Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017 Top Ten

As I think I've said before, I do this as much for me as for anybody, as I don't pay that much attention to analytics (beyond straight page views) during the year, unless something seems to blow up. Thus, without further ado...the top viewed posts for 2017:

I'll spoil the surprise and tell you that the top landing page continues to be the front page, 'though the percentage on that is down somewhat. I'll be interested in seeing if the option of getting an email each time there is a new post (see the left margin on a full screen version) will bring that down.

10. Not entirely surprising, considering how he dominated the news cycles this year, but tenth most viewed post this year was this post-inaugural post "Trump on education: myth busting". Setting the tone for much this year, the third line of that post is:
Both halves of this statement are false.
9. My post on Worcester's preliminary election was the ninth most viewed post (in part because it ended up being promoted on social media).  I'll of course be keeping a close eye on my new district councilor Matt Wally, who, along with Mayor Petty, the rest of the City Council and the School Committee are sworn in on Tuesday.

8. The December 4 post on how the federal tax bill could hurt school budgets was the eighth most viewed, and that will no doubt continue to be a topic of major concern since the terrible tax bill passed.

7. Demonstrating that there's no lack of interest in wonkish finance posts, the post from early July explaining hold harmless and minimum per pupil aid--and thus why chapter 70 could still be constitutionally cut for many communities--was the seventh most viewed. This didn't happen, and politically it's something of a third rail, but it's a good thing to understand about how many school districts are getting their increases in aid now.

6. The reason I didn't do this earlier in the week is I wanted somewhat valid results and I saw this one blowing up: the December 29th post on how the accountability system in changing in Massachusetts. Given more time, this would be higher. The weighing of that system is part of the January meeting of the Board of Education, so stay tuned.

5. My Wednesday-after-the-election post on what happened across Massachusetts in education is the fifth most viewed. One of the things I've had to adjust to in this job is how many races you end up following on election night: LOTS! The city school committees are being sworn in over the course of the next few weeks, as it happens.

4. Going back to the reset of accountability coming out of the federal education law, this April Board of Ed liveblog on the state's resetting of the accountability system was the fourth most-read. This is mainly, I believe, due to people looking for confirmation that this year was going to (for most elementary schools) be a year without levels, as it was.

3. Part of the explosion of resistance work has been passing things along on social media, which sometimes has drawbacks, which led to this post from February, taking apart one such "copy and paste" on federal education and giving specifics on what to watch, which is still true: CIVIL RIGHTS.

2. This August post about Worcester principals under the new administration--commenting that the persistent demand for a public process on principal appointments have vanished with the change in administration--was the second most read post.

1. And demonstrating that Boston can bring its size to bear even this far west, the most individually read post was "Clickbait" responding to a mess of an article from September that intimated that two dozen Boston schools were in danger of being declared underperforming this year, something all those who read number 4 knew wasn't the case.

What's up for 2018? January is going to be a lot: we've got the Governor's budget being released, a Board of Ed meeting that sets the balance in the accountability system, a new Commissioner being voted in, and (fingers crossed) Senate bill 224 on the foundation budget getting out of the Joint Committee on Education (Have you bugged anyone on that lately? Because this week, we start!).
And that, of course, is just January, but those four things will be where a lot of the state attention on schools are this year.
One thing I personally want to keep working on (spurred by my holiday reading) is a better understanding and knowledge of the history of public education in Massachusetts; you may see some of that come through on here.
No worries, though: I've gotten the message (both on and offline) that coverage and commentary from Worcester is needed and appreciated. The strategic plan is supposed to be released early next year, too, so we'll keep an eye on that, as well as Worcester's budget (below foundation no more?) and what other changes Worcester may or may not be up to.

Happy new year to you and yours, and, as I said over on Twitter earlier this week:

Friday, December 29, 2017

Turn and face the strange (state accountability shift)

If you read the liveblog of this month's Board of Ed meeting or the MASC recap, you probably caught most of this, but I thought an easy to read post in one spot would be useful.
So what's changing?

It’s not all about testing.
Schools and districts will be evaluated on:
  • ELA, math, and science MCAS achievement values (based on scaled scores)
  • student growth in MCAS scores (as measured by the student growth percentile)
  • high school completion (as measured by the four year graduation rate, the extended engagement rate [see below], and the annual dropout rate)
  • English language proficiency (as measured by progress made by English learners towards proficiency)
  • Other measures to include:
    • chronic absenteeism in all schools;
    • percentage of students passing all ninth grade courses (for high schools)
    • percentage of students completing advanced course work (for high schools)

Note that extended engagement is a new measure, incorporating both the five year graduation rate PLUS the percentage of students still enrolled in school after that time. Districts thus will be credited with keeping students who have yet to graduate in school.
The balance of these is yet to be decided; that comes next month at the Board of Ed.

A focus on kids who need the most help
In addition to meeting targets for the school as a whole, schools will be responsible for the performance (in all indicators, not just testing) of the lowest performing 25% of students who have been enrolled for more than one year. Note that this doesn't penalize schools for kids transferring in or out or showing up midyear.

No more levels
Schools will no longer be placed in a vertical hierarchy of levels 1-5. The lowest 10%--not, as now, the lowest 20%--will be "normatively placed" as in need of intervention. Only approximately 15% of schools will be classified as in need of assistance or intervention:
  • those with percentiles under 10%, plus
  • those with persistently low graduation rates
  • those with low testing participation over two years

Questions? Let me know. If I don't know, I'll find out. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Don't miss how unusual this is: state speaks up on North High

I tweeted this out over the holiday, but I thought it should have a more permanent residence: don't miss what's happening in this article from the 25th on North High. It is very, very unusual for the state to speak up, outside the release of new results, about a specific school. For DESE to break its silence, something's up.
And of course, Russell Johnston chooses his words with care (like anyone from the state who knows he's going to be quoted). So look at what he says:
the department’s interest this year in seeing improvements at North High School was not an abrupt decision, but rather based on relatively long-standing concerns about the school’s under-performance.
We don't, in other words, have a new emergency; we have the ongoing concern the state has had for years. That Johnston would feel the need to clarify that is very telling.
And about Superintendent Binienda's remarks that the school was in danger of being Level 4 next spring?
(Johnston) dispelled the notion that North High is in imminent danger of being downgraded by the state, however, saying it’s “not automatic” the state would take action even if the school continues to struggle.
So, no, the "fear the state" line isn't accurate. And note, in part, why:
Complicating the matter is that the state is still revising accountability standards for schools.
You, of course, already knew that because you read the updates from the Board of Ed: the state's reasons for declaring underperformance are shifting and growing more broad:
The new underperforming designation is most likely what North High could fall into in subsequent years if it continues to lag, Mr. Johnston said, although he added such a downgrade would be made “at the discretion of the (state’s education) commissioner,” and not triggered by low test scores. The new accountability system is supposed to take into account more than just how students perform on the MCAS.
That "supposed to" is probably a little weak; we're already tied to that due to the state's federal ESSA plan, which has already been accepted.
Which makes the superintendent's closing remark:
“The big thing is really getting those scores up,” she said.
...all the more head-scratching.
I also want to flag this Q&A in Worcester Magazine from a few weeks back, because there is a LOT going on there. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Can you still weigh in on the Commissioner search? Sure!

I was asked this question yesterday at work, and I thought it might be of more general interest: yes, there are still ways to express your views in the search for a new Commissioner.
The screening committee has already met to review the applications; they will be doing confidential interviews during the first two weeks of January. While that list does not have contact information, you'll note that several of them are on the Board, and a number of them are otherwise public officials. I'll do some digging and see if I can come up with some contact information for them: UPDATE see below. And when I floated this online, I did receive this:
Vanessa Calderón-Rosado can be contacted at
Sydney Chaffee can be contacted at
Alex Cortez works for New Profit, which doesn't post an email.
I can't find an email for Paul Dakin, but as you can see, he does respond on Twitter!
I can't find an email for Marcia Faucher.
Robert Gittens works for Cambridge Family and Children's Services, which doesn't list an email.
Unlike the K-12 Board, the Higher Ed Board doesn't appear to have email addresses (and I can't find one for Monty Tech quickly), so thus far none on Sheila Harrity.
Matt Hills can be contacted at
Oddly, MBAE gives Twitter and LinkedIn for Linda Noonan but no email.
The Early Ed Board likewise doesn't give emails, but the Davis Foundation does have a form you can fill out for Mary Walachy.

The screening committee will then send finalists to the full Board, who will interview them on January 22. The Board's contacts are online,  so you can certainly get in touch with them.
And remember: plenty of people do things like read the Globe's letters, too, so you might try that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Worcester Public Schools Strategic Planning Public Session

Posting here from Doherty Memorial where we have maybe fifty people (of which maybe ten or fifteen are teachers? I think?). Offhand, I see John Monfredo and Dante Comparetto (both of next year's School Committee) and Matt Wally (incoming D5 City Councilor), a few principals...
I'm hearing the EAW moved the House of Delegates meeting here.
I'm also hearing that the agenda is 2/3rds being talked at, 1/3rd being listened to...

Guess who doesn't currently have a net school spending gap?


Yes, that does mean right now we're a smidge over. Last year, we came through $1.28M under. 
h/t to An Education for pointing out that new numbers were posted today.

Funding for Puerto Rico students

I was a little confused by this article from yesterday--and I was at the meeting referenced!--so I asked for clarification. The intent is for the administration to file a supplemental budget (as they often do) alongside the Governor's budget in January including pothole funding (so, not looped into the foundation budget, but filling the "pothole" that has come up) for the students from Puerto Rico. That funding would be for FY18, aka THIS SCHOOL YEAR. The new budget for FY19 would likewise have such funding.
(And then if students have stayed, they will be counted next October, so they'll be in the foundation budget count for FY20.)
No word yet on how much, but every time I hear this discussion, the state emphasizes again being sure that students who come in have Puerto Rico designated in their record as where they're coming from, so make sure your district is doing that!

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Board of Ed in sum?

Check over here. 

Board of Ed for December: LOOK Act

we're starting here with some data that I'll attempt to plug in later...learning that Worcester has the highest percentage of ELL students in the state...
majority of students who are ELL are first language Spanish speakers
vast majority of those students are enrolled in Sheltered English Immersion programs (over 90%)

Board of Ed for December: virtual schools tuition

Virtual schools tuition rate
Wulfson: not yet satisfied with performance, but does have potential for some small subset of students
want to create conditions for them to succeed
"one of those is adequate funding"
"and we want to take off the table any possibility that inadequate funding is the cause for underperformance"
West: there's a tension between raising funding and performance
don't want to be perceived as rewarding poor performance
Stewart: increased funding helps all schools
"I see that we need to make adjustments in our foundation formula"
and address an immediate need even before that
motion passes

Board of Ed for December: accountability system

Wulfson: why we're doing this work
believe state has an obligation to identify schools in need of intervention and to work with those schools
1800 schools in the Commonwealth and most are doing a really good job
believe we have an obligation to identify and shine a spotlight on the schools that are doing really well
believe we have an obligation to share information with parents
believe we have an obligation to provide information to the taxpayers of the Commonwealth
required by both federal and state law to hold districts accountable and report on their performance

Board of Ed for December: Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council

Wulfson: the triple A C
working on ESSA state plan and new accountability system
Valerie Annear (East Longmeadow)
established as part of Ed Reform in '93
advice and feedback on development and implementation of accountability system
15 member council
feedback provided to Department "what's best for students"
address implicit bias
encourage voice of all members; strive for general agreement and note specific objections
feedback on ESSA, changes to state accountability regulations, assistance strategies
now discussing redesign of assistance system
and accountability framework
"while we may not agree with some specific indicators within the framework, we do feel our feedback has been incorporated within the framework"

Board of Ed for December: Commissioner Search

Sagan: on track
screening committee met last night to select applicants to meet with
"extremely pleased" by quality of candidates
"I've not made up my mind yet who should be a finalist"
"very impressed by level of candidates"
diversity in mix of candidates: more than 1/3 women, more than 50% minorities and underserved communities
candidates being notified now
second week of January for confidential interviews
probably three brought forward
Monday the 22nd for longer special meeting of the Board probably in Boston for interviews
then regular meeting jointly with Higher Ed (in Bridgewater)
Friday the 26th and possibly Monday the 29th to select new commissioner

Sagan (clearly reacting to this article from yesterday): "there was no deadline"...if people come forward, we'll review them
(that's not the impression given by the description)
"very much focused on looking at educators to fill this job"
"someone very experienced in facets of fulfilling the job"

Doherty asks how many?
Sagan: between 15 and 18
2/3rds out of state; 1/3 in state

Board of Ed for December: Springfield Empowerment Zone

Wulfson: established in 2014 "innovative approach to underperforming schools"
middle schools and one high school
"garnering a lot of interest from educators"

Johnston: receivers coming before you ever month
Springfield "an in-district receivership model"
Board hasn't heard from Springfield in two years; in third year of implementation

Gabrieli, chair of empowerment zone along with co-chairs
"one crisp goal...reach a 50/50 set of goal"

Board of Ed for December: opening comments

You can find the agenda here. The livestream should come up here. Posting as we go.

Monday, December 18, 2017

What should the strategic plan be looking at?

I have more to say about the strategic plan, its process, its make up, its history, and so forth than I would ever put in a single blog post, but let's start tonight--in honor of the first public input session that had more than 48 hours of notice--with what should, I think, be considered.

I would just note here that this should have been the first question: 
  • what do students/parents/teachers/staff/Worcester residents think should be considered in the strategic plan? 
This shouldn't be only what we are getting to after six months of private meetings.

The first one is easy: the Worcester Public Schools budget this year is about $388M.
Those numbers are now a couple of years old. Thus start with the fact that we're running the school system at something like 4/5ths of what we should be. 
Quite honestly, if you don't start there, it's impossible for me to take you seriously. Funding impacts literally every single thing we do, and if you don't get that, then you don't get how school systems work.

The second starts with this piece of data, which you will rarely hear referenced in the city: 

The Worcester Public Schools are a majority children of color system, and they have been for some time. This occasionally gets raised when we talk about the demographics of the staff, but otherwise rarely is mentioned. Not only is the faculty majority white: the administration is overwhelmingly so, and the upper levels of administration have gotten much more so under the current administration (this is one of those articles that one might expect to be written when looking at changes in administration; it hasn't been). The School Committee, of course, was and remains entirely white. I have no patience--nor should anyone--with the "I don't see color" line. The research on teachers working with children of color is overwhelming. This isn't just about demographic change in leadership and in the classroom; this is about recognizing and being willing to grapple with the changing demographics of the city. As has recently been said in another context: that means talking about and changing who does and does not have power.

Oh, and that strategic planning board? Stunningly white. Also, nearly all primarily English speakers, and a bunch don't live in the city. But please tell us how "diverse" it is.

What's next? I'd argue that the above is part of the explanation for the disparity in discipline in the system, as the T&G reported earlier this month.  Economically disadvantaged students, students with disabilities, and students of color all are being disciplined at rates out of proportion with their enrollment in the school system. Those then are among the reasons for...

...disparities in graduation rates. Run your eye down that third column and look at the rate for ELL students, for students with disabilities, for Latino students. If you follow the link, you can look at the five year rate. The thing is, Worcester's done well at high school graduation rates; we have a lot to be pleased with. The question is how we make that more true for everyone.

Connected to several of the prior issues, but most especially the second, is the ongoing question of Worcester's selective admission programs. I've covered this more than once on the blog, most recently in March in talking about the new academy at Burncoat Middle, and at enormous length when we did the exam school report. We like to pretend that selective admission schools that admit based on test scores (or include discipline) are meritocracies. This is a lie. Rather than dealing with that, Worcester has without introspection and with little deliberation simply expanded them. That doesn't best serve Worcester's kids. Who are we serving? Where? How? And how are we deciding that?

Much of the above, you may note, leads back to the question of qui bono or who benefits. For whom do we run the Worcester Public Schools?
Take another look back at the strategic planning committee, and note the dearth of students, parents, teachers, and anyone-other-than-business-leaders-and-administration, and ask yourself: For whose benefit are we running this strategic planning committee?

See you Wednesday night at Doherty. 

Why we need an ELL Director in Worcester ASAP

Over the weekend, the news broke that Bertha Elena Rojas, the Worcester Public Schools ELL Director, is leaving the district at the end of the month. Here's what we were told of the process next:
Ms. Binienda said her administration would start a search soon to replace Bertha Elena Rojas, who has been Worcester’s Manager of English Learners since 2013.  
The superintendent said that search would include both internal and external candidates. She wasn’t sure as of this past week whether there would be an interim or permanent appointment to the post for the remainder of the year.
As Scott notes in the article, Worcester has one of the highest percentages of ELL students in the state; it's 34.2% on the district profile. That isn't the full story, though; you need to look at another number; check out the number just above English Language Learners:

Unlike a lot of other demographic information that's reported about students, ELL classification isn't static: a student who comes in as an English language learner is only an ELL student for so many years. They eventually test out.
Worcester's student population is MORE THAN HALF first language not English students; many, many of those students were ELL students but have moved out of that classification now. The English Language learner population is constantly changing, not just as a population, but as individual kids. Managing that process successfully is crucial to just about everything else that those students do. This is also something that has gotten the Worcester Public Schools into trouble in the past
With the new LOOK law, Worcester also has a chance to look beyond its current work in multiple languages. 
It can only do that with strong, thoughtful, experienced leadership in this position AND SOON.

Max Larkin of Edify on the Commissioner's search

Beyond wondering what a "rich" description that also doesn't "just eliminate people" means, I'm noting a contrast the views here have with what I've heard at Board meetings.
And yes, it quotes a few of my tweets at the beginning.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

And South High is in!

Not a surprise, really, since it made the agenda, but South High was approved for invitation to Project Budget Scope and Sequence at today's MSBA meeting. Full list of districts moving here.

OML complaint denied

Well, this is disappointing. Essentially, their determination is because the strategic planning committee wasn't appointed by the superintendent or the school committee, it isn't a public body.
That isn't how public bodies have been previously defined.
It's also a terrible precedent.

Thus, we'll find out what they've decided for our school system when they deign to tell us.

Oh, and also there's a session next Wednesday at 6:30 at Doherty where we're invited to "join the discussion."

The Board of Ed meets for December next week

Didn't they just meet? They're early for December due to the holidays.
You can find the agenda here.
After the round of opening remarks, the first report is one from the Springfield Empowerment Zone. I do want to flag here, by the way, that the Zone has now been incorporated into the regular circulation of monthly reports from the receivership districts, 'though Springfield is not a receivership district. The description here, as elsewhere, continues to tap dance past the whole "hey, we took away the local democratic governance model" by sprinkling the words LOCAL AUTONOMY all over it.

In any case...

There will be an update on the Commissioner's search. As a reminder, the deadline to apply is this Friday (December 15); the screening committee meets December 18. They will then do some interviews, meet again in early January to vote to forward finalists to the full Board, who will interview those finalists on January 17 and 18. The Board is expected to vote on January 23, at their regular January meeting. EDITING to add a link to this Ed Week article on state commissioner salaries; our previous commissioner did make less money than a number of our superintendents.

Did you know there's an Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council?
The School and District Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council (AAAC) advises on matters pertaining to the development and implementation of the Commonwealth's School and District Accountability and Assistance system.
Me, either. They're reporting out next week on their work this year. Two things that they weighed in on that I found interesting: they suggested that the state "categorize districts and schools using meaningful descriptors instead of numbers" and they also raised two concerns related to classifying districts as Level 3 due to non-participation in testing.

And speaking of accountability, there is an update on the state's accountability system. Key sentence:
The enactment of ESSA in 2015 and our state's transition to a Next-Generation MCAS assessment have given us the opportunity to rethink the design of our accountability system.
There is as yet no backup (maybe they're going for a big unveiling?), but the highlights the memo does let us know about are as follows:
  • The inclusion of additional accountability indicators, which will provide information about school performance and student opportunities beyond test scores; 
  • A focus on raising the performance of each school's lowest performing students in addition to the performance of the school as a whole; 
  • and The discontinuation of accountability and assistance levels (Levels 1 to 5), which will be replaced with accountability categories that better define the progress that schools are making and the type of support or assistance they may receive from the Department.
So, a big deal (and why I keep complaining on Twitter about people focusing on the level system: WE WON'T HAVE THE SAME SYSTEM ANYMORE.); here's hoping I can keep up with the presentation in the liveblog! 

The Board is voting on the increase in tuition for virtual schools, bringing them out of the school choice amount and into something closer to the foundation budget amount.

And, as promised, the Board is getting an update on the LOOK bill and ELL students in general.

You may also be interested in the Board's letter about FY19, a report on grants, and an update on Commissioner's actions on charter schools.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

DESE on the Chart of Accounts and school-level report at MASBO

DESE's Melissa King, Rob O'Donnell, Jay Sullivan on updates on school-level reporting and the chart of accounts
Melissa King opens by announcing that she does not plan to return to DESE after her maternity leave in February. 
On the chart of accounts: Technology spending: current format makes it difficult to draw conclusions about technology investments
districts making different reporting choices
are now circulating final draft
District Level (two functions): Administrative technology (1450)
Technology infrastructure, maintenance and support (4400); includes associated staff
School level: Administrative technology and support (2250) technology related to running the schools (including printers, copiers)
Instructional hardware (2454): student and staff devices
Instructional hardware(2455): all other costs for instructional technology
Instructional software and other instructional materials: software licenses, ebooks,
Instructional technology leadership and training (2130)
distant learning and online coursework (2245): new category due to growth
Textbooks (2410): anything physical

ESSA school level expenditure reports
"disaggregated by source of funds, for each local educational agency and each school in the state for the preceding fiscal year"
will be part of 2018 district and school report cards
"other states aren't so lucky" as they are having to collect information for the first time
based on data given on schedule 3 (school level data)
"a little unclear to me from the language in the law" when they're expecting it
note that the Obama administration had issued guidance which had then been pulled
DESE soliciting comment on draft from business officials
spending by school by functional category
spending broken out to school level including context on students and teachers to explain spending differences
instructional spending that isn't assigned to a school
administrative spending
breaking out by fund groups:
report also that is data for all schools
request for additional context, for better definitions, for other breakouts (special education), for aggregation (athletics, food service)

audits looking for procedures
Jay Sullivan on student activities: "(student activities) was all they could talk about" when it came to the IRS fine
auditors will be asking "when was the last time you did the student activity audit"
"we're not exactly sure what's going to happen with those...will be part of department's risk assessment"
students coming from Puerto Rico: make sure you specify in SIMS that they are coming from Puerto Rico
"There will be aid coming for districts who have had students coming from Puerto Rico"
supplemental appropriation "they expect to go through very quickly"
pothole account for districts that have gotten students from Puerto Rico
putting together how districts will apply for that now

Monday, December 11, 2017

Time is running out...

If you want to be the next Massachusetts K-12 Education Commissioner, make sure you get your application in!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Let's talk about North High

I posted a thread on this yesterday on Twitter, but I've done a smidge more digging and I think I know where this is coming from now. 
I missed the initial article from earlier this month announcing that Superintendent Binienda had moved into North High School while Principal Lisa Dyer was out on medical leave and did not intend to appoint an acting principal in the meantime. Offhand, it's not clear to me that it's legal to fail to have a principal; the relevant MGL is Ch. 71, Sec. 59B:
The superintendent of a school district shall appoint principals for each public school within the district at levels of compensation determined in accordance with policies established by the school committee. Principals employed under this section shall be the educational administrators and managers of their schools and shall supervise the operation and management of their schools and school property, subject to the supervision and direction of the superintendent.
The section then goes on to enumerate the quite extensive list of responsibilities and powers of the principal under the Mass General Laws. Those are specific, distinct, and discrete from the powers and responsibilities of the superintendent.The union president being okay with it isn't what we're looking for here; I'd be interested in a legal opinion, preferably one from the state.

Likewise, of course, having the superintendent overseeing just over a thousand students of a 27,000 student system directly is less than reassuring. Worcester needs a superintendent who's actually running the system.

Yesterday's follow-up article, revealing that the superintendent intends a turnaround plan of some kind, wasn't any more reassuring. The opening comment:
“North High’s performance on the MCAS (this past year), for the third year in a row, showed no progress” simply not true. You can find North's MCAS data over time on DESE's website here. You don't have to know about CPI and PPI and the rest to tell what the lines are doing. Here's a screenshot of the charts for students scoring proficient or higher, 2013-2017.

Are those lines trending steadily downward for three years? No, they are not. They did go down this past year, but they had gone up the year before.

More to the point, look at the median student growth percentiles (from the same page):

Have they bounced down? Yes. Have they gone down for three years? No. Again, they were up before they were down.
We can't panic every time there is a year of down results. Analyze, plan, figure out what had happened, absolutely, but some classes are stronger than others (and that's why the state doesn't judge on a single year's worth of data, either).

Now, are those fantastic results? No, they aren't. And the district has been concerned and working on North in past years. There are also things that matter besides MCAS, and those things, because North High is a high school, the state even judges the school on. Here, for example, is North's dropout rate since 2012:
It was 2.4% last year; the state's rate is 1.9%.
And here's the four and five year graduation rates:
Again, none of these are my numbers; they're what the district has reported to DESE.
So let's say that I'm coming into this a bit skeptical that North High is suddenly in an emergency situation.

However, I did have a chance to poke around a bit more this afternoon, and I've come across what I think is probably driving this.
You'll remember that only high schools were assigned levels this year. That means that this exercise, where we set the schools in order by percentile, suddenly only involves high schools (save the Level 4 and 5 elementary schools). Remember that you want a higher percentile (those are better), and take a look at the list (I clicked to set them in order by percentiles and then scrolled down until I found anything, as nearly all the elementary schools don't have one):

So from the top here we have Madison Park (Boston's vocational school, which is undergoing another round of turmoil now); Holyoke's Dean Vocational (which was under state receivership before the district was); then Brighton High, New Bedford High, High School of Science and Tech in Springfield, Excel High, all of which are Level 4 schools already. The first Level 3 school we hit is North High in the third percentile, before going back to Level 4 again with West Roxbury.
Remember, though, that the Level 4s are always at the Commissioner's discretion, which is how we find this if we scroll further down:

Yes, that's Springfield's High School of Commerce, a Level 4, coming in after North (it has a higher percentile this year).
All of which is to reiterate that it is a mistake to think that this all comes down to MCAS scores. It doesn't, and it never has. What does the state look at?

District governance.

By the by, Worcester is already a Commissioner's district, so that threat won't stick. 

It's not often we build a new high school

...and Worcester's South High is already into schematic design before the public is seeing it.
Do we not even try to build buildings that are attractive and welcoming anymore? There's no effort here to say "this is a public building: welcome!" nor "what happens in this building is something this community values." 

Friday, December 8, 2017

On student activity accounts

My own life has made it impossible for me to get this up earlier; apologies for how long this has taken. 

Back before state politics pushed it off the front page, much of the concern over the City of Boston's IRS fine for a variety of issues was around the schools. Do note, however, the details of the case:
In all, the IRS issued seven findings, four of which centered on mismanagement of student activity accounts at more than a dozen Boston schools. The three other findings focused on city payrolls. In addition to the Medicare deductions, the city was cited for a failure to deduct “deferred compensation” for some employees who do not qualify for the city’s pension plan and overtaxing some earnings.
I had gotten exactly this far in posting when Burlington Superintendent Eric Conti's post on his district's student activity accounts came across my Twitter feed; if you're looking for a local perspective on what an audit and district response looks like, give it a read.  

There's a lot to talk about there, 'though the Globe editorial board captured my main puzzlement over the whole thing, which is the degree to which Superintendent Chang was getting blamed for a mess. Most of the fine was municipal, not schools, and the error appears to well predate him; what came to his attention he appears to have worked to correct.  The biggest error he seems to have made was not letting his Committee know as soon as possible (truism about district governance: never let your school committee find out something about the schools from the front page!)

The IRS audit found federal (and, relatedly, state) tax issues. This did flag a SEPARATE issue of the use of student activity accounts.

I do want to stress here, though, something which I think got somewhat lost in the coverage: the IRS was not (and does not) audit for the use of student activity accounts. The IRS was auditing around tax payments, and, because student activity accounts were being used to pay for staffing without paying for taxes, they were flagged. They weren't flagged for the use, though: they were flagged for the non-payment of taxes.

So what ARE student activity accounts, anyway?
They're covered under MGL Ch. 71, section 47, which reads as follows (if it looks too long, read the bold sections):
Notwithstanding the provisions of the preceding paragraph or section fifty-three of chapter forty-four, the school committee of a city, town or district may authorize a school principal to receive money in connection with the conduct of certain student activities and to deposit such money, with the municipal or regional school district treasurer, into an interest bearing bank account, hereinafter referred to as the Student Activity Agency Account, duly established by vote of the school committee to be used for the express purpose of conducting student activities. Interest earned by such Student Activity Agency Account shall be retained by the fund and the school committee shall determine for what purpose such earnings may be used. In addition to such Student Activity Agency Account, the school committee may authorize the municipal or regional school district treasurer to establish a checking account, hereinafter referred to as the Student Activity Checking Account, to be operated and controlled by a school principal and from which funds may be expended exclusively for student activity purposes for the student activities authorized by the school committee. Such account shall be used for expenditures only and funds received for student activities may not be deposited directly into such account.
The school committee shall vote to set the maximum balance that may be on deposit in such Student Activity Checking Account. The principal designated to operate and control such Student Activity Checking Account shall give bond to the municipality or district in such amount as the treasurer shall determine to secure the principal's faithful performance of his duties in connection with such account. To the extent that the funds are available in such Student Activity Agency Account, funds up to the maximum balance set by the school committee shall be transferred from the Student Activity Agency Account through the warrant process to initially fund such Student Activity Checking Account.
Periodically, to the extent that funds are available in such Student Activity Agency Account, the municipal or regional school district treasurer shall reimburse such Student Activity Checking Account, through the warrant process, to restore the limit set by the school committee. The principal shall adhere to such administrative procedures as the municipal or regional school district treasurer or accountant may prescribe. There shall be an annual audit of the student activity funds which shall be conducted in accordance with procedures as agreed upon between the school committee and the auditor based upon guidelines issued by the department of education.
Important point: the accounts exist solely to fund student activities, and not just "activities of students," but specific, school-recognized organizations (the band, the senior class, and so forth, though this may be less specific in the elementary schools). It isn't there for general use, but it has to be attached to a specific student activity; note that the specifics of this are to be spelled out through policy which is adopted by the school committee.

This doesn't specifically bar paying stipends (you would still, of course, need to do it legally, with withholding and all!), and I haven't read anything suggesting that anyone has weighed in on that. A good case, of course, would have to be made that the stipends were not just useful to the school, but specific to student activity (and don't take that as legal advice!).

Note further that there are in effect two accounts: there's one account the money goes into (the Student Activity Agency Account) and there's one it comes out of (the Student Activity Checking Account); the checking account has a maximum balance, set by School Committee policy, and money can only be transferred from where the money is deposited to where it is spent by the regular funding process (this is usually warrants; it isn't in Boston). Also, those handling the funds have to be covered under the municipal (or district) bonding.

The accounts MUST--and this is new!--be audited annually. I'm going to recommend here that those interested look at MASBO's guidance, updated last year (that's a Word doc), which reads in part as follows:
The Superintendent or the School Business Administrator shall arrange for the annual audit, not the bookkeeper or the principal involved with the student activity account. The audit may be an internal audit performed internally by someone completely independent of the process or an independent third party if so approved by the School Committee; the internal audit must be documented. At least one time every three years, however, an independent audit firm must perform the audit. The School Committee may elect to have all annual audits done by an independent audit firm.
The dissemination of all audit reports should follow School Committee policy.
The cost of the independent audit may be paid by the School Committee from its budget or from the interest earned on the student activity account. The School Committee should specify in its Policy how the cost of the audit will be paid.
In addition to the annual audit, there should be on-going internal reviews by the School Business Administrator or another designee of the Superintendent. These internal reviews should involve reviewing the monthly reports prepared by the individuals having daily oversight over the accounts.
Worcester updated its policy when the guidance came out to provide for annual external student activity account audits. Thus the provision of an external audit for Boston isn't really that big a deal, 'though $600,000 is still a lot of money! It is very concerning, though, to read this from Mayor Walsh:
"These accounts were launched in the early '90s; they have never been reviewed or audited until now."
To be honest, I mostly hope he's just wrong about that. The requirements changed last year, but there was always a requirement that the accounts be audited.
There is also an explicit requirement for ongoing internal reviews of the accounts under the oversight of the superintendent and the school business administrator.

I'm going to flag here how often the School Committee and the policy they pass is part of the above. I can't find the BPS policies on the website--that may just be me!--but that would be the only other piece, since now there is a change in procedure, including an annual audit, that I can see missing.
(Curious about what that might look like? Check out JJF.)

Massachusetts Council of School Attorneys 2017 Annual Meeting

First up: Rhoda Schneider from DESE
"change is constant in this field...there's a reason we went into public education, or for many of us, school law...there are changes in education and in law every day...that keeps our practice dynamic"

New bilingual law: LOOK act
to design and tailor work with English learners
there will be guidelines and regulations: rolling out over the course of the next six months or so
"every reason to hope this law will be a benefit"

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Talking about student growth

I want to give some more thought to this before opining, but I thought others might be interested in this New York Times piece in "The Upshot" on student growth scores, and the research from which it comes. The Times article has a "gosh, the poor kids can be learning faster; whodathunk?" tone, but the bit where you can add a district is interesting (Worcester essentially gets kids to and keeps them at grade level), and it at least turns us away from the still-too-often measurements in which learning tracks with wealth.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

and it's a light agenda...
There's an executive session to discuss collective bargaining with IAs, OT/PT assistants, and administrative secretaries, plus a grievance from an HVAC technician.

There is a report on social-emotional learning (as yet, no backup).

There are some appointments, retirements, and recognitions.

Mr. Monfredo wants to ask the state to fund full-day preschool and wants to discuss a program for four year olds. Please consider this your reminder that the Foundation Budget Review Commission "recognized" preschool; also recall that it is not, by any means, the biggest dollar concern on the foundation budget for Worcester. Eyes on the prize, people.

Miss Biancheria would like a report on adult education in the vo-tech programs.

Miss McCullough is advocating for a sharing table (I think we already have them some places.)

Mr. O'Connell wants to fly the national, state, and city flags at all schools, and he wants a list of who is on CPPAC.

The committee is being asked to accept a $52,000 grant for MassGrad Promising Practices, which will work on competency-based education at the alternative programs.

The committee is being asked to accept donations:

  • $1,000 from Chapter 9 of the 173rd Airborne Brigade Association to Worcester Technical High School for a graphic communications scholarship for a deserving student
  • $560 to Tatnuck Magnet School from Gomez Enterprises, LLC (Trade name-McDonalds)
  • $ 35 from various donors to Tatnuck Magnet School

The committee is being asked to appoint three nurses.

The committee is also asked to authorize an "up to" five year lease of thirteen full-sized school buses. As Scott O'Connell covered in yesterday's T&G, this is about covering the after-school sports transportation, which didn't receive a single bid. If you read the backup memo (as always in finance, recommended), the proposal is to do this by reallocating funds. It also is a possible lead in to bigger changes:

Monday, December 4, 2017

How the tax bill hurts school budgets

Yes, it's a disaster in many, many ways, but let's talk about how it's terrible for local school budgets.
Local school budgets are funded almost entirely through state and local taxes. The degree to which a local district is federally funded varies (usually in connection with student need), but even a district with a relatively high degree of federal funding like Worcester gets less than 8% of its district budget from federal funding.
WPS FY18 budget, page 18

Where does the rest come from?
In Massachusetts, the state's internal standard is that 51% of the foundation budget comes from local sources and 49% from state sources statewide. Districts, we know, are almost all paying more than the foundation budget towards their district budgets. That money comes largely from property taxes. Towns have few other sources of income. Even a city like Worcester, which does have other sources of revenue, recognize property taxes as the biggest source of local revenue.
City of Worcester FY18 budget, page 5. Note, incidentally, that the second largest source of funds is the state's chapter 70 appropriation for Worcester, which passes through directly to the schools (WPS and charter).

At the state level, Massachusetts had $26 billion of revenue projected for FY18 (this fiscal year); of that, over $15 billion was from income taxes. It's the largest single source of income for the state.

Both of the above--income taxes and property taxes--are deductible from federal taxes. You might remember that when you filed your federal income taxes, you filled in (or the software self-populated) what you paid the town in property taxes and the state in income taxes, among other things. The federal government then didn't tax you on that amount. That's the SALT (state and local taxes) deduction.
The tax bill passed by both the House and Senate removes that deduction. And what would that do?
I'll quote here from the Salon article, which they're sourcing from the Government Financial Officers Association report:
...the loss of the SALT deduction would apply significant pressure on states and municipalities to reduce taxes in order to offset the increases in federal taxes paid by their constituents. Using the 8th Congressional District in Texas north of Houston as a model, the GFOA estimates that the district would see an increase in federal taxes of $306 million dollars. Offsetting that with state and local tax decreases could impact $125 million in school funding. Simply put: education funding is an enormous local and state expenditure, and it would have to be cut in order to provide any relief to tax payers who lost SALT.
In other words, the federal government just raised most of our taxes, and the only source of "relief" on that would be to cut local and state taxes. And those are the taxes that fund public schools.

So what can we do? Well, it still has to survive conference committee, so keep calling. 

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Board of Ed in sum

Crossposted from MASC 
The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education met on Tuesday, November 28. The agenda is posted here. 
The meeting opened with updates from Acting Commissioner Wulfson, who spoke of the recently signed LOOK bill on bilingual education. He commented that it was "designed to provide additional flexibility for English language learners," and he told the Board that they would receive a complete update at their December meeting. He also spoke of the results of the first school climate survey, which students took after completing the MCAS this past year. He said it was a "first attempt to quantify some qualitative measures." He noted that the influx of students coming from Puerto Rico not only has continues, but appears to have picked up, with the state having passed 1400 new students last week; the state continues to monitor that and is discussing what is to be done with and for districts both this year and next. Finally, he warmly praised East Boston's McKay School, which he recently visited and was among the schools positively profiled in a recent Boston Globe article.
Secretary Peyser gave a brief update on the administration's interagency opioid work.
Public comments included opposition to wireless internet access and testimony from the head of the two virtual schools in support of the proposed tuition increase (see below).

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Not in the habit of linking to the 74, but Massachusetts

You should probably read this interview with Russell Johnston. I want to call your attention to two things of note (beyond the Commissioner Chester hagiography).
First he says this:
Within special education, we have a challenge in our state that we have the second-highest rate of identification of students with disabilities in the nation, and it’s been fairly unmovable for many years now. Particularly what we see as a concern is that we’re overidentifying children from poverty.
Whoa, hang on a second...yes, we have a higher rate of identifying kids with special ed needs than elsewhere. Why are we assuming that we are overidentifying rather than others underidentifying? Given what we know about other states, expenses, attention to what works in education, and the like, shouldn't we err on the other side? Yes, there is a danger of just sticking kids in special education who might have other needs, but I've also seen too many parents having to fight to get their kids actually needed services to think that's all that much of a thing.
Also, on the "from poverty" bit: poverty can in fact cause special education needs. Lack of adequate nutrition, exposure to environmental impacts, and other associated risks of childhood poverty in fact impact brain development and growth in very particular ways. That does in fact raise the rates of special education needs among kids who are poor. There's a reason why Flint, Michigan is about to undergo a special education crisis, and that isn't due to overidentification.

Second, the 74 is the ed reformers newsletter. Are they backing an internal horse in the race for Massachusetts Commissioner? It's a little odd to profile a Senior Associate Commissioner in a national publication.
And no, I don't know things. Those applications are confidential, and I don't know who is applying, either. 

Article on OML complaint on the strategic planning process

Scott O'Connell writes about the Open Meeting Law complaint around the strategic planning committee. The only comment I'll make is this:
People are generally free to attend the committee meetings as well if they ask to, Mr. McGourthy added. “We’ve never said no to anyone who wants to participate.” a pointless offer if nobody knows when or where the meetings are!

I did speak to the AG's office before Thanksgiving, so they're working on this, still.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

November Board of Ed: standards updates

History and social studies
ELA and math implementation
also coming: arts and health

Wulfson: update on review of history and social sciences curriculum framework
getting field involved "has been very much a part of this process"
"this team has really provided for a lot of public input"

Peske: appreciate educators who have served with us; panel review process
what is a standard? What a student should do and be able to do, and should be measureable
curriculum? content standards and other materials to support instruction

what teachers should teach and students should learn

Buchanan: multiphase process
public survey, "one of the strongest responses we've seen...there's a lot of interest in this"
convene review panel: six meetings
drafting and reviewing proposed revisions
plan is to present draft of revision to Board to vote to invite public comment in January
Board to vote new standards in June

Priorities were to emphasize civics education and to deepen understanding
improve also rigor, clarity, and coherence
"major concern by demographic group" and engagement

New full year civics course proposed for grade 8: "centerpiece around which we drew a through line"
civics standards integrated into every grade
"middle school is a place where the first really deep look" into our system of government happens
revised U.S. Gov and Politics standards for grade 12
emphasis in supporting sections: introduction: "A Renewed Mission: Education for Civic Life in a Democracy"
guiding principles: studying current events, data analysis, media literacy skills
history and social science practice, prek-12
research, process, analysis, evaluation of credibility of sources
sample guiding and supporting questions

Grade 8 to include: philosophical foundations of US political system; institutions of US government; rights & responsibilities of citizens; Constitution, amendments, SCOTUS decisions; state and local government

"8th grade seen as a launch pad for the work they'll do in US History in high school"

Q from Fernandez on integration of social emotional learning
A from Susan Wheltle of the guiding principles, also overlap in curriculum with early grades in what is required
in older grades shifts into how institutions are formed
democracy in the classroom: "every day democracy...then democracy within every larger groups of society"
comes with discussion of how we're always wrestling with interpretations of history
Buchanan: having students do more independent research
students be reviewing primary source documents
"investigating these questions actively"
"What historical interpretation involves"

(this in response to Moriarty) grade 12 course designed to be leading students to what they'll be doing in college
research, digging into practices, what they're learning on the national stage can be applied locally
maintaining content from 2003 framework in revised document

Peyser: "it's more like a Rubik's Cube than a stone in a pond" to revise the standards while retaining the core of 2003 standards
"we obviously haven't seen it all yet, so let's not get ahead of ourselves"

Sagan: what are your thoughts on what we'll measure?
"I am reluctant to talk more assessments"
Wulfson: we know there's a question of assessment before us; we've just started to do some thinking on what a history and social science assessment would look like
chance to integrate some new models, perhaps some project based
Sagan: don't want to do it serially
Wulfson: hope to have some resources in FY19 to flesh that out

McKenna; applaud all of you getting to this point
all students will have civics
having it integrated, students with more resources would get it and others would not

Sagan: have draft education from Legislature, which is unusual
Wulfson: at this point, have not filed a formal bill
some things that would be helpful for us, some things that we suggest might be a pilot
"we are providing..."
Sagan: "but they wrote to us, not to you, so we as a Board need to respond"
McKenna: suggest sending them the draft standards in January
"I think the nervousness has been that DESE won't move this ahead"
Sagan will respond with plan and schedule

arts and health standards haven't been revised since 1999
arts: group to be created in January; back to Board with final revision by spring 2019
health a few months behind that

and adjourned! 

November Board of Ed: virtual schools tuition increase

Wulfson: virtual schools "very much a work in progress"
"still trying to understand who they best serve and how to ensure they're good schools"
review how they're funded

Proposal is to increase their tuition from the school choice tuition of $5000 to $8190
this is, essentially, per pupil average minus the $75 for overhead
rate is pro-rated based on how long a student is enrolled
are paid monthly beginning in October

Chuang: originally created under innovation school law
law was passed then to give oversight to the Board
"not marginal cost operations"
rate setting is the purview of this board
has been no adjustment of rate; creates pressure on virtual schools in operating costs
students who attend to virtual schools tend to be more (on average) disadvantaged than the state average
Klau: Massachusetts imbues board of schools as fully independent to ensure schools are serving their students well
virtual school teachers are required to be certified in Massachusetts
have to provide ELL, special education (paid for by district of residence), must develop steps to attract, retain, enroll target populations
schools know when students have log-in, what activities they're engaged in, teachers can track student progress in real time

December discussion on per pupil tuitition
January/February: review of Greenfield Virtual based on conditions that were placed on their renewal

local school committees can restrict enrollment to 1% of their student population
there could be up to four more; there has as yet been no interest from the field in expansion

students enrolled in a virtual school more likely to be high mobility, disadvantaged in other ways

increases would go to school side not to contractual arrangements

Moriarty: churn rate and retention rate
what do you do?
A: two family engagement staff positions for that
track attendance online

"they come to us with disrupted learning, they come to us somewhat skeptical or jaded" on their learning and their success
Wulfson: one of the potentials here is rolling in time missed
they'll be back in December

November Board of Ed: special education, foster care, ESSA

see backup here and there's a Powerpoint but it's an outline
changes under ESSA on foster care rule
to minimize period of disruption of children's education
any at least 24 hour out of home care
under best interest determination to stay in school of origin
amending rules only as it pertains to foster care
both programmatic and fiscal responsibility
"most of the time, districts can work this out themselves" but do about 400 decisions annually
living in one district, attending in another
looking to promote simplicity
looking for a single rule for all students under foster care
intended to promote stability of students and responsibility

West: what is the plan to be sure students and families understand their options under the new law?
work going through now on that
Wulfson: ESSA is very unclear on who should pay for a student going to original school
Vote to send to public comment

November Board of Ed: MCAS as graduation requirement

backup is here
Wulfson: this year's ninth graders first to take new high school MCAS as their competency determination
because it's new, they haven't seen it yet
more rigorous
"for that class and the class behind them, that this Board set an interim passing standards for the  competency determination set...equivalent to the current passing level of the current MCAS test"
intended as an interim moving: beginning conversation of raising bar for classes subsequent
sending proposal out for official public comment
return in February to adopt them
"have done extensive outreach to the field...superintendent and principals have been very, very supportive of this approach"

West: implicit in this step that we're taking is an additional conversation about where the bar should be set after this transitional period
Wulfson: agrees
Board has signaled to field that over the long run, we are raising expectations
Board votes to send to public comment

November Board of Ed: FY19 budget update

Craven: House 2 is being prepared
where we would like to see emphasis
"the foundation budget formula...we could throw another billion dollars at it this's so huge that I tend to gloss over it"
special education circuit breaker
"want to see the accounts that the state follow through"
regional transportation
civics education
early literacy
working with other agencies
wanted to be sure early breakfast didn't fall off priority list
gifted and talented students; W&M study
"priorities, more than dollar amounts, in front of Governor and Legislature"
McKenna: regulations coming from LOOK bill?
require some professional development in terms of new programs
Wulfson: tight timetable, as well
fiscal distress of rural schools: FBRC won't necessarily benefit rural schools due to declining enrollment
districts are over foundation already
"haven't quite figured out the solution to the problems they're facing"
Note: acutely aware of impact of students from Puerto Rico; this year and next year as well
"make sure districts are not financially disaffected from that"

November Board of Ed: update on Lawrence

You can find the backup here.
Sagan: some announcements of changes in receivership in Lawrence
Wulfson: joined others up in Lawrence; Riley announced he'll step down at the end of this year
recap where we are in progress on this district
after his presentation, will talk more about moving forward on receivership
Riley: "I wasn't sure I wanted to come...I was pretty happy in the Boston Public was very hard to leave"
"best experience of my professional career"
"parents, teachers, kids are amazing"
strong gains particularly in mathematics, science has nearly doubled
"growth scores big" over 50 in new MCAS
Graduation rate now up over 71%, "heading hopefully to 80 in the coming years"
dropout rate has been cut in half
used school funding to fix the buildings
"perhaps one of the most important things we did to parents to buy in"
"we've gone too far in the world of education in just assessing students by a test"
arts, enrichment, "these are things that are valuable"
"I hope that these things will continue"
"This was a home-grown investment...if anything, my role was a facilitator"
still more to do
special education road map for next years: "structure of special education has to be fixed"
"And I would be remiss if I did not talk about the budget"
"The foundation budget is not working for Gateway Cities; we need to revisit that...and the city needs to go beyond the minimum."
"It's incumbent on this Board" to work on foundation budget
"there is virtual nowhere left to cut"
"there is still persistent achievement gaps that aren't being addressed, there are still communities that don't have what they need to address the needs of their students"
"positive first step" to shift to board
look forward to day that schools will be returned to local authority

state receivership seen by some as punishment
take responsibility in Constitution
step in where it is not working
Lawrence in a much better place than it was six years ago
"see it as being a partnership with the district"
next step: will be a board
"really two things that need to happen" to leave receivership: continue progress, ensure there is a local governing structure and climate that the gains will be sustained once the state leaves
"starts to bring more local voices into the mix"
the receivership board will select a new superintendent who will report to receivership board (who will report to Commissioner)
Board will be between five and seven members: good educational policy foundation "regardless of where they live" and some from Lawrence
Board will act as if it is a governmental body: comply with public records law, open meeting law
"important step in re-engaging community and being transparent about its work"
hope and expect that it will meet with school committee, members of community
Sagan: is there a model of moving towards shared responsibility
Wulfson: some school committee members re-elected
Sagan: "I don't know how that's possible with what they did!" (wow)
Wulfson: will engage in conversation with mayor if that's the best structure of long-term governance
(so are we contemplating governance changes? We don't like school committees now?)
saw in New Bedford "a respected superintendent" stepping down as she didn't receive the support she needed
spoke of long-term continuiting of superintendents at MASS/MASC conference (he did, but didn't mention the school committees!)

McKenna on continuing to raise graduation
Riley: a lot of it is bringing students back
now about academic engagement: keeping kids in
kids have internships, work studies, college credits

Craven: lessons learned?
Riley: trust teachers
"strength of our district is our teachers"
"believing in teachers and letting them have a voice"
collaboration: "getting people from all sides" in

West: insight into final step to return to local control
"possibility to make changes to the school governance structure"
"or whether you have an appointed committee"
Riley: I don't think there should be anything taken off the table
"anything to make sure kids in Lawrence are getting a better and better education every year"
structure remains to be seen
McKenna: Connecticut has Commissioner district that are majority funded by state; board is majority appointed by state, some appointed by local

Moriarity on third grade reading
Riley: agree but also need to give students time to learn second language; we know it takes several years to acquiring language

November Board of Ed: Commissioner search update

Sagan: consultant was here yesterday
preliminary screening committee met yesterday for the first time
"we appear to be on the schedule so far"
"we are on an aggressive schedule, but we will take the time that we need"
deadline of December 15
consultant "has been very pleased with the response"
"makes me optimistic that we'll have some great people to consider"
committee will meet again on December 18
screening committee will interview some of those who have applied
then will meet in early January to vote some to move forward
January 17 and 18 are being held by Board to interview finalists publicly
selection made by end of January (Board meets week after interview dates on the 23rd)
homework for screening committee interview and for full Board
Sagan is now distributing what was done by Board 11 years ago
consultant also prepared something that he is also handing out
Sagan to follow up with each Board member
suggestion: implementation of public equity
"get them to tell us about their experience in a way that goes beyond the resume"
Stewart clarifies: Board would vote at regular Board meeting on January 23?
some concern over what else might be on the agenda
Sagan: "But NO ONE should think that that meeting will be a short one: it never is!"