Sunday, December 30, 2018

Sarah Ellis Wilson, Worcester teacher (and why Worcester wasn't part Morgan v. Hennigan)

image from First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality
in Worcester, Massachusetts. 1862-1900
From First Fruits of Freedom: The Migration of Former Slaves and Their Search for Equality in Worcester, Massachusetts. 1862-1900 by Janette Thomas Greenwood:
Graduating from Classical High School in Worcester, the city's premier public high school, Sarah Ella Willis [whose parents, who had been enslaved, migrated to Worcester from Virginia after the Civil War] entered Worcester Normal School and graduated in 1894. She subsequently became a beloved teacher in the city's public schools and taught first grade for forty-nine years at the Belmont Street Elementary School. One of first African-Americans hired in the Worcester school system, Wilson was a pioneer, mentor, and role model to countless children, regardless of race or ethnicity.
I had heard of Ms. Willis in passing before, but I did not realize how close her family was to slavery, nor that she herself had attended Classical High. This is history we should know better.

I read Greenwood's book in hopes of discovering why it was that, while Springfield was included in the Morgan v. Hennigan decision (the Boston bussing decision), Worcester was not. Worcester's Black population is and has been much smaller than that of Springfield's or Boston's, but I haven't known enough Worcester history past the beginning of the Civil War to know why Worcester's population of free Blacks (here since the early days of settlement) didn't grow as it did elsewhere. There was growth in the Black population during and after the Civil War as those freed in some cases came north to places familiar through occupation of northern forces or through missionary teachers. It then seems to have halted.

And Greenwood covers this:
After an influx of migrants to Worcester between 1880 and 1890, Worcester's black population languished in the first half of the twentieth century, never exceeding 2 percent of the overall population until 1980. Even the Great Migration, which brought millions of southern blacks to northern cities when the wartime shortages of white labor gave them access to industrial jobs, bypassed Worcester. Ella L. Vindal, who conducted a sociological study of Worcester's black community in the 1920's, noted that it was "not a migrant" community, as was typical in many northern cities during and after the Great Migration...Even as the state's black population grew by nearly 20 percent between 1910 and 1920--increasing at a rate even faster than the overall population--Worcester saw barely any increase at all, growing by only 0.7 percent.  Meanwhile, Springfield's black population increased by 80 percent, Brockton's increased by 50 percent, and Boston's increased by 20.3 percent. It is likely that the city had earned a reputation as an inhospitable place, which would not have been surprising given its negative attitude towards black labor...The city that once attracted fugitive and emancipated slaves alike because of its reputation for "benevolent sympathizers" now had a reputation for its paucity of kindness.
 emphasis added

Thursday, December 27, 2018

A Tale of many..

Image text: THE TALE CONTINUES...the impact on the underfunding of the state's foundation budget...January 8, 2019|6-8pm|Malden High/Fitchburg State University/New Bedford Keith Middle School 

Not sure that I'll be able to make this, but, as was announced at MASBO earlier this month, the Tale of Two/Four Cities is going on the road and adding many more. As I have more details, I will add them, but save the date if there is one near you!
UDPATED with a new image that has a location for New Bedford!

On schools and legal marijuana

It's important, I think, to read this coverage of the Worcester School Committee considering policy change and implications along with this article covering central Mass concerns around marijuana edibles and kids. The range of tone varies widely.

School lockdowns inflict trauma on kids

The Washington Post covers today what is the new normal of schools: frequent lockdown drills.
“The lockdowns,” as MaKenzie calls them, have changed her, because the little girl with long braids and chocolate-brown eyes remembers what it was like before them, when she always felt safe at her Anacostia school, and she knows what it’s been like afterward, when that feeling disappeared.
The Post reports that we know more children have experienced lockdowns than the combined populations of Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, and Vermont combined, however "the total figure is likely much higher because many school districts — including in Detroit and Chicago — do not track them and hundreds never make the news, particularly when they happen at urban schools attended primarily by children of color."

And the impact?
“This is a clear and pressing public health issue,” said Steven Schlozman, a child psychiatrist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School, after learning of The Post’s findings, which he called “staggering.”
“We have very good data that children in proximity to frightening circumstances, such as those that trigger school lockdowns, are at risk for lasting symptoms. These include everything from worsening academic and social progression to depression, anxiety, poor sleep, post-traumatic symptomatology and substance abuse,” he continued. “Given the potential scope of the problem, we are in dire need of more information. How do we protect children from these issues?”
Click over and let the map of a single day in February run. And think of what we're doing to kids, every single day. 

Friday, December 21, 2018

On superintendent evaluation

...we don't really know enough from today's article to have much of an idea how Superintendent Binienda was evaluated last night. It's clear from the comments cited that there is some deserved critique behind the composite scores.
The individual as well as the composite evaluation are public documents, so we'll have to see if they are shared.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

December Board of Ed: accountability survey results

Curtin: we did commit to surveying the field at the new accountability system
"last look back at this year...then transition into looking forward"
Commissioner interested in where improvements can be made
survey sent to superintendents, stakeholders in field
439 responses
different types of questions
Sagan: how many sent to?
there's some math going on here...
Sagan: we didn't hear from the majority: "are these the happy ones, the unhappy ones?...did we learn anything more from this?"
Curtin: in any survey you get some who feel strongly one way or the other, and some in the middle
West: it was not anonymous
small majority either satisfied or very satisfied
majority in every category either understood well or most
higher on district level, lower on school level
numbers on satisfied were lower for charter school respondents and higher for regional vo-techs
how did understanding impact satisfaction? Not much
"kind of gives me a bit of feeling that people have a defined feeling about accountability systems, potentially regardless of understanding"
two-thirds of respondents said the normative (comparing districts/schools) is valuable or very valuable
(the regional vo-techs like it the most)
smaller number saying satisfield or very satisfied for criteron-referenced (compare against yourself), but still a majority
lowest performing students, lowest performing subgroups found valuable
chronic absentee rate majority did not find valuable
about the weighing: around half on each says to keep it the same
note coming in that the high schools are all doing pretty well on MCAS, so keeping the same or increasing
"the problem here is we only have a hundred percent"
Peyser: did you look at where the answers were coming from?
Curtin: yes, around achievement and growth; generally those wanting more on growth, were not doing as well around achievement
Peyser: did you ask about better/worse than prior system?
Curtin: in hindsight, I wish I had; we didn't
non-high school suggested additions (only had 130 responses): most were "no" some on climate, access to art, educator attendance, suspension, school spending, K-2 schools
high school suggested additions: broader definition of advanced coursework, postsecondary enrollment, extracurricular participation, 9th grade success
and anything else?
small size issues and participation; chronic absenteeism; use of standardized testing; high-performing districts "are penalized" because they still have to move forward; call for consistency; need for state funding

Moriarty: can't be thinking of chronic absenteeism and excused and unexcused
"that really does say there's a disconnect in the field around knowledge level"
Curtin agrees, when a student can be counted in attendance isn't necessarily understood
"we need to make sure on the reporting side that the definitions are understood"
I don't think that's a misunderstanding, to be honest.

December Board of Ed: adult ed

the backup is here
Chuang: "some people don't realize is supported by the Department"
how many students do you think are supported (haven't received high school diploma and/or still need ELL support)
"it takes a team of us to make this happen"
"over a million students still in need of services throughout the state of Massachusetts"
currently serving about 12K ESOL (English as a Second Language) and 6400 GED (still needing a diploma) students
high rate of women, of parents, of receiving state services
waitlist of 17,000 ESOL and 2500 for GED
curently fund 70 community adult learning centers across the state, with 12,599 students
10 transitions to college programming, 6 integrated education and training, and 11 integrated English and civics programs, 8 workplace programs
Sagan: what are those who don't have services doing?
A: some are waiting, some are working as it is
are looking at how to reach out to those students as well

a concentration in metro Boston, but programs throughout the state
goal is to build a high-quality, performance-driven system
looking at outcomes, looking towards flexiblity and high quality, a block per-student funding based on student need
completing educational functioning level, attain diploma, enter higher ed, gainful employment
looking at "where the baseline is and where we're headed"

strong college outcomes for those participating
"it isn't just passing the's participating in our adult basic ed program AND passing the GED"
(there's a self-sorting question here...but "there's something happening")
Framingham study: those participating more likely to register to vote!
return on investment of programs
Q on teachers: most are K-12 teachers, some are retired teachers or other professionals
" so is imperative that our programs hire high quality teachers"
Q money increase? Was a bump up this year, was barely making up
real dollarwise not where it was a decade ago
Q on vocational? newly created workplace programs, "the vo-tech of adult ed"

And a student panel!
Audrey Kelly (from Charlestown Adult Learning Center): "it gave me the realization that I was smart enough to complete my education"
"I knew it wouldn't be easy..."
"I can make things better for my enrolled in college"
hopefully will lead to the medical field
"not only will it better me; it will better my children as well"
Ana Tizol Cantor (Chelsea Public Schools) who came to the U.S. eight months pregnant at the age of seventeen, (she hadn't been able to complete second grade in Guatemala) who speaks of understanding people speaking English on the bus, learning to use the computer, "and shopping online"
working on her high school diploma
children have asked what she wants to study: she wants to study to become a teacher assistant, or a school nurse
"my husband is my big supporter, because he is studying for his diploma; he has one more exam to get it."

December Board of Ed: receivership schools

bit of a backup here: note that this is their regular check-in; there's no decision or recommendations here

December Board of Ed: Teacher Leadership

The backup on this is here.
Riley: focused this year on teaching
bringing up panels...

Center for Instructional Support talking about three initiatives: revising the arts curriculum, STEM ambassadors, and curriculum ratings

December Board of Ed meeting: opening remarks

The agenda for December is here.
posting as we go once we start
Sagan calls the meeting to order
Sagan has no new business comments

Riley: preview March 19 stakeholder meeting at UMass "to plot the way forward" asks some to save the date
foundation budget "many people are hopeful this is going to fixed this session"
were cuts to mental health over the summer
"need to be more vigilant and stay on top of this"
went to visit Paulo Freire Charter: had hoped to present recommendations around their current probation, but still need more information. School has not yet submitted audit; plan to report back in January, recommendation in February

Peyser: nothing

Public comment: is on wifi again, and I object to spending my time on fake science; instead, read the science.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

You can find the agenda for December 20 here.
There are recognitions and thanks.

The report of the superintendent is the End of Cycle Evaluation; as yet there is no backup posted, so what the School Committee has to say about Superintendent Binienda's performance is not yet public. You might recall that the Superintendent submitted her self-evaluation back at the meeting on November 13, saying that she had exceeded her professional practice and student learning goals, met her district improvement goal, and performed proficienctly in instructional leadership and in professional culture, and exemplarily in management and operations and in family and community and engagement. If you start on page 11 of the PowerPoint linked above, you'll quickly end up with puzzling questions like how one "exceeds" completion of the superintendent's induction program or in evaluating all principals. You can't. And, speaking as a parent, my jaw dropped at an exemplary rating in family and community engagement. any case...

Finance and Operations met tonight and will report out on Thursday (and apologies for the late posting, which didn't give a heads up) for the first quarter report; the account balances are here. Note that the request for the FY19 additional allocation goes to the School Committee during the Thursday meeting. There's nearly $500K additional in special ed tuition (some through the Collaborative)...and I don't understand what's going on with the technology line (weren't the Chromebooks in the budget?). Also worth noting that special education legal is up $20K more than budgeted; that may have something to do with the homeschooling case that broke just over a week ago, as I believe the district is being advised by their special education attorney for that (that last bit is a guess). Also on that agenda is a report on snow removal equipment.

There are appointments, resignations, retirements.

There is a report on the Career and Technical Education Partnership grant involving eight students.
There is a recommendation that an item on bullying be filed;

An update on the discussed lawsuit regarding school funding against the state is of interest: it speaks of presentations that the Mass Association of School Superintendents are doing, closing with "a formal lawsuit has not been filed." Superintendent Binienda's position was requested, it appears, by Ms. Biancheria, to which the superintendent has responded:
she feels it is important for legal authorities to review past litigation and to present a legal opinion before a formal lawsuit is filed
...something which would be done as a matter of course. What is interesting is that the backup doesn't actually respond to the item, which asked for an update from Brockton on legal action.

There is a super weak response to a request about recruiting; the request was for information on recruiting outside of Worcester, and the backup comes up with only Westfield State, the statewide recruiting fair, and SchoolSpring. The request to seek information from other districts yields the information the state association of human resource personnel. The Commissioner is handing you things like this, after all. 

The administration is responding that the district does not need to make any changes in response to Public Employee Retirement Administration Commission v. Contributory Retirement Appeal Board (SJC-12331).

There is a round-up of responses coming from the FY19 budget. Really the only interesting thing here--which is worthwhile!--is the savings of switching to Voice over Internet for 20 years at $1483 a a line is $1.13M. And if you read the backup, there are other advantages to switching.

The request for an org chart for emergency protocols receives in response this:
The Superintendent, Mayor and City Manager will communicate by phone messenging and/or emails with detailed information regarding any public safety issues. In addition, the Chief of Police and WPS Director of Safety will be sent these emails in order to coordinate messages to be shared with the public.
Thus not an org chart, and no response on who will communicate what to anyone else, including those not of the public, which includes teachers, staff, students, and parents. "two-way culturally proficient communication" is part of the Family and Community Engagement evaluation standard.

In response to a request for progress report opportunities in vocational education not admitted to Worcester Tech, the response is the grant mentioned above and three new programs being approved for South High.

As mentioned in the F&O report above, the allocation of the additional funding from the FY19 conference committee is reported out (here with an additional "as recommended to the School Committee in June"; the vote is later in the meeting). I'd advise reading the entire memo, as it also discusses elementary class sizes (12 more teachers!), student supports (adjustment counselors!), some administration allocations, and the ongoing dearth of teachers at the high schools (it also may answer why high school kids are now being stuffed into gym classes instead of into study halls).

There is a response to the request for an update on the long-sought facilities master plan (remember that?). The answer...looks to be current work with no additional funding, plus the MSBA submissions. Since the report found a $70M backlog in "urgent" repair needs, one would hope that this won't be enough for anyone.

Speaking of facilities, to the request for an update on the Accelerated Repair program, we learn that Harlow Street is getting a new roof, boiler, and windows. The recommendations for this year (which the Administration requests a vote on later in the agenda) are:
  • Burncoat Preparatory School for Roof Replacement
  • Lincoln Street School for Boiler Replacement
  • Tatnuck Magnet School for Roof Replacement
  • Worcester East Middle School for Roof Replacement
There is a really important note at the end of the above memo on Worcester East Middle: it is honestly in need of a major renovation, and it has, in past years, been submitted as a second choice after Burncoat (or third when Doherty was being submitted); it seems, however that the roof situation has grown urgent enough that it can't wait. It's being pulled from the major renovation/repair recommendation this year, and being submitted just for the roof (as Accelerated Repair only does roofs, windows, and boilers, and you can't submit the same building in both programs). EDIT: And here is the T&G on WEMS and the roof. The longer memo backing up the vote relates Worcester's history with the program. 

There is also, while we're on facilities, an item on SchoolDude usage, thus giving the administration yet another chance to remind us that the Worcester Public Schools only spends 60% of the foundation budget on facilities due to chronic underfunding of the foundation budget. Someone should ask for a compounded number on that one!

There is a response to a request, based on numerous teacher requests, that the "First Day Convening" be moved to allow teachers time in their classrooms; the response from the superintendent is that teachers have "ample time during the summer months to make these preparations." 

There is a four page response to several transporation items: note that the ten buses now being run by WPS have allowed, even with the substantial investment needed, for $194K to go back into the rest of the system. Also, if you've had transportation issues this year, you'll want to read the backup, as there may well be something there for you; it looks as though having the student bus passes distributed during the summer would have solved ours. Alsostudent data geeks rejoice: a SAGE sped transportation module! Good thing student data is handled in house! Also, it is worth noting that Durham apparently...isn't abiding by the contract. 

There is a response that all WPS employees are informed of public employees' participation in political activities and have been since August, and this report was in October

There is a request for approval for a prior year payment of $56,497 to CollegeBoard (no backup, so no idea what for). 

There is a request that K-3 parent conferences be held during the day.

There is a request for a report on the changes in the school nutrition regs.

There is a request for an update on the sex ed curriculum.

There is a request for changes in policy due to the changes in laws on marijuana (no need).

And there is the request from administration for allocation of the additional FY19 funding. (man, I hope they take some of these agenda items together!) The budget goes up by $3.4M for this current year!

In the ongoing idea that the handbook is supposed to be the same as the policy manual (it isn't; the handbook should be more specific), there's some changes proposed around the passed attendance, absence, and long term absences policies.

There is also an executive session for a grievance, two rounds of negotiations, and litigation.

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Why are we not teaching earth science?

The MCAS? I'm not as sure.

First, do read, if you didn't hear, this excellent three part series from WGBH on teaching climate change in Cape Cod schools. The first one (which is what the link goes to) does mention:
Last year was the first year the Trustees ran a climate change specific program, on erosion, for second graders. This is the first year they’re expanding into middle school. They’re able to do that in part because climate change is now officially in the state science standards in Massachusetts, as of 2016
So far, okay. But this line in the third part of the series made me perk up my ears:
One of the main reasons public schools are less likely to teach earth science than chemistry, biology, or physics, is that earth science is not tested on the MCAS, the state standardized test.
Okay, this is not false: there is no earth science MCAS. This sentence gives the impression, however, that chemistry, biology, and physics ALL are required for high school testing, which isn't the case. There are four MCAS science tests--biology, chemistry, physics, and technology/engineering--and students have to pass one. The vast majority take and pass bio, which is why the state has been tossing around the idea of eliminating some of the other tests (you might remember that this came up at the last Board of Ed meeting).
If a student, then, takes three years of science in high school (as most colleges are seeking) or even fills all four, that's two or three years of science that are NOT whatever science is being assessed on MCAS for the student to fill.
The schools may still be choosing not to teach earth science.  It is already the case that not all science is assessed on the high school MCAS, though, so it is tough to make the case that this is why.
(this falls under my general philosophy of making sure you're yelling at the right people)

Friday, December 14, 2018

Board of Ed meets on Tuesday

You can find agenda here.
After the usual round of comments, including those from the public, the first report is "highlight the work of teacher-leaders" from across the state regarding the revision of the arts curriculum, STEM, and reviewing curricular products (which they're calling CUrriculum RAtings by TEachers [CURATE] and this administration's fondness for semi-acronyms that use parts of words is going to drive me round the bend). I've been asked a great deal recently what I'm seeing of the new commissioner: I'd ask if you remember any reports like this in the past. You won't. There's some of the change.
There is an update on the three of the four chronically underperforming schools that are under state receivership. (The fourth is in Holyoke and will be updated when Holyoke is next in.)
There is a report on Adult Education (which I didn't realize was managed by DESE, either).
And there's a report back on the response to the new accountability system, which will be interesting.

If you're curious as to what the final letter to Secretary Peyser on the FY20 budget looked like, it's posted as a backup.
You can also find a (Word doc) of grants approved by the Commissioner.
Tuesday, 8:30 am, in Malden!

Thursday, December 13, 2018

"Yet the stigma persists..."

 On bias among white parents:
recent study in the journal City & Community based on survey data out of eight metropolitan areas in the U.S. suggests that residents—including, presumably, parents—frequently harbor negative associations with the term “urban” and, by extension, “inner-city” communities and institutions, such as schools. To them these words may connote scenes of educational dysfunction—rows of decrepit classrooms, for example, each stocked with an overworked teacher and a cluster of indignant teens, almost all of them poor students of color.
By contrast, the study pointed to evidence that the term “suburban” tends to elicit images of productivity and well-being among white parents. Of course, these stereotypes that white middle-class parents harbor aren’t simply about population density, but race, with “urban” standing in for predominantly black or Latino. A number of studies have shown that white parents tend to select schools with lower proportions of black students, regardless of school quality.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Four Cities at MASBO

The Four Cities presentation comes to MASBO this morning, with a beginning on the MassBudget July report on Foundation Budget Review Commission implementation, followed by Brockton, Holyoke, Springfield, and Worcester speaking on the gaps. 
Brian Allen, Worcester: started with Brockton and Worcester, added Holyoke and Springfield
have talked to about twelve superintendents so far on how to calculate these slides
going to do essentially the same presentation, spending gaps on special ed and health insurance and the impact on those districts
not keeping pace with health insurance costs; $1B more than what was being provided
special ed likewise
"finally after years of advocacy, the state created the Foundation Budget Review Commission" in 2015
"the formula as we know it is 25 plus years old; it's dated and it's time for an update"
four main findings of the Foundation Budget : health insurance, special education, ELL, low income
you guys know this, right?

average per pupil exceeds foundation, even upon adoption of recommendations, by $700M
(thus when you see gaps versus implementation, those will be two different numbers, and implementation doesn't fully fill the gaps)

note that in every case, the districts are also reviewing how they've worked to control costs
Brockton: $7.3M gap in health insurance
$22.1M gap in special ed
Holyoke: $6.2M gap in health insurance
$12.4M in special ed
Springfield: $32.1M gap in health insurance (and they're in the GIC)
$35.4M in special ed
Worcester: "to continue the broken record, but that's intentional" $34.9M gap in health insurance
$34.6M in special ed

increasing increment of low income 50-100%
ELL increment (from fixed rate)

Allen: "so what does this mean for communities?"
"if you only spend at or near foundation, cummulatively we're spending $185M less on something else"

Brockton: short 414 regular ed teachers

Holyoke: short 161 regular ed teachers

Springfield: short 744 regular ed teachers

Worcester: short 773 regular ed teachers
"the money has to come from some place"

Colin Jones MassBudget: state budget is "just a bill that happens to have $45 billion dollars in it"
hearing that something is coming this year, "we'll have to see what this looks compared to full implementation"
"I think it's's a shift in the conversation" noting Secretary Peyser's comment yesterday
Backbone of how this works: provide the support for the changes made
trajectory is going down
FY19 increase "it's 1% when you account for inflation" so that isn't "so much money"
none of the big ticket items (FBRC, preschool, higher ed) are really advancing
"districts that have the capacity are spending twice foundation"

"we're running out of patience to get this solved"
the Commission's report is the official state document on getting this done
"and every single year that we don't do, we don't follow our own constitution"

MassBudget's model for implementation
includes the four major pillars: updating health care, special education, support for ELL, low income
phase in means it takes time to get there
"nobody loses!"
"one of the big takeaways is that low income is two thirds of the whole're not dealing with equity if you don't deal with it"

And coming up:

Monday, December 10, 2018

Cities losing clout in Massachusetts?

I'm still thinking about this Commonwealth Magazine piece about the loss of political clout of cities in Massachusetts, which the authors tie to the inability to get reform on school funding:
Over many decades, the population in Massachusetts has become increasingly suburbanized. This shift has led to many consequences, the most important being a change in the makeup of legislative districts. As the population has shifted from urban centers to suburban areas, legislative districts have been adjusted to accommodate the increased population in these formerly rural locations.
In 1966, the 39 original cities in Massachusetts constituted 57 percent of the state’s population and 51 percent of the aggregate turnout in the state election that November. By 2018, those same cities made up only 45 percent of the state’s population and accounted for just 37 percent of the vote in the November election. While the total population of the Commonwealth has increased over that time by 27 percent, the impact of voters in Massachusetts cities is nearly a third less than what it used to be.

Are we going to talk about this $4M?

If you're in Worcester, you might remember this headline from the last week of November: Worcester taxpayers to benefit from $4M budget error.
I initially read the article expecting to see something of how the error occurred, where in the city's budgetary process it happpened, and what they were doing about it...
Thomas F. Zidelis, the city’s chief financial officer, said Tuesday the city should be raising $307 million in property taxes this year, reflecting the allowable 2.5 percent tax-levy increase from the previous year.
But when the budget was calculated, he said, it was mistakenly built on raising $303 million in taxes.
Instead of increasing the city’s tax levy by 2.5 percent, as allowed under state law, Mr. Zidelis said the tax levy was increased by only 1.35 percent, thus understating the levy for the budget by approximately $4 million.
So I checked the city council backup from that meeting, thinking it perhaps had been covered there; it's the attachment to item 7.25 A on this agenda:

Apparently not. Also note that the Manager's backup says "understated" rather than that there was a mistake, and it goes quickly on to how this is a "savings" for taxpayers.

Are we just going to gloss over that somehow we had a $4M mistake in last year's taxes?

The spin here, of course, is that this is "savings" that will be passed onto city taxpayers. This misses that this was not, it appears, a deliberate decision; no one ever recommended it, no one deliberated it, no one voted it, intentionally. It was an error.
This also ignores how budgeting works: Massachusetts property taxes are already capped ('though subject to override) at 2.5% increases per year. A year in which those funds are not raised cannot be recovered. Thus the city lost $4M in revenue--that could be used on anything from hiring teachers to fixing water pipes--and it will never get that back, as we start from that lesser point for FY20.
Taxation, as Judge Brandeis put it, are the price we pay for civilization. We didn't decide to pay $4M fewer dollars on that last year as a city, and spinning this as a tax savings does us all a disservice.

PS: because the FY19 foundation budget is calculated on FY16 DOR filings, this didn't impact the WPS budget for FY19. We'd best see this corrected before we get to the FY19 rate being used to calculate the foundation budget, however. 

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Consider the source

I saw that this presentation from former Secretary of Education Paul Reville got a good bit of press a week or so ago; what I didn't see get fleshed out quite as much is the event at which he was presenting. The main sponsor? The Mass Education Equity Partnership. And who is that? Basically, Families for Excellent Schools (the pro-Question 2 folks) reborn.
I think it's important to note that so far, MEEP is the main voice pointing out that educational inequities are tied to race and ethnicity in Massachusetts. That's a problem, because we don't need the funded-dark-money-only-solution-is-privatization crew making that point for us.
Watch this one. As we head into a new Legislative session and the debate over how to increase funding for public education in Massachusetts heats up, this is going to be an easy group for the Governor to align with.
Arguably, of course, he already has.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

FY20 Joint Hearing on revenue in the press

I'd recommend starting with Katie Lannan's coverage for State House News Service, found here.
Despite a strong economy, last year’s $1 billion budget surplus, and revenue collections that are outperforming expectations so far this year, the potential for an economic slowdown and future recession loomed as the budget-writing process for next fiscal year kicked off on Wednesday.
You can also check Mike Deehan's coverage at WGBH.
It is projected at this point that the state's tax rate will come down next year.
The question of the state's bond rating--which impacts building schools--is covered in this bit about the Treasurer.
And for those asking, didn't we have a new source of revenue, here's that coverage.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

FY20 Joint Ways and Means Hearing on Revenue

About to come to you live from the Joint Ways and Means hearing on revenue, starting the process of agreeing as to how much money the state will have to budget for FY20.

Updating as we go
Rep. Sanchez gavels in, noting it's the last time he'll do this
"this exciting session...that we have by statute to decide what revenues are going to be"
there is representation from the Senate (Sen. Joan Lovely) and the Governor's office (the Secretary of Administration and Finance Michael Heffernan)
represents the kickoff of the 2020 budget
despite the $1B surplus of the previous year, "we always have to remain thoughtful as we plan for the future"
"have been able to act in a unified bipartisan choices to make hard choices"
notes that rainy day fund is above $2B, that tax revenues are above forecasts
"everywhere I look, the cranes keep going up...and not only here in Boston, but throughout the Commonwealth"

Sen. Lovely "a vital first step in the budget process"
"critical that we forecast accurately"
"must be good stewards"
"our collections grew well beyond benchmarks"
revenue this year grew $423M beyond expectations
"we must be prepared for anything...our economy has remained consistently strong"

Secretary Heffernan
"keen appreciation for the process"
looking forward to testimony today
"look forward to our continued collaboration" with Legislature
and parting words for Sanchez
"but we are just five months into the fiscal year and we must always be mindful that circumstances can change"

Christopher Harding, Commissioner of Department of Revenue
Chief Economist
General Counsel
Have distributed copies of briefing book which will also be available on their website
"exceptionally strong revenue growth in FY18"
greatest single year growth since FY11, had been exceeded only 3 times in preceding 30 years
why? preceded by two years of disappointing revenue growth
(and note that they're still getting FY18 tax filings)
S&P index rose; "jump in estimated payments...partly due to strong stock market performance" and jump in capital gains
federal tax code: impact on state revenue
"corporate tax revenue tend to be volatile"
SALT  payments from personal side encouraged (federal side)
strong Massachusetts economy throughout
"less indicative of trends than episodic factors"
financial markets much more uncertain this year than previously
"given these conditions, the more volatile sources of income cannot be depended upon"
nearly full employment, so further growth in employment may slow
slower growth nationally would at some point slow growth in Massachusetts
among longest periods of economic growth in history (will reach that in July)
"not projecting a recession to begin during fiscal year twenty" but coming
potential upside on benchmarks for next year
"should be treated with caution"
"believe some of the fiscal surplus was borrowed" from next year
"we believe that our prior FY19 benchmark remains appropriate"
based on FY19...
2% to 2.9% over FY19 forecast
range up to 3.5%; midpoint would be 3.2%
assumptions of note: tax rate down to 5%
on marijuana sales: "use with caution for budgeting purposes"
fading impact of federal tax changes, international markets, concerns about international trade
state employment rate "is impressively low" and projecting growth of less than one percent to just over
possibility of growing gains in tax revenue exists, but when those will come in "is impossible to predict"
"unclear whether state revenues will continue to be strong through the year end"

and questions
Sanchez: past two years have been completely different (from one another)
"what we can learn from that projecting from the future?"
A: significant taxes came in at the end of the year
"in some cases to prepay based on uncertainty"
"strong economy indicators, strong job growth" as we exited '18
Sanchez: assuming we hit tax rollback figures, what will be impact?
A; first rollback to 5.01% by $84M in FY19 and $175M in FY20
"and you can read that on page seven, Mr. Chairman"
(to question) sales tax exceeded expectations

Lovely: gaming tax revenue?
A: we have not looked at that, falls under the Treasurer
"have not received any proposes for changes"
to question: exceeded estate tax benchmarks "significantly"
"most volatility is estate side"
very strong revenue from marijuana sales, will continue to track that

Chang-Diaz: actual numbers versus baseline numbers
"actual is raw dollar increase"
"baseline adjusts for an administrative or legislative changes throughout the year" to do a comparison that is more accurate
Chang-Diaz: so it gives us more of an idea of what is happening in the economy rather than policy changes
Chang-Diaz: expected increase in income tax rates: why not yielding an increase in revenue?
A: "there's a model and complexity"
"not a one for one...needs to be adjusted for volatility"

Rep. Walsh: rise in GDP but expectation that employment will rise more than that
A: GDP looks at all sectors, labor side looks at just jobs

Q on online revenue
A: online registration from day one
approximately 370 registered; additional after decision
"in tens of millions right now...a nice steady growth right now"
tracking very closely who has and has not registered
"have sent them friendly reminders" of those who have not registered
do have enforceement measures

Rep. Cutler: rainy day fund
A: hard to predict when things will turn and how long they'll turn and thus how much the fund needs to be

Next up Treasurer Deb Goldberg
Goldberg wishes both Sanchez and Kulik well
Sanchez "Madame Treasurer, I'm not in a casket!"
Goldberg notes that she met Sanchez when he first ran and knocked on her door
"most of you have consistenly heard me speak of the need to replenish the rainy day fund"
here to thank you for doing so
note tax change: impact on tax exempt organizations
do not have a significant number of bonds maturing in near time
income rates had begun to increase
"navigated the markets effectively this year"
"have seen wide investor interest...and robust demand from traditional retail investors"
realistic about the challenges faced
"manage our unfunded pension obligations...on track to be funded by 2040"
"we will not turn our backs on [retirees]"
unclaimed property reversions; on track to meet total reversion estimate of $131M
"consistently returning more and more money to its rightful owners"
Lottery aid: fourth straight year topped $5B mark; $997M in net profit
Gaming landscape has shifted: lottery has adapted
increased investment in retail partners
"most efficient lottery in the United States"
pitch for online lottery
"understand that there will not be progress without partnership"
notes concerns about corner stores but not how one would deal with them
and offers to help with sports betting

And questions:
Sanchez: how to better communicate our fiscal strength and responsibility to rating agencies?
Goldberg: did a road show in NY to rating agencies when she was first elected
will recommend another one
"many states offload debt onto their counties and other state agencies we have; we do not do that, and we don't seem to get credit for that"
"they were very focused on the rainy day fund"
recommend going back down to New York and seeing them again
Sanchez: feel funding of unfunded pension liability is realistic?
Goldberg: will make recommendations again in January in response to new projections
"in good shape to whatever may come in the next couple of years"
past few years "we had major overperformance"
Sanchez: how do you come up with those projections? should we make an adjustments?
Goldberg: we use actuarial estimations, "it's a complicated data-driven process"
look at funding schedule every year

Kulik: online lottery; mentioned 11 states with online lottery presence
are there any that are a peer state (NH, Kulik says, in size and revenue, not comparable)
Goldberg: we are losing potential customers to NH
Michigan; as their sales have grown,their retailors sales have grown
which means they're creating gamblers?
Goldberg: can set up stops on their mobile phones for themselves so they only can spend so much
"patterns that you can begin to see"

Sen. deMacedo: what would you like to see happen on rainy day fund?
Goldberg: rainy day fund is important but not all they look at
was recommending a minimum of $4B
"I would recommend that we keep putting money in the rainy day fund"
"when we don't adhere to fiscal policy, it costs the state opportunity and money"
"I can't begin to tell you how many communities need new schools, and that isn't because smartboards would be nice. They need new buildings."
if we don't have good bonding, we can't borrow for it
"I think of the pipes underground" water quality is a health issue

Chang-Diaz: where the sales of lottery are happening?
Goldberg: due to commissions, we know where the sales happen, but not where the people are
"there's always the conversation of communities where it appears people would have a lot more money"

Lovely: on gaming revenue: any idea on projections?
Goldberg: we would not know anything about gaming revenues, and that is not within our department
Gaming Commission would know that; "that's not our you want to move it there?'
(DoR had said Lovely should ask Treasurer)
lottery in casinos; hearing some concerns about siting
"not looking at one on one of the casino versus the lottery...we're being assaulted by multiple resources"
"if you don't innovate, you don't grow and you potentially die"
and that's it for the Treasurer

Federal Reserve Bank economist Dr. Zhao (?)
New England Public Policy center
overview of labor markets: continue to post solid job gains through October of 2018
8.8% increase over previous year (non-farm labor) for Massachusetts
by sector: construction sector posted largest year over year rate of growth (5.1% increase in the state)
outpaced nation in professional and business services, information, and other job services
measurement of unemployment (usage rate? maybe?) which takes in those underemployed as well
7.1% as a state (7.8% nationally)
labor force rate has grown continuously since 2016
only state in the region with labor force participation over that prior to the recession
last time it was this high was 2003
seniors 65 and older are part of what is driving it
tighter labor market, thus a stronger wage increase than the U.S.: 3% over prior October
2.4% increase across the U.S.
housing market: increase 6.8% nationally, 5.3% increased in Massachusetts
passed pre-recession levels
are slowing somewhat; attributed to rising interest rate
fuel and utilities increased by 4.6% over year before
top exporters reported year over year drop in Massachusetts
outlook: 2.1% over the next six months
job growth strong on average; unemployment low; house sales slowing
"economy to grow at a positive but slower rate in the near term"

Rep. Fiola: what are we exporting to China?
A: recent change? depreciation of U.S. dollars

Next is Mass Taxpayers Foundation
2.4% increase is what they are projecting
"does not include marijuana sales" or one time revenue
nor does it assume a tax rate drop
decline in capital gains is what they're projecting based on
slower employment growth projected
demographic headwinds leading to a slower growth in jobs
aging and decling workforce due to one of the lowest birthrates in the country
declining population between 16 and 64
negative impacts of opioid epidemic
initial signs of strain: pending home sales dropping, sagging auto sales, business investment (stock buyback rather than new investment), oil prices down,
tensions with China, concerns over Brexit, concern over economic downtown
increase in tax revenue of 3.6% is what they are projecting for FY20
don't recommend any revision to current fiscal year projection
"we are on borrowed time" regarding a fiscal downturn
"we certainly would like to see a higher balance in the stabilization fund"
"certainly is less than rating agencies would recommend" due to volitality of revenue sources, which would recommend 10% of state annual budget
states' ability to withstand a moderate or severe recession recently rated

to questions:
Sanchez: business confidence is down from a year ago
MTF: consistent with a lot of what we're saying
exercise is to look 18 months out; "so much easier to add a supplemental budget over the course of the year than have to take money away
Sanchez: insight "revising elements of the Grand Bargain"?
MTF: would require additional money; small businesses operate on smaller margins, and that bears watching
Rep. Malia: opioid epidemic?
MTF: economy is losing out on wages of folks who would otherwise be in the economy
companies because of absenteeism or presenteeism "has a considerable cost"

William Burke, Beacon Hill Institute
increase of 2.4% increase in tax revenue projected for FY20
current labor market in the United States is strong
250,000 jobs increased in October nationally
slowing growth over the next two years
"expected growth to slowdown in 2020" due to trade policy, other factors
"the Massachusetts outlook remains strong"
"expect growth to moderate from the current robust pace"

next testimony (I don't know who this is)
includes reductions in personal income tax rate
3.4% growth of revenue expected
"economic growth is expected to slow"
federal tax policy change: question of excess revenue in FY18 comes at expense of fiscal year '19
used estimates of FY18 without change
refunds were $446M less; payments on returns were $554M less
"seems to indicate that people indeed did move" filing from FY19 to FY18
fsical year income for businesses: consistent with corporations timing their fiscal liablity to get the lower tax rate
"there is a downside for the fiscal '19 estimate" (they were paying ahead)

Michael Goodman's testimony (UMass Dartmouth)
leads the Public Policy Center
testimony reflecting on context of time
capital gains realized in FY19; reporting well above benchmarks
"while this is very encouraging, there are a number of reasons why I think we are not going to be able to sustain this pace of growth"
aging and slow-growing population concern in keeping up with workforce; have been meeting ways in various ways
defer retirement, underused employees
domestic migration (usually unusual for us) "it may be this time is different"
crossborder commuting (NH, RI)
federal immigration laws and enforcement practices are particularly unhelpful
"our most important competitive advantages are the talents and innovative capacity of our people--our human capital"
"limited additional capacity to support growth at the current pace"
"sizable and troubling gap between the performance of the Greater Boston region and the rest of the state remains"
and even as Boston booms there is "increasing congestion on our roadways, a growing reliance on our already struggling public transit systems, and...a serious housing affordability problem"
regarding trade: "it turns out trade wars are not easy to win"
notes that new schools, which he agrees with the Treasurer we need, will need steel rebar, which now will cost 40-50% more than it would have without the trade war
thus increase cost for the Commonwealth
"growing consensus that there is a reversal of economic fortune in the offing"
running a nearly $1T annual budget deficit at the national level; lacking capacity for action if needed, let alone infrastructure investment
rainy day fund below FY07 levels
"a number of good reasons to be optimisitc about the Commonwealth's near-term economic and fiscal prospects"

Sanchez: labor force participation?
Goodman: they have stayed on and not retired
Sanchez: ethnic and racial groups: who is participating?
Goodman: that is being tracked; some recognition among employers that they need to work in the people they have
transportation and education needs
Lovely: older population staying in: want to work or have to?
Goodman: yes
Lovely: student debt; do we know what that looks like?
Goodman: does place a burden on the next generation
do millenials like roommates and not like cars or are they unable to afford them?
more the latter
"it is a significant burden and it is changing behavior"
Rep. Fiola: workforce training; really keep our eye on that
Goodman: long been a significant social problem; now an economic imperative, because we "literally cannot afford to leave anyone behind"


Monday, December 3, 2018

For the sake of the record

...I do want to note that this notion of "business partnerships" for the Worcester Public Schools that is being acclaimed as being a new idea in today's Worcester Telegram and Gazette isn't new to Worcester at all. A quick search of my blog notes for "Worcester business partnership" turns up this result, and that's just what I wrote down. The business partners for each school was a regular part of principals' reports in the previous administration.

Note that you can also do this with ad-hoc committees on attendance, and half a dozen other things that have been proclaimed to be new and innovative in the past three years, when they were things that were regularly happening in the previous five or ten.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The agenda for the December 6 meeting of the Worcester School Committee can be found here.
Note that the item on the foundation budget is not only back on (I believe it was held?) but it is also on the agenda as a public petition of the Educational Association of Worcester. I still think the number and date are a mistake, HOWEVER, please note that this is an EXCELLENT week to contact your reps and senators to remind them that advancing an updated foundation budget should be a MAJOR PRIORITY of their next session!

Also, looking back at that last agenda...did we hear literally a single thing about the superintendent's midyear evaluation? That would seem rather important.

There are recognitions and such, as well as another round of appointments, retirements, and resignations.
The Governance subcommittee is reporting out, largely that they're filing a large number of items (there are a few revised policies here, 'though they look to be the legally required or otherwise recommended updates).
There is a response on the Worcester State cohort (this is essentially the "making new administrators" program).
There is a response back that for the most part, no, Worcester didn't get any more money from the last federal budget; the one exception is about half a million more dollars in Title IV, going to safe and healthy schools, technology, and "well-rounded educational opportunities."
There is a response back that the Federal Education Innovation and Research Program from the same budget didn't have a ready application to the Worcester Public Schools.
...and likewise on federal safety money.
There is a response on advertising that senior citizens get lower admission prices at games and on proposed additions to coaching.
Mr. Monfredo is requesting monthly school newsletters, put online.
Mr. O'Connell is requesting email addresses from parents and online grading (...which makes me wonder if he's talked to parents at all?)
Mr. O'Connell suggests the adoption of the Orton-Gillingham model for dyslexia.
Mr. O'Connell proposes that the Positive Directions Program be replicated at all secondary schools.
The administration is requesting that the School Committee adopt the administration's own locally created policy on homeschooling to replace the language adopted previously (which is common in many other districts).
There is a request to approve a prior year payment of $680 for Madison Security Group.
There is a request to accept a grant of $5000 for the STARS Residency at Columbus Park School.

There is a request that the following donations be accepted:
 – $250.00 from WEDF to Canterbury Street Magnet School
 – $1,000.00 from Re-Elect McGovern Committee to Canterbury Street Magnet School
– $500.00 from New England Dairy & Food Council to South High Community School
– $500.00 from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care to Tatnuck Magnet School
– $125.00 from College of the Holy Cross to Woodland Academy
– $1,000.00 from Harvard Pilgrim Health Care to WTHS
– $100.00 from Hanioti Licensee Inc./DQ Grill & Chill to Belmont Street Community School
– $95.00 from Nicole Webley-Roberts to Tatnuck Magnet School

And there is a posted executive session for negotiations and a grievance.

Regarding segregation and Massachusetts

A Twitter thread from me from last night: for more on this see the UMass Boston archives here, this UMass Boston collection here, and "Because It's Right--Educationally " report to the Massachusetts Board of Education. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

School level finance reporting is coming

It's required by ESSA for 2019-20, so we should be ready. In Massachusetts, I'd say the challenge may be less around reporting and more around what sorts of discussions we have once the information is out. How do we make those productive, rather than combative?

Also, this line made me laugh: "just brandishing the title of Chief Financial Officer at a conference tends to ward people off"

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November Board of Ed non-liveblog

Coming to you remotely and later from the livestream found here; the agenda is here
I had not previously noted that you can watch what we in Worcester call "the bullpen" (where the admininstrators sit) on the livestream
McKenna remotely participating; several people missing/late

Riley: notes joint meeting on early college process
health frameworks review now underway; meeting over next six months for recommendations on revised frameworks, which haven't been updated in twenty years; hope is for public comment this summer
informational memo on civics bill to Board...update on implementation coming
notes story on Helen Y. Davis charter school in Globe, that school was put on probation before his time (Sagan notes board had put on probation) and that they will be back before Board early next year

public comment: Robert Sandborn, representing Cape Cod Regional Tech and MAVA
opposing phasing out of engineering test for science MCAS
"seems counter-intuitive" given emphasis and direction of study
he has a section here of history of their opposition 
schools that choose to revamp their science departments to emphasize technology and engineering "took a leap of faith encouraged by the department"
speaks of last month's STEM week work (that includes engineering)
districts will have revamp for next year's class of ninth graders
Sagan: one of the questions we'll have to grapple with is you can't have a test for everything; what are your alternatives if this test goes away?
Sandborn: we have a limited amount of staff...we'll have to revamp...we'll have restaff or retrain
Sagan: why couldn't they couldn't teach what they are already doing and test biology?
Sandborn: I'd have to add prepare for biology MCAS
Peyser: technology engineering is all ninth graders?
Sandborn: started with ninth and tenth graders, have now shifted to ninth graders CCRT testimony (still from Sandborn), Barnstable approved for Ch.74 program
only became aware there was an application for that because he heard from a state senator
 falling enrollment rates, 9-12 charter school, hyper-competitive environment
"incentivizing a comprehensive high school" to have
Barnstable "will apply for every program I don't have"
"alternative universe to Fall River" where Barnstable superintendent Mayo-Brown did this before
"I do not have a waiting list"
this is really interesting...a regional vo-tech fighting a municipal district's vocational program (that the vo-tech doesn't have)
"nothing more than a blatant attempt to keep students in the Barnstable district"
Cape Cod calls for a more nuanced decision making program
says other districts will follow "deregionalization"
"may want to address the access issue...may want to mandate students visit our school"
"if you don't want to help, please do no more harm"

The next public comment is going on about the dangers of wifi again, which has no basis in scientific fact, so you can see here and the links above for the science on that...

Budget item:
Bell and Wulfson up on this
Craven (who chairs the budget committee)
Commissioner and Craven were talking about Ch. 70
updates as we go through process "certainly January" once budget comes out
recommendations today to Secretary Peyser, priorities we'd like to see for the budget
"feel we have a pretty good package here"
"items the Board has consistently stood up for like ELL...STEM learning generation assessment piece and the civics education"
"more targeted assistance might be deserving of discussion and how that goes into the Chapter 70 piece"
Bell: memo from the budget committee was done with a lot of effort from staff
Wulfson to provide an overview of where we're going on the foundation budget
"there's been a lot of interest in the field and moving forward even more rapidly than we have in the past couple of years on the recommendations of the 2015 Foundation Budget Review Commission"
"the Legislature's conference committee on this last summer did a lot of great work, but time ran out"
"we're thinking about where they left off, and reviewing that work, and having a lot of internal discussions with a goal to presenting a number of ideas for the governor to consider with his House 1 budget proposal"
"there's interrelationships with other big education aid accounts..."
focus on the need for significant new education dollars targeted for those districts where the education gap is greatest urgency
many are same district where dollars are limited
when you talk Ch. 70 aid and other education aid, large proportion of state aid
"very much in conversations with executive office of administration and finance" on how they fit in larger budget
Craven: feel a special responsibility for Holyoke district as a receivership district
"if we change one thing for one district, it has a ripple effect"
"we discovered about 30 districts in the same situation in net school spending"
Wulfson: the districts that we're most concerned about, most challenged student population, supported by municipalities that are barely funding them at the net school spending requirements
great many districts that have been able to spend well above requirement, so question of how much additional aid they should get is part of discussion
also smaller rural districts where declining enrollment creates a very different situation, foundation budget doesn't solve issue
"every group of school districts has a different set of needs"
"we understand the Board's imperative that closing the achievement gap has to be the first and foremost goal if we're going to be talking about literally hundreds of millions of dollars in new education aid over the next decade"
"make sure that investment pays off in student performance in closing the achievement gap"
Bell: more focused and more surgical in targeted assistance
additional targeted assistance as part of supplemental budget
another source of funding to address that
Craven: city of Lawrence had seen a big influx of money from the cityside prior to receivership
(someone want to bring the receipts on that one, please? because here's what the state reporting says: from -5.4 to 0.8 net school spending the year the state took over)'s sort of that same situation..."as those clear out, there are going to be others following quickly behind" I have no idea what she's referring to here: receivership districts? districts underfunding NSS?
Sagan asks Riley "as someone who has been on both sides of this"
Riley: very clear from FBRC that funding system is broken
"obviously saw that during my time in Lawrence"
"they were put back on an even plain" (true; they got UP to NSS under receivership)
average district is 20% over...many cities barely at minimum (note that it's more like 29% now)
Legislature need to fix issue
"group of struggling districts, often with our most needy kids, not getting the funds they need"
Moriarty: this is structural, there's no quick fix
"that 20% gap...I think is exactly what was looked at in the original education reform"
"just to get a relative equivalent education"
"kind of back to 1993 in the fiscal situation at this time"
Sagan: want to make sure we're not underdoing what we need to do (refers question to Peyser)
Peyser: not just about the funding "it's how the funding is being used"
"as much as there has been attention paid to the formula itself...we need to also be thinking about how those funds are being used in a strategic way...districts are given resources to...I don't want to say guarantee success...investing in those opposed to thinking this just about a funding thing"
Sagan: Department stands ready to use those tools
Stewart: budget committee briefly discussed sending a letter in response to the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations
bring forward a draft at the next meeting, as the Governor is bringing forward House 1
Sagan: think we could entertain that
Craven: the targeted assistance..."anything that adds money to everyone isn't" as useful
Sagan: we know money isn't correlated always
Craven: the Department since 1993 has been in the position of not having those tools, since the bargain was the increased dollars came with the ed reform oversight
"now it's for something new...the Board may benefit from the knowledge the Department has built up in expertise for districts" (this is appalling...this is money OWED under the CURRENT system)
Peyser: certainly in your advice to me in your role
Sagan: if there's anyone else you feel should get it, since you've got the message
Board approves memo

soliciting public comment on high school science competency
final vote will be in February
Wulfson: not asking Board to make decision on anything other than soliciting public comment
same interim passing standard as in ELA and math in MCAS switch
"get that process going so students who will be the first to take this test" can be prepared for it
remove from regulation what specific science tests will constituent the determination
Commissioner has indicated that he is not yet ready to make a recommendation on removing other (non-biology) MCAS science options
computer science gaining popularity
would like Board to be able to have flexibility to respond to changes without extensive timeline of changing regulation
West: striking through names of tests throughout; is "technology and engineering" included in "science" which is what will remain?
Wulfson: always has been considered one of the science competencies
Approved to send out for public comment

and that's it! 'though I have THOUGHTS on much of this...

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Remember that big red exclamation mark, Worcester?

Remember this?
Well, it looks like concern raised was right:
After reaching a high of nearly 400 students last school year, the number of hurricane-displaced children attending the city schools plummeted to 99 in the district’s latest enrollment count, according to the School Department.
Brian Allen, the schools’ chief financial and operations officer, said about one-quarter of the evacuee students remained in the district as of the annual Oct. 1 count.
Remember, the idea was that the grants--there was more than one round--would cover the gap until students were picked up by the foundation budget. It looks as though most won't be, as they aren't here.
What does that mean financially?
That means those additional students technically weren’t counted in Worcester’s fiscal 2019 state funding calculations, and thus won’t count against the district’s funding amount next year now that most of them have left. In fact, the nearly 100 students who remain represent a roughly $1.2 million increase in state funding, according to Mr. Allen.  
But the school system did receive nearly $2 million in emergency state aid earlier this year because of the large number of displaced students it took in; it may be unlikely the district will receive that amount again, which Mr. Allen said roughly equates to a hole in next year’s schools budget.

That is of course part of a larger budget picture, but remember, Worcester's school budget, unless there is city action, grows only due to inflation and enrollment changes. Unless the schools have picked up additional enrollment, it could be a tight one in FY20.

 By the same token, this coming budget is going to be weirder (for lack of a better word) than usual: DESE is putting together policy recommendations for the foundation budget the Governor on his FY20 budget. If he takes any of them, the usual ability of the districts to forecast their state aid is going to be thrown off (and we already saw how differently that shook out last year, with the Senate getting ELL changed). That probably isn't bad, but consider this my warning that it isn't that the districts aren't running their numbers, necessarily, but that the state's usual direction might change.

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday, November 20

Super short--but important--agenda!
Two items:
    • The Board is being asked to vote to endorse the budget memo (which goes to the Secretary to the Governor for his consideration in House 1). This recommends that education aid accounts be set at"highest level possible based on available revenues for FY20" specifying Chapter 70, circuit breaker, and charter school reimbursement, and prioritizing next "districts with identified achievement gaps in student learning, to support reforms that have evidence of narrowing achievement gaps." It also mentions the next generation assessment (including the history assessment, so I will adopt their not using MCAS), civics, ELL, STEM, ed licensure, and interagency cooperation.
    • The Board is also being asked to send for public comment the setting of the competency determination for high school science
    I am not going to make this one; I'll catch up later.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What works on school safety

...or what doesn't.
The survey responses are consistent with a federally funded 2016 study by Johns Hopkins University that concluded there was “limited and conflicting evidence in the literature on the short- and long-term effectiveness of school safety technology.” 
The schools that have experienced gun violence consistently cited simple, well-established safety measures as most effective at minimizing harm: drills that teach rapid lockdown and evacuation strategies, doors that can be secured in seconds and resource officers, or other adults, who act quickly. 
But fear has long dictated what schools invest in, and although campus shootings remain extremely rare, many superintendents are under intense pressure from parents to do something — anything — to make their kids safer.
To read before the next public testimony/budget vote on school security apparatus.

Particularly of interest as Massachusetts devotes $7.5M of last year's budget surplus to "school security" spending. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This is happening in Worcester tonight!

Worcester parents/guardians/interested denizens, and Central Mass in general: this is happening tonight at Clark! 

Colin Jones from MassBudget is coming out to present, I'm saying a word or two, AND there will be organizing for further action! 

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The agenda, it appears, did not make the inital posting of the new website (go look!), so I couldn't do this until this morning.

There are recognitions.

While the superintendent's report is her end-of-cycle goals, there is no backup posted, so there isn't any way for anyone to evaluate what is being reported.

There is a returning report on head lice, in which the district is aligning with best practice. 

The School Committee is being asked to consider and pass 2019-20 and 2020-21 school calendars (not a great copy, but if you scroll down, the dates are spelled out).

Mr. Monfredo is bringing forward a resolution that has been passed by several other committees regarding the foundation budget.
--Can we talk about this resolution for minute? As is readily apparent from this blog and elsewhere, I am fully in on passing an update on the foundation budget. But as a Worcester parent, I have some major issues with this resolution. First, it depends on model 4 of MassBudget's report of July; Model 4 has minimum per pupil aid. What that does is A) nothing for Worcester, and B) drives up expenses by ensuring that EVERY DISTRICT SEES INCREASES. Why would Worcester drive up the costs of the proposed solutions to the problem that keeps Worcester hundreds of teachers short every year? Further, this resolution, out of frustration with inaction, sets a date of May 1 for solutions. This will not happen. This is a new legislature; they will need new committees; they will not pass bills until those new committees have heard them. In short, this is a resolution that poorly serves Worcester AND sets itself up for failure.
I hope the Committee heavily amends this one before they consider it.---

Mr. Monfredo wants grade 3 reading set as a priority (doesn't the School Committee plan to set goals after the superintendent's evaluation? Why is this here?).
Mr. O'Connell wants staff to be able to use laptop computers in school (an item which clearly has more going on than posted).

The $2M in federal emergency impact aid for the students displaced by Hurricane Maria has come through and is being recommended for allocation to the salaries for 24 teaching coaches.

Miss Biancheria is asking for a list of Ch. 74 programs and for the process for changing bus stops.

There is also two prior year payments for approval: $697.50 for transportation, and $32.50 to a custodian.

And there are donations:
  • $347.50 from Dogfather Vending LLC/Mark Gallant to WTHS 
  • $1,000.00 from Gomez Enterprises LLC/McDonald’s to Roosevelt Elementary School
  • $1,000.00 from Gomez Enterprises LLC/McDonald’s to the Worcester Public Schools to be used as a scholarship to a deserving student
  • $2,000 from the Pappas Scholarship Fund to be divided equally to a student at South High Community School and another at Worcester Technical High School
The Committee also has an executive session posted for 6 pm clear posted reason.

Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 MASC Delegate Assembly

You can find the resolutions being considered here
Resolution 1: Arming of Educators
Resolution 2: Small and Rural Districts
Resolution 3: Elimination of the Federal Department of Education
Resolution 4: Regional School Transportation
Resolution 5: Reporting and Accountability Standards
Resolution 6: Reproductive Health
Resolution 7: Gender-Identity Inclusive Athletic Participation
Resolution 8: Sports Wagering
Resolution 9: Access to Information for Parents of Special Education Student

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Commissioner Riley takes questions

...who jokes that for the next three hours "we're going to review the rules and regulations of the department"

first question: Baker has pledged no new taxes; how are you going to pay for it?
Riley: last year, the state found a billion dollars in revenue they hadn't expected
"the economy is booming; if it keeps up, we'll have funding to apportion for education"
"the Governor is not a guy, as a Republican, who is in favor of new taxes, but I live in Boston, and I see the cranes going up all the time"
"if this continues, I have to advocate to advocate for funding to go towards education"

Q: what role does global education play in your thoughts?
Riley: when you look at the LOOK Act, the seal of biliteracy
"I think you're starting to see the realities of a more global perspective"
"I think MCAS has done a decent job...I welcomed the advent of that testing, but it only takes us so far"
" there are other skills...harder to assess"
on seal: trying to ensure that we have kids who are truly bilingual
Q: any openness to other "seals"?
Riley: like the Boy Scouts? Let me think on that for awhile
moving from class to class in 45 minutes "and it can be soul numbing"
"we're losing a generation of boys"

Q: "I know we're in a fist fight over Chapter 70..." what about early childhood?
not seeing this Governor raising taxes
"not always about the money, sometimes about how you use the money

Q: love what I hear about MCAS not bringing us all the way; anything new on collaboratives and vo-techs?
Riley: "playing nicely together in the sandbox"
"more kids get into the school"
working with the vocational school on kids that maybe were at risk "and we figured out the money"
versus this continued civil war

Q: assessment on civics education?
Riley: what could an alternative assessment look like that isn't necessarily a bubble test?
committee put together on that
"we've asked people to think outside the box on what an alternative assessment could look like"
testing taking too much time: have to figure how to take less
"adaptive testing"
"now there are item bank issues and other things we need to work on"
Note from group: unevenness in funding on technology
Riley (defers to Mary Bourque of Chelsea on where the funding came from...not the state)
Bourque notes ACCESS tests as well, and that students who are ELL take longer on MCAS tests

Q: teachers of color; MTEL doesn't show any indication of how good a teacher will be
Riley: I know some state people who would disagree with that
Q: pipeline of potential future teachers?
Riley: 40% of our students are children of color, only 7% of teachers are
(26% of adults are)
Lawrence did it by training paras; went after kids who had graduated from Lawrence High
morgage assistance for those working
"we have to have incentive programs for them"
"have to change the perception of teaching in this country"
MTEL: persistence rate issue
those of color who don't pass the test the first time are less likely to take the test again
"we're going to go look at that right now"
"working to recruit this spring"

Q: accountability on attendance
Riley: doing a survey on this accountability system
was in process when he came in
"one of the things I hear about is students with real medical issues"
"We're going to be looking at that"

Q: LOOK bill; unfunded mandate
Riley: more options
"just because you have the freedom, doesn't mean districts will necessarily take that freedom" and not all programs are good for kids