Wednesday, November 28, 2018

School level finance reporting is coming

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

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

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

November Board of Ed non-liveblog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Remember that big red exclamation mark, Worcester?

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

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

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday, November 20

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

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

What works on school safety

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

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

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

This is happening in Worcester tonight!

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

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

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

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

There are recognitions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, November 9, 2018

2018 MASC Delegate Assembly

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

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Commissioner Riley takes questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley at the MASC MASS Keynote

blogging from the Wednesday night Keynote address at the MASC/MASS Joint Conference in Hyannis, where Commissioner Riley is keynoting

"Personal relationships matter. Kids are always watching."
Have done nearly every job in public education...really orient myself first as a parent
often talks about his daughter, who has special needs but has had amazing teachers
His daughter has demanded equity, so he'll speak tonight about his son
"after about question 17, I would start making things up" when his son was three
grass is green because the leprechauns come every night and paint it
"that went on and on until I started to get in trouble with my wife and the day care providers"
"no matter how smart kids are, they need to be taught"
"no matter how bright people are, people are still capable of making mistakes"
Twenty-five years of education reform, "we've done good things, we've done some not-so-good-things"
have left many kids behind"we have to do better by them"
"need to put down our partisan swords, come back under the tent, and make some plans for the next twenty-five years"
pendulum has swung a bit far
focus on classroom instruction
"kids learn through play, yet we beat that out of them by second grade"
"high school...we send them from box to box and have them do worksheets"
"I believe in Massachusetts exceptionalism in a deep way: we have the Red Sox, the Patriots, the Celtics, the Bruins and the teachers of Massachusetts"
"change happens and change is do we get our kids there"
"we need to delve deeper on supporting kids' mental health needs"
"I think it's time that we started talking about the reality: the school funding system is broken"
was superintendent of a district that was shorted between $8 and $10M a year
"in the past, commissioners have not taken on an advocacy role: I am not going to be one of those commissioners"

And the Commissioner closes with "Three Letters from Teddy" by Elizabeth Silance Ballard (as he often does)

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

To read Election Night

Charlie Pierce is watching the midterms from the elementary school you know from Brown v. the Board of Education: 
Dick and Francine, two poll workers, were talking about all the people who'd been through during the morning hours, and about how great they felt working at this particular polling place on this particular day. "When you think of what began here," Dick said, "you feel like there's something special to coming here to vote."