Monday, October 31, 2016

About those reimbursements?

You can find that on DESE's website here.
And remember: reimbursements are for INCREASES, not for the full amount going to charters.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

A Love Letter to My Sons' School District

Would that all our districts could strive for--and be!--a district like this: 
I know how rare it is that a school district would be so dedicated to all of its students—not just in words, but in deeds. And I hope that other schools see this love letter, and know that they too could be receiving these from the parents of their black and brown kids. From the parents of their neurodiverse and disabled kids. From the parents of their poor kids. From the parents of their LGBT kids. I hope they see this and know that all of their students deserve the same love and care that my children are receiving. I hope they see this and realize that they are the ones missing out.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

What has been missed in education

A good reflection as we end this presidential term (and as the former Secretary of Education visits town) on what's been missed:
One can argue that there are limits to what the federal government can do about states that inadequately fund education and that a Republican Congress would have blocked any attempt by the Obama administration to create more adequate and equitable education funding.
But the honest truth is Obama and his Education Secretary never made adequate and equitable funding a signature education policy imperative. It wasn’t in the incentives and punishments written into RTTT. It wasn’t in any of the demands for being granted a waiver to NCLB...
“We’ve stopped worrying about inputs,” Berliner is quoted, “yet, what’s coming out of schools is still a function of those inputs.”

In Massachusetts, "pay to play" happens via donations

This is pretty dense stuff, but I urge you, Massachusetts denizens, to read David Sirota's piece published today in the International Business Times, entitled "Wall Street Firms Make Money From Teachers' Pensions--and Fund Charter Fight."
Their funding the charter question isn't the biggest concern of the piece, though. It's that, though we have a laws that basically say, no, you can't donate to someone's election campaign and get pension business that way from the government:
The cash flowing to the Massachusetts school initiative spotlights more than just a fight over education policy: It exemplifies one of the ways in which the securities and investment industry can get around a federal rule that was designed to restrict financial executives from giving campaign cash to governors with the power to influence state pension business. 
In the case of Massachusetts, since the federal rule does not cover money donated to governors’ policy initiatives, executives banned from donating directly to Gov. Baker are able to give to a constellation of groups that are pushing his pet cause — and that in some cases are advised by Baker’s political associates. Meanwhile, Baker’s appointees at the state pension board are permitted to continue delivering investment deals and fees to those same donors’ firms.
So basically, they're funding what we now know from the Globe's report is very much Baker's pet initiative and are getting the business of the state pension system (whose board is appointed by the Governor).
Not pretty.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Pioneer's argument for yes: Help those big out-of-state charter management organizations "achieve scale"

I had to read this twice to be sure that this wasn't a joke:
The biggest reason there are so few CMOs operating in Massachusetts is the existing charter school cap, which prevents the organizations from achieving scale.
So, yes, Pioneer's argument for why you should vote yes on question 2 is so charter management organizations can come to Massachusetts and "achieve scale."
What's darkly amusing about this argument is that the Yes crew has been at some pains to separate themselves from the problems described (for example) by John Oliver regarding charter schools. It's the CMO's that in many cases have been the crux of the problems described.
Massachusetts largely does not have them (with the exceptions of KIPP and Sabis). Pioneer, however, would apparently like us to.

Or, you could vote no on 2.

October 25 Board of Ed meeting in sum

This morning, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met in Malden. The agenda of this meeting and last night's meeting can be found here.
Last night's session, which I did not attend, was an update on the state's update of the ELA and math standards. All of the backups, including the full suggested standards, can be found from this link. At this point, the plan is for the Department to bring suggested standards back to the Board at their November meeting, for them to vote out for public comment. Comment would be due back in January, with final standards voted in the spring.

This morning, there was no public comment from Secretary Peyser or Chair Sagan. Commissioner Chester opened his remarks by noting the state's reception of a nearly $16 million grant for new charter schools and shared practices. Secretary Peyser is attending a competition in D.C. this week as part of the New Skills for Youth grant competition. He mentioned that the supplemental budget does contain funding for the new MCAS. He spoke positively of his visits to schools, noted an opening on the career and tech advisory council, and spoke of New Heights Charter in Brockton being fully enrolled at 316 students.

There was a single public comment regarding gifted students.

There was an update on Southbridge (under state receivership) and on Level 5 schools (apologies; I missed the beginning of this as my wifi went down).

What had appeared from the agenda to be a straightforward update on the proposed (last month) drop of a student impact rating as a separate item from the educator evaluation turned out to be a fairly extensive discussion regarding a degree of concern both the Commissioner and others on the Board have with such a move. It opened with the Commissioner referencing what he believes to be a significant change in the teachers' association position regarding this; he specifically referenced "communication to their members," which I believe is referencing this article from MTA Today. From the discussion, it appears that at least Fryer, Peyser, and Moriarity also would resist a drop of that from teacher evaluation, with Fryer citing Gates Foundation research regarding teacher impact on student learning. It closed with the Commissioner commenting he "cannot endorse a regulation that removes student learning from consideration" and "I think a case can be made that we've been too soft on this."

The Board did vote, as expected, to extend the current MCAS as a graduation requirement to the class of 2020, meaning that the first class to be required to pass the new test to graduate will be this year's eighth graders, who will also be taking that test this year.

The Board voted to amend the regulations around turnaround plans, providing that the plan in place will remain in place until it is replaced, eliminating any limbo period.

There was also a discussion of the FY18 budget, which largely was a report by member Craven of the budget subcommittee meeting.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Board of Ed: FY18 budget

Craven: Governor's budget is filed on the third Wednesday in January each year
goes to House Ways and Means; then full House
goes to Senate Ways and Means; then full Senate
"we're always working on last year's budget and next year's budget simultaneously"
"about an hour's worth of discussion on Question 2's possible impact"
good for Board for how mechanisms on how charter schools are paid for "on the limited number of communities it would impact"
(sigh; didn't read the language)
"never enough money"
"really focused" on MCAS 2.0; making sure we have the resources to ensure it's a success
some idea of using pilot money to get at those issues of poverty
"other state agencies that" get at issues
intergovernmental chargebacks in section 2B of the budget
how money can travel from one department to another
"enforced collegiality as a budgetary mechanism"
"are we able to use a combined pool of money" to address challenges of kids in poverty
going to come back to the Board as we think these things through
discussing challenges for students who are ELLs
lists Lawrence, Holyoke, Southbridge (do they talk to non-Level 5 districts?) as pilots
DESE: general framework for where we are in terms of the current state budget cycle
Governor has publicly expressed concern with revenue growth this year
he's instructed potential FY17 budget withholdings "9C reductions, as they're known"
remains to be seen what will happen there
constricted spending environment
most resources will be directed to local aid spending
some modest room by leveraging through state agencies, some small investment pool
voluntary separation: voluntary retirement incentive
voluntary layoff option, as well
"provide an opportunity for folks, as well as save payroll"

Board of Ed: amendment on turnaround plans

Chester: making it clear that the turnaround plan is in effect until a new plan is in place.
backup on this here
Sagan: we're simply making it clear that there's no gap here that could leave a school or district in limbo
amendment carries

Board of Ed; extending MCAS as graduation requirement

backup is here
Chester recommending extension to class of 2020 "for reasons of fairness"
Wulfson: this year's 8th graders is the class of 2021, and they will be the first to experience the new test as a graduation requirement (having taking the new test also as 8th graders)
"have not received any contrary opinions from any stakeholders"
first administered in Spring of 2019
Peyser: will there be an opportunity for allowing this year's 8th graders for taking a test with 10th grade items on it, to get some feedback on level of difficulty on likely ranges of test performance of these students
Wulfson: will make some items available to students as 9th graders
Peyser: give students some experience with questions
also give public what we're expecting on proficiency rates
"expectations that rigor will bring those numbers down"
Vote carries

Board of ed: educator evaluation

Chester: revision of educator evaluation in light of superintendents, principals, teachers concerns
separate impact on student learning
"those conversations continue"
"I do have a fair degree of concern"
"seems as though the positioning on this issue is shifting, particularly with regard to the teachers' associations"
architecture of set up "informed by discussions that teachers were very much part of"
"it was the MTA that at the end of the day argued essentially that student learning is relevant but it should be documented separately within the educator evaluation system"
impact rating, professional practice ratings separate
interaction with those ratings
discussion shifted from endorsing schema to rejecting that schema
both teachers and superintendents shift to not endorsing separate rating
DDMs problematic, but common assessments as looking at student learning valuable
revised regulations
concerned "about whether the goalposts are being shifted once again"
whether there remains a commitment to student learning being a part of the professional practice rating
"I don't want to say that there's no hope here"
"some of the rhetoric, particularly the MTA in writing to their membership, makes me concerned that the goalposts are being moved"
plan to bring back revised regulation next month
"I want to be clear with the Board as to what I am hearing"
Sagan: were hoping that we'd be taking that vote for comment at this meeting
Moriarty: somewhat distressing that only one group seemed to be driving this
accountability, particularly in seeing that effective teachers are in front of every child
five year drive to strengthen accountability
given local districts to determine what's going to matter most
using ESSA to abandon five years of work
"to see if it might function properly"
"I'm very unlikely to support any of this...I think we should stay the course so far"
Fryer: "I'm a little perplexed by this...I don't see any other way than to include test score data in the evaluation"
Gates Foundation spent $50M on what impacts student learning in the classroom; teachers this year as to last year
"something that we actually know is actually correlated with higher scores, but higher wages...a lot of the things we care about"
"the idea that we'd put zero weight on that is inconceivable"
Doherty: "I have a lot of conversations with teachers"
"I'd like to put on the table in layman terms where teachers are coming from"
believe assessment is important, believe student achievement is important
what is in dispute "is that there should be a direct leap from a teacher evaluation to a student's performance"
if academic performance isn't what it should be, it ought to be a flag
evaluator ought to be in the classroom to see what is going on: if things aren't going on with what should be
if teachers are teaching well, and the students aren't performing, that isn't necessarily the teacher
"unreliable and not valid to try to winnow out a teacher's impact on students"
greatest predictor of student achievement is the education and level of poverty in the family
"if there is not something observable going on, then it should not impact the evaluation"
Chester; just want to make sure that the design that's being discussed: there is no automatic
evaluator decides: doesn't tie an evaluator's hands
"no one should have the impression that any evaluator is forced to arrive at any results" due to test scores
Doherty: I understand that an evaluator doesn't have to, but an evaluator can
McKenna: what you are proposing now has no mandated percentages?
Chester: correct
Peyser: concern about arbitrariness on the part of the evaluator absent the data on student learning, as then the evaluation is entirely on the part of the evaluator, whereas having data is your best defense against arbitrariness
some 40-odd indicators, to have student learning explicitly be excluded is contrary to "what the teacher's job is all about"
"seems to be to be crucial" to that
one of 33 standards
Doherty: it's also in standard two, if they don't get proficient in standard two, then they can't be proficient overall
DESE: "as a staff, we really like our current system, because we think it's helpful to provoking the kinds of discussions of teacher performance we'd like to see happen"
"a real elegance, a real fairness" to current system in view of DESE
Doherty: principals aren't on board either
"not just the teacher organizations, but the teachers in the field" are not happy with it
Stewart: it makes parents feel very uncomfortable when teachers have to deal with this outside impact right now in the course of the year
I was on the task force, the evaluation system that we do have minus the indicators, was a complete document
"everything in the rubric keeps students in the center"
"A test that is created to one thing and then is used to do another doesn't do either very well"
Sagan: maybe having a deadline will make it clear we need to come to an agreement Chester: "it's not clear to me that we're in good faith; we're in a different place than we were in the spring"
"cannot endorse a regulation that removes student learning from consideration"
"I think a case can be made that we've been too soft on this."

Board of Ed on level 5 Schools

which I came back in halfway through, alas, so I'm updating here from my Twitter feed

Board of Ed: recap on change in standards

Chester: overview of curriculum and standards changes in math and ELA
expect to bring revised draft in November; vote out to comment; two months
final version in spring for adoption
McKenna: would like for us to "not be in the weeds"
"here are the major issues that we've grappled"
"I don't know enough about grade six, and I probably have more experience than many around the table in education"
"I'd like to hear more about here's what we struggle with"
Sagan: have gotten both comments
McKenna: maybe we should have two sessions
"I would like to hear the big picture: the ideological, the philosophical"

Board of Education: update on Southbridge

backups for this is here

Dr. Jessica Huizenga, receiver, presenting
Chester: plan is to have a receiver come to each Board meeting this year
"very excited about the leadership and energy"
remarkable visit to Southbridge
last year "too often treated students as disposable, as creatures to be controlled"
had lunch with students, how things have changed culturally in that building
respect among students, between students and adults, deescalation in discipline
"instructional program has a long way to go"
"getting culture right allows for that occur"
Huizenga: been six months, seems much longer
released the turnaround plan: five core areas
first six weeks of school: focus on academic and instructional improvement; family and community engagement; social and emotional learning
"went undercover boss...made it to fourth period before they figured it out"
"got to see Southbridge through the eyes of a student"
Academic and Instructional: district-wide to develop systems necessary "evidence based literacy practices in tiered instruction"
action plan for district literacy
K-12 math curriculum mapped; common assessments on a computer platform with immediate results
teachers on cumulative assessment as well
gathering data on instructional quality: developing well-structured lessons and use of assessments (including common formative assessments)
bimonthly walk-through; beginning instructional rounds
overhauled teacher instruction
virtual mentors for staff through Better Lesson; doing case study on virtual v in-district lessons
Sagan asks how this works (is it a real person?): connection with a person online
one to one model in sixth grade
partnership with AeroVenture Institute: 26 students taking part in aviation science
credit recovery for 9 students; 4 now on track to graduate
Family and Community Engagement: families at home; library, community
"lots of hope and optimism" as well as what had gone off track
superintendent's roundtable: work with receiver to determine core values, determine progress
PTO at middle school, school councils forming
Rotary presentation
Quinsigamond Community College for dual enrollment
You Inc, Harrington Hospital, the Y partnering
Social and Emotional: strong systems of support for all students
breakfast in the classroom: won an ASSA for one school; EoS for two more schools
32% participation last year; 90% this year at West Street School
breakfast at middle school as part of middle school advisory
Sagan: sustainable?
Huizenga: grant for materials
McKenna: pays for itself; federal reimbursed
Climate and culture committees for all schools
district wellness committee; family resource committees in process
behavioral screener
Mass EDCO grant to add a guidance counselor for college and career planning
developing systems to improve processes: meeting with town meeting weekly
control of POs up to $10,000
did ALICE training with PD and FD
new district student information system for accurate data
increase technology infrastructure: none in elementary schools, coming next week
IDing ELL students; 14% last year, now 19% and not yet done IDing students
"so you can imagine how many students were not provided services"
community committee for dual language immersion at one of the elementary schools; going K-12, graduating bilingual
updated website, weekly blog
concern with sustainability: ensuring how those things will stay in place over time and be owed by the community
clarity around what good educational practice is
accountability with reciprocity: expect much more from you, but more more support
collaborate with multiple stakeholders
"have to build capacity" largest challenge
turned over 60 staff; "we're never going to sustain what we do if we continually turn over staff"
Sagan: on turnover: how much was choice versus involuntary
Huizenga: majority of staff "that we turned over was at the middle school" issues with classroom management
also adding many new positions
60 higher than usual
embarking next on receiver's review: gathering data on key areas
to staff: intent is meet standards, to have a high quality teacher in every classroom
a lot of professional development, voluntary for them to take if they're on receiver's review
"regaining the staff's trust"
being in the classroom, support
gotten feedback on that at superintendent's roundtable
Moriarty on dual language: ELL director leading community group
action plan: work to enlist support from community to understand what community is
launch in K and 1, adding a grade every year: 60/40 (Spanish/English) with native speakers 50/50
seen as a way of bridging cultural divides in the community
would love to see this K-12, connected to a global studies diploma with other opportunities for students
Fryer: engage faith community?
has met with, have gone back to churches and followed up
Fryer: any not engaging?
Huizenga: school committee hasn't really engaged; "in the long term, I'm going to have to shift my focus and attention back to" that
civic participation in last election was 9%; have to engage all participants after we're gone
Stewart: poverty lack of access as well as lack of resources
Morton: encourage look at Teach Western Mass

The Board of Ed meets: public and Commissioner comment

The Board of Ed meets at 8:30 today. You can find the agenda here. Updating this post with public and Board comment once the meeting begins. 
Saga defers to Chester for opening comments; none from Peyser.
Chester: Almost $16M federal grant for new charter schools and "to share practices for school success"
Nov. 18 is the dissemination fair (? date) all kinds of schools that are "doing neat things" presenting to colleagues
all kinds of schools: district schools, innovation, Horace Mann, Commonwealth
state budget: supplemental budget includes new money for student assessment
allows closing books on using both MCAS and PARCC and continue development of new MCAS
in March received a grant: New Skills for Youth competition to development career readiness
competing for one of ten continuing grants; Peyser presenting in DC tomorrow
competing for a larger grant to be administered over three years
"very uplifting fall" as he's visited schools
including schools "that we've been concerned about"
visited Holyoke High, Revere High
Salem: Driscoll "not invested in what would be politically palatable"
Bentley school a Horace Mann
great visit to Southbridge High School Middle School "very uplifting, very positive visit"
update on works of advisory councils: openings on career and tech council
work on reviewing educator licensure process: hope to bring to Board by end of 2016 some proposals
update on New Heights Charter: "you'll be anxious to know the school is on the right track"
fully enrolled: 316 students (allowed for 315)
zoning board has to approve parking plan; procedural allowances that may play out further
watching construction as well

Public comment regarding accelerated learning for students who can learn more quickly
Sagan asks what the Board can do to prevent this from being "a ceiling rather than a floor"
"People respond to what's in the system"
computer adaptive assessment: different levels of achievement every year
"even standards are at grade level"
"artificial barriers in, year by year by year"
"arts are more the decoration than the foundation"
Chester: Issues are very important issues
"certainly nothing that we've stated...we have not disallowed having students experience a program of studies that's well beyond that particular grade level"
advocate for adaptive assessment
may inadvertently signal that being behind "is okay for them"
"often the kids from the other sides of the tracks" where it's okay to be behind
test results "are anything but a binary result"

Sunday, October 23, 2016

The Board of Ed meets this week!

a bit behind on getting the preview up this week: apologies!

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meets in Malden this week on Monday night and Tuesday morning. You can find the agenda here; the Commissioner's meeting briefing is here.

On Monday night, the Board will be getting an update on proposed revisions to ELA and math standards. Note that the plan at this point is for an update at this October meeting, with a vote to send the standards out for public comment at the November meeting, with comments due back by January. Overview on ELA changes is here (detailed changes here); overview on math changes is here (detailed changes here). If this matters to you, the time to start reviewing is now!

On Tuesday, following opening comments, there will be an update on Southbridge, which, as you might remember, is in state receivership. There will also be a first quarter update on the level 5 schools. There will be a recap of the previous night's presentation.
The Commissioner plans an update on the ongoing discussion regarding educator evaluation, namely dropping the explicit "student impact" section of the teacher evaluation. The plan is for the Board to vote on that next month, as well.
The shift to the class of 2020 as the final one to need to pass the current MCAS to graduate will be discussed and voted on.
There is also a vote on an amendment to the turnaround regulations that would make it clear that turnaround schools are still under their plans until a new plan is accepted or the old one is renewed. That's been happening anyway, but it isn't in the regs.
And there's an update on the FY18 budget.

I'll be posting on Tuesday! 

DESE wants to hear from YOU on accountability!

As the state needs to submit a new plan under the new federal education law (ESSA), they are going out to hear from the public for feedback. The following is from this week's Commissioner's Update:

Public Forums on Changes in Light of the Federal Every Student Succeeds Act: 

The Department continues to seek input on possible changes to the Massachusetts' accountability system and other aspects of education in light of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). As ESE starts to draft the Commonwealth's ESSA plan, ESE will hold five public forums to gather feedback. Register here for one of the following events, all of which will run from 6-7:30 p.m.: 

  • Monday, November 14, second floor of the Bolling Building, 2300 Washington St., Roxbury Monday, November 21, Oak Middle School, 45 Oak St., Shrewsbury 
  • Tuesday, November 29, Brockton High School, 470 Forest Ave., Brockton T
  • Thursday, December 1, Holyoke High School, 500 Beech St., Holyoke 
  • Tuesday, December 6, Collins Middle School, 29 Highland Ave., Salem

No on Two event for school committee members (video)

Here's video of today's No on 2 event in Worcester. At the event were school committee members from Arlington, Cambridge, Hatfield, Holyoke, Somerville, Leominster, Ludlow, New Bedford, and Worcester, representing the 198 (and counting) school committees from across the state that have passed measures opposing the ballot question lifting the cap on charter schools.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Two No on 2 events for school committee members

As organized by the school committee members themselves...the below from State House News Service:

ANTI-QUESTION 2 RALLY IN WORCESTER: Worcester Mayor Joe Petty and Massachusetts Association of School Committees President Jake Oliveira, of Ludlow, will rally against Question 2. The ballot question would allow for up to 12 additional charter schools per year regardless of existing statutory caps. Organizers expect school committee members from as far east as Cambridge and as far west as Holyoke. (Sunday, 2 p.m., Chandler Elementary School, 114 Chandler St., Worcester)

ANTI-QUESTION 2 RALLY AT STATE HOUSE: School committee members opposed to the ballot referendum expanding access to charter schools rally in front of the State House before visiting Gov. Charlie Baker's office to deliver resolutions from more than 190 school committees in opposition to Question 2. The ballot referendum would allow for up to 12 additional charter schools annually regardless of the existing statutory caps. (Monday, 11 a.m., in front of State House)

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Reflections on the recent challenges to charter schools

I highly recommend this piece from the Education Opportunity Network on what recent challenges to the charter industry reveal.
Now that the NAACP has ratified its call for a charter moratorium, charter proponents are continuing the barrage of invective and unfounded assertions rather than taking stock of their opposition’s arguments. 
Editors of the Wall Street Journal called the NAACP’s action “a disgrace.” An editorial for Forbes said the NAACP “turns its back” on black families. A post in one of the charter industry’s numerous media outlets declared, “The NAACP was founded by white people, and it still isn’t looking out for black families.” 
But the outlandish rhetoric coming from charter proponents does little to change minds and instead reveals a movement that seems incapable of handling reasonable criticism and any option other than total supremacy.
And yes, they mention Massachusetts. 

Remember the Atlanta cheating scandal?

NPR reporter Anya Kamenetz followed up to see what has happened with students.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday October 20

You can find the agenda here.
Two things that are a carryover from the previous meeting: the PCB items, as they involve active litigation, were referred to executive session at 6 pm. The School Committee is also discussing contract negotiations with teachers and unit B (which is unionized administrators) and with IAs.
Also, the report of the superintendent on last year's standardized test scores was held over, so that is happening this week.
There was a Teaching, Learning, and Student Support meeting tonight; that agenda is here: AP scores, debate league, SkillsUSA, Playworks, and wifi.
There are a number of resignations, transfers, and appointments.
Much of the remainder of the agenda is reports requested by members: the state preschool expansion grant, discipline codes on SAGE (the online data system of the schools), content liaison information, a legislative breakfast schedule, MCAS appeals, goals assurances grant letter signing, site council meeting dates, services offered by Worcester Tech,  and kindergarten classes of 25 or more that have no IA (there are none).
There is a request that donations to Heard Street School, to Belmont Street School (for the Healthy Kids and Family project from UMass), and to Burncoat High's day care be accepted.
Mr. O'Connell suggests that new schools have publicly accessible libraries and requests that Worcester Public Library events be shared with WPS students.
Mr. Monfredo wishes to congratulate Kevin Cox on his book being published, and principals on AP launches. He also would like students to learn the Smiley Face song. (yes, that is an item)
Miss Biancheria would like a report on the JROTC program, on the ALICE protocol, and on window replacements (as covered in the opening of school report, which does not appear to be online).

No live blog from me 

You support your charter school. Here's why you should vote no on question 2.

You teach at a charter school.
You send your kids to a charter school.
Or you have.
Or you have a family member or neighbor who does.
So why would you vote against expanding them?

I mean this entirely sincerely: it is great that things are going well, no matter where you educate your kids. Sending kids off to other people for hours a day is a huge matter of trust, and any time kids are being cared for, being well taught, being pushed to do better, being supported, that's a good thing.

Also, like lots of other people in public education, I have friends and relatives who teach or have taught in charter schools, friends who send their kids to charter schools. This is no more a hypothetical than much else in and around public education is to me.

And here's why, when we talk about this, I recommend that they vote no on 2, over and above the reasons regarding the 96% of kids in Massachusetts who aren't in charter schools.

First, do get straight for yourself if this in any way impacts your own child's school. Very, very few districts are anywhere near their charter caps. Here's last spring's "near cap" list; since then, only Springfield and Brockton got new schools, and Everett and Boston got additional seats. If you're being told that this impacts your own child, please do check out the above and see if that is the case. In most cases, it is not.

The reputation of charter schools in Massachusetts, mixed as it is, is closely tied to the state oversight of charter operators. Massachusetts is unusual, in that all charter authorization comes from the state (in other states, there may be a mix of authorizers). All that you heard in response to John Oliver's takedown of charter schools was tied to state oversight: the state only authorizes "proven providers;" the state closes underperforming schools; the state has strict requirements for reauthorization.
As it happens, I'd take issue with all of those statements to one degree or another, but to the extent they're true, that's as a result of DESE oversight. DESE has a yearly budget of just over $4M, which sounds like a lot of money until you realize that there are school districts that spend more than that a year on administration. DESE's staffing recently has been substantially cut, partly due to the current administration, partly due to the loss of Race to the Top funds. This isn't something that has gotten a lot of news coverage--after all, who cares that a state bureaucracy has gotten smaller?--but if you're close to school administrations (charter or district), you've probably heard some murmurings of concern. It's taking longer to get responses; they're not seeing as much on the ground contact; it's becoming more and more clear that they're strapped for staff. (And to my DESE readers: they're not complaining; they're worried.)
Since the only real legal oversight charter schools have in Massachusetts comes through the Board of Education, as reported by DESE staff, that should worry us. If something happens in a district school, and the administration either doesn't know, doesn't care, or willfully ignores it, if all else fails, you can show up at a school committee meeting--meeting in your district, at a publicly posted time and place, in a context in which some form of public comment is on the agenda--and tell them your concern. If a parallel situation happens at a charter school, your only recourse is the Board of Education--meeting on a Tuesday morning, in Malden, and allowing public comment only if you've known to sign up in advance. If your school committee doesn't hear you, you can work to get them out of office. If the Board of Education doesn't hear you, they'll be keeping their seats, anyway, as they're appointed by the Governor on a five year cycle.
This isn't hypothetical to me. Back in May of 2011, a number of Spirit of Knowledge parents applied to then-Mayor O'Brien, who brought in a few of us from the Worcester School Committee, for help in their not being heard by their administration regarding problems there. Having no other recourse, I took their issues to the Board of Ed. I wasn't heard, I would say, any better than the parents were, though some of those issues were the same ones that ultimately closed the school.
I know there are parents whose children are in charter schools because they didn't feel heard by their district schools. Most often, interestingly, I hear this in Boston, which doesn't have an elected school committee.
We're already skating on the edge in terms of oversight of charter schools in Massachusetts. Vastly expanding the vetting, the review, the voting, and then the oversight, with no plan for expanded staffing of the state, is incredibly irresponsible, and it puts at risk any success we are having with such oversight currently.

Okay, maybe your school is fine and you're sure it will always be fine.

Charters are funded from state education (Ch.70) funds for both state and city side of funding. Charters receive the same proportion over minimum funding that district schools do, but the funding all comes from state aid. This necessarily cushions charters from midyear budget adjustments at the municipal level and to some degree from the state level.
There is, though, no financial plan for this ballot question. While advocates can push "money follows the child" narrative, there are two places where there unquestioningly is an increase in state revenue needed with any new charter: facilities funding (which charter schools get over and above per pupil funding) and district reimbursement. Reimbursement has allowed the Legislature to feel that they are to some degree "smoothing out" transfers--the degree to which this isn't happening is here--but facilities funding is outside and above that. With no budget planning for either of these items, where is the funding going to be found for these? The state, after all, has only so much money to go around.
My previous post on funding spoke of the impact on districts that rely primarily on state funding for their budgets. But charter schools rely SOLELY on state funding for their budgets*. Any hit to state education aid will hit charter schools.
And charter schools aren't any less impacted than district schools from the consequences of health insurance not being in line with actual costs. The same tensions surrounding the foundation budget for districts also (to whatever extent their enrollment is reflective) impacts charter schools. Thus charter budgets are also already short by their respective foundation calculations.
And that's what we should be working on, not this ballot question.

I would also point you to Mary Pierce's excellent post on special education. At ground, this is a social justice issue, which is why the NAACP over the weekend called for a national moratorium on charter school expansion. All of our kids deserve an excellent education. 
*with the exception of funding they may receive privately. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

California may reverse their ban on bilingual education

Among the 18 ballot measures up for a vote in California this year is one that would reverse the statewide ban on bilingual education:
Bilingual education, particularly for primary school children, has become increasingly popular among native English speakers over the past decade, said Wood. That's primarily because studies have shown that a multilingual brain is nimbler and better able to deal with ambiguities and resolve conflicts. Some research shows multilingual people are even able to resist Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia longer. 
Currently, California is one of four states -- the others are Arizona, Massachusetts and New Hampshire -- with laws constraining the use of bilingual education programs, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Right, Massachusetts.

This last legislative session, as I posted, there was a bill that made it out of committee that would have done just that. A new legislative session means, of course, that we have to start over again in January.
Add it to the list!

New Worcester compact?

Reading today's coverage of last night's invitation-only first 100 days presentation from Superintendent Binienda:

  • there's a new "Worcester compact"
  • which was already signed by the Worcester School Committee
  • which was not publicly vetted/available/discussed
  • which is being signed by invited (?) members of the Worcester community
  • which has no involvement (?) of teachers, parents, or students
And we're hearing praise about transparency. 
Okay, then. 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Voting for savage inequalities

reference is to Jonathan Kozol's classic

Recently, those pushing for cap lift have been piling on the suburban guilt. It was all over the column I referenced yesterday; it was a big part of the Newton School Committee public testimony last night. Some of this is about wealth, a lot of this is about race, but it is all intended to make those who have a lot feel badly about those who don't and vote for cap lift to make themselves feel better.

As a parent in one of those urban communities, I am telling you: spare us.

I am a parent in a community in which the vast majority of our school funding comes from the state. Worcester is unable to fund its schools on its own. Under McDuffy, Worcester, along with Springfield, Fall River, Lowell, and many of the other urban districts, is majority state funded.

That isn't true of most of the places the cap lifters are trying to send on a guilt trip. Most suburbs get a minimum 15% of their foundation budget in state aid. They are majority local funded.
And most fund well over the minimum requirement.

As I've said numerous times, to some extent, this is actually required: the foundation budget hasn't been reconsidered for twenty years, and the districts that can make up the gaps themselves are doing so.

Many districts cannot.

This includes mine.

Should the ballot cap lift pass, and the state suddenly be faced with funding the reimbursements of up to 12 new schools a year, every year, something is going to have to give. There is no plan in the ballot question for dealing with the funding, and there is nothing in the plan to change reimbursement or any other funding rates.

It will start, of course, with continuing to not fully fund reimbursements. As the number of schools, and reimbursements, and facilities fees get larger and larger, the state's going to have to look at state education aid.

When that happens, it isn't going to be Newton, funded in FY16 at 165% of foundation, or Cambridge, funded in FY16 at 227% of foundation, or--pick a W: Weston? 208% Wellesley? 165%--that get hit.
Will it hurt them if they lose their state aid? Yes.
Will it devastate their budgets? No.

Worcester and its peer communities have no such local resources, though. Thus their district public school children--which are the vast majority of schoolchildren in those districts--will be those hurt.

If you start to feel guilty about other people's children in "those" districts, think about this:

Keep in mind where most of them go to school.
Remember how those schools are funded.
Remember who will really be hurt by a cap lift.
And vote no on question two.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Newton's fine, thanks for asking

The well-funded privatizers over at the 74 are VERY CONCERNED about Newton this morning, penning a "heartbreaking article" off one parent's quest for a seat at a Boston charter school.

Don't cry for us, Newton.
That the entire state is now voting on whether or not Brooke Charter gets more seats is due to the ballot question being on the statewide ballot.

If you didn't want Newton to have an opinion, you shouldn't have put it on the ballot.

And if you're interested in a Boston parent's perspective, here's one.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 6

The Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 6 at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.

After a few recognitions, the report of the superintendent is a testing and accountability update (not posted as yet).

Former Mayor Ray Mariano is petitioning the School Committee to allow testing for PCBs to go forward in Burncoat and Doherty High Schools. This would require the School Committee to drop the appeal they have made of the state Labor Relations Board ruling, allowing the testing to go forward. For more on this issue (not at all limited to Worcester), see the EPA's page.

There are a number of retirements, resignations, and new appointments.

There are reports coming back on graduation expenses, the outdoor work at the Parent Information Center, clearing of City View and Belmont Street School grounds (twice, because it was filed twice), painting of crosswalks,  the removal of guard shacks at Burncoat and South, and one clarifying that grant v. general fund positions will now be shown in charts as well as in words.

Mr. Foley is calling for recognition of International Walk to School Day (tomorrow, October 5).

Mr. Monfredo wants to add five IAs each year, starting with level 3 schools, until all kindergarten classes have an IA.

He'd also like to invite high school students to sing the National Anthem at each meeting and to recognize paraprofessionals.

And he echoes former Mayor Mariano's call to allow PCB testing.

Ms. McCullough would like to recognize National Manufacturing Day and is asking about the feasibility of a girls ice hockey team.

Mr. O'Connell is asking that Peace Day be recognized, as well as those who volunteered at Belmont Street School for the United Way's Day of Caring.

Ms. Colorio wishes to discuss WPS policy on employees wearing political apparel, appending a single page of the larger Office of Campaign and Political Finance guidance on the rights and restrictions on political activity of public employees.

She also wishes the committee to take a position on question 4 (done, so far as I know, only by a single other school committee statewide)

Miss Biancheria would like to review the job description of an Applied Behavioral Analyst and understand how the positions are budgeted, and request a presentation on the Safe Schools Summit from the District Attorney.

The School Committee is being asked to consider amending the prior fiscal year payment for an Instructional Assistant from $6,220.01 to $6,376.23; to approve a prior fiscal year payment in the amount of $301.50 made payable to ABACS, LLC for services rendered to students in June 2015; to approve a prior fiscal year payment in the amount of $1,334.00 for a Summer 2016 Cohort provided by the Massachusetts Association of Vocational Administrators (MAVA).

They're being asked to vote acceptance of the Financial Innovation Fund Grant from the Treasurer's Office.

They're being asked to vote acceptance of a High School Chemistry Grant.

They're being asked to accept donations for Tatnuck Magnet, Burncoat Prep, Lincoln Street, Canterbury Street, and Worcester Tech.

There is also an executive session beforehand at 6, regarding negotiations with cafeteria employees, administrative secretaries, instructional assistants, OT and PT assistants, educational secretaries, and nurses.

no liveblog this week 

Doe v Peyser (cap lift lawsuit) DISMISSED

You may or may not remember in all of the attention being paid to the ballot campaign, but there has also been a lawsuit pending around lifting the charter cap as well, Doe v. Peyser. Brought by some of Boston's more "prominent" (to quote the Globe) lawyers, it argued that the children suing were not able to get into charter schools they wished to due to the charter cap," an arbitrary impediment to their ability to obtain a quality education."
This afternoon, the case was dismissed in Superior Court. (That's the Scribd link; if Dropbox would work better, I've put it here.) It was dismissed on both the question of the education clause (that's our much-beloved Chapter 5 section 2 of the state constitution, backed up by McDuffy, Hancock, and so forth) and on the question of the equal protection clause (the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution). On the first question, Judge Heidi Brieger writes:
The education clause "obligates the Commonwealth to educate all its children." [McDuffV. 415 Mass. at 617]. This obligation does not mean that Plaintiffs have the constitutional right to choose a particular flavor of education, whether it be a trade school, a sports academy, an arts school, or a charter school. Even if the court were to deny the instant motion, thereby allowing substantial discovery to follow, Plaintiffs' action will always be addressed to the question of whether the Commonwealth is obliged to provide more of one flavor of education than another. This decision - how to allocate public education choices amongst the multitude of possible types - is best left to those elected to make those choices to be carried out by those educated and experienced to do so.

On the second question:
Both Commonwealth and Horace Mann charter schools are funded by the school districts from which they draw students or in which they are located. Consequently, public funding for charter schools necessarily affects the public funding of non-charter schools in the district. Defendants argue, and the court agrees, that the Legislature's charter school cap reflects an effort to allocate education funding between and among all the Commonwealth's students and therefore has a rational basis and cannot violate the equal protection clause.
In both cases, emphasis is mine.

This does raise the question: even if the ballot question were to pass, would be struck down by the courts?