Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Suburban Coalition talks about the Foundation Budget Review Coalition

Speaking tonight is
Glenn Koocher, MASC Executive Director
Rep. Alice Peisch, Wellesley and Chair of the Joint Committee on Education
Nathanael Shea, chief of staff for Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz (the Senate Chair)
Sen. Karen Spilka, Ashland and Chair of Senate Ways and Means

posting as we go
Dorothy Presser, Lynnfield, recognizes over 150 committees and councils passed a call for the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission to be implemented

November Board of Ed in sum

Good news all: the Board of Ed had a livestream this time!
The bad news is they're doing it through a website that requires a log-in, and on a site that doesn't keep the video.
This isn't new technology; there are good ways to do this. Let's try harder, please!

The Board of Ed opened with comments from the Chair and the Commissioner. There then was a significant public comment period, largely of parents and community members from the Mattahunt School in Boston, which the Boston School Committee voted earlier this month to close next year in response due to the Commissioner's letter of "concern," presaging a declaration of Level 5/state takeover status. I think it only fair to note that the Mattapan community is largely a community of color, and there were multiple notes of the closings of rounds of schools in communities of color in Boston (as has been true across the country). The district plans to reopen the school as an early childhood center. The testimony was eloquent in the concern over the loss of a neighborhood resource and a space of learning and "home" for children, many of whom have faced significant trauma in their lives already.

The Board voted to send the revised ELA and math standards out for public comment. As yet, how to do that is not posted; I will share once it is.
Likewise, after an extensive discussion, the Board voted to send the revised educator evaluation regulations out of public comment. Note that this would also change the evaluation of administrators, also moving a student impact section into one of the existing standards (standard I for administrators). There is some significant disagreement among the Board members about the evaluation system as it stands, the role of student testing within it, and the relative importance of this. Most are deferring to Roland Fryer regarding the research on this.

The Board then discussed the two schools "of concern," beginning with Commerce High School in Springfield. The Springfield Empowerment Zone voted to add Commerce in October. As MassLive notes in the above linked article,"Schools in the zone are independently governed," and thus are not under the governing of the School Committee. This satisfied the Commissioner, who thus did not recommend that Commerce be declared level 5.

The discussion of the Mattahunt largely centered around the amount of control the Board had at this point, with several comments (including two from the Commissioner) that they didn't want to "second guess the school committee." Two things that were news: the Boston Public Schools administration had internally discussed closing the Mattahunt last summer (it had seemed that this had only been motivated by this latest state action); the proposals put forward by the community to the Boston Public Schools administration were not shared with the Commissioner (to gauge reaction) prior to the vote of the Boston School Committee. The initial discussion concluded with no action taken by the Board; a later comment by member Doherty that he was not satisfied with this led to the Commissioner's agreeing to Chair Sagan's proposal that he would speak with Superintendent Chang of Boston, informing him that the Board had heard impassioned testimony, were pained that the School Committee felt they had no other options than to close the school, and "remain open to what the district has to offer."

The Board briefly discussed their recommendation to the Secretary to inform the Governor's FY18 budget. While they may have discussed the foundation budget review commission in their budget subcommittee, it is mentioned nowhere in their recommendation. Do note, however, their recommendation of a new account for "reform/targeted assistance initiatives...leveraged to improve student learning."

The Board voted to send out for public comment proposed changes in the recovery high school regulations. They approved both amendments to charter schools (adding West Boylston to Parker Essential's region and adding 400 seats to Foxborough Charter).

The Board heard an update on standards setting on MCAS 2.0.
They also had a brief presentation on school discipline data from last year.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Student discipline data: Board of Ed

slight uptick from last year
non-drug non-violent non-criminal is 52.3% of discipline types
highest proportion grades 7-12
1% in K, up to 3% in 4
grade 9 has highest with 16.8% of suspensions
7.9% of students in Commissioner's districts were suspended; 8.7% of charter schools; 7.6% of regional vo-tech; and 4.3% of students in all schools
cross district conversations between and among districts with higher rates
next: template for an action plan; due in two parts: winter for steps this year, this summer for outcomes plus plans for upcoming year
presentation to Commissioner around next steps
districts that were identified in June to participate in professional learning network; one phone call and one gathering
all had to submit a plan
discussion of big picture: what is impacting students on not getting into classrooms (includes absenteeism)
Chester cites district that was using suspension the most on kids who skipped class
Peyser: do we track services provided to those on out-of-school suspensions or expulsions?
Yes, broad categories
Stewart would like to see other resources considered by other districts; mindfulness work
Morton: illegal substances, other services needed for those students
likewise sexual assault
what kinds of services are being provided to those students?

MCAS 2.0 standard setting

backup is here
download description here
Wulfson "staff has been creating a great deal of guidance"
"much of the effort over the past...has been around mode choice selection"
(that's who is using computers)
96-97% responded: test as much as possible in 4 and 8 on computers; low 90's
free choice on remaining; about 40% testing online
Stewart: what some of the priorities have been in developing the test?
Wulfson: around standards
tradeoffs on lengths of test and number of categories reported
testing time issue: minimize time while still making sure results are valid
"would have preferred to have an additional year...very aggressive timetable"
"will be a year or two as we fine tune the test"
discussions of the high school test; options for high school testing
next month, plus continuation in January with Board of Higher Ed
MCAS-Alt: as required by ESSA limits to having no more than 1% of students taking that version of test
"will create some logistical issues"
that decision is made by each individual IEP team
terminology when used to report results
circulating through the field and come back to Board in February for further discussion and a decision
Proposal is:
  • exceeding expectations
  • meeting expectations
  • partially meeting expectations
  • not yet meeting expectations
Intended for audience of parents and students; wanted to signal that there's additional work that needs to be done, additional supports to be provided by the school
Peyser: "partially meeting" and "not yet meeting" seems like it could be the same thing
Noyce: discussion around need for a big wakeup call versus need to be encouraging
Wulfson positive, but wanting to give a wake up call as needed

Amendments to charter schools

backup here
amendment to include West Boylston to Parker Essential
Foxborough Charter to add 400 students
Chester "we've watched them be increasingly committed to their changing demographics...I think they deserve this"
several superintendents opposing it
Sagan: smaller districts that aren't sending many?
three that are a handful, North Attleboro sends 100
motion carries (Stewart opposed)

Proposed changes to recovery high school regs

back up is here

DESE FY18 budget proposal

no backup

Craven: budget subcommittee met this morning: great uncertainty
overall revenue picture: discussed a lot the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations (though I will note that FBRC is not mentioned anywhere in their budget recommendations)
making sure baseline funding, "funded at the highest level possible"
additional funding be directed to district needs in meeting the achievement gap: requesting a new "mitigation account" to "fund reform/targeted assistance initiatives...that can be leveraged to improved student learning"
recommendation that the Board still feels passionately about civics education being included
sharing of resources between state agencies
work on reducing out of district special needs placements
early literacy in programming
curriculum and instruction initiatives
recommend new assessment be funded at level to support new initiatives
Stewart: being explicit about our time in learning initiatives so we really know what that is
Peyser: will abstain from votes
will inform budget recommendation "I make to the Governor"
motion, seconded, voted

the Mattahunt (Board of Ed)

also dealt with here

Chester: question is what is the better path for the students in that school going to be?
receivership one option
Commerce into empowerment zone
solution Boston brought "made sense to me"

Commerce high School: Springfield (Board of Ed)

backup is here

Chester: liked to hear from school district prior to exercising takeover option
Springfield empowerment zone has voted to accept Commerce
Commerce will stay as Level 4; Commerce needs a new turnaround plan

Student impact rating: Board of Ed

Backup is here
Sagan: "I come to this thinking...we have to evidence of student learning, the job that's being done in the classroom..."
voting will be to send it out to public comment
Chester: teachers have demonstrated time and again "their ability to impact student learning"
"I've just seen so many of the Massachusetts educators be strong in terms of influencing student achievement, student academic learning...I feel very strongly that if we're not smart about building into our rating cycle...we've missed the boat"
building into the rating the impact of teachers and schools
"if we don't build that into the rating cycle...we're doing our teachers a disservice"
"I feel quite strongly about that"
heard from unions in the spring; "I appreciate that conversation"
separate and discrete impact on student learning; distraction of that far outweighed the benefit of that
have folded impact of student learning into overall rating
concern that it would drive more testing; change would support 'on the fly' assessment "that schools are doing anyway"
"provides greater flexibility, perhaps, than the system that exists now"
clear signal from superintendents and principals that support
teachers' unions do not

Proposed ELA and math standards

Backup is here

McKenna: lots of discussion about this
doesn't seem to be anything in these about technology
Digital literacy computer science standards, which are separate

OUT for public comment

November Meeting of the Board of Education public comment

The agenda is here. It will start with comments by the Chair, the Commissioner, the Secretary, and the public.
updating as we go
Oh, and they're livestreaming

Monday, November 28, 2016

Worcester meetings this week

Three Worcester school-related meetings this week:

  • There's a meeting at 7 pm tonight at Burncoat High School on PCBs. 
  • There's an accountability subcommittee meeting tomorrow night at 5:30. There are three agenda items: an overview of how accountability plans are changing for this year; a review of last year's testing (multiple backups; check the agenda); and a review of the new transportation position (which is a weird place to do this; transportation is part of Operations). That's in the fourth floor conference room at the administration building.
  • There's a full school committee meeting on Thursday. If I get a chance, I'll do a full agenda review, but it looks like the main item is a review of the literacy changes (report of the superintendent; no backup as of Monday). Otherwise, congratulations, donations, and payment of prior year invoices...not much there. There's an executive session posted without an detail. 
No liveblogs: I'm elsewhere this week! 

Continued profiles in courage in the corner office

(yes, the title is sarcastic)

Faced with the President-elect's nomination for Secretary of Education, Governor Baker had this comment today:

No, thank you, Governor Baker. We have ample information already.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday, November 29

You can find the agenda here.
It looks as though there is not a Monday evening meeting.
After the comments from the Chair, Secretary, and Commissioner, and public comment, the first item is continuing the discussion (and the vote to solicit comment) on the math and ELA standards.
As was previewed last month and is covered in the Globe, the Commissioner is moving forward with his recommendation to amend educator evaluation.
They're getting reports on the Mattahunt (Boston) and on Commerce High (Springfield), both of which were on the Commissioner's "very concerned" list when the latest round of test scores came out. The Boston School Committee voted last week to close the Mattahunt and reopen it as an early childhood center. Springfield has not taken any such votes after receiving what amounts to a Level 5 warning.
There are some proposed regulations for recovery high schools; the vote is to solicit public comment.
Amendments to their charters are being requested by Foxborough Regional Charter and by Parker Essential Charter. Foxborough wants to add 400 students; Parker wants to add the town of West Boylston to their region.
There is an update on standard setting for MCAS 2.0.
There is a discussion scheduled on last week's release of discipline data. 

And yes, I plan to be there. 

School choice advocate (and so much more!) Betsy DeVos is Trump's choice for Secretary of Education

So, who is she?
If you want to update your Twitter lists, you can find her account here (she was at 450 followers or so when the announcement came through).
The Chalkbeat did a "five things" that would be indicated by her appointment: her big issue is charters, vouchers, school choice: "The DeVos influence is one reason that Michigan’s charter sector is among the least regulated in the country." That gave us Detroit schools that are here, plus commentary around Michigan education like this. (Let me in general just recommend the Detroit Free Press as a resource) The DeVos family used their political donations to sway lawmakers around school choice and related efforts.
She doesn't oppose Common Core (she's on the Jeb Bush spectrum there), so that looks like another campaign point of Trump that we're taking a miss on (we were anyway, as the federal government has no oversight there, anyway, but we could have gotten someone who was going to complain about it).
They also note "Outside of education, her family gave heavily to efforts to ban same sex-marriage in Michigan." This is in keeping with the donations of the family in general, supporting groups that are against legalized abortion, LBGTQ rights, and the like. (UPDATE) The DeVos family also supports the Acton Institute, which recently gave a ringing endorsement to bringing back child labor; Peter Greene covers this well.
She's been upfront about what she sees her political contributions for; she is directly quoted:
“I know a little something about soft money, as my family is the largest single contributor of soft money to the national Republican Party,” wrote DeVos, according to Mayer. “I have decided, however, to stop taking offense at the suggestion that we are buying influence. Now I simply concede the point. They are right. We do expect some things in return. We expect to foster a conservative governing philosophy consisting of limited government and respect for traditional American values.”
There's an extensive article about the family's giving here (from March). The family is among the top funders of conservative politics in Michigan. Not only that, but they have been active in destroying the other side, as in their efforts to get so-called "right to work" legislation passed in Michigan.
The family wealth, as Politico notes, comes from Amway. Richard DeVos, her husband, is the former president of the company; his father (also named Richard) founded the company. The connections Muckety maps out are fascinating: most notably, her brother founded Blackwater, and apparently now is an advisor to the crown price of Abu Dabai.
It is worth noting from a Massachusetts perspective that vouchers are banned by the state constitution (and remember that the next time the Pioneer Institute starts talking about Know-Nothing clauses. It may have been anti-Catholic when it passed; that doesn't mean that separation of church and state should end).
More as I have it.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Ars Gratia Artis and the incoming administration

(Ars Gratia Artis is the Latin rendering of "art for art's sake" but also the slogan of MGM studios [it's around the neck of the roaring lion on the logo before movies].) And if you feel this discussion has been beyond exhausted already, please, by all means, skip.

As by now you may have heard, Vice President-elect Pence went to see the musical Hamilton over the weekend. The cast, after bows, had a brief message for him:

I've seen two arguments against this that I want to talk about here.

The first goes something like "He went out for a nice evening at the theater, he wasn't on duty, they should have let him enjoy the show." The best response I have to that is to invite you to speak to any local elected official, and ask them if they have any expectation that when they leave the house they are anything other than on. They aren't. In the six years I spent on Worcester's School Committee, I heard about education in the grocery store, next to the soccer field, outside the dance studio, at church, at concerts, in the park, at the doctor's office, and in my front yard. If you're an elected official, you are always an elected official, and you should expect always to be treated as one.

(Notably, Pence himself appears to know this.)

The other thing I've heard is "Those actors are paid to deliver those lines and only those lines, and they had no business going off script."

To say this is to fundamentally misunderstand art.

Actors aren't "paid to deliver lines" and musicians aren't "paid to play instruments" and artists aren't "paid to paint pictures" forth.
If all there was to art was reciting memorized lines, I can set my computer up to read you Shakespeare's plays, and you can listen to that instead of seeing a performance.

While Governor Pence was enjoying Hamilton, I was at a production closer to home: the Burncoat Arts Quadrant's annual production. Students from first grade through their senior year sang, danced, acted, and played instruments together before a full auditorium.
They weren't paid. And there was more to it than just the noises and the movement.

The dancers aren't just able to move in time to music, and their performance to "Hold onto me/'cause I'm a little unsteady" made that abundantly clear. The "Pie Jesu," the lyrics of which we've been singing since the 1200's, are not just words sung. The "Egmont Overture" is far from pretty music; Beethoven explicitly wrote it as a protest of Napoleon's position in Europe, and it subsequently became an unofficial anthem of the Hungarian revolution (in 1956) for a reason.

There is more to art than art. The dark joke was making the rounds this week that we can expect better punk music under a Trump administration (as punk is revitalized under oppression). I won't go there. I will say, though, that art is more than art. Dismissing it as simple pretty sounds or pictures is a mistake I'd urge you not to make.
It will be telling if this administration does.

I have no idea what's going on with this editorial

No, seriously: what is this? 
I assume the T&G  felt some need to push the "we can't rest on our laurels/ we don't hate charters" line again, but what's the point here?
"All is not well"
"serious problems remain"
"cities most in need of reform"
"address the issues"
"Clearly some school committees are not fulfilling their responsibilities"

Which issues? Which problems? What isn't well? WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT?

Okay, so I see that someone has gotten to the editorial board on so-called "Empowerment Zones," which they're now touting, despite that being exactly contrary to the above piece where they talk about the importance of local accountability. That would also be a clear example of "school committees not fulfilling their responsibilities" by literally outsourcing them.
They also tout "teacher accountability" as being something we're getting from charters...where? Again, seriously, where is that happening?
There's an attempt here to give credit to "magnets and other programs" in districts, but it's unclear for where and for what.
And then we get another plug for Worcester's new compact---which, incidentally, I still haven't seen--and the strategic plan that the School Committee appears to be outsourcing--though, come to think of it, we haven't heard about that lately, either.

Look, I get that education is complicated. I get that there is a lot here to get your mind around. But don't write vague thinkpieces that use threatening language around district schools, airly promote charters without a link to actual impacts, and make references to local ideas that haven't had any community connection. That helps literally no one, least of all kids in schools.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

New suspension figures are released

The second year of state suspension data were released this week. The numbers went up a bit since last year. Of more concern:

Across the state, black students are more than three times more likely than their white classmates to be suspended or expelled. Hispanic students are suspended and expelled at more than twice the rate of white pupils. While increases in suspension rates were small last year, they most heavily impacted minority students, economically disadvantaged students and students with disabilities.
This is true basically across the board, which is why we had the reform of Chapter 222 to begin with, if you recall.
 Plus, as noted by MassLive:
Of the top 20 school districts to give out-of-school suspensions during the 2014-2015 school year, charters represented 90 percent.
Charter schools also gave out 8% of suspensions statewide to the 4% of kids under their care.

For whom do we make policy?

I want to give a h/t to the student representatives in Worcester, doing their job by requesting a revision in the cell phone policy:
“Most of us are looking for more trust and access to do tasks we wouldn’t be able to do without our devices,” Ms. Miller said. Some students, for example, have expressed disappointment that they can no longer listen to music through headphones outside of class, which they found helped them concentrate and study, she said.
 Others have said they can’t do their schoolwork as efficiently without access to their phones. Ms. Miller gave the example of some classes that lack enough textbooks so students use their phones to take pictures of pages of their classmates’ books. Ms. Miller also argued that students want to be better prepared for college and the workplace, where cellphone use is generally accepted.
 Valenia Bergier, a senior at Burncoat High School and also a student representative on the School Committee, said the new cellphone policy seems counter to school officials’ recent emphasis on expanding technology in the schools. “Yet we’re being denied our most accessible piece of technology: our phones,” she said.

I posted about this earlier in the year, but I'll echo Ms. Bergier again: the district can't afford 1 to 1 technology, yet it is barring the use of (nearly) 1 to 1 technology that currently is in its buildings. The policy consideration never included students--from Ms. Binienda's comments, it's clear it still does not--and it represents a position that again puts our kids at a disadvantage.
That isn't what school policies should do.

DESE hearings on proposed charter schools

Copying from DESE:

MALDEN - The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced today that it has scheduled four public hearings in the coming weeks to invite community members to comment on four charter school final applications. The applicants submitted their initial prospectuses in time for last August's deadline, and if approved, the schools would open in fall 2017 or fall 2018.

Each of the charter school founding groups that submitted a final application will undergo a rigorous review process over the next three months before Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester decides which of the proposals, if any, to recommend to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
The public hearings are an opportunity for interested people to provide feedback on the proposed schools. At least one member of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will attend each hearing and will report back to the full Board on the public testimony provided at each hearing.

In addition to the hearings, members of the public can submit written comments through January 6, 2017 to: Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, c/o Charter School Office, 75 Pleasant St., Malden, MA 02148 or by email to

Public hearings will be held from 4:00–6:00 p.m. on the following days at the following locations:

Wednesday, November 30, 2016
Plymouth Public Library
Otto Fehlow Meeting Room
132 South St.

 Hampden Charter School of Science - West*
Westfield Thursday, December 1, 2016
Westfield State University
Loughman Living Room in Scanlon Hall
577 Western Ave.

 Old Sturbridge Academy Charter Public School* Sturbridge
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
Sturbridge Town Hall
Veterans Memorial Hall
308 Main St.

 Equity Lab Charter School* Lynn
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Lynn Community Room
10 Church St.

 For more info see

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Worcester School Committee meets tonight, November 17

Falling way behind on these, I fear...
The Worcester School Committee meets tonight at 7 pm. You can find the agenda here.
The main item on the agenda--pursuing a lawsuit against Monsanto regarding PCB use--has not only already been previewed by Scott O'Connell, but we already know it's going to pass: yes, a quorum of the School Committee indicated in the article that they plan to vote in favor of the item, thus violating the Open Meeting Law. While there are plenty of lawsuits against Monsanto, the ones that have been successful, as far as I can tell, were individuals suing Monsanto for cases of cancer. There isn't a clear trail of cases that show this could work.

The student representative is bringing forward something about the cell phone policy (cheers!)

The report of the Superintendent is on the revamped Office of Curriculum and Professional Learning.

There are some retirements, resignations, and appointments.

There is a response regarding services for Deaf students.
There is a response regarding recess equipment.
There is a response regarding school accountability levels  and what is being done in response to them.

Mr. O'Connell is concerned about the accessibility of the website.
He also wants Worcester to be part of DESE's "Planning for Success"
He also wants WPS to have net metering (which would be up to the city).

There are a number of donations that the administration is asking the School Committee to accept.

Miss Biancheria would like a report on manufacturing options.

There is also an executive session at 6 pm, for negotiations with plumbers and pipefitters, computer technicians, tradesmen, instructional assistants; for three workers compension cases; and for the lawsuit with the union regarding PCB testing. I wouldn't expect the meeting to start on time.

and no liveblog from me 

Teaching--and blogging--in Trump's America

   I've seen this expressed several times over the past week: teachers and parents are scaring children about what will happen under this coming administration. Most recently, I saw it in this AEI blog post. Others think that any actual danger to children in schools--not from the administration, but from others--has been exaggerated, as Secretary Peyser commented, by "social media."


Larry Ferlazzo does an excellent job of taking apart the notion that children being made afraid by teachers or parents. Given the clearly expressed priorities and intentions of Mr. Trump and those in his campaign and incoming administration, fear from children about what the administration will do is, frankly, a logical reaction. It has been difficult to avoid this election; it has been nearly impossible to avoid news of the transition. Children don't only listen to parents talking directly to them; they listen to the news, see headlines, read social media, and watch television. They don't miss much. Only those who underestimate kids think that they don't know what's actually going on.

As for what is going on in schools, this post from Boston is encouraging. What they are battling against, however, is demonstrated in this report from the Cape. I could give a myraid of others. The Southern Poverty Law Foundation notes that they have had as many reports of hate crime and speech in the past week as they did in the previous six months.

Correlation isn't always causation. When the language around the treatment of women, people of color, the disabled, refugees, immigrants, gay and transgendered people, (am I missing any?) has been as explicit as it was from Mr. Trump and his surrogates, though, it is.

That's why Democrats for Education Reform issued the statement calling on Democrats (of whatever stripe) to refuse appointment in this administration:
...most pernicious, Trump gives both tacit and express endorsement to a dangerous set of racial, ethnic, religious, and gender stereotypes that assault the basic dignity of our children, causing incalculable harm not only to their sense of self, but also to their sense of belonging as accepted members of school communities and neighborhoods.
We're still waiting for any strong statement from our own Governor around this issue; as his Secretary of Education apparently feels the danger is exaggerated, I assume we won't see any leadership there, either. Thus it falls to those most close to children to do what they can to reassure them and keep them safe.

No, kids aren't being made afraid by teachers and parents. That responsibility, as with so much else, rests squarely with Mr. Trump.

If you care at all about state policy, go read this

Mary Ann Stewart reports out on the Board of Ed retreat.

Good post on district use of social media!

I just want to highlight this post on district use of social media in communicating with families:
Anderson advises schools and districts to survey parents about their social media access, habits and preferences. Then, he suggests they start small. “Maybe you’re already publishing a few stories a week on your school website about a new technology initiative or kids winning awards,” he said. “All we’re going to do is post that link in one more place, like Twitter. I’m looking for quick and easy ways that fit into the workflow, and aren’t a burden to teachers.”

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Social media in public office

When I presented two weeks ago at the MASS/MASC conference on social media use, I was asked if I could give some examples of those in public office who were good examples on social media use. This is really only the beginning of a list; I'll add to it as I am able.

And these are in no particular order

This one came across my Twitter feed, as his response on Somerville's position as a sanctuary city came as an @ message response to someone tweeting at him: Mayor Joe Curtatone of Somerville. One of my measures of social media use is if someone uses it only to project their own voice, or if they show any signs of interacting with others (either by answering them, or by retweeting them). Mayor Curtatone does both.

Likewise, Mayor Marty Walsh of Boston does a decent job of not only talking about what he's doing, but also of broadcasting what is going on around across the city. While he doesn't do as much interaction, what he does do is once in awhile is open his feed up to questions.

Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut first came to my attention last year during his filibuster on the floor of the Senate around gun laws. It's clear that, unlike some senators, he at least to some degree runs his own feed.

The example that I always point to is (state) Senator Jamie Eldridge, who not only runs his own Twitter feed, but is far and away the most interactive of any public officials. He regularly engages with not only those who agree with him, but those who vehemently disagree with him.

Mary Ann Stewart is currently the parent rep on the Board of Ed, and she uses her both her Twitter feed and her blog to share both what she learns from her work there and her thoughts on process and policy.

continuing to update...

MASBO Fall Institute : "Creating a Culture that Learns"

Karen Mapp, Harvard Graduate School of Ed (moderating)
Nina Zockoff Culbertson, Rennie Center
Dianne Kelly, Superintendent, Revere
Ventura Rodriguez, Director at DESE

Mapp: seeing family members "as co-creators and co-producers"

Kelly: "we live in a world where there is no stability"
support a "continuous state of change"
need partners to support ongoing changes
working with other districts for curriculum: "over half of kids who move out of district move among" five districts working together
collaborative leadership: "empowered teachers to do the work and embrace the change"
"narrative about public education in this country is disheartening"
leadership potential of teachers is not tapped
need to change the narrative

Rodriguez: works with Level 4 and 5 schools and districts, but level 3 as well "as districts are being more proactive to really step up"
organizations to bring in organizations "that may include academics, but may go beyond academics"
"yes, academic achievement is critical...but you have to support the whole child"
when working with Level 4 or 5, finance systems looking at impact "either aren't in place or aren't very strong"
"Tons of information on the profiles page" (on DESE's website)
live in a time of dimishing resources
"doing more with less"
Commissioner "interested in providing support" around that work but not providing more support?
Turnaround practices, published every year
districts and schools that are sustaining gains
supports around non-academic supports and family engagment
"if you have to make choices, what are we seeing in terms of practices" that are most successful
field guide coming "very practical, very hands on"

Zockoff Culbertson: strong element of partnership
schools are addressing needs academically, and non-academically
Schools are taking on these additional needs
external partners being brought in as co-collaboratives

How do we make these collaborations and partnerships work?
Kelly: making sure you're not partnering with those who are going to say "here's what we're going to do to your kids or your schools"
"what's specific to Revere"
Not what is canned off the shelf
meet family needs, while bringing families into the schools
"shared responsibility and ownership"
Rodriguez: ownership really important
Holyoke on "secondary redesign"
Zockoff Culbertson: how does it work on a day to day, week to week situation
having a partnership coordinator
making it seamless and making them part of the school
"without that, they seem to have less structure in how they integrate into the school community"

Q about coordination among five districts?
five business agents have been very involved in the work in terms of finances
do work of alignment once in terms of plans
decided to hire a coordinator to have five districts working together, was financed by state in a pilot program
business managers had to get together to figure out how that was going to work
teachers working together across districts to determine curriculum based on standards
working to have program assessed by outside agency to see how it is working

key strategies to lift up
Zockoff Culbertson: Burke in Boston has 62 partners
makes sure every partner builds a relationship with at least one student and every student has a relationship with one adult
partners buy into mission and vision
really have an "all hands on deck" approach
Rodriguez: data for vision and mission
opportunity to partner across different districts; sharing resources
some at DESE see themselves as "regulatory entrepreneurs"
Zockoff Culbertson: have to have teachers on board
opportunities for teachers to see how they partner with others

Question: is DESE supporting best business practices as well as best practices?
"a large part of the new work"
recognition from the department that we needed to support the work around sound business practices
shared resources is important; shared information and knowledge
"solutions are going to be locally generated"
"I know some of you are doing this already"

Question: partnering with parents
using time with parents to go over rules, rather than talk about goals for that year
can parents answer question about school year is about?
ask parents about their hopes and dreams for their child, what teachers should know about the children; inviting parents to be partners with us
generational challenges with schools: families that for generations have felt that they aren't wanted by schools
"one phone call, one packet home isn't going to do it"

Monday, November 14, 2016

Improving the economically disadvantaged count

MassBudget released a memo today about improving the economically disadvantaged student count to capture more of the kids that we know are out there. They have six strategies to improve the count.
Please read it and share it! These are the kinds of changes needed!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

US DoE under a Trump administration

There's already been some good writing on this (which I'll link to throughout), but what does the incoming administration intend in terms of education?

First, an easy one: no, the president doesn't have the power to "end Common Core" as has been his rhetoric. In fact, under ESSA, there is explicit language barring the Secretary of Education from setting standards. The states set standards, and the only thing the federal government can do is attempt to persuade them in particular directions (usually through funding).

Can Trump, as he has said, get rid of the federal department of education? It's unlikely. He would need Congressional coordination to do so (as that's essentially a budgetary decision), and there's a great deal of funding that flows to states through the US DoE. Even those who have long complained about federal education oversight would be hardpressed to tell the areas they represent why they have lost the state millions of dollars. For a perspective on just how much comes from US DoE, see here for what those losses could look like. How that funding comes through to states could well be rearranged--essentially, as EdWeek points out, implementing some of the amendments to ESSA--to block grants or something similar. That is absolutely something to watch for, as, for example, lumping Title I in with other programs could result in fewer dollars getting near poor kids (and likewise through the titles).
(editing to add) Part of his 100 day plan is the following:
School Choice And Education Opportunity Act. Redirects education dollars to give parents the right to send their kid to the public, private, charter, magnet, religious or home school of their choice. Ends common core, brings education supervision to local communities. It expands vocational and technical education, and make 2 and 4-year college more affordable.
SO that's federal vouchers. It's not clear where the money on that is coming from, if it's Constitutional (state by state) and how that would work; would states have a choice? Vouchers, for the record, have already been found unconstitutional in Massachusetts.

He also might well cut the Department itself, and that is where my biggest concern is right now:
...they’ve said there’s no need to keep the department’s Office for Civil Rights, which oversees Title IX enforcement and has become increasingly active over the last eight years as the spotlight on campus sexual assault increased. But eliminating OCR would be “absolutely devastating to survivors and educational access in this country,” said Alyssa Peterson, a policy coordinator at Know Your IX, a group that advocates on behalf of sexual assault victims.
This is also the office that send out guidance around inequalities around student discipline, has ensured equal access to education regardless of legal status, and has spoke to districts regarding Title IX and transgender student access. The link above says that states then will have to step up their own enforcement; the problem is that some states will not. This absolutely leaves students vulnerable.

More as I have it. 

UPDATE to add this link to the Hechinger Report, which can't find much more, but has some Massachusetts mentions. 

A few more Question 2 points

MassLive does a "what's next for ed reform" article. I'll admit to a smidge of joy that we finally got "ed reform" to mean "privatizer" rather than the sunshine, rainbows, and ponies they've been trying to sell us for some time. The thing that is most telling here, though, is the interviews with state officials. Auditor Bump, Attorney General Healey, and Senate President Rosenberg all pivot immediately to "now it's time to work for all kids" and mention funding. The Governor? He apparently still hasn't seen the foundation budget review commission report.

The Globe report--which, glory hallelujah, is fair--gets a "game over on cap lift" from both Rosenberg and Speaker DeLeo (who you'll recall supported question 2), which I hope like heck means we can once and for all dispense with that being tied to ANYthing.

However, MassLive talked to Governor Baker Wednesday, and he said this:
Baker said the Springfield model is one that could be done in other cities. Districts could also look at efforts in Lawrence to lengthen school days. Charter schools will also continue to be part of the mix.
"We're going to ... make sure we continue to work on this," Baker said. "In a state obviously where so many of our schools and so many of our school districts are national leaders, it's really important we make sure all our kids have those kinds of opportunities."
If you're wondering where you've heard that before, that would be our friends from the spring in Third Way Ed, who did a presentation at the ICA  that Edushyster looks at here. Short version: if your concern is for local schools with local voices at the table and appropriate funding, this isn't your answer, either.

The Foundation Budget Review Commission report is here, though, Governor Baker. You should read it.
That's what's next.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

No on 2: not the story you were told

I want to talk a little about this tweet from Bruce Baker today (and the ensuing exchange)
You'll recall that this was the ongoing story told in the national (and sometimes local) press: that this was going to be suburban moms deciding on those poor, urban children of color.
Here's how that worked out:

 Now we could talk about where the suburbs and the cities are, but the point here is: it didn't matter. Question 2 lost EVERYWHERE! It lost in all of the cities: Boston (61%), Worcester (61%), Springfield (58%), and on down through. It lost in the rural areas. And it lost in the suburbs.
With a few exceptions:

Some of our wealthiest communities.

Now I suspect it's going to be tempting for some to say that wealthy people saw a way to make money on this, but I don't think that the whole town of Weston went in together on some sort of an investment opportunity. I do, though, want to call your attention back to something Professor Cunningham said at lunch on Friday: the "very wealthy do care about education, but they do not care to spend for it, as that would mean taxes."

And that was my point (thank you for reading) Monday night: Either we support everyone's education--which yes, we pay for with taxes--or we don't. But if we don't, we don't actually support democracy.

And democracy is going to need us.

Thank you for voting no on question 2.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Democracy is in your hands

...the universal and ever-repeated argument in favor of free schools has been that the general intelligence which they are capable of diffusing, and which can be imparted by no other human instrumentality, is indispensable to the continuance of a republican government. 
Horace Mann, Tenth Annual Report to the Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education, 1846
 I'm borrowing the flavor Professor Cunningham's title of this final post before the election as he writes one more time on the massive amounts of dark money that have flooded into Massachusetts. He's right on all he said.

But democracy is on the ballot for another reason, as well.

We don't have schools in Massachusetts just for the good of the kids.
They're for that, no doubt, but as Horace Mann cites above and as I've referenced countless times from the bottom of the blog, we have schools so we can continue to have a democracy in Massachusetts.

If you're going to let everyone vote, you have to make sure everyone is able to make the decisions necessary to do that.

So you have to educate everyone: not just the kids whose parents can sign them up for things, or the kids in the towns where they can raise taxes enough to pay for the schools; not just the kids who speak English in kindergarten or the kids who don't need extra help to learn.


This isn't just Worcester's job, or Barnstable's job, or Pittsfield's job: the Constitution of the state clearly says that we are ALL responsible for ALL of the kids.

Now, you can not like that. That's up to you. Your argument then is not with me, though, but with the state constitution.

This is why the McDuffy lawsuit was found in favor of the plantiffs: it really is all of our jobs to educate all of our kids.

That means, though, that all of the kids in Worcester should be getting the same level of support as the kids in--pick a wealthy suburb--are.
And they aren't.

If you go in tomorrow, and you vote "yes" on Question 2, you're saying that we aren't able to do that. You're saying that we are not capable, as a state, of educating every child as well as every other child, and of giving every child the level of support that child needs to become part of our democracy. You're agreeing that the only option is an escape hatch out of schools for some kids, rather than supporting all of our kids.

Those other kids, those kids left behind, aren't, then, part of the great support we've constructed of democracy here in Massachusetts.

You aren't just ducking out on public schools if you do that.

You're ducking out on democracy.

Vote no on 2.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Luc Schuster on poverty in education in Massachusetts: MASS/MASC

Poverty in MA runs along the same trendline as the U.S., but at a lower level
poverty has gone done a little in the past few years, but we're still above pre-recession levels
same trend is true of children in poverty
productivity continues to rise, but wages have not kept pace with productivity
up to WWII, the two tracked almost directly: benefit shared with all types of workers
benefits flatlined after WWII: productivity continues to rise, but workers did not see the benefit
reference to his article in Commonwealth on what wages would be in Gateway Cities if they had tracked with incomes rising together

Friday, November 4, 2016

Professor Moe Cunningham at MASS/MASC

Friday at MASS/MASC: Professor Moe Cunningham who has been doing work on dark money in ballot question 2.
Handed a "bag of dark money," Cunningham notes "it's bottomless."

Thursday, November 3, 2016

MASC/MASS General Session: social emotional learning

speaking today: Nicholas Covino, president of William James College; Shella Dennery, Program Director, Boston Children's Hospital; Nadja Reilly, Psychologist & Author

updating as we go
Covino: suggest that this won't be new information for many, but reconfirm importance
4 in 20 kids has a diagnosable mental illness
2 more have problems serious enough to interfere with home or school
"What does it mean that 1/5 of kids have" those difficulties?
"We don't have a Jimmy Fund in mental health; we're not thinking about this that way."
32% of kids in military families are at high risk: having a parent deployed increases risk by 5 fives
untreated anxiety and depression is the #1 cause of high school dropout

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

2016 MASC Delegate Assembly

You can find the report of the Resolution Committee here. Full Delegate Manual is here.
posting as we go! 
In receiving his award, Rep. Steve Kulik praises school committees for conducting school business "with great transparency and in the public eye."

President Jake Oliveira: today "sets broad-brush policy goals" for the organization.
resolutions have gone through a three-tiered process: any committee may present a resolution: goes through Resolutions Committee, which deliberate and recommend to Board of Directors, who likewise vet them, and forward them to the Delegate Assembly.
"get to the heart of public policy issues that we raise on your behalf"
analogous to town meeting in how it operates
reminder that some delegates have more than one vote (as they represent more than one committee)

Minutes are approved

Why we're all talking about municipal bonds this morning (and why you should care)

The front page cover story in the Boston Globe this morning has a worrisome forecast for Boston, Lawrence, Fall River, and Springfield if Question 2 passes:
In e-mails sent Monday, Nicholas Lehman, an assistant vice president at Moody’s, warned that passage of the referendum would be “credit negative” for the cities.
“Depending on the Nov. 8 vote, the general credit view is the following: A vote of ‘No’ is credit positive for urban cities. A vote of ‘Yes’ is credit negative for urban cities,” Lehman wrote.
Huh? Who are these people and why should we care?

Moody's is a (some would say "the") credit rating agency. Their job is to look at various kinds of data and make projections about the ability of a debtor to pay back debt (and the likelihood of default).

In this particular case, they're talking about municipal credit ratings, which is a grade each city has on its creditworthiness. In other words: is this city able to pay back money that they owe? That grade determines both how easy it is for cities to borrow money--to "float municipal bonds," is how they do it--and how much they have to pay to do it.

Why should you care? Because that's how cities make capital improvements. Cities don't pay for rebuilding bridges, building new schools, upgrading the water system and such out of operating budgets; they float bonds and finance them over time. That's how any city (or town, or state) can pay for projects that are so expensive.

Note that this isn't the first time that Moody's has made this concern known: back in 2013, Moody's issued a announcement that charter schools were the "greatest credit challenge to school districts in economically weak urban areas." In 2015, they issued another announcement, warning that districts could enter a "downward spiral":
"The downward spiral happens when a district loses students to charters or school choice, then loses the revenues associated with those students," says Seymour. "The district cuts expenditures to cope, which weakens its educational product, encouraging more students to attend schools outside the district. The loss of those students results in additional revenue loss, and the spiral continues."
Thus this isn't just about Massachusetts, or question 2, or this election: this is the fundamental question that we're refusing to face about charter schools: how can we as a democracy, that created a system of schools in order to continue that democracy, afford--in all ways--two systems of schools?