Tuesday, October 30, 2018

October Board of Ed in sum? And a few thoughts

Including the part that I just tweeted because my laptop had died? The MASC report is over here.

A few post-meeting thoughts (I usually do this on Twitter, but I drove today, so no train time):

  • Chair Sagan seems to be developing a line in dad jokes. 
  • Even Board of Ed members want to know why the Red Sox parade can't be on a weekend.
  • Meetings are better when students present (note: also true of school committee meetings). 
  • It is about dang time the Board of Ed is paying any attention to the foundation budget (thus this tweet); no, Holyoke is not leading at all on this, but they did manage to get it to the Board's attention, three years after the Foundation Budget Review Commission issued their report
  • What the heck is with the Governor needing his own report on this for "policy"? Are any of those reports going to be made public (let's assume 'no' and get our Public Records Requests ready)? Is there any aspect of this that hasn't already been exhaustively considered in the THREE FULL YEARS we've had a report and the SEVEN since we first got MassBudget's "Cutting Class"?
  • It's extremely clear that the Secretary doesn't like the notion of not being able to move the levels and make districts dance for their money. What was that about Republicans and local control? 
  • Why is it that it seems to be escaping those who issue licenses that making it more expensive is not going to get you more teachers? And that the very areas in which we need growth--teachers of color, teachers of low income backgrounds, teachers of multiple languages--are those most impact by barriers like money and the MTEL? This is a real problem.
  • There is a HUGE gap between the message that is being put out--and it's a united front on this one--from the state on the new accountability standards and the districts that are still running around, comparing scores with their neighbors and being sure that someone's going to show up next week and take them over and fire people (or charterize them). If, like me, you listen to both, it's a severe case of whiplash. It's been the message from the new Commissioner dating back to his interview--I mean, the Board knew what they were getting on this--that more support for teachers, less heavy hand of judgment was where he was coming from. He's also been very, very explicitly reserving judgment on the new accountability system. And the new accountability system itself was already explicitly less heavy hand: more variables, intentional emphasis on everyone having a lowest group to work with, intentional push towards school and district goals. It's about school and district targets rather than statewide comparison. I'm not sure how much more they can jump up and down about this to get it across, but it sure isn't landing in the field yet. 
  • It was an absolutely unified voice today about protecting the rights of our LGBTQ kids. That doesn't happen a lot at the Board. Vote Yes on Question 3. 

October Board of Ed: LOOK act

update on where we are now, after Board updated regulations in June
new process for starting new programs
will provide support for districts around what research says; webinar, training
ongoing technical assistance
quick reference guides and forms
bilingual education endorsement for teachers
core content teachers who teach English learners in a language other than English must obtain the new endorsement
one year waiver allowed by Commissioner
grandfather clause for those with three previous years in a bilingual setting
transitional bilingual education and transitional bilingual learner endorsement are equivalent
guidelines for higher ed programs just sent out with rolling approvals
guidelines for MTEL

Seal of biliteracy: high level of proficiency in English and a second language beginning with class of 2019
two tiers: seal and seal with distinction: in order to get it:
English: all graduation requirements AND ELA competency OR proficiency determination
Second language: minimum of "intermediate high" on ACTFL (American Council on Teaching of Foreign Language) which is a 4 on an AP or several other assessments OR alternative method by Department

guidance around Parent Advisory Councils: proposed regs (603 CMR 14.09)

SEI endorsement for career vocational technical educators

West: do the two tests authentically assess the same thing (ELA MCAS doesn't test the same things that the foreign language tests do; are we testing literacy or something further); and are the standards the same?
McKenna: not adding another test; are there other ways to show this?

October Board of Education: accountability

There's a memo here, but there's a PowerPoint presentation here, too, which I'll grab some charts from.
Riley: get an overall impression of how we're at

October Board of Ed: FY20 budget

Craven: annual letter that the Board sends to the Secretary for consideration
process by which Ch.70 is being evaluated
"how the Department should talk with that"
"I think there were ten working groups on aspects of the foundation budget"
"we do know that in a district as small as Holyoke...having no answer over time isn't an answer"
the letter says "be directed to districts with identified achievement gaps in student learning to support reforms that have evidence of narrowing achievement gaps"

October Board of Education: opening remarks and STEM panel

The meeting begins at about 8:30; the agenda is here. Posting as we go once it starts.
Sagan calls the meeting to order and has no opening comments
no public comment today

Riley: "I was under the impression that I could cancel the Board meeting if the Red Sox win; I was disappointed to find that this was not the case"
Sagan quips that it is the reverse; he can cancel for a period of reflection if they lose

Sunday, October 28, 2018

The Worcester School Committee meets November 1

You can find the agenda here.
There are a number of recognitions, including a request for a letter (a letter?) to congratulate Elm Park on exiting Level 4 status.

First up, the report of the superintendent is the accountability report. If you follow state reports, a lot of this will look familiar, as Worcester's doing something valuable here: more than half the presentation is explaining how the accountability system has changed. (More of this!) To do this, they've essentially swiped the DESE slides in walking through how it has shifted (this is not an easy thing to explain; I'll be interested in how it goes!) for the first half. The second half is Worcester data and (sigh...how about we don't do this) comparing Worcester results with other urbans. What I don't see here--I'll be interested to see if it comes up--is some discussion of what in particular are the areas of needed focus within the district and school by school.

The Administration is forwarding "for informational purposes" (hmph) job descriptions for two new positions: Assistant Director of Finance and Operations for Nutrition and Marketing, Communication, Initiative and Outreach Coordinator. There's no public backup.

The administration has given the Perkins grant allocation, as requested.

The ongoing saga of chasing homeschooling families around on paperwork has a response back from administration. By my read, the form doesn't appear to agree with what's said in the report, for starters. 

The administration has responded to the request that administration clarify with staff participation in the electoral process by...sending them back the committee-approved policy GBI.

Miss McCullough is seeking a possible policy on lunches (the length of them, particularly in elementary schools); a review of IT password creation and security; and a review of the recess policy "to ensure it is being adhered to districtwide" (that's school committee agenda-speak for "it isn't; let's fix that").

Mr. O'Connell is asking about possibly renting modular classrooms for Burncoat Prep (This would be additional modulars, as Burncoat Prep already has several).

There are also donations:
  • $1381.09 to Worcester Arts Magnet School from the Parent Teacher Group for the purchase of a new water fountain 
  • $1090.00 to Tatnuck Magnet School from various donors through fundraising efforts 
  • $2500.00 to the Worcester Public Schools from DonorsChoose.org 
...and prior fiscal year items:

  • in the amount of $7,724.18 to Wheelabator Millbury, Inc.
  • in the amount of $238.39 to Home Depot Credit Services.
  • in the amount of $241.65 to Northeast Electrical Distributors.
  • in the amount of $172.50 to Signet Electronic Systems, Inc.

There is a 6pm posting for an executive session for collective bargaining with Tradesmen, Plumbers and Steamfitters, and Aides.

Friday, October 26, 2018

The Board of Ed meets October 30

...and the agenda looks a bit different...
The Board of Ed meets Tuesday for the month of October. You can find their agenda online here.

After opening remarks, first up is a panel of STEM educators, as this current week has been declared STEM week in Massachusetts (please tell me we will be having a "Humanities week" as well.)

Being couched differently than in other years ("Student, School, and District Performance Results" with a h/t to whomever at the Department is ensuring Oxford commas are used), the accountability report comes before the Board on Tuesday; this will be both MCAS results (there's a link on the memo to a summary of results) and the overall accountability information. (I'm also finding "will join us for the discussion" versus "will be available...to answer your questions" to be an intriguing decision on phrasing.)

Chronically underperforming schools are reporting out; for simplicity's sake, let's call these the receivership schools (the memo is a Word doc).

There will be a report of the budget committee on FY20.

The Board will get an update on implementation of the LOOK Act.

Thanks to Mary Ann Stewart for asking the question; the Commissioner is sending along a memo on Question 3 and its possible impact on schools. In sum, the regulations on schools would not be changed if Question 3 fails (remember, a "yes" vote keeps the laws as we have them, including public accommodation); I'll add a note that this doesn't change the harm this would do to students everywhere else that they go.

Also being sent to the Board, but not on the agenda: an update on early college (full update coming at the January joint meeting with the Higher Ed board), a report on grants received by the Commissioner (another Word doc), a memo on the scheduling of district reviews (which sounds like a "don't have too many people bugging the district at once" thing), and a fairly lengthy memo on charter reauthorization. 

And yes, there will be liveblogging. 

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Vote Yes on 3

I would hope, dear readers, that this is not a discussion that you and I need to have. I would hope that you understand that everyone deserves equal protection--yes, protection--under the law, and that means that no, others don't have the right to discriminate against people.
I would hope that you would understand that the fearmongering around bathroom usage is not only nauseating, but completely wrong. And I say that, incidently, not only as a woman but as the mother of three daughters; don't you dare use my children as an excuse for your bigotry. 
I would hope that you would understand the damage we are doing to some of our absolutely most vulnerable people every time we raise these non-issues. I would hope that you would want to do better, not worse, on how we treat vulnerable young people.
I would hope that you would want to stop that.
Vote yes on 3 if you are in Massachusetts. I also always suggest supporting the Trevor Project

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Eve Ewing, author of "Ghosts in the Schoolyard" at Harvard Graduate School of Education

Not sure how well a liveblog will work for this, but I'm going to give it a shot. We're in the basement of the Gutman Library at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Posting as we go.
The subtitle is "Racism and School Closings on Chicago's South Side" as the book focuses on the 2013 closings (or read more here).
Currently she's an asssisant professor at University of Chicago; research of the impact of school closings by the University of Chicago Consortium on School Research is here.
Note: really solid livetweet thread here

Going to give a preview of the book, and then give time for Q & A
in 2013, Chicago closed 50 schools (10,400 students); 90% of those schools were majority black students; 71% has majority black teachers
1 in 4 schools with majority black students and majority black teachers were closed

Monday, October 22, 2018

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Things I'm reading this week

Take a look:
  • interesting research about keeping kids back in middle school grades correlating with higher dropout rates. Note that it doesn't seem to have that same hit if it's younger grades, and that summer school also doesn't seem to increase dropouts.
  • this piece from New York on Cheshire, CT's schools trying out, then dropping out, of the Summit online learning program, is one of the more reasonable pieces I've read in the personalized learning freakout. And be sure you read about what Revere High has been up to along those lines, as it can be done well!
  • this deep look at what racial segregation looks like in the Charlottesville, Virginia public schools. Note the disparities in discipline rates and in access to advanced classwork; then look north of the Mason-Dixon line. This isn't a "southern" issue.
  • it's really troubling that conditions for LGBTQ+ students in our public schools are no longer improving, and are, in some cases, even getting worse, per GLSEN's annual survey 

Four years into his term, Governor Baker notices we need to fix education funding

I can't even with this from New Bedford:
In a meeting with The Standard-Times Editorial Board, Baker said he wants to do more to help communities where educational achievement as not as high as most of the state. He gave three examples:
— Improve the charter school reimbursement formula, which for lower-achievement communities presents “a whole different set of challenges” than for others, in part because most charters operate there;
— Enhance the Chapter 70 funding formula to help low-income students and English language learners; and
— Invest state money in those communities that embrace methods proven to boost achievement, such as “acceleration academies,” after-school programming, and professional development for teachers...
Baker said he wants to come up with ways to handle charter funding so that when a high-performing charter tries to do more in a community, the conversation does not focus only on the money.
“Which is where these conversations always end up, and I think it’s really defeating,” he said.
The Foundation Budget Review Commission report came out in October of Baker's first year in office. Aside from tiny increases in health insurance, Baker has ignored the report. Baker's single largest education initiative was the push to lift the charter cap through Question 2, during which Baker and his administration entirely dismissed the idea that there would be a funding impact that needed to be discussed. He has had nothing to do with low income students.
So, seriously: Spare us this twenty days before the election. 

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 18

You can find the agenda here. There is again not a report of the superintendent (...are we going to talk about accountability at some point, here?). There are a number of recognitions.
Miss Biancheria has filed for reconsideration of her item on snow removal equipment (is she questioning the referral?).
Miss McCullough's item on on I'm Not Scared; I'm Prepared is back on the agenda (?).
Mr. Monfredo is requesting a report on cursive writing.
Because there are still a number of homeschooling families receiving run-around on getting their plans approved by the district (and with an utter lack of consistency), homeschooling plans are back on the agenda on an item filed by Mr. O'Connell.
As you may have read, the House Worcester 17th district race got a Worcester Public Schools crossover this week:
[17th Worcester district Republican candidate Paul] Fullen and Jeff Creamer, principal of South High, are pictured shaking hands with the front facade of South Community High School displayed prominently in the background. It also includes a plug from Creamer, which, importantly, attributes him as the principal.
Creamer is now vigorously denying that he ever endorsed Fullen, and Superintendent Binienda says that Creamer didn't ask what Fullen was going to do with the photo of he, a candidate for public office wearing a suit, shaking hands with Creamer, the principal of South High, in front of South High. Okay, then.
In any case, the item from Mr. Comparetto that made it on the agenda for Thursday reads:
Request that the Administration interact with the City Manager and City Solicitor to make certain that all City of Worcester employees are fully informed about the State's guidelines regarding appointed and public employees’ public participation in political fundraising efforts and endorsements.
...which would seem to be only part of the problem (as Binienda is saying that she understands this not to be a conflict, which in case can someone get an actual OCPF ruling?); the other problem (as Bill Shaner covered in "Worcesteria" in the first link) is the principal of a predominately children of color school has endorsed, in appears, a candidate with openly racist views. Training in campaign finance isn't all that's needed here; administrators in Massachusetts are in part evaluated on culturally proficient communication (indicator III C) and on cultural proficiency itself (indicator IV B), and while this is hardly the only indication that WPS has a serious issue on cultural proficiency, it certainly is an important additional one.

Mr. Comparetto also is asking about the cost of high stakes testing (any chance we could examine the USE of high-stakes testing, as well, since we seem to be doing a nice job of channelling a lot of privileged kids into "gifted" programs using them now?).

Miss Biancheria is asking about the use of In Force Technology which is software that allows teachers to call 911 directly in case of an emergency, per the item. (er...)  And here's that article again on how much money is being made on school safety in the current atmosphere.
Miss Biancheria also would like a report on environmental management, including the number of employees involved.

There are two requests for prior fiscal year payments: $200.00 to the Educational Development Center (EDC) Learning Transforming Lives for the 2018 Urban Collaborative Spring Meeting Registration and $1,150.00 to Taft Education Center for services rendered in FY18.

There are also two (BIG) grants: the Skills Capital Grant ($495,575) for robotics equipment at Worcester Tech, and $150,000 from the Barr Foundation for what looks like research on post-secondary success of WPS students, in connection with the strategic plan.

There is also executive session posted for negotiations with Plumbers and Steamfitters and with Tradesmen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Proposed Homeland Security rule change would impact schools

Something that may not be making your education radar is this Homeland Security release from September 22 of proposed rule changes released for public comment today. While the release is written in the "are we in 1984?" language that this administration specializes in, the upshot is this:
Instead of keeping the current definition of a “public charge” as someone “primarily dependent on the government for subsistence,” DHS would start denying green cards and temporary visas to anyone who is deemed likely at any time in the future to receive any government benefit from a specified list.
The quote is from this Q&A in Forbes, which I found useful. 
If immigrants stop signing up for such benefits, how does this impact schools? Two ways immediately come to mind:

  1. CHIP and Medicaid, both of which are federal benefits, cover 39% of children in the United States. Imagine nearly 4 out of 10 children not having health insurance: not getting well visits, not visiting the doctor when they are sick, not getting vaccinations. Now imagine what that does to schools.
  2. Under direct certification, SNAP and other benefits are how the determination is made of who is eligible for free and reduced lunch. It is how community eligibility--currently feeding entire districts of children--is determined. We will have hungry kids both in and out of school. It also is what counts for economically disadvantaged numbers in the foundation budget, so districts won't be counting all of their kids who are poor.
Again, you can comment here, and I'd urge people to do so.

Worcester Citywide Parent group schedule for the year

It looks as though CPPAC (the Worcester Citywide Parent Planning and Advisory Council) is moving to a mostly every-other-month, administration speaker schedule. Here are the dates for the year (including tonight) from the email I received yesterday:

  • October 10th: Guest speaker (Manager for Instruction and School Leadership) Marie Morse presenting on New Literacy Curriculum and Assessment
  • November 14th: Guest speaker (Director of English Language Learners and Community Engagement) Carmen Melendez presenting on ELL Programs
  • December: OFF
  • January 9th: Guest speaker (Manager of Instructional Technology and Digital Learning) Sarah Kyriazis presenting on the new Website
  • February: OFF
  • March 13th: Guest speaker (Chief Financial and Operations Officer) Brian Allen presenting on the FY20 budget
  • April: OFF
  • May 8th: Guest speakers (Deputy Superintendent) Dr. (Susan) O’Neil and Superintendent (Maureen) Binienda presenting on the year end recap and plans for the future
Meetings are at 7pm at the Worcester Art Museum (in the education wing; go in from Lancaster Street). 

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Worcester, pay attention to emergency removals

I'd missed that the Telegram had covered Worcester's outlier status on emergency removals until this weekend.
Worcester accounted for almost 60 percent of all “emergency removal” procedures carried out at schools across the state two years ago. Emergency removals allow a school to effectively suspend for two days a student who has committed some offense and is deemed a danger or disruptive presence in his or her classroom and for whom there is no alternative in-school placement.

You can find the full report from the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice here.
Since emergency removals don't require the same sorts of reporting, and, frankly, aren't being watched quite the same way, they become an easy out for getting a kid out without it becoming a suspension on the school and district tracking.
“Since being introduced ... the use of emergency removal has risen dramatically, from just 460 instances in 2014-15 to over 2,600 in 2016-17,” the report says. “This is cause for serious concern, as these emergency removals are intended for unusual circumstances, not as a general workaround for vital due-process protections.”
The study further says, for example, that just over half of those emergency removals in 2016-17 were used for an “incident of minor misbehavior,” which would seem to go against the intent of the practice.
There had been some question from those who watch such numbers as to what was happening with emergency removals across the state. Scott O'Connell wasn't able to get anyone on record from Boston and Springfield about why their numbers are not up--Boston Globe and MassLive, over to you--but Worcester was quick to chalk this all up as a misunderstanding:
“According to the school system, they were following the policy as they understood it,” he said, adding “it was a complete misread” of the law.
Mr. Pezzella acknowledged “the message from (the state’s education department) was somewhat misconstrued” by administrators in Worcester. “I think it was a misunderstanding of the intent of emergency removals.”
...but then defended it, anyway:
“It can be an effective tool,” Ms. Binienda said. “We’re just being very conscious not to use it when it’s not necessary.”
“Of all the ones I’ve seen, every one of them has been considered appropriate,” Mr. Pezzella said. “All it takes is one student to create upheaval in the classroom.”
Remember what was said above: that over half were for an incident of minor misbehavior.

And, continuing the discussion that Worcester refuses to have, the demographic discrepancies are outrageous:
In 2016-17, for instance, Worcester’s emergency removal rate for disabled students and Latino students was 9 percent and 5.8 percent, respectively, compared to just 2.7 percent for white students, according to state records.
The administration, however, is refusing all outside help, saying that they'll ask for it if their own findings suggest they need it.
The numbers do.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Look...and listen

Regarding the new accountability release...let's start with a word, or rather a song, from Mr. Rogers:

Fair enough: I knew it was coming. I've been warning for months (is it years?) that when the new accountability results were released, there was going to be a real temptation to jump straight to MCAS results and entirely miss a lot of other important information that was also included.
And sure enough, here we are, with MCAS ranking lists and headlines that enshrine single digit changes in results.