Friday, May 31, 2019

Role playing in history class

This pops up in my timeline every few weeks it seems: a role playing scenerio from a teacher either is framed in a problematic way or goes badly askew. This piece from Slate discusses just that and why.
A teacher may wish to teach students about the history of American slavery and may think that “feeling” their way through that history is the best way to do it. But historical empathy is much more complex than this idea assumes. In a critique of the common idea that students’ historical empathy might prompt them to adopt democratic habits and acquire an affinity for social justice, professor of education Megan Boler writes, “Passive empathy is not a sufficient educational practice. At stake is not only the ability to empathize with the very distant other, but to recognize oneself as implicated in the social forces that create the climate of obstacles the other must confront.” 
This recognition of personal implication is an extremely significant intellectual and emotional leap, and one that many white adults—including teachers—have not, themselves, made. King pointed out that the teacher’s position in relationship to this history was important. Someone teaching a lesson about the Confederacy, for example, might have family members still sympathetic to the Confederacy—or she herself might be. Before teaching these lessons, he said, “Teachers need to really get in there, to understand themselves as a racialized human being.”

Monday, May 27, 2019

Towards a more diverse teaching force

They're working on it in Framingham, and there's a two part series in the Metrowest Daily News this weekend: Part I and Part II

Those who forget the past

...are doomed not to learn anything at all from it.

Hey, remember how the Worcester Public Schools had a 2014 Blue Ribbon Technology review?

Remember how one of the things we found (if we didn't already know) was an advantage of Worcester's size was that we were able to do things in-house?
That rather than pay and pay and pay for outsourcing, and have to wait and tolerate whatever the vendors decided, we pay actual employees who work for us and do what we want (like when we added paying for school lunches online)?

One of the things that has been rather...marked...under the current administration is an ignorance--professed or real--to anything that happened before. And so I suppose one should not be surprised to see among the proposed costs for the FY20 budget is student data outsourcing (p. 10 in the text, p. 17 online):
...provides an Information Technology Implementation Coordinator (funded to start at halfway through the fiscal year) to support the bid, selection, transition, and implementation of a third-party student information system (including online grading and parent portal) to be purchased in 2020-21 and implemented in 2021-22 school year. This budget also reflects $30,000 for a temporary district-wide online grading module that can be used while the district transitions to the integrated student information system.
There has not, of course, been a cost-benefit analysis done of outsourcing student data; those costs are generally per pupil, which for a district the size of Worcester quickly becomes substantial. The current fixation on online grading not only ignores the extent to which this is already happening (raise your hands, parents, if you already get access to your children's grades online), it does not take into account what always previously had been postulated as the main roadblock, that it might be considered a change in working conditions and thus open for collective bargaining.

This is thus a nearly perfect storm of ignoring work already done, ignoring prior raised concerns that still have not been dealt with, missing the places in which the purported issue has already been dealt with, and failing to built on something that is actually a strength of the system.

This is less about the $30,000 + the half year salary (I can't tell how much, as it doesn't go into that level of detail) for this year: this is about moving ahead to tie the district to a change in how student information is managed without doing the necessary homework, including how much this is going to cost, not only in time, but also in advantage.

This is just not smart.

Doherty Memorial "visioning" sessions

We have finally gotten a building project section over on the Doherty website where this is posted, but should you not have seen it, there are three sessions coming up on the Doherty building project here in Worcester. Each is from 2-5 pm at the school, a time which is of course entirely impossible for many, many people to make:
Text after the break

Friday, May 24, 2019

A few things we learned from the WPS budget hearing before City Council

Beyond the ever-present "whose job is it anyway?" tussle that there is every year, there were a few things that were new to me that we learned through the testimony:

  • Superintendent Binienda plans to give all high schools identical schedules next year, where the first two and last two blocks don't rotate. It seems ('though this wasn't entirely clear) that this is for outside entities to teach and for students to leave campus. This has not had any public airing (I have two high school students and this is the first I am hearing about it) and the impact this would have on a myriad of programs and classes is of significant concern. Switching school schedules is a major undertaking, absolutely ought to be something on which the School Committee is consulted, and ought to involve families in more than their stumbling across it in testimony outside of schools. 
  • Superintendent Binienda, in responding to a question on diversifying the teaching force, is looking to echo Framingham in the short-term employment of teachers from Spain. This does not, ethnically or racially, diversify the teaching force, as Councilor Rivera pointed out. In fact, the history of Spain and the history of many of the countries from which many of our residents derive is colonialism. The responses on how we are recruiting, particularly in light of the major state effort going on, are weak. 
  • Commissioner Riley told the urban superintendents that this June announcement would include something having to do with voluntarily enlistment in a system with less testing. Note that the degree to which the Commissioner has any discretion on that is limited, as much of the system is in state law. Further, it seems very unlikely to me that any district of concern to the state--as ours most certainly is--would be granted testing discretion. 
  • Superintendent Binienda cited the lack of professional development time in explaining why elementary teachers would have to wait until October 2020 to undergo systemic bias training (put on by AVID?). The district has two professional development days prior to the opening of school, one of which, at the Superintendent's insistence, the entire staff spends at a pep rally at the DCU Center. I'd suggest systemic bias training is more important. 
  • It is dismaying that the City Manager would attempt to use the city's not creating a Recreation Worcester location in a particular council district to "reclaim" $100,000 from the Worcester Public Schools, as was clearly going on with Councilor Mero-Carlson's question and the Manager's response. We appear to be back to claims of "extra funds" given in particular years--it used to be the Charter funding--without regard to how the city contribution to schools is in fact calculated. This is smoke and mirrors and it doesn't lend itself to what everyone solemnly testifies is a good partnership.

Worcester Public Schools before City Council for FY20: laterblog

When the Worcester Public Schools goes before the Worcester City Council on the budget--or when any school district goes before their appropriating authority--I always find it is useful to start with MGL Ch. 71, sec. 34:
In acting on appropriations for educational costs, the city or town appropriating body shall vote on the total amount of the appropriations requested and shall not allocate appropriations among accounts or place any restrictions on such appropriations.
Further, in Worcester, we do well to note that by section 5-2 of the City of Worcester Charter:
The city council may, by majority vote, make appropriations for the purposes recommended and may reduce or reject any amount recommended in the annual budget, but except on recommendation of the city manager, shall not increase any amount in or the total of the annual budget, nor add thereto any amount for a purpose not included therein, except as provided in section thirty-three of chapter forty-four of the General Laws.
Thus the City Council:
  • cannot add more money to the city budget (including the schools)
  • cannot transfer money to or from any section of the budget (including schools)
  • cannot allocate funds within the school budget
As I already noted, the City is also running very close to the line in terms of required spending, thus they don't have a great deal of ability to even cut.

Nonetheless, the City Council spent more than three hours questioning Superintendent Binienda and Mr. Allen on the FY20 budget on Tuesday night (you can find the videos on Facebook here and here), only to hold the item for next week. It is, of course, an election year, but I've also noticed that municipal bodies tend to edge more and more into schools when they can, either because they aren't getting pushback or they aren't seeing the school committee as doing its own oversight.
Note also that this was covered only by Bill Shaner of Worcester Magazine, which is really a problem. This is not a blow-by-blow liveblog, but I felt we needed to say more about this.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

May Board of Ed at the Malden Public Library: FY20 budget

backup is here
Bell: "The Senate is now in full session debating the budget"
no news beyond what the committee released two weeks ago on the 7th of May
overall appropriation of $284M "a lot of adds and deletes that go into that 284"

May Board of Ed from the Malden Public Library: history, social studies, and civics update

back up is here
Peske: one year since approval of new standards
Michelle Ryan (herself a former Randolph history and social studies teacher):

May Board of Ed from the Malden Public Library: teacher diversification

back up is here, but there is a PowerPoint
I actually can't see who is speaking, so IDs are going to be missing, mostly
"have a lot to be proud about, but as we celebrate what we've done well, we have to recognize that we're only number one for some"

May Board of Ed from the Malden Public Library: opening remarks

You can find the agenda here. Posting as we go once we start. 

Public comment first:
we're doing wifi again

Craven: heavier agenda in June with possible Monday night meeting in either Revere or Holyoke
ongoing subcommittee on Commissioner's evaluation chaired by Morton
Morton: will present at June meeting

Monday, May 20, 2019

Worcester's Standing Committee on Finance and Operations meets Wednesday noon?!?

The agenda is here.
First, note that the recommendation to raise substitute daily rates by $5/day next year in the FY20 budget is proposed as the first year of a three year phase in to get the rate to $85/day.

Next, the auditors are in! This is three things: the schools' portion of the City of Worcester audit (it looks as though most of the findings have been corrected); the test of the agreed-upon procedures for the student activity accounts (some documentation and reconciliation findings); and the overall review of agreed-upon procedures for the district (which looks...entirely fine).

Finally, the third quarter report is up for review; the account by account report is here, and the report is here. There's a projected balance of over $500K, and there is a corresponding recommendation for the purchase of textbooks and classroom materials, and classroom technology.

The Board of Ed meets tomorrow

The Board of Ed meets at the Malden Public Library (?) tomorrow at 10:30 (different time and location).
After the usual array of comments by the Chair, Secretary, Commissioner, and the public, the agenda includes an update on the teacher diversification project (one of the Commissioner's goals for this year); a report on what the Department has been doing on the updated standards for history, social studies, and civics; an update on the state budget (as Senate Ways and Means has released their budget); and proposed dates for next year's meetings.

It looks to me like a shorter agenda, but I am planning on liveblogging.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Two Worcester updates

  • Don't miss today's letter from Worcester's Society of Friends
  • If you didn't catch Clive McFarland's columns earlier this week (here and here in the second half), I want to note that this sort of data analysis is supposed to be a basic function of the adminstration. It is what the School Committee should be hearing reports on, and it's part what the Superintendent should be held accountable on. We shouldn't have to leave it to columnists to do the basic analysis. 

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Two upcoming events of interest (both online and one in Worcester)

Two things that MASC is involved in this week that are open to the public that might well be of interest:

On Tuesday at 4 at Worcester State, the Multistate Assocation of Bilingual Education has a panel discussion on implementing dual language education; I've seen the agenda, and they're really covering the bases in terms of who will be there. 
You can register here; if you're interested but can't make it to Worcester, you can participate online here

Marianna Islam of the Schott Foundation on Wednesday at 4 is moderating a webinar by Colin Jones of MassBudget and me (with my MASC finance hat on) called "School Funding: What Every Parent Needs to Know." The Twitter hashtag for this is #GrassrootsEd.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019



Just in time for the rally at the State House tomorrow, we've now reached the "SQUIRREL" part of the foundation budget bill discussion, where everything gets thrown against the wall.

In the past week, I've seen arguments invoking the regional salary percentages and their comparisons to the municipal wealth formula; I've seen arguments that we somehow must preserve circuit breaker funding as is (ignoring why we have it); I've seen arguments that we must have "more accountability" ignoring that we have enormous amounts of accountability under a system that the state has never fully funded.

And now we have the "but Boston" invocation.

If you really think that those arguing that Boston shouldn't get more money care a whit about equity, please go ask them what they think about the 17.5% of the foundation budget that districts significantly more wealthy than Boston, serving significantly less diverse and more wealthy students than Boston get.
And unless and until they're arguing that the 17.5% aid going to those communities should also be taken away, and unless and until those same people are arguing for a low income implementation that fully meets the Foundation Budget Review Committee's recommendation, spare me your sudden concern for what you're depriving we Gateways of.

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Sorry for being late posting this; if there is one thing to pay attention to, it is the job description of the Chief Diversity Officer being on the agenda for approval, which I already wrote something about.

The agenda is here.
The report of the Superintendent is on the South High student design club, as covered in the T&G earlier this week.
There are resignations, recognitions, and such.
Of passing interest is a prior year payment of over $18,000 to Leicester for what looks like a division of services to a student on an IEP. Is someone at some point going to ask why we have so many prior year payments now? This didn't used to be nearly as much of a thing.
There is motion to send a letter opposing the change in charter reimbursement proposed by the Governor and passed by the House that would only reimburse charter tuition increases that are due to enrollment being high that any of the prior five years.
As covered by the T&G, there is a proposed change in due process for students.
There is a request for approval for a donation of $685.00 to the Worcester Public Schools’ Transition Program.
There are requests from Miss Biancheria for reports on summer facilities work, on the BRACE program, and this--
Request that the Administration provide a summary of the funding proposed in the City’s Budget for the Worcester Public Schools and indicate the way in which this funding, if approved, can enhance programs in the Worcester Public Schools.
--which...isn't that the budget?

There is a plan to recognize students who will graduate with the Seal of Biliteracy.
And there is an item to set the budget hearings.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Students learn what they live about civics

...and that means that how schools operate and how schools treat them as the next generation of leaders matters:
In the midst of debates over what students should learn in civics and how to deliver those lessons, civics education advocates risk missing the larger context: Compulsory K-12 schooling itself makes up the most intensive interaction the average American will have with a civic institution—far outpacing the time spent filling in a ballot, sitting in a jury box, or waiting in line at the DMV...
All but absent from the growing civics education conversation is the recognition that everyday interactions in schools also inform students' civic development, and that often those interactions tell a totally different story about individuals' rights from the government textbooks used in class.

Excellent piece--and crucial point!--in EdWeek.

And Worcester, please note the extensive section on the Boston Student Advisory Council.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Doherty Memorial building committee

The city said this afternoon that, though it is a public meeting, no public questions or comments would be taken, despite questions being posted on the agenda. 
The agenda is as follows: 

The meeting was posted for has not, as yet, started, but I'll be updating this as we go.

DPW Commissioner Paul Moosey presenting
one of the things DPW does is oversee school construction
updating building committee
Tishman is building project manager; LPA selected to design new Doherty, also designed Nelson Place and South
Feasibility is "when we look at what program is this building going to need"
1670 students is settled with MSBA, "which this building can't contain anything near that"
"that's the biggest part of it is the program"
"then what are your options to get there": to add on and renovate, or look for another site, or squeeze another building onto this site, or take this building down and build new
going to do visioning: "get a little bit more public input than we have had in the past"
"a substantial investment, probably at least as much as South High"
"this school is surrounded by parkland"
"the city administration has no interest in touching the parkland"
"but [also] you're not going to see a new school in 2024, which is what we're committed to" if we touch the parks
the superintendent has arrived
Tishman going through the modules of MSBA
now in module 3; "the city has done terrific to this point...getting MSBA to even look at the school"
first phase is the preliminary design program: scheduled to be completed in September this year
then preferred schematic design submitted in December of this year
plan is for occupation in September of 2024
president of LPA "so pleased to be here today"
and now is introducing people who work there
program development, then alternative site evaluation, evaluation of existing building and site
"allows the best option to rise to the surface"
uh, maybe
"at the end of this process we choose three options to pursue further"
"very inclusive and thorough process to gather input"
"want to get as much input prior the end of the school as possible"
"some big picture visioning sessions" which she says "we will get to you"
special ed is reviewed separately through DESE; Ch.74 is envisioned to continue with engineering

Parra reviewing quadrant; looks at all sites of a particular size in the quadrant

available sites, road access, neighborhood concerns "find the best site to meet the needs of the school"
 "comparative" as it is only sites that actually exist
will look at site itself, as well as adjacencies to park
comparative designs: first is a no build; then additions and renovations, then new constructions on exisiting site, looking at swing space putting building on current site

Moosey: very compressed schedule, LPA has really made a huge commitment
"very accelerated"
Augustus: Nelson Place on schedule, on budget, close to energy independent
"if you think about the cost of South High School" $210M or so
Doherty close to $230M: "the city in partnership with the state will build the equivalent to new five ballparks, so we have our priorities straight"
"that's important that people remember that and acknowledge that"
acknowledges Mahoney and Chandler
South: the state is reimbursing us 55%, so the city needs to come up with 45% (thus not, let's say, five ballparks)
"actively talk more about the vision for the schools" than we have in the past

Bergman: 2024 as opening date?
there was some discussion of MSBA changing policy on pools: is that true? is this a chance to discuss that?
Moosey: I haven't confirmed that that is the case
Bergman: there wasn't the publicity that there could have been; "not a criticism, it's an observation"
"moving forward" asks that we do better
Q: are there alternative areas being considered?
Is Duddie in the district? "believe it is just outside the district"

Q: who is on the building committee and what is their role?
"certain votes that they have to take"
"building committee has a role in that?" yes, they do
could we just get their names published?
how long from shovels to building? South High is 33-34 months of construction
what about if you have students here: where do they go?
if you keep them here, that's difficult, but it's been done
"not off the table, MSBA will look at that option"
Q: how will that process unfold? "it's way too early to talk about that"
Q: I am not asking for an outcome; that will be a public process, involve the public schools
"yes, it would have to be the schools"
Q: is that something that parents would be involved in? this is not thoroughly answered
Q: land granted to school versus taking
Friends of Newton Hill, concerned with using full space of school, could cut into space "functionally parkland"
Moosey: "I mean outside of that border" of 20 acres

there is an upcoming meeting, it is not yet scheduled, they took names but no contact information

Doherty building meeting tonight

While neither the city nor the schools has sent any notification out (including to Doherty quadrant families), there is a meeting on the Doherty Memorial building project tonight at 6:30 at the school.
Liveblog to come

Sunday, May 12, 2019

A quick note on the Chief Diversity Officer in the FY20 WPS budget

Much more to come on the FY20 Worcester Public Schools budget, but a quick note for those who had been seeking a Chief Diversity Officer for the system: the position is in the budget, and per the org chart (this is page 66) would answer to the Human Resources Officer:

Per page 16, the position's responsibilities are outlined as:
•Increase the number of Highly Qualified teacher candidates
•Recruit educators knowledgeable in instruction in urban environments
•Expand and enhance recruitment of diverse educator candidates
•Provide supports to increase new teacher retention
•Develop a pipeline of educators among Worcester Public Schools students
•Attract recent college graduates to the Worcester Public Schools

My sense is that those advocating for the position saw it as much more than this; certainly, it is in other communities.
UPDATE: Should it be useful, here are the Superintendent’s direct reports:
UPDATE 2: the job description of the position is posted for Thursday night's meeting. It is a very compliance-based, hiring-focused position.

A bit of research for your Sunday

Coming in from Quartz at Work is this bit of research:
After paternity leave was instituted, surveys of Spanish men ages 21 to 40 showed they desired fewer children than before. Farré and González think that spending more time with their children—or the prospect of having to do so—may have made men more acutely aware of the effort and costs associated with childrearing, and, as the researchers put it, “shifted their preferences from child quantity to quality.”

Happy Mother's Day! 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

And what is going on in Worcester?

My NSFW title for this could be what I was asked by a friend I hadn't seen in awhile that I ran into downtown yesterday: 'What the * is going on with Worcester School Committee?!?"

After a three hour executive session during an off-week meeting, the Worcester School Committee on Thursday night voted 5-2 to grant Maureen Binienda a three year contract at $215,000 a year, with a 2% raise each year, Comparetto and Foley opposed. Further details of the contract have not been released (though it is a public document).
Incidentally, I've requested that the minutes of all executive sessions regarding this negotiation be released, as the reason for the executive session is now complete; the school department has 10 days to respond and 30 days to release them.

There is, of course, much more that has been going this week than that.

  • An Open Meeting Law complaint was filed against the Committee for communications regarding the ad in support of Ms. Binienda's contract renewal at three years. The email gathering signatures was sent out by John Monfredo, three members of the Committee signed the ad, and it is known that at least one other received it. It was also circulated to staff of the Worcester Public Schools. 
  • I heard (yes, this is literally hearsay) multiple reports of teachers being asked by principals to sign the letter of support of the superintendent. The just-re-elected head of the teachers' union Roger Nugent was also collecting signatures in support of the superintendent. 
  • There were, it seems, ongoing meetings with community activists over the course of the week with the Mayor and the Superintendent around the list of action items Mayor Petty has put forward. The discussion, it appears, was around putting those into her contract, or otherwise tying the renewal to those issues. While the Mayor did again read those items at Thursday's meeting and I am told the Committee voted in favor of them, it does not appear those are in her contract, nor that they were issued as goals or otherwise formally part of her evaluation. The Committee has not created new goals for the superintendent since her evaluation in December. Superintendents in Massachusetts have a mid-cycle review halfway through the year, which on this schedule should be taking place around June. 
  • There were activists on both sides of the contract renewal at Thursday's meeting; Bill Shaner noted the demographic divide. There were also seven police officers, which is unusual. 
  • While committees can and do have who they like in their executive sessions when it comes to staff, it is worth noting that School Safety Manager Rob Pezzella was in the mayor’s office at one point. 
  • The Teamsters, who organize the bus drivers who work for Durham, were among those present at the meeting on Thursday; the superintendent has made her support for continuing to work with Durham clear, even as there are continued issues with Durham's service for the Worcester Public Schools. 
  • While the vote was 5-2, the Mayor's vote in favor was tempered with a significant amount of critique which extended beyond the issues around disciplinary disparities recently discussed into the bussing contract, the district's lack of a health curriculum, and others. 
  • Dante Comparetto released a statement Friday, saying that while he will finish his term (it runs until December), he will no longer be running for re-election due to this vote. Nomination papers for School Committee (300 signatures of registered Worcester voters are needed) are due this coming Tuesday, so it appears unlikely this will add people to the race. This does leave an open seat on the Committee, and I believe means the School Committee will not have a preliminary election in September. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

Heading into the weekend...

I know I still owe you a “what is happening in Worcester?” update plus the Worcester Public Schools budget came out this afternoon, but for today, please enjoy this bit of this year’s Seeger Sing behind Worcester City Hall, part of the annual WPS Arts Festival. Some unexpurgated Argo Guthrie:

Senate FY20 budget amendments

Check out Roger Hatch's analysis on the Senate budget for MASS.

Heaven bless them, the Senate sorts by topic!
As always, these are only the K-12 amendments with statewide impacts; if you're looking for an earmark, you're on your own.
to review the way that regional school districts are funded and to recommend a framework that better accounts for differences between the towns that make up these districts and how the funding is distributed
  • Amendment 154 would authorize the use of Water Pollution Abatement funds for lead abatement in public schools.
  • Amendment 155 would create "Finish Line grants" for any year after the first of public university or college. 
  • Amendment 156 would create an unfunded mandate task force. 
  • Amendment 157 would bump the allocation specifically for Gateway Cities in the English learner grant line to $1M (from $250K).
  • Amendment 158 would allocate (a new) $200,000 for the Partnership to Advance Collaboration and Efficiency among the state universities and community colleges.
  • Amendment 159 would add $300,000 for Bottom Line, which works with juniors and seniors to get them into and through college.
  • Amendment 161 would bump the early college allocation from $1.6M to $4M. 
  • Amendment 167 would add $500K through the JFK Library for civics (as was done in the House budget).
  • Amendment 169 would boost the cap on Mass School Building Authority spending to $750M (something for which MSBA has been asking). 
  • Amendment 177 would add the Safe and Supportive Schools grant for $700K.
  • Amendment 178 would create a LIFT fund to "to finance the development and implementation of the recommendations of the foundation budget review" which...I don't know what that means.
  • Amendment 179 would add (back) in military mitigation.
  • Amendment 180 bumps regional transporation reimbursement to to $92M. 
  • Amendment 184 would boost the Mass Mentoring line to $1M.
  • Amendment 193 is (again?) an unfunded mandate task force.
  • Amendment 194 would have DESE do a special education services delivery study.
  • Amendment 195 would add replacing lead pipes to the definition of a capital funding project. 
  • Amendment 202 would add $1.5M to the civics projects trust fund.
  • Amendment 205 would bring METCO up to the $23.6M that the House settled on.
  • Amendment 206 would create a $250K financial literacy grant program.
  • Amendment 217 would add $600K to the Reading Recovery line.
  • Amendment 219 would bump the after and out of school line by about $500K.
  • Amendment 225 would increase the recovery high school line to $3.1M (as it was last year).
  • Amendment 227 would increase the Bay State Reading Institute line by about $400K.
  • Amendment 228 would create a $20.3M Lead in Drinking Water trust fund
  • Amendment 239 would bump the non-resident vocation transportation line (currently $250K) and bump it to $3.4M (which I would guess is full funding).
  • Amendment 245 would increase the amount of the sales tax going to the Mass School Building Authority from 1% to 2%.
  • Amendment 246 would allocate $100K for National History Day.
  • Amendment 247 would allocate $100K for a STEM service learning grant.
  • Amendments 248 and 250 together would add back in the early college line in the foundation budget that the Governor had in his budget (the House did not, nor does the Senate).
  • Amendment 249 would fund MCIEA, the alternative assessment consortium, at $550K (it was funded at $400K in FY19).
  • Amendment 258 would reconsolidate the grants as the Governor did, and includes the use of this funding for innovation zones.
  • Amendment 259 would expand the definition of "rural" for the use of the rural school line of $1.5M, increasing it to 35 students per square mile from 21. This does not include an increase in the funding of the line.
  • Amendment 266 is the $700K for the Accuplacer.
  • Amendment 267 adds a line for $1M for Reach Out and Read.
  • Amendment 268 adds back in the earmark of $250K for Project Bread's Chefs in Schools project.
  • Amendment 277 would increase the rural aid line from $1.5M to $3M.
  • Amendment 278 would add $100K for the Berkshire County Education Task Force.
  • Amendment 280 changes "proposed new text" (Where?) from 2015 to 2014 around the Mass School Building Authority.
  • Amendment 281 increases the allocation for charter reimbursement to $113M (the House number), implements the 100/60/40 reimbursement change, creates that Ch. 70 "floor" that is in the Governor's funding bill and the House budget, increases the facilities allocation, but it does NOT appear to change which districts get funding; it covers all increases, not just the highest enrollment in five years. (For those of you who had been seeking a way to handle the House having language and the Senate not, perhaps this would work?)
  • Amendment 282 would increase the amount in the carter reimbursement line to $125M.
  • Amendment 284 would create a $10M pothole account for districts that would see a net loss of all aid between FY19 and FY20.
  • Amendment 294 adds language (not funding) in the adult education line (allocates towards English learning).
  • Amendment 301 would amend the law to require that the fiscal impact on the sending district be considered in the creation of any new charter school and further bar the creation of any new charter schools in any year in which reimbursement is not fully funded.
  • Amendment 303 appears to fully fund all of the current transporation reimbursements through the creation of a minimum corporate tax (sorry, municipals, you're not in this one)
  • Amendment 306 boosts school to career connecting activities to $5.4M; the Governor proposed at $5M; the House has it at $4.5M and Senate Ways and Means proposed $4.5M.
  • Amendment 308 would allow any district currently in receivership to have up to 80% reimbursment of buildings through MSBA (coming in from Holyoke).
  • Amendment 319 funds the charter reimbursement at 100/60/40 without new allocation, increases the facilities allocation, but does not otherwise change the language (also clearly an attempt to ensure there is language to counter the House)
  • Amendment 320 would provide at $10.5M pothole for those impacted by the low income count shift.
  • Amendment 321 would require Breakfast after the Bell in any school with an eligbility count of 60% of students or more.
  • Amendment 322 boosts the charter reimbursement line to $188M, increases the facility amount, but KEEPS the 100/25s for reimbursement years. It's also doing something to the tax code...let me find that part out. 
That's what I have! Call your Senators! 

Mayoral Commission hearing on Latino education and advancement next Thursday in Worcester

Mayoral Commission on Latino education and advancement invites you to a community discussion on Latino families in Worcester
All community members are invited!
May 16, 2019
4:30 pm
Rock of Salvation Church, 829 Main Street, Worcester, MA
Refreshments and Spanish interpreting will be provided.
For more information, email equityinworcester at or call 508-798-6508

I'm told the flyer is coming out in Spanish today; I'll share once I have it. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

There's a third branch of state government and the Gateway Cities are prepared to go there if they need to

Yesterday, the mayors and superintendents of Brockton, New Bedford, and Worcester held a press briefing in Boston, outlining the possible lawsuit they feel they may need to file and responding to press questions about the decision to procede. It was my Boston day, so I walked up to listen in.
(if you click through to that tweet, it is the first in the thread of my livetweeting)
There was A LOT of press there:
The presentation they handed out entitled "Gross Inequities" can be found here. The three mayors spoke, they ran quickly through the presentation, one of the lawyers spoke, and then they took questions.

Mayor Jon Mitchell of New Bedford said, “We need more money, more resources to do what we are expected to do by the state and by those who send us into office to educate our children...Our school districts, our cities, have not been able to do enough to establish fully functional school districts.” And he noted who is most impacted:“This is a statewide issue which is felt most acutely outside of the Boston orbit.” Mayor Bill Carpenter of Brockton noted his own city's role in school funding--they brought both the McDuffy and the Hancock cases--said that they viewed working with the Legislature as the "best possible outcome" but were prepared to go to the courts if necessary. Mayor Joe Petty of Worcester boiled it down: "This is about equity...Equity for our children in the public school system." He said that the success of the cities in the future depends on the success of the children in the school system.

The presentation opened with reviewing some of the demographic changes that have happened since 1993:
As was rightly pointed out to me yesterday: the demographic categories in which students can choose to identify have changed substantially since 1993, so the above comparison isn't entirely valid (it kind of can't be made). 
The statewide enrollment of students learning English or whose first language is something other than English also has substantially changed: 

Worcester's students' first languages is now up over 100:
And that English learner population is VERY concentrated:

(something which wasn't done but should be? A dissaggregation of race and ethnicity and then poverty along similar lines. Those are also very concentrated enrollments.)

 And what else to know about the Gateways?

The presentation then ran through the reason for the funding issues, and the gaps districts currently are facing (hello, 770 teachers Worcester is short!). This, to me, is the story that isn't told enough or told vividly enough; too often, I hear a counter "but other districts have a hard time, too." Yes, but are they missing close to 20% of their teaching staff?

Attorney Patrick Moore of Hemenway and Barnes, among the attorneys who are working on this pro bono, ran through an outline of the argument: the Constitutional guarantee of education, the state's duty not only to provide it, but to provide it as changing with the times, and the state's lack of concerted action. He noted that a student entering high school when the Foundation Budget Review Commission came out would be graduating next month (parental note: in some cases, this month).He said, “We know more now and are learning ever more by the day of what it takes to meet the needs of those from disadvantaged backgrounds" but “the state plan has neither been maintained nor adequately funded, as the courts say is necessary...and the consequences are perhaps more than ever.”

When asked if there was a hard deadline, the general answer was "progress by the school year," which would, added to Mayor Mitchell's comment that his understanding was the Legislature intends to take this up after the budget, give them July and August to act. Asked what needed to be included, the mayors referenced the Foundation Budget Review Commission report, with Mayor Carpenter noting, "from Gateway Cities’ perspectives, we want to see what they’ll do for English language learners and low income students” (which many will remember was what was being left behind in last year's House proposal, with low income remaining the weakest portion of two of the bills proposed now). Asked about specific remedies, Attorney Moore said that the lawsuit will seek a declaration that the current state of affairs is not good enough; it then is to the Legislature to resolve the issue.
So: watch this.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

I have literally been writing this post for eleven years

I'm not kidding: the first blog post on here, for March 1, 2008, compared the required district spending to the actual district spending and noted that this put us close to the bottom in how much districts were choosing to spend over required.
Here we are eleven years later, and what do we have in today's paper but a headline reading "Augustus pitches $685.7M Worcester budget including $19.8M hike for schools" and the following:
While much of that increase is fueled by a $17.6 million increase in state aid for education, the city has also increased its contribution for education by $3.6 million, Mr. Augustus said.
In formally unveiling his budget recommendation Tuesday night, the manager told the City Council that an $11 million increase to the school budget was needed to provide level services. But what the manager has recommended goes $8.8 million beyond that.
The $19.8M increase in school funding IS EXACTLY WHAT IS LEGALLY REQUIRED. The City Manager CANNOT do anything with the $17.6M increase in Chapter 70 aid, save precisely what he is doing: passing it along to the schools. Along with that comes a required increase in local aid which is $3.6M, PRECISELY WHAT HE IS RECOMMENDING.

No, one does not get credit for going beyond a level services budget, because a level services budget is not what the system is predicated on.

Nor does one get praise for doing LITERALLY THE MINIMUM LEGALLY REQUIRED in increasing city funding.

I was asked earlier today for charts; let me give you one that demonstrate how Worcester is doing remarkably little for the schools. At a time when the whole of Massachusetts educational policy is in agreement that the “adequate” amount of the foundation budget simply isn’t, many other cities are straining to do more.

Worcester (down on the right), for over a decade, does not. 

Senate Ways and Means FY20 budget

First, note that I have updated this spreadsheet on which I am tracking the K-12 budget accounts in FY20. If you'd like the Twitter thread of account by account, it is here.

A few notes:

  • To be just entirely honest: I'm wearily disappointed. If you follow me on Twitter, you might have caught my disbelief that the Senate uses the Governor's--not the House's--preK through 12 foundation dollar amounts, thus leaving out a health care increase; that the Senate overall cut (pretty drastically) the English learner funding and reworked it to favor lower grades; that the push towards low income wasn't bigger, as it's still less than 50% of high school per pupil. I checked lines several times because I was sure I had to be reading something incorrectly. The general understanding of the field has been that the Senate can be counted on to get real needs and big picture. Instead, this foundation budget calculation in particular argues that someone needs to explain to the Senate (again?) the huge gap in health insurance, how learning a language works, and the vast gulf of needs that poverty causes. And I am so tired of this case having to be made, yet again. 
  • The economically disadvantaged, progressive towards greater concentrations of poverty, is legitimately a good thing. I am less than impressed by the "largest ever" phrasing, however. This is something for which the meaningful measure is against real need now, not past funding levels.
  • There is a rural line of $1.5M.
  • This budget has come pre-loaded with earmarks right in the DESE line (the location isn't unusual). While I am sure that those districts can use that funding, the use of power to ensure that state funds are specifically targeted to a district, rather than use of that power to ensure all such need is met is not how equity happens. Remember: if you want an earmark for it, it is probably more than your district that needs it.
  • The charter mitigation line, while it is down a bit, makes the switch on percentages (to 100/60/40, increases the facilties line, but it does not make the switch in which districts are funded, as it does not include the language tying funding to enrollment increases greater than the prior five years. Assuming no one tries to amend the Senate language, the battle on this then goes to conference committee. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

A few notes on Worcester School Committee and the superintendent's contract

As we now have a posted meeting for Wednesday night--UPDATE: this has now been moved to Thursday at 7 pm--(posted on Friday, as we can now see, thanks to the Worcester Sunshine Group) with a single-item agenda, I thought a few notes might be in order.
  • The meeting is posted as an executive (closed) session, as it is contract negotiation with the superintendent. In Worcester, executive sessions commonly are held in the Mayor's office, as this one is scheduled to. However, all executive sessions must open in public session. Thus even as the meeting is held in the Mayor's office, the beginning of the meeting--the call to order, the roll call, the vote to go into executive session--is a public, open session.
  • At the announcement of the reason for the executive session, the chair must also announce if the committee will return to public session. The committee can recess (end the meeting) straight from executive session, however--
  • Votes of contracts--including that of the superintendent--must be made in public session. Thus the contract negotiations can and will be updated in executive session, but no contract vote is effective until it has been made in public session.
While superintendent contracts are public documents, to my knowledge, no one has made a records request for Superintendent Binienda's current contract. Thus the options open to the Committee at this point (bewilderingly) haven't gotten covered. A few points on that:
  • the superintendent's contract has a renewal clause: the Committee had to inform her by December if they did not intend to renew. As such, simply not renewing is not an option they have at this point.
  • The Committee can--and by all public indications has to chosen to--negotiate to renew her contract on whatever terms both parties agree to. However--
  • there is also a clause in the contract allowing the Committee to renew for a single year. If they opt to do so, she can refuse, which would end her employment as of June 30.
  • And committees do sometimes buy superintendent contracts out. See, most recently, Salem.

Monday, May 6, 2019

"The art of the trade/ How the sausage gets made"*

Cheers to Yawu Miller for covering the discussion at Boston Foundation last week where a group of Latino organizations had invited Rep. Andy Vargas, Senator Jason Lewis, and Senator Sonia Chang-Díaz to speak about the proposed changes to education funding in Massachusetts. Notably, this got into tying up the money, which you might recall was discussed and defeated at the Foundation Budget Review Commission:
Vanessa Calderón-Rosado, a member of the Greater Boston Latino Network, asked Chang-Diaz what accountability measures she would support. Diaz pushed back, reiterating the importance of sufficient funding.
“We know money isn’t everything,” Chang-Diaz said. “But if you give a district $50 to do a $100 job, they can have the best teachers in the world and they’re still going to struggle.”
Shana Varón, who heads the Boston Collegiate Charter School and sits on the board of the Massachusetts Association of Public Charter Schools, said she would like to see more accountability measures and said she is concerned that many in Massachusetts are advocating against the state’s standardized testing regime.
Sen. Jason Lewis of Winchester noted that accountability measures are already in place, implemented as part of the 1993 Education Reform Act.
“We put very strong accountability measures in place in 1993,” said Lewis, who is Senate chair of the Joint Committee on Education. “We backed that up with tests. What we haven’t done is deliver the funds for schools to do their work.” Chang-Diaz noted that the accountability measures put in place in 1993 were enhanced in 2010.
“We have a system for more rapid intervention when we don’t see progress on the achievement gap or school performance,” she said. “The state can step in and take over a district.”
Other than the governor’s call for withholding funds and enhanced interventions, Chang-Diaz said, she hasn’t heard calls for specific additional accountability measures.
“Show me your version of what accountability is,” she said in her response to Calderón-Rosado. “Maybe we’ll agree.”
But with the clock running down on the state budget deliberations, Chang-Diaz said, legislators would have to agree on such measures on an accelerated timeline.
“I don’t want us to go another school year while we dither and talk about accountability,” she said. “Bring your proposal forward.”
I, too, am weary of vague calls for "accountability" which never appear to amount to anything more than more calls for privatization or otherwise channeling funding away from schools that actually serve all kids.
Chang-Díaz of course is entirely correct: the state got another round of accountability on the Fed's dime when the state passed the Act Relative to the Achievement Gap in order to qualify for Race to the Top funds in 2011. That law has not been revoked, even as the federal funding which was the reason for it is long gone.
Moreover, the original foundation budget was to be reviewed and updated periodically, which it was not. The state thus owes the districts this funding from the 1993 law, over and above the 2011 changes.
*shamelessly borrowed from Lin-Manuel Miranda's "Room Where It Happens"

Friday, May 3, 2019

For those seeking ways forward on systemic bias

I was urge the close reading of this piece from the Hechinger Report regarding work happening most particularly in Cambridge, but also elsewhere. You'll note that it isn't a "one and done" on PD. Because it can't be.
Mitigating the effects of implicit bias on student behavior and performance requires teachers working closely with their peers, and school leaders making those efforts a priority. This isn’t a quick fix. The effort must be ongoing.
“There’s no evidence to show that a one-day training for teachers and staff will foster change,” says Circe Stumbo, president of West Wind Education Policy, an Iowa-based group that provides analysis of school equity policies. What’s needed, she says, is a schoolwide commitment to making cultural proficiency a priority, with systems in place for continual personal reflection and accountability.

and on Worcester graduation

Incidentally, the report on graduation came late in the meeting, and, while it was clear from Ms. McCullough's comments that an update had been given to the School Committee, there was no comment, remark, or discussion on this:
...which is a problem.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Worcester School Committee liveblog (ish)

I'm doing this from home tonight...
Worcester School Committee meeting opening with public testimony. 
Students speaking:
"we will be heard"
"the superintendent does not represent me"
one cannot solve a problem when one denies it exists
notes that the work that students did researching students' perspectives on teaching, initially presented at the Mayor's Commission at which the superintendent confronted the student researchers, was picked up by Harvard University
"how can we solve the problems of tomorrow when the superintendent denies the problems that exist today?"
"she planted fear in me by questioning the work that I do outside of school"
"I care about my community, I care about my fellow peers, and I want to cause change in my community"
"We will not be belittled by the superintendent anymore because enough is enough"
a former member of the Superintendent's council says their perspective was dismissed
"I want to be heard, not shut down"
another "I do not see the superintendent as a role model"
have seen teachers dismiss the experience of immigrant students
"when asked about the role of diversity...she said 'I don't like to label'"
students all are starting "I am a student in the Worcester Public Schools and the superintendent does not represent me" and closing with "enough is enough"
student "has abused her power"
"constantly making comments like 'that is not right' and murmuring under her breath" during the presentation

Principal echoes statement submitted in writing of principals' support, saying system depends on trust between principals and superintendent
Michael Lyons, candidate for EAW president, challenges students to come up with a solution

Student rep Kwaku Nyarko: from my perspective, I have not seen or experienced Ms. Binienda being racist
"more than that, the more important can't propose a solution if both sides don't see a problem"
majority of people seeing the problem are not Caucasian and the majority of those denying it are
wants statistics of teachers "checked immediately"
has been in Worcester since second grade and "I have never had a teacher that is black"
"you can experience discrimination without teachers being racist"
"there is discrimation happening in Worcester and we have to address it"

Here's Bill Shaner's coverage of tonight. And the T&G is here

Worcester updates

I am behind on these...apologies.

There was an article in the weekend edition of the Worcester Telegram and Gazette stemming from what appeared to be a lengthy interview with Superintendent Binienda and School Safety manager Rob Pezzella last week. The thrust of the article, clearly an attempt to put controversy over the superintendent's tenure (and contract) to rest, is where the Worcester schools struggle, so do others, and regardless, the superintendent is working on it. The comparisons in the article rather missed the ways--and there are several--in which Worcester is an outlier (and not in positive directions), some of which have also been covered by the T&G. 
This led to a reflective piece by Clive McFarlane noting that much of what would seem to be necessary, and in some cases what Superintendent Binienda is now saying, are items put forward by Superintendent Boone, which were not popular by many of the same parties now defending Superintendent Binienda, leading to the question of if, in fact, the superintendent is in a position to carry such needs out.
Councilor Rivera, councilor of District 4 and the sole Latinx elected official city official, put out a statement regarding the situation, which reads in part:
More recently, legal actions by former Worcester Public School employees challenged my conscience to speak out rather than continuing to sit waiting...Ultimately I joined the public call because it felt all other possible routes to bringing about dialogue and change had failed.
This evening, she spoke at the Worcester School Committee, reading much of these statements, calling for the superintendent to "listen to the call" for change.
You can also read much of this in Bill Shaner's weekly "Worcesteria".