Tuesday, February 28, 2017

March Board of Ed: Teacher evaluation

aka dropping the student impact rating as a separate item
Chester: heard that student impact rating was not working (from both admin and from teachers)
several rounds with teachers' unions "short of divorcing student impact" would not be receptive to changes

March Board of Ed: budget and Chapter 70

Chester updates on FY18 (plus a spreadsheet) and on chapter 70

March Board of Ed: recovery high schools

Recovery high schools
Chester: five high schools across the state; to help students who have substance abuse addictions
clear that districts would like better guidance around the topic of recovery high schools
brought today for a final vote
obligations of sending districts with regard to special ed services
and clarify process of recovery high school and district of residence on how best to meet student needs

Two sets of comments: department clarified and simplified in a number of places in response to them
also felt some best dealt with through policy
Sagan: "surprisingly small...I can't imagine there isn't some need"
A: family involved initiative
adolescents reluctant to admit they need to attend
 Sagan: assume there's a big difference between admit the problem and admission
"is there anything we know that we might want to do to help more young people?"
most programs are residential and expensive (in other states)

Reg changes pass

March Board of Ed: teacher licensure and license renewal

Chester: in essence what we've done with these regulations is work within existing statute
change in existing regulations within the statutory structure
initial step towards addressing multiple preliminary licenses that are not time dependent
making it very difficult for school administrators are teaching under a current or expired license
Peske: back up is here

March Board of Ed: accountability and assessment amendments

Chester: schools have adopted a range of tests over the past few years
all schools now taking next MCAS for the first time this spring
"in light of that, and we're transitioning the accountability system...what I'm asking the Board to endorse is the idea that at the close of this school year...that we would essentially think of this as a reset of schools on their accountability status and a reset going forward"
"we would not for this one year...create or identify levels for each school"
a couple of exceptions: Level 4 and 5 can advance
two recommendations: below 90% regardless of scores would be Level 3; average participation of three years to determine
required to move to 95% in 2017-18
sending out to public comment

schools exiting turnaround status stay in plan until Commissioner has agreed to exit conditions
responding to MTA concern: decision would have to be within two months

March Board of Education: MCAS achievement levels

Sagan: I gather from some correspondence this week there is still a robust debate
understand that we don't need to rush the vote
Chester: set of recommendations around the performance levels, the labels and descriptions
"developed through a very deliberative process"
standard-setting policy committee
teachers, others in the field
ID number of performance levels as well as names and descriptors
wanted to end up with labels and descriptors that spoke plainly to parents
too often labels don't make it clear that a young person is falling behind
has heard from at least one Board member
need to get it done in the March meeting
Wulfson: "I'm not sure we have anything else to add"
McKenna "I would say (Wulfson) met the expectations"

Bob Lee: wanted to send clear signals
proficiency doesn't signal readiness for college and lack of proficiency doesn't necessarily signal not being ready for college
"nailing just that language"
  • Exceeding expectations
  • Meeting expectations
  • Partially meeting expectations
  • Not meeting expectations
Last had included "yet" but that includes some expectation that they're working on it
not clear that it is true
Noyce "if a kid's not yet meeting expectations, everybody should be treating that as an emergency"
Peyser: "if you're in the bottom category" additional assistance should be provided
on meeting expectations, "it's this question as to if you're on track"
"you're on track to being successful at the next grade level"
top level "You're doing wicked well"
"mastery of content and skills"
ready for next year
Wulfson: will be in parents' hands in the next year
move away from old rubrics; people felt students were being told "you just can't make this"
"not just the student's problem; it's everyone's problem"
Sagan: ought to be up to district what support is provided
much of the wrangling at this point is around the accompanying description rather than the bullet points
Moriarity asks if this falls into regulation, or is this good enough in giving schools guidance in speaking to families
Wulfson: giving information to parents
Moriarity: that work isn't going to happen effectively at this level
Craven: keeping track of your kids is "an increasingly more technologically fraught endeavor"

back to this in March  

March Board of Ed: 2016 dropout and cohort graduation rates

Chester "continues to be positive news overall"
progress has been "very substantial" and in the districts with the longest way to go
Rob Curtin: three sets of data
four year graduation rate has increased to 87.5% from 87.3%
2015 rate (within five years) 89.5% from 88.5%

March Board of Ed: TEC Academy

"certificate" not "charter" under state law
law changed due to recommendations of Board
virtual schools fairly new in Massachusetts
"nationally, the performance of virtual schools is decidedly mixed at best"
has proposed refinements to virtual schools "including tuition"
TEC has "made some good progress" in its short life
learning about which students are attracted to virtual schools
"This virtual school doesn't have a great graduation rate, but that doesn't deter me from recommending" its renewal
Two conditions on renewal:
requiring all students to participate in state assessment
school needs better plan than currently to serve ELL students

The February Board of Education meeting: starting with opening remarks and "about last night"

The Board of Education meets today at 8:30; the agenda is here. 
Last night, after a significant amount of public comment, the Board voted to approve the Plymouth charter,  Old Sturbridge Village charter, and the Westfield charter, despite concerns around its Gulen ties.  It approved all expansion plans except the plans for the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter, around which there was significant testimony around their lack of serving all students.
posting as we go

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Don't copy and paste; weigh in on your priorities

Among the latest things making the rounds on Facebook is a call to action that looks something like this:
Betsy Devos has begun her catastrophic destruction of public schools. 
Please call your US House Representative now and ask them to vote NO on House Bill 610 the Choices in Education Act. This bill will effectively start the defunding process of public schools, in hand with eliminating student rights and programs that address poverty, etc. It also takes away nutritional standards for school lunches...
Please copy and paste! Don't hit share -- not everyone will be able to see it if you do.

Okay, first of all: if you set your posts to "public" on Facebook, YES, everyone will be able to see whatever post you share.

Second, HB610 follows a LONG tradition of such proposals being made: President Reagan proposed eliminating the department in 1982, and it went nowhere. Senator Dole promised to do so during the 1996 presidential campaign. There were proposals (most recently) in 2011, 2013 and 2015. In fact, it's happened so often, there's even a GAO report on it.

So let's not blame Betsy DeVos and let's not panic.
As NPR puts it, this bill is posturing. Why?
...The Education Department is unlikely to be eliminated, particularly by a bill that declines to specify who or what would take over its $68 billion annual budget and the functions of data collection, oversight, civil rights enforcement and student aid, among others. 
"Whatever you think about the Department of Education, the idea you could eliminate it with a one-sentence bill is just posturing," Schoenbrod says. "Posturing is not something that's just done by Democrats or by Republicans. It's done by both."
Also, while Republicans control both houses of Congress, not all Republicans support this, and it would burn political capital on something that isn't a high priority for many; from EdWeek
But even in the current Republican-dominated political landscape, abolishing the department would cost Trump and his allies political capital that they might rather spend elsewhere. 
"That's a heavy lift, and there's some Republicans that may not be comfortable with that," said Vic Klatt, a former aide to House Republicans on the education committee who is now a principal at Penn Hill Group, a government relations organization in Washington. He thinks such a proposal could get tripped up in the Senate, which requires a 60-vote threshold to get past procedural hurdles.
 So, assuming that Congress isn't going to fast-track a bill to eliminate the Department of Education, what should we be watching at the federal level of education?

Civil rights.The most significant charge of the Department of Education is around civil rights in education. Most of the programs they administer--and the federal laws that gives money to states for certain programs--is given for a particular group that traditionally has had their access to education in some way (or ways) curtailed. Title I is the biggest program; it is devoted to kids who are poor. The department doesn't simply function as a pass-through for funds, though; all of those funds come with strings to particular actions, most of which have to do with ensuring kids have access to a quality education without segregation, discrimination, or obstacle.
We saw the first hole in this earlier this week, when the Trump administration rolled back (in essence) their notification to states that how they treat transgender students would be part of how the federal government oversaw Title IX. Most of us know Title IX because it's what forced schools to ensure access to girls in sports; it also ensures sexual assault on campuses is dealt with appropriately. The federal government rolling back their overseeing this means the federal government is no longer ensuring that the civil rights of transgender students are protected.
And that's a problem. States and local districts have (do I have to link to something here?) a pretty atrocious record when it comes to ensuring the civil rights of the vulnerable are protected.

Beyond trans* students, who should we be concerned for?

  • poor kids: Title I is the biggest program. This being sent to the state for block grants (aka: do what you like with this!) would remove one of the few things that nationally ATTEMPTS to address inequities in education around poverty (and, often, color). Note that school lunch programs ARE being undermined, but that's administered by US Ag; you should weigh in on that, too, but it's not out of this department. 
  • kids of color: this is one that overlaps with the Department of Justice. We finally started to see some acknowledgement of the huge disparity in discipline in and around schools along the color line in the Obama administration. Given the history of Attorney General Sessions, I am very concerned that we'll see the exact opposite under this one
  • kids with special ed needs: IDEA, while it has never fully been funded, is A) up for renewal (eventually. we hope.) and B) still a lot of money, Kids with special needs are, let's be blunt, expensive. It has been enormously important for the federal government to backstop their access to education with the federal funds and oversight.That, however, is done by the Office of Civil Rights, and DeVos has appeared willing to cut that
  • English language learners: Title III. Again, expensive and in some places, pretty unpopular (cue the "my grandfather just was sent into a classroom and..." stories), particularly with the current backlash around immigration. We know what works for kids learning languages; we need the fed to make sure it's happening. There are places where it won't otherwise.
  • Native American kids: Title VII is for Native American students, and the history here is sadly pretty awful. Because of their unique relationship with government, the federal government oversees much of this directly. There have been attempts in the previous administration to improve it. I don't see this as a priority for this administration.
  • Girls, LGBTQ students, and anyone else covered by Title IX...which is everybody!: this gets not only into equal access issues (as we've seen above); this also gets into safety issues. Students cannot be discriminated against on the basis of sex, and that means their safety is part of the guarantee. With no national assurance of equity, anyone covered by Title IX will have to look at states to oversee access. 
...are we missing anyone yet?

Here's my recommendation: if you want to advocate to your delegation about this issue, start by saying "I oppose the closure of the Department of Education" and then tell them why! It is much more likely--it is already happening!--that we'll see rollbacks on these guarantees than we'll see the entire department disappear. Tell Congress you want US DoE to do its job. 

And by all means share this! 

Your silence is speaking

Crossposted from Facebook
Something I've been thinking a lot about this past week:

Not every district is active on social media, so I don't expect that we all have seen every district's response.

But if you are a district that has
immigrant students,
Muslim students,
refugee students,
transgender students
--and that's every district--
and you have NOT said anything these past weeks about their safety and their importance to you, at this time that they are directly threatened?

Your silence is speaking volumes.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, March 2

Looks like a light agenda
There is no report of the superintendent.
There are no reports of subcommittees.
There are a number of congratulations.
There is a request from Miss McCullough for a report on bus tracking; note that this has been raised before.
There is a request that the committee accept $305.00 from the Tri State Truck Center, Inc. to the South High Community School’s Diesel Technician Training Program for the cost of a bus for a field trip.
Mayor Petty is asking about soccer for the Main South high schools.
Ms. Colorio is requesting a report on online learning.
She is also asking how many teachers were on administrative leave.

Administration is asking that the following courses be approved (note that this will go to TLSS for consideration; right now there's no information on the courses):
English Composition & Literature I
The Development of Early Civilizations
Science Engineering & Technology I
Advanced Seminar (in what?)

There is also an executive session on (you guessed it!) PCBs, negotiations with the teachers, and a grievance from an HVAC employee.

OH! And note that the WPS Facebook page has moved and is now here.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

The Board of Education meets Tuesday, February 28

The Board of Ed, on a Presidents' Day shift from their usual third week schedule, meets next week. The agenda is posted here (not a lot of backups as yet).

Monday night's meeting is the votes on charter schools. They're voting on three new schools:

...amendments to charters at:
I'll add back in the details once those are posted. 
It's interesting to note, BTW, that public comment is not on Monday; it's on Tuesday morning. Thus the Board will not have to hear public comment on these proposed additions or expansions before their vote. UPDATE: The Board now will hear public comment prior to voting. 
Recall that the Governor's budget level funds charter reimbursement for FY18; this year it was about 54% of what it should be.

On Tuesday morning, after the round of comments from the Chair, the Secretary, the Commissioner, and the public, there is a discussion of the graduation and dropout rates for 2015-16.
There will be a vote on the new MCAS descriptors; this would be student test results, not district and school results.
There will be a discussion and a vote to send to public comment the Department's proposed freeze of accountability levels under the new test. There's also a "Technical Amendment to Regulations on Accountability and Assistance for Districts and Schools"...I don't know what that is yet.
There is a discussion and a vote for public comment on proposed changes to educator licensure and license renewal. There is also the proposed amendment to move the student impact rating out of a separate section of evaluation.
There is a vote on regulations on recovery high schools (which have completed their public comment period).
There is an update on the Governor's budget for FY18 and an update on Chapter 70.
I'll add more above once more is posted.

I have a meeting Monday night, but I'll be there Tuesday! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Trump administration rolls back protection for transgender students

Rejecting their responsibility on what even our Secretary of Education appears to have realized is a civil rights issue, tonight the Trump administration rolled back federal protections for transgender students. You can read the full letter here. They also informed the Supreme Court that they would not be defending that guidance in court next month.
A few things to note:
This does not change Title IX or federal civil rights protections. It changes the federal interpretation of applying those protections.
It does not change Massachusetts General Law or regulation; for specific guidance on schools, DESE resources are here.

Finally, a few statistics that demonstrate why this matters;
33% of transgender youth have attempted suicide.
55% of transgender youth report being physically attacked.
74% of transgender youth reported being sexually harassed at school.
90% of transgender youth reported feeling unsafe at school because of their gender expression.
78% reported having been verbally harassed.
48% reported having been victims of assault, including assault with a weapon, sexual assault or rape.

These are our kids. They are in our schools. They need our protection.

And if by chance you are a transgender young person reading this: you're ours. You deserve better. Lots and lots of us care about you. And if you need support:

Friday, February 17, 2017

Two quick things on last night's Worcester School Committee meeting

  • On this Burncoat goes Goddard Scholars proposal: Goddard Scholars admits based on state standardized test scores. Will this proposed academy do the same? If so, that shuts out students whose parents refuse the state test on their behalf. It also will raise the same disparities--in race, income, and language--that we see in an arrangement based on test scores.
  • On the chronic absenteeism program: is this an extension of the years-long ad hoc committee that has been operating on absenteeism? If you think "it's taken so many years to get to this point," I invite you to use the search bar to the left for "absenteeism" to see the myriad reports that have been on this issue over the eight plus years of this blog.

Notes from Holyoke's panel on the foundation budget

As I was on last night's MASC panel in Holyoke, I wasn't able to liveblog or tweet. Here are a few notes on the discussion, however. Either on the panel or represented by staff were Rep. John Velis of Westfield, Rep. Aaron Vega of Holyoke, Rep. Solomon Goldstein-Rose of Amherst, and Senator Eric Lesser (who was represented by Joel McAuliffe). 

On possible changes before the Fair Share amendment: Solomon-Rose has proposed a bill that would close a dividend loophole and bring in $880M a year; the bill specifies half for FBRC and half for charter reimbursement. While it doesn't have good prospects for passage, there are ideas on the table.

On budget and specifically on charter reimbursement: Vega: "Nothing's going to change in the next six months"
"Taking the pros and cons off the table, we're not doing out commitment to charter reimbursement."
Velis: "If we say we're going to do something, we need to do it."

On what gets focused on: Velis: "What are our constituents saying? Hold us accountable."

On what wasn't included in FBRC: This from me. It increases the recognized percent of special education, but still doesn't recognize actual need in special education. Preschool is "recognized" but is not a recommendation. The low income recommendation isn't spelled out, so there's more work to be done on that. FBRC also intentionally did not touch the question of funding; the local/state split is going to have to come up sometime.

On how to handle the tension over need and funding increases: Vega comments that there is a discussion to have no one lose anything, but to have increases in funding to go highest need districts and communities first.

On if Fair Share will pass: Solomon-Rose says it's polling at 70%

On regional transportation: referencing earlier comments on charter reimbursement, Vega echoes that it is a commitment that was made, and they need to be held accountable.

On the increasing amount that health care is taking in the state budget and what options are: Solomon-Rose supports single payer. There is a bill in the Legislature sponsored by Senator Eldridge that would study that and report back. GIC could be opened to everyone, or could be expanded. The state could bulk-purchase drugs.

On the interconnectedness of everything: Lesser's focus on high-speed rail is about making the jobs in Boston connected to the affordable housing in Western Mass. Bringing back families would also support school enrollment.

On Lesser's empowerment zone bill: "We have heard from a lot of you." There will be changes to it; it's a bill. "We want your input on it." Get in touch with your own reps and senators, as "we're open to anything."

Closing words from a Mohawk Regional member: Referencing MassBudget's comparison of city to suburbs, "Why should a child in Newton get more funding that a child in Lynn?"
"We need to organize--and maybe sue--to adequately fund education."

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Mass Senate Education Committee (Democratic side)

Democratic Senate Committee assignments were released earlier today. The Senators assigned to the Joint Committee on Education are as follows:
Senator Sonia Chang-Diaz, Chair
Senator Pat Jehlen, Vice-Chair
Senator Jason Lewis
Senator Barbara L'Italien
Senator Michael Barrett
The House usually takes a bit longer.

AP declining in importance

Yet another article today (this time in the Wall Street Journal) on how advanced placement courses and tests are declining in importance.
Not the basket to be putting all one's eggs in.

Districts in Wyoming don't have enough state funding, but the state legislature doesn't want to hear about it

Bold move in Wyoming:
CHEYENNE — An amendment to the Senate’s budget bill would prevent school districts from using state-appropriated funds to sue Wyoming...The amendment is notable because of a series of landmark court cases that reshaped Wyoming’s educational landscape. Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Campbell County decisions, as they’re known, dictated that education here be adequate and equitable, meaning a student in Teton County, for example, must receive the same education as a student in Goshen County.
 It’s also notable because of Wyoming’s education funding crisis. Lawmakers are considering bills to cut education in order to deal with a projected $400 million annual shortfall, a hole brought on by a two-year downturn in the energy industry. As legislators learn the history of education funding here and begin to undertake the task of roping in spending, there’s concern about looming lawsuits.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Worcester School Committee meets February 16

You can find the agenda here. It looks as though there are subcommittee meetings both today and tomorrow, 'though I haven't seen any mention of what's going on with those due to weather.
In addition to those subcommittee reports and some recognitions, there is a report on chronic absenteeism (no backup posted as yet).
There are also a few teacher appointments.
There is a list of the crew team's equipment, which Mr. O'Connell had requested.
Mr. O'Connell would like to bring back PEAK (which was a gifted program for elementary students).
Miss Biancheria would like a wrestling team. She also would like a summary of the principals' challenges on safety.
Mr. Monfredo would like to consider a K1 program.
The School Committee is being asked to accept:
  • "a donation in the amount of $7,500.00 from McGraw Hill Education that will allow Susan Farrell, Rose Dawkins and Dr. Mary Meade-Montaque, to attend the 2017 Patrick Suppes Personalized Learning Forum at Stanford University and Google Inc. Headquarters."
  • a $3000 Patterson Parternship grant for Chandler Elementary's library.
  • a $122,500 state grant for Worcester Tech for career vocational training...no details in the backup on what the money's being spent on.
  • a $21,000 grant from UNUM "to enhance the classroom curriculum and support specific classroom initiatives," which will be measured by "students' comprehension and fluency." So I'm assuming they're spending that on literacy somehow.
Also, there is an executive session at 6pm, which includes (you guessed it!) PCBs as well as a grievance and two workers' comp cases.

Funding urban education at the whim of private enterprise

Lastly, the framers' decision to place the provisions concerning education in "The Frame of Government" -- rather than in the "Declaration of Rights" -- demonstrates that the framers conceived of education as fundamentally related to the very existence of government.                                                 McDuffy v. Secretary, 1993
Front page article in the T&G today on something we all knew was happening: "Urban districts lean on private support as public funds dwindle."

Let's talk for a minute about how problematic this is.

The biggest problem is what I've posted above from McDuffy v: education is a public endeavor, which is to be done for the public good, and thus is done with public funds. Allowing private enterprise to determine what is funded not only runs us right into this careerism focus which is plaguing education now, anyway; it sends us into territory in which private enterprise determines what public education is to be. While this is in keeping with much of what is happening in government now, we should fight to keep it away from public education. Public education isn't to give companies their next round of workers; it's to make sure we continue having a democracy.

The more immediate danger, of course, is that pointed to by Tom Scott:
any acceptance in Massachusetts that businesses and individuals can replace what taxes should be paying for is a "dangerous path to go down."
Contrary to what he says, though, I'd say we're already there. When the superintendent of the Worcester Public Schools estimates that she's spending 20% of her time wooing businesses, when there's a 25,000 student public system that's needing leadership; when the Governor thinks that a fundamental reform of how we fund public education in the Commonwealth isn't among the most pressing issues on his plate; and when we have private companies talking of training their employees in issues of education to assist, we're already there.

We need funding reform, and we need it yesterday.

Friday, February 10, 2017

To petition the Government for a redress of grievances

I posted this earlier on Twitter in response to the video of Secretary DeVos being blocked from entering an elementary school this morning. 

The 😱 reactions to the DeVos video show an unfamiliarity with local politics; I've been at school board meetings more heated.

This is something I've been thinking about since Pence went to "Hamilton." A LOT of people in this admin haven't been public officials (starting, obviously, at the top) Not only haven't they (largely) been governors, senators, what have you; they haven't been on zoning board, or school board or selectboard, haven't been an assessor or a clerk.

It's a big wake up call: you work for the public. All of the public.

Not all of the public likes your ideas.

Not all of the public likes you.

We put directly in the First Amendment their right to tell you so.
"the right of the people...to petition the Government for a redress of grievances...shall not be abridged."

It can be pretty shocking to realize that you're now that Government being petitioned. Might be a little easier not on a national stage.

In any case, Ms. DeVos, President Trump, et all: You work for us now.

We're the people. We're petitioning for redress. It is our right.

Because boy, do we have grievances.

MASBO February meeting, in sum

as sent out over the MASC list-serv

I don’t think this rises to the level of a full “Novick Reports,” but I did want to pass along a few notes yesterday from MASBO’s February meeting, particularly as it focused heavily on state budget issues.
The Mass Taxpayers’ Foundation opened with an analysis of both FY17 and FY18 (my notes are here). There was a particular emphasis on the gap between revenue and expenditures, and in particular the increasing costs of MassHealth.
Jay Sullivan from DESE gave his update (notes). Along with reminders of due dates and reports, he did give some projections for FY18 based on the Governor’s budget (‘though he also reminded us that the Governor’s budget isn’t the end). Do note that the charter reimbursement percentage he gave of 73% bundles in the facilities funding, so that’s not really the number you’re looking for. He did also flag coming changes due to ESSA on how Title I works.
Melissa King of DESE gave an update on the Governor’s budget (notes). In addition to what you already know, she did note that this year 92 districts are getting foundation aid; the remainder of districts are getting hold harmless aid plus the (Governor’s) $20/pupil increase. That brings the amount of funding from the state over foundation aid to over $400 million.
They invited Roger Hatch (now retired) to reflect on state funding of education (notes). Overall, he pointed to the difference having a foundation budget has made from a state budgetary perspective: it pulled equity into the equation (when making additions or cuts), which had not previously been the case, and it established a floor beyond which the state can/does (?) not cut when it comes to education funding.
The school business officials continued their work on data management (in concert with DESE) in the afternoon; a peek at that is here.

Mistakes, as always, mine, and questions welcome.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

MASBO February meeting: data management

Pthis is called "EOYR-EPIMS Alignment" but I'm not going to do that to you all

Timeline on improving collection of school finance data
webinars on teacher contracts and on PD expediture
crosswalk of EPIMS and the end of year report: looking at the data on the two systems
possible changes to the chart of accounts, including function codes and guidance
collecting recommendations by Feb. 24

King: want the two sets of data to match up and improves comparability
 Now asking for "gripes" on the alignment between these two systems 

MASBO February meeting: Governor's budget

Melissa King: going to be brief
about 2% increase over last year: about $37M inflation and enrollment growth
enrollment essentially flat statewide; substantial growth in municipals and ring
benefits rate in the formula: small inroad into FBRC recommendation: about 10% of what was modeled
inflation has not kept pace with health insurance
"no planned phase in" in the budget on FBRC
effort reduction: many districts close to or at target; strong step towards implementing aggregate wealth model
$20/pupil increase
"extremely important to catch errors (of enrollment) as soon as possible" before Governor's budget
92 districts are getting foundation aid; that's the state aid they need to make it to foundation aid
237 districts (that's everyone else) are getting $20/pupil aid; that's they keep their same aid as last year (hold harmless) plus they get at least $20/pupil increase
$400+ million given out over foundation aid
written into Section 3 economically disadvantaged rate is same as last year
(and they only found a small handful more kids)

"it's good that this [foundation budget review] is being advocated for, but it's going to make more of a difference for some than for others"
note that for districts above NSS, they may not see increased aid; "but it will make a real difference for the districts that struggle to meet minimum aid"
Q if there's any possibility that the minimum percentage of aid might move down (so districts get more aid)
the answer is that no one knows

MASBO February meeting: Roger Hatch "Deep Thoughts and Idle Musings"

slide projecting CH.70 back into 1980's
"when you go that far back, the inflation adjustment carries a lot of weight"
deep cuts between 1989 and 1992
then 1990's til 2002
time since 2002: third section
the 1980's "the Massachusetts miracle"
"it was an excellent time for education"
focused on the "right state share" of a district cost to local districts
when there were cuts "there was no equity component to those cuts"
Legislature didn't have any perspective for making those cuts
"when the Legislature is making those cuts, they don't care about equity"
90's: foundation budget put in place
NSS required districts to meet certain spending levels
state's share kept rising
great progress towards reaching foundation budgets: "They planned to do it in seven years, and they did do it in seven years. That's an example of a planned social change."
"You don't see many social programs where they're bold enough...they put it in the law."
2002 drops: "because we had the foundation budget, there was not a huge cut"
2004, half the districts lost aid, but didn't go below foundation aid
in 2007, change in municipal wealth formula
FY09-FY11 federal stimulus money
"foundation budget protects school districts from deep cuts"
as kids make up a smaller share of the population, will there be less spending on them?
"a cause for concern"
since '07 have made progress on getting districts to a fair local contribution
$460M above what the formula says districts are to be getting; no interest in Legislature or Governor
"there's a lot of money there"
local officials: formula is driven by factors outside of local officials' control
"there's very little you do in this formula to get more funding"
can't control enrollment, can't control inflation, can't control municipal growth
"don't beat yourself up about it"
comparisons with other districts is thus not useful
foundation aid keeps districts at foundation: foundation aid supersedes minimum aid
pupil equity "more prominent" than taxpayer equity of the goals of the formula
because enrollment is so important, don't wait to look at until Governor's budget
Why do we do foundation aid? Commonwealth called on to "cherish" education, "that beautiful word put into place by John Adams."
Property tax is regressive (though consistent)
"Common wealth" Sharing the wealth
"And if that sounds socialist, than so be it. We have pockets of great wealth in this state, and we have pockets of poverty."

MASBO February meeting: DESE update

Jay Sullivan, DESE Associate Commissioner
extraordinary relief "tis the season": if your circuit breaker 25% higher than FY16, can apply for relief
end of year audits: make sure that districts reporting appropriately on Schedule 3 which is instructional costs by school
"all part of that effort to get comparable data, district by district"
"to make our data as clean and consistent as possible"
end of year audits are due March 31
Governor's budget: Ch.70 spoken about later
charter reimbursement if level funded "about 73% at this point" (which is counting the facilities into that number; which is playing fast and loose with percentages)
about 30% on homeless transportation
non-resident voke "they funded that at $250,000...why don't we just give everybody stamps?"
circuit breaker level funded by Governor; language in line item includes earmarks when Leg does it
"and I hope he doesn't do away with them all, because one of them pays my salary"
just getting through our budget cycle, and more than likely, the fourth quarter with be higher than the 70% posted at this time
in some cases using last year's data on transportation on cherry sheets for reimbursement; posted at 70%
ESSA: new Title I "going to have far ranging implications in a number of areas"
consistent data
requires published per pupil expenditures on a school by school basis
foster child can return to school of origin: local agency or local district can pay
nothing in it about if someone refuses; "and I don't know how many kids this impacts"
school of origin district that would pay; share cost with local state welfare agency
"I don't know how that's going to work, and I don't know what the policy is going to be"
federal mandate
supposed to be decided in the past interest of the child (not an hour on a bus)
"not sure how cost comes into it as a factor"
"stay tuned on that, we're not exactly sure how it's going to play out"
circuit breaker: estimate 68-70% (assuming a 4% increase in costs)
Q link to student achievement data and student attendance data as well as funding
don't want to make decision solely on that
"throwing darts in the dark" on charter reimbursement as Board has not yet decided on new schools

MASBO February meeting: Perspective on the next state budget from Mass Taxpayers

Eileen McAnneny, President of Mass Taxpayers
Trifecta of budget challenges: revenues slowing, non-discretionary spending growing, need to replenish reserves
happening during economic recovery

First day with a new Secretary of Ed and...

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

DeVos is Secretary of Education

A few quick notes:
  • It's not clear at this point what impact this is going to have on state ESSA plans. The House is busy gutting the Obama administration's issued regulations of ESSA, but many states that plan to send in plans early have followed the language of the law directly, rather than regulations.
  • While there is reason to be concerned about impacts on K-12 funding (and you know me: I'd never tell you NOT to worry about funding!), the bigger concern is this: U.S. DoE's major role is ensure access to and quality of education for students with disabilities, LBGTQ students, girls, low income students, students of color, students who are learning English...we've seen NO commitment to that from her. We need to watch this like a hawk at the state level, but then fight as hard as we can for national oversight to ensure we don't lose kids in other states. Also, Sessions is not yet confirmed as AG, and with his horrific history on civil rights, we lose education oversight there, too. Don't stop calling! 
  • I have seen more people more mobilized on this fight than I have ever seen care about anything in public education. Teachers and parents, sure, but I've seen people who don't have kids, who don't know anyone working in a public school see this threat and be mobilized like anything. For those of us who have been around these fights awhile, this amount of support for public education has been incredibly encouraging. DON'T BACK DOWN!
Finally, a word from my favorite fictional president:

And make sure you vote in local elections.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Lack-of-empowerment zones

Over the weekend, you may have caught this laudatory piece from MassLive on Springfield's Empowerment Zone. There was a parallel article in the Globe, so clearly the charm offensive is on. Thus it was no big surprise to see an equally laudatory Globe editorial supporting HD445 and SD1209, the bills that would allow empowerment zones across the state, including zones declared by the state by the Commissioner with only a single Level 4 school.
Did you notice what's missing in this push?
Any evidence of success.
As MassLive noted in June:
Only time and data will tell whether the interventions put in place under the auspices of the Empowerment Zone are working.
We haven't had that yet.
As the Globe article (but not the editorial) notes:
...a turnaround could take years to achieve. Test scores at the zone’s highest-performing middle school are in the bottom 9th percentile statewide, meaning more than 90 percent of other similar schools scored better. The worst-performing school is in the bottom 1st percentile.
We don't know yet that this does anything positive. You can see the first year of results, which were not great, on page 18 and 19 in this report here.
We do have other examples of what works in Massachusetts, but somehow those never make it into bills.

It's important to note that the above bills go beyond what have been touted as "empowering" bills in the past, which would have expanded district power (to redo contracts, for example). The bills would allow the Commissioner to declare an "empowerment zone" in any district that has a single Level 4 school, which could include other schools that aren't underperforming! 

Empowerment zones don't answer to their local communities. They bypass the local school committee and create a quasi-private board to run schools.

I thought we knew that was a bad idea in Massachusetts?

Thursday, February 2, 2017

update on Worcester projects going to MSBA

In sum, MSBA has told WPS that Burncoat cannot be submitted both for windows and for the core rebuild program. Plus, MSBA wouldn't accept Burncoat for windows, as they know that Burncoat needs a rebuild.

Administration thus will update the school committee on which schools they'll be submitting once they hear about this past year's submissions, which is to happen next week.

Thus tonight, the following were sent to MSBA:

Elm Park Community School Window Replacements
Lincoln Street School Window, Roof and Boiler Replacements
Rice Square School Window Replacement
Thorndyke Road School Window Replacement

FY18 Worcester Public Schools budget: initial look

Allen: Governor's budget is first look; House budget becomes recommendation to School Committee
enrollment changes and low inflation rate
costs exceeding normal inflration
school resource needs are SIGNIFICANT AND URGENT but exceed available revenue
60 from state 12 from fed rest from city
1 of only 92 districts that are foundation aid districts; remainder hold harmless; WPS's growth is beyond that
inflation factor is still low
$63/pupil added to WPS budget on health insurance: under by $30M for WPS in health insurance, this nets under $2M
"that gap is fairly wide for Worcester"
state budget will continue underfunding charter school reimbursement and the circuit breaker ($935,000 this year; about the same for next year)
based on October 2016 enrollment
enrollment up 1.7% over last year: 7.5% over the past 10 years; almost 10% increase over 25%
exceeding 25,000 students for the first time since 2003, when there were eight more schools
contribution from city and state aid
370 student increase (includes charter and school choice both of which declined)
$9.4M increase in foundation
city contribution going up by $227K; remainder from state
level 5 ELL students becoming former ELL students: loss of 729 students; reduction of almost $5.6M
ED: 543 increase; $3M
additional health insurance funding from Governor: $1.7M
inflation factor is 1.1% this year: each 1% is $3M
budget goes up $9M
"These are just based upon a formula; these are intended to be what the numbers will be"
conversations with city still starting

on to costs...
62% of budget goes to salaries
if it were to stay the same...employee salaries expected to increase $4.6M
health insurance planned on $3.4M increase (7% increase)
tuition expected to go up by $1M
and so forth
$10.6M increase over all categories

needs for elementary class size
secondary content
adjustment counselors and psychologists
coaches and lead teachers
guidance counselors
kindergarten IA

3 classes of 31 or more in K-6 currently; with no increases, 10 classes next year

other requests: PD, textbooks, instructional materials, furniture, safety; repairs: $5.9M

total needs of $29.7M over this year; and revenue increasing $9M
$20.7M gap

"This not a spending issue; this is a revenue problem" as Worcester has a $94M gap under foundation budget

Does the 2nd amendment trump the 10th?

pun intended
Yesterday, Press Secretary Spicer said the following

EdWeek notes that, as the gun-free school zones are NOT by executive order, but by act of Congress, they cannot likewise be undone by executive order:

"The federal Gun-Free School Zones Act was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush in 1990 after being introduced by former Sen. Joe Biden, a Democrat, who is now the vice president. The key provision of the law is that it prohibits an individual from knowingly possessing and discharging a firearm on school grounds or within 1,000 feet of school grounds, with certain exceptions. As a law signed by a president after being passed by Congress, the Gun-Free School Zones Act cannot be undone by executive order."