Friday, June 28, 2019

The key things exceptional boards and members do

Notes originally tweeted from this school boards' (they're school boards outside New England) trainers session by Kay Douglas and David Koempel of Texas, Nick Caruso of Connecticut, and Mike Gilbert of Massachusetts:

Exceptional boards:
  • self-govern: this isn't the superintendent's job
  • focus on the work of the board and hold meetings that are purposeful and focused on students: the board agenda should be there to finish the goal; "don't spend time doing work other people could do." What is it that the BOARD (and only the board!) can do? What percentage of the agenda is focused on student achievement? To which district goal is each agenda item tied?
  • work collaboratively with the Superintendent and clearly articulate expectations to community and staff: build and maintain trust and communication
  • set shared vision, mission, and goals and monitor progress: We are really good at setting goals; we are not good at monitoring them. What is the path to the achievement of goals? PUT THE REPORTING OUT ON EVERY AGENDA. 
  • engage in professional development together: agree together on PD (with governance team!) on what YOUR district needs
Exceptional members:
  • make decisions based on data and monitor progress: If the board doesn't have the information it needs, it isn't time to make the decision. This takes admin PD; don't just "throw up a spreadsheet." The purpose of meetings is to make decisions. 
  • respect opinions of others and leave ego at the door: There is no term for an individual board member; they are a member of the board. 
  • understand board's role/learn and abide by board operating procedures: Self-evaluation is about how the BOARD (not the individuals) are doing; that's the distinction from elections. 
  • prepare for board meetings and ask questions in advance: The most frightening sound any chair can hear right before a board meeting is the agenda packet being torn open. Make it clear in public what questions may have been asked but don't play gotcha with the administration. 
  • learn and abide by the open meeting laws and board protocols: know the LAWS
  • keep confidential information confidential: once trust is broken, it takes a long, long time to get back. 

A word about the federal government and bussing

Sorry, I know this is late; I'm at the national school boards' trainers conference in Omaha, and I haven't had much of a chance to post!
If you watched the Democratic debate last night (or if you saw much since then), you saw this exchange between Senator Kamala Harris and former Vice President Joseph Biden:

I do want to observe here that this illustrates something which is crucial: policy is never hypothetical. It's always about the second grader on the bus; it's about people.

Senator Harris attended the Berkeley, CA public schools which did voluntarily desegregate in 1968 (you can read a lot about Berkeley in 1968 here). Berkeley used two-way bussing, meaning that children went in both directions (not only sending Black children into white schools). It was done due to local community decision through massive community organizing, 'though one can't, of course isolate Berkeley from what else happened in the rest of the country.

Vice President Biden's position has been well covered by the education press in the past few weeks; this piece in EdWeek captures much of the history, and his letter to Senator James Eastland, a noted segregationist, has been well-circulated. He went so far in 1975 as to float the idea of a Constitutional amendment forbidding it. Above, he speaks of opposing the (federal) Department of Education forcing schools to desegregate through bussing, something of which I can find no record, which may have been discussed by the Ford administration, though Ford cited busing orders as federal overreach (see also his statement here); desegregation, when it was ordered, came through the federal courts (the judiciary, thus, not the executive branch). Note the points in this interview, in particular:
It seemed like the crux of his response was, he was trying to draw this distinction between when busing or desegregation efforts were mandated by outsiders versus when communities came up with them or OK’d them themselves. I wonder what you made of that. 
It struck me as a distinction without much meaning to it. By which I mean, the local and the federal roles have always been intertwined with schooling in America, particularly on the school desegregation issue. This sense that communities should only desegregate when they locally decide to do so is farcical. It demonstrates a complete either lack of knowledge or willful misunderstanding of how race and school desegregation played out in the country.
The main power the federal legislative branch has, of course, is that of funding. Since at least 1974, sections 301 and 302 of appropriations has included a ban on the use of federal funding for bussing used for desegregation efforts. It has been noted, however, that this would seem to run afoul of one of the main points of the Every Student Succeeds Act:
Momentum to remove these provisions began last year, when it became evident that the decades-old riders conflicted with the Every Students Succeeds Act, the federal education overhaul passed in 2015. That law gives states and local districts greater flexibility to implement evidenced-based school improvement strategies. Decades of research have shown that racial and socioeconomic integration can lead to a wide-range of academic and social benefits — which many state and local policymakers hope to provide for students.
Since this has now come up--and it doesn't seem to me as if today's "clarification" clarified at all--one can hope that this discussion continues. I, too, would be interested:

A significant number of the current president's judicial nominees have declined to say if they think Brown v. Board was correctly decided, so the issue is necessary in more ways than one.

Thursday, June 27, 2019

June Board of Education: FY20

backup here
Bill Bell: still waiting for the Legislature to produce a budget for the Governor to review
Conference committee is meeting; hopefully closing gaps to produce bill
is an interim budget in place for next Monday, when new fiscal year starts
Joint Committee on education doing on school funding
"it's probably worth highlighting, because I think it gets confused"; the bill WILL NOT AFFECT the coming year
(that's the FY20 budget)
doing a lot of modeling for the committee as they work
Peyser: plea to whomever is listening
sufficient flexible resources for Commissioner to implement his plans
make a difference in what goes on in the classroom

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

June Board of Education: State Student Advisory Council report

Maya Mathews: year has been awesome
spoke about value of student voice on state boards across the country
very cool to see work of student advisory council is far reaching
civic work groups
global outreach work groups
mental health work group

voter registration booths in schools; take civics education into buildings
a lot of conversation around student government and student government involved in their schools
disconnect with their schools
equipt as global citizens: not just second (and so far) languages, networks connecting beyond classroom
increase mental health services in schools
what students want to be getting but are not
districts that have student dropboxes, allowing students to leave a note and have guidance reach out

recruit and retention of students to State Student Advisory Council

June Board of Education :Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter appeal

backup is here
Chuang: calls up school to present
school: submitted on May 17 a letter to add 368 places
handout to provide a framework for appeal
legal counsel is now reading MGL of charter schools
nowhere does Commissioner mention unique program in his letter
not actually relevant
ongoing argument here is this is a unique school...
argues that waitlist at kindergarten level
DESE says this: 
This type of enrollment plan, with assumed attrition, is no longer a viable choice under the current charter school statute. In 2010, the charter school statute was amended, adding new statutory requirements to backfill vacancies, to create and augment recruitment and retention plans, and to retain students.The changed statute made impermissible significant planned attrition in the first half of the school's grade span.

June Board of Education: health curriculum

backup is here
Rachelle Engler Bennett and Kristen McKinno
haven't been updated since 1999
have two additional decades of research
started with lots of listening
then moved to panel
focus on skills: integrating topics and skills
decision making and problem solving
promote skills as transferable
panel brought passion and expertise
also meeting with student groups
bring draft to Board in the fall
send out for public comment
final draft in December

McKenna: standards required or voluntary?
will have what these standards "do and do not do"
are some elements required by law
standards as a whole are not required
all curriculum frameworks are recommended: districts could choose not to use the standards, most districts choose not to do it
McKenna: then why do they do this?
Joint work, good work
McKenna: no doctors? will be on review, have had school nurses

Morton: poverty rates have changed
higher rates of incarceration
violence and levels of trauma

McKenna; timeline?
ramp up in spring, implementation for 2020-21

Fernández: curious about how these standards might play into the types of supports for districts or schools that might fall into that
networks available for districts to join on a content area
hearing districts are pleased with offerings that are available

June Board of Education: accountability system

backup is here
Johnston: went out for public comment in April, May
information sessions for school and district leaders to understand what the changes are
also before the Accountability and Assistance Advisory Council
Curtin: fairly limited in the changes that were proposed this year
"wanted to give the system time to breathe and to grow and to develop a bit"

June Board of Education: arts standards

the backup is here
Ron Noble: in February, draft went out for public comment, have made amendments accordingly
intro's Dawn Benski, who will be leading implementation
Craig Waterman: four big shifts
ID's 11 artistic practices, complex knowledge and skills developed over time in arts education
recognizes media arts as a discipline
consistent organizational structure across disciplines
greater detail in eight grade spans
guiding principles: culturally aware instruction, social emotional learning, and engaging communities in the arts
Moriarty: notes "what the frameworks do and do not do" but be sure they know they don't have option of not doing it
Craven: two decades since updated
Benski: supporting implementation through regional arts ambassador teams
PD in each region of the state
Stewart: arts integration, networks
how to integrate various components?
Waterman: made lots of intentional decisions to support integrations
McKenna: concern about resources here
"I wonder what kinds of resources there are to provide the resources there are?"
both online modules and PD for teachers
2019-20 a transition year, full alignment 2020-21
Waterman: "obviously local districts need to allocate local resources for proper implementation"
Hills: in terims of time, how are these new frameworks being received in time pressure
Noble: hope it leads to cross-discipline practice in elementary schools
have tried to embed the framework with cues for things they're already responsible for


June Board of Education: annual evaluation of Commissioner

There is no backup
Morton: through a series of questions around the Commissioner's performance in his first year
divided work among three; in depth interviews with as many stakeholders as possible
rated in four dimensions:
  1. facilitated student growth and achievement
  2. management and operations
  3. external relationships and communications
  4. Board relationships
Facilitate student growth and achievement: 3.8 out of 5.
Management and Operations: 3.75 out of 5.
External Relations and communication: 4.5 out of 5.
And Board Support/Effective Interactions: 4.75 out of 5
....overall it's a 4.1 out of 5
most very pleased with tenure in first year
visits, conference, vision, tactics
access to arts
support of all students in the Commonwealth
timely in response to issues and challenges in his first year in his position
talent of staff; making Board well informed
excited for state in work that will be done moving forward
"was felt that the Commissioner has high expectations"
narrowing achievement/proficiency gaps

Motion to "increase his salary" without a specific number
it is a 2% increase

June Board of Education: Our Way Forward from Commissioner Riley

You can find his report here.
Riley: said he'd take the year to meet with stakeholders
does not replace strategic plan: road map that denotes where we've been and ponders where we should consider going
Ed reform act ushered in a new era
propelled Massachusetts to the top on various national assessments
"so much to be proud of and grateful for"
"my fear is that we may be like Blockbuster video in 1992...thinking that we're the next great American company when we're about to be taken over by Netflix"

June Board of Education: opening comments

We are at the Rumney Marsh Academy in Revere today for the June Board of Ed; you can find the agenda here. The livestream is here.
Important note on location:
We are across the street from the home of Necco wafers.
Oddly packed house today? Posting as we go

Saturday, June 22, 2019

This week's lesson in macroeconomics

...if there is a perception of no competition for something, the supplier will demand more money for it.

This brings us neatly to the single bid from Durham Bus Services for Worcester Public Schools transporation received Friday; Durham perceives that they have little to no competition for Worcester's contract, and so they bid a sizable increase.
If Worcester opted to hire Durham for all three years, it would be taking on a significant cost increase over what it currently pays the company, which is going into the final year of its five-year deal with the district. Next school year, for instance, the school department would be paying Durham $444 per big bus, according to the recently approved fiscal 2020 budget; the average over the following three years, based on the company’s bid, would be $525 per big bus – an 18 percent hike.
That increase would continue a trend of climbing transportation costs for the district, which has seen its five-year contracts with Durham go from $52.7 million in 2005 to $62 million in 2015.
In fact, if you run the numbers compared to the current contract (see page 218 of the FY20 budget)...

...the increase for FY21, when it would begin, is an eyepopping 16.5% over FY20. It is a $2M increase in a single year!

Recall, as well, that this the same transporation company has had issues all year long in Worcester, in what seems clear are management, not driver, issues. The lack of competition plus the lack of appropriate service has pushed the district further towards considering running its own bus service, a report which the School Committee voted to request, as well, in voting to approve the subcommittee report requesting a cost-benefit analysis.

It seems this will be before the Finance and Operations subcommittee on August 13. If you have opinions about service or cost, it would be well to let the committee know.

Diversity and equity: one district in Missouri

This from EdWeek caught my eye:
In January, Lee's Summit's local chapter of the National Education Association shared a letter urging against extending Carpenter's contract. In a list of reasons, the union executive team cited concerns with the rejected September proposal, which they said would have focused on "white privilege" and concentrated on better serving black students in equity training.
The teachers' union also called the hiring of an assistant superintendent of equity and student services not "warranted or necessary." The role was created in the 2018-19 school year as part of the equity plan, and is a position that is being created by a growing number of districts across the country to address schooling disparities.
"We believe disparity in student achievement and opportunity should be addressed with all our minority populations and not just focused on our black population. Diversity and equity should address our students that come with a variety of unique needs," the letter said.
In May, Lee's Summit's school board president made headlines for comments on privilege, including comparing being blonde to being a person of color.
Local reporting here

Friday, June 21, 2019

The Board of Ed meets Tuesday in Revere

New chair Katherine Craven said they'd be taking the show on the road, and June's meeting is at Rumney Marsh Academy in Revere. The agenda is online here, and it's a lengthy one!

Most of the backups are posted but the one that might be of most general interest, the evaluation of the Commissioner is not. Nor is his report to the Board.

Those top the agenda after the usual public comments and the welcome from the Revere Public Schools.

There is a discussion and request for approval of the new arts standards. These are back from public comment, and linked off that page you can find the comments submitted, the response of the department, and the proposed standards.

Also back from public comment are the revised accountability standards. You can find a link to a summary of the comments submitted off that page; most resulted in no change, in some cases due to the federal law. You can also find a link to the document itself with highlighted revisions. Many of the changes in the document are simply recognizing time (it moves from intent to do to what is being done); the substantive changes are:
  • subgroup participation will be calculated for ELA and math (and science where applicable) together, so as to raise the number and work to mitigate the impact of small numbers of non-participants
  • Project Lead the Way is added to the list of advanced coursework (which is revised, in any case)
  • two years of data are used for accountability with 2019 now weighed at 60%

Coming in for its first (I think?) Board update are the health standards; these, perhaps infamously, were last updated in 1999. The planned timeline is:
  • Outreach and Planning (June 2018 – November 2018)
  • Review, Revision, and Board Action (December 2018 – Winter 2020)
  • Revised Framework Initial Implementation (Spring 2020 – Summer 2021)
The review panel has just finished meeting; they met six times since December (the list of panelists is here) with a focus on "the learning standards that outline what students should know and be able to do related to comprehensive health." The Department plans over the summer to "seek additional feedback from content advisors and other key stakeholders, as needed," with a plan to present initial frameworks in the fall to go out to public comment. The final frameworks would then be ready to be released, after public review, in winter of 2020, for implementation in the fall of 2021.

There is the annual "oh dear we wouldn't want to have to have you meet over the summer" delegation of authority to the Commissioner, with specific mention of the contracts of Dudley Street Neighborhood Charter School and Roxbury Preparatory Charter School. 

There is a (revised) list of dates of next year's Board meetings.

Pioneer Valley Charter is (again) requesting a review of the Commissioner's decision to deny their expansion. The backup does a good job of reviewing their history, but here are my notes from last year's review before the Board, which did not go well (for them).

There will be an end of year report from the State Student Advisory Council.

There will be an update on the FY20 budget through the Senate's passage; the budget now, of course, is in conference committee.

Not for discussion but there is also an update on implementation of the LOOK Act and (one of my annual favorites) the list of non-operating districts; those towns will tuition out all of their studentsto other districts. 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Periodic liveblog of the Worcester School Committee meeting

on minutes, including the executive session minutes, as Petty moves to a voice vote, Comparetto objects to the level of detail included, said he had asked about this, and says he hopes they will do better moving forward
the minutes pass as is

new principals are here to be introduced; Comparetto asks why there no longer is a public process; Superintendent says that there was (if there was, the parents weren't informed of it); she also lists why the acting principals are acting principals; in one case, it is a request of the person, in others time

on the Chief Diversity Officer position, the Mayor takes the floor: "a number of school districts are doing this, across the Commonwealth and across the country...and I think people are watching...that's why this has to be done right"
individual report to superintendent, housed in the HR office
"my suggestion is you take out" the requirement for building-based administration, "or maybe move it to preference"
"maybe do this as you do this like principals...just go through the process"
"somehow get the community involved"
NAACP and the Latino community...have some sort of inclusion, diversity, and advisory committee
O'Connell suggests "desired expand the pool of candidates"
"doing that did bring in a good pool of candidates...this is a suggestion for the superintendent to take into account"
suggests adding a paragraph on recruitment
"she can adopt it or not as she sees fit"
Foley: what is the purpose of this job "if you had to summerize in a sentence or two"
Binienda: "purpose is to recruit and retain...particularly teachers and administrators of color"
Foley: intent to make Title IX coordinator?
Binienda: no, Pezzella is Title IX coordinator
HR: "understanding the importance of welcomeness, the importance of tolerance, "the importance of greeting everyone" with welcome will be part of job
Foley: on the front end, rather than processing complaints and going through the process
would concur that "recent building experience [being required]...may not get the pool you want to have...I think it would expand the pool that way" to drop it
"I'm not sure I'd call it a Chief Diversity Officer...I don't see quite the systemic move to change" of that position
this is a recruitment and retention specialist
Comparetto: "did I hear it right that Pezzella is coordinator of Title IX?"
Binienda: yes, he has been trained by legal
Comparetto: Title IX was a follow-up to the civil rights, seems as though someone in that position should have relevant experience
Q: when will this be posted?
HR: if the SC approves the posting tonight, typically posting on Friday
Petty: pay range? based on experience?
it's budgeted for $120K

O'Connell asks that the report from the students regarding teaching diversity be forwarded to them prior to the recognition, noting that it was not
"if it does concern any...practices...we should be moving on" that we could do so
Petty says "let's set the date, anyway"

to a lengthy back and forth that seemed to be based on approval of private schools being not something Miss Biancheria was familiar with (it seemed?), you might read DESE's guidance and also the Worcester Public Schools' policy LBC.

Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget round two (not a liveblog)

I came in about an hour into budget deliberations, just in time to hear a motion from Mr. O'Connell to cut $500,000--yes, half a million dollars--from the adminstration account.
That's this account:

That's also this account (at the top):

(and in that case, note that the majority of what is reported as central administrative spending under the foundation budget is spent by the city and credited as school spending.
This isn't fiscal prudence; this is just reckless disregard for good governance.

A motion to cut $20,000 from rentals earlier apparently passed. I don't know who made the motion, but presumably it wasn't made in connection with any real facilities planning despite this:
Miss Biancheria made a motion to cut the $85,000 for the superintendent's secretary; that seems oddly personal.
After specifically asking about the funding level for substitute secretarial coverage and receiving the answer that the account was still underbudgeted (I believe she was told it should be $150K and was $126K; I'll check), Miss Biancheria then cut $10,000 from secretarial coverage.

This, added to the $20K cut from legal last session, then came to $50K, which was added to professional development, which you will no doubt hear about this summer.
You will probably also hear of their "no" votes from Miss Biancheria and Mr. O'Connell, as the budget passed 5-2.
That's on a budget of $364,928,023; including grants, it is $420,886,178. It is a 4.9% increase over FY20.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

Remember, the budget session starts at 4 pm. The School Committee received an update of the recommended account sequence, which notes the changes made thus far.
They've got...most of the budget to get through. Past practice is they roll through budget until 6, recess to executive session, come back at 7 for the regular session, and then finish the budget as needed. There is not, however, a posted executive session, so maybe they'll just keep rolling with budget. Though it isn't on the posted agenda on the school website, there is an executive session on the city website: negotiations with aides and monitors, and a clarification and accretion petition from the EAW on large bus drivers (these clarify who is or is not in a bargaining unit...perhaps this is in relation to possible changes in who runs transportation?).
The regular agenda can be found online here.
I did some tweeting over the weekend on the agenda, if you want a short version.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

It must be something in the water.

We seem to be on a bit of a streak of "I have a great idea about the Worcester Public Schools!" op-eds in the Worcester Telegram and Gazette lately.
  • Last week, we had another of the periodic "maybe we shouldn't elect our School Committee" op-eds, this one from Roberta Schaefer, who, it is wise to remember, is a former member of the state Board of Ed. I thought this might be a review of the actual data on elected versus appointed schools boards; there isn't a lot, but what there is largely has found there doesn't appear to be a correlation between how school boards get their positions and student achievement, at least on test scores. However, this never argued for an appointed school committee at all, instead spending attention only on charter schools in New York City and in Boston, none of which resemble Worcester in size, demographics, or public access. No evidence is given to support the thesis of the piece.
  • Later in the week, we had another reappearance, this of the proposal that the regional transit authority and the school transportation should be a single unit. This proposal that the transit authority somehow can serve the public schools' population reappears with enough frequency that I have this post from (budget season) of 2017 on my quick find list. It's abundantly clear that many who suggest this and parallel ideas have little information about how much the Worcester Public Schools' buses do and how difficult it is to navigate the city with timeliness if one is dependant on public transit. Also, public transit systems that are federally funded can't compete with private contractors for public school bus service. 
  • Finally, on Sunday, we saw this proposal to put the new Doherty High on (in?) Foley Stadium. There seems, within the piece, to be some confusion over if it is good or bad to be next to a park (good for Tech, bad for Doherty unless it moves?), how much acreage is enough (the suburbs have more, Doherty has 20, but Foley has 12?), and the presence in the city of Worcester of schools other than Tech and Doherty (North is very new, South is being built). The main concern of the piece in fact appears to be the suggestion that Doherty students might be moved to the current South while a new Doherty is constructed; we are warned that would be an "unwelcome development," there would be "political ramifications," and it would have a "negative impact" with no details given. One should also note, of course, that the land across the street from Foley Stadium is Beaver Brook Park, named for the brook that runs through it, and then runs under the street...and under Foley Stadium. 

"30% of the difference is 70% of the money"

The above is a (possibly imperfectly remembered) quote from Rep. Aaron Vega regarding the Promise Act and House 70 proposed by Governor Baker: when it comes to implementation, the difference is in the funding of low income kids.
And now we have the numbers.
Yesterday, MassBudget released a model of implementation of Governor Baker's bill, the Promise Act, and the status quo, projected through 2026.
Note, by the way, that the other House bill was not modeled, as, just as several of us have pointed out despite the unpopularity of the message, the bill doesn't have enough in it to model implementation. It isn't complete.

The differences among status quo, Baker's bill, and Promise are stark:
Status quo: $0.99B above FY19; Baker: $1.45B above FY19; Promise: $2.36B above FY19
MassBudget has included a spreadsheet which you can download to see what they project would be the difference for districts. I would also highly recommend reviewing the technical appendix (scroll down on the report page) to understand what assumptions the projections are based on (different assumptions = different numbers).

The big differences are the Gateways and the big differences are for the kids who have least. 

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Mussotte et al v. Peyser et al press conference liveblog

Learn those names, because here comes the lawsuit.
Live feed coming from the conference on this page.
The front row: the plantiffs
Taking this photo kind of broke my heart. 

Juan Cofield, NAACP
“We felt it necessary given the harm that continues to be done to our children”

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Additional Doherty public sessions

Due to popular and City Council complaint, two dates have been added AFTER FIVE for input sessions for the new Doherty building:

· Visioning/Public Outreach – Monday, June 24, 2019, 6:30pm-8:00pm, Doherty Memorial High School Cafeteria
 · Visioning/Public Outreach – Monday, July 15, 2019, 6:30pm-8:00pm, Doherty Memorial High School Cafeteria

Note that the June 24 session that runs from 2-5 pm still has as a session agenda item "distill the priorities in the visioning process," making me wonder to what degree these later sessions will still be able to establish such priorities.

These are open to the public, of course.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


"Elbows: the most important weapon in a politician's armoury."

from Yes, Minister

In the past several months, the Worcester School Committee has recognized or honored:
  • the winners of Worcester Regional Middle School (grades 6-8) Science and Engineering Contest at WPI 
  • the seniors who have been awarded the state Seal of Biliteracy
  • students for "exemplifying behaviors that meet the Core Values at the Goddard School of Science and Technology as part of their turnaround process." 
  • a South Central Noonan Scholar
  • the Doherty Memorial High Powerlifting team
  • an International All-Women's Choir member
...and I could go on.
The science fair winners did not have their projects reviewed by the School Committee prior to their being honored. The Seal of Biliteracy seniors did not have their language skills checked by the School Committee prior to their being recognized. The students with exemplary behavior, the athletes, the vocalist...none had the skills or performances for which they were being honored checked the the School Committee prior to their being recognized.

Thus Scott O'Connell is right to remark on the highly unusual hold Mr. O'Connell requested be placed on the item to honor student researchers who presented at Harvard. He has insisted--and the committee agreed, as the Worcester School Committee does not have a personal hold--that the research be given to the Committee first.
This is the research that students did outside of school on their own time and presented first at the Mayor's Commission on Latino Educational Advancement regarding student perspectives on teaching. These same students, based on the way their presentation and they themselves were treated at that meeting and subsequently by the superintendent and other administrators, then called for her resignation
That's the first indication that this is not about the research.
The second indication is that this research was presented to the Mayor's Commission months ago and has been in the news consistently since. If Mr. O'Connell and other members of the committee were as interested in teacher diversity as their introductory remarks in the budget hearing claimed, they would of course wish to have read it. They have had ample opportunity to do so. 

Access matters

Yesterday, MassLive noted the lack of home internet access among two groups of students: those in rural areas (still an issue) and those (of low income) in urban areas. MassLive notes how Springfield and Holyoke have worked with families on this:
At the beginning of every school year, Springfield and Holyoke families can purchase internet services through Comcast at a discount — $9.95 a month, with the option to purchase an internet-ready computer for less than $150. Households with school-age children eligible for free and reduced-price lunches, all households living in U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-assisted housing and low-income veterans are eligible for the Internet Essentials program.
That's in addition to Springfield having a one-to-one program from grade 3 up, with high school students able to bring them home, and Holyoke having free mobile devices in their middle schools.

As for Worcester? While the push to do work online at the secondary level is the same here, there has been no district effort to work with families on home access; it's been years since the district even surveyed internet access, let alone device access. While the student in this AP article is in Hartford, her experience is something some Worcester students experience as well:
With no computer or internet at home, Raegan Byrd's homework assignments present a nightly challenge: How much can she get done using just her smartphone?
On the tiny screen, she switches between web pages for research projects, losing track of tabs whenever friends send messages. She uses her thumbs to tap out school papers, but when glitches keep her from submitting assignments electronically, she writes them out by hand.
"At least I have something, instead of nothing, to explain the situation," said Raegan, a high school senior in Hartford.
 In Massachusetts, requiring students to depend on family access without providing such access is in violation of a free public education. Per DESE guidance of November 2016 (note that's a doc; page 10):
1. Are schools obligated to provide students with a device if one is required for learning and instruction? 
Yes. Under Chapter 71, Section 48 of the Massachusetts General Laws, schools must purchase at public expense textbooks and other instructional materials and supplies intended for use and re-use over a period of years. Schools then in turn "loan" those instructional materials free of charge to students, who must return them at the end of the school year.
Costly tools such as a tablet or other computer or graphing calculator fall in the category of instructional materials and supplies that, similar to textbooks, are intended for schools to purchase and use and re-use over a period of years. If such technology is required, schools may encourage each student to purchase these devices. Students are likely to do so because they may need those devices for future classes and other use outside of school. Schools are advised to be prepared to provide such devices free of charge to students whose families do not choose to buy them or cannot afford to do so. If students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments, schools must provide that access.
Students need such devices to complete out-of-school assignments in Worcester.

Survey says...

Don't miss the results of the Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll showing that maybe Massachusetts voters are more progressive than they are credited at least on education funding:
Sixty percent of the registered voters who participated in a Suffolk University/Boston Globe poll released Tuesday said they don’t believe the state is adequately funding its K-12 schools...
It’s education, however, where voters put a heavy emphasis on change. A little more than half said they’re willing to see their own school district get less in state funding if it meant low-income districts could get more. An even greater number — 58 percent — said they’re willing to pay more in state taxes to cut down on disparities within the education system.
That’s evidence there’s a “strong appetite for redistribution,” according to the poll’s director, David Paleologos.
“I think it’s the importance of the issue and it’s due to the economy,” Paleologos said of the opinions on education funding. “People view it as a valued investment into our resources.”

Maybe the assumption that everyone has to continue to "get theirs" is not as necessary as assumed?

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Worcester FY20: building by building staffing changes

In the back of the Worcester Public Schools' budget book is a building-by-building budget, beginning on page 283. If you have children in the schools, you may want to take a look at your children's school budget. Do remember that, particularly in elementary schools, staffing can change over the summer, depending on enrollment; most elementary changes are due to enrollment changes yearly in any case. There is a formula citywide for how schools are staffed which begins on page 400.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

FY20 Worcester Public Schools budget

...appalling long document providing for every conceivable and inconceivable situation and opening up ramifications into everybody's death and remarriage, 'covered,' as Murbles observes, 'by THE WILL' (in capitals).
Busman's Honeymoon by Dorothy L. Sayers
because I think of this line every year when the budget comes out!
Let's talk about the Worcester Public Schools FY20 budget, which the School Committee will take up at 4 pm this Thursday, June 6, as well as in two weeks on June 20, also at 4 pm. Remember, if you don't want to download the whole massive thing, you can go to this page and click into the section you're interested in. It's been posted online since May 10.

IF YOU ARE NEW TO THIS: DON'T PANIC!  Yes, the document and the numbers are big, but that's just because it is a big system. You can do this! I recommend starting with page 7, which is the beginning of the Executive Summary, which will walk you through what is changing in this budget, then where the money is coming from, what impacts this budget, what this budget doesn't do, and what to watch for all in the following seven pages. And if you have questions, send them along!

Monday, June 3, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday: BUDGET TIME!

The Worcester School Committee meets on Thursday this week: NOTE THAT THE BUDGET SECTION STARTS AT 4 PM!
And yes, there's a budget post coming next.

The executive session for a single grievance is scheduled for 6; the regular session is scheduled for 7.

Let me start by highlighting three things on here that I think are of general interest:
  • the administration is recommending the hiring pro bono save expenses (which makes me a little nervous) Michael P. Angelini and others at Bowditch and Dewey for a lawsuit against the state on the Foundation budget.  
  • the Chief Diversity Officer position was held from the prior meeting due, it seemed, to dissatisfaction with the job description, as I described here; note further that it also requires building administrator experience, which is not all that relevant. The position description posted for this week's meeting is the same. Further, the item is phrased "for informational purposes," which is something I would hope the School Committee rejects. It is a new position; it requires School Committee approval.
  • Mayor Petty has the following item:  
  • Request that the Administration invite representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Center for District Support to make a presentation on the district’s accountability and disciplinary data.
    This is a natural reaction to the superintendent's ongoing claims about what "DESE says." Naturally, one wonders, what does DESE say? This would clear that up nicely.
    Let's be clear: either Superintendent Binienda embraces this, as what she's been saying will be backed up, or she rejects it, the opposite conclusion.

    I see this of a piece with the Mayor's item following this, in which he asks for all communication that the district has with DESE be sent also to the School Committee. While I hesitate to call anything impossible, do know that districts have ongoing daily communication with DESE, some of which is done automatically through data systems; this isn't about cc'ing the School Committee in on a few emails. Narrowing the scope of this to items of concern (which is too vague...let me think about that some more) such that the School Committee is getting things that are flagged would make this possible and perhaps even useful.
    Of course, starting with the actual accountability data from the fall by itself would be a good start.
Okay, the rest of the agenda: along with the usual rounds of recognitions and thanks, there is no report of the Superintendent.
There are two subcommittees reporting out: Governance, which it appears was entirely about the procedure for homeschooling, and Finance and Operations, which included the annual audits and the third quarter report. Never take for granted a solid audit, which these are.
There are some resignations and appointments.
There is a report on the One City, One Library system which disappointingly opens by focusing on third grade reading scores as a goal, but has some good thinking on challenges and what might be good to work on.  
There is a response to a request for information on immunizations. 
The School Committee will get a presentation from Tobacco Free Massachusetts in the fall.
The overdue update on due process in the handbook is on the agenda.
Flagg Street parents want a pathway to the school from St. Paul Drive; one should note that there are many, many schools in the city that would benefit from such connections
There's the annual "we're going to need to close the fiscal year" item.
There is a request for reception of a summer learning grant ($43,620) for Worcester East Middle.
Mr. Monfredo wants to add broadcast journalism or video production (perhaps one could point to the media arts program at Burncoat?).
There is a request to consider the siting of a new Doherty (not suprising but also not entirely under school committee purview).
And City Solicitor David Moore has reviewed the Open Meeting Law complaint dealing with Mr. Monfredo's collecting of signatures for an advertisement supporting an extension of Superintendent Binienda's contract and does not believe the Committee to be in violation. 

What's happening next door

I've done a bit of tweeting about Rhode Island's efforts to turn around (sorry for the tired verb) education system--they've hired Angélica Infante-Green as their new education commissioner, who of course was a finalist for the Massachusetts education commissioner and may represent a sort of road not taken (an outsider, a Latina, and so forth)--particularly as a number of districts are having eyebrow-raising budget seasons this spring; take a look at Warwick, or Lincoln, or Coventry. All of this is after Rhode Island adopted the MCAS--yes, the Massachusetts state test--as their own state assessment and results in the first year were weak. There's been lots of political fomenting since, 'though what I haven't heard about is any sort of comprehensive funding overhaul.

The Boston Globe has a piece today on the most recent bit, which is the discussion of if the state should take over the Providence school system. The first part that made me sit back in my chair:
[Mayor] Elorza has faced public criticism from members of the council and the Providence Teachers Union for insisting that he interview most people coming to work for the school department, from principals down to crossing guards. A spokesperson for Elorza acknowledged the mayor does like to meet with applicants before they are hired but argued he does not interfere with school department decisions.
When it comes to signing off on contracts with vendors, the council has come under fire for a requirement that it approve all agreements worth more than $5,000. The process has led school department employees to joke that it can cost more than $5,000 in man hours just to prepare a small contract to go before the council. Council leadership has defended the practice, arguing city government needs checks and balances.
...there's somebody who needs some roles and responsbilities work here, and it isn't the school committee.
There is plenty else at work here--Rhode Island, after all, has the same redlined New England districts that Massachusetts does, meaning that the need is concentrated in their cities. Add to that Providence's size relative to the rest of the state, where a district about the same size as Worcester is close to a fifth of the entire state public school enrollment. Infante-Green has been careful not to talk about a "takeover" speaking instead of partnerships, 'though one should of course always approach such terms with care. At this point, all that has been happening is a comprehensive review (which is how we know the bit above from the Globe) with results due later this month.
While Rhode Island hasn't had the same comprehensive funding reform Massachusetts has had once and is over due to have again, it also hasn't had any of the related reforms (catch any Massachusetts mayor insisting as above, for example) around who has what sort of authorities. Between that and the relative proportion of the population involved, expect there to be more Legislative action that might otherwise be the case.