is required of all students enrolled in public schools in the relevant grade levels. The state assessments provide important feedback to families, teachers, administrators, and state policymakers as to where schools are succeeding and where schools and districts need to enhance their efforts. 
In some instances, a student may refuse to take a test, either of his/her own volition or at the direction of a parent. In these cases, we ask principals to encourage parents to rethink their refusal and remind them that the assessments are a valuable gauge of their student's and school's progress. We ask principals and test proctors to handle refusals with sensitivity. Students should not be pressured to take the test, nor should they be punished for not taking the test. They may sit quietly and read in the testing room, but if they are distracting others in the class who are taking the test, it would be appropriate to have them move to another location in the school with adult supervision. There is no requirement to provide formal or informal instruction to these students during the test period; having them do homework or read a book is sufficient, provided that the material is separate from the content being assessed in the testing room.
For students who refuse to take MCAS paper tests, no special reporting is needed. If no answer form is submitted for a student or if a blank answer form is submitted, the student will automatically be considered absent. For students who refuse to take the PARCC test on paper or on a computer, the test administrator will need to go into PearsonAccessNext to manage the student’s account and mark them as Not Tested, Absent, for each test they refused to take. Additionally, if the student started an online test session before refusal, that test will need to be marked complete by the test administrator.  The Department strongly suggests that the test administrator document the student refusal and keep it on record at the school in case questions arise later about the school's participation rate.  

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Governor Baker's FY17 budget

with apologies for this taking this long, with thanks to everyone whose work I am sharing, and with notice that this may be updated!
Note that MASC's response to the Governor's Budget is here. 

Yesterday, Governor Baker submitted his FY17 budget proposal to the state legislature. You can find the K-12 line items here.

First, the chapter 70 aid to schools is up by 1.7%, as had been released earlier in the week. This not only, as noted by Senator Chang-Diaz in the Globe today, means that Baker doesn't fulfill his pledge that such aid would go up by the same percentage as state revenues; it also means that it doesn't come close to keeping pace with actual cost increases!
Foundation budgets, as noted on DESE's website, are calculated on a negative 0.22 inflation factor. So yes, the budgets of schools this year are being calcuated by the state as having lower costs than last year.
The state has also moved ahead with the change from low income to economically disadvantaged. Practically speaking, that means we went from 376,810 students being counted as poor statewide this current year to 312,203 being counted as poor this coming year. In an attempt to ensure that districts can still provide needed services, DESE has changed the rate at which districts are aided based on the concentration of need. DESE has put together a PowerPoint on this; the redefinition (remember, low income is part of chapter 70 in the law!) is here in the "Local Aid" section and reads as follows:
Each district shall be assigned a low income decile based on its low income percentage which shall be calculated as its number of economically disadvantaged students over its total foundation enrollment. Each decile shall be assigned a low income rate, where the rate for the lowest percentage decile shall be $3,775 and each subsequent decile shall increase by $40 up to the highest percentage decile rate of $4,135.
So the more economically disadvantaged kids a district has, the higher the dollar amount per student in their calculation.
There is a minimum $20 per pupil increase in state aid.
For districts whose required contributions are coming down, it's worth noting that they're getting a 70% effort reduction this year. (That's for communities that were over their minimum required contributions back at the beginning of this adventure and have had their required contributions coming down over time.)
And, as noted above by MASC, there is nothing done about the Foundation Budget Review Commission at all.

On all of the following, I will start by agreeing with this:
Regional transportation reimbursement is level funded from last year (which was not fully funded).
The circuit breaker reimbursement (which kicks in for special education tuition over a particular level) is literally $1 more than last year.
Recovery high schools are level funded.
METCO is level funded.
The Quality Kindergarten grant has been level funded BUT there is a language change. Last year, the language was (Emphasis added):
For kindergarten expansion grants to provide grant awards to continue quality enhancement of existing full-day kindergarten classrooms; provided, that the department shall administer a grant program to encourage the voluntary expansion of high quality, full-day kindergarten education throughout the commonwealth; provided further, that grants funded through this appropriation shall not annualize to more than $18,000 per classroom in subsequent fiscal years; provided further, that preference shall be given to grant applicants with high percentages of students scoring in levels 1 or 2 on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System exam and school districts which serve free or reduced lunch to at least 35 per cent of their students, as determined by the department based on available data
This year, it reads:
For kindergarten quality enhancement grants to school districts; provided that grant awards shall be made on a per enrollee basis, as reported under thechapter 70 school aid program, so called, for each full-day kindergarten student not paying fees; provided further, that the commissioners of elementary and secondary education and early education and care shall jointly develop grant requirements for this item to ensure that funds are used to promote improvement of early literacy outcomes 
From what I'm hearing--and here's a place for an update as I hear them!--this is going to change how Quality K operates. Note that DESE and EEC are TOGETHER developing new granting requirements and that it specifically calls out early literacy. So if you've come to depend on Quality K, you're not out of the woods yet!

There is an increase of over $5 million in student and state assessment; I assume that's the MCAS 2.0 development.

Dual enrollment (high school and college) is doubled from $1 million to $2 million.

DESE's budget itself is cut by $1.2 million. And as much as we all complain about Malden, there's no way that a cut of that size doesn't impact some things we care about and want to have happen.

$4.6 million in MCAS student support has been zeroed out; that's extra help for the kids who'd struggled to pass.

There are also a further series of accounts that were zeroed out:

There's also the much-ballyhooed $20 million increase in charter reimbursement. Yes, that's an increase. No, from the percentages at which previous years were reimbursed, not to mention the increases in charter seats being considered, that isn't enough to fully fund the charter reimbursement owed districts.
Thus the changes proposed in charter reimbursement. Currently, districts are supposed to get 100% of increases the first year, and 25% for four years after. The Governor's budget proposes 100% the first year, 50% the second year, and 25% the third, for (and this is key) "any district whose total charter school tuition payments exceed 9 percent of net school spending in fiscal year 2017" That's Boston. That's Holyoke. I'm not sure how many others it is, but it isn't many. 
That matters because the line still is insufficiently funded, and here's how the money gets allocated: 
(1) reimbursement of the per-pupil capital needs component; (2) the tuition payments for which the commonwealth is responsible under subsection (i)(2) and the fifth paragraph of subsection (ff) of said section 89 of said chapter 71; (3) the 100 per cent year-one reimbursement; (4) the 50 per cent year-two reimbursement to districts with charter payments exceeding 9 percent of net school spending as described above; (5) the 25 percent year-three reimbursement to districts with charter payments exceeding 9 percent of net school spending as described above; and (6) all other reimbursements authorized under subsections (ff) and (gg) of said section 89 of said chapter 71
The 9% communities come before any community that hasn't hit 9% once the first year communities are paid.
But they don't just get paid; they have to prove how they're using it:
Any district qualifying for the 50 per cent year-two reimbursement as described above shall submit to the commissioner of elementary and secondary education, by October 1, 2016, a plan for using its reimbursements to ensure that the district maintains and improves the level and quality of educational services it provides to its students, notwithstanding reductions in enrollment and increases in charter school tuition, and shall also submit a year-end report to the commissioner by September 1, 2017 on the implementation of said plan. 
The House does their budget next, and House members are meeting with Ways and Means over February. The Senate goes next. If any of the above isn't what you'd like to see, get in touch with them.

Civil rights issue of our time?

The lawsuit that had been filed to lift the cap on charter schools in Massachusetts just developed a new twist: the New England chapter of the NAACP and the Lawyers' Committee on Civil Rights and Economic Justice have moved to intervene in the case on behalf of students in district public schools.
“The NAACP is firmly committed to high quality, free, public schools for all,” said Juan Cofield, President of the New England Area Conference of the NAACP.  “All available dollars for education should be used to improve public schools and close the education gap.  Public policy which siphons funds from traditional public schools and expands a dual education system is not a constructive solution, and it will lead to the erosion of traditional public schools.”  He noted that many charter schools are not welcoming environments for students of color, citing evidence of charter schools that suspend Black students at far higher rates than traditional public schools.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January Board of Ed meeting (in sum)

For those who'd like something shorter: this just went out over the MASC list-serv:

The Board of Ed met today at Roxbury Community College, after hearing testimony last night in Southbridge regarding the Commissioner's recommendation regarding Level 5 status (state receivership).

The big news first: the Board unanimously voted in favor of receivership for Southbridge, with several members citing the community's call for "help" at last night's hearing. Commissioner Chester becomes acting receiver immediately; he intends to appoint a permanent receiver by mid-February and suggested that he might appoint a non-profit, rather than a person, as the recever (which was not well received by several Board members).

In the other fraught vote, the Board voted 6-4 to revoke the charter of Dorchester Collegiate Academy. The school is Level 2, but the Commissioner had commented that he didn't see them making substantial enough progress, had concerns regarding leadership, felt that they had high rates of attrition, and also that they weren't serving a more needy population than the district, as their charter called for, all of which was heavily disputed by the school. I will comment that this vote was not a particularly assertive one; a number of members did not raise their hands immediately, and there was certainly a lot of back-and-forth regarding the vote. Members Noyce, Morton, Stewart, and Doherty voted against pulling the charter.

The Board started today by meeting jointly with the Board of Higher Ed. They first discussed college and career readiness with regards to civics, then discussed early college.

There were, as usual, some opening comments (short today, and largely testimony from DCA parents).
The report to the Board today was on graduation rates, and I should pass along the Commissioner's congratulations to your districts for good work (which he said at the meeting!).

The digital literacy/computer science standards are being sent out for comment (link to them is in the post). The science standards were (finally!) approved today.
There was also an initial discussion of revising the history and social studies standards. The Board laid out a timeline for that, which would bring the new standards back in 2018. Secretary Peyser pushed back on that, commenting that it was too long. DESE will come back with revisions of the timeline after they're had their initial public meetings on it. Note that this DOES involve adding a state assessment in history and social studies; that is projected to be done for the first time in the spring of 2020 (by this timeline).

And the Board will vote in February on new charter schools (should they be recommended by the Commissioner; there are four up for review) and additional charter seats. Note that there is a funny tie among the charters this time; the Board must take its first two charters approved from the lowest ten percent of districts; thus two of the charters (I suspect it's Sturbridge and Montachusett?) depend on the charters in Springfield and Brockton (correct me if I'm wrong on your status, please) being approved.

Civic learning and History/social studies standards: Board of Ed

Chester: I said I would update you with timelines and so forth
plan is to revise history and social studies standards between now and 2018
regional focus groups and review panel meetings between now and next year
draft revised standards by end of 2017
district implements through 2020
development of state assessment at the same time, with state assessment spring 2020

New charters will be voted at February board meeting

Board is getting initial information today
Commissioner intially said that they'd be voting in November, to quizzical looks from the Board
there will be four new proposals currently under review:
  • International Academy of Montachusett (this would be Fitchburg)
  • Libertas Academy (Springfield)
  • New Heights Charter (Brockton...yes, more than one of these are "again")
  • Old Sturbridge Village Charter
Sagan: what's the plan on time?
Chester: we'll let you know
Noyce: can only approve Sturbridge and Montachusett (I think?) if we approve the other two as we have to approve lowest ten percent first? 
Question about what happened with schools dropping out: some concern about board make ups, some about prospectuses
Chester: notes that Boston is at their spending cap for caps
about 1200 seats available, hold back about 5% seats as a practice, due to year to year changes
Craven asks how many seats DCA had: 238; Sagan, those would all go back into the count

Science and technology standards at Board of Ed

FINALLY up for a vote today
Sagan "extremely collaborative, extremely Massachusetts-driven"
Stewart: pleasure to finally be able to vote on these standards
Peyser: happy medium or golden mean
enhance student learning but increase student engagement
establish a floor and not a ceiling
standards adopted (to a round of applause)

Digitial literacy standards at Board of Ed

going out for public comment

Board of Ed: graduation rates

The backup for this one is here.
Chester "I wish we could spend three hours on this...very good news"

Board of Ed: Dorchester Collegiate Charter

Chester maintains his recommendation
"these are not recommendations that I bring very lightly at all to the Board"
at the end of the day, considering every thing that has been brought to my attention
"low performing charter school with high rates of attrition"
can find no evidence that student body is more high need than student body of BPS
have not seen any data to support that
if true "school has left substantial resources on the table, by not providing evidence of special education"
has failed to maintain a staff with substantial expertise in special education
"have little confidence that school has the leadership capacity" to place on path to continual improvement

Opening comments: Board of Ed

I should point out that Fryer, due to weather, got stuck out of town and isn't at this meeting.
Chester: very very positive Quality Counts report
releasing educator evaluation ratings today; on agenda for February or March
new student discipline regs
"very promising data from 14-15 year"
also new physical restraint regs took effect on January 1
opening New Year message
asked DoE for reconsideration of "high risk designation"

Board of Education: Southbridge

Higher Ed board has moved out. K-12 board is set to take up Southbridge first

Joint Board meeting: early college

early college being discussed now
more focus and more energy to these areas
select area of early college: to address concern of both areas: long term success of students, particularly first generation college students

Baker to propose change in charter reimbursement

From the Globe today:
The new system would cut the number of years that districts can seek reimbursement from six to three, and restrict payments after the first year to low-performing districts with large numbers of charter seats, Massachusetts education secretary James A. Peyser said.
But Baker’s proposed fix would also double the amount districts receive in the second year from 25 percent to 50 percent of the lost tuition. It would also seek to ensure that districts eligible for reimbursement actually get paid — something that has not been guaranteed in recent years, as the state has underfunded the reimbursement system.

Board of K-12 ed meets with the Board of Higher Ed this morning

Posting from Roxbury Community College where the Board of K-12 Ed meets this morning jointly with the Board of Higher Ed. Agenda for that is here
Liveblogging once the meeting starts at about 8:30
Meeting coming to order
Starting with college and career readiness definition, incorporating civic learning and engagement
using the term "civic preparation"
some of the definition:
"means acquisition of the knowledge, the intellectual skills and the applied competencies that citizens need for informed and effective participation in civic and democratic life; it also means acquiring an understanding of the social values that underlie democratic structures and practices"
much discussion by Commissioners of this being joint work
not being asked to vote today in joint session
Sagan: seems probably non-controversial as so much work was done in and around K-12 board
Peyser: one point which I mentioned is the importance of the study of US history "and our founding documents"
the notion that "we can develop the competencies of citizenship without a knowledge of U.S. history" is lacking
respect for others, respect for variety of thought; thinking "calling out more explicitly"
Sagan: any contradiction with history standards we have?
Peyser: MassCore called out, don't think it's in contradiction
Higher Ed commissioner: important to know how this came out, prompted board to look at this due to lack of knowledge of students about history and civics; haven't seen a state as proactive about civic learning
college rep: "civic participatory skills" sounds like students will become political activists: 'will this make school too political?"
would empower activist teachers
Commissioner: haven't seen any shift in activists due to this initiative (which is being worked out on campus)
comment from Higher Ed to "empower our students to see themselves as participants"
You "participate in civic life because you want to make things better"
(another higher ed member) "strategic in this can pick any -ism that you want...what I heard is 'participation'"
"engaging in the local senior citizen center, engaging" in other volunteer activity
"I really like this...fully aligned...I endorse the document as it is"
Noyce: "endorse this idea of respect of speech and thought"
concerned it "doesn't refer to specific knowledge"
Peyser: thought "foundational documents"
"I think it's a very important distinction...really need to understand what our institutions are, what our underlying...principles are"
"need to know the rules of the road to play"
Harrity "so many chances for communities learning projects"
apologies, by the way: I don't know the Higher Ed board members by sight
another higher ed member "does this framework allow ...for the development of proficient cultural competencies"
assistant commissioner "appreciate those questions"
"beginning stage in our joint work"
"the kinds of issues you brought up are very much part of the discussion we had"
"being able to take the perspectives of others who are different than you...develop empathy"
"addresses the challenge of bringing together people across diversity"
notion of stewardship
"stewards of a tradition of shared government, stewards of working together for a common good"
McKenna; unless we pay attention to this, we're going to have nobody voting in the future
people have different views of strategic change: "I hear referedums, town meetings..."
core civic content: "understand the basics of our government"
"back in the day, this is what education was about"
higher ed member: "skills do really reenforce what employers are asking"
another higher ed member: how much input millenials had in creation of this document? really changing the workforce
might really be surprised at how it's reshaping civic engagement in terms of technology
response: has not been high-level participation to this point by millenials
Sagan: great deal of input of students
Willyard: making sure students had a voice in creation of the document
"at least on ESE side of things" very communicative
Sagan "one of my fun jobs is playing the clock monster"
won't suggest vote today together "think I heard pretty strong support for this"
heard two modifications proposed by Secretary

Monday, January 25, 2016

Southbridge public hearing on receivership

posting from the Board of Ed hearing on receivership for the Southbridge Public Schools. We're in what was their high school auditorium (they opened a new school a few years back).
I'll update this post as we go.

I'll do the best I can with names, though the sound quality remains to be seen. Board members coming in now: so far, Willyard, Noyce, Morton, and Stewart are here, as is Commissioner Chester. I'm hearing that parking outside is tight.
Craven and Moriarty have come in. Awaiting Sagan, who has just come in.
As has Secretary Peyser.

Sagan: we're delighted you're all here, looking forward to hearing from many of you
Board introductions
Sagan: very important meeting for us, take our responsibility to children, to taxpayers seriously
Board's authority to create Level 5
districts not fulfilling their responsibility to children
interested in your views on the Commissioner's recommendations
"what you think work and doesn't work here"
"what you think are ways to improve results, which I think you'll agree, are very disappointing"
"a great deal of time and attention go into this. We don't take it lightly."
four people at a time called forward, with those they're required to hear from called in preference
"generally not our time to interrogate you..." but if they do, won't come from your time
have a translator available in Spanish

Chester: thank parents, citizens, staff from district, elected officials for being here and giving us your feedback
have recommended that "we do vote to take receivership"
"recommendation of last resort"
"won't retrace history of Southbridge...was identified a dozen years ago as underperforming"
"despite all that effort, we're looking at a school district where there is some strong performance, but it's the exception"
cites high rate of leadership turnover
if Board votes to take receivership, we will "move very quickly and expeditiously to appoint a receiver"
local stakeholder group to inform a turnaround plan
"assume that staff is hardworking staff, assume that there are strong teachers and strong administrators"
"want to build on strong assests in this community"
welcome those who want to be involved in turnaround
urge those in community to look at an incredible chance for kids in this community

interim superintendent of two and a half months:
appreciate your coming to us to talk about our children
visits classrooms every day
lot of positive things going on every day, but welcome help
"this may be the silver lining"
"this is a community that works together on behalf of our youngsters"
"we're here to work with you" whatever way the Commissioner goes

Scott Lazo, current Board chair
"it's all about the kids, it's all about striving to excellence"
in 2012 that took a turn: five superintendents in four years
middle/high put under one principal "which created the revolving door"
"we need your help"
"is takeover the answer? I'm not sure"
"we're looking at all the mistakes of the past, and I think what we have to do is move forward"
"we need help, we do need help, there's no doubt about it"
school committee and governance here "just waiting to straighten it out"

Joan Sullivan, first grade teacher, president of the teachers' union
members of SEA are "vital to the success of any state plans to improve our district"
advocate for students to receive resources they need
comprehensive education
educators want to share their expertise to assist their district
"stands united in creating the schools our children deserve"
district has only one social worker
"please hear us"

chair of town council, 'though not speaking as chair
"crucial point in our history"
"a decision needs to be made...whatever decision this Board of Education makes is a decision our community has to support"
"unfortunately we have not been participants in the process"
urges parents to speak their minds
"today as a community we have a voice"
"we will support whatever decision comes forth"

Southbridge town manager: thanks interim superintendent
Commissioner has recommended that Board designate Level 5 district
speak for many "they do not care about politics...want to know what we need to do now to move forward and provide a quality education"
"the district has seen widespread turnover"
he's now reading parts of DESE's report
You've asked for our vision for the district: long term leadership, strong staffing"school committee that strictly deals with policy and stays out of day-to-day operations"
parental engagement, students willing to work hard

Resident of Southbridge and parent of a Southbridge student
"my son needed to help, he was violated in the first week"
went to district for help and was offered school choice
say that you want community to come together"...and yet you're pushing people away when they need help"
think principals cover up for teachers
"I feel like a hopeless mom who can't protect child"
"think school system should not work on covering up for their teachers but to help teachers and parents communicate"
"we definitely need this takeover"

longtime Southbridge resident, current school committee member
"it may very well take a generation to restore students to pre-2004 numbers"
should not allow it to be an excuse for continued student failure
since 2012, "district has spiraled out of control"
decision has been made
"unfortunate it has to take place in such a far away place as the city of Boston"
plans to serve out term

ninth grade English teacher
tenth year in Southbridge Public Schools
"I have some of the best students in the world"
chose to loop with them
"students come with a range of abilities and challenges, challenges far beyond my abilities as a professional to solve"
"have to acknowledge and help us to solve the needs of the students"
urge you to not just listen to the voices to the teachers and the educational assistants, "but please hear us"

Student of Southbridge High school
teachers and staff have been great though "maybe we do need the help"
"coming to a point where they've gotten the things they need to do...but it comes to a point: the staff do great"

education assistant at middle/high school: why you shouldn't put district into receivership
"finally have a school committee that has a focused direction"
"working towards solving problems on their own"
"cleaning up the house that was left them"

associate principal of middle/high school
"have seen firsthand what instability can do to students and to those who help them learn and grow"
wanted to help lead the change at the middle school
have high expectations "and they can succeed"
cannot hold staff or students to expectations that you have not modeled for them
"until a child is available to learn, teaching means nothing"
across the board plan, PBIS...
"the one thing we haven't had is time"
need stability in central office to support these initatives
work towards the same goal "to provide all students with a high quality education, because that is what they deserve"

city councilor: representing the 42% of the community that is Hispanic
big night for my community, big opportunity

parent of daughter in middle high school
"this doesn't happen...we don't ever have a full room EVER"
"we don't have enough textbooks for all of the students...we don't have enough teachers...we don't have enough support"
"blemish for them to have to discipline a child"
son chose to go to a vocational school "students thought he carried a knife, because he was from Southbridge"
if it's been a problem for so long "why would it take the state twelve years to step in?"
"it took twelve years for it to get as bad as it did"
"I heard someone say earlier 'we can't go any lower,' and that is the saddest statement of all, because those are our children."

math teacher hired two months ago, native of Panama
see future doctors and others in her classroom
"need similar role models who speak their native language, Spanish"
here and will continue to do whatever it takes

resident went to meeting several months ago
only one to acknowledge that the kids were suffering
"welcome you to take over the town"
always been a roller coaster
"if you had any idea of the bullying that goes on behind closed doors"
"lots of things that go on with the forgotten children, the special education students"
"why should we have to fight our school system?"
"the Southbridge model is 'if you speak up in public, we'll call DSF on you.'"
"yesterday is gone, today is the present, you're giving us a gift"
"and the future is our gift"

lifetime resident: "my feeling is you've made up your mind up on what the vote is going to be"
new school committee; "things obviously didn't work out" ("PTA moms")
now have the committee back from before
"the PTA mothers threw everything out"
"with you guys coming in, you can get rid of a lot of the deadwood teachers"
"there's a lot of good things with you guys taking over"
"but you haven't exactly done a good job in Holyoke and Lawrence, either"
"but we need a little more time without everyone being scared"

Sagan: "Board has not reached a conclusion or fully debated it"
asks Chester to comment on teachers being fired
Chester: "we have exercised receivership neither situation did we believe it was wise to require the faculty to reapply for their positions"
"don't have an intention of doing so here; either"
Believe there are strong teachers: "build on what you do to turn this district around"
"welcome you to be part of that turnaround process"

parent of five boys in Southbridge, has lived here 17 years
should give new school committee a chance
"they're working so hard, should give them another chance to prove themselves"
kids misbehaving in class, making other kids not focus
"not giving teacher enough to make the strong decision" to resolve the problems
some kids should be put in a separate class, maybe, because they're affecting other kids

"I graduated from this school in 1968 and I did okay"
came back and did cable access
"I filmed those twelve years...and you can see how beautiful those kids were for those twelve years"
could make better use of the educational access channel
"that's been a missed opportunity"
"I never said no to the town, and I never said no to the school"
"and then adminstration changed, and all that went away again"
"hope to God there is a place for this school committee" in the receivership

parent from North Carolina
"love Southbridge, I love the potential"
"so many parents I've met, they're amazing"
so diverse, kids from everywhere, "we're not tapping into it"
"we're not tapping into that"
"I believe in Southbridge"
"my son's about to be a sixth grader, and I'll be honest, the only thing I'm considering, everyone says 'oh, school choice' But why would I want to help anyone else's community?"
"I don't care about the politics"
I want my son to get a scholarship
"I'm working him, but someone is failing him"

retired teacher, Latina
"welcome you, anything you can do for us, I hope it is in the best interest of our students"
if our three elementary schools are Level 3, why are we Level 5?
Why fix what is not broken?
need for cultural awareness, special ed teachers, support staff
need for public transporation: will you look at moving after school programs for parents and students?
need for parental involvement
vocational component to high school

teacher, vice-president of union, parent
"how we move forward from this point on"
"well aware of challenges we face...what is often missed in the that the teachers have been harmed greatly by what's been happening over the last ten or fifteen years"
"lived with lack of vision, and when we have had vision, it's changed in about two months"
"we've been rowing very, very hard, but without any direction"
"We certainly don't need a plan that turns over staff; we do that very well ourself"
"we're willing to do the hard work"
"don't give us a receiver that will try to fix things from the top down"
"what we need are teachers and principals working together with support from up above"

parent of twin ten year olds
one on an IEP: have had to continuously since September about implementing his IEP
19 accommodations and only 3 were met
other son is in honors
"I as a parent had to go in there and insist"
"if you can do better than what my child has received, then go ahead and take it over"


"I got here because I'm in the education program in Nichols...when asked which schools should we go observe at...they said any school but Southbridge"
seventh grade math teacher, have been here since five days after graduation
has implemented after school programs
points out that he's a "gringo" and shouldn't be the only mentor for Latino program
"we cannot see this as abnormal"
"we need teachers who go above and beyond"
message sent by putting that new school over there
"we have to put that trust put your children's lives in our hands every day"
"our children are human beings and not statistics on a paper"

parent of a first grader: "to see my little six year old say that he wanted to drop out every day...that's ridiculous"
his homework was in his folder for two weeks; teacher didn't check
was supposed to see the guidance counselor every week: he's seen her twice
support system needs to be better
"I refuse to medicate my son because a teacher refuses to do her job properly"
"all my son's friends' mom have said "don't send him there, it's terrible"

Southbridge resident
"it's my opinion is that Southbridge doesn't have the resources to take on special programs" to educate its students
"very expensive, very expensive to administer"
"Southbridge doesn't have the resources"
Southbridge, FYI, pays for 28.72% of their foundation budget; the remainder is state funded, as they're a low aggregate wealth district
will there be more resources?

principal of high school: ready to embrace our accelerated improvement plan
ready to move forward, with or without receivership
"want to applaud the staff that is here today and the staff that comes in every day"

teacher has worked for 29 years in Southbridge
seen constant change "without anyone waiting long enough to see if it would work"
cannot control leadership
cannot control needs of students in our classroom
"challenges of working in our district are great"
"have chosen to stay and to teach the children of Southbridge"

librarian: reorganization of school district means reorganization of library without needed materials for students
worked to get library back to Mass library system

citizen of Southbridge, graduated in 1975
have been a sub several different times
"lack of comprehensive message and understanding between the higher levels, like the superintendent, and the people teaching every day. And the students sense that. The kids do know what is going on around them."
"would be nice for those of us who don't have friends in the system to find out what's going on"

resident of Southbridge 51 years; dropped out in 1979
"it doesn't go 12 years back; it goes way back"
"when I dropped out, I couldn't even read"
the teachers try, they love their students, I know that
"everything has to stop: the bullying, the daughter's being bullied now"
"I'm tired. I don't know what to do anymore. I'm tired."

graduate, class of 2015
"don't take us over and run us over"
"Some are here and aren't speaking, but I am"
Pioneer pride: see school differently by visiting school
"I do plead that you don't take over"
"your help is all we need"

class of 2006, teach communication media at the middle/high school
"I work here because I want to help Southbridge; I want to do it for my town."
was here and was told that we'd have trouble getting into college because of the level of our district
"I really am here to prevent our school from going any lower."
don't destroy tradition
not the only thing that's important: ELL support, an alternative program
making videos "I thought doing things like that would make a difference"
think your quarterly reports have been light on the negativity than your most recent report
"Don't destroy the Southbridge Pioneers."

teacher in Worcester, speaking for Southbridge educators
sees that those in Worcester"have better leadership, better support, better chances for community involvement"
in favor of receivership: teachers need resources, support during this time of transition

parent had an encounter with a previous Southbridge superintendent told that "boys were stupid"
youngest son is in the honors class, NJHS
hear a lot of the special needs students
wonders why her son doesn't have homework
many teachers afraid to do anything because parents will not support them
"they're great teachers, and I have no problem with them teaching in the way they are with my son"

parent had to transfer daughter in 2013 due to issues with her at high school
"She used to cry every single day when she was at the high school"
since she's at Shepherd Hill,she's flourishing
"what I want to see in Southbridge in the public schools"
hope that we can make a change
"change can be good"
"can be done in a school system"

parent and IA in district
teachers always met all my expectations
"if we had more RTI teachers"
hard to get everyone where they could be on their levels
teachers who teach specials, they do a great job, need someone with them to accomodate what these specials have to offer
really concerned at middle school
"how am I getting [my daughter] ready for college?"
guidance counselor "could only deal with the students that were failing"
have parents on same level as students; sending homework to parents who can't support students
"many parents who want to be but don't know how"

ELL teacher one ELL IRF teacher in district
need ELL director desperately
bilingual in Spanish, have been here 23 years "because I choose to be"
time to spend with our lowest proficiency students last year
need more certified reading teachers, more ELL teachers, need more time with special ed teachers for ELL students
need more staffing, need more people
"dedication and the love of our students is here"

graduate of Southbridge 1991
two kids in school: concerned with son going into middle school next year
looking at school choice, versus keeping student in town
teachers have no resources
"As a taxpayer and a resident of this town and I demand that this school district needs help"
"If you're offering help, we'll take it"

works in finance office under business manager
worked here in 2009, have had five business director
"We need a huge, huge change in the business office"
"The budget is totally out of control, which we all know."
dropping an ELL director is totally beyond my comprehension
"a lot of our staff have been hired because of WHO THEY KNOW and not because they're qualified"
"more textbooks, less wrestling"

product of the Worcester public schools "and I feel that I had a better education than my children are going to have here"
warns that district should stop fighting Sturbridge charter school
"you'd best believe I have an application in there"
Son wants to be pushed, wants to excel
"half tempted to go back to Worcester. I know it's the same level, but from my experience, they're trying"

2002 graduate of Southbridge High
very excited to go off to college
have four children, three on IEPs
learned to become an advocate for my children
considering removing daughter going from kindergarten to first grade, and consdiering leaving the disrict
"I want my kids to say that they're from Southbridge and they're proud to be from Southbridge. Pioneer Pride is a really thing. I want my kids to have the same pride that I did in my school."

Brent Abrahamsob, was school committee member until June, when he resigned 
"Southbridge once known as 'Honest town.' That's been compromised tonight."
when I resigned interim superintendent was nearly in place, plan for search also in place 
Town Council interfered, resulting mob
Council said that school was in a "death spiral"
School Committee punished for submitting a needs based budget
done not to benefit students but to protest a individuals' lack of improvement
bringing back to School Committee some of those who'd been a problem
displaying same hubris as before
"the turmoil this present school committee has caused since July 1, 2015 is virtually unprecedented"
"yet another lost year for the Southbridge public schools"
"I implore you to take control of the Southbridge public school districts not on February 23, but tomorrow"
little sympathy for voters of Southbridge as those chose current school committee
children don't deserve to be on losing side

Sagan; "I have to say that this is an unusual meeting for us...I don't know what else to say."

RECESS til tomorrow's meeting

If you're following the Worcester superintendent search

...Worcester Magazine has a timeline:
According to a timeline proposed by Petty, two public hearings would be held Feb. 2 and 3, at Doherty Memorial and North high schools, respectively.. The School Committee on Feb. 4 would approve a job description. The position would be advertised to staff starting Feb. 10. Applications would be due back by Feb. 29. The search committee would announce up to three finalists on Thursday, March 3. The School Committee would then interview the finalists at various schools between March 7-11. Communnity meet-and-greets would be held from March 14-16, also at various schools. The committee would select the new superintendent at its March 17 meeting.

And speaking of the Foundation Budget Review Commission

(I know, I know: when I am NOT speaking about the Foundation Budget Review Commission...)

Asked Friday if he supports the Fair Share amendment, Secretary Peyser gave the not-entirely-surprising answer of "no," but then added:
“I don’t think the issues that we face as a Commonwealth here are really about the fact that we don’t have enough revenue. It’s about how we’re using our revenues wisely and well,” he said.
Yes, Secretary Peyser was a voting member of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which issued a report making abundantly clear that it is lack of revenue, not lack of wisdom, that is plaguing school district finances.
So far as I know, he did not vote against the report, which was issued without a minority report. So, was he incorrect then or is he incorrect now?

And regarding the nonsensical notion that better funding for education hurts the economy, please see Mass Budget.

Not the state of the state of education in the Commonwealth

Governor Baker gave his State of the State address last Thursday. Here is the entirty of what he had to say about K-12 education:
I also you urge to be bold on K-12 education.
For some, expanding the availability of public charter schools is controversial.
But giving parents in underperforming districts more opportunity to choose a better school is nothing less than any of us would demand for our own children.
More than 40,000 kids – most from communities of color – are excelling in public charter schools. However, 37,000 more – mostly the neighbors of those kids – remain on a waiting list. Their parents struggle to understand why they don’t deserve the same education their neighbors’ kids get.
 They cry when they talk to me about the hopes and dreams they have for their children, and as a parent, I feel their pain.
 Parents want their kids to have a shot – a better shot than the one they had. And they see it – right in front of them – but they can’t make it happen.
 These are families that can’t afford to move, and they can’t afford to send their kids to private schools. This is their chance – and it’s a good one.
 In Massachusetts, we’re home to some of the highest performing public schools in the country, many of which are public charter schools serving low-income families in communities of color.
 Students attending the Brooke Charter Schools in Roslindale, Mattapan and East Boston had higher scores on the English and Math PARRC Exams than those in Carlisle, Belmont, Sudbury, Sharon, Concord, Wayland, Weston and Newton.
In fact, they had higher scores than students from every K-8 school in Massachusetts. “We are willing to discuss. We are willing hear both sides.
 But a state that places such high value on education should not place arbitrary limits on high-quality schools. And it should not sit idly by while so many parents feel the pain of missed opportunity for their children.
 I urge you to lift the cap on public charter schools.
Yes. That's it.

There are nearly 1 million children in the Commonwealth being educated at the public expense. Four percent of them are in charter schools. And that is all that Governor Baker saw fit to acknowledge in his comments on how we as a state--as a commonwealth--are doing in educating our children.
I'll leave it to others to debunk Brooke Charter (the Bostonians are getting to be old hands at this; that's just a sample), and that 37,000 number, while raising my usual concern at judging schools solely by their MCAS/PARCC/insert acronym scores.

I will point out, though--just as I did about Baker's inaugural--that he missed the big story in education. Once again, Massachusetts is number one in education in EdWeek's "Quality Counts" rankings. If he wanted to go further, I imagine DESE would have let him be the one to announce that Massachusetts has improved its graduation rate--to 87.3%--for its ninth consecutive year. There are even some good stories that could be told in there: about district led turnaround efforts, about gap closing in urban districts.

There's also real work to be done. As I posted about when the EdWeek report came out, the one indicator we do not lead the nation in is funding equity. We've been falling for years on that, as our progressive education formula isn't so progressive anymore. The Foundation Budget Review Commission has, of course, handed him an answer to that issue.

Governor Baker's budget comes out on Wednesday. We'll be watching closely to see if he has done any better at addressing the true state of education in Massachusetts.

Did Mayor Walsh call for direct state funding of charter schools?

I think he did (emphasis added):
Mayor Martin J. Walsh wants the Legislature to change the way charter schools are funded, saying the current formula pits district schools against charter schools, City Hall’s education chief told Boston Herald Radio yesterday.
“Right now, the financing formula — in particular, reimbursement around charter schools — does pit our district schools against charter schools for resources,” Rahn Dorsey said during Boston Herald Radio’s “NewsFeed” show. “And what we’ve asked in our proposal to the Legislature is: Let’s decouple that. Let’s get rid of the reimbursement formula, and will the state be the direct payer to charter schools, the schools that they authorize? They are more than welcome in Boston, but we want to make sure that cities aren’t burdened with what we think is the state’s financial responsibility there as well.”
Direct payments, Dorsey said, would automatically save the city some money.
“That’s not new money that we’d have to pay up front in our charter assessment, say, if you get rid of the reimbursement,” he said. “So that would help immediately and preserve some money that we need to invest locally. ... We know that over the past several years, the reimbursement line has been underfunded by the state. That’s part of the challenge that we face in Boston and that other places face. I think the Legislature would want to also know how do we make sure that we have the revenue to support that.”

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Revote on the charter cap (with a change)

On a revote tonight on keeping the cap on charter schools, the Worcester School Committee voted UNANIMOUSLY  in favor of keeping the cap.
Interestingly, this is a change: at the meeting last week, Donna Colorio opposed such an item (Mayor Petty wasn't present).

Regarding WPS FY17

From tonight's School Committee meeting

Worcester School Committee: the superintendent search

Petty reads a motion coming out of executive session: to REJECT all bids

Rennie Center "Conditions of Education in the Commonwealth"

I'm posting this morning from the Rennie Center's "Condition of Education in Commonwealth" at which it seems they're going to make a pitch for social-emotional learning as something schools are evaluated on. You can find the data report that they're releasing today here and the resource guide is here; the report on social and emotional learning is here. Posting as we go...the Twitter hashtag is #COE2016

d'Entremont (Rennie Center) Have wrestled more directly with moving ideas to action
invite open dialogue and critique
use knowledge gains to build capacity for reform

Regarding superintendent searches

I've been watching these across the state, and, as Worcester takes this up tonight*, thought it timely.

Fall River:
Of how the process should unfold, Costa said, “I think it needs to be transparent, inclusive, done very carefully. This is a very huge endeavor, and it’s certainly critical to the very success of this school district.”
Fellow committee member Martins agreed. “I move that this be a highly transparent and open issue,” he said, adding that he felt the potential search committee should consist of representatives from the Fall River Educators Assocation, the Fall River Administrators Association, students, parents, community members, and School Committee members.
“This would certainly give sufficient openness to the process,” Martins said, adding that time is of the essence.
“If we don’t move along we’ll find that June will be here before we know it, and we have a long way to go,” he said.
Mayor Jasiel Correia II, who serves as chair of the School Committee, appeared to agree with Martins’ suggestion for subcommittee members, saying he thinks it’s important “to begin the process with a community based, multi-faceted group of people that can help the school committee through this process.”

North Adams:
"This is the most important hire we are ever going to do," said Alcombright. "This is the most important job in the city of North Adams, this is the investment ... We need to do everything we can to get the best qualified candidate."
 The appointment of a superintendent is one of the most important responsibilities of any school committee. Here in Barnstable, we had the benefit of the work of a stellar search committee as well as input from the entire community...The search process itself provided an opportunity to step back and assess where the district is, where we would like it to go, and what we should look for in a leader. We sought and heard the community’s voice in this process. The superintendent search committee included community members, parents, teachers, administrators, town councilors and school committee members. 
*I should perhaps note here that while MASC, for which I now work, does superintendent searches, they did not bid on Worcester's.

Senate working committee on a charter bill

Yesterday, Senate President Stan Rosenberg announced that he was appointing a group of senators to work on a charter school bill. The group is Senators Chang-Diaz, Jehlen (chair and vice-chair of education, respectively), Wolf, and Spilka (chair of Ways and Means). He said:

He also said he was only taking this up because of the Great Schools MA ballot initiative. Read more here. 

The Board of Ed meets next week

The Board of Ed meets next week. You can find the agenda here
As the Commissioner has recommended Southbridge for receivership, the Board's Monday night portion is a public hearing on state receivership in Southbridge. It starts at 4:30 and is in the auditorium of their administration building at 25 Cole Avenue. The Commissioner has repeatedly said that he does not anticipate a vote until their February meeting, but note that it is on the agenda for Tuesday morning as well.
The first part of the Tuesday portion is a joint meeting with the Board of Higher Ed. That is at Roxbury Community College in the Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center. They're discussing the revised definition of college and career readiness, to include civics, and their other common initiatives.
Sometime after ten, they'll move to their regular agenda. That includes Southbridge, the recommendation that Dorchester Collegiate Charter lose their charter (if you missed it, do read this column from their headmaster, raising some really interesting questions about how we judge schools and what the state actually wants charter schools to do), a few charter school amendments (Benjamin Banneker and South Shore Charter), and a preview of the new charter school applicants. They're also getting the dropout and graduation results from last year. 
They should be sending the digital literacy standards out for public comment and voting on the science and technology standards (finally!). They're also getting an update on the civics conversation including a timetable on revising the history and social studies standards and adding assessments; that would be some sort of a history MCAS. 
They'll have their monthly update on Holyoke and their monthly update on the Level 5 schools.
Not many links in the above, as there aren't many backups posted as yet. They'll have more up as the week goes along. 

I do plan to attend and blog all of the above

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

New national school lunch bill

The national school lunch bill is out for markup today (it just started at 10; you can watch it here). As was correctly pointed out in this New York Times column on Sunday, the main news is that there is no additional money included in the bill. This still leaves school lunches (and breakfasts) woefully underfunded, particularly for a program on which so much depends.
The bill does:
  • extend the length of time until school districts have to hit the new lower sodium levels. That requirement also must be reviewed by an outside entity by July 2019.
  • lowers the percentage of grain products that must be 51% whole grain from 100% to 80% 
  • provide greater flexibility (and possibly more funding?) for summer feeding programs
  • establishes loan and grant programs for school kitchen modernization
  • leave the fruit and vegetable requirements intact. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Possibly a House bill coming on Foundation budget?

First I've seen of this:
Not all of Rogers’s goals are housing related. He hopes to revamp the Chapter 70 formula, which provides state aid for K-12 education. It has not been updated since it was introduced in 1993, and makes several outdated assumptions in regards to the cost of health care and special education. He served on the Foundation Budget Review Commission, which recommended a series of changes to the formula.
“We were charged to review those false assumptions present in the existing formula,” Rogers said. “I’m working with the house council now to file a bill to adapt the legislative recommendations.”

Worcester School Committee meets January 21

The first regular meeting of the Worcester School Committee is this Thursday, January 21. You can find the agenda here and here.
There is an executive session at 6: to discuss the special education director's contract (one of the few done with the school committee) and to review the superintendent search submissions, as recommended by Finance and Operations subcommittee back in December.

On the regular agenda (which is a long one, as there hasn't been a meeting in a month), there is no report of the superintendent.
There are a number of midyear retirements, resignations, and new hires.
The rest of this is NOT in order; I'm going to start with "heads up" and list the rest.

For consideration: as noted earlier, to limit the superintendent search to an "internal" search managed by the mayor and finished by the first week of March.

Also, Mayor Petty wants to consider making South a vocational school or expanding vocational offerings there. 

The Committee is also being asked to forward school building priorities for MSBA

And Mr. O'Connell is requesting that the Committee review the ALICE program ("Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate") (you've seen this written up as the one where kids throw things at active shooters).