Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Novick Reports: Third Way in sum

as sent to the Mass Association of School Committees' list-serv earlier today:

This morning, Mass Inc and Empower Schools co-hosted “The Emerging Third Way: Blazing an Optimistic Path Ahead in K-12 Education” at the ICA in Boston. For those on Twitter, the hashtag was #ThirdWayEd. The “Third Way” prior to the event was described as:
  • convergence on "best practice" for which they cite school controlled hiring (and cite charter schools) and extended day (likewise, cited charter schools)
  • collaborative alignment with charters (for example, a unified enrollment system)
  • "empowerment zone" as in Springfield, where the "charter-like" powers were cited as an example
U.S. Secretary of Education John King was the featured speaker, ‘though he spoke at the end, and his comments largely were not connected with the overarching theme.
My liveblog from this morning is here. Margaret Driscoll of Melrose also attended, and her notes from this morning are here.
Most of what was presented is summarized by the bullet points above.

Coming a week after the Springfield Empowerment Zone Project’s presentation at the Board of Education, today’s event, which included everyone from the Commissioner to the Joint Chairs to representation from a myriad of think tanks, and had at least one panel flown in from Denver, did feel as if it were intended to be a presentation of a foregone conclusion.  The charter schools were held up as an example of all best practices spoken of, and the freedom of the empowerment zone (where the oversight lies no longer with the School Committee but with the zone’s board) referenced repeatedly. 

PS: Edushyster was there, as well. And what Ben Forman posted about is not what they talked about on Tuesday. 

Third Way at the ICA

You can follow the Twitter action here. posting as we go once we start
Note that we are sitting in the dark. Panels are not being introduced as "all bios are in the program," which we can't read because we're in the dark...
oh, look! A video! "It isn't us or them...it's us and them"
"about synergy and progress"
"bold steps, away from what always has been done..."
"it's here, and we are living it"
Brett Alessi, Managing Partner, Empower Schools, opening today
"It's not a destination, it's a mindset"
"this work is really hard"
"intersection of policy and politics"
"regulatory entrepreneurship"
Ben Forman, Mass Inc
thanks Chris Gabrieli, at "leading edge of education"
"have always understood that education held the key"
"much higher level of innovation" needed
refers to "one of the most innovative guys out there--Secretary Peyser"
Peyser: compliments Forman on the turnout today
thrilled to be here, important event
"introduction to the public policy dialogue"
"those of you who know me probably think of me as a charter guy...and it's true"
belief that schools not districts are the unit of change
districts, etc "establishing the conditions within which great schools can emerge and thrive"
world class standards and assessments, accessible timely and meaningful data
transparent, predictable and sustainable finance systems
"authority to act with accountability for results"
"it's that last one that proved the most problematic"
"if you can't give me the authority to manage my schools and manage these variables"
command and control leading to compliance
"so far it sounds like I'm making the argument for more charter schools--and I am"
but they are not the only solution
four schools a year "I think we can do better if and when the cap gets lifted in November" and calls for applause
believe that system change has to happen one school at a time
"supplement, not replace charter growth"
replicate the conditions that allow charters to succeed
"need to break out of our present dialectic of districts versus charters"
Gabrieli: let me talk about our sense of urgency
names first way as district schools, second way as charter schools
"now sadly seen in opposition"
"third way emerges as a solution"
"additive and complimentary even synergistic"
Universal service, democratic voice, and...no idea. Orange was hard to read
"convergencing on powerful practices, district-charter alignment, empowerment zone"
"particularly promising scaleable" practice: Springfield, Denver

note that Springfield just happened; there are no results on Springfield
contract specific to zone
"depends on win-win structures"
collaborative and voluntary, builds on best, locally and beyond
promises the results and scale
"we have a lot in common, but we take our own path"

three charter school leaders:
Komel Bhasin from Up Academy in Lawrence: importance of parents, push kids higher up the ladder
"aiming for the same goal, starting in a difference place"
working with newcomers to this country...working with a different population
can't just scale things up
<>could handle five or six on a case-by-case basis, when you have fifty or sixty, need systems
parents don't get to vote with their feet; need to allow them to vote with their mouth
need to have a role in shaping policy
demographics don't necessarily mirror the communities in which we work
"really not speculating about what the needs of our communities are" but ensuring they're actually heard
Anna Breen from KIPP now at Rise Academy in Springfield
sometimes at charter school feel like impact is really limited within the four walls of the building
now need to think about impact on stakeholders throughout the system
great not to have to do it all on her own
resources the system can provide
Nate Higgins, now Bronx Prep Charter, heading to Impact Prep in Springfield: inspired to give back
"it's a lot of work"

Lawrence panel:
"while public policy can make people do things, it cannot make people do things well"
Jeff Riley, receiver : problem is too big for a civil war
"I can assure you that parents don't care; they just want a good school for their kids."
"I hate to break it to you: test scores aren't everything."
"other parts matter"
mirror the suburban experience for our kids; "best way for our children"
Shalimar Quiles "this is personal for me"
product of Lawrence schools, have nieces, nephews, cousins
"how we actually got here
"great teaching, high quality enrichment, school-based decision-making"
subtract the titles and the types
"let's get them ready based on what those models look like"
"adults least connected to our communities have created" have made decisions about schools
student, Lawrence Public Schools:
pretty exciting
I can not only change myself to be a leader, I can change other students to not be a follower and be a leader, and that's what I'm proud of today"
and then she sang, which was lovely
Riley: put the focus on the district schools
put the authority on the schools, parents, students
"I believe in the teachers' union...I think we have to do this together with people"

Denver panel:
David Osborne: closed "over fifty failing schools, opened seventy schools, expanded charters rapidly"
wrote innovation school law
"produced results"
"most of the academic growth has come from charter sector"
I should perhaps point out that he's asserting all of this as good things
"desperation" is why they made the changes
Michael Bennett was district superintendent "embraced charters, began to expand charters"
4/3 school board, "bitter battles and stay with it"
then "raised lots of money" and converted board to 7-0
autonomy and what they had that:
former board member Mary Seawell joined the Gates Foundation
unified enrollment; transportation in zone
"charters as district opportunities"
charters with district boundaries, taking kids in special edthis may be the first mention of special ed today
"take away these false dicotomies...gives opportunities"
Ross Osborne (BPS) speaks of portfolio of options in Boston Public Schools
schools hiring earlier in year now
working closely with the Boston Teachers Union on that
Osborne: thinks we're in the midst of a sixty year transformation of public policy

Springfield panel: moderated by James Morton, Board of Ed
Springfield superintendent Warwick: "okay to steal really good ideas"
invited Gabrieli in to talk about some middle schools
"as a long-time principal, I loved autonomy"
Tim Collins "embraced the idea as well"
Collins: empowering the schools, powering the principals, teachers, and the students
"nothing new" we've been doing this for years
I "have been at this in Springfield for 43 years"
unlike the past years, where the locus of decision making has shifted to DC, Malden
"not a matter of replacing a dictator with a junta"
teacher leadership elected by staff
people doing work should have a voice in leadership
"civil rights issue of our time": foundation budget needs fundamental reconsideration
arts, shop, kids need that spark "that's what we should be all about"
"when we face that poverty, face the opioid epidemic" kids need those experiences and options
"we can accomplish what we want for all the children, not just the charter school children, all the children"
Russell Johnston, DESE: turnaround hasn't been successful in many places
I feel honor-bound to point out that some of those places have been DESE-run turnarounds 

done research at what has been successful
"have discovered a lot of the what"
Springfield zone is "the how"
Warwick was really pleased when Collins came to table
cites Gabrieli brought to table
Collins gave schools serious school improvement grants and then turnaround
"hope we will put resources into Gateway schools" principals
Mike Calvanese, principal in Springfield "full budget and "a plan
when other people are making the decisions for you, easy to push off responsibility
working with teachers, need to have two way system of communication
Zachary Rahn: working to become innovation school
"have to flip the script of what the center service center is"
went department by department" and asked if that's something really needed (that's called zero based budgeting and is best practice for districts; aka, it isn't uncommon or a charter innovation)
Lori Butterfield: principal in Lawrence
primary role as a school leader is help teachers grow and develop
working with their strengths, their weaknesses, and targeting their PD
have expanded their day
more than 100 additional hours of PD; go deep within priorities
"no longer a one-sized fits all model"

Tripp Jones: from Empower Schools asking questions of state leaders in the audience
calls on Commissioner Chester to talk about "how you see this Third Way fitting into your toolbox"who takes this opportunity to comment that he is "not going to comment" on "the unions" not wanting student test data in evaluations
"have every conviction that we can do better by these students"
three districts, four schools under state receivership
goal is to improve education

"enlisted proven providers" included charters
critical elements: time, staffing, collective bargaining
Bentley School in Salem, Dearborn School in Boston "where districts have taken the initiative"
"as the charter debate plays forward this fall...hope we can recruit our high-performing charters want to embrace turnaround assignments"
Senator Chang-Diaz: answer to question is in this room
"here very little about the third way...we hear very little about it on Beacon Hill"
"we just don't have the time and luxury of this civil war"
parents really don't care...just want quality option for their kids
"please do right by both of my children"
"I know it can be done..." Rise Act
Peisch: top priority is to close the achievement gap
"don't think (current climate) has been helpful"
more access to autonomies in Level 4 stage
"bring the discussion back to..what is in the best interest of the students"
Paul Grogan: would guess from press coverage that only thing Boston Foundation cares about is charter schools; lion share of funding goes to district
pilot school chapter in Boston: allowing other options within district
John King, Secretary of Ed he's being interviewed by Gabrieli
principles that drove start of Roxbury Prep drive work this day
having great teachers, making sure they're well supported, well rounded curriculum, strong school culture
everyone in school community feels responsible for school achievement
King: a lot of truth to that thesis
making sure autonomy is real and accountability is real
and democracy is real
King: for kids it doesn't matter if it's a charter school and a district school
showing things are possible
"home was this very unpredictable place...school a place where I could be a kid, when I couldn't be outside of school"
autonomy in curriculum?
King: know that kids who get a well-rounded education are better leaders as a result
reading not just about decoding
also worthy pursuits on their own: how the world works, where they came from, appreciation for beauty..."a well-rounded education is a right, and we have a responsibility to provide that"
reading and math as "essential but not sufficient"
King: broaden definition of educational excellence
what about absenteeism? access to advanced coursework?
build beyond that to other indicators of college and career readiness
how states respond to chronic underperformance: states could be more innovative
create a dual language school
King: lots of reasons to be optimistic; high school graduation rate; reduction in drop out of black and Latino students, more in college investment in early childhood ed
bipartisan education law
MA still has 30-40 point achievement gap...that's a gap we have to close
And that was it!

Friday, May 27, 2016

So what did they pass on the foundation budget?

I know I lost a lot of you on Senator Chang-Diaz's amendment 120, which passed on a voice vote last night. Sorry about that! Here's what it means:
First, it means that this goes to conference committee, along with everything else passed by one house of the Legislature but not the other.
Then it would need to survive Governor Baker's veto (either by avoiding it or overriding it).

What's in it?
Every year as part of the budget, the state has to redraft the section of the Mass General Laws that deals with school funding, Chapter 70 (thus the shorthand we use for school funding in Massachusetts). It lays out how health insurance costs are calculated, the inflation rate, the assumption on special ed, how much districts will get for each category of student, and so forth.
Now, this follows a standard layout, and that hasn't been majorly changed since 1993.

What amendment 120 does is plug in the new numbers from the Foundation Budget Review Commission. For example, it makes the health insurance cost the average GIC rate. It adds retiree health insurance costs. It updates the special education assumption. And so forth.
It's intended to work hand in hand with the other piece that the Senate passed, which would make the implementation of the foundation budget part of the annual conversation both houses have with the Governor, laying out what the projections for revenue will be. Those would, if the Senate language carries, also include the gradual implementation of the recommendations of the FBRC.
The redrafted version that was passed last night implements this July 2017, which is the beginning of next year's fiscal year.
Just in time for the FY18 budget.

Update on teacher evaluation

At the Monday "special" meeting of the Board of Ed, the Board heard about teacher evaluation. Mary Ann Stewart, parent member of the Board, wrote of the meeting here.
Thanks, Mary Ann! 

The Senate passed Amendment 196 on District Determined Measures

...what does that mean?
The first thing is that this, along with anything else passed by only one of the two bodies, goes to conference committee. Assuming it comes out of conference committee and survives Governor Baker's veto (either by not being vetoed or by the Legislature overriding his veto), it would then become part of the law.

The meat of what the Senate passed is as follows:
‘Notwithstanding any other provision of the general or special laws, the board shall not mandate any school district to include as part of an educator evaluation system or as a teacher performance standard the use of student performance data that is intended to measure an individual educator’s impact on student learning, growth, or achievement'
...which would forbid the state to require districts to use student performance as part of teacher evaluation. Districts could still do so (subject to collective bargaining), but the state could not require it.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Senate budget deliberation, day three UPDATED at 3 PM

If you aren't watching the #SenBudget wall, fun and often informative

We're entering Senate budget deliberation day three with a few things educational outstanding:

  • amendment 120, covering the foundation budget review commission update to M.G.L. Chapter 70, has not yet been voted
  • amendment 190 for innovation schools remains outstanding
  • amendment 196, eliminating the required use of district-determined measures in teacher evaluation, has yet to be voted on
  • amendment 206, bringing the kindergarten grant to level-funded at $18.5M, has not yet been voted (and Worcester? That's $750,000 in the FY17 the School Committee considers next week that IS NOT IN the Senate budget!) 
They've just opened budget deliberation for the day; you can still call your Senators!

3PM update:
  • amendment 120 passes unanimously on a voice vote, having been amended with a July 2017 implementation date
  • amendment 206 is rejected as part of a second bundle of amendments, meaning the kindergarten grant will go to conference committee

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

May Board of Ed: TL/DR

Too Long/Didn't Read
as sent out to MASC members earlier today

While only the Commissioner spoke during the opening comment period, there were a few things that I’d call to your attention. The Commissioner mentioned the work around the teacher certification system, calling attention to this article from WBUR this morning (which, as it is based off of Secretary Peyser’s remarks a few weeks ago, heads the state in a very different direction on this). He gave an update on the state’s work on gathering feedback, as they are charged to, around the state’s new plans under the federal ESEA renewal (ESSA). Thus far for most, that largely involves what is discussed here, largely the survey. Finally, he announced that next month he will be announcing a cohort of schools with high suspension rates overall (or rates out of line within their demographics) for a working group to lower those suspension and expulsion rates.

The main presentation was on the Springfield Empowerment Zone. For those not familiar, this is a hybrid of a state receivership situation, involving the state, the school district, the city, and several partners, including charter school providers. Springfield has not been declared Level 5; this focuses specifically on nine middle schools, all of which were Level 4. It was clear from the presentation that Commissioner Chester thinks very positively of this development, and Secretary Peyser was pursuing questions around long-term plans and possible expansion.

The other big topic covered today was an update on the testing. Currently, 70% of districts are taking the PARCC; 30% are taking the MCAS. The state reports minimal issues with the online testing this year (‘though they note that there are many fewer districts doing the testing online this year), and they report no increase in test refusal. Much else was largely a summary from Chair Sagan of yesterday’s assessment subcommittee meeting. At this time, there have been two bids received, one from Measured Progress and one from American Institutes for Research. Deputy Commissioner Wulfson noted that both branches of the legislature level-funded the assessment line item; he remarked that the funding “is not going to be sufficient to do everything we want it to in a high quality way.” There was an exchange regarding the intellectual property question (following the online release of some of the questions and the resulting takedown notices from PARCC); the answer appears to be “it depends,” as some of the information was developed under the federal funding from Race to the Top, while some was developed under contract directly with the states (and what is under whose intellectual property at this time depends). Going forward, this will be part of the state’s contract with PARCC.

There was a presentation of some student survey data from the state student advisory council (which unfortunately did not have the backup available), which is to be developed further.
The Board had a fairly brief update on the state budget (the Senate is deliberating now).
Finally, they announced the dates for next year’s meetings.

As always, errors are mine and questions are welcome! 

I missed an amendment!

This is what I get for trusting the Senate classifications!
Amendment 120 from Senator Chang-Diaz puts numbers on the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations! Each year, as part of the budget, the specifics of the chapter 70 calculation need to be spelled out. This amendment subs in the FBRC recommendations for implementation over time (not this year, but it gets in!).
We need this one! Send along your recommendation to your senator ASAP!

Worcester City Council hears the Worcester Public Schools budget

Looks like we have John Monfredo from the School Committee, Mr. Allen, and, on her first day in her new position, Superintendent Binienda
updating as we go..once we start...here we go! Mayor Petty is in.
Petty: any questions?

Next year's Board of Ed meetings

I include here the Tuesday morning meetings; each is preceded by a Monday night "special" meeting.

September 26
October 25
November 29
December 20
January 24
February 28
March 28
April 25
May 23
June 27

May Board of Ed: FY17 update

The Board's update is here
Chester: Senate W&M budget has been released, Senate considering amendments to the budget "as we speak"
"today marks the beginning of floor debate by the full Senate"
if tradition follow suit, they'll wrap up late Thursday or early Friday
on balance, the Senate having the latest tax figures
has increased funding in our budget:
$100M above current spending
it's investment in local aid accounts
it's really $10M above the House
different in the kindergarten program: House continued status quo, Senate appropriated $2M for an $18M program
$10M above current for circuit breaker
did not support initiatives in STEM arena
"it's pretty much what we face each year" funding focused on local districts
strong budget in financing local school districts
Wulfson: Senate outside section on FBRC implementation
Senate finalize this week; conference committee early June; consolidated budget going to Governor to be signed by July 1

Receivership updates: Board of Ed

New director of special education:
wants to think special education more in terms of services received rather than in programs
wants students to be homerooms, receive services as part of the school day
also have an new IT director, new social and emotional learning director
turnaround plan ready in June: model will have to be different
given size of district, what is role of district in relationship to school?
local interim superintendent has completed term
"tremendous goodwill" towards receiver
town "really talked about a chance for Southbridge to redevelop its identity"
director of ELL: finalists ID, announced shortly
also, announced a new high school principal: was unanimous choice of search committee
new director of finance and operations, as well

elementary schools adding 60-90 minutes of instruction
curriculum not aligned with frameworks, not being implemented well
focusing on K-8
mapping and focus
looking at kindergarten across the district
study model used in Boston
"Focus on K2"
designing professional development for curriculum

Moriarty: meeting with Holyoke Chamber of Commerce
"gave a great deal of creditably" in collaboration with state

Update on MCAS 2.0: May Board of Ed meeting

The backup is here
Sagan: will do as a review of the assessment committee meeting
"very interesting time"
coming to the end of statewide testing this year and we just got the deadline for the RFP for the next test
on schedule, but it's a very aggressive one
"fewer issues this year than last year" with online testing
also had fewer schools taking it online this year than last year
any change in test refusal? No change
still appears to be a very small number
70% PARCC 30% MCAS
"won't be a state number" as a one time thing
"nothing we can do about it"
Two bids for next text: one from AIR, one from Measured Progress
update of curriculum frameworks : 300 applicants to be on the committee
seems to be going extremely well
"how do we manage the level in the next generation test?"
will hear what you're changing, what you're not changing
district technology preparedness
too early to be alarmed at responses to E-rate (MA districts have requested a total of $48.6M)
Sagan: need to think of summer schedule

Wulfson: would be remiss if didn't express appreciation to educators across the state in working through test and standards
budget for assessment: Legislature level funded
"is not going to be sufficient to do everything we want it to do in a high quality way"
wait until after vendor selection and come up with a hard contract

Sagan: parallel negotiation with PARCC regarding rights
Stewart: intellectual property component (see here for why this is relevant)
Commissioner has said it will allow us to retain control over material
Wulfson passes to someone else...intellectual property
exist right now collectively among the member states in the consortium
has been established through the life of the consortium
there are layers to it: materials that were developed through Race to the Top funding: those questions will be available and available publicly
some questions developed with each state's contract with Pearson
"it would be difficult for states to individually police questions"
as we move out of consortium this will change
need to develop a licensing agreement
will be buying content from PARCC; want to be sure that we are developing questions
"a little nuanced"
Wulfson: use of intellectual property, and logistical use
costs associated with all of that as well
Stewart: I understood that it was phasing out
Wulfson: PARCC consortium continues to exist, there are member states who want to be full-fledged members who want to offer full test
separately, states are discussing what kind of governance they want to have going forward
and how will they deal with affiliated members like us who may not want to take the full test
PARCC, Inc: serves as project manager: each state has a contract with PARCC, Inc
both contracts will be expiring the end of this testing cycle
will have a direct relationship with the PARCC vendor contractor
will be subsumed in the licensing agreement that all affiliated states will negotiate
Stewart: state data privacy : anything changing?
anything state can do to help districts with this?
Chester: we insist on industry standards
provide technical assistance and standards to districts
districts ultimately house a lot of data
Wulfson: section on student data privacy in last week's Commissioner's update
Sagan: industry standard isn't always good enough in this day and age
"let's come back to this"
Sagan now polling Board on how they want to handle this over the summer
Chester suggests an assessment subcommittee this summer
Chester "confident" we'll be able to have test ready for next year

May Board of Education: Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership

the backup is here
per the backup: SEZP is:
a groundbreaking voluntary partnership of Springfield Public Schools (SPS), the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Springfield Education Association (SEA), and Empower Schools aimed at rapidly improving outcomes for Springfield's middle school students
Chester: this Board knows the work of receiverships in schools and districts, work done with Level 4 schools as well
"really neat to have in front of us today" those working in Springfield
The Board of SEZP is as follows:

SEZP Board - SEZP has a 7-member board that governs the nonprofit. Four members are appointed by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to serve 5-year terms; the other three members represent the Springfield community in their official capacities. The current board members are: Chris Gabrieli, Chairman; James Morton; Beverly Holmes; John Davis; Domenic J. Sarno (in his role as Mayor of Springfield); Daniel J. Warwick (in his role as Superintendent of SPS); Chris Collins (in his role as Vice Chairman of the Springfield School Committee)

Chester: Gabrieli "was a key" contact with me, "aren't there measures short of receivership"
And the union, "very vital to us" in this partnership
MOU between and among DESE
School district "has appointed a board to receivership of middle schools
"this is a very promising approach to thinking about middle schools"

and I'm not going to be able to keep track of who is saying what here, as their backs are to me in a gym and they have no place cards
Gabrieli: excited to share this, level of collaboration is very high
"ultimately what matters is the results of the students"
DESE's willingness to think out of the box
"not directly obvious from the regulations but clearly well within them"
9 middle schools in Springfield serving 4000 students had Level 4 status
81% it says economically disadvantaged...I don't think that can be right
the state has four members; the city has three
Legal agreement between Zone, Springfield, and DESE approved in a 6-1 vote of the School Committee
new teachers' contract, modeled on Lawrence's contract: all working conditions are at the school level; ELT is "affordable" and no lanes; steps based on "merit"
Superintendent speaks of great flexibility in contract
"this kind of autonomy I would have loved as a principal"
"This teachers' contract is really a model for the state"
Gabrieli interested in expanding zones elsewhere in MA
SEZP believes "schools are a fundamental unit of change"
"school performance distributes on a bell curve and we have an obligation to move that curve to the right"
"pretty similar to the strategy we've taken in Lawrence"
"SEZP educators have broad autonomy"
Principals "create plans with solutions that fit a school's specific needs"
current performance analyzed>>principal and leadership team vote on operation plan>>SEZP approves plan
Principal says "how I was ever a principal before this, I don't know"
"what we truly do with that hour" (of ELT)
"intervention and attacking the trends and the needs of our schools"
reading class in addition to regular ELA
nine schools are all completely different: gifted program, social justice program
program "that best supports the students and the staff as well"
middle schools (in response to Q from Sagan) are assigned by address
visited Lawrence on numerous occasions; borrowed best practices across the state
reading program is geared towards our proficient students "and that's why we received the scores we did on our PARCC"
one hour of reading intervention each day, one hour of math intervention each day
Gabrieli "some framework to doing this all aggressively"
"schools are at the top of the triangle"
"active coach" of consultants that "were brought on"
Achievement Network: consultant that "makes sure we're true to our operational plan" in a one hour meeting with the principal, hiring, observations of teachers
"acceleration academy strategy" as in Lawrence "we've chosen to do only math" so far
now speaking of Teach Western Mass recruitment
quality of life, advertising to attract teachers at this point, at some point to move towards retaining teachers on the spot
SEZP holding schools accountable "configuration changes can include partnership with independent organizations like UP Education Network" opening UP Academy Kennedy this fall
Gabrieli: "the two leaders speak to the kind of leadership you can attract"
Founders Fellow program moving particular people into Springfield
"sustainable collaborative governance" says Gabrieli
Gabrieli: "there are early signs of progress" though not much academic evidence
could hire earlier than last year

Morton: "this partnership takes courage"
"everyone has to give something up"
"almost as if the entire city of Springfield has wrapped itself around the Zone"

Doherty: is there a long range vision of expanding up to high school or down to elementary?
"looking at some of these as best practices" which are being shared out to other schools
Sagan: same contract in place at others?
Warwick: This contract applies only to zone; "a lot that we do have in place at other levels" and progress is strong at other levels"
Gabrieli: would rather have parents, teachers, principals come to the conclusion that this might be needed
Warwick: there are other middle schools (than these) outside the zone
Moriarty: (from Holyoke) MOU with receiver, now described as an alternative school
"partnerships are hard"; mid-level admin, others resented receiver brought in
reciever was seen as an imposition; is there a good process, "a good ventilation system, if you will," if either partner is not happy
Gabrieli: each school is very clear who the decision makers are
biweekly check-in meetings (I don't know who is talking right now) collaborate as partners
what's going on across the zone
Warwick: behind it 100%, won't tolerate anyone not being behind it 100%
Peyser: interesting to see this kind of change in our public education system
do you see this as school turnaround or a long-term governance strategy?
Gabrieli: an early question
"spirit in which we all entered this was going into novel territory"
"it's not the state doing some alone, it's not the district doing something alone, it's partners"
"is it necessary"
"goal is not to have an automatic end"
Warwick: a lot more learning to be done in this
"I just love this contract; I wish it were in place when I was a principal"
improve this work, build on it
Morton: have there been an exodus of parents from the schools?
Warwick: has been a lot of positive press, haven't had any requests
extended time, extended PD for staff
Gabrieli: parents know relatively less of this than we do, see schools that are changing
"very committed to data collection"
"net health of the school"
Sagan: talent pool, talent drain: not necessarily able to attract staff
"Holyoke trading best people and not attracting new talent" which was debunked by the Commissioner previously
Principal: no competition, the job fairs have been huge
collaboration helps everyone, "we're all in this together"
want to recruit the best talent
Chester: don't see the talent question as limited to western Mass, particularly for turnaround principals
teaching pool: one thing to think about opening an elementary slot, another to think about opening a high school chemistry slot
some inventive things happening
discussions with UMass Amherst; not affordable housing for their faculty in the area, talking about housing in Holyoke
in Springfield, too many schools were stuck
"very aggressive" choices made by state
"some level of disruption to the status quo"
avoiding state receivership, keeps schools in the hands of the school committee (it does?) but protects the schools from business as usual

May Board of Education meeting: opening comments

The agenda for today can be found here
We're at the Pioneer Charter School of Science 

Chester: Mass Teacher of the Year announced
"very celebratory, very energizing"
Chester speaks of poem at the session: "contrast between thinking that you're active and participating because you're on social media" versus real participation 
civics and literacy conference
early literacy conference
annual spring convening
discussion of educator preparation (as covered by WBUR this morning): "a kind of provoking discussion"
under new federal law (ESSA) each state must submit a plan to US DoE
in process of gathering feedback from a range of stakeholders
Sagan: that's due in a year? What's the process? What is the Board's role?
Chester: we will keep the Board updated, "give you a chance to react to emerging ideas"
will bring a report in the fall
Stewart: is the listening just through the link? or taking place across the state?
Chester: "this is an overview of the plan, we can get your more specifics"
I'm interupting the liveblog here to give a few notes on a handout that was only available at the meeting itself: The state sees this work around assessment in three phases, to wit:

  1. listening (April to June): asking questions of "our stakeholder community" about purpose and design of the state's accountability and assistance system
  2. modeling (June to September): developing specific proposals based on this feedback
  3. proposing (September to December): sharing draft proposals and further refining and improving
During this listening phase, the state has available the online feedback form, plus are "developing a master list of over 100 stakeholder groups that may which to be part of discussions; holding series of focus groups within those groups; participating in meetings and presentations with organizations that might like to provide more detailed feedback; and gathering formal input from those within the governance structure of the state.

Chester: I anticipate sometime in early to mid June, going to identify a cohort of schools in the Commonwealth that we will be working with "in a problem solving mode" who have high rates of suspension or outliers in who is suspended
this is based on first year of data
"work with the schools in a constructive, problem-solving way"
Sagan: presume there will be a lot of press focus on that when it comes out
Chester: we're anticipating the same thing
"my message will be...it's concerning to see a school that's using suspension/expulsion at disparate rates...need to better understand why that's happening..not jump to conclusions"
"very much a problem solving approach"
No comments from the Secretary, no public comments today

Monday, May 23, 2016

Reversing our monolingualism in Massachusetts?

Remember how California may be reversing their state requirements around teaching English language learners? Massachusetts may do the same, as the bill is out of committee!
The proposal is making its way through the legislature. If it is enacted, parents would be able to advise on current ELL offerings and on the planning and developing of new programs through to-be-established English learner parent advisory councils for each relevant district. 
Additionally, the bill would require greater tracking of EL students to evaluate how effective programs for them are. The LOOK bill also calls for measures to promote multilingualism as an asset, not a problem. It would establish a State Seal of Biliteracy, awarded to high school graduates on their diplomas or transcripts if they have “attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, writing and listening in one or more languages in addition to English.” 
The LOOK bill was filed in both the House and the Senate. It passed unanimously in the Joint Committee on Education last week and moved to the committee on Senate and House Ways and Means.
I'll keep an eye on it!

Schools are getting more segregated

...both by race and by class.
The proportion of schools segregated by race and class — where more than 75 percent of children receive free or reduced-price lunch and more than 75 percent are black or Hispanic — climbed from 9 percent to 16 percent of schools between 2001 and 2014. The number of the most intensively segregated schools — with more than 90 percent of low-income students and students of color — more than doubled over that period.

Worcester Public Schools' FY17 budget is heard by Council tomorrow

at 4:15...I think?
working to make it back from Everett to be here. 

Friday, May 20, 2016


From last night!

The award was created to:
recognize school districts for their efforts in developing  cost efficient approaches to addressing particular operational areas that commonly tax the budgets of school systems and that are also capable of being replicated by other districts throughout the Commonwealth.
This year's award for WPS recognizes the cost savings--and improved services!--due to bringing services for students with autism back in house.

Senate budget amendments

The Senate budget amendments are now posted. The Senate (bless them!) sort their amendments by subject; you can find the education-related amendments here.
The K-12 related amendments (that are not for a particular district) are as follows:
  • amendment 121 would increase regional transportation reimbursement from $59M to $63M (which would be 80% reimbursement); amendment 174 would increase it to $61M (73% reimbursement)
  • amendment 127 would allow for districts to establish a special education reserve fund
  • amendment 189 would raise the amount budgeted on dual enrollment to $2M (from $1M) 
  • (not K-12, but) amendment 139 would double the early education salary reserve to $20M
  • amendment 140 would raise the non-resident student vocational transportation reimbursement from $1.75M to $3.28M
  • amendment 142 would provide "extraordinary relief" for districts "whose special education costs exceed 25 per cent of the total district costs and whose tuition and other circuit-breaker eligible costs...exceed both $1,000,000 and 25 per cent of all tuition and other circuit-breaker eligible costs"
  • amendment 146 would change how charter school reimbursement is allocated when not enough is allocated to fully fund, fully funding the capital component and pro-rating the rest.
  • amendment 148 would increase the line for regional bonus aid from $110,000 to $278,000
  • and there it is! amendment 149 would increase the kindergarten grant back up to $18.5M (level funded from last year and what passed the House); amendment 202 would also do providing further than grants per classroom don't annualize to more than $18,000/; amendment 256 would increase to $23.9M
  • amendment 158 would add $100,000 for civic education and engagement
  • amendment 162 (without an amount added) would implement an early elementary literacy improvement grant
  • amendment 167 would increase school-to-career connecting activities from $2.8M to $5.4M
  • amendment 168 would establish a commission to study best practices and costs of serving low incident special education population
  • amendment 170 would establish an ELL circuit breaker account for districts that experience at 20% increase (or more) over the previous year
  • amendment 175 would put the Foundation Budget Review Commission on a three year cycle with the next report due November 1, 2018; amendment 260 would establish a foundation budget review commission to report out every 4 years (and, coming in from Senator Tarr, this one has broader parameters, including early childhood ed, and funding for teachers salaries at rates to attract and retain quality candidates)
  • amendment 177 would establish a $500,000 STEM school to career grant for vocational schools
  • amendment 178 establishes further parameters for special education costs within the circuit breaker (it widens who is allowed to apply)
  • amendment 189 adds $500,000 for a safe and supportive schools grant
  • amendment 190 increases McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursement from $8.3 (level funded) to $24.3M; amendment 254 would increase it to $20.8M
  • amendment 193 the "Princeton Pothole Amendment" would allow for reimbursement for a community (Princeton is offered as an example) that "has made significant over payment of minimum local contribution and experienced extreme hardship due to said over payment over three or more consecutive years within the last 10 years.”
  • amendment 196 would eliminate the requirement of the use of District Determined Measures in evaluations 
  • amendment 199 would study the delivery of special education services
  • amendment 202 would expand the John Adams tuition program to non-public school students who voluntarily take the MCAS
  • amendment 217 (from Senator Joyce) would make Randolph a Commissioner's district (?)
  • amendment 218 would add a bunch more districts to those eligible for pothole funding
  • amendment 226 would add $1M to the Parent Child program, bringing it to $14M
  • amendment 228 would ensure fully McKinney-Vento reimbursement for districts that spend over $800,000 on it
  • amendment 229, Senator Tarr wants to set aside $850,000 for charter schools' negatively impacted by the new economically disadvantaged calculation 
  • amendment 231 would raise charter reimbursement to $90M; amendment 255 would increase it to $133M; amendment 258 would increase it to $100.9M
  • amendment 232 would require two hours of suicide awareness training for all school personnel
  • amendment 235 would provide for a process for getting waivers for unfunded mandates
  • amendment 238 provides $150,000 for the Berkshire County Regional Task Force 
  • proving that they are certainly well connected, amendment 241 would put the JFY Networks $700,000 of funding in (see my notes on the House budget)
  • amendment 244 increases the funding for the inclusive concurrent enrollment to $2M and requires a report on it from DESE
  • amendment 246 would create regional schools foundation budget review commission 
  • amendment 248 would increase METCO funding to $23M from just over $20M
  • amendment 251 from Senator Tarr would move the consolidated net surplus (in thirds) to the Community Preservation Trust fund, the Life Sciences Investment fund, and the implementation of the foundation budget review commission; amendment 257 and amendment 259 also from Senator would also establish alternative ways for funding the foundation budget review commission findings  (it's not clear to me that any of these have enough funding to do any such thing)
  • amendment 252 requires a report on the educational stability of foster children
  • amendment 262 increases the innovation schools line to $1M but adds a number of new parameters 
The Senate begins deliberations Monday. 

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Budgets: Beyond Spreadsheets and Powerpoints (MASBO)

DESE is coming up with post-assessment guidelines for PDPs for SBOs: being piloted today, so there is a quiz on the back of the evaluation
And yes, this one is WPS's own Brian Allen

to use as a policy document, to use for information within your community, for transparency
ASBO's Meritorious Budget award process to consider within the budget document, even if not to do in full
the presentation is using Poll Everywhere for those in the presentation
how important is a transparent budget to you?

when people review your budget, how clear is it to them?
is the budget solely a district administration tool (for superintendent, finance, but that's it)? Is it only for school committee (if you've been on for some time)? is it something that those who follow town finances (FinCom, selectboard) can follow? is it something that your parent groups can understand? or is it something that anybody new to your community can understand?
as it happens the group is divided pretty equally in thirds from extremes

transparency "is in the eyes of the beholder" with town administrators saying that they don't need all that information

Your budget is a policy statement
"it's the school committee's most important policy statement that they approve every year"
it's an accountability tool: public can hold school committee accountable for, school committee superintendent, superintendent administration
evidenced-based decision making tool: shows that "decisions based on some level of logic and equity"
record of the past: "all the decisions that have been made in the years before us" "capturing the history of your district"
builds confidence in resource allocation within the district and within the community
reductions of future actions, financial planning
signal of district preferences and priorities: "there's no money left: well, it went somewhere!"
provide solid answer to public questions about spending
shows authentic leadership: "[some] don't want to share the full information...that's the power of having the budget information" "I challenge that; being transparent is being a true leader for your community"
decentralizes budget authority: greater information shared by all
"There is strength in numbers...I have found it to be actually valuable to have your parents know your numbers...they can walk the walk, they can talk the talk."

how is your budget linked to your school improvement plan?
how can you do an improvement plan unless you identify the resources that you're going to use?

those who write the budget are "largely number crunchers"
but many who use the budget are not
people who like to see things visually, some like to see lines of numbers reconciling, some want to see words
so: use charts and graphs
use narrative
"numbers without narrative is just modeling and narrative without numbers is story telling"
"budget numbers are bound together by a coherent narrative....and I missed the rest of this part...will update if I can get it...

use infographics: SHOW IT
suggestion from group: use a dollar bill
The below swiped from WPS's FY17 budget book:

a bit of disbelief from the group on seeing WPS's 416 page FY17 budget...

ASBO Meritorious Budget award requirements that could be used: 

  • Executive Summary: a couple of pages that anyone can read
  • Divisional Organization Charts
  • Goals and Objectives: how resources will be aligned with goals district is attempting to achieve
  • Fiscal Policies: school committee approved policies
  • Budget calendar: so everyone knows what happens when
  • All funds budget: every dollar should be approved by school committee, all dollars included
  • What has changed from previous year and what are the key drivers
  • Budget trends and forecasts: three years actual, current, projected, and three additional projected years 
  • Enrollment trends and forecasts: (three years prior, actual, three years projected)
  • Student demographics: some history, current 
  • Tax rate and impact on community: impact on collection within municipality 
  • Explanation of changes that are in the budget
  • Capital budget spending
  • Debt obligation and fund balances (and show it!) 
  • Personnel: five year history and up to the current level
  • Staffing allocation: how are decisions about placement of staff made?
  • Student performance data (though what is included can be chosen)
  • Glossary of terms: "that we all know, that your superintendents know...but that the general public may not know"

  • Spreadsheets and Powerpoints are important but they shouldn't be all that's included
    including this information also can be included as part of the evaluation of the SBO (and would, it is argued, be part of qualifying for exemplary status)

    Department of Revenue update at MASBO

    Department of Local Services serves all cities and towns, all regional school districts, charter schools, utility districts, and development agencies
    they are the ones who deal with local aid

    Superintendent Julie Hackett on relationship building strategies at MASBO

    Superintendent of the Taunton Public Schools
    posting as we go
    "Educational reform need not be at the expense of relationships. It is quite possible to have both."
    "children suffer when people don't take time with relationships"

    Pasi Sahlberg on "Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn?" at MASBO

    Pasi Sahlberg is keynoting this morning at MASBO's annual institute. Updating as we go...
    Sahlberg notes that his presentation will have some things cross posted on his Twitter feed. UPDATE: he has posted the slides from today here. The chart in particular is key to this!  
    speaking about some concerns he has with American education as now

    Tuesday, May 17, 2016

    The Senate budget on K-12 education

    The Senate budget is now posted. Nearly all of the following can be found under the "Appropriations" tab of the Senate post; I tweeted out what I found as I found it earlier today.

    Please consider this my plea that the Legislature and Governor agree on a single format. Personally, I'd like the Governor's which has columns comparing past years. 

    The big news is that the Senate's Chapter 70 amount is $20 million over the House amount. This is for two reasons: first, they've decreased community effort to 85% (meaning that towns' required spending on schools can go down; for some this will increase the state aid; Worcester is one of these). The big one, though (and one I want to pull the numbers on and do more with) is they're holding harmless the districts that were hit in the switch to economically disadvantaged. That means that they aren't doing the "pothole" that the Senate had; instead, they're taking a bit of what MassBudget suggested (not all of it) and, while they're using the economically disadvantaged numbers for the low income calculation in the foundation budget, they're also adding this bit (which you can find at the top of the "Local Aid" tab):
    Each district shall be held harmless to the aid amount calculated using the district’s fiscal year 2016 percentage of low income foundation enrollment applied to the district’s fiscal year 2017 total foundation enrollment multiplied by the fiscal year 2016 low income rates for elementary and secondary students adjusted for inflation.
    So if a district would have done better with  FY16 low income numbers applied to FY17 enrollment, you get that instead of the amount calculated under ED. That's a big difference! Do note, however, that if FY16 is used, while it's those higher poverty rates, it's the lower poverty rates.
    There also is the language I mentioned earlier included on how low income is calculated and the annual implementation of the foundation budget review commission recommendations.
    The Senate is also keeping the $55/pupil minimum aid increase with the attendant issues of doing things that way.
    Something that will be a big worry to some districts (including my own) is that the Quality K grant is funded at $2M. Funding at last year (or the House) level is over $18M.
    Regional transportation is funded at the Governor, not House level, so down $1M from the House.
    METCO, McKinney-Vento transportation reimbursement, and AP expansion are the same as the House.
    There's a line for transportation of non-resident vocational students of $1.7M, which was not in the House.
    The circuit breaker is up over $3M from the House number.
    Charter reimbursement is up $87.5M from the $85.5M the House budgeted (all those times we've talked about this: they were listening!).
    Innovation schools (not in the House) are in for $500K.
    MCAS is in at the same $25M.
    The breakfast line item, which is down a bit from the House but doesn't have other things stuffed in it, also requires DESE to work on implementing breakfast in the classroom in the schools that are 60% free and reduced lunch.
    Grants for after school programs are up by $600K from the House.
    There's $350K allocated for DESE to implement a pilot alternative assessment, which I believe means that all of us out here talking about the inadequacy of the current means of assessment are being heard by at least the Senate.
    There's also $250K allocated for an alternative education grant (which I suspect is the Senate's way of handling that we didn't go very far on handling the increased need after the Chapter 222 changes).
    Youth mentoring is up $350K from the House.
    Finally, there's $250K for the implementation of the "index of creative and innovative education" which was called for in the 2010 Act Relative to the Achievement Gap (right, you don't hear that mentioned often, do you?).

    Amendments are due by end of day tomorrow; deliberation starts on Monday.

    Senate budget is up and there's FBRC language!

    Still looking at numbers, and, per Senator Jehlen there's no money in implementation in funding, but in the outside section, there is this for an annual decision on implementation:
    SECTION 26. Said chapter 29 is further hereby amended by inserting after section 5B the following section:-
    Section 5B½. (a) Annually, not later than January 15, the secretary of administration and finance shall meet with the house and senate committees on ways and means to jointly determine an implementation schedule to fulfill the recommendations filed on November 2, 2015 by the foundation budget review commission established in section 4 of chapter 70. The implementation schedule shall establish a foundation budget as defined in section 2 of said chapter 70 incorporating the categories of 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; provided, however, that in the first year of the term of office of a governor who has not served in the preceding year, the parties shall determine an implementation schedule not later than January 31 of that year.
    In determining the implementation schedule, the secretary of administration and finance and the 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 house and senate committees on ways and means in any fiscal year to reflect changes in enrollment, inflation, student populations or other factors that would affect the remaining costs in the schedule. The implementation schedule shall be included in a joint resolution and placed before the members of the general court for their consideration along with any proposed legislation necessary to execute and implement the schedule. The implementation schedule shall be subject to appropriation.
    Also, there's this on the low income calculation:
    SECTION 76. There shall be an interagency task force to make recommendations on the commonwealth’s ability to accurately and efficiently count low-income students in public school districts. The task force shall develop recommendations on topics including, but not limited to: (i) accounting for low-income students who are not present in commonwealth databases serving low-income populations, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, and transitional assistance for families with dependent children, or TAFDC; (ii) overcoming existing obstacles and improving the ability of the commonwealth’s data systems to successfully identify matches between school enrollment rosters and enrollment in SNAP, TAFDC, the department of children and families' foster care program and the MassHealth program; and (iii) ensuring that there is no loss of federal Title I or other funds from school districts as a result of undercounting of low-income students.
    The task force shall include 1 designee from each of the following: the Massachusetts office of information technology; the executive office of education; the department of elementary and secondary education; the department of transitional assistance; the department of children and families; the office of Medicaid; the executive office of health and human services; the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents; the Massachusetts Law Reform Institute; Project Bread; Health Care for All; and the Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center. The designees from the department of elementary and secondary education and the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents shall serve as co-chairs.
    The task force shall:
    (i) identify best practices in the counting of low-income student populations in other states, including assessing whether using probabilistic matching algorithms would improve direct certification rates in the commonwealth and assessing whether there are other changes to the matching algorithm that would improve direct certification rates in the commonwealth;
    (ii) identify all relevant data fields currently collected within each of the applicable databases in the commonwealth and determine additional data needed in each of the databases that would improve the ability of the systems to generate successful direct certification matches including, but not limited to, expanded use of the State Assigned Student Identifier and additional name fields and recommendations for implementing any necessary changes to data fields included in the databases;
    (iii) determine and implement necessary steps to identify partial matches within the Medicaid database;
    (iv) recommend methods to ensure that direct certification includes all applicable commonwealth programs;
    (v) recommend methods to ensure the commonwealth is able to accurately identify students eligible for free meals and students in households with incomes up to 185 per cent of the federal poverty level; and
    (vi) analyze the format in which data are received and reviewed by schools and school districts and the procedures used by schools and school districts to review the data in order to determine ways to simplify procedures for direct certification and the resolution of partial matches at the local level.
    The task force shall submit its preliminary report with recommendations by filing the same with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the senate and house chairs of the joint committee on education and the house and senate committees on ways and means not later than August 31, 2016. The agencies on the task force shall implement appropriate and feasible reforms to achieve the most accurate possible count of low-income students by October 1, 2016. The task force shall submit its final report with recommendations by filing the same with the clerks of the senate and house of representatives, the senate and house chairs of the joint committee on education and the house and senate committees on ways and means not later than March 1, 2017.

    tweeting now; more to come as I have it

    Monday, May 16, 2016

    Imagine if John Adams came to testify in a Massachusetts school finance case

    Remember the similar language around education in many of the state constitutions across the country? I knew that they had been added over time, but, until I started poking around tonight to catch up on the CCJEF V Rell case in Connecticut, it hadn't hit me just how recently some of them were added:
    Sitting in the front row of the crowded courtroom was Judge Simon Bernstein, the 95-year-old author of the education clause that now lies at the heart of the CCJEF appeal.  A delegate at the 1965 Connecticut Constitutional Convention, Judge Bernstein had successfully introduced the education clause and championed its ratification.  Now, some 43 years later, he had filed an amicus brief on behalf of CCJEF and traveled to Hartford to lend his support to the Yale Law students and to make certain that his message was heard by the media and legislators:  The intent of the education clause, he noted, was to ensure schoolchildren a good education, not merely an adequate one.
    Well, he would know!
    That's from CCJEF's summary of the case. 
    You can read Wendy Lecker for the latest updates from the case, including this stunning assertion from the Commissioner of Education for the state: “(l)eadership without money works very well.”

    The Board of Ed meets next week

    You can find their agenda here.
    The Monday night section of their agenda is on educator evaluation.
    As is their custom, the Tuesday portion of the meeting is being held at their student representative's home school, which once again this year is Pioneer Charter School of Science in Everett.
    On the agenda is the usual taking of public comment and comments from the Chair, the Secretary, and the Commissioner.
    They will be getting an update on the Springfield Empowerment Zone.
    They are getting an update on the new MCAS exam and the updated math and ELA standards.
    There will be updates on both the Holyoke and Southbridge receiverships.
    There is a state student advisory council end of year report.
    There is an update on the FY17 budget (the Senate begins budget deliberations Monday).

    I plan to be there on Tuesday.

    Worcester school meetings this week

    There is an Accountability meeting Tuesday at 5:30 pm. On that agenda: review of the PARCC and MCAS scores for 2015; the impact of Community Eligibility on things besides feeding kids; the report from DESE visiting Elm Park Community School in December of 2014; and the review of school improvement plans and end of year reflections from UPCS (end of year),  and from Worcester Tech (end of year) (plus what looks like a response from an earlier inquiry about Wake Up Math at Forest Grove).

    There is a regular committee meeting on Thursday. In addition to (lots of) recognitions, the above meeting with report out, there are a few notifications by administration of appointments.
    Miss Biancheria is requesting a clarification on parking at the administration building, would like the job description of the HR director, and is requesting a report on services provided to Deaf and hard-of-hearing students.
    There is a donation from Lou Anne & John Branche in the amount of $5,000 for McGrath Elementary School. There's also $500 each coming in from EOS as a recognition of universal breakfast (hurray!) at Belmont Street Community School School, Elm Park Community School, Goddard School of Science and Technology, Lincoln Street School, Francis J. McGrath Elementary School, Quinsigamond School, Rice Square School, Union Hill School, Vernon Hill School, Wawecus Road School, and Woodland Academy.
    Ms. Colorio is requesting a report on excused and unexcused absences as used in accountability, and a report on staff development, parent involvement, and MCAS scores at Vernon Hill.
    Mr. Monfredo is asking that students be informed about the Latino Dollars for Scholars dinner on May 21.
    Miss McCullough is asking that students be informed about the dangers of the Space Monkey Challenge (yes, I had to Google it, too).

    And there is an executive session scheduled on the ongoing (more than two months) negotiations with Ms. Binienda regarding the superintendent's contract.

    Sunday, May 15, 2016

    Don't adjust your sets

    Yes, the blog template has changed, largely to maximize charts and other graphics that get set in (which will also possibly now be readable on a phone).
    It may change a bit again (still not thrilled on the color scheme), but everything else is where you left it!
    If there's anything I should know about how it manifests on your screen(s), please get in touch! 

    Friday, May 13, 2016

    WPS budget is posted!

     And it's the first time the announcement has come this way!
    The link in the tweet works; the budget is here

    Here's the opening paragraph:
    The Worcester Public Schools is underfunded in the current foundation budget formula in the areas of health insurance, special education, and the skipped inflation adjustment in 2010. The district enrollment is relatively flat from the previous year causing no foundation budget growth due to enrollment. The foundation budget inflation factor is negative for only the second time in twenty-four years causing no increases in Chapter 70 foundation aid. The Governor’s and House of Representative’s proposed budgets provide additional funding for a change in the definition of low income and economically disadvantaged resulting in the total of the district’s Chapter 70 aid increase of $3.8 million. 
    I think that may be the darkest opening paragraph I've read in a budget (and I've read them back into the 90's). We did know that this was coming.

    For those who were laying odds, Superintendent-elect Binienda's name is on the budget.While there may as yet be no agreed-upon contract, the superintendent's salary is budgeted for $200,000. That's an increase of $6000 over Dr. Boone's final salary last year, which is interesting, given that the incoming superintendent has no experience and no terminal degree.

    The following major points jumped out at me just from skimming (per my open questions):
    • the administrative restructuring drops three positions, due to retirements, and adds two positions: a Manager of Curriculum and Learning, to whom the curriculum liaisons will report, and a Manager of Instruction and School Leadership, to which (if I'm reading the org chart correctly) the current Quadrant Managers will be also changed, making two for elementary and one for secondary. Budgetarily, it's a bit of a savings, due to the length of service of those retiring this year
    • the secondary cuts came in at nine positions with, the budget says, no change in course offerings. The changes are as follows: no changes at UPCS or Forest Grove. Burncoat: up a history, down a language, up a science thus +1; Claremont: down a special ed thus -1; Doherty: down a science thus -1; North: down a history, a language, a health thus -3; South: down an English, a math, a language thus -3; Tech up a .4 language thus +.4; Burncoat Middle: down a math thus -1; Sullivan down an English, a math, a language thus -3; WEMS down a math thus -1. And that may be missing a half I missed somewhere. I haven't done the elementary; those are supposed to net out to zero change over the district, but there will be school by school changes.
    • Elementary class sizes will, as projected, have 72 classrooms of 26 or more students.
    • Dual language increases to sixth grade.
    • No increase in support staff
    • Overall, there is a drop of 4 special education teachers.
    • There is a cut of three preschool classes; I didn't check the school by school budgets to see where yet; I'll update once I do.
    • Alarmingly, Mr. Allen is projecting charter school reimbursement at 36%. Remember, that's based on the House budget, which cut the charter reimbursement from Governor Baker's budget, while not tying it in the same knots.
    • The IB coordinator for the planned Advanced Academy is still there. 
    • Per pupil instructional materials is still being funded at $68/pupil with $1/pupil for recess in elementary schools.
    • Security guards are still being funded, and there's a 20% increase in that line item.
    • There's an increase of over $100,000 in the rental line item, due to the increased rental of space at the Y for Chandler Elementary, since the building plan was nixed.
    • While the overall regular transportation budget is only increasing by 1%, due to the capital budget from the city continuing to be level-funded, the district cannot replace district-owned school buses at the rate needed. The district thus is renting three more special education buses than last year. And, as the capital budget is again level-funded this year, expect that to go up again and again. 
    • Health insurance is going up by 6%.
    • Workers' comp looks like it's probably still underfunded by about $300,000.
    • Facilities remains, with exception of trash, level funded, which it's been since the beginning of time...
    • In about the only bright spot in the budget, the school nutrition budget is going up for next year by about an overall 15%, due both to increase reimbursement and to increase participation. That would be Community Eligibility working! 
    AND the mysterious increase in FY16 funding? Check out the city contribution schedule on page 406 (of the online PDF): you can click to make this bigger; I've got to change the margins on postings...

    The big change last year was, indeed, the police being added to the schools. From just over $400,000 in FY15 to $762,914 in FY16 and projected for $778,172 in FY17, the city-assessed cost of police in the schools has nearly doubled over the past two years. That isn't the full cost; there's still $120,000 in the Supplemental Program Salaries, as well.
    This year, there's not only the continued jump in police charges, but there's also an increase of almost $100,000 in administrative charges.
    As always, those aren't costs the school committee votes on; they're charges the city levies against the school department, over which the school department has no say.
    Thus the "over foundation" portion of the WPS budget is coming mostly in city administration and in policing.

    The City Council hears the Worcester Public Schools' budget at their May 24 meeting; the Worcester School Committee budget hearings are I believe, as they aren't posted, June 2 and June 16.

    Puzzling out the City of Worcester FY17 budget

    The news that the FY17 City of Worcester budget would make up all remaining ground on net school spending to the Worcester Public Schools has been something I've been puzzling over this past week. When we last left this particular item, we were looking at a budget that hit the yearly requirement, but didn't make up the backlog, which coming out of FY15 was $2.3M. Now the City Manager's memo says this:
    $4.3M of that increase [in total budget spending, of $14M] is allocated to the Worcester Public Schools, based on state funding that increased by $3.8M 
    From the city's budget, that looks like this:

    And then goes on to say:
    The State’s required minimum for the public schools would have allowed the City to reduce funding for education by $670,000. 
    The above puts the city's spending on schools at just $500,000 over last year. As the Manager mentions, because the city's municipal wealth multiplier actually was negative for this calculation, the city's required spending could have been less than last year.
    Thus, the first $670,000 is an amount the city could have cut the schools but didn't.
    Given, of course, that the vast majority of municipalities are funding the schools at well over the minimum, the city's choosing not to cut the schools budget from last year is something I, anyway, have a tough time feeling particularly excited about.
    Then there is the additional $500,000 (maybe there's rounding in the numbers to bring it up to the $630,000 the Manager mentions) over last year's budget.
    That gets us to $1.1M or so over what the state said the city had to spend.
    That would mean in FY17, the schools are being funded at 0.28% over the minimum required.

    Now, just to put this into perspective, here's the statewide numbers on funding of schools over time:

    Yes, the bottom right corner is the statewide average in school funding OVER the minimum for FY16.
    Because of the vast gaping hole of the outdated foundation formula, statewide, cities and towns ON AVERAGE are spending 1/5 more than required on schools.
    And Worcester's budget is funding at 0.28% over what is required.

    In any case, that gets us to what's going on with FY17. What happened in FY16 to make the changes from the last time we saw where we were on NSS?
    Let's add this to the list of outstanding questions on the FY17 WPS budget, but here's where I'm going to check: the municipal charges.
    There aren't a whole lot of things that change in municipal allocation once the budget is passed. One is charter charges and the other is what the city is charging for municipal services.
    And there was at least one change that went through after the budget did last year.