Tuesday, January 30, 2018

"If it's not good enough for my child, then why are we putting any children in those schools?"

I'm thinking about two things tonight.

One is this interview with Nikole Hannah-Jones from last year:
And I say this — and it always feels weird when I say it as a parent, because a lot of other parents look at you a little like you're maybe not as good of a parent — I don't think she's deserving of more than other kids. I just don't. I think that we can't say "This school is not good enough for my child" and then sustain that system. I think that that's just morally wrong. If it's not good enough for my child, then why are we putting any children in those schools?

And the other is this chart of the ten largest majority Chapter 70 districts and the state average spending compared to minimum required spending.

Monday, January 29, 2018

"Baker's pick"

Okay, I don't want to belabor this point, but I keep seeing this said, so I'm going to stick this here:

The notion that Jeff Riley was Governor Baker's pick misses how Riley became receiver in Lawrence.
He was appointed by the late Commissioner Mitchell Chester in January of 2012

  • when the Governor was Deval Patrick
  • when the Secretary was Paul Reville
  • under a law that was passed by two Democratically controlled houses and signed by a Democratic Governor
  • under a board of which no member is currently still serving

Vote of Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on new Commissioner of Education

The meeting is scheduled to start at 12:30...posting as we go...
Everyone here save Chair Sagan and Secretary Peyser. Isn't that interesting? 
And the Chair is here...

Meeting being called to order at 12:39

Sunday, January 28, 2018

What we missed

I didn't want to go into tomorrow's vote for a new Commissioner without reflecting a little bit on the process and how we got here.
Let me start by saying that it's really hard to do this: to boil down all of something--a district, a state--into a description and a series of questions that will somehow reflect what is needed in a leader. Educational systems (and no, we don't just have schools; we have systems) are extremely three dimensional places. They have a lot within them and a lot that influences them from outside. Any attempt to squeeze that into a brochure and two hours of questions will always come up short.

But I was struck, in re-reading the interviews, by how flat they are, by how much we miss.

In my imagined reality, we would have started by throwing the process wide open: hold open sessions across the state. Ask everyone--local unions, school committees, advocacy organizations, student groups--to hold public forums to talk about Massachusetts education and its leadership. Make it an essay/video/column/poem/etc project. Have Board of Education members go out to kindergarten classes and have discussions about what they want to do for the next twelve years. Go find college students and young workers who went to school here and ask them to talk about what worked and what didn't. Pin down everyone who thinks DESE is a scary entity that only brings bad news and find out why. Make it a true Massachusetts process.

And then be really specific about what the Commissioner does. I know I don't know everything about this, but I know more than I did two years ago. What does the Commissioner do all day? What can the Commissioner do? What can't the Commissioner do?
This might involve better defining what DESE does, which I think most of us are still either completely foggy on or very limited in.

Then perhaps we'd have a more three-dimensional vision of what education in Massachusetts is and what the Commissioner does and better define what the new one should be.

One of the ways I judge how state meetings go is by how I feel about sending my kids to Massachusetts public schools as I walk out them. It's been a lousy Board of Ed meeting if I leave it wanting to do something else with their education.

On Friday, I walked out of the Commissioner interviews and went straight to Worcester's arts magnet annual extravaganza, in which all of the arts, by students who have arts every day as part of their schedule, is featured. And yes, Worcester is still managing this, barely, on its vastly underfunded budget each year. The kids that were singing and dancing and acting and playing instruments were--purportedly--those that Friday was about:
Worcester's a Gateway City.
Worcester is majority students of color.
Worcester is majority second language learners.
Worcester's children are majority in poverty.

It didn't feel like Friday was about them.
There were flashes of places when it did: a story here, an anecdote there.

But the lived reality of the 5:30 scramble to catch a bus in the winter cold,
the Monday morning check of how your weekend was for kids for whom meals and warmth isn't a given,
the passed-back work graded over the weekend,
the gym classes,
the question of what's for lunch,
the connection finally made in math class,
the after-school basketball practices,
the afternoon homework and snacks and check-in for those who are lucky enough to have it,
the rush to have things laid out before doing it again tomorrow...
...those didn't feel like Friday.

We have two weeks

This is it: We have this week and next week to get Senate Bill 223 to implement the foundation budget out of the Joint Committee.
Otherwise, it dies there.

So, what can you do?
Well, when WAS the last time you asked your legislator about it? If it wasn't last week, it's been too long.
Bonus points if they're on the Joint Committee on Education, but either way, contact them!

While you're at it, point out that they could ALSO work on implementation a whole bunch more than the Governor did with his FY19 release. And while I have seen letters circulating for regional school transportation and I expect to see one for per pupil increases, I have yet to see anything on the foundation budget.

It's about equity.
Let's get it done.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Yes, I'm sorry, I missed the first one of the year...too much to keep track of this January! 

I'm flagging this one in particular because it's FIRST LOOK AT THE FY19 BUDGET!
That's the report of the superintendent this week. The quick glance I gave Worcester's numbers earlier this week had the foundation budget up by $3.7M; to that, add some from the $15M intended as a grant for the students evacuated from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands...I'm guessing another $2.4M or so?
That won't, of course, be enough, as it doesn't even cover real inflationary costs.

There are some appointments and congratulations.

The administration is reporting on the $5000 received under McKinney-Vento for homeless students, rather, reporting that it did receive it. I wonder what it will be used for?

There's also a report on the process of making referrals to DCF.

There are two donations:
$250 from Walmart to Woodland Academy
$286.80 from Box Tops for Education to Tatnuck Magnet School
...as well as a $20,000 grant from UNUM for the "Strong Schools" grant to purchase books and curriculum...that report is very vague....

Miss McCullough is asking for a report on indoor recess policy.

And BOTH Miss McCullough and Mr. Foley are asking what the difference between an excused and an unexcused absence is (I have no idea). Miss McCullough also calls out the scary letter they send if your child gets a certain number of absences (I've gotten it; it's frightening).

The annual audit is coming (it's not here; it'll be referred to F&O).
And the annual handbook review is coming (it'll be referred to Governance).

The administration is looking to amend the innovation plan of Worcester East Middle to drop the sixth grade to have a new "Citywide Health and Science Gifted Academy" starting next year.

At the request of Miss Biancheria, the administration is reporting out on the use of the returned health insurance funds; the recommendation looks like this:
There is approval of the allocation farther down the agenda.

Miss Biancheria is asking if students could do community service at the senior center.

Mayor Petty, following up on his inaugural address, is asking for a review and update on the health curriculum. It's worth noting that the state is about to start a comprehensive review of the state standards for health.

The administration is referring two sets of curriculum to the school committee for approval: grade 8 and AP science texts and elementary reading curriculum.

There is an executive session to discuss contracts for the IAs and Plumbers and Pipefitters, and also to discuss litigation.

My hope is to be there for the budget presentation. 

Saturday, January 27, 2018

Tuesday's Board of Education in sum

Now posted over on MASC.

Train thoughts on the education commissoner interviews

I tweeted this out on my ride home yesterday, but I was asked to put it in a more shareable format. h/t to Dan Callahan who caught the proof that I was on the train. As always, my thoughts, nothing further, upon reflection of nearly six hours of interviews. 

The crowd ebbed and flowed over the day: it was a good size for Schwinn, the room was full for Infante-Green, smaller for Riley. Riley, of course, is something of a known quantity for Massachusetts at the state level, so that wasn't entirely surprising.

I went into yesterday expecting to be wowed by Schwinn; I assumed she had to be a great interview, because I didn't understand how else she would have made it to the finalists' list. She wasn't. She wasn't awful--she had a response for every question and gave examples when asked--but I assumed, with the state level positions she's held in more than one state, she would have studied Massachusetts. She hadn't. Her answers in many cases made it clear that she didn't know what we've been doing. I also expected, given her background and public comments, to be more in disagreement with what she had to say. I wasn't; more than once, I went back and re-read something, thinking, "Yeah, okay." So much of what she said was management jargon, though, that it was difficult to find much to hang onto. If I never hear "performance management" again, it will be too soon. The Board did push a bit on the special education issue(s) in Texas; some clearly were satisfied with her answer, others clearly were not. In sum, I thought I would at least get the attraction and I really didn't. Notes on that interview are here.

I'm not giving away the game to say there's some smart money on Infante-Green; there has already been at least one #teaminfantegreen tweet. She has the most compelling story, both personally and professionally. It would also, bluntly, look pretty good for our Republican (but, no, really, not that kind, he says) governor to oversee the appointment of the first woman and first Latino Commissioner. Yesterday, Infante-Green no sooner sat down then she made the Board and crowd laugh. The energy in the room changed entirely (this is why I don't sit in the front, by the way). I don't know if the Board even realized they were doing it, but they engaged with her in an entirely different way than they had with Schwinn. They asked follow-up questions that were relevant to her answers. Clearly, Infante-Green's home turf is English learners and special education; I and others have wondered if she's siloed there. I was a bit reassured on that count today. I did, though, intentionally flag her speaking of the empowerment zone and bringing "Third Way Ed" back from the dead, both of which are very odd from someone who at one point said "data data data." There is none or very little. Also, some of her responses on poverty were not okay; poverty does impact the classroom, and it's silly and dangerous to deny that. Should it lower our expectations? No. But we as adults should expect a whole lot more of ourselves when kids are poor; I didn't hear enough of that from her. And I'm overemphasizing both of these points because she's the strongest candidate. I like that she wants to keep her kids in dual language programs (me, too). And I think she walked out of there in the strongest position. Notes on that interview are here.

As I've said before, Riley is a known face to the Board; he's in every few months to update them on Lawrence. They know him, they know his views, and thus the exchange with Secretary Peyser on the "test scores beat all" philosophy (of Peyser's) wasn't a surprise, at least to me. Riley doesn't believe that's the most important or only thing in education; lucky for us, neither does most of the Board. Riley's been consistent throughout his career on that (you can find it in print as far back as his time at Edwards Middle), and let me say that I honor that consistency. Riley also acknowledged his privilege as a white male, which makes for quite a break with subjects that might in other times have been undiscussed; it noted the elephant in the room. His answer on poverty was much more balanced (and note that Lawrence has expanded all sorts of outside services to kids), I found. I have never thought that this was "Riley's to lose," as I've heard many people (who spend less time in Board of Ed meetings) say; there also will definitely be timing and visuals and politics as part of this appointment. Notes on that interview are here.

You can still comment on the selection to the Board til noon today. They vote on their choice at 12:30 on Monday in Malden.
And yes, I will be at that, too! 

Friday, January 26, 2018


The Board has said that they welcome feedback. You can download the form here.
Sign it and email it back to the Board by noon tomorrow!
(Or just email them)

Interviews for Massachusetts Commissioner of Education: Jeffrey Riley

You can read WBUR's profile here

Sagan: mission of Department
Riley: "I spent the majority of my time on this earth in public education"
"this near and dear to my heart"
"someone who build consensus, able to work with wide variety of stakeholders to get things done"

Craven: diversity
Riley: children come to public schools from a variety of backgrounds, races, religions,
wide range of skills and abilities and differences
"As a white man, I'm very cognizant of the privilege I've had in this world"
spent most of career trying to get results "for city kids, most of the kids in poverty, most of them kids of color"
Lawrence "more than double number of Latino teachers in the district"
almost tripled the number of people from Lawrence

Moriarty: gap
Riley: achievement gap doesn't start in kindergarten; starts at 18 months!
Edwards Middle: able to close gaps significantly
"but it takes time"
Moriarty: three to close gap
Riley: "word gap that starts" early
an educational campaign, information to families
"we talk about third grade reading...key metric area..."
acceleration academies to make up ground
using data
"sometimes second language learners need a little more time"
"BUT that does not mean as a community and a department that we can't put a mandate at the third grade level" to identify kids who need support

Morton: role of K-12 in meeting the needs of differently abled
Riley: started career as a special education teacher
have a child who has different abilities
were concerned that she might be treated differently
school in Boston "that met my child's needs"
coming home every day wanting to play school when she got home
taking daughter off IEP
"this is a problem, particularly in special education...and this is a problem, especially in urban education"
need to get kids back in classrooms
"equity issue around this"
Morton: leverage expertise?
Riley: come together to find ways to discuss what's happening in our special education program
some of that is about being more inclusive
"machinery inside the structure is still broken"and needs fixing

Craven: management
Riley: budget in Lawrence is almost $200M
"when I first came, the city was not meeting that minimum number"
got a deal together that they will at least fund at the minimum level
things we wanted for our kids "like art and music and step dancing"
a few years ago, Foundation Budget Review Commission said districts like Lawrence should be getting more
"but I'm a realist" may happen when revenues may return to the state
what can we do in the meantime?
Craven: what specifics?
Riley: replace LED lighting
raising money outside

Stewart: team
Riley: historically have been more of an operator
policy support
"I'm going to need to get up to speed"
"from the Belichick school of drafting, [people] who can do many things"
"there was a lot of call to fire all the teachers and replace the schools with charter schools"
took six months to assess
"found a lot of assets...used incredible talent inside the district"

Trimarchi: stakeholders
Riley: "the children in Lawrence have no problem tweeting to me the winter forecast about closure of school"
BUT also have said "we need an extra late bus" or changes in high school
"I didn't just tweet back to them"
went and met with them
"it would be a mistake not to listen to the kids" as they know what the issues are

Trimarchi: legislature
Riley: starting with ELT school in Boston, went to Beacon Hill
comings and goings of political process
not new to Beacon Hill, doesn't have a depth of experience there
would be learning

McKenna: people have different visions of state agencies
Riley: "lose/tight administration"
"how can we support them"
tight on certain things and people know what the rules are, but they also know they're going to be supported
McKenna: balance state oversight and local control
Riley: former superintendent went to jail, 50% of kids weren't graduating from high school
"that was a time"
"but it should be done very delicately"
had to change reputation: "we are not here to blow everything up"
"yes there are things that need to change...but at the same time, we were able to rally people to change"
"when you talk about the zone idea...I've seen a lot of press about it...it's too early in the process if it's been a net positive for kids"

West: charter schools
Riley: "I've always been a moderate on this issue"
I've always thought that parents don't care what kind of school "parents just want a good school for their kids"
charter schools in MA "single most effective charter sector in America, and a lot of that lies at the feet of this board"
always said that if I got the chance, we'd work together
"a place for charter schools in Massachusetts, and we need a more collaborative spirit on both ends"

strong policies at the state level that have continued
gains made have benefited many but not all
"moral and legal obligation" to ensure all kids
engaged with stakeholders
listen and bring back to Board
three key concepts: 1. rigorous academics supported by quality professional development
references teaching classes
2. high quality enrichment
3. push for equity
working group on issues of equity
rolling out and expanding key initiative: early college, vo-tech (in both vo-tech schools and comprehensive schools)
auditing DESE itself to ensure balance on oversight
"may be areas where we are overregulated"
know that only peanut butter will get gum out of a child's hair; that if you're trapped in a middle school with 500 middle school students by a freak snowstorm, your only hope is in sending out teachers for pizza

West: "at the risk of repeating one of the more infamous moments of our national education secretary's hearing," view on growth and proficiency
Riley "I do not think it should be one or the other"
"for me, I believe that effort is the key to success"
"would like to see them rewarded for improvement"

West: teacher eval and role of state
Riley: new system "more user friendly for administrators"
"not sure we've agreed on what good instruction looks like"
the question is does this Board pick up on that
"talking about good instruction...giving teachers and administrators chances to share"
"I think we can start with that work first"
"give teachers opportunity to have that time"

Fernandez: communication
Riley: don't always take the time to go back and review policies
better job on communicating to our families
"What we don't want to do, like I had to do last week, was tell 46% of my teachers that they're going to have to switch health care"
high school test: a real opportunity
let parents go into the schools "and be partners in the work"
"it's an amazing community in Lawrence and we did not do a good job of inviting them in"
Sagan: sitting here, what should department do
Riley: regional meetings for superintendents
op-eds in newspapers
"many different forms of communication these days to get the word out"

Fernandez LOOK act
Riley: one of the most important pieces of legislation to come out in a long time
parents more choice and more say
seal of biliteracy "a very elegant statement about how profound it would be to have students graduate biliterate"
celebrate second language learning acquisition
"blown away by how engaged and excited the kids are"
"learning a language, you have to put yourself out there"

Doherty: I want to make a public disclosure that my mother's name was Riley
socio-economic status and test scores
Riley: "I think poverty is a real thing. I also know we've seen outpost where we've beaten it back."
"more time with good teachers"
"at the end of the day it's a question of fairness for our kids"
kids aren't starting at the same place
poverty is real, hunger is real, word gap is real
"we have to recognize that these things are real, but we have to have high expectations"
Doherty: use of scores in accountability
Riley: I'm more interested in their improvement
"I do recognize that poverty is an issue; it can be demoralizing to people in the field to see progress and not seen that recognized"

Peyser: focus on reading and math
Riley: believe it has led to a narrowing of the curriculum "and I believe that's wrong"
believe we have to value different types of intelligences
"I think there's a balance there"
"We have an awful lot of testing there...and that's a lot of missed instructional time"
have we looked at adaptive testing?
"how can we make [testing] better"
Peyser : a great theater production can't offset poor math skills
Riley: tells a story of a kid who performed as the lead in "Godspell"
"for me, my question is this 'Is Michael scoring as high as he can on math and English? If the answer is yes, then I feel like we've done our job. I also feel like we need to find a way to celebrate Michael's other skills"

Peyser: vocational education
Riley: some kids want to go to college, some want to work, and some are in the middle
"incredible demand" for vocational schools
"so what can we do to meet this demand?"
increase seats, add voke programs at comprehensive schools
"we need to be able to have great options for our kids"

Peyser: "one last question and don't take this the wrong way"
this job has to do with policies, process, systems: do you really want this job? And how to transition?
Riley: "I did apply for the job and I want it"
at every step, people have asked if I really wanted that job
"for me, I've been clear, there'd be a lot of learning"
passion for education in Massachusetts and a willingness to learn
would rely on your guidance

Sagan: any reservations?
Riley: "I didn't before this meeting."

Riley: appetite for engaging with public on policy?
Morton: Board has people with different perspectives...how do you manage us?
Riley "I've always worked for one person, not a collective"
"having those interpersonal skills and personal relationships"

McKenna; achievement gap; what's it going to take?
Riley: improvement over time before counting testing

Interviews for Massachusetts Commissioner; Angélica Infante-Green

you can read WBUR's profile

Sagan: Commonwealth’s education system mission
Infante-Green: Massachusetts reputation precedes
Whole succession of roles that lead me to where I am today; given me experience and opportunities
Different ways of tackling information : NY has 700 districts; 2.6M kids
Understand scope; also understand rural, urban, suburban
Have two children; Massachusetts provides a world-class education “I can’t deprive my kids of that” (to laughter)

Craven: diversity in K-12 education
"having difficult conversations"
when people say they don't see color, that's not true
"we have to see the challenges and work through...this marks the road of where we end up"
NY state is one of the most segregated school systems in the nation
presented to the state board around cultural responsiveness earlier this week and how that ties into the ESSA plan
"when they're thinking of English language learners, they're thinking of one type of students; that's not true"
"when you're thinking of differently able children, 'dis' means 'can't' and that's not true"
"create subgroups...why do subgroups matter?"
"new arrivals" versus students who have been here some time
look at program models and models for excellence
"talk to parents..I feel very strongly that parents are the cornerstone of that work"
"I will try not to use edu-jargon"
create a tool kit for parents
looking at technology for communicating parents: "We have to communicate so they understand"

Moriarty: turnaround in lowest performing schools; roots of problem and solutions
Infante-Green: couple of things
a very strong curriculum matters; "are we simplifying for kids or are we expanding?"
"are we thinking of remediation all the time...and we can't"
"have a tendency of taking away the other things that we know are important...like the arts"
"we cannot limit our kids"
"have to get better at our craft" as teachers
"have been challenged in my life in ways I didn't think I would ever be"
"to expand and to grow...something we have to spend time in"
Moriarty: third grade reading
Infante-Green: have to start way before kindergarten
"have to really look at what the children bring"
"very researched based systematic system" to learning to read
"I didn't have the training in literacy in my first year, so I went back to school"
"the English language is very complicated"
"looking at literacy a little differently...different cultures have different ways of speaking"
"have to know how to bridge that gap"
native language: students come in with some of those hallmarks of literacy in place
"use their home language as a vehicle"

Morton changes his question to use "differently abled" in his question
Infante-Green: a little over-representation of kids who have IEPs
"would start in the evaluation"
"what are we measuring, what are the right tools" are they normed for this population
"can't use standard evaluations because they aren't normed for this population"
IEP should drive achievement and standards for that child
should be comprehensive to parents
understanding for all teachers of diagnosis
"we have students who have difficulty reading" who don't have IEPs
haven't capitalized on assistive technology
"how does that learning continue to happen at home?"

State agencies have a tendancy to continue to do things even if they don’t work
Look at what works, what doesn’t, what changes can be made
Does everything need to be done at the state level by a state agency?
“the magic and the work happens at that [local] level”

Stewart: roles to fill in around you for complete management team
Infante-Green: “keep hearing what an amazing team Mitchell Chester put together”
“have to be a very collaborative approach”
“same level of commitment and drive”
“very good at the operation piece…part of being Commissioenr is there’s a lot of politics around this job…someone who can execute”
“details are important, details matter”
“people that would push me, that wouldn’t ‘yes’ me”
“we have to be able to move forward”

Stewart building a highly diverse staff, retaining staff
Have to be able to meet those standards; provide those opportunities to learn and to grow
“someone that can communicate well, with teachers, with educators, but primarily with parents”
“job can’t just be about me”
“people who are aggressive who are hungry who will go the extra model”
“not always going to be popular”
“have a thick skin…as long as we’re doing right by kids, that’s alright”

Trimarchi: engaging stakeholders
Infante-Green: "when there's noise in the background, you need to listen"
"students are very good about telling what they're getting and what they're not getting"
"Everyone has something to contribute"
Trimarchi: working with legislators
Infante-Green: building coaltion
"outcomes, what happens if you don't do it"
"being compelling"
"and having the student voice in those conversations is real"
members have different ideas and platforms; they are representing their communities

McKenna: views of what a state agency does and is: your vision?
Infante-Green: technical assistance, support, "but provide some regulation" set standards "this is where we need to go"
"should be a clearinghouse for what good curriculum looks like, what good practices look like"
"setting the bar, and not providing obstacles"
McKenna: balance of local control and school based management and state oversight
Infante-Green: if school districts are doing a great job for kids, "that's where we learn and grow and share from"
"I think districts need to have a little more autonomy when they show they can make the change"
"need to be working with them on the ground"
"clear markers for how they're going to measure that"

Sagan I missed the question
Infante-Green: created leadership academies
"I want to stress that we do that with populations that look similar to theirs"
"we begin with data; it's always about data"
"honest conversations"
where we have done that and it hasn't moved the needle "we've come in as a team"
"sometimes different types of talent that's needed"

West: charter schools
Infante-Green: "charter schools do play an important role; they're part of the toolkit"
"I think every parent should have access to high quality program...that's non-negotiable"
have lots of options "you have the empowerment zone"
"have to share the practice...find a way to heal the conversation"

Infante-Green "I would like to begin with gratitude..."
students of populations "lagging behind"
"it's not enough to best in the country, if we're not the best for all kids"
"all really means all kids"
her mother "swore that her kids would have better opportunities"
mother bribed the secretary to get her enrolled in a higher performing school
"amazing teachers who pushed the envelope"
"most powerful force to fight poverty is education"
created the first dual language inclusion program for my son
"so he's dyslexic in both languages"
"understand what it takes to overcome challenges, because I was that kid"
"committed to making sure that parents don't have to make impossible choices that my mother made"
"bringing bold innovation to see that happens"
five key initiatives: 1. prioritize resources 2. leveraging teacher leaders 3. early grade literacy 4. strong instructional options  5. engage deeply with school community
robust partnerships
can't close achievement gaps wi
"we know that have teachers of color can positively impact students of color and it's equally important for" other students
there needs to be accountability
"we have continued to see success in our empowerment zones and we will continue to refine that third way"
speaks of elementary school in empowerment zone launched as a dual language school

Moriarty: theme of every parent having choices for their children
Not at a point of parents having agency over education; who to do that
Infante-Green: clear action plan on that
Go to communities “we aren’t the only leaders in communities”
West: teacher evaluation
Infante-Green: this should not be a top-down approach
“I think teachers want feedback, need feedback…I think that has to be left to the local level”
And have to have voice of teachers
“teachers have high standards…they can’t be left out of the conversation”

Peyser: how do you know?
Infante-Green: "I did say we were going to measure it"
"it happens at the local level and then we agree on how we're going to measure it"
places where we have these vulnerable communities and we need to have teachers in those conversations
"we have to think about this differently"

Fernandez: "if you were to backward plan from your speech"
Infante-Green: being very visible
communicating in differently languages
"I think we have spent a lot of time talking to parents not talking with parents"
"how do families get information? ...the voices have to come from their community"
Fernandez: LOOK act
Infante-Green: I'm a true believer in being prepared
work with schools to create a plan; planning year
"who are the students, who are those English language learners"
how do we include other communities in this opportunities that they have
continuing to learn science while learning English
"there are patterns"
exponential growth in ELL students: an opportunity
"we need to move further and push the envelope"
"very excited about these opportunities, but it has to be thoughtful"
Infante-Green "there's no such thing as a deficit"
"all teachers being teachers of English language learners"
"just because you don't speak English doesn't mean you don't understand content"
"not about remediation; it's about wrapping up instruction"
"show what the data clearly says...those kids tend to outperform everyone else" when given supports
Moriarty: level of state involvement
Infante-Green: because it's new, there's going to be a lot of collaboration with the state
curriculum in place, teachers are trained, have a voice and how the program is created
"do that together"

Doherty: socio-economic and testing
Infante-Green: poverty is a reason to look at what we're doing
"poverty doesn't influence what happens in the classroom"
"we have to double our efforts"
work with higher education so students get credit for their language skills
"how do they use what they bring as skills"
"has to be about instructional practice"
if we're going to have the conversation about poverty "we should provide it"
"have they eaten"
"are they cold, like it is in this room" (at which someone brought forward a wrap for her)
"can't pretend like poverty doesn't exist, because it does"
"making sure that they get more, if they need a longer day, as I believe that they do"
"but it also means flexible scheduling if they have to work"
"also bringing in the community...extremely important"
"This is about saving kids lives and building community"
Doherty: how should testing be used in accountability?
Infante-Green: I believe in testing, I believe it's important, it's part of how we take the temperature
one of the questions is what does the assessment look like
assessments serve different purposes
ESSA is giving us an opportunity to do this now
"to push the efforts and the supports"
Doherty asks if she's a Yankees fans
Infante-Green "This is an unpopular answer, even in New York: I'm a Mets fan."

Peyser: other subjects being crowded out by reading and math
Infante-Green: yes
literacy across the curriculum: have to be challenged to do more than reading and do math
"find those intersections"
Peyser: how do you get there?
Infante-Green: accountability system: have an opportunity we have not had

Peyser: vocational ed
Infante-Green: how kids that were disengaged were brought back
work with industry "to keep up"
"if we're not partnering with the industry, we're doing our kids a disservice"

Peyser: NY in a different class (on size?) find partners and being inclusive while making hard decisions
Infante-Green: start with the end "can we all agree on where we want to be at the end of the day"
parents have felt we're not listening
"include every voice" in ESSA plan
"it doesn't mean we're always going to agree"
"when those rumblings start happening, you need to pay attention"
"to be more transparent"
75% of questions made public; seen as matter of public trust
NY state teachers felt they didn't have a voice in the standards; teachers and parents and business community included in revamp
"fix how we communicate and who we get there without changing the standards and expectations...I draw the line there"

Morton: concrete in mitigating gaps
Infante-Green: gap closing with dual language program
communities view this different
dual language school in Chinese community very popular until third grade, when testing happens
those kids outperformed everyone in the school
"What tools are available to us?" how are we measuring
measuring literacy in multiple languages
professional development while you put the curriculum in place
"data data data, very important"

Sagan: any reservation?
Infante-Green: "No, I would just ask you where I should buy a house."
"have looked into communities where we can live, contribute, and where my children can continue to be bilingual"

Sagan gives chance for her to ask questions
Infante-Green: how do you have the stamina to do this?
Sagan: "Well we keep the room cold"

Interviews for Massachusetts Commissioner of Education: Penny Schwinn

You could look at WBUR's profile here  The livestream of all interviews is here

Sagan lays out what the Board wants in education: what convinces you that this is the right job for you?
Schwinn: Massachusetts the bellweather for what is possible in this country
"it is the standard"
"incredibly compelling" that the state is continuing to move things forward
mom grew up in Natick
saw the achievement gap in her mother's classroom; asked her mom why, and she didn't know why
dad grew up in Massachusetts, moved from home to home, ended up homeless
father didn't have the same access to an excellent education that her mom did
"he is as much the reason I am in education today" as her mom
started teaching in Baltimore "amazing and incredible students, and not enough of them finished high school"
runs through her background
"very happy in my work in Texas...one of the most powerful things I can think of" to come back to Massachusetts

Craven: committed to diversity and inclusion: how would you define diversity?
Schwinn: "incredibly important...gender, race"
people with very different beliefs and background in the room
"incredibly important if you're going to get to the best possible answer in education"
developing accountability in her own background: part of that "was having a representative group of stakeholders"
"people who don't usually come to meetings"
in planning had people around the table who represent full community
"inclusion and representation across the full picture and not just the traditional identifiers"

Moriarty: turning around schools: understanding of roots of problem and what would you do?
Schwinn: hardest work in public education and work I feel most strongly about
"a very very diverse community who all bring very different benefits to the work"
"have to understand how to approach that"
have low expectations for some populations
have "incredible educators" who work very hard every day
"have to have very clear performance management"
what are those gaps, what are the root causes of those gaps
"solutions have to be personalized to local communities"
the state "is the cousin who comes to stay and brings their suitcase"
"local districts and local stakeholders can find local solutions"
Moriarty: third grade reading outcomes: three actions
Schwinn: starting young: so critical that we start literacy instruction "day one in kindergarten"
have a very limited understanding when we talk about literacy in the classroom: "making sure that we teach context"
teach art, and social studies, and science
"can't wait until third grade when we start that"
third, resources and support for educators
target students

Morton: support children with disabilities
Schwinn: allow children to access the content "the most important work we're doing in education right now"
"supposed to be providing the supports and accommodations"
"not thinking about the child by the disabilities"
"lots of different things that connect children together"
"how to look at each individual child in our classroom and identify all of the needs"
very important
role of state and districts is provide supports in classrooms
understand and identify what children need to be successful
Morton: leverage statewide for childrens with disabilities
Schwinn: have worked in large and small state
"how do you create equity across the full system"
"should not be plug and play...one size fits all...specific to local needs and context"

Craven: resource allocation and management: experience?
Schwinn: very large state, very large team
oversee 300 people, oversee $3B
"feel very strongly about performance management"
technical assistance to oversee allocation in districts
look at best practices
"no way to have one strategy" that fits all
performance management teams in priority areas

Sagan: special education in Texas
pretty good picture of Texas agency's view: would like your view
Schwinn: it's an important topic
has been a history of not doing right by students with disabilities
number declined to exact number that was the monitoring (?)
heard from parents that "we needed to invest more strategically in what needs of students were"
charged with writing contract then passed to agency that oversees
have not been strong in bringing in groups on contracts
"and that was a mistake"
should have brought in parents
"those parents should have been at the table"
personally asked for the audit on contract; "was very quickly dismissed"
"absolutely" should have included parents on the front end
"have lost a lot of trust from parents"
Texas "is at a tipping point"
"monitoring in the next three months will move under me"
it does not matter to a parent who was in Austin
"it matters that her son has access to the curriculum"
"that's not fair to those children"
"it's a real opportunity for us to prove that we believe in the" potential of all children
Sagan: parents expressed a question around privacy and children's data
Schwinn: "incredibly incumbent on the public schools to protect data"
oversee research and analysis; part of that is owning the data
care of how we communicate
"do have a tremendous amount of data"
"strong onus on us to protect children's data as much as possible"
Sagan: spending money and contract: philosophy? controls?
Schwinn: "there are never enough dollars to go around"
"don't have enough information" on students
"needed to find some way...so we could more effectively invest our dollars"
"we were not being strategic"
"looking at the data and looking at what the data is telling you about the need"
you start small, you see if it works, you see why, and if it does, you scale up
Moriarty: executing a decision or yours (on state contract on data contract)
Schwinn: no, let me clarify
was tasked with trying to find solutions to problems that we perceived
found a vendor we thought would solve and "sole source"
contracts and procurement team goes through process; can't sign or approve contracts
McKenna: my understanding is this began as a compliance issue in terms of the federal government
why are you spending contract money on getting information on 8.5% of students getting services rather than the students who are not getting services?
Schwinn: parents who very rightful felt their students should have been getting services and weren't
hubs of special education support across the state; districts saying that isn't good
providing services for all students who weren't identified
"that's a lot of kids...it's unacceptable...it is our responsibility to correct that"
not always a paper trail; how do we find those parents?
very complicated especially if you think of those children who are now graduates

Stewart: what roles would you need to fill in around you to compliment?
Schwinn: "you are steering the ship"
finance, educator support, academics, IT
"I have been predominately been in two areas: program...and what we lovingly call accountability"
flags finance as an area she'd need support in
"have to be an instructional leader"
Stewart: building and maintaining staff; hiring?
Schwinn: have been able to build a team
a diverse group; people with experience, race, background
"how we are going to implement best practices"

Trimarchi: engaging stakeholders; how do you intend to build alliances?
Schwinn: have worked in two states; "this is not a job where you can learn on the job"
state roles are not the same as districts
"working with your board, working with your local officials, statewide advocacy groups at the table"
"that's just step one"
"have to think about the mayor, have to think about the local school boards"
"it is the respect that you provide to local communities...I am tailoring that approach at the state level"
"sometimes I have to get out of the way and let them do their jobs"

Fernandez: balance of time
Schwinn: in Delaware, you meet with every district every month; large state is very different
"you are tasked with representing that work with a diverse group of stakeholders"
"both listening and hearing" is a significant part of the job
"continual cycle is incredibly important"

Sagan wants to go back to student engagement (because she didn't respond to that)
Schwinn: as adults often meet with adults, "have to build with the student in mind"
no one knows that better than the students
professional development for educators with be built with student input

Trimarchi: experience with working with legislative leaders? balance of interest groups?
Schwinn: great and complicated question
lots of different groups
"knowing those relationships"
"understand the various perspectives and aspirations and goals are"
build and see familiar faces that you talk to regularly
shape policy, can have conversations to talk about why and move forward

McKenna: there are very different views about what a state agency's role should be; what's your philosophy?
Schwinn: "It is something that we wrestle with constantly"
"to set expectations: what do we expect students to learn"
how do we know that they learned it
how do we support districts
"you are framing the house"
if it isn't going well, "you invite yourself into the house" and have those conversations
"very deliberate"
"the role of the state is to get out of people's way"
McKenna: balance of state oversight and local control
Schwinn: different in each state
Texas motto "come and take it"
"really is contextual to the local context"
"continue to bump" the expectation higher and higher "you have to make sure people are there first"
"really about letting local communities make local decisions for their children"
holding "mutual accountability for ourselves and others...accountability needs to start with the agency"

McKenna: you ran for elected office, but decided to leave after a year. Can you talk about that decision?
Schwinn: "was not an easy decision"
was nothing wrong in state law with serving in both positions but ethics said no, so she resigned

Peyser: series of roles; not asking for ten years, but do see it
Schwinn: "have been blessed with opportunities to serve" in many roles
managers who have seen her abilities and given a lot of power
"when you are an appointed role, that can be a short tenure"
"very happy, very happy in my role"
"not looking to move"
"do love state work"
"it is only this job to get us to move"
lots of transitions leads to "learned apathy"
"I too would be looking for a long term commitment, because my girls are going to be in school."
from a personal perspective "we are looking to settle"
"and stability is" important in education leadership

West: asking about charter schools: what role do they play?
Schwinn: "I am a believer, a deep believer in public education"
"and a deep believer in my role as a parent in choosing education for my child"
Massachusetts has a variety of types of schools
"most important thing about public education is you have communities that support those schools"
charter schools the beginning of her career "not the majority of my career"
commitment that we make to students every day
"that we fulfill the mission and vision for our families"

TEN MINUTE address at end of first year (this was their homework)
remember the day I first set foot in an excellent schools
engagement of students
School "allowed them to define themselves by their potential"
she started in a school now "needs improvement...but my mom moved ten miles"
"that ten miles defined so much of the opportunity I had before me"
"parents and students want that access to opportunity"
a vision to the future "through the eyes of our students"
"have much to celebrate"
runs through some NAEP
"clear commitment to education"
"far more of students are graduating on time and fewer are dropping out" but remedial coursework (oh wasn't watching the joint meeting this week)
held meetings that involved every district in the state
"important to include everyone consistently"
tool for understanding the standards
meaningful parent advisory councils and strong
"what and how we are communicating"
"making parent reports actionable" (I don't know what this means)
continued support of educators we know are critical to our future success
skills necessary to new classroom teachers
teachers participate in externships
"increase rigor and relevance in principal leadership"
support lowest performing schools; "mutual accountability"
continue in "Springfield and Holyoke"
"this alone is not a scaleable solution"
appropriate supports for schools; blended learning platform
"accountability needs to be matched with technical assistance"
Abigail Adams: "Learning is not attained by chance. It must be sought for with ardor and diligence"

West: reform of teacher evaluation
Schwinn: important question
"in best part of education, those decisions are made at the local level"
determine, though "what is excellence" and how to ensure students have access"
"can't be an endpoint"
"to support an individual in being better and better in their craft"
"have those decisions locally..with your full teacher workforce"
"have to have balance in those conversations"
"have made it a conversation about testing and not about teaching"
too often "not starting with the role of the teacher"

Fernandez: in a room with parents from Chelsea, Springfield, Holyoke and talking to them about the LOOK act
Schwinn "would want to make sure we had the appropriate people to translate"
"opportunity and assets"
"this act is giving us the opportunity to provide access"
"allows our children to be celebrated for speaking dual languages"
talk through strategies that need to be implemented
"not a one size fits all model" but resources we bring to the table
ability for innovation
"celebration of what we know to be true, that our children bring incredible gifts"

Fernandez: how would you structure your communication strategy? especially parents and students
Schwinn: have noted in role: have to define who stakeholders are
"changing the lens about how we approach communication"
"making information actionable"
interface of where the child is, what they're interested in
"who is the end user and what is their need"
very active social media account
"I think we need to cognizent about what it means to families that are raising kids"
Fernandez: assessment of communication? have you looked at Massachusetts
Schwinn: one of the things I would make things are available in all of the languages that are represented
don't bury the lead
"making sure that you let people know exactly how to find information"
personalize for child
(note that she is answering for Texas, not for Massachusetts)

Doherty: view on correlation between poverty and test scores? mitigate?
Schwinn: too often socio-economic predicting achievement
there are exceptions
"yes the data does show that, but it doesn't have to"
some children need more time
support at schools for whole child
Doherty: how should such scores be used?
Schwinn: assessments serve an important purpose; "assessment happens all the time as part of our work"
state and federal law requires testing
fixed point in time to see what students need moving forward
"without [testing], we can't" know how children are doing "to do better"
if you are a "A B or C" school in Texas, "you can have a local accountability system"
"unless we have some way of measuring the performance of our students" we can't know how they're doing, "and we do a disservice to our kids"

Peyser I have no idea what question he just asked: reading? maybe?
Schwinn: make sure students know letter sounds
then reading comprehension
students need context for that
"students don't read books about reading"
students making connections between historical markers and what they were reading
"literacy in every content area, but have to give access in those content areas"
Peyser: incentives in accountability system are focused on assessment, how to pursue full range?
Schwinn: different approach you can take: include science and social studies in the state testing
"something that is valued and that you need to teach"
"how do we hold our schools accountable in general"
"start to look at other indicators...might look like" different kinds of feedback
"the non-measured indicators"
Peyser: vocational and career education: role?
Schwinn: workforce of tomorrow?
articulated pathways going back into middle school
but "still talking about students who are 12 and 13 years old"
counselors who help students look at what those pathways are"

Peyser: are there certain state mandates that you would want to change or eliminate?
Schwinn: the district administration in me says yes
multiple accountability system that all work at the same time
"and it is a compliance issue"
one plan that is meaningful to the districts and schools
"think about monitoring...what does monitoring look like?"
seven difference monitoring teams in one month in a single district
conversation about the context and the outcomes "and then we would tie that to technical assistance"
state's "not just coming in to check boxes and then to go away"

Stewart: talk more about parent advisory piece
Schwinn: connect parents to resources as their children move higher on ladder in education
role of state when working with parents
"regular meetings with parents" specific communities of parents and students
information about my child to connect to resources to fill a need that child has
"think states need to open source and share information"
use technology to personalize the experience for families
have some scenerio where parents can call "and you can talk to the same person every time"
resources personalized to your child's need

Morton: two examples of your actions leading to improvements of students
Schwinn: head of school are instructional leader on campus
went to excellent schools and gained information from them
"how we benchmarked with students and how" we worked with families on that
"importance of learning from others...saying 'I don't know' and 'I want to get better'"
another: Texas were not communicating performance completely or accurate
"whenever we have any kind of labeling and it involves the child" that's a problem
"we're talking about proficiency and grade level, not the kid"
difference between being on grade level and approaching it
districts actually changed professional development to target students in a different way
give many students at a different level
"changed the trajectory for hundreds of thousands of students"

Sagan asks if she has any reservations about the job.
"I am very aware that I am not from Massachusetts, and that matters."
"that's an ongoing conversation...that will take time...will need to build trust"
"take the time and invest in the history"

Sagan offers to ask questions of them
Schwinn: important thing Commissioner has to do for state
Sagan: equity and achievement

Schwinn tells the story of a parent who wanted college and success for her son:
"I think that you can get him there, and I think you can and I think this school can"
birth mother of her daughter; "I can't give her what she needs, but I think that you can"
"Privilege and the importance of our role in public education"
"they gave us their babies today"
"I take that seriously...it's the most important job in the world"

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Triton Regional hosts State Auditor Bump on regional school finance

A discussion based off this report from State Auditor Bump's office on recommendations for regional school district management
The agenda is a presentation on the report, followed by responses from the legislative delegation (Senators Tarr and O'Connor Ives, Representatives Hill, Kelcourse, and Mirra)

Rennie Center: Conditions of Education in the Commonwealth 2018

Today I'm at the Rennie Center's annual Conditions of Education in the Commonwealth, scheduled to start at 8:30. Former Secretary of Education John King is the main speaker. The hashtag is #COE2018.  Posting as we go.

D'Entremont: taking a step back
"you don't need an idea...we've given you plenty"
"empowering and resourcing leaders on the front line...and drive change"
"how do we bring power and resources into the system...so it impacts students"
critical need for fact-based objective analysis, to build common understandings of what's happening in the public schools
pursuing consensus and collaboration

“just plain inadequate for the job"

Yesterday was informational; this one's just from me.

What's it going to take?

We have the Constitutional commitment.

We have the legal decision.

We have the numbers.

We have the report.

And we have no action.

I'll be honest: I don't expect any better of this governor. He's made it abundantly clear that his vision of education is for the kids who look like his own experience can peaceably go on with their education, while those kids who look very different need to remain voiceless and have their educations disrupted.

I do expect better of the legislators, however.

What's it going to take?

I fully expect that the Legislature will pass an increase in regional transportation. Those districts are organized, they are loud, and, frankly, they are accustomed to being listened to.

I fully expect that the Legislature will bump the per pupil increase. Those districts--in some cases, the same districts--are likewise organized, loud, and accustomed to being listened to.

But that isn't the greatest need. It never will be.

The greatest need is in the districts that are skating along the edge of foundation funding, the ones that depend on the boost from a few more kids, the ones where the state is supposed to be ensuring that every child "rich or poor" is educated.

I don't think most of us have a good handle on just how great the disparities are. I know I didn't. It's been years since I've been in any classroom outside of Worcester, until I visited a few classrooms in a Boston suburb a few weeks ago. And the difference was breathtaking.

It isn't that those districts are spending money madly. There are things that many districts, even as they are tense around budget time, take for granted that we never, never discuss in Worcester.

Things like recent novels for elementary reading.
Things like periodicals for language study.
Things like funds to repair and restore fields.
Things like replacing the flooring that's failing rather than patching.

The list is endless, but the point is this: the budget is based on asking the question: "What can we do to ensure these kids have the best education possible?"
The cities that run on foundation can't afford to ask that question.

But as a state, we can't afford to not be asking it for them.

The title is from Senator Chang-Diaz, quoted on the Governor's education budget.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

The Governor's FY19 budget

Welcome to the FY19 budget process!
Today, Governor Baker released his FY19 budget recommendation. The elementary and secondary budget lines can be found here. This means that the preliminary FY19 foundation budget and chapter 70 aid calculations were also released; see DESE's page here and note the downloads at the bottom of the page (allow me here to put in a plug for both the spreadsheet of all districts and the PowerPoint that explains how it works).

Without repeating what we already knew last week, here's what there is.
  • The foundation budget statewide goes up by $304M, of which $130M is the local required contribution and $104M is Chapter 70 aid from the state. That's at a 2.2% increase. The inflation rate on which the foundation budget is calculated this year is 2.56%, which is the highest it's been since FY13 (when it was 3.56%), but still is not anything like actual increases, which run more like 3 to 4%. This includes a $20 minimum per pupil increase.
    Note that there is a change to the amounts per decile in the economically disadvantaged categories; per DESE: "These levels reflect a rate reduction of $300 in response to the significant expansion of student matches towards the low income head count that existed in foundation enrollments prior to the shift to "eco dis". Consistent with the changes in rates that were made during that shift, the rate adjustment was designed to maintain the level of resources available to districts to support the education of this population." I suspect that is not going to fly well with districts that already have a good idea of how far removed that is from the amount actually need.
    The other change within the funding formula this year is the health insurance incremental increase of which the Governor spoke last week. The inflation rate would have increased the health insurance line (benefits) by about $22 per pupil; instead, it's up $74 per pupil (FY19 =$938; FY18 =$864). Remember, due to how the foundation budget is funded, the $24.3M increase in the Chapter 70 line is only part of the story on this health insurance increase. The  full increase within the foundation budget is $72M; local funding will be covering the rest, or $47M. As always, I won't tell you that $72M isn't a lot of money; I will note, though, that it wouldn't cover the health insurance gap in the three largest majority-Chapter 70-funded cities.

  • The $15M for students coming in from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands is included in a "Foundation Reserve One Time Assistance" line, which includes this language:  
    provided, that financial support shall be provided to said districts, on a full time equivalent basis, and in a manner consistent with the aid calculations made under the chapter 70 school aid program; provided further, that funds distributed from this item, shall not be considered prior year chapter 70 aid and shall not be used in the calculation of the minimum required local contribution for fiscal year 2020
    I would assume, thus, that we're talking the $9723 per pupil for full time ELL students, with some (most?) also having an economically disadvantaged increment (the amount of that varies by district). You get it once; it isn't (yet) added into your Chapter 70 aid. It is left to DESE to determine grant parameters for this fund.

  • Stunningly, regional transportation reimbursement is level funded at $61M. I don't know how you argue that the state is fulfilling its commitments when you do that.

  • Special education circuit breaker (the circuit breaker "flips" when an out-of-district student costs more than 4x the statewide average per pupil) is increased by $10M to $291M. This is not keeping pace with actual cost increases.

  • As in prior years, the Governor is doing his move to merger of several literacy lines (including the Bay State Reading Institute, again).

  • METCO, school lunch, AP math and science, Extended Learning Time, Safe and Supportive Schools, mentoring, and Mass Academy of Math and Science are all level funded.

  • The charter school reimbursement is again level funded at $80.5M. I'm not going to venture a percentage on that; we haven't had a lot of expansions this past year.

  • There's a cut of $38,000 in the House of Corrections education line, which the FY19 document say is based on projected spending. As that would mean that the state is spending less than in FY17, FY16, and FY15, that seems unlikely. And shame on us if it's true. 

  • Both the innovation schools line and the MCIEA (the innovative assessment line) are zeroed out (again). No link because there's no account there!

  • Adult education not only came in less than last year; it came in less than after the Governor's veto of last year ($28.1M recommended for FY19; $29.6M passed FY18; $28.7M after veto FY18)

  • Homeless transportation is level funded from the conference committee at $8.1M; that's down from actual FY17 spending, which was $8.3M. We aren't transporting fewer students, and it doesn't cost less.

  • DESE got the $32M requested for assessment (now to see if they hang onto it).

  • Here's what made me angry: Last year's Targeted Assistance & Innovation line, which was passed at $6.8M (after $7.2M spending in FY17) is proposed at $6.9M (with projected $7.1M spending FY18) as just Targeted Intervention, which would be enough BUT ALSO this language is added to the line:
    provided further, that funds shall be available for the expansion of empowerment zones or the establishment of innovative partnership zones in additional districts
    Oh, heck, no! There is ZERO evidence that one needs to take the local democratic authority out in order for schools to do well or improve. ZERO!
  • A number with which the Governor otherwise appears well acquainted.
Please note that the above are JUST the DESE lines; I will add to this as I have a chance to go find the education lines that are elsewhere in the budget. As always, if you have questions/corrections/additions, please let me know! 

Media Advisory from DESE on selection of a new Commissioner

Just released tonight: an update from the Department giving a few more details about the interviews, and clarification about public comment

Friday, January 26, 2018: Public Interviews of Commissioner Finalists
9 a.m. –5 p.m.
Omni Parker House
60 School St. (let's admire the fitness of the address)
The meeting will also be streamed online at https://livestream.com/accounts/22459134

 9:15-11:15 a.m.: Interview with Penny Schwinn, chief deputy commissioner of academics at the Texas Education Agency
11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.: Interview with Angélica Infante-Green, deputy commissioner of the Office of Instructional Support P-12 in the New York State Education Department
(1:30-2:30 p.m.: Break for lunch)
2:30-4:30 p.m.: Interview with Jeffrey C. Riley, superintendent/receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools

The Department has posted information about the candidates here.
The Board invites public feedback either by attending and filling out a form, or by filling out this form, and emailing it to the Board. Or just email the Board. Either way, be sure to include your name and make sure they have it by Saturday at noon.

The vote is on Monday beginning at 12:30 at the Department's headquarters in Malden.
Under state law, the recommendation requires a two-thirds majority vote of all members (Secretary Peyser has a vote as a member of the Board), and the secretary decides whether to appoint the recommended candidate or ask the Board to submit another candidate for consideration.

Commonwealth Magazine on the Commissioner search

I've added this to my round up of links post, but I did want to flag it on its own: Michael Jonas of Commonwealth Magazine has a solid piece on the search for a commissioner, framing it as a choice of direction for education in Massachusetts. (And no, I'm not just saying that because I'm quoted.)
We are at “a moment of pause,” said Paul Reville, who served as education secretary under governor Deval Patrick. “There’s been a lot of pushback on existing reform strategies and a lot of conflict on what the next direction should be.” 
Reville said it has also not been entirely clear what the Baker administration’s broader vision is for education – beyond the strong support shown for charter schools by the governor, Education Secretary Jim Peyser, and state education board chairman Paul Sagan. “I think they’ve struggled some with that because they had all their eggs in the charter school basket and that didn’t work out as they’d hoped,” Reville said.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Board of Ed: Puerto Rico

and the backup is here
As of January 12, 2573 all together; 2298 still enrolled; 275 have enrolled back in Puerto Rico
bulk of students in 12 districts
$60,000 to highest challenged districts from McKinney-Vento
650 winter coats donated; Student Advisory collected hats and mittens
$15M to be requested in FY19
Wulfson: Baker to ask for supplemental funding BOTH for this current (FY18) year as well as the funding for next year

Moriarty: is it going to be a per pupil? in proportion to Ch. 70? will it be adjusted by month?
Wulfson: we'll know when the Governor releases his budget
current thinking is what it would be if students were here and counted, adjusted by how long students were here
Peyser: if it turns out that our estimates are accurate, we'll be funding at, if you'd call it that, the typical level

Board of Ed: history and civics standards

backup is here; note the documents at the bottom
This should be a vote to solicit public comment

Wulfson: extensive consultation with the field
one more round before we ask you to adopt it this school year

Peske introducting Dave Buchanan
also thanks members of the review board

plan is to present today with vote to public comment (comment will run through April 2)
plan for meetings and virtual input
plan then is present final version in June for adoption

priorities: civics and deepening understanding
criteria: improving rigor, clarity, coherence

new full year civics course for grade 8; focus on role of citizens and importance of individuals in democracy
revised integration in every grade
new US Gov and Politics standards (grade 12)
Mission: education for civic life in a democracy
principles: legacy of democratic government, diverse perspectives on civic and historical events, studying current events, data analysis, media literacy

standards: research process, analysis, evaluation of credibility of sources
standards for literacy in history and social sciences

overview of scope and sequency
PreK-1: intro to civics, geography, history, economics, immediate social and community expereince
Gr. 2: world geography
Gr. 3: Massachusetts history and local government
Gr. 4: physical geography of US and North America; early history by region
Gr. 5: U.S. history to the Civil War and the modern Civil Rights movement
Gr. 6 & 7: two year sequence of world history and geography by region; ancient and classical civilizations and selected topics in modern history
Gr. 8: U.S. and Massachusetts Government and civic life
Gr. 9-12: U.S. history I (1700-1920), U.S. history II (1920-2017), World history I (500-1800), World history II (1800-2017)
(revamped dates there to be sure the Civil War and Great Depression are fully covered rather than rushed at semester end)
Electives: U.S. Gov and politics, economics, personal financial literacy
those are half year standards at this point, so they might be incorporated in other courses as wished

Peyser: guiding questions: give serious consideration

Fernandez: how financial literacy would play out in low income areas and about cultural competence in delivery
Buchanan: result of concern over lack of content
as a framework, we don't push how content will be taught
other guidance in working with EL and special ed students
teachers to be fully aware of diverse perspectives within their classrooms
doesn't proscribe within the standards, but prompt teachers to be thoughtful about that and account for it in their teacher

motion to send to public comment carries

Board of Ed: charter schools

charters are taking up in February
Wulfson: reminding process of charters applying for new
if he recommends either or both applications, will receive additional information next month

Bentley Academy waiver request
under the MGL, the accountability plan is supposed to be approved the teachers' union
union has taken no action
Sagan: "I think this makes sense; puts off a what will be likely be a very ugly reckoning, but we'll have it when we have it."
Doherty: "union didn't vote any way...also played no role, and were not asked to play a role in developing the plan...aren't going to vote to approve or disapprove a plan they played no role in developing"
Doherty abstains, motion carries

to put Paulo Freire under probation
Wulfson; we have high expectations in the Commonwealth, school is not meeting those expectations
new leadership's acknowledgement of problems
"give schools every opportunity to improve and also signal the seriousness of the problem"
Primary concern is they were severely underenrolled
potentially financially unsustainable
Moriarty talks about location of school and enrollment area
McKenna: all concerned about this; we've seen the numbers
charters are put in place because they offer a choice, they're financially sustainable, people want to go there
"at the moment, we don't have any of those things"
Sagan: we'll take the Commissioner's recommendation and uphold them as well.
vote in favor

Board of Ed: Accountability

I have downloaded the presentation here
Curtin: four meeting timeline on discussion of accountability
last month, this month, either February/March for regulations to go out, either May/June to vote regulations
weighting of indicators
"this can get a little in the weeds"

Board of Ed: update on the Commissioner's search

Sagan: Wulfson "has not just kept the lights on, but has kept up Department moving forward"
"That cannot be said enough."
"have had an ongoing process that started late last summer"
"so many places kept bemoaning the rapid turnover in state schools' chief"
benefited from having someone in that position for as long as we did
"I hope for the long path" of the next Commissioner..."this is not a short term job"
applicants were allowed to do so anonymously
preliminary screening made up "to try to hear from the field"
"people came with very different viewpoints"
"certainly not going to talk about those that applied that we didn't bring forward"
group "brought forward three very strong candidates"
"I go into Friday with a very open mind"

Craven: others in room really added to the discussion

Sagan: schedule for Friday; 9-5
random order is Schwinn, Infante-Green, Riley (board is currently getting schedule)

Board of Ed: opening remarks

As a reminder, the agenda is here. We're doing JUST K-12 Board of Ed now, and back to a more usual agenda, opening with comments from the Chair, the Secretary, the Commissioner, and the public. 
A group with shirts that say "KIPP Lynn" has come in, so it looks as though we'll hear some testimony on that.
Sagan: semi-annual disclosure that his wife serves on the board of Sposado; would "consider" recusing himself if there were an item having to do with MATCH

Wulfson: Jeffrey Villar appointed receiver in Southbridge
waiver of the 1% alternative assessment requirement received from US DoE
"odd as decision rests as district level based on student level"
unclear how we would do that without setting levels "which would be totally inappropriate"
report on district access to technology
proud of progress made, noting concerns that had been expressed
charter matters approved, and also Pioneer Valley will appeal to Board
Quality Counts, MA number one in the country
take with a grain of salt: "very much influenced by the values the survey designers put into it"
"better to be at the top of the list than the bottom of the list"
"work that teachers, and administrators, and students, and families have been doing"

Public comment

Increased access to computer science; speaker from MBAE
importance of equity of access
teacher development
"close the digital divide in Massachusetts"

Bentley Academy: waiver
no minutes posted on their website
"incredibly dangerous" to have teachers visit students' homes
"tenth graders are not scholars; they are kids"
"would hate to think that my town could be held liable" for conditions under which the charter was granted
"would like to see at least one finalist that would challenge the federal government on about 7500 things"

Turkish-American National steering committee member
curriculum spoke of Armenian genocide; sentences questioning that were struck
broad based review of curriculum

Paulo Freire Charter school comment
Executive director speaking: assure you that we are committed to doing what is needed to move our school forward and out of concerns
strong PD plan; social justice discipline plan
realigning science curriculum
develop director, enrollment coordinator, multi-year strategic plan
"have begun to turn the school around in a short time"
"these are the students in danger of dropping out, who have anxiety, who need a different place"
Board member: address certain concerns of Board
"We are heading in the right direction"
stability of leadership after high degree of turnover in both principal and executive director
bringing in more trustees on school board
board had failed to have committees up and running
believe previous board lacked experience and understanding of expectations
McKenna asks who is on the board now
chair is director of SUIT UP Springfield, have sat on numerous non-profit boards
two deans on board (one from Smith, one from Westfield State),

KIPP Lynn expansion: two alums
current student at Bennington College on full scholarship
learned to grow from my mistakes
hardest part of KIPP "is the day itself"
day from 7:45 to 5
"after a long day of extracurricular, we still had to go home and complete the assignments we were given, just like any other student"
"have been prepared to get my work done and on time"
"the odds were stacked against me as I had to work twice as hard"
graduate of UMass Lowell
helped me with my FAFSAs, my interviews, my transfers to private to community to public college
KIPP "was there to assist us" regardless of where we were going from there
my brother, my sister, and so many other kids from Lynn
"KIPP been reaching into the trenches to increase our social mobility"

Joint Board of Ed/Higher Ed meeting: computer science access

Wulfson: looking at barriers to providing more access to computer science
college admission requirements are a major factor in high schools deciding what programs to offer
Conti: preK-12 effort, the change is we're talking about computer science as a foundational skill
"a strong foundation in equity"
"hearing from business partners that there aren't enough suburban kids to meet the needs of the economy"
"not only a moral reason for doing it, there's also a mathematical reason for doing it"

Joint Board of Ed/Higher Ed meeting: teacher preparation

Wulfson: 40% of new teachers each year come out of MA public higher ed system
backup on this is here
68 different sponsoring organizations, 1800+ programs
first year teachers from public colleges and universities are disproportionally hired into high-needs schools and assigned students who are farther behind academically
"student achievement starts first with" teacher preparation

Joint Board of Ed/Higher Ed meeting: Opening and Early College

The agenda for all of today is here. The early college documents are here.
Welcome from Bridgewater State President Clark, who notes that Bridgewater State is the largest producer of teachers in the state.

Monday, January 22, 2018

State Education meetings this week

and also my schedule!
DESE, amusingly, has posted a single agenda for all the of the upcoming meetings. Just keep scrolling! 

Tomorrow, we have the annual joint meeting of the Board of Higher Ed with the Board of K-12 Ed. That's down at Bridgewater State starting at nine am. The joint meeting includes discussion on:
  • an update on the early college initiative, which was the focus of much of last year's meeting. The short version is "staff from the DHE, ESE, and EOE are providing support for partnerships that will be submitting a final application for designation" with the applications due February 9.
  • an informational presentation (I'd call it) on educator preparation, or "where do teachers come from?" You can see from the chart in that presentation that Bridgewater State remains, far and away, the largest state producer of teachers in the state; I assume they also have data for non-state colleges and universities, which may be of less relevance to the Higher Ed board but would be interesting to see.
  • a report on increasing access to high school computer science
Something that I thought we'd see that isn't here is something on the new MCAS, particularly as that's supposed to be aiming towards grade 12 preparation. Perhaps because we haven't done a high school round yet?

After the joint meeting, the K-12 board meets on its own (scheduled for 11:15; just enough time to rearrange the chairs). On that agenda, following opening comments:
  • an update on the Commissioner search. It will be interesting to see if any additional information is offered in this update: how many, for example, were actually interviewed. 
  • there is a discussion and proposed vote to solicit public comment on the revised history and social studies standards. If you have questions about that, if you scroll to the bottom, the backups are already posted (hurray!). 
  • there is the promised discussion coming on weight within the accountability standards. Note the following from the memo:
    Our priorities should be reflected not only in the indicators included, but also in their weighting in the calculation. Furthermore, the results should provide a clear picture of school performance in order to help us direct our limited resources for assistance to schools that most need them...any change in this ratio will affect both our classification of schools for accountability purposes and our calculation of the lowest performing ten percent of districts for charter school purposes.
  • There is an update on the students enrolling from Puerto Rico; as of January 5, 2440 students have enrolled.
  • There is an update on the two new charter schools applying for charters; note that Acting Commissioner Wulfson has, as yet, not made any recommendations regarding these. He will do so before the February meeting.
  • Bentley Academy, a Horace Mann in Salem, is asking for a waiver of the state requirement that its accountability plan be approved by its collective bargaining unit, which has declined to take action. 
  • Paulo Freire Charter in Springfield is being recommended for a conditional renewal.
Presented for the Board's information, but not action are: education laws enacted in 2017; recommendations on integrating student supports;  a report on dual enrollment 2008-15; a report on efforts to upgrade school technology; a report on grants; and charter matters approved by the Commissioner.

On Wednesday, Governor Baker will release his FY19 state budget.

On Thursday, the Rennie Center is doing their annual Conditions on Education in the Commonwealth; the speaker this year is former Secretary of Education John King. The hashtag is #COE2018.

On Friday, beginning at nine, the Board of Education will interview the three finalists for Massachusetts Commissioner of Education. The interviews are at the Omni Parker House in Boston and are open to the public. They will also be livestreamed. 

On Monday at noon back in Malden, the Board of Education will meet to vote for a new Commissioner.