Thursday, March 31, 2016

Worcester School Committee legislative breakfast tomorrow IS CANCELLED

Sorry, missed this til recently:
The Worcester School Committee meets with the Legislative delegation tomorrow morning at 9:30 at Worcester Tech.
From the agenda, it looks as though they're talking about preschool, Quality K, charter reimbursement, the inflation factor as pertaining the Foundation Budget Review Commission, the low income calculation change, and summer programs. UPDATE: oh, and H4338, which doesn't apply...
I won't be there.

AND it is cancelled. So there you go.

RISE and shine!

This morning the Senate committee released the RISE Act (S.2203). The acronym (and nice job on this) is for An Act Enhancing Reform, Innovation, and Success in Education" per the Senate press release (which is a good bulleted summary). You can find MASC's response here.
So what's in it?
A lot, to be perfectly honest.

First (to focus on essentials) there is a charter cap lift in the bill. The lowest 10% performing communities (same as now) have a lift in the amount of spending on charters of up to 0.5% of net school spending per fiscal year, starting in 2019, up to a maximum of 23%.
HOWEVER (and this is a BIG however), that only happens if the state, in 2019-2025 fully funds the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, and, in 2026 and thereafter, fully funds what they're now calling "district mitigation" (charter reimbursement). If that doesn't happen, the cap can only go up by the percentage funded.
The bill also puts no cap on Horace Mann and innovation schools (both of which are district-run) BUT those may be counted towards the percentage of spending of the cap lift (so a district could exceed 23% or lesser percentages in previous years IF the spending was on Horace Mann and/or innovation schools).
The bill also puts no cap on schools that primarily serves at risk populations (75% of enrollment).

District mitigation payments are reformulated at 100%, 50%, 25% (right now it's 100%, 25%, 25%, 25%, 25%, though the last few tend to be irrelevant as they generally aren't actually funded).

What else?

The Board of Ed is reformulated to have one of the Governor's appointees be required to be a retired teacher, jointly recommended by AFT and MTA; currently, teachers are barred from serving on the Board of Ed. It also drops the phrase barring a Board member from serving "as a member of any school committee," thus reversing that ban ('though they can't be paid by a district and serve on the Board of Ed). Those currently in office are to complete their terms.

It requires the Secretary of Administration and Finance to jointly with the Joint Ways and Means Committee create an implementation schedule for the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations. It specifically calls out:
...tuitioned-out special education rate, assumed in-school special education enrollment, low-income increment, low-income enrollment, foundation benefits, retired employee health insurance and English language learner increment... the categories to be covered (note: those were the recommendations, but not everything mentioned; early childhood ed, inflation, as well as the question over if "assumed" was right for special ed aren't in here). It sets in place a seven year implementation schedule, to be equally implemented each year; in determining the schedule:
the secretary of administration and finance and house and senate committees on ways and means shall hold a public hearing and receive testimony from the commissioner of elementary and secondary education and other interested parties. The schedule may be amended by agreement of the senate and house ways and means committees in any of the 7 fiscal years to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations, or other factors that would affect the remaining costs in the schedule; provided, however, that the final year of the schedule shall not surpass fiscal year 2025, but the schedule may be fully implemented prior to fiscal year 2025.
In other words, yes, you get some wiggle room, but you don't get to kick the can down the road forever, and we're not taking excuses.

It is, however, as all such things are, "subject to appropriation."

The definition of "foundation benefits" is updated to include retiree benefits (which it hasn't).

In terms of implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission:
  • The benefits rate is set by "average group insurance commission premium for all plans for the 3 previous fiscal years" (so the three year GIC rate);
  • Health insurance now includes retirees in the calculation.
  • The ELL rate is set at $2,361 for 2019 and is expanded to include vocational students.
  • The low income rate is for students whose families are at or below 185% of the federal poverty level. Districts are divided into septiles (there's a new word to me!); the starting rate is set at $3,474 "and each subsequent septile shall increase by equal amounts up to the highest percentage septile rate of $8,179" which is to be annually adjusted for inflation.
  • The in-district special ed rate is raised to 4% overall and 5% of vocational students.
  • The out-of-district special ed rate is set at "4 times the statewide foundation budget per-pupil 434 amount less the sum of the statewide foundation budget per-pupil amount and out-of-district special education cost rate" (which is what the FBRC recommended).
DESE is required to "develop target percentages and standards for administrative costs."

If a student transfers into a different school during the school year, or has had substantial interruption in their schooling in the previous three years, their test scores don't count towards the school.

The bill expands those things required of Level 4 schools to Commissioner-designated Level 3 schools (the lowest performing 20%); the Board of Ed is charged with creating regulations regarding such a declaration of a "priority" school, taking:
...into account multiple indicators of school quality in making such designations, including, but not limited to: student attendance rates, dismissal rates and exclusion rates, promotion rates, graduation rates or the lack of demonstrated significant improvement for at least 2 consecutive years in core academic subjects, either in the aggregate or among subgroups of students, including designations based on special education, low-income, English language proficiency, and racial or ethnic classifications.
The teachers' union and school committee must then negotiate a waiver agreement (subject to approval of 2/3rds of those working at least 50% of their time at the school; if they can't come to agreement, the Commissioner can simply declare the school underperforming (Level 4)). The superintendent then convenes a turnaround stakeholder group. The turnaround plan then goes to the school committee for approval, as well as to the teachers' union for approval. If it doesn't get approved, the Commissioner can declare the school underperforming (Level 4). The plan goes to the Commissioner but is not subject to his approval. The "priority" designation is for two years, at which point it is reviewed by the Commissioner. (There's also a bunch of language which makes ch. 69 include "priority" schools, as well as "underperforming" (Level 4) and "chronically underperforming" (Level 5).)
It provides for regional school district planning boards and specifically allows for cities to be part of them. And there's a lot of language on this and I don't know why, so if anyone wants to clue me in, I'd appreciate it.

For the purposes of school discipline regulations, "a commonwealth charter school shall be considered a school district." They thus are held accountable for all portions of the law, including the revisions to chapter 222. They must post their policies pertaining to conduct on their websites. Charter schools thus must provide for alternative education for students suspended or expelled. Charter schools specifically must: 
...establish a panel consisting of 3 members of the board of trustees to hear appeals of disciplinary actions taken by the charter school, 1 of whom shall be the representative of the district school committee and 2 other members who shall be appointed by the chairperson of the board of trustees. Unless otherwise provided in this section, the panel shall have the same rights and responsibilities as a superintendent in hearing appeals and issuing final decisions.
...which brings us to the changes for charter schools. Their board of trustees are required to have at least one full-time teacher at the school, at least one representative of the sending district's school committee, at least two (or 25%, whichever is greater) parent or guardian of current students at the school, and high schools must have a current student member, all of whom are to be voting members of the board. Members of the Board of Trustees and their families may not materially benefit from the school (save the teacher may be paid). The same change is made for Horace Mann charters.

Charter school teachers must be evaluated as public school teachers are. They also shall if unionized acrue seniority and receive compensation equal to with that received by district teachers. Charter school teachers are to be certified by July 1, 2019, and charters must file plans about their progress towards making that happen.

Charter schools may not expand or create new schools if their suspension rate overall or for subgroups exceeds that of sending districts for the previous three years. This does not, however, apply to the alternative charters (we're getting there) and it may be waived for a subgroup if the gap is small and the Board of Ed feels they're making an effort.

Applicants for new charter schools have to meet with the superintendent of the district before applying, and they must explain how their program will compliment the district. They also must hold a joint hearing with the district school committee. Not doing so automatically disqualifies them from applying.

As part of the application process, the "superintendent may submit an analysis to the department that describes how approval of the proposed charter school may affect the district’s students," AND the Commissioner is REQUIRED to:
...explain in writing to the board that the commissioner’s decision is responsive to the district superintendent’s submission and provide an assessment of the accuracy of the analysis of the impact on the programs and services of the sending school district or districts...
Further, the Board of Ed is required to "substantially consider" materials submitted by the district in their decision on charters and:
When making a decision on an application, the board shall explain in writing how the decision takes into account the district superintendent’s submission under subsection (h) regarding how the school’s approval is expected to impact the district’s students.
It appears that the Senate believes that falls under the Board's purview.

Charter schools can only be created, renewed, expanded, or amended if they have an opt-out lottery system of some kind. This may (Bostonians, please note both the verb and the stress on it) be a unified enrollment system with the district, 'though if that is the case, the charter may only enroll students from the single district, may not displace district options in choices, and students cannot be compelled to attend a charter school. Charters that already exist may phase it in. All students eligible for enrollment are entered in the lottery ('though parents and guardians may opt their children out); those pulled may also choose not to enter the school. The charter will also create a waitlist through the lottery, from which it will backfill students into seats that open during the year for all grade levels; if the waitlist is exhausted, the charter is to conduct a new lottery.
Charter schools may offer priority enrollment to  at-risk students, students who are homeless, students who are pregnant or parenting or students who have dropped out of school.
Districts that rent space to charters can require that students in that district be given preferential enrollment, though (here and throughout) the low income percentages must be at least those of the sending district.
Charters may also preferentially enroll the children of their employees.

Charter schools are to update their waitlists monthly. They must include names and addresses, and they must include those taken off the list (either through enrollment or by request). Waitlists annually expire on July 1. Waitlists will be maintained separately for Horace Mann and Commonwealth charters; they will be available publicly (without student identifying information) on the DESE website.

Contracts and leases, partnerships, grants, and gifts must be posted on the charter school website.
No charter management organization may "exercise a proprietary claim" on practices at a charter school.
Charter schools may not charge tuition or fees. They may not require a contract be signed by parents or guardians.
DESE is charged with creating a charter and district exchange program, including the exchange of employees to share best practices.
Districts continue to provide transportation IF they and the charter agree on start times. If not, the charter school has to cover 50% of the cost. What if the district is just given a bill?
Limitations that districts put on busing also cover district charter schools; if there's transportation for specialized district programming, the charters are covered.
Districts also must provide charters with field trip transportation equal to the average field trip transportation for the prior three years provided by the district to their schools (easy in districts where we've long since stopped providing field trip transportation).

Attrition, stability, and suspensions, including those of subgroups, must reflect those of the sending district for the previous three years; there is again a provision for a waiver if it's a small gap and "the charter school has made a rigorous effort to maintain all of its students."

Charter schools are to publish an annual report, including a financial report. The department is to create regulations regarding the net asset balance of charter schools. That is all to be on the charter school's website as well.

The Commissioner is charged with collecting attrition and stability data annually and making it publicly available.

DESE has until January 1, 2017 to revise its regulations.

DESE is to make recommendations regarding the revision of definition of low income by January 1, 2017.

There is to be a charter school funding commission with a report due January 1, 2017.

There is to be a commission on school start times with a report due December 31, 2016.

The State Auditor is required to issue a report on the first five years of the changes in chapter 222. It's to be filed with the Civil Rights division of the AG's office, among others, and is due December 31, 2019. 

MCAS update accommodation recommendations released

The Workgroup on MCAS 2.0 accommodations has released their recommendations.

Nation's largest school districts have more security officers than counselors

Just what it says. Full report is here.

Parents may have a conflict of interest on charter boards, charter association says

I'm overdue for posting something on the Annenberg Report on accountability for charter schools (coming!), but this quote in the Globe from the charter school association is just so wacky that I had to post it:
Dominic Slowey, a spokesman for the charter school association, added that some schools are opposed to seating parents on their boards because they may have conflicts of interest if their own children attend the schools.
Wow. Okay then.
So here's one where maybe the public school system can (again) share a best practice with the charter schools! We've had parents serving on school committees since...forever, really. And it's a best practice, not a conflict of interest.
It certainly is revealing, though, isn't it? If they want parent involvement, they want it on their terms, not on the actual board that runs the school.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

John Adams wrote more than he knew

A constitutional wonk post
I'm doing a class later this week on equity in education funding in Massachusetts and starting, as I always do, with the Massachusetts state constitution. I always comment that our constitution has the guarantee to public education in the original document, which is unusual, but I wasn't sure how unusual, or how other states handled it, so I did a bit of poking around.
Well, look what I found: a document of all the state constitutional language on education! It's one of the backups for the consideration of public education that was part of the Pennsylvania Bar Association's Constitutional Review Commission, back in 2010.

And, as they say, good writers borrow; great writers steal*, and John Adams wrote some good stuff! The Massachusetts Constitution was adopted in 1780, with the language Adams wrote:
Wisdom, and knowledge, as well as virtue, diffused generally among the body of the people, being necessary for the preservation of their rights and liberties; and as these depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislatures and magistrates, in all future periods of this commonwealth, to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them; especially the university at Cambridge, public schools and grammar schools in the towns...
Not entirely a surprise that it would influence Maine, adopted 1820, as Maine was first part of Massachusetts:
A general diffusion of the advantages of education being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people; to promote this important object, the Legislature are authorized, and it shall be their duty to require, the several towns to make suitable provision, at their own expense, for the support and maintenance of public schools...
And New Hampshire probably copied directly (1784):
Knowledge and learning, generally diffused through a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; and spreading the opportunities and advantages of education through the various parts of the country, being highly conducive to promote this end; it shall be the duty of the legislators and magistrates, in all future periods of this government, to cherish the interest of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries and public schools... 

Here's Indiana, though (adopted 1850):
Knowledge and learning, general diffused throughout a community, being essential to the preservation of a free government; it should be the duty of the General Assembly to encourage, by all suitable means, moral, intellectual scientific, and agricultural improvement; and provide, by law, for a general and uniform system of Common Schools, wherein tuition shall without charge, and equally open to all. 
Or Texas (1876):
A general diffusion of knowledge being essential to the preservation of the liberties and rights of the people, it shall be the duty of the Legislature of the State to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools.
 Minnesota adds "intelligence" (1858):
The stability of a republican form of government depending mainly upon the intelligence of the people, it is the duty of the legislature to establish a general and uniform system of public schools. The legislature shall make such provisions by taxation or otherwise as will secure a thorough and efficient system of public schools throughout the state.
As does Missouri (1874):
A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the general assembly shall establish and maintain free public schools for the gratuitous instruction of all persons in this state within ages not in excess of twenty-one years as prescribed by law. 
As does California (adopted 1880):
A general diffusion of knowledge and intelligence being essential to the preservation of the rights and liberties of the people, the Legislature shall encourage by all suitable means the promotion of intellectual, scientific, moral, and agricultural improvement.
 I could go on--North Carolina adds "religion, morality" and North Dakota adds "patriotism, integrity" for example--but there is a very clear purpose for public education in quite a number of the state constitutions. And it isn't for economic development or college and career readiness or any number of other things.
It's, as Adams said, for "the preservation of their rights and liberties."

*You may know it from Aaron Sorkin by way of Sam Seaborn; it gets ascribed to Mark Twain and Oscar Wilde, but the closest anyone can find is in fact T.S. Eliot, with a precursor by W.H. Davenport Adams. Which either proves or disproves the point. 

Monday, March 28, 2016

A waiver!

But this time, it's on ESSA! (That's the new federal ed law.)
From the Commissioner's weekly update:
Under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), all states are required to assess the full range of their academic content standards, including the speaking and listening standards contained in the 2011 Massachusetts English Language Arts and Literacy Curriculum Frameworks. However, because some states have not yet established viable ways to measure speaking and listening skills using a large-scale assessment, the U.S. Department of Education is allowing states to apply for a waiver of this requirement for at least the 2015-2016 and 2016-2017 school years. 
The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education intends to seek such a waiver and is giving the public a chance to review and comment on ESE's intended waiver request.
Comments on ESE's intent to apply for a waiver may be submitted via email to by April 12, 2016.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Possible study of economically disadvantaged change

Posting from an alert I sent out to MASC late last week:

The Senate's version of the supplemental budget has language to create a task force for a more accurate economically disadvantaged count:…/…/S2193/Amendment/Senate/12/Text
It would have to be done in the supplemental to be in place by the October 1 count next fall. As it isn't in the House version, it'll go to reconciliation. 
If this count has come up in your budget discussions, you might raise this with your representatives, particularly those on Ways and Means.

This does not preclude something being put together for the FY17 budget, but a study to fix anything permanently can't wait to be passed as part of the budget (as they need time to actually do the study). So, if you have concerns about the way the ED count worked out for your or others' districts, LET YOUR REPS KNOW! 

Approach scoring socio-emotional learning with caution

It's pretty clear, from the Rennie Center's focus on it in this year's presentation to the discussion at the Board of Ed that socio-emotional learning (inevitably SEL) is the new thing that everyone's talking about. As the new federal law requires states to come up with a fourth element on which to grade schools, I suspect we're moving in that direction in Massachusetts and elsewhere.
If we're having that discussion, I really hope that everyone will read and take seriously Angela Duckworth's opinion piece in the New York Times today. Duckworth has been a major part of the growth of the modeling and evaluation of such learning in classrooms, and she's warning that we're not ready to be scoring schools on it yet, or perhaps ever:
MY concerns stem from intimate acquaintance with the limitations of the measures themselves.
One problem is reference bias: A judgment about whether you “came to class prepared” depends on your frame of reference. If you consider being prepared arriving before the bell rings, with your notebook open, last night’s homework complete, and your full attention turned toward the day’s lesson, you might rate yourself lower than a less prepared student with more lax standards.
And there's more. Do read it. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

On complicated and difficult work, moral imperatives, and a keen sense of urgency

Did you see the ever expanding list of communities that have called for implementation of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings? If you follow my Twitter feed, you haven't been able to escape it, probably. 
If you were at Worcester's CPPAC meeting in March (note at the end), you got most of the gist of what a lot of the response from the Legislature has been: there is no money.
That's also much of what is in the Sun Chronicle article covering this from earlier this week: this is hard, and we don't have the money to do it.
To accept this, however, is to miss the main point of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's report; as it says in the conclusion:
We submit this report to the legislature with full recognition of the continued fiscal challenges of the Commonwealth, and the many competing priorities, and worthwhile goals, that the legislature must balance in crafting the annual state budget. We recognize that recommendations of this scope and size will need to be phased in to be affordable. However, we also note again what was stated at the beginning of this document: that the good work begun by the education reform act of 1993, and the educational progress made since, will be at risk so long as our school systems are fiscally strained by the ongoing failure to substantively reconsider the adequacy of the foundation budget. We therefore urge that the legislature act on these recommendations with a profound sense of the risks and opportunities at stake for our shared prosperity as a state and, as our constitution acknowledges, the critical nature of education to the health of our democracy. We advise a keen sense of the urgency when it comes to addressing the identified funding gaps, and the moral imperative of reducing the remaining achievement gaps.
emphasis added

There is no question regarding the responsibilities of funding education in Massachusetts; McDuffy settled that. Ignoring this, or putting it off yet again, doesn't make this issue magically vanish. It simply continues the issue and makes it more expensive.
And it is local districts, and ultimately, children, particularly those in the most vulnerable of positions--the poorest, the least able to advocate, those at the greatest of disadvantage already--who will be hit by this.
It means that Worcester's kids stay 660 teachers short of what they should have.
It means that Brockton's kids learn in school buildings that are $6 million a year short in facilities spending.
It means that Chelsea's kids are working with a bit over a third of the supplies and technology they're supposed to have.
It means that Fall River's kids have teachers with less than half the funding for professional development they're supposed to have.
It means that Southbridge's kids are short 40 or so classroom teachers, and Holyoke's kids are short over 130 teachers, and Lawrence's kids are short over 200 teachers.
Not taking up the foundation budget this year may make it simpler for many on Beacon Hill. That will again make the job for school committees harder this spring, then the job of teachers and others harder next fall, and ultimately the job for students for the foreseeable future harder.
And ultimately that makes the future harder for everyone.
Adams meant it when he said it was necessary for the preservation of our rights and liberties. It isn't just our economic future that's endangered when we fail to properly fund education. It's our future as a democratic republic.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

We're massively underinvesting in school buildings

probably not news to you if you're reading this...
Filardo said that there is a growing body of research that shows links between the school environment and a child’s ability to learn, and yet the condition of school buildings remains little-mentioned in discussions about closing achievement gaps.
By the Center for Green Schools' estimate, we're underinvesting nationally by $46 billion a year.
The Washington Post article is here;  the State of Our Schools report is here.

Center for American Progress talks to DESE on teacher evaluation

Commissioner Chester shared with the Board of Ed what's being presented as a case study of educator evaluation in Massachusetts. You can find the press release on it here.
I don't know what the parameters are of a "case study," to be fair, but the overwhelming factor driving this one is who they talked to, and, more to the point, who they didn't. A quick scan of the footnotes gives a count of four teachers and two principals, all of whom are used for pull-out quotes in the report. Discussions with those most involved in teacher evaluation, thus, appear simply not to have happened. They did spend a lot of time talking to the Department.
Now, I realize that this is being presented as a sort of counter narrative to the various states that threw lots of weight specifically on test scores as part of Race to the Top. I'm all for counter narratives--and more importantly, other options--on that. If we're going to really look at other options on educator evaluation, though, it is important to look at how this in fact functions on the ground.
That isn't the picture that is presented by CAP's report. The report presents a sort of vision of how the system is supposed to work.
A review of how it is working--and how it isn't working--would be valuable, particularly if we're going to present this as an alternative option. The need (off the top of my head) for more time and more space and more staffing for thoughtful conversations about teaching; the technological needs of getting this together; the ways in which the tension between evaluation for possible dismissal versus for improvement can be worked out; the level of trust necessary for any of this to work...these are good issues to raise and to be dealt with (and those are just off the top of my head; I'm sure there are others!). They aren't raised here, though, where largely the picture is rosy. And that's a missed opportunity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March Board meeting: TL/DR

As sent out to MASC this afternoon

This morning, the Board of Education had their March meeting.
The breaking news of the morning was the public announcement of the receiver for the Southbridge Public Schools, Jessica Huizenga, currently assistant superintendent in Cambridge. Prior to her time in Cambridge, Dr. Huizenga was interim superintendent in Freetown-Lakeville. She begins May 2.
This was announced at the meeting as part of Commissioner Chester’s extensive opening comments, which also included some discussion by the Board of the recent report of UP Holland’s high suspension rates, particularly in young children. Several members (McKenna, Stewart, Sagan) expressed grave concern regarding this report (as the school is under state receivership), ‘though Secretary Peyser rejected the idea that a high suspension rate itself was cause for concern, postulating that a low suspension rate might also be cause for concern. The Commissioner and Department will be bringing together districts with high rates of suspension and expulsion, together with those with low rates, to share best practices, as part of DESE’s responsibilities under the revisions of chapter 222.

There was also a presentation by Parthenon of their final recommendations to the Commissioner regarding the organization of DESE. My liveblog on that is here. I have also attached the June 2015 DESE org chart as well as the updated (but without names) org chart as discussed today.(Note: not attached to this post, but in my Dropbox here The Commissioner has more direct reports; there is a single deputy commissioner, and a more empowered Chief of Staff position. The new Strategy and Research department came up again later in relationship to spending; it appears the Commissioner envisions this department as having some oversight under the data management piece of the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations.

The largest report was on ESSA (liveblog), and it focused particularly on the financial aspect of it. While some Title programs are going up in funding, others are going down, so DESE concludes that the net effect to the state as a whole is flat. They further pointed out that this makes up just 5% of education spending in Massachusetts. The other discussion of note regarding funding is the provision that school turnaround funding now is to come out of state Title I funding; it was noted that the 7% that ESSA calls for would be less than 4% plus turnaround funding (what is done now), though long term funding could be more than that. Ed Doherty requested that DDM’s be put on an upcoming agenda, as student work no longer need (by federal requirement) be part of teacher evaluation; the Commissioner noted that the law does, however, require that students have access to “effective teachers,” thus the state has to have some way of identifying effectiveness.

Finally, the Board received an update on the budget; the liveblog is here. The Commissioner spoke of a discussion he had with Treasurer Goldberg regarding technology: while there is as yet no official announcement, there is interest in MSBA providing no interest grants to districts to update technology. Also, as part of a discussion of if there might, as raised by Chair Sagan, be waste in the $16 billion of spending on education in Massachusetts, Commissioner Chester again raised the question of how new money might be spent, as he did during deliberations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission; he pointed to the new Strategy and Research department as a way in which the state would work to ensure (for example) that money intended for ELL students was spent on them.

March Board update on the budget

88.2% of total budget goes to chapter 70 aid (FY16: $4,511,882,199)
5.3% to circuit breaker
5.3% to grant programs
0.7% to state supported resources
0.5% to general admin

thus only the last 1.2% is DESE

ESSA update

Chester: starts with photo of LBJ with his teacher "Miss Kate" signing the first ESEA into law on Palm Sunday (and gives a pop quiz to the Board on who it is; I had not known previously that he'd done this on Palm Sunday)
aside: LBJ even mentioned it in his remarks on signing:
My Attorney General tells me that it is legal and constitutional to sign this act on Sunday, even on Palm Sunday. My minister assured me that the Lord's day will not be violated by making into law a measure which will bring mental and moral benefits to millions of our young people.
Congress in nearly every session since the Civil War took up education in some way

Update on Holyoke

written update here
Chester: keep looking at program at the Peck
first quarter monitoring visit last week
not just dealing with safety of kids but quality of program
started a way of honoring their strongest teachers: named after Ann Cullen
acceleration academies as in Lawrence
Dean Vocational received a capital grant for their manufacturing shop
honored by College Board Gaston Caperton Opportunity Honor Roll for expanding access to college for kids who don't usually have access
Johnston: recruitment
Anthony Soto to be Chief Financial and Operations Officer for Holyoke; current Springfield budget director
Beth Gage "Chief Talent Officer" from Springfield Empowerment Zone (she was admin there)
Sagan: two towns stealing back and forth? Or are others stepping up?
Johnston: need ladders within districts
two people from Holyoke have gone to Springfield this year as well
"wouldn't say it's necessarily a trend"
schools and districts working in partnership with one another
bring teachers in to support schools as quickly as possible
"helping Holyoke rethink what it means to recruit talent"
Ventura Rodrigues: Acceleration academies starting in math and hoping to expand
teacher induction program: work in couple of weeks in August; more work over year
common vision, more support for what kids need as teachers come in
Moriarty: two positions for every one in the Valley
Soto being received very excitedly: Dean Tech grad, local, Latino
"a balance"
Peyser: program for new teachers: does it address certification issues teachers may have?
not just meeting requirement: make them as effective as possible
need to do other work to continue in certification, as well
Stewart: community engagement?
Rodriguez: vision, stronger systems, shared understanding of what it would look like

Update on Southbridge

written update on Southbridge here
Johnston: receiver starts May 2
already collaborating with her on key decisions
separating middle and high school into two schools, as building was designed
need to hire principals for each building: applicants being vetting, receiver will decide
stakeholder group met for final time last night
development of turnaround plan begins once receiver starts
budget: Paul Dakin helping with that
broader work of stakeholder group: weekly updates sent out to staff and parents
community conversations: "place based"
smaller groups: community members, students, parents to be part of discussions around the district
what's working well, what needs to be improved, what suggestions do you have?
have had four so far: worked with parents on location
have had about 70 participants so far: 10 to 30 participants per meeting
Southbridge is a very proud community
"a lot of comments like 'it's about time'" for receivership
very disappointed that it's come to this; get community engaged in a conversation on needs for kids in city
"it's governance"
less clear on folks understanding quality of classroom instruction
"a source of education" we'll have to pay attention
parent involvement: started as almost an accusation; moved to what are the challenges? why aren't people involved?
maybe parents don't have the support themselves to support their students
one social worker in district; need more support
community members feel they're not used as a resource (beyond parents)
opportunity to bring town together "to restore Southbridge"
work to pull in receiver on these conversations

Stewart: leadership in schools to invite partnerships
district take advantage of that resource

DESE possible reorganization: March Board of Ed

UPDATE: the org charts are here as PDFs
Okay, here's DESE as of June 2015 (small, but if you click, you'll make them bigger):

Left then right

Chester: early retirement, RTTT ending, down in staff
seven years into tenure
Parthenon's report on organization
Parthenon now speaking: thank for access
"findings, reflections, and opportunities"
"where we saw opportunities to more strongly align with mission and strategic priorities"

five key areas of opportunity:
  1. support for Commissioner: integration of work is "a huge challenge" for any state agency; how can organizational structure of agency better support work? ; identify areas of related work within the agency and bring them closer together
  2. instructional supports: clarify role of state related to instructional support to the field; period of continuous improvement (work is no longer new); standards, curriculum, and assessment seen "as one"; state has real responsibility for educators to improve; "harness lessons learned from within the field"; bring closer together
  3. communications: challenge for any agency to balance: internal and external stakeholders; 
  4. student supports: socio-emotional learning a goal; challenge to find resources; bring together certain functions related to state support; high quality monitoring and compliance; bring more resources related to socio-emotional goals
  5. educational options: diversity of school models; "that creates a real opportunity" for state to take the lead in what are the needs of students; how does access to options vary; helping to inform and in some ways steer in developing a diversity of options across the state
Chester: can see elements that reflect report in new org chart (Below in three photos; no names on chart, just titles):

Left then right

chief of staff handling communications & external relations
single deputy commissioner directly responsible for student assessment
"not expanding, we're down probably fifty positions" compared to last year
"have to be smart about our compliance and regulatory function"
opens floor to question
Stewart: what other sorts of work needs to happen to maximize design?
Chester: have people's attention on expectations on student learning in a way we haven't
MCAS has sort of lost it's relevance in a lot of areas
particularly for districts that were delivering high quality instruction
make standards very concrete and real
organize ourselves in a way that supports the instruction in a way that underlies
much more systematic to support schools in upgrading their instruction
Noyce: direct reports increased?
Chester: yes, to drive alignment, and based on discussions with other states
Willyard: down 50 positions? what happened to those responsibilities?
Chester: some no longer done, some displaced
Willyard: concerned about "littler guys" where don't understand how changes affect
worried that changes like these will affect other things that we're not knowing we're affecting through reorganization
Chester: take stock: how are we organized? What are we spending time and energy on?
Craven: hope there's a chance for department to bolster some of the roles we have here
speaks specifically of vo-tech
Chester: agrees; challenged to offer competitive salaries with those coming from districts
Sagan asks for the chart to be filled in with names

March meeting of the Board of Ed: opening comments

Posting this morning from the March Board of Ed meeting, which begins at 8:30. The agenda is here.  Starting as usual with opening comments from the Chair, Commissioner, Secretary, and the public.
Updates as we go once we start

Sagan: the Commissioner has a lot of updates
Chester: introducing Southbridge receiver, Jessica Huizenga, assistant superintendent Cambridge
Huizenga: all kids deserve an equitable education, somehow has been lost in Southbridge
personal as her mother came here speaking no English, many kids like that in Southbridge
Willyard: appreciate a face rather than a logo being receiver

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Seattle Times looks at Massachusetts education funding

And there's a Worcester connection.
The Seattle Times has the first of a two-part education funding series up (as of yesterday) comparing the Massachusetts funding system to that of Washington state and finding the latter wanting. Overall, it's a good piece: it captures that the "Massachusetts miracle" in education was driven by an enormous new commitment of resources that accounted both for student need and for community ability to contribute (and points out that Washington needs to do the same).

A few things worth mentioning:
  • Using Worcester Tech as a "metaphor for understanding the state's overall change" is misleading. While Tech (and every other vocational) gets substantially more funding per pupil, it (and most other vocationals) also have substantial private support. The timeline of Worcester Tech's changes also don't exactly match up with the foundation budget being implemented. Further, I think this is the first time I've read largely positive coverage of Worcester Tech that does mention its 50% admission rate and rightly connects this to student performance. (Likewise Tech's "similar peers") The little bit that could be mentioned here is that new building led to different kids applying, which led to a different student body, none of which had anything to do with the state reconsidering the funding of education. Usual disclaimer: no, I'm not slamming Tech. If we're going to make these complaints about charters, though, we'd darn well better own up to them when we do it ourselves.
  • I appreciate that they resisted looking (and h/t to Barbara Madeloni of the MTA for calling them on it) only at testing data. 
  • I really appreciate that in a piece that focuses on getting Washington to step one, they include that Massachusetts needs to get to step two (looking again): "The original Massachusetts equation has not been revisited in decades, nor kept pace with rising costs, squeezing low-income schools again and dulling the shine of those original ideals." We're now being called out on this in Seattle; could we do something about it now?
Again, worth a read. 

Friday, March 18, 2016

"Throwing money at the problem" -- the solution we've never tried

I've seen the article on the new research from the Washington Center for Equitable Growth being shared online. It (again) turns out the solution that we've never fully implemented, often disparaged as "throwing money at the problem," does work:
By comparing outcomes in the states that implemented these school finance reforms and those that did not, LaFortune, Rothstein, and Schanzenbach find that the reforms had a considerable impact on the achievement gap between high- and low-income school districts. They found that increasing funding per pupil by about $1,000 raises test scores by 0.16 standard deviations—roughly twice the impact as investing the same amount in reduced class sizes (according to data from Project STAR, a highly acclaimed study of Tennessee schools in the 1980s).
I'd recommend, if you're interested in school funding and issues of equity and adequacy, giving the paper itself a read as well (don't let the equations scare you off). Not only do an increase in resources matter, they matter over time: in other words, going to a more appropriately funded school from kindergarten means a student does better than a student who only had access to those resources in high school.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

On design, beauty, and urban neglect

It's a Washington Post column on the Metro shutdown, but it certainly applies to municipal buildings like schools:
...above all, it is closed today for the same reason that much of what was built during the Great Society era now looks ugly to us: years of underfunding, disinvestment and deferred maintenance, a neglect that comes of a deeper social and political dysfunction. We have learned to tolerate decay, and ugliness. 
That’s the reason Pershing Park, near the White House, is an eyesore today. And the same reason that outhouses in the National Park Service are often overflowing, and fountains all over Washington are out of service or nearly so. Demolition by neglect is now our maintenance policy, and not just when it comes to things we have made in bricks and mortar; it erodes our civic landscape, too.


Note on the "incidents on school property" bit: that's true of all years. Thus the increase in arrests has nothing to do with that, and unless and until the city releases more information about the actual arrests, the two things we know are that police presence on WPS property has radically increased over the past two years, and that arrests have as well.
Just like everywhere else that this has been done.

*her curse was that no one believed her

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

And today's update on the Worcester superintendency

This from Tom Quinn:
April 25 is the Monday after April vacation week (which some principals do have, depending on how recent their contracts are; more recent principals work a full year schedule).
Also, given the May 13 date for the School Committee to receive the budget, that's about a week and a half before it goes to the printer.

As a reminder of where Worcester usually is in the budget process now, this week was School Committee priority setting last year. And that was late. 

DESE reorganization?

Not actually on the Board of Ed's agenda for next week, but sent out as "informational" to them is the report of Parthenon, which (you may remember) did an organizational assessment of DESE. I've posted it here. If you're anyone who has dealings with DESE, it's worth skimming.
A few points of note:
  • there's a point about streamlining who reports to the Commissioner and having one person "take a stronger integration role" in reporting to him 
  • there's a call for "more clarity in the state's role in improving instructional practice." Specificially,the report calls for DESE to "(d)efine the role of the agency as one that sets standards, and then acts as a clearinghouse for the resources and supports already available to support the field in meeting those standards," to "(i)dentify instructional leadership at the district and school levels and find ways to engage with that leadership on an ongoing basis around common issues of practice," along with better coordinating cross-departmental work.
  • there's a bit about "a greater degree of central coordination" in communication with a recommendation that one person who directly reports to the Commissioner be designated as his "external proxy."
  • there's a discussion of streamlining and aligning compliance functions, with a mention of the push towards socio-emotional measures.
  • finally, there's a bit about the various school models in Massachusetts, with this concern:"Yet in many areas of MA, there is a need for high-quality options and a rethinking of existing models."
Hm. If it comes up during Tuesday's meeting, I'll blog about it. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Supplemental agenda in Worcester

UPDATE: there's two:

  • an addition to the executive session for negotiations with the Superintendent-elect 
  • an item sponsored by "School Committee" to change the effective start date

  • And here's Worcester Magazine with what looks like the scoop.

    Want to write the new Massachusetts state test?

    The state has now posted the request for responses (not proposals) for the new state test. It says:
    ESE seeks a contractor that will ensure that the next generation of the MCAS program meets or exceeds the level of quality for which it is now known.The selected contractor will partner with the Department to develop and deliver an enhanced MCAS for the 2017 to 2021 administrations. The contractor must provide a record of success, excellence, and accomplishment and must demonstrate flexibility and a willingness to respond to the changing needs of the MCAS program. This bid is covered under the WTO. - World Trade Organization. 
    And from the press release: 
    The RFR also addresses factors related to shifting to computer-based assessments. For instance, the RFR requires a well-tested, user-friendly, computer-based testing platform and assessment management system. Potential contractors must show that they have had proven success with computer-based testing in statewide assessments. In addition, the system must have a computerized toolkit and a drawing tool to ensure students can easily complete math and science tests on a computer.
    Another component of the RFR asks interested vendors to describe their capacity and expertise to develop and administer a reinstated history and social science testing program, something the state has not had since the most recent version was suspended in 2009.
    All bids are due on May 6, 2016, and ESE expects to award a contract in time for a mid-summer start.
    Details are on the downloadable bid.  

    Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

    And speaking of light agenda...
    The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday. The agenda is here.
    There are a number of recognitions, including Donna Lombardi from School Nutrition getting the Mass Public Health Association's Lemuel Shattuck award!
    The report of the Superintendent is on opiods and their impact on the community.
    There are some retirements and appointments.
    There is a response to the query from Ms. Colorio on school discipline referrals by school.
    There is a response to Mayor Petty's question regarding participation in Skills USA (short version: $14,000).
    There is a request for approval of  $1,505.56 for Shred-it.
    There is a request for approval of a donation of $1,200 from Tufts University for a fitness study involving 3rd & 4th graders at Chandler Magnet School.
    There's a request to accept donations totalling $350 for the CPR project.
    There's a request to approve the SHINE Initiative grant for $7900.
    There's a request to approve $144.55 from Target for Heard Street. 
    Mr. Monfredo wants to encourage the establishment of chapters of "Stand for the Silent."
    He also wants to recognize WEDF.

    Miss Biancheria wants a list of groups doing cleanups.
    There's a request to approve a new nurse. 

    There is also an executive session to discuss (it appears) general strategy for all collective bargaining agreements. 

    The Board of Ed meets next week

    The Mass Board of Ed meets next week on what looks like a fairly light agenda.
    They're having an update on the Southbridge receivership.
    They're having an update on the Holyoke receivership.
    They're getting an update on what the new federal education law, ESSA, means for the state.
    And they're getting an update on the state and federal budgets.

    Monday, March 14, 2016

    There you have it

    On a 6-1 vote, Maureen Binienda voted in as new superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools.
    Foley opposed. 

    Unanimous vote follows.

    UPDATE: And rarely do the T&G editorial board and Clive McFarlane agree, but on this one, it appears they do. 

    Not with a bang but a whimper*

    *T.S. Eliot "The Hollow Men"

    Tonight the Worcester School Committee votes on the new superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools. While there's been some reporting, the analysis on this has been weak, with marked exceptions of Clive McFarlane and (provided you can roll your eyes over the intro), of all things, GoLocal.
    The School Committee conducted all four interviews on a single night, held the meet and greets on a single night two days later, and are voting a week later.
    Not a lot of time for consideration in there.
    As I said before, though, it's less the rush and and much more the lack of perspective that's the real worry here. The Committee wants someone who "knows Worcester"--I heard this referred to as the "did you shop at Spag's" test. Fine. All four of your finalists pass that one with flying colors.
    What else?
    Last week, CPPAC heard that the budget gap is in the vicinity of $20 million. That isn't going to magically vanish, and, yes, that's the first order of business for the new superintendent. Important to note that the interim contract for Dr. Rodrigues is through July OR the appointment of a new superintendent. 
    We're one school away from being a Level 3, not Level 4 district. That, however, depends on getting Burncoat Prep out of Level 4 status and nothing else sliding. Given the way that such decisions are made, the only thing standing between Worcester and a few more Level 4 schools is continued assurance in Malden that Worcester is making progress. With Dolores Gribouski's retirement, June Eressey's going back to retirement, and who knows what happening with Dr. Rodrigues, Worcester's just lost most of those who have been doing this work at the district level successfully (Mary Meade-Montaque being the exception). If you lose DESE's confidence, there's literally nothing preventing Malden from declaring other schools Level 4. If you can't turn those around with the dwindling resources they're extending, well, welcome to the receivership club.
    And if you think the state isn't looking at Worcester, you haven't been paying attention.
    The district has a settlement agreement with the federal Department of Justice regarding how we treat our kids. Worcester just completed the periodic Coordinated Program Review, which now needs to have all the loose ends tied to make sure we continue to receive grants and aren't violating civil rights laws. The district is under federal and state scrutiny on dozens of matters and ultimately all that falls to the superintendent.
    And that doesn't of course get into the day-to-day management of an organization that employes 4000 people and is responsible for the well-being and education of 24,000 kids.

    It isn't pretty. It isn't photogenic. But it is absolutely the superintendent's job.

    I saw today some comments that "overwhelmingly" comments from constituents were favorable about the search and the candidates.
    Overwhelmingly what I've heard from parents and others across the district was that there was no point in weighing in, as the decision had been made months ago. Thus the terrible turnout at the meet and greet. "Why bother?" is what I have heard over and over again.

    "Why bother?" isn't what a school district needs to be hearing from parents and community members.
    Yet that is just where this superintendent search has left us.

    Not with a bang but a whimper.

    Gurel Symposium on opportunities in urban ed

    Part II
    Speaking today: Nick Donohue, Nellie Mae; Ron Ferguson, Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard; Dianne Kelly, Superintendent of Revere Public Schools; Gene Wilhoit, National Center for Innovation in Education

    Moderated by Katerine Beilaczyc, Director of Clark's Hiatt Center for Urban Education

    What each of you see as two critical issues for urban education under ESSA?
    Wilhoit: new opportunity: best practice, innovative program, but gives very little direction
    "do we have the capacity and the will to take this law and...become leaders in education reform"
    related to that is this continued federal attention to lowest performing schools
    "and we find many of them concentrated in urban areas"
    thinks 5% model has been "dismal failure"
    removes federal models: open invitation to redesign structure
    schools with those dropout rates "shouldn't even exist in this country"
    Ferguson: at least one other measure
    some leaning towards socio-emotional wellbeing
    those who work on it do NOT think the measures are ready to do that
    not ready to measure differences between schools
    "have to give more support for what is appropriate for measuring differences between schools"
    perspectives on school climate
    new supports for new openness; building capacity
    reason to worry that either nothing will happen or the wrong things will work
    Kelly: moving away from strict test measures, move on to performance-based assessments
    know we have kids who don't test well
    channeling funding to students who need it the most
    "when we really look at the ($72M additional CH70), it did not go to the Gateway Cities"
    funnels 10% budget increases to no urban districts
    over 2/3rds of Gateway Cities in Massachusetts will see less than 1% increase if Gov. Baker's budget goes through
    Donohue: seven state innovation in assessment
    exciting practice changes
    shift down to local sites: provisions where the public needs to be engaged in state and local level
    "very grateful" to see end of NCLB
    but ESSA is a compromise and some of that has yet to be revealed
    very high threshhold for research (because of data protection): "I think that compromise piece is bothering me"
    "most partisan positions that they couldn't each get from the other" is what staff said was missing from ESSA

    Q: build capacity?
    Wilhoit: state institutions that need to reflect on their role and their function
    need to be real partners with districts
    state authorities first point of resource reduction before they go to the schools
    at local level, "there's business as usual, and how does one interrupt that" to have deep conversations
    law is calling for a different kind of relationship between states and districts
    "hints at a much more collaborative process"
    Ferguson: to use more effectively the resources we already have
    districts share certain types of expertise
    "networked learning community"
    on school leadership, "harvest the folk knowledge from the most effective school leaders"
    at the top of the growth models "there's a lot of public schools"
    charters get more attention "because they have the advocacy"
    can imagine going in and talking to those at most effective schools
    "learn from the best at what's already happening"
    Kelly: need to really change the dialogue around public education
    using data to "almost vilify teachers in schools"
    "our schools are doing great, and the reason our schools are doing great is we're using data appropriately"
    have to de-couple ourselves from the state conversation
    use data to find out where kids have gaps
    "really about re-professionalizing education"
    all comes back to budgeting: how successful do we want to be
    FBRC: "their report came out and was largely ignored"
    Donohue: need to dramatically change how we measure student engagement
    stratify current levels
    much more real world, competency based
    "make education align with what we know about learning"
    education leaders "don't really trust the public...and that's crazy, because the public knows what it's talking about"
    "Americans...want to advance"
    Wilhoit: real implications for higher education in this shift
    research not having real impact on process as it is
    systems alignment issue: high school students listening to those they aspire to be
    Ferguson: incoherence of professional learning from the perspective of teachers
    things coming at you
    "they got another list, and another list, and another list"
    when we talk about going into schools, "it's going to hit the teachers as one more list"
    we could do the old ideas well, rather than new ideas
    Kelly: teachers fill inundated
    "things coming at could go on and on and's exhausting"
    as a teacher "you just wanted to have a normal day"
    "that's something that just no longer happens"
    "give (teachers) the freedom to understand that it's okay if it's not perfect"
    Ferguson: how to induce that?
    Kelly: have to make them comfortable, know that it's safe
    "people have no idea of the wonderful, hard working, innovative teachers who are working in these schools across the Commonwealth"
    Ferguson: teachers learning from those who are good?
    Kelly: professional learning communities at innovation school; then in high school
    honor teachers as learners from each other
    culture around educator growth: focused on how we can all learn from each other

    Q what do changes look like?
    Ferguson: why do we think innovation is the answer?
    want kids to develop basic skills and we want them to develop mindsets
    teachers who already know how to do that: care about them, captivate them
    "what we don't have is learning systems in schools and supports that get people to sink into these things"
    "some innovation to be had in how we get the boat to move"
    but things we already know
    "a lot about implementation and putting systems in place to use what we already know"
    Kelly: don't have the on-demand, in the moment supports kids need
    everyone comes in at a set time, this is recess, this is lunch, you take this many math classes
    for some kids it takes three years to get high school done and get onto college
    for some kids it takes five, six years "and it doesn't mean the school is bad"
    "that's what I think of when I think of innovation"
    Donohue: don't do new things for the sake of doing new things
    school still built on kids doing the same thing at the same pace
    "not an innovation of practice; it's an innovation of purpose"
    competency based education: it's when you advance kids forward when they know things
    "equitable is not equal"
    put resources where they're needed and meet kids where they are
    agree "don't throw the baby out with the bathwater"
    shifting the box a little bit and maintaining effective instructional practices
    Ferguson: resistance to effective differentiation, as there will be race and class differences
    Donohue: readiness
    being ready for next step of education; readiness rate is going up , going up at .3% a year
    give places to demonstrate responsibility
    staging innovation
    "very treacherous time": will we focus on universal attainment?

    Q: ways to stand up for the most vulnerable kids?
    Wilhoit: tremendous debate at this level
    "at the state level, jury is still out on if we're going to respond to this challenge"
    going to ask folks to disproportionally resource the highest need
    "am I willing to give up more for the neediest kids in the country?"
    building around teachers on infrastructure
    systems around them that aren't counter to positive learning environments
    Ferguson; what to do about concentrated poverty?
    turnover teachers and administration
    instability for families
    a lot of behavior issues do to instability
    one of greatest inequalities is in access to an orderly classroom
    want all kids to thrive in life: not just money, but life experiences are equitably distributed
    want parents to understand that babies are learning even before they're born
    preschool experiences "ought to be part of the equity agenda"
    Kelly: have to decide if we mean it when we talk about equity
    "are we still going to talk about these things and not do them?"
    need change in House and Senate budget "or these things will be gone"
    Donohue: need to talk about race, racism, and white privilege
    power and privilege continue to be drawn a long race lines in this country
    "being spared injustice" is part of white privilege
    "we're completely capable of finding our way forward...we are a good people"
    "we are able to do this"
    "it's a decision we get to make about if we're going to do this"

    and that's a wrap

    Warren on ESSA

    Senator Warren speaks at ten at Clark University on ESSA.
    Blogging/tweeting to follow...hashtag is #GurelLecture
    UPDATE: the video is here: skip to 1:52
    We've just been told "We believe the Senator is in the vicinity..."

    Clark provost Davis Baird: Clark "is the end point of the cradle to college pipeline"
    two decades have partnered with WPS
    particularly proud of Clark's MTA program
    introduces Mr. Gurel who is here
    symposium will follow lecture, speaking of opportunities in urban education

    Ben Forman, MassInc
    thanks Clark for their support in education
    community-wide learning opportunities in Gateway cities
    Gateways home to 1/4 of our youth
    "important that all these children reach their potential"
    speaks of Globe report on increasing economic segregation increasing
    economic inequality rooting themselves in Gateway cities
    Question for us all is how to give all students that opportunities
    "to support the growth and vitality of our middle class"
    has been "disheartening" to see trajectory of economy
    take heart from Sen Warren standing alone and bending policy as a result
    one of only two members of her party to vote v ESSA bill
    resulted in greater attention to equity

    Warren: thanks for very generous introduction
    thanks Gurel himself for being here
    "has been a real champion of public education"
    "critically important to all of us...public education in America"
    didn't have ambitions to be a senator as a child
    "I did have ambitions, ambitions to be a school teacher. For me, that was the tops."
    "Teaching is not a job; teaching is a calling."
    second grade teacher told her, "Betsy, you know you could be a teacher someday"
    organized her dollies for school: "we were heavy on reading and snacktime"
    every child has a real opportunity and a chance to succeed
    quotes from Brown v Board : Education "a right which must be made available to all on equal terms"
    "all deliberate speed"
    "across America, racism ran deep, and its hold was strong"
    "Problem We All Live With" focuses on Ruby but "when state and local governments blocked Ruby, the federal government was there for her"
    First ESEA was "part of our civil rights laws"
    withholding funding from school districts that failed to integrate
    was meant to counteract the effects of poverty
    focused on schools that needed it most
    LBJ: "education the only valid passport from poverty"
    today, majority of schoolchildren live in poverty
    in largest 100 cities, children most likely to attend majority poverty schools
    public schools now majority children of color
    strong role of federal government "more important now than ever before; we cannot abandon our children"
    Obama called ESSA "a Christmas miracle"
    NCLB "was so unpopular, that passing anything that left No Child Left Behind was WOOHOO!"
    as important as it was to replace it, very important to ensure that we replace it with a bill that is true to its roots
    early Republican version of the bill was effectively a block grant: let states do what they wanted with the money
    fought for insurance on how the states would use that money
    one is for states to target their efforts towards kids who need it most
    final bill is "a whole, whole, whole lot better" than it was before
    focus on high schools that graduate only 2/3rds of kids
    require states to report better data "crosstabulated data"
    able to look at different subgroups of students, look at them systematically over time
    calls herself "a real data nerd"
    "a step in the right direction, but it is only one step"
    college: more people of color borrow money to go to college and they borrow more money to do so
    ten percent of college students are in a for-profit college
    they are sucking down 20% of federal aid
    dropouts of those colleges are responsible for more than 40% of all defaults of such loans
    Warren calls for a crackdown
    federal government can ensure that a debt-free college experience is available to all students
    can fight back against resource inequality in our schools
    The federal government:
    "can ensure that young Dreamers can access the same great education as their punishment just because they were brought to the United States as children"
    make sure children of color are not disproportionally suspended, are not disproportionally pushed into sped
    "can make sure that every young girl has equal access to sports, science, math, whatever she wants to study"
    never forget where she came from: what is possible to a kid who tries hard
    "these aren't other people's children...these are our children: every single one of them"

    and that's it from Warren, who gets a standing ovation

    Wednesday, March 9, 2016

    And on the superintendent search

    ...tonight at CPPAC, Brian O'Connell urged people to get in touch with the school committee regarding their Monday vote, commenting "it will be sure to make an impact."

    That would be

    From CPPAC:
    At Wednesday's CPPAC meeting School Committee member Brian O'Connell said that the School Committee does want to hear from parents, guardians, etc. about their preferred Superintendent candidate, so we encourage you to contact them before Monday.
    We've posted materials about the search over on our Facebook page:
    Here's the page with the links for the applicants' materials:
    The interviews are playing on Channel 11:
    And here is the page with the e-mail addresses for the School Committee members:

    CPPAC talks budget

    at the Worcester Public Library tonight for an update on the FY17 budget at both local and state levels
    starting tonight with Brian Allen 

    Allen: outlined where we see WPS being next year
    slightly updated from presentation given to School Committee in February, based on Governor's budget
    flat foundation budget enrollment & negative inflation
    there is a one time adjustment in low income to economically disadvantaged: note that Worcester benefits from that change, but it's a one time advantage
    certain costs continue to exceed normal inflation
    "at the end of the day, when all is said and done, we may not know our final budget until July" when the state budget is set
    state budget: Quality K & charter school reimbursement changes
    61 cents of every dollar is from the state; 28 from local; 11 cents from federal grants (=WPS budget)
    per pupil enrollment of previous year determines budget
    enrollment similar to what it was in 2003 (2004 and 2007 closed 4 schools, each); eight fewer elementary schools than we had then

    enrollment is relatively flat, but number of ELL students continues to grow: up 616 from previous year
    economically disadvantaged drop 3575 students BUT the weighted per pupil amount
    =$3.1 million increase
    "most of our increase is solely" this change (for Worcester)
    there are other districts that substantially have lost money in this

    second time in history, negative inflation rate
    ch. 70 going up $3.7M
    change in charter school reimbursement, "roughly level funded"
    city has pledged to increase funding by almost half a million
    less charter tutition 300K
    total budget going up by about $3.5M
    and these numbers aren't the same as they were in February...there's an additional million here...
    AH! We went from the city reducing its spending by over half a million, as it could, to it committing to fund at a half a million over

    now running through school by school needs

    with no staff added the citywide average would go up by 1 child
    but 11 more classes would be 27-30
    with 36 more teachers, no classes would be above 26 students

    gap of $20M between what needs are and what resources are
    does not include anything from safety committee; does not include anything from advanced academy

    FBRC: health insurance, special ed, ELL, low income
    foundation budget allotment exceeds by 140%
    does not factor retiree health insurance
    WPS spends about $12M on retiree health insurance, which was never included in foundation budget
    WPS gap of health insurance is nearly $30M
    "and this is after, many years, a lot of discussion" of plan changes, changes in contribution rates, and so forth
    districts spend "far more" on out of district by 59%
    and in district by less than actual population
    "even by doing what they are proposing doing in the foundation report, they are underfunding" sped by $700M
    gap in Worcester is $30M on special ed
    "Worcester, like most urban districts, is funding right at foundation...we live and die by what's in foundation"
    non-special ed teachers: we should have 661 more teachers than we do
    "just imagine what we could do with 661 more teachers in our classrooms"

    ELL increment for middle school students

    low income: looked at successful turnaround efforts (like in Worcester: WPS said $2000/student)

    inflation factor skipped in 2010 (used 3.04% rather than 6.75%)
    "one way to provide, particularly to urban districts, some additional chapter 70 aid"
    there are some who are interested in exploring it further, particularly in the House budget

    impact on Worcester could be $93M

    And right about then my battery died. However, Senators Chandler and Moore were there to talk about the state budget: crucial, as most of the schools' funding comes from the state, and any discussion of the foundation budget needs to happen there. There was quite a bit of coverage of there being a lack of revenue, some discussion of the level of interest across the state on adopting the Foundation Budget Review Commission's findings (check the Suburban Coalition's front page for the list which needs to be updated daily!), and related budget discussions. I'd say there some advocacy needed at the state level on this.