Tuesday, October 29, 2019

October Board of Ed: FY21

Wulfson: FY19 supplemental budget
with the hope that it will allow the Comptroller to close the books
"because they're in the year end appropriations, they'll go to the general fund as revenue"
"basically adds to the city or town's year end surplus...and gets carried into next year's"
"doesn't automatically give more revenue to the school department; it gives more revenue to the city or town who could choose to appropriate that at a later date"

Mills: goals for the department should reflect the core strategies for the year
ask for focus for year
key priorities: investments in partnership with districts, targeted interventions, increased literacy resources, arts and health frameworks PD
and will there be additional needs with changes in foundation budget
another meeting in two weeks, then budget recommendations before the Board in November
 and that's a wrap

October Board of Ed: update on school finance bill

And we have Wulfson, Johnston, and O'Donnell up for this one
I assume they're just going to talk; there isn't a written backup
Craven: I think this is one of the more complicated parts of the agenda today
Wulfson: both House and Senate have passed major school finance bills that would significantly update the foundation budget
mirroring in large ways the Foundation Budget Review Commission recommendations
"by design" much of the increase of funding in this bill will go to cities, concentrations of English learners and low income students
bills to retain traditional minimum aid, adds another hold harmless provision (for those who would have done better if the formula hadn't changed)
phased in changes in 2021
circuit breaker program will add transportation to what is subject to reimbursement
MSBA borrowing capacity increased
additional studies and work in years ahead
with DoR to report back on local contribution side
tasked with coming up with a new methodology for calculating low income students
"inclusive, but hopefully not burdensome"
study to financing issues related to recovery high schools
asked to staff a commission "of unique problems of our rural schools"
two bills will now go to conference committee which was named yesterday
chairs are co-chairs of the Joint Committee on Education
"have established a clear track record of being able to work together and reach a compromise position"
minor technical corrections in funding bills which DESE is working on
"that part should go smoothly"
have to do with what role the Department and the Commissioner will have in helping to ensure that this new infusion of dollars in improving education for our students
reminder that this bill is "not an appropriation bill"
will be up to the budget each year to implement
all will have to be funded each year
Craven notes that it is not "severable" because it is not a appropriation act; the Governor can either veto, sign it, or amend it, but he has no line item power
Riley: in 1993, "it was a grand bargain...the dollars were going to get X"
"this seems to be a little less restrictive"
original bill "did allow for more oversight as a state"
"we think we'd love to be able to have some oversight, but it's not certainly to the extent that it was in 1993"
Peyser: "I think that's well said."
West: "and we've made that position known as the conference committee convenes"
Riley: "I think they're aware of our position."

October Board of Ed: dyslexia

Johnston: early literacy screening panel
2018: Chapter 272 requires screening procedures and protocols including for dyslexia
process of vendor for this process
received no bids to RFR posted in December 2018
put out an RIF: request for information
what would it take to change our RIF to get vendors the second time out
may have packed too much into request: may not find a vendor who can do guideline development and screening and training
new RIF in the spring
contracted with new vendor Pivot Learning
completed in September
plus training for educators across the state: dyslexia, dysgraphia, and dyscalculia; popular course
have launched website relative to dyslexia
continue to bring attention to that site
"I worry that these recommendations could sit on a shelf" unless we consider how they can get into an IEP, for example
what is found in a screening process "needs to lead to intervention"
stakeholder meetings in January 2020 for input and materials review
feedback cycles on draft materials
make sure that it is well-understood what districts are already doing and how does this fit with that
"This all needs to work together and this needs to fit together"
Craven: how are advocacy groups being involved?
Johnston: continuing updates

Moriarty: really am pleased to hear the depth of work
most pleased by the depth of interest in field
"have to learn differently, have to be taught differently"
"I don't claim to have genuine expertise" but an interest: getting kids the right instruction
"a lot of work the Department is doing with multi-tiered system of support"
"a screening is not a diagnosis"

Peyser: potential scope and scale of this challenge
concerned about it being solely a special education issue
more general approach towards early reading and instruction

October Board of Ed: competency determination going forward

Riley: have kept the old standard for two classes, considering doing it for a third as we consider what a new standard could be going forward
Wulfson: continuing series of discussions and briefings this year
most momentous decision this year
should recommendation currently out for public comment be adopted, interim standard will extend through 2023, current 9th graders
this discussion is about the class of 2024 and beyond
key element in this process will be appointment of advisory committee for his recommendation to come to you
committee will have access to student work samples
engage with educators in the field: K-12 and higher ed
public comment
consider if there should be more than one cut score to represent different levels of achievement
statistical work on what MCAS results in the past can teach us about the likelihood of success after high school
"some interesting finds of that study"
presentation on that at the joint meeting with Higher Ed in January at Mount Wachusett Community College

Craven: widespread passage
hard to articulate success rate connection with others
Wulfson: 95%

Mills: recommendation will go to Commissioner
Riley: yes, and then you take the vote
oho...and that determination is under the purview of the Board, which is a public body. They are advising the Commissioner, yes, but on something that is not under his purview. There is an argument here that this advisory committee would also be a public body

Wulfson in response to Q from Moriarty: descriptions at each grade level had been re-thought

October Board of Ed: strengthening instructional materials

Riley: I've seen a lot of variation in what curriculum are being used and some aren't aligned with state standards
CURATE assesses degree of alignment
Ron Noble: teacher access to high quality instructional materials
began as teachers who needed to source their own materials
spoke with educators about the best role of the department
"they and we are compelled by the emerging research" that curricular materials matters
need support with professional development
ensuring that all students have access to high quality materials
CURATE: "cut through the noise" in the marketplace in ELA, math, and, "to a lesser extent" science
quality and useablity of materials
in some cases, there isn't much to consider
"dearth of high quality science materials"
use Ed Reports as an initial line
then further review conducted "by Massachusetts teacher leaders"
review process is on a card that the Board has but isn't in the presentation
test quality and organization; classroom tasks and instruction; usability; impact on learning
standards alignment, classroom application, overall rating
if they qualify for an overall meets expectations qualifies for a statewide contract
give publisher a chance to response
quotes by teachers
overview of subratings for productes reviewed
I am finding this SUPER hard to follow...I'm going to remind you that School Committees adopt curriculum
there was also a question there that I missed
West: no one documents what curricula are in use
have made usch progress in tracking student learning but don't track what may matter in student learner
"curriculum heat maps" to track what is being used where and make that data available
Fernández: curriculum design by teachers that are in use and being used now: how is that captured in your process?
Noble: CURATE doesn't address that as built
'we are doing other things to try to capture home-grown curriculum"
14 districts meeting with researchers from Johns Hopkins in places where they rely on teacher home-grown materials; way to start the conversation
Riley: think teachers should have to start with purchased curriculum
then "sharing teacher created tasks"
I don't think I agree with that
use additional resources wisely
OpenSciEd science: need for additional materials
through guiding design of open-source curriculum K-12
in year 2 of piloting middle school materials
one unit per grade level publicly released
2 units piloted each year before being released
professional learning resources being released alongside
Boston teacher: "the students are doing the heavy lifting here"
student: "it was more student guided than teacher guided"
student: "opens a door to what we need to study about"
Peske: What are we trying to get done: if schools and districts have the information they need and professional learning then experiences and outcomes will improve
"this board has had decades of work in building the standards...and the assessments"
haven't done a lot of work around the assessment of those standards
were asked "to send a signal about quality"

Mills: do you expect all districts in the state in users of this or participants in this? Or which districts do you think will or won't use it?
Science: storyline instructional model is not unique to OpenSciEd
"my hope is that every student is getting to learn science through this instructional model" by student questioning and engagement
a way to get it quickly into classrooms
Noble: at least want every district to go to the site and use it
want districts that self-build to use rubrics to review their own produced curriculum
hoping cost isn't an object
Stewart: raises for me some issues around integration with other efforts
mentions site council and school committee efforts
Peske: an effort to ensure that all of the students in our state have access to high quality materials
"all of this work is districts choosing to use the resources provided"
"we did this work because the field said to us 'we need help here'"
and it would feel like a spot here to note that among the end users should be school committees...and again, not mentioend

AHA! Riley "as they begin to make some of these decisions at the school committees..." using this as a resource
Rouhanifard: how many districts are using ELA and math curriculua that meet expectations?
Quite low
have information from only about a third of districts
"have a lot of work to do"

Fernández: adaptability of curriculua
A; "think it will be more of a question as they start to develop into the high school"
because it is open source will be easier to adapt over time
West: history, social studies area
imagine there's a need to support districts and educators
develop curriculum from scratch in 8th grade
effort going on like OpenSciEd
Peske:agreed, more parallel
"very specific to Massachusetts"
in process of building out a project plan "to build our own curriculum"
interviewed with districts
"emphasized need for upper elementary grades"
guidance in response to law that requires completion of civics tasks

October Board of Ed: opening remarks

The agenda is here
The livestream is here.
posting as we go once it starts
Opening by James Morton, Vice Chair who says Chair Katherine Craven is on her way

Public comment:
what's missing in this theory of action: students deserve to be challenged at the level at which they need challenge
"we don't talk about those kind of issues here very frequently"
"we're developing people, we're developing adults..."

Commissioner Riley: welcomes Paymon Rouhanifard to his first meeting
"we're thrilled to have him"
second annual STEM week last week; had the chance to visit many schools
see students do many engaging tasks, involved in deeper learning
Boston comprehensive review: over 900 classrooms in about 100 schools observed
report finalized this winter
supplemental budget coming out this week, we think
have to "legally" figure this out by October 31..."legally is so strong a word" quips the Secretary
over 500 schools express interest in Kalidoscope; over 60 schools have begun formal application
finalists around Thanksgiving, selection around turn of year

Secretary: thanks all of those who participated in STEM week
"already producing tremendous results"

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Board of Education meets Tuesday

Back at what I understand to be the revamped meeting space on the first floor in Malden (wonder if they moved the electrical outlets), the Board of Ed has their regular meeting on Tuesday. The agenda is here.

They're opening with the usual round of comments: from the public, the Chair, the Secretary, and the Commissioner.

They then will be hearing a report on two initiatives: 
  • Curriculum Ratings by Teachers (CURATE) 
  • Middle School Science Curriculum Development (Open Sci Ed)
Is anyone else weirded out by the state running curricular initiatives? There's been a pretty clear line on the state doing standards and curriculum being left to districts to decide; the state doing these rating systems and going around districts makes me uneasy.

There's a discussion on setting the new MCAS standard for high school graduation (that's "competency determination), and if that's of interest, do read the backup. It says in part:
In order to provide adequate notice to students about the graduation requirement for their class, and to take the time to fully consider all the factors involved, I will engage and consult with stakeholders and the public before presenting my recommendations to the Board in the spring of 2020. It is critical that we gather information from representatives across the education, business, and community sectors as we decide how we will define a new competency determination and how it will be implemented. 
As part of the engagement process, I plan to convene an advisory committee—composed of classroom teachers, educational administrators, policymakers, representatives from higher education, and other stakeholders—to assist me in making my recommendation to you. The committee will consider key questions such as the following: 
What do students need to be prepared for beyond high school?
What can student performance on the assessments tell us about their ability to be successful in the future?
How can we best support all students, including English learners and students with disabilities, in acquiring and demonstrating the skills and knowledge needed to graduate from high school?
I'd note as an opening: the key stakeholder group doesn't clearly include school committees (unless they're looped in as policy makers), and definitely doesn't include parents or, er, students.

There's an update on what the Department is doing for district support in dyslexia. 
There will be an update on the school finance bill (no backup).
There will be an FY21 budget discussion.

There are also available, though not on the agenda for discussion: a report on grants, a report on the chronically underperforming schools, the schedule for charter authorization for this year, and a note about audits and reviews by the state (that none overlap).

That's all Tuesday morning at 8:30, and yes, I'll be there.

Friday, October 25, 2019

And in Worcester news

The Election Commission has confirmed her position, so Donna Colorio rejoins the School Committee for November and December.

Also, posted next to the specimen ballots at each polling place on Election Day will be the following notice:
Please be advised the following candidate is deceased
Please note the name of the deceased candidate is on the ballot and cannot be removed. Any votes cast for the candidate will be considered a tribute vote. The candidate cannot be elected.
Any voter who has already cast an absentee ballot may request a new one by making a written request to the Worcester Election Commission.
If you have any questions please contact the Worcester Election Office at 508-799-1134 or elections@worcesterma.gov. 
So if you already sent in your absentee ballot, you can re-vote, knowing that Brian will not be able to serve. 

UPDATE: here's the article; do note that it isn't a law but the city charter that sets up this succession.

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

The House deliberates the Student Opportunity Act

Coming to you live from the House gallery which has not been renovated and thus has not as much access to electricity, alas. I like their carpeting, though. No photos allowed.Or snacks. Or liquids other than water.

awaiting the opening of the gallery

You can watch the session here. The bill (H.4137) is here
I will warn you that I cannot identify most House members by sight or voice. Sorry. 
posting as we go

Monday, October 21, 2019

A collection of Worcester School Committee candidate readers

We have a forum tomorrow:
Worcester School Committee forum: 7 pm, Tuesday, October 22
at Mechanics Hall

I know not everyone can make everything, though, so here's some reading as we prepare for the election in two weeks.

The Telegram & Gazette has done profiles based on a standard questionnaire; these were published before the preliminary and are REALLY not easy to find!

The Worcester Education Collaborative has been conducting what they've called an online forum, where the candidates get a question each week and respond (it's been a lot of writing!). While I'm pretty sure we've all missed at least one, there are some telling choices in who has chosen not to respond, and also some good contrast in who knows what or is arguing what.

The Worcester Commission on Disability sent us a questionnaire and the answers are now online here.

And Nicole did make the September 25 forum, if you'd like a liveblog.

Saturday, October 19, 2019

Continuity in governance

On the general blogging principle of anything that I've been asked more than once, even more people are wondering.
You aren't wrong to ask: continuity in governance is a basic element of political stability.

Under the section 4-6 of the Worcester municipal charter (starts on page 92 over here) regarding vacancies on the Worcester School Committee:
If a vacancy shall occur amongst the six at-large members of the school committee, said vacancy shall be filled in the same manner as provided in section 2-10(a) for the filing of vacancies in the office of councilor-at-large, from among the candidates for election to the office of school committee at the preceding regular municipal election
To be clear, section 2-10 says:
(a) Councilors-at-large - If a vacancy shall occur in the office of councilorat-large, the vacancy shall be filled in descending order of votes received by the candidate for the office of councilor-at-large at the preceding regular municipal election who received the largest number of votes for the office of councilor-atlarge without being elected, provided such person remains eligible and willing to serve. The board of election commissioners shall certify such candidate to the office of councilor-at-large to serve for the balance of the then unexpired term
That would be the November 2017 election, in which the results were:
School Committee election results from November 2017: O'Connell, Foley, Monfredo, McCullough, Comparetto, Biancheria, Colorio. The first six serve on the Committee. 

The seventh place finisher was Donna Colorio with 7,534 votes (behind sixth place Dianna Biancheria with 7,824). Colorio is not running for Worcester School Committee at this time; she is, however, running for Worcester City Council at Large and has left her name on the ballot for mayor.

It does, note, take a meeting of the Election Commission to certify the filling of the vacant seat.

There are no Worcester School Committee meetings remaining before the municipal election on November 5. There are two meetings in November and at least one in December. The newly elected Worcester School Committee will be sworn in the first full week of January (January 6th, if memory serves).

And yes, the municipal ballots for the November election already exist; in fact, absentee ballots have already gone out to voters.

UPDATE: Per Nick Kotsopoulos, the Election Commission will meet October 25. Among the things they'll decide upon is what will be shared with voters about Brian O'Connell's passing.

Friday, October 18, 2019

"I shall not look upon his like again."

He was a man, take him for all in all.
I shall not look upon his like again.
                                          Hamlet, Act I, Scene II

When the "motion to file" the minutes at last night's Worcester School Committee came from Jack Foley, my ear knew something was wrong. The "motion to file" and other procedural motions always, always came from Brian O'Connell.

That will no longer be the case.

While not the motto of any of the institutions he attended. the Latin phrase I associate with Brian is "semper fidelis," always faithful. He didn't graduate from institutions so much as become part of them: a trustee of Worcester Academy, on the board of Holy Cross, a lector at St. John's Parish, a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, and I know there are many more.

Brian also was a child of Union Hill and a son of Worcester, and that, too, was a core part of his being. His decades on the Worcester School Committee are a testament to his being of Worcester and of Worcester being part of him.

Brian was not only renowed for his floor speeches on the Worcester School Committee; he was also the most broadly read. For many years, this led to a host of items from across the country of ideas and endeavors from elsewhere that he thought Worcester should consider or discuss. It was often a race to keep up with him. Race I did, and I am grateful to him for that.

True to his surname--I think I can say this, as one who shares it, though we are not, as we both noted many times, related--he was also very sure and unshakeable when he thought that he was right.

One did not serve successfully on the Worcester School Committee with Brian O'Connell without getting a thorough education in parliamentary procedure. It was an extended executive session in my first months on the Committee with him in 2010 that sent me off to learn it thoroughly myself.
I have Brian to thank for that.

Brian was a Worcester institution.  To paraphrase Hamlet speaking to Horatio of his own father: we will not see his like again.

Requiescat in pace

A budget exchange that may matter later

I didn't blog this last night (as I was out of battery), but there was a discussion later in the meeting that may matter later: Mr. Comparetto spoke to his item on the need for wraparound services and staff in every school, and of their being allowed to do their actual job rather than other things. Mr. Monfredo, responding, rather oddly remarked that while the Student Opportunity Act would get the district more money, it wouldn't be enough to get wraparound coordinators in every school.

...er, what? If the School Committee decides that's the most effective way of working on the issue of poverty in the schools, yes, there will absolutely be enough money for wraparound coordinators in every school. That's a pretty out-of-touch remark.

Mr. Foley said that he had been planning to wait to make a motion on the budget until the bill passed (wise), but since it had come up, he made a motion that either the full committee or the Finance and Operations subcommittee plan on holding a public hearing early on regarding use of the funds. Mayor Petty deflected it back to Foley, saying that it should probably be done by the subcommittee.

Miss Biancheria then stood to insist that it had to be done by the full committee, 'though her argument seemed to be about every member being included rather than about, say, public transparency.

I should note that Mr. Foley has brought this up more than once, most recently at the Legislative update held by the Worcester Educational Justice Alliance last week.

Anyway, as I've said elsewhere, we are going to need a more thorough and inclusive public budget process, and that was stepped towards last night.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Worcester School Committee periodic liveblog

On the agenda tonight is the state presenting on accountability and discipline, but there are also a good number of people presumably in reaction (of various kinds) to the student suspended at Forest Grove.
Petty: work together, and we can do better
"my understanding is the data has gone in a good direction...we have a pretty good school system"

Associate Commissioner of Accountability Rob Curtin
and the presentation just was shared with me and I have shared it here
who leads with his time at Clark
"all that I am presenting for you tonight" is under my purview
notes that he is also in charge of Comprehensive District Reviews, which was done in Worcester in 2017 and was never heard from again
"for the betterment of you all, I did not make this an 100 slide presentation"
"there's a lot of different ways to slice this data"
"that will allow you ask more questions of our office to provide you with information or to ask those questions of the superintendent as well"
will show most recent data that we have
data certified as of July, accountability data in September
all publicly available save the discipline data, not yet released
"won't see any comparison with state" as yet as it hasn't yet become public
"there are more MCAS slides as on other topics...the reason for that is we have a lot of different tests...it's a little difficult to fit it all on one slide"

next gen MCAS grades 3-8 look kinda flat over three years

"in the top half of partially meeting expectations"
"almost a meaningful difference in terms of improvement" in ELA
"more sort of neutral" in math over the three years
how does Worcester compare to other urban districts?
higher than a point, green
"the news is quite positive" for African-American students compared to the urban districts
"some really good news there"
"I would generall portray this as a difference between subjects" however
ELA "primarily overall" positive
"whereas in math Worcester does not compare as well" to urban districts across the Commonwealth
how have things changed over three years?
"meeting or exceeding...have increased" ELA and math
"where we'd like to see more movement" in not meeting expectations
ELA 1 in 5 not meeting
math between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5
the top has increased from the middle, not increase from the bottom
some really good news and some areas of concern:
grade 3 ELA: has increased by six over three years
no movement in 7th grade ELA
"across both subjects there are pockets of good news and places to ask questions"
"particularly good news is sixth grade math"
"data are made to lead to questions"
achievement gap has widened in both ELA and math but for different reasons between subjects
gap has widened in ELA because the top group has done exceptionally well
gap has widened in math because BOTH the top group has done well AND the others have fallen
science: "here is where there is certainly room for improvement"
grade 8: more than 1 in 4 not meeting expectations on the science test
first year in grade 10: right on par in ELA, in math "again the results are slightly lower"
"questions and room for improvement"
"achievement is important, but growth is important, too"
"our growth statistics are done compared to their academic peers"

"across the board...for the most part...the growth numbers are on the lower side of typical or the low growth category"
this is not good...growth should be where we're good
"a lot more low growth across the board in subgroups...compared to their academic peers...across the Commonwealth"

"MCAS are the primary driver in our accountability system"
BUT THERE IS MORE as any of you who follow this know: new system
44 schools included in the accountability system
31 schools not requiring assistance or intervention
13 require assistance or intervention: 10 because they are in the lowest 10% in the state; 3 due to a subgroup or more
"there's always going to be a lowest 10%"
the three "had one of the lowest performing subgroups in the state"
"on the extreme positive side" two schools of recognition: West Tatnuck and Belmont Street
"very interesting trend among the schools in Worcester"
there are 10 schools in the lowest ten percent: there is a range of schools across the district,
a range of performance across the district
er, I fear this may be as a result of our not having particularly integrated elementary schools
17 had a higher percentile in 2018 than in 2017
"in addition to thinking about schools...we also do the same for subgroups"
"a real range of performance among your subgroups across the district"
"there are six schools where the Hispanic students in that school are among the lowest performing in the state...but eight schools in which the Hispanic students in which they're the highest performing subgroups in the state"
"a real testiment ot what's happening"

"a core component is how the school is doing compared to itself"
3/4 of schools either are making substantial progress towards their progress or meeting targets in 2019
though I am going to observe that the number of schools that MET progress fell 2019 versus 2018

disciplinary data:
"please, there's a lot of different questions we could have answered here"
"I understand there is a clamoring for additional information, and I'd be happy to answer those questions either with the district or on behalf of the district"
discipline: in school, out of school, emergency removal
at highest level, it is lower than it has been at any point over the past five years
gaps among students being disciplined by race and ethnicity
"those are still significant numbers, and I am sure there are still discussions to be had" about the rates
still over 1000 Hispanic students being disciplined in the 2019
"certainly improvement, while still concentrating on high numbers of students who are being disciplined across the district"
lower numbers than in 2018 by subgroup
"you have improvement from 2018 but there are still major difference that exist between groups even between the types of discipline"
the 1.4% of students who had an emergency removal, a decrease from 1.8% from 2018
"represents a very high percentage compared to the rest of the state"
0.2% for the state in 2018
someone just said "Daaaamn"
chart now shows numbers sorted out on why students are being suspended
"while my main goal here is to present the facts to you without a whole lot of conjecture"
the number of non-criminal non-violent non-drug reasons
most of them are "some sort of...violating school rules" and such
"but it seems to me that there's at least room for examinating a very high number of non-violent non-criminal non-drug offenses in Worcester"
interrupted here by applause
"and whether or not there's other forms that don't involve removing a student from instruction"

real interesting story on chronic absenteeism
missing at least 10% of their days
just under 15% of students were missing at least 10% of their days in a given school year
"students missed less instructional time than other urban districts across the Commonwealth"
the numbers are actually improving
"quite high but lower than other urban districts across the Commonwealth"
"less than 10% of students in elementary school are missing 10% of their days" and those numbers have come down
"and you've seen dramatic improvement across the races"
"but you have a very different story in high school"
while the numbers have come down
"you have more than 1 in 5 students" missing 10% of their days
"attention can be really focused on the high school"

"My mantra is if we can make it public, we should make it public"
"if there are additional information...my email is there"

Petty: non-drug non-violent non-criminal offenses "we should really dig into"
asks for comparison with urban districts
"look at programs later on"
"have this on a semi-annual...have this again and invite you back!"
things we're doing well but we "can't ignore those things that we have to improve"
Petty: not sure how to do, maybe have a special meeting

Foley: this really warrants much more discussion at future meetings
"you can cross-tabulate a lot of this on the website"
"would love to see breakdown by poverty and is that an overriding factor"
"seeing a movement of a cohort" through "is a trend sometimes"
"students with disability, their performance is very very low"
"challenges we're still facing"
Curtin: something to be investigated here and what's happening among different subgroups among different schools
Foley: "we need to have a conversation about emergency removals...what constitutes an emergency removal, why are we so much higher than the rest of the state"
"I don't know what is occuring to cause the removal of a student from school"
"large number of non-drug non-violent offenses...how can work as a district to keep more of those students in school"
"we have to find a way to keep those students in school"
to applause
The superintendent is referencing a change in the law...there was no change in the law
high rates in October and in May and she's...inventing reasons why?
Superintendent's Advisory Council is making welcoming school books, she says
every school is planning an additional event in October to make school more welcoming
"and we had a tremendous decrease from '16-17"
Foley: "there's a difference between the way Worcester is applying the protocols than other districts across the state"
Binienda: "we have repeated school violations..and that tends to be a catchbasin...so this year, we're being more specific" about the reason for the suspensions
so like cutting class and then they're suspended for that

sorry Monfredo spoke there and he wanted to know about poverty and homelessness and then he was pleased by ELA scores but not in math

Comparetto: see two school systems here
look at implementing alternative practices in discipline

McCullough: one of the things I'd like to see is consistency across the district
"it's been a concern of mine...so we're not seeing disparities across the district"
see students removed from the environment but not the school
"and work towards that goal"
"perhaps part of the strategic plan is to hold policy forum" and perhaps get additional data from the state

Biancheria: why are schools recognized as a school of recognition?
both were for high growth
and I think she just suggested we should teach to the test for science

Petty "have a meeting to really dissect" the non-drug non-violent non-criminal offenses
"maybe we can get a report on that"

Binienda "really feel that was an excellent report on progress"
"with that I want to thank my staff that's here"
thank the School Committee

student rep: asks why there are fewer subgroups than schools (essentially why every school doesn't have them)
Curtin: not enough students in tested grades
asks about seventh grade: follows it down
"I'd hestitate to comment on specific grades"
asks why detentions aren't included
Curtin: first, we don't collect it
"we also don't think of it as a loss of instruction"
"I tend to focus my remarks around the instructional loss"

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday, October 17

The agenda is here.
I've somewhat piecemeal posted on this already: there's a response on district technology, which I wrote about here, and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is coming to present, which I noted over here.
Besides the recognitions and the administration forwarding the hirings, resignations, and retirements of staff (this looks like the opening of school list), on the agenda is:
There are two prior year payments: $4,659.53 to Stetson School Inc. for services rendered from June 1, 2019 through June 30, 2019 and $84,985.56 to The Learning Center for the Deaf for services rendered from July 2018 to June 2019.
There is a request to approve the following donations:–

  • $300.00 to the George and Marie Maloney Scholarship Fund from various donors
  • $10,000 to Rice Square Elementary School for the Seena Levy Reading Fund from Steven & Andrew Levy in memory of their mother, Seena, former 2nd grade reading teacher at Rice Square Elementary School. The donation is intended for the purchase of books for the Rice Square library.
  • $320.00 to Worcester Technical High School from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation/Thurston E. Solomon & Everett J. Morter Memorial Fund designated for the Skills USA Program.
  • $560.00 to Worcester Technical High School from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation/Saul A. Seder Fund designated for participation in the Skills USA.
  • $5,985.00 to Worcester Technical High School from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation/Sarah Daniels Pettit & William O. Pettit, Jr. Fund.
  • $40.55 to the Worcester Public Schools from a donor

Miss Biancheria and Mr. Monfredo request "that the Administration investigate ways to market the accomplishments of the Worcester Public Schools by more media press releases and by encouraging schools to forward outstanding events taking place at their schools to the media."
They also want the district to look for more parking.
Also, information on sex trafficking
And, a report on Worcester Tech's evening courses
And, a report on "collaboration between the unions and the Worcester Public Schools in the formulation and execution of various articulation agreements that lead to the awarding of certificates to the students "

Mr. Comparetto and Mr. Monfredo are requesting reports on wraparound services, school health clinics, Family Resource Centers, and Mr. Comparetto further requests a homeless liaison, wraparound coordinators at all schools, a CityConnects program, and policy forums on homelessness.

Did I mention that the DESE department coming out to do the report is the same department that does the Comprehensive District Review that observed and called out the requests for reports from School Committee members, how time intensive they were, and how much they were entirely not concerned with the central work of district governance? It is. 

There is a request to approve nurses.

There is a 6 pm Executive Session for litigation with Steamfitters and Tradesmen.

Yes, I'll be there. Blog to come

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Not this week

...looks like the school funding bill isn't coming up this week:

Worcester Citywide Parent group calendar for the year

For those who don't get the CPPAC emails, the first meeting is tomorrow night, and here's the calendar for the rest of the year:

  • October 16th Parent Agenda Items and Open Time for Candidates for School Committee to speak
  • November 13th State of the Schools Address at Durkin Administration Building, 20 Irving Street Worcester, MA 01606 5:30-8:30 PM 
  • January 8th Guest speaker Sarah Kyriazis presenting on Technology Plan 
  • March 11th Guest speaker Brian Allen presenting the on Budget 
  • May 13th Guest speakers Dr. O’Neil and Superintendent Binienda presenting on the year end review
November is interesting: there hasn't been a State of the Schools in some time.
Also, not the fault of CPPAC, but at least two of the comprehensive high schools are having their parents' nights tomorrow. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

The questions we don't ask

Among the items coming back on this week's Worcester School Committee agenda (on which more to come) is a response to a multi-part (and all over the map) item on technology. This ranges from the entirely non-scientific fear about wifi to a query on the district's plans on expanding access.
One bit referenced is a survey that was sent home to families during the first few weeks of school about technology access, a partner, it seems to a survey that was given to students during school.
We should note that after five years, it would seem time to update the report on technology from 2015, 'though that here and elsewhere is not mentioned. The focus there was updating building access to allow for one to one access, something which curiously still is not planned at the high school level, which would seem to need it most urgently. Also, at that time the district cell phone policy was revised in line with bring your own device, something on which the district still depends, though students now often are disciplined for having their cell phones at hand, even for classwork.
Both the report and the district's digital learning Twitter show the heavy push that has gone on towards teachers using and requiring digital work. That has been so widespread that much of secondary school homework is now online.
But the district has never asked if that was actually possible for families.
We know from elsewhere that it widely is not (also here and here and here and there are many more).
In other words, the requirement came before the provision that meets it, which means the district is not following the state requirement that what is required must be provided (covered in terms of technology here).
The news that 26% of students surveyed do not have access at home--without asking how those that  have it acquire it, note--and that more than half use a cell phone for homework should concern us. It is convenient to assume, as was done in the article covering this report this weekend, that this is a "choice" students make. It is of course the "choice" one makes if one has no other device and no internet access at home.
Having students use cell phones ON DATA to do their homework is charging their families for their homework.
And it is easy for those of us who sit at home with our (self-purchased) laptops and Chromebooks using (self-purchased) home internet access to assume that students can simply go to the library or elsewhere for access. We have 27,000 students in the Worcester Public Schools. If even a tenth of those students need access at a library, we do not have enough. And that's without the opportunity cost of a family needing to figure that sort of access into a family lives that we know, in a district that is predominately low income, frequently mainly speaks languages other than English, and has too little time and money already, and has far too many stressors already.
For a middle class family, adding enough bandwidth to cover the devices and picking up another Chromebook may be manageable; it's what my family did as soon as we had more than one child in secondary school, as it because clear that this was the expectation from the school. Further, we even upgraded one child to a smartphone when it became clear that "get out your phones" was how some teachers are handling the push to go online without a district provision of devices. I have been asked exactly once if we had access at home. And the suggestion that teachers should, by a show of hands, ask who has access at home, puts onus on the students that should not be necessary (who's going to admit that their family cannot afford it?).

Such was my frustration with the survey which came home: it likewise missed the main issue of the Worcester Public Schools right now, that access is expected but not provided.
Families were asked:
  • if they barred access--how can I if access is required to complete schoolwork?
  • if we limited access--not if we want our children to complete their work
  • if we'd like access outside of school at home--when secondary school students regularly complete work late into the night in order to get it done?
  • if we wanted the district to provide devices--yes, but ALSO ACCESS
  • if we wanted the district to teach us about technology--this is not the greatest need!
We have students who stay up until a parent gets home in the evening late shift to use their parents cell phone ON DATA to do homework which is required BY THE DISTRICT. There is no provision in the family survey for answering questions that give that information.

We have students who have their cell phones taken when an adminstrator walks into a classroom in which the teacher has asked students to use their phones--because the high schools continue to not have one to one access--and confiscates phones that are out. There are no questions that get that information out in the family or student surveys.

We have families that are paying for internet access because it is required by the district that their children have it. There are no questions that allow for that, and the cost, to be provided.

Writing a survey that genuinely elicts the information that is most important requires having room for responses that reject the premise and the framing of the survey; it is always possible that the surveyor got the framing wrong. A short comment section at the end does not do this.

The massive inequity that the district has itself created thus goes undiscovered.

Note that while the issue is not uncommon, this is also one that many districts are themselves solving; there are lots more links for that, too. 

Saturday, October 12, 2019

It's hard to miss

...what's missing here.
On Friday, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced the districts and educators selected to participate in:
....Influence 100 launched Friday, October 11, the same day that DESE began the second cohort of InSPIRED fellows...Both Influence 100 and the InSPIRED fellows aim to diversify the Commonwealth’s educator workforce. Approximately 40 percent of the Commonwealth’s public school students are students of color, but only 8 percent of teachers and 4 percent of superintendents identify themselves that way.
Influence 100 thus is intended to add to those working towards a superintendency in Massachusetts, while the inSPIRED fellows work to expand the teaching force.
The Department stressed:
To be selected for Influence 100, district superintendents and school committees had to demonstrate a strong commitment to the program and its goals.
The districts participating?

That's it for the W's.
This is the Worcester Public Schools' student body:

Here is the Worcester Public Schools' teacher corps:

Worcester does have a single teacher (out of the teaching staff of over 3000?) participating in inSPIRED.
One doesn't expect the district to participate in every initiative the state creates, but it is difficulty not to see this as connected to the same resistence to working on the lived reality of students and teachers that was also expressed at Thursday's Legislative breakfast.

And speaking of Durham

The "saga"as the local press is calling it in Roanoke, Virginia--who have just started using Durham--around busing continues. Durham's efforts to get drivers has now launched a bidding war with the County now offering hiring incentives after Durham (driving for the city) did.
More telling--and a greater contrast with our own situation in Worcester--is in how the local Roanoke City school board has handled the situation:
Durham School Services vice-president John Ziegler was grilled by a number of the board members at the meeting and said the company has come up short.
"As Durham, and myself, we ended up in this situation because I didn't get the job done," Ziegler said. "I'm honest enough to say that."
The board had asked Durham to be at every one of their meetings until the bus saga is over, and Ziegler said that would be soon.
They spent 20 minutes on the issue at their latest meeting, and it will be a re-occuring item until the issue is fixed.
Why? Because:
...for five parents who spoke before the board Tuesday, it's too little, too late, saying that this has been their living nightmare.
"Are the standards you set for us not standards you are willing to apply to yourself and to the companies you hire for us?" parent Heather Lawson said. "The lack of communication, transparency and accountability so far has been beyond any form of acceptable."

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Questions I'd like to ask the Worcester City Council candidates

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a candidate seeking a Worcester City Council seat must act as if they are running for Worcester School Committee.

However, there are questions that one legitimately can ask a Worcester City Council candidate about matters under their purview that are related to education and the Worcester Public Schools. As a parent of children in the Worcester Public Schools and a Worcester super voter, here are some of mine:
  • In the FY20 budget, the Worcester Public Schools were funded at the smallest amount over the minimum required in three years. 
    Note that this was budgeted: it may well be less than this by the time we get done.

    The Worcester School Committee voted to continue their transportation contract with Durham for at least two more years, and this year, that contract will increase by $1M. That increase cannot be absorbed by state dollars. As this increase will further erode and possibly entirely erase the amount the city funds the schools over required, is it your intention to support funding beyond the net minimum, more in line with other districts?
  • Should the House support and the Governor sign (or the Legislature pass over his veto) the Student Opportunity Act, Worcester is among the districts that will most benefit. However, Worcester is also among the small number of districts that will, due to its slender voluntary funding, be required to increase local funding for schools. How do you intend to fund that increase?
    (Pro tip: it will be necessary before the ballpark is projected to bring in much, so that doesn't work as a answer.)
  • In May of 2018, the Worcester Public Schools, after years of requests, finally received a facilities master evaluation. It found that there was, at that time, a $75M backlog of urgently needed repairs in the Worcester Public Schools. The report was never taken up by the full Worcester School Committee nor by the Worcester City Council. As the body charged with captial funding, how do you plan to address this issue? 
more as I have them! 

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Don't shoot the messenger

As I noted in my post on the last Worcester School Committee meeting, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is coming to present on the Worcester Public Schools' accountability and disciplinary data at the invitation of Mayor Petty and the Worcester School Committee at the School Committee meeting on October 17.
This invitation, of course, is as a result of the work around equity that has gone on from the Mayor's Commission on Latino Education and Excellence, but also the organizing work by students, and others, including Worcester Interfaith who has hosted the Worcester Coalition for Educational Equity.
Tomorrow the Coalition is hosting a convening about the state of the schools. The Coalition is also suggesting the community turn out to hear the report of the Department regarding Worcester's data.

In response, it seems, some who have been most allied with Superintendent Binienda are calling faith communities, arguing that this is an attack on the Superintendent, and proposing that they withdraw their support for Worcester Interfaith.

Deep breath here, folks.

Setting aside for a minute the relative propriety of such proposals, can we understand what this actually says? Organizing around the state of the schools and asking people to hear the state talk about the data the district itself reports on the schools is not an attack on the leadership of the schools.
Unless, of course, the leadership of the schools doesn't like what the data says and has no real response to it.

The importance of anti-bias work in education

New York City Schools Chancellor Richard Carranza, who has been clear in his prioritization of equity in the school system since he came in, this week called anti-bias work "a matter of life and death."
Referencing rhetoric from federal and local officials “that students are hearing all the time about who they are, where they come from, what their parents are,” Carranza suggested students are internalizing harmful messages.
“So, the idea of implicit bias training, the idea of having culturally responsive and sustaining curricula and pedagogy is not a matter of just educational practice,” he said. “In many of our communities, it’s a matter of life and death.”
Carranza’s comments are striking because they underscore his belief that those policies will have dramatic ripple effects in students’ lives.
This article on how the work was approached in the Gardner Pilot Academy in Boston from the latest issue of Teaching Tolerance magazine is, I think, a good insight into it:
Mann and Wilkerson immediately recognized that other members of the school community needed access to these conversations. But while Dialogues on Race and Ethnicity represented a great opportunity, the six evening meetings were often late. For those who could not find childcare or who worked late hours, opportunities for access were limited. So Mann and Wilkerson considered their options. Instead of leaving with an answer, Wilkerson says, they left the program with a question:
“Why don’t we make it our first goal to figure out what the community needs?”
So, in conjunction with the equity-focused management consulting firm Kingston Bay Group, Mann and Wilkerson developed an audit to get feedback on how the school was doing on the equity front. They solicited the views not just of teachers but also of paraprofessionals, students and families.
It's hard to find a framing quote: please go read it all! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

On spending over required

One of the "don't panic" messages from the deliberation on the Student Opportunity Act has been to note that the statewide average for districts is spending 130% over foundation.
I thought an illustration of actual dollars might be useful.
Remember, FY18 is the last completed fiscal year we have information on (district reports on FY19 were due to DESE last week; we usually see those numbers in January).
In FY18, when the foundation budget spreadsheets came out, here's what the state committed to spending in Chapter 70 and what it required districts to spend in turn:
So the blue is the state Ch. 70 aid; the yellow is what the state said districts had to spend from local sources.

Now we've said at length that many districts basically pay no attention to this: they know how much they need to spend to do what they need to for their kids, and they pass budgets that attempt to do that. So here's what the districts actually spent: 
I know the difference between the two yellow sections can be hard to see, so here's the comparison next to each other: 
That's a $2.3 billion--yes, with a B!--difference between required and actual! 

So while the state is requiring higher levels of spending, in many--most, I'd venture--places, it isn't going to be the massive increase it looks like, because of how much districts are ALREADY spending over. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Joint Committee on Education hearing: charter schools, genocide and other matters

The agenda is here.
The room is packed.
Lewis: Peisch is finishing up a meeting on transportation
will allow elected officials to testify out of turn, then will take testimony in order on the docket

Saturday, October 5, 2019

And in Roanoke City, Virginia, Durham

...has just bumped their driver sign-on bonus to $2500:
As the news coverage notes:
The transportation company's debut in Roanoke has been rocky, including late pickups, late drop-offs, personnel changes, and a slew of parent and driver complaints.

Meanwhile, this week in Cumberland, Rhode Island:
The latest chapter in the never-ending saga over whether Durham School Services will ever be able to properly deliver Cumberland students to school and home again left school officials shaking their heads.
School Committee members expressed consternation last Thursday, Sept. 26, after Supt. Bob Mitchell shared that preschool students who were dropped off for a visit to Adams Farm earlier that day, and were supposed to be picked up at a specific time, were left at the farm for significantly longer than they were supposed to be.
Member Ray Salvatore said he’s not one to nitpick over individual issues, but “this one’s really concerning.”
... As Durham representatives again blamed ongoing issues with staffing shortages and other issues, school board members tore into them, saying they’re tired of the same excuses being offered year after year.
Certainly there are some staffing issues and other matters of concern, said Mitchell, but he would also argue “that organizationally there are some issues as well.”
As would I.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Worcester School Committee meets tonight

Yes, I know, extremely late posting on this one...the agenda is here. A bunch of it is carried over from the prior meeting, including the report of the superintendent

There are recognitions of various kinds.
In response to a request for a report of the number of homeless, there is a single page (multi font?)...not even a report. We've hit a new low on reports here. 

The report of the superintendent is a cursory survey of each of the departments; I really hope the report as delivered goes into greater depth than this. Each of these honestly (particularly those that recently have undergone or are undergoing standard revisions) are grounds for their own report. Many districts, for example, have asked for in-depth reports on the revisions to social studies with the addition of civics. 

Ivonne Perez, principal of Chandler Magnet, has been appointed Chief Diversity Officer; you can find her resume here.

There is a response to a request for a report on the course of studies for English learner students.

In response to a request from the Mayor that the administration "discuss the findings of DESE for the MCAS results at Chandler Elementary School," the administration has submitted this:

Yes, really. That is all that the Superintendent has turned in.

This request for a report on interacting with the Worcester Red Sox has more in it.

The update on the hiring of the Chief Diversity Officer refers back to the earlier item.

There is a response to a request to consider expanding services to homeless students, which takes all of half a page.

The response to a request for an update on Ch. 222 from the ENTIRE COMMITTEE elicited:

really. that's the whole report.

There is a response to a request for more information on trauma informed care of students.

There is another single paragraph response on controlling legal costs.
There is a report on how students with dyslexia are being provided services.

Mark your calendars: DESE is coming to report on district data on October 17.

There is a five page report on school drop off and pick up, looking specifically at West Tatnuck, Roosevelt, and Thorndyke.

There is a "we've asked" response on paying for parking tickets with school supplies.

The district is hiring a health educator.

There is a report on the opening of school "Jump Start" programs

There is a response on a half day of PD on student trauma 

There are several prior fiscal year payments:
  • Richard G. Boulanger, Arbitrator in the total amount of $10,541.52.
  • Real Time Court Reporting in the amount of $679.50.
  • Shred It in the amount of $420.00.
  • a travel reimbursement to the Chief Human Resources Officer in the amount of $147.92 for in-state travel to Boston for EAW hearings.

There is a proposal to revise the policy on alcohol, drugs, and tobacco; I'm not clear on why?

There is a request for receiving donations:

  • $250.00 Staples gift card to Jacob Hiatt Magnet School from Country Bank for their participation in the Savings Makes Sense School Banking Program
  • $250.00 from a donor to the Patricia Falcone Memorial Scholarship

And there is an executive session for a grievance, a collective bargaining strategy session, and four lawsuits

Apologies for the late update!

Liveblog of Senate deliberation of S 2350 "The Student Opportunity Act"

The Senate opens its session at 11 am.
The bill is here.
The amendments are here.
The session can be viewed online here.
I was here early enough that my polite request for permission to take a photo was granted. Newly redone!
posting as we go

The Governor takes an early Halloween

Word got out late yesterday that the Governor had leaked numbers prepared by DESE for the Joint Committee in their deliberation of what has been released as the Student Opportunity Act.
This was, of course, an attempt to derail the bill.
I took up in this thread from last night why it is that this is a concern; it boils down to two things:

  • The DESE doesn't--couldn't, in fact, as it didn't even get submitted to the Department until yesterday!--actual local spending data. Thus all that is reported is local costs going up, without a reflection of what local costs currently are. Grafton, cited by the Globe this morning, is a perfect example of this, where their local required spending is projected to increase to...less than they current spend (check page 33).
  • The projections can only be so good. Next year's, DESE themselves warned, should not be used for budget planning. For one, they're using a zero enrollment change model, which works for the state, but it doesn't work for individual districts (rare is the district that isn't either growing or shrinking). We don't yet know what low income looks like (DESE would have built some sort of model, but we don't know what). And this also doesn't include all of the interations of the bill, which includes other BIG items, like out-of-district transportation costs.

I recommend reading the State House News report on this.
Also, do read Senator Chandler and Moore's op-ed today.

Liveblog coming as soon as I get over to the State House!