Saturday, February 29, 2020

There are meetings in Worcester this week!

There are THREE Worcester School Committee meetings this week!
  • Monday night is the third of the four of budget sessions to inform the plan due April 1 under the Student Opportunity Act. This one is at Doherty High and like the others is at 6.
  • Wednesday night is the fourth of these sessions, this time at North High, also at 6.
Do remember that these sessions are open to ANYONE (and have food and have translators! And crayons, for that matter), so please do come.

Thursday at 7 pm is our REGULAR meeting (yes, we just did that last week, but February break always throws off the sequencing, which is usually the first and third Thursdays). While the agenda doesn't yet appear to be up (and no, that isn't an OML violation, as there's still more than 48 hours on business days before then), we do have ours, so let me give you the run through:

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Worcester School Committee: report of the superintendent on Project Lead the Way

If, like me, you're trying to figure out what it is that is being talked about, maybe start here
It is at Jacob Hiatt Magnet, Worcester Tech (for computer science), and Doherty Memorial (for engineering); the superintendent announces that it will be added to Forest Grove next year, again in engineering, with the idea that it will then be an engineering pathway in the Doherty quadrant.
At least Jacob Hiatt and Doherty have grants to fund some of it, but the district has been funding some of it, most particularly the funding to belong to Project Lead the Way, which is $700 a year for elementary, $1000 a year for high schools. Professional development and supplies then cost additional funding on top of that

But what about the Coronavirus?

How does this impact education?

UPDATE: This comic by Malaka Gharib for "Goats and Soda" on NPR does an excellent job of giving kids (and anyone!) enough information and direction while still being reassuring. Read and share!

UPDATE: Likewise, this BrainPop video is very useful for kids:

While there has not, as yet, been any guidance from DESE on Massachusetts schools, there are a number of updated sources and resources that are helpful. UPDATE: The Mass Department of Health, however, did share this (download) for schools yesterday.
I'd first direct you to yesterday's Mass Department of Public Health update, which is written for the lay reader, and emphasizes this:
This novel coronavirus causes a respiratory (lung) infection. As of February 26, there has been one confirmed case of this novel coronavirus in Massachusetts.
The health risk to the general public in Massachusetts remains low. Massachusetts state and local health officials are actively working to help protect the health of our residents and we have no indications that COVID-19 is spreading in our communities at this time.
WBUR has coverage of this information, as well.
The Centers for Disease Control has issued employer guidance on this, and the U.S. Department of Education has a one pager for planning for pandemics (which is more for district use than family use, but including it here for those readers).
The Boston Globe has an article on how colleges and schools are handling it, which so far focuses more on colleges.
Today's New York Times has a piece which focuses on K-12 and lead me to send an email this morning:
In warning that the coronavirus will almost certainly spread in the United States, Dr. Nancy Messonnier, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said she had contacted her own local school superintendent this week and asked if the district was prepared. She advised parents to do the same.
The article notes that simply attempting to do schooling via the Internet misses the vast disparities that exists in our national (and local!) system. I found this helpful to know:
On a more positive note, Mr. Kosuth said that evidence from China suggested that children were more resilient to the coronavirus than adults were.
These strains on the system, as noted in the article, also point to other inequities: access to nurses, ability to find substitutes, access to health care, even if schools have enough soap and towels. Those are good questions to raise in whatever communication you send, too.
UPDATE: this commentary from the Baltimore Sun notes the role schools play in not only food but in general security, and calls for privileging their needs in any planning.

UPDATE: PBS did an in-depth piece which notes the significant and varied roles played by schools:
If schools are forced to close for long stretches, it could have a heavy impact on students who rely on school meals and for parents who use their schools’ child care programs, said Francisco Negrón, chief legal officer for the National School Boards Association. The group is urging school leaders to discuss those issues with local authorities and develop contingency plans.
The group is also asking districts to reconsider attendance awards that are sometimes given to students who don’t miss a day of class for an entire year or semester. Some schools have previously abandoned the practice amid fears that it encourages students to come to school sick, but some still award gift cards, cash or raffle prizes to students with perfect attendance.

The best advice I have seen thus far for families is from Juliette Kayyem, who worked for Homeland Security under the previous administration, in this thread from earlier this week. She notes that 72 hours of supplies is a good thing to keep on hand. In a New York Magazine interview, she also notes this:
Besides having essential supplies, Kayyem noted that people should make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccines, including flu shots, because a community that is more resilient overall and less likely to get other diseases is going to be better positioned to handle a novel pandemic.
UPDATE: This Scientific American article likewise is very good at what--and why!--we should do to prepare:
We should prepare, not because we may feel personally at risk, but so that we can help lessen the risk for everyone. We should prepare not because we are facing a doomsday scenario out of our control, but because we can alter every aspect of this risk we face as a society.
And wash your hands! Watch this video to see how badly many of us do at this.

More here as I have it.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Board of Ed: accountability for the coming year

in essence, this is adding another year: it will be based on three years rather than two
the backup is here

beginning discussion of a change in system for 2020
Curtin: process for revision
two part process with regard to this: regulation which outlines general framework
plus a systems document with more technical information
possibility each year of revising regulation (which requires regulatory amendment process) OR changing the systems document (which does not)
this is the third year of the system
recommendation is to make minimal changes to the system: incorporate a third year of data
(so it will simply add 2020, without dropping earlier years)
this year it was 40/60 (prior year, current year)
Recommendation for 2020 is:
20% 2018
30% 2019
50% 2020
will be sent out for public comment March/April
vote in May
West: want to learn more before making bigger changes
question is how much weight to put on each year
with more years "there's less riding on the current year"
"districts can get further behind the eight ball"
Curtin: we've never had a system that had three years of data (we had four when it went)
"interested in what the public comment comes back as"
will be taken to accountability advisory commission in March
will take the comments from public and AAAC
"we have lived by the mantra that the most recent year should count the most"

there's no vote required, but it will be sent out after the meeting, it was said...

Board of Ed: City on a Hill Charter

Peyser: have taken initial steps to get their house in order
"under close observation from the Department"
maximum enrollment in here?
maximum enrollment is different that the mergered enrollment
under consolidation it is less

Board of Ed: regulations on vocational education

Commissioner: first phase of revisions; admission changes "coming out under separate cover"
Public comment has been posted here
Regs as proposed are here

regulation changes pass

Board of Education: reporting under the Student Opportunity Act

emergency regs only in power for three months (only could be effect if adopted under emergency basis)
Vice chair asks "why wouldn't we"
Johnston: no reason to, fits well with other work
Because I am not there, I have no idea who is speaking
Q: Are there low performing districts that are doing the short form?
Johnston: yes, due to size of district
focus of all is improving student performance
Q: if only a limited amount of funding is available due to 'fixed costs,' what do you do?
If they're saying we have contractual obligations and these fixed costs...
Johnston: want to be sure 'what are those evidence based programs that are really impacting students'
clear in communication
"having our support in their messaging to their school committees and their teachers' association" around what is required
Commissioner has ability to send the plan back if we're not seeing enough emphasis on these areas
Q: if plans are rejected, or modification is required, will that be public?
Johnston: we haven't had that conversation

Johnston: this is a new day for DESE
have framed the requirements around four commitments:
you've seen them; I'll add them here later

"don't want this to be a layering on effect"
considering which practices they need to let go of if they are phasing new things in
"or perhaps this is a chance for districts to deepen existing practice"

will still go out to public comment and come back for a vote on May 19

West: public comment may be particularly informed because of the experience of having plans submitted
can we make changes "based on our own learning" not just on public comment?

regulations pass

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education: opening remarks

coming in midstream here: former Boston Latin Academy student now speaking about his experience in the Boston Schools...
mom raised five children on her own, working three jobs
"with the stress of parents" being needed at schools to make things happen "if I don't have the proper advocacy, I'm going to fall behind"
eventually graduated from Boston Day and Evening "it's an amazing school"
teachers texted to see if they were going
"smaller communities with more dedicated support"

Mass Parents United advocating for something to be done about Boston by state
I don't try to keep up with stats cited in oral testimony...
comments that superintendent lack experience needed and that superintendent and mayor don't deserve more trust
"things are getting worse every minute"
mother concerned about chance her son has to reach graduate; not in keeping with his white peers
sacrifice in coming to this country was for a chance at a better life, sacrifice will be worth it if they have a high quality education
"always the same groups are left behind" in debates about the budget
will hold elected officials accountable (the Governor? Because he's the only one who has anything to do with this)
parent says she is speaking on behalf of her community, "suffering due to a broken system"
"we practice together, read together, I get them to school on time every day"
know "we have a crisis"
"their future has been decided for them, and that is just not fair"
students no matter their background or skin color, they deserve a quality education
parent graduated from South Boston High in 1984 (? I think?) says she wasn't prepared for college
"appalled to learn that 25 years later, BPS is still failing our students"
watching and waiting for the state's report
father and grandfather has been in this country for 35 years, most of the time in Mattapan
need to start helping parents "who are working ten hours a day or more to make ends meet"
"it is obvious that we need" more experienced help (?) to help the children of our community
"children should be able to create their own future"
how Boston succeeds should be how children are treated in the Boston Public Schools
"ask for immediate help to help the children of Boston"
another came to Boston about the time of busing, Jamaica Plain High
had to take remedial courses in college
"I felt I was not getting the education I deserved back then"
younger brother did not graduate, his son now 21 did not graduate from Boston schools
"generation after generation" and "the cycle need to stop"
failing the kids, generation after generation
"money's not the problem"

Commissioner: set up an advisory commission on the competency determination
held its first meeting on Feb. 3
had initial discussions about the requirements for high school graduation
will meeting in March and April and then will share recommendations

U.S. Census: less than 50 days away
determines how much funding we get for next ten years
encourage everyone to have everyone participate in Statistics in Schools program during the week of March 2-6
contact Commissioner's office if need additional information or concern

Secretary: Census bureau is looking for census takers:
"earn some money and do some good"

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday

The agenda--which is pretty short?--is online here.
There are some recognitions coming in, which will mean the National Anthem is being sung by Worcester Arts Magnet students.
The Report of the Superintendent--as yet, no backup--is on Project Lead the Way.
There's also a petition coming in to allow teachers to donate sick time to a colleague.
There are a couple of other public petitions, as well.

The item on Burncoat shades has been forwarded to budget consideration.
The item on Black history month was sent to principals.

We're being asked to approve a prior fiscal year payment "to Learnwell dba EI US. LLC 2 in the amount of $540.00 for services rendered previously" which doesn't appear to have a backup.
We're also being asked to approve a prior year payments in the total amount of $425.88 for salary adjustments to two employees.

We're being asked to approve a $13,000 financial literacy grant which appears to be going to professional development.
We're also being asked to approve two STARS artist residency grants of $5000, one for Clark Street and one for Columbus Park.
While we're getting more backup and it's a little clearer what the funding is going for, we're still not getting the account numbers with allocations that have now been requested twice. This matters for grants, of course, because sometimes those grants go away and we have to decide if we're continuing to fund things, and if so, where that money is and is going. We can't do that if we don't know in the first place.

We're being asked to accept the following donations:
- $125 to Lake View Elementary School from fundraising efforts in collaboration with Thebe Enterprises, LLC
- $700 to Woodland Academy from Scholarship America
- $100 to Woodland Academy from the University of Wisconsin Madison
- $100 to the Library Fund at Quinsigamond Elementary School from Spear Management Group in memory of Peter Petrella, Jr., the recently passed father in law of an employee
- $5,000 to the Belmont Street Community School’s reading curriculum from The Journey Community Church

New items that are coming in (beyond recognitions) include:
  • a request from Mr. Monfredo that the administration review the policy on long-term substitutes 
  • a request from Miss Biancheria for review of the recommendations about Roosevelt from the school safety task force
  • a request to the delegation coming in from me that would make it possible for supplemental budget funding for charter reimbursement to go to the district (right now, in municipal districts it does not and cannot after the tax rate has been set; it needs a separate bit of language at the state level to allow this to happen, rather than it getting stuck cityside and eventually ending up in free cash, which is of course not the Legislative intent)
  • a proposal that we offer testimony regarding the low income rate implementation before the Joint Committee on Ways and Means; yes, that's this post
  • and my request that we review the updated graduation and dropout rates; the chart below illustrates part of my concern to be discussed further in Standing Committee
There are also three worker's compensation cases coming into executive session, which starts at 6 pm. 

The Board of Ed meets on Tuesday

...and a lot of it is on regulation changes.
The agenda is online here.
There's the usual round up of public comment and opening comments; by the way, h/t to Chair Katherine Craven for leading with public comment at meetings.

First up is the Student Opportunity Act. You can find much of what they're linking to here; I've downloaded and shared the regs here. Essentially, this is giving a regulatory framework to the plans, which didn't exist (one could argue that if they thought this was needed, they could have done it before now, but...). These are going to be (in whatever form they are passed) 603 CMR 55. The part of the plans is fairly general:
Each district shall develop and submit to the department a plan that identifies the amount of local, state, federal, and grant funds the district is allocating to support specifically identified evidence-based programs to address persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups.
(1) Plan Development.
(a) The superintendent or his or her designee shall develop the plan.
(i) Community stakeholders, including parents, educators, special education and English learner parent advisory councils, and school improvement councils shall have the opportunity to provide input and recommendations to the superintendent regarding the plan. Districts shall provide appropriate interpretation and translation services to permit meaningful participation by limited English proficient parents.
(b) The district’s school committee shall vote on the plan.
(2) Plan Components. Each district plan shall include:
(a) Funding information: Each district shall state the amount of funds it will use in support of its plan, including chapter 70 and other local, state, federal, and grant funds. Each district shall explain the relationship between the allocation of funds and the educational needs of specific student subgroups, including English learners and low- income students in the district.
(b) Identification of evidence-based programs: Each district shall identify the evidence-based programs, supports or interventions included in M.G.L. c. 69, § 1S (c)(ii) that it will implement to address persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups. Each district shall describe how it will implement the evidence-based programs, supports or interventions it has chosen. If a district elects not to implement the evidence-based programs identified in M.G.L. c. 69, § 1S (c)(ii)(A)-(I), it shall include an explanation of why these evidence-based programs would not effectively address persistent disparities in achievement in the district, and it shall select other evidence-based programs identified by the commissioner, propose evidence-based programs for the commissioner’s review pursuant to 603 CMR 55.5(2), or both.
(c) Identification of outcome metrics: Each district shall identify and include in its plan at least three outcome metrics. A district may include District Outcome Metrics, Standard Outcome Metrics, or both.
(d) Parent engagement: Each district shall include in its plan a description of how the district will effectuate and measure increased parent engagement, and shall include specific plans to encourage meaningful participation by parents of low-income students, English learners, and students with disabilities.
(3) Plan Submission
The commissioner shall determine the form and manner for submission of plans, and may publish templates, guidance and other resources.
That all seems...fine?
I still think all of this on the reporting that's being required, though.

Next is the proposed passage of the changes in vocational education; these were discussed when they were sent out for public comment back in November. THIS DOES NOT INCLUDE ADMISSION CHANGES. You can find the summary of public comment here. The regulations as proposed are here.
Can I just note here: in following regulation changes, I'm a little surprised (does this make me a cynic?) at how often specific, on topic, individual comments actually do result in changes. Flooding the Department with copy/paste clearly just irritates them, but if you have a specific concern about language, it's worth voicing. 

There also are changes in accountability which don't require changes in regulation, but still require a  Board vote after public comment. The plan is to base accountability on three years of data (so, no, 2018 isn't gone yet):
The Department would like to continue to build on its plan to incorporate multiple years of data in the accountability system by including three years of data (2018, 2019, and 2020) when calculating accountability results this year. Like last year, data from all three years would be weighted in the overall percentile and criterion-referenced calculations, with more weight on data from the most recent year. The weightings that the Department proposes for 2020 reporting are as follows: 20 percent for 2018, 30 percent for 2019, and 50 percent for 2020. These adjustments are included in the attached document, which summarizes key components of the accountability system.
The timeline outlined would have this out for public comment over March and April and back before the Board in May for a vote.
I...don't have an opinion about this?
As you may have seen already, the Commissioner is recommending probation for City on a Hill Charter school:
“Our concerns about the school’s fiscal viability, lack of demand, and poor academic performance warrant placing the school on probation with conditions,” Riley wrote in a memo last Friday to the board. “I am not, however, recommending nonrenewal [of the operating license] at this time because the school has proposed major changes to address these deficiencies, appointed a principal with a track record of academic success, and taken action this year in an effort to yield better results for students and families.”
And that's the agenda! Yes, I'll be there to blog.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

And Worcester takes the lede this Boston Globe editorial, and you're going to wish that we didn't:
A history teacher at Worcester’s Claremont Academy was so traumatized by an active-shooter training exercise for educators that she left the classroom sobbing. The “training” involved a hooded man pointing a gun at teachers’ heads and saying “bang” as he fake-shot them one by one.
“How is this something that is going to help us?” the history teacher asked a Worcester Telegram columnist two years ago when recounting her experience, which was part of the district’s implementation of ALICE, a program designed to train teachers to respond to an active shooter in the school building.
As far as I know, this never came up at Worcester School Committee.

In any case, the editorial opining against such drills is excellent:
So what works for preventing mass school shootings? The short answer is that we don’t have enough independent scientific research to know. But to the extent that drills are valuable to train school staff, teachers, and students, they should be approached with extreme skepticism and care, and without traumatizing students. At a minimum, if schools continue to use them, more study of their effectiveness is needed, which could lead to state guidelines. And, if every other response to school shootings fails, perhaps the nation could finally confront the root cause: the easy availability of deadly weapons that has forced schools into asking the question of how to respond to mass shooters in the first place.

And about what Duffy Field?

Looks like the neighborhood is starting to wonder...
“This is a jewel,” said neighbor Philip Economou on Wednesday. Economou said the park, which includes Duffy Field, is the site of frequent pickup games, picnics on the grass, dog meetups and Little League baseball. “There’s no place left like this in Worcester.”
An idea to add a turf field, which could be used by Doherty Memorial High School and others, has got the group up in arms and worrying about future public access.
The quotes from the City Manager appear to me, in any case, to misrepresent the concern: most folks in Worcester don't pay much attention to something being "school" or "city" property, so reassuring that the schools are not going to "take" the field isn't reassuring.

The concern from the neighbors, of course, is if the neighborhood is going to have a fenced-in astroturf field with lights in what is now a low impact field tucked in among houses.

Oh, and yes, it's a wetland, too: Beaver Brook again.

I will note here that the scramble to give Doherty practice space nearby neatly elides what has happened with the other high school building projects; both North and South were built on field space, and, at least in South's case, teams that didn't have room to practice were bused elsewhere as needed.

It seems--and this is the first I've heard of this--that there's a meeting at and about the school on March 23. If I find out more about that, I'll share.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Opportunity delayed is...

MassBudget nails it in their analysis of the Governor's budget in a report entitled "Opportunity Delayed" (The common phrase is "opportunity delayed is opportunity denied) regarding the lesser implementation of the low income rate:
...not all of the SOA reforms are consistently or equitably phased in by the Governor’s proposal despite this goal being outlined in the law. One critical area that is not on track — increased support for students from low-income families through Low-Income Rates. In his FY 2021 budget proposal, the Governor only delivers on 4 percent of the progress towards the SOA target. This leaves 96 percent of the change left to be accomplished over the next six years.
According to a preliminary analysis of the funding proposal, slowing the low-income rate progress down to 4 percent from 14 percent, results in a reduction in aid of $73.6 million.4 This reduces the capacity of districts educating children who are economically disadvantaged, to enhance services, expand opportunities, and promote achievement. The Commonwealth would need to increase Chapter 70 aid by $377.1 million (24 percent more than Governor Baker proposed) to phase-in low-income rate increases at an equal pace as the other components (see chart below).
The Governor’s proposal to increase low-income rates 4 percent towards the target in the first year, while leaving an average of 16 percent each year to follow, does not meet the objective of consistent implementation. This is particularly true when the other areas are moving an even 14 percent towards the goals of the SOA.
The Boston Globe covers this report today. The Mass Taxpayers' quote is interesting as they, as I mentioned earlier, agreed with the MassBudget analysis when they presented for the Connecticut Valley superintendents.
And school committees? A good thing to pay attention to and weigh in on.
PS: Worcester? It's on next week's agenda.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

About paper towels

This is a blog post about paper towels.

I spend a lot of time in schools.
I see a lot of school bathrooms.
I see staff bathrooms and student bathrooms. I see bathrooms in buildings that opened last year and in buildings that have been open for over a century. I see sinks at various heights and rooms that don't have mirrors and not as much graffiti as maybe you'd think.
And paper towels.

While we've been having this attempt to switch to hand dryers (despite the impact on student hearing and their possible ick factor on bacterial spread), most school bathrooms still have hand towels.

If you're an adult and you think "school paper towels," you probably are thinking what I am: they're brown and they come on a roll and they probably come out of a dispenser that has a crank on the side.
And what do we all know about the brown paper towels?
If the point is to dry your hands, they're not very good at it.

What I have been noticing is that I very rarely see those paper towels at all anymore. What I see more often is what the photo is above: the towels are white and softer and they actually absorb water.
Paper towels, like a lot of things in schools, are more complicated than they look; we should be weighing cost, and environmental impact (white = bleach), and ease of use, and many other things.
At the end of all of that, though, if the kids' hands aren't dry, we haven't achieved what we set out to do when we bought the paper towels.

I've been thinking about this as we head into budget season not only because Worcester does still use brown paper towels*, but because we have, I think, a lot of things like this in education. We do things because they sound good or we argue that they sound good or they are appealing, but we don't ask if they actually work for those we're educating.

As we go through the budget process in districts this year, I hope we all are asking if things work and if they actually serve our students.
Otherwise, it's brown paper towels.

*not surprising when you've been funding facilities at 60% of foundation

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

A few things to watch from last week's Worcester School Committee meeting

I mean, I always tell you to go watch the budget presentation, literally. It starts about 15 minutes in.
  • There was some updating of minutes necessary, but the upshot is that there will be, going forward, a standing item on the Finance and Operations subcommittee agenda on transportation, a form for families and students to fill out to report late and missing buses, and reports on that weekly posted online and sent to the School Committee until we get an app and can report from that. So far, no sign of the form. 
  • the meantime, let us know...
  • This was coming out of Miss McCullough's subcommittee, but, as was noted in the T&G, there's some revision going on around admission to Worcester Tech. Note that there is also a larger state effort around equity in admission that may require further revision. 
  • Mrs. Clancey's item to provide social media updates in multiple languages passed for implementation, so watch for that.
  • I asked for a report on all fees paid by families of Worcester Public School students for classes. When this comes back, I'd appreciate some reflection on if we've missed anything, as we are supposed to be offering a free public education.
  • The dress code is back in Governance, but we've also sent this to the Student Advisory Council. This needs student and family input!
  • My request that we pass a resolution, calling on the City administration to not attribute work on Duffy Field or Foley Stadium's fields stemming from Doherty's construction to the Worcester Public Schools' capital budget passed, 5-2, Monfredo and Biancheria opposing. Here's why that matters: the School Committee does not pass the schools' capital budget. As with all municipal committees, it is passed on the city side. For both North and South, we had to make allowances of various kinds to get athletes to practice space during school construction. For Doherty, it was proposed back at the December meeting that the back field at Foley and Duffy Field (which is a city park) both be astroturfed, to a cost of $5-$7M. As I noted last month, funding this work from the Worcester Public Schools' capital budget of more or less $3M a year would zero our other capital work out for most of two years if not more. We simply cannot afford to have absolutely NO capital work done in our 50 buildings, which have 86% of the delayed maintenance on 60% of the city buildings, for multiple years.
    This was a view shared by most of my colleagues. 

Saturday, February 8, 2020

So what's the deal with the low income measurement?

Why is there discussion/controversy/activism about the low income implementation in school funding in the House 2 budget?

As I mentioned when I ran through the Governor's proposed budget back in January, most of the sections of the Foundation Budget Review Commission's recommendations and the Student Opportunity Law that had to do with funding were implemented at 1/7th of the goal, under the general understanding that this will be phased in over seven years.
Not low income.
What did happen with low income was this: the law provided for a one year "best option" count on students: for each district, the state looked at the direct certification count--the one we've been using, through the matching of students via the databases--and also ran the FY16 percentage of students that were low income then (the last year that everyone was being credited on free/reduced lunch, 'though some districts had already switched), and each district got the higher of those two counts.
Note that if you download the FY16 spreadsheet, you can double-check your number by calculating your percentage of low income students that year. I assume that there were business offices that did this ahead of time. And each of the FY21 preliminary foundation budget sheets has, in the bottom right corner, a comparison of the FY16 percentage applied to this year's enrollment and this year's direct certification:
Here's Worcester's. See the blue box? 

That "best of," as has been widely noted, added about 46,000 students statewide to the count of low income. Those students, of course, were not all in one district, and, as with any such count, there were districts that benefited more than others. Worcester picked by 2000 more students for this year; as Mike noted, Northbridge actually lost kids even with the FY16 count being used (it would have gone lower if it were only direct cert) and so on.
However, as a result of the the increased count of students, the state of course had to increase the amount of funding going to that line. In order to keep to the overall $300M or so planned--the overall 1/7th--the rate change was only implemented by 4/100ths, not the 1/7th of the other sections.
This was part of the Mass Taxpayers' Foundation presentation yesterday
to the Connecticut Valley Superintendents' Roundtable.
We were told it is a slide that DESE doesn't like.

This isn't a thing that I or anyone else cooked up; you can find it right on DESE's page on FY21 under "Foundation Budget Rates."
As noted in the above slide that you probably can't read, this means the rates for low income will then have to pick up the difference over the next six years in order to meet the seven year generally understood goal.
It also, as a side note, means that some of the money gets postponed having inflation applied by a year.
The slide also notes, however, that the final section of the law says that the changes are to be implemented in "an equitable and consistent manner."
Thus the question is: is this equitable? is this consistent? does it line up with the intent of the law? is in line with what was fought so hard for?

A number of us are arguing that it doesn't.

Two additional notes after the jump:

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Worcester School Committee hears the first presentation on H2, the Governor's budget, for FY21

Allen: Worcester a leader in the foundation budget gaps identification
90 teachers a year needed through FY27 in order to close the 720 teacher gap (non-special education)
that would be $6.8M a year
in FY20, we hired 84 so close...
  • benefits and fixed charges
  • guidance and psychological services
  • special education
  • English learners
  • low income students
expect $14M each year for each of next seven years
$15.7M increase in FY21
$10M of inflation had been built into the online assumptions (totalling $75.9M over the seven years)
really only $98M, then would be SOA (if what you've seen online was $173M)

enrollment decline (of almost 400 students)
modest inflation growth (2%)
overall foundation budget growth of $19.2M
$7.7M increase in inflation
enrollment change: LOSS of $4.2M
thus the base foundation change is $3.4M
it's the SOA funding bringing in $15.7M

enrollment is back down to 2017 levels (the 400 students went in and out last year)
thus it's hard to predict from one year to the next what enrollment is

low income count responsible for $10M
low income rate change $2.4M
benefits $2.1M
EL $581,301
Guidance $304,679
sped $246,940

no longer having carry forward state funding hurricane assistance $1.6M
no ELT $1M the Governor cut this in his budget
innovative pathways grant $275K
HEARS grant $100K
down by $2.9M in total, then
federal grants are not yet known and could also be reductions
thus $16M available

level service budget 3.8% or $14.1M increase
plus new positions added $1.3M

remaining available fund for budget priorities $1.9M
But the Commissioner thinks we can spend $8.9M on new priorities

low income count could DROP again next year, if DESE plans on collecting forms (on top of eligiblity)
could lose $33M next year

school allocation meetings going on right now
House budget April 15
Senate budget?
WPS budget expected May 15
SC does budget June 4 and 18

Allen to Q from Mayor: can get within $2.5M of what Department requires
Q: what would have been the budget cut if we hadn't had SOA?
"a fairly significant reduction in the budget" There would have been layoffs "significant layoffs"

Foley: it's rather sobering to see the dollars that are there
seven year phase in
hopefully over next six years will see some significant dollars
plans should be over those years
preschool down? are we doing anything on that?
Allen: preschool kids age in: fluctuations in enrollment thus
159 in Head Start: state's minimum wage is disqualifying families from Head Start
Petty: we should have a conversation with Congressman McGovern
need to keep advocating low income rate phase in
state is using 2.4% for inflation; ours is 3.8%
"that really makes no sense from an operational point of view"
why dollars cut?

McCullough: was our loss of students due to Puerto Rico responsible
Allen had already identified a slight decrease in enrollment
are our cost needs covered in Commissioner's list?
Binienda says yes, now facilities is in there

Biancheria: concern around collecting forms; staff time for low income count
Binienda: no reason for students to bring form back
Biancheria: importance of adding facilities to the list

Monfredo: discussions are about the next six years not this year
importance of small class sizes
so many needs that we do have, it is going to be difficult to pick and choose
do we have room for adding preschool classes? motion to ask 

Clancey: could the increase in the minimum wage depress our count?
Allen: it could
Clancey: if a student is low income and special education, can funds be used for the other?

Petty: important to look long range over multiple years

On reporting on the Student Opportunity Act funding

Section 1S of the Student Opportunity Act says the following:
(a)The commissioner shall establish statewide targets for addressing persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups in the aggregate and within subcategories, including, but not limited to, subject matter and relevant grade levels. The targets shall include annual benchmarks on the progress expected to be achieved in the aggregate and by subcategory.
(b) Each district shall establish targets for addressing persistent disparities in achievement among student subgroups consistent with the targets established by the department. Each district shall develop an evidence-based 3-year plan to meet its targets. Each district’s plan shall be developed by the superintendent in consultation with the school committee and shall consider input and recommendations from parents and other relevant community stakeholders, including but not limited to, special education and English learner parent advisory councils, school improvement councils and educators in the school district.
The sequence thus is supposed to be:
  1. the Commisssioner establishes statewide targets for addressing academic disparities
  2. those targets should include annual benchmarks
  3. districts then are to establish their own targets in line with the state's targets
  4. districts are to write a plan on how they're going to get to the targets
Guess what we don't have?
State targets.

Nonetheless, the Department released the guidance around reporting on Student Opportunity Act funding earlier this week. Districts receiving more than $1.5M over FY20 will need to fill out the long form; those receiving less than $1.5M will need to fill out a short form. Everyone's forms are due April 1 (that last in the law).

So all of this input and all of the subsequent budgetary planning is supposed to be subject to the targets we're supposed to be aiming for: it is literally written into law. But that section--the target section--is the section the Department has decided that we're holding off on until later, once we have this year's data.

You might think, therefore, that we'd then hold off on the plans until we have the targets we're going to reach for, but no:

We're going to--and I am not making this up--write up plans on how we're going to reach the targets WITHOUT HAVING THE TARGETS.
And the plans are due April 1.

Thus keeping always in mind that this is the underlying premise of this exercise, let's talk about what the expectations beyond that are.

Both the short and the long form are designed around four commitments, which fall somewhat in line with the intent of the law:
1. Intentionally focus on student subgroups who are not achieving at the same high levels as their peers;
2. Adopt, deepen or continue specific evidence-based programs to close opportunity and achievement gaps for student subgroups and allocate resources to support these programs;
3. Monitor success in reducing disparities in achievement among student subgroups over three years with a small number of metrics and targets; and
4. Engage families, particularly those families representing student subgroups most in need of support, about how best to meet their students’ needs.
The plan descriptions also focus on "doing a few things well" and "focus on implementation."
The cover letter from the Commissioner says DESE "will focus primarily on the extent to which districts are implementing evidence-based programs that will close these gaps in their communities."

Now, you might remember during the work of the Foundation Budget Review Commission, MassBudget did a series of reports on what kinds of things helped close the opportunity gaps, particularly for kids who are poor: early childhood education, wraparound services, extended day, and smaller class sizes were four of the areas looked at. This and other research then made its way into the Commission's report.
Unfortunately, it doesn't seem as though much of that made its way into the hands of those putting together the reporting requirements for DESE, as the only one of those things that gets mentioned is preschool. In particular, the Commissioner says that he is interested in, and intends to put the granting power of the Department behind:
  1. expanded early childhood and evidenced-based early literacy, together as a single item. Others will no doubt note that this isn't really as much of a thing; you can be a good reader and read late; you can have great early childhood education that isn't literacy-focused.
  2. early college programs, which is definitely all the rage right now, definitely still something we're working out how to do, and isn't necessarily hitting the students who might benefit the most
  3. diversifying the educator and administrator workforce, which is certainly important, but is something that most are still working out how to do.
While those are definitely the focus of the Commissioner, to make those three things the driving force in how Massachusetts spends new funding, quite apart from the items that are within the law itself is abrupt and moves us away from the ongoing conversations we have had around equity and meeting actual needs over the past several years.
In other words, these are the Commissioner's priorities: does that make them the priorities of K-12 education in Massachusetts, which is much much larger than that?
The Commissioner closes his opening letter by calling the law:
a historic opportunity for Massachusetts to propel our state to become a national leader, not just in overall achievement, but for all children in the Commonwealth.
...because if we aren't beating New Jersey, where are we?
Quite seriously, though, we can lead and BE AN EXAMPLE to others who we could hope COULD ALSO DO WELL FOR THEIR CHILDREN.
Education isn't a zero sum game; our state doing better doesn't mean others have to do worse.

The law, you might recall, actually has ten options for evidence-based programs (still in section 1S):(A) expanded learning time in the form of a longer school day or school year; 
(B) increased opportunity for common planning time for teachers;  
(C) social services to support students’ social-emotional and physical health; 
(D) hiring school personnel that best support improved student performance; 
(E) increased or improved professional development; 
(F) purchase of curriculum materials and equipment that are aligned with the statewide curriculum frameworks; 
(G) expanding early education and pre-kindergarten programming within the district in consultation or in partnership with community-based organizations; 
(H) diversifying the educator and administrator workforce; 
(I) developing additional pathways to strengthen college and career readiness; and 
(J) any other program determined to be evidence-based by the commissioner there's a "you can argue with the Commissioner" allowance.
Those, of course, are more largely reflective both of the research of MassBudget and of the larger discussions that surrounded the Foundation Budget Review Commission.

The Department has now converted that list into seventeen items, divided into four parts:
Enhanced Core Instruction
1. Expanded access to full-day, high-quality pre-kindergarten for 4-year-olds, including potential collaboration with other local providers (SOA categories D, F, and G)
2. Research-based early literacy programs in pre-kindergarten and early elementary grades (E, F, and G)
3. Early College programs focused primarily on students under-represented in higher education (I)
4. Supporting educators to implement high-quality, aligned curriculum (E and F)
5. Expanded access to career-technical education, including “After Dark” district-vocational partnerships and innovation pathways reflecting local labor market priorities (I)
Targeted Student Supports
6. Increased personnel and services to support holistic student needs (C and D)
7. Inclusion/co-teaching for students with disabilities and English learners (D and E)
8. Acceleration Academies and/or summer learning to support skill development and accelerate advanced learners (A and E)
9. Dropout prevention and recovery programs (I)
Talent Development
10. Diversifying the educator/administrator workforce through recruitment and retention (D and H)
11. Leadership pipeline development programs for schools (D and E)
12. Increased staffing to expand student access to arts, athletics, and enrichment, and strategic scheduling to enable common planning time for teachers (B and D)
13. Strategies to recruit and retain educators/administrators in hard-to-staff schools and positions (D)
Conditions for Student Success
14. Community partnerships for in-school enrichment and wraparound services (C)
15. Parent-teacher home visiting programs (E)
16. Labor-management partnerships to improve student performance (E)
17. Facilities improvements to create healthy and safe school environments (J)

The Commissioner's priorities (in red above) are ones he says he "encourages" and "will likely offer multiplier funds" in, again, despite those not being shared priorities across the process.

Plans must make the four commitments above, focusing on subgroups, choosing three metrics for measurement and monitoring. If DESE metrics are chosen, the Department will update the plan for districts in the fall when they set targets; otherwise, districts will need to update their plans with targets in the fall.
But the plans are due April 1
Districts not only need to describe how families were engaged in this process; they also need to describe their "ongoing plan for engaging families." This despite clear and repeated directions from the Department that this plan is not to be a large scale new plan; how many districts already have family engagement plans?
Do note (bottom of page 7 of the long form description) that a school committee vote is required.

The Department has decided what it believes to be "new Chapter 70 revenue" and has provided a spreadsheet to the districts receiving the largest amounts of how much they are expected to expend in as "new" funding. This is based on an assumed 2.44% inflation rate (this is the 15 year average foundation budget inflation rate, lowest and highest eliminated) applied to the funding; all the rest counts as "new" aid.
As I noted online earlier today, this ignores the actual functioning of the foundation budget. Yes, the budget is subject to both a 1.99% inflation rate for most and a 2.43% inflation rate for health care. It is at ground, though, a student-based, enrollment-driven formula. Changes in student count and demographics drive changes in the formula. Some of the changes--some of the Gateway cities increases--are enrollment changes, not formula changes. To ignore that is to ignore the fundamentals, and it does a real disservice to the districts that are working through changes in both. It leaves them unable to use the funds intended to serve those students for those students.

There were several places where I was torn on the right reaction; this was one(p.8):
We also encourage districts, to the extent possible, to allocate other new or existing resources to evidence-based programs, sufficient to significantly improve student outcomes and close achievement gaps over time. miss the entire prior discussion? What "other new or existing resources"? The ENTIRE reason we are doing this is these districts DO NOT HAVE ANY OTHER RESOURCES and they haven't had enough from the state for years!
I would note the same for the districts that are receiving incremental minimum per pupil changes, 'though it appears to me that it is largely conceded that explaining you'll be doing some of what you're already doing will suffice.

The Department then provides a sample plan, First, please tell me that no district serving majority students of color uses "majority minority" in describing itself. This created district not only has MCAS scores; it has recently done a student survey and it has had the funding to be tracking the college persistence of graduates.
...this doesn't sound like a district that is receiving a boost in state funding.
Not surprisingly, this district has decided that two of the Commissioner's priorities are swell, so they're doing preK and early college, plus adopting acceleration academies (which is what the Commissioner ran in Lawrence, so while DESE may not be funding them, you're good there, too).

And then we get into the math. This made-up district, we're told, has "a minimum" of $2.8M of "new funding" in FY21, to which the district is adding $100,000. This puts it a bit over Holyoke, which, just to give you an idea of how this works, is having HALF of its increase in state funding attributed as new funding. Again, this is without regard to how the district is in fact getting to that funding level.
This district is going to create eight new preschool classrooms, implying (as there is no facility cost) that they have eight classrooms standing open in their district (is this true in any of our cities?). They are hiring enough staff for a 1:10 student ratio. There is a great deal of eliding of teacher and staff time towards training (the principals are paid for PD; don't the teachers need it?), not only in the early childhood section, but throughout the entire report (not all of which is budgeted). The early college section will have "intense academic coaching" which requires staff and time; faculty will "work with their college counterparts to align curriculum" which is staff time; buses will take students to the colleges, which is a transportation cost. We're told that "[r]obust, individualized academic and guidance supports will then be developed and provided" BY WHOM? WHEN?
...I could go on, but the whole of the plan is like that. There is tons of eliding of staff time and resources without accounting for the ACTUAL COST OF THINGS.

This is not a good use of our time.
This is not a good accounting of resources.
This is not a good process.
We deserve better than this. 

We need to talk about facial recognition technology in schools

Some schools are doing it.
And the research is clear on the biases in the system:
The systems falsely identified African-American and Asian faces 10 times to 100 times more than Caucasian faces, the National Institute of Standards and Technology reported on Thursday. Among a database of photos used by law enforcement agencies in the United States, the highest error rates came in identifying Native Americans, the study found.
The technology also had more difficulty identifying women than men. And it falsely identified older adults up to 10 times more than middle-aged adults.
Another group it isn't good at? Children. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

DESE update on February MASBO

Rob O'Donnell
Powerpoint is here
walk through House 2
$303.5M increase in Ch. 70
changes in Health insurance, guidance, special education out of district, EL, low income students
all others getting increased by inflation
the law doesn't specific the rate of implementation
"needs to be an equitable manner"
low income headcount expansion "up to 185%" of poverty is in the law

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Worcester School Committee meets Thursday: FY21 discussion starts NOW

I mean, at least publicly it does...

If you want the one thing on Thursday night's agenda that you should note, it is the report of the Superintendent, which will be the first look at the FY21 budget numbers. The backup is not yet posted. Do note that this is, of course, the Governor's proposed budget, which is not usually--certainly never in this administration--where the numbers end up.

Do also note that the Department's requirements around reporting out on Student Opportunity Act spending was shared yesterday. I would say that they have rather aggressive definitions of what constitutes the "new" funding on which districts need to report. More on this to come

There are of course recognitions, retirements, and such...

Also on the agenda: not one, not two, but three subcommittee reports! The only one we're missing is Governance, which meets next Tuesday at 4:30 pm at the Administration Building (the agenda isn't posted yet; I'll share once it is).
Reporting out is the standing committee I chair (School and Student Performance; agenda here), TLSS chaired by Ms. McCullough (agenda for that here), and Finance and Operations chaired by Mr. Foley (agenda here; my notes here). As F&O had the second quarter report, there's about half a million dollars in transfers coming through there (transfers by cost center require a vote of the School Committee).

Reports coming back:
We are being requested to accept donations :
‑ $66.00 from American Life Insurance Company
‑ $79.60 from Box Tops for Education
‑ $500.00 from Big Y Canterbury Street
‑ $118,200 from the Worcester Technical Skyline Fund to support the Innovation Pathways Program
‑ $2,000.00 from Worcester Historical Museum/Pow Wow Worcester to WPS Visual Arts
‑ ‑ $700.00 from Scholarship America/Target Field Trips to Flagg Street School to help with the cost of field trip expenses
‑ ‑ $1,514.00 from fundraising efforts to Lake View School
‑ ‑ $1,000.00 to Lake View School from donors
‑ ‑ $452.90 from Box Tops for Education to Tatnuck Magnet School

We are being requested to approve prior year payments  (and hey, we're getting actual explanations for why they're late now):
--in the amount of $367.50 to AA Transportation Company because the invoice "was not received or misplaced this summer when school was not in session"
--totaling $13,010.98 for JROTC instructors for whom no monthly minimum instructor payment for March through June 2019
--totaling $1103.02 for a teacher and an instructional assistant

We are being asked to approve grants:
--for Teacher Diversification for $74,482
--from UNUM for Strong Schools for a total of $20,000 ('though it's a bunch of different projects; check it out)
--for Targeted Assistance twice: one for $150,000 and one for $200,000 (aside from it being spent on professional time, it is difficult to figure out what is going on here)

New items:
  • Mrs. Clancey is requesting updates on CPPAC, ELPAC, SPED-Pac meetings and ways to include parental participation
  • She is also requesting that social media be translated (I co-sponsored, so I think I'm cleared to say HEAR HEAR!) and that we make certain Connect-Eds are going home in home languages
  • Ms. McCullough is requesting an update on what the impact of the merger of St. Peter-Marian and Holy Name will have on our buses (yes, Worcester students who attend those schools ride WPS buses)
  • We're being asked to DECREASE the mileage rate in line with the IRS (from 58 cents to 57.5 cents; no I am not kidding)
  • Miss Biancheria is requesting what new Ch.74 programs there are going to be
  • I've asked the City Solicitor to advise us on the legal "hey this is a public document" boilerplate to go on the bottom of our emails (No, I didn't phrase it that way)
  • I've also asked for a list of all fees associated with coursework in the schools
  • I've asked that we discuss this proposal of the City Council's that they move polling places back into schools without discussing with the School Committee
  • I'm sending the dress code not only to Governance but to the Student Advisory Council (This is going to be another one that only works if folks show up once it is being discussed in subcommittee; I'll let you know.).
  • I've also asked that we pass a resolution calling on the City Manager not to supplant our capital allocation for FY21 or future years with whatever work is done on Foley Stadium or Duffy Field as was discussed at the Doherty building committee meeting. We still need to be able to fix schools!
There also is an executive session at 6: 

  • To discuss strategy with respect to litigation if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the public body and the chair so declares – Janie Lanza Vowles, Personal Representative Estate of Suzanne F. Miville v. Worcester Public Schools, MCAD Docket No. 1785CV00162
  • To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining position of the public body and the chair so declares – International Union of Public Employees, Local 125 - Plumbers and Steamfitters. To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining position of the public body and the chair so declares – International Union of Public Employees, Local 135 - Tradesmen
  • To discuss strategy with respect to collective bargaining if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the bargaining position of the public body and the chair so declares –Massachusetts Laborers’ District Council for and in behalf of Worcester Public Service Employees Local Union 272 of the Laborers’ International Union of North America, AFL-CIO, Unit D, Computer Technicians
  • To discuss strategy with respect to litigation for Worker’s Compensation- Instructional Assistant, if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the School Committee and the chair so declares.
  • To discuss strategy with respect to litigation for Worker’s Compensation- School Nurse, if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the School Committee and the chair so declares.
  • To discuss strategy with respect to litigation for Worker’s Compensation- School Secretary, if an open meeting may have a detrimental effect on the litigating position of the School Committee and the chair so declares.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

"What’s the point of having a bus system if it can’t be trusted?"

A part of the ongoing "is this happening/is it just us or is this actually a larger management issue?" check in on Durham Bus Services across the country.

When we last checked in on Charleston, SC, they had accepted a HIGHER bid from First Student  as a result of their current issues with Durham; Durham protested. The district has denied the protest, saying it did not come in on time. Durham has now filed an appeal. As noted by WCSC:
Durham has provided bus services for the school district for more than a decade and has faced criticism from some parents for poor service. This school year alone, Durham has faced a number of problems with late buses and a bus driver shortage.

Heading closer to home, Framingham isn't the only district that has had it with Durham--their meeting this Wednesday will focus on transportation--as Wallingford, Connecticut reports similar problems. Asked about drivers shortages, the superintendent responded:
Menzo said he understands some drivers will be out sick, but wants to see a return to “normal.” 
“Families can’t tolerate this any further, I can't tolerate this any further as a superintendent,” he said.
Wallingford's contract is up this year--the decision is expected in May or June--but the local editorial board opined:
What’s the point of having a bus system if it can’t be trusted? 
The situation needs to be corrected as soon as possible, and shouldn’t wait while the school system goes about the process of awarding the next five-year transportation contract.
 ...a sentiment with which one can only agree.

Sunday reading

Here's some things I've been reading that I'd recommend:
  • I struggle to choose what passage to quote in this interview with Paul Gorski, which I really just want you all to read all of:
    All these practices are alluring because they avoid the harder work of equity—because they don’t require that we identify inequities, how they are operating in schools, and how we’re complicit in them. I want to clarify: I do think that—in the context of a robust systemic approach to equity—some of these practices can play an important role. I wish my own teachers had access to trauma-informed classroom practices, for example, because I grew up with a lot of trauma and generally felt like I was repeatedly punished for the impact of that trauma. But what none of these approaches help us do is identify and eliminate inequities that are deeply embedded in our educational systems. When we’re not eliminating inequities, we’re instead trying to help students adjust to inequity-laden institutions—we’re feeding that classic deficit ideology.
    We challenge deficit ideologies by learning how to spot them in all their forms. Educational leaders have a big role to play here: they simply cannot allow deficit narratives and assumptions to live in their school or district cultures. On a more interpersonal level, when I hear somebody make a deficit-oriented statement, I like to ask a question that invites that person to look through a more structural lens. Somebody might say, “These low-income families just don’t value education. They never show up for anything.” In this case, I might ask, “I wonder if there are any other possible explanations for why those families are less likely than wealthier families to attend family-engagement events? Could there be an explanation other than they don’t care or they’re irresponsible?” In this way, I’m inviting somebody to try on a different lens.
    Ultimately, we challenge deficit narratives by making an intentional choice: equity efforts should never be about fixing anything about students who are marginalized in schools. They should always—always—be about fixing whatever is marginalizing students in schools. 
  • Similarly, this piece on the trap of hiring a woman of color as a diversity officer without ensuring she has full leadership support to change the culture of the organization is a challenging but necessary read:
  • I asked how that was going.
    “Not great,” she said. “The trouble is that they don’t actually want me to do my job.”
    This is a complaint I heard time and again from the six women of color CDOs I spoke to for this essay, and it is a complaint I have made myself.

  • If you have some time, try out this tool that tracks school by school demographics back over the past several decades. Worcester, try out the high schools!
  • I learned a lot from this New Yorker piece on historic preservation and Black history, including of the existence of the Rosenwald schools, which says a lot, really, that someone who reads about education history as much as I have still hadn't come across them.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

of office referrals

When I sit in a session like yesterday's at Worcester's North High on student discipline, I think about Kurt.
His name wasn't actually Kurt, and, usual round of disclaimers: 
I taught in a well-resourced district. 
This was twenty years ago. 
An anecdote isn't the singular of data.

I taught English, mostly freshmen and sophomores. Kurt was in one of my midday sophomore classes. He played defense on the football team, which mattered, because, during the season, you had to have a passing grade in each core subject in order to play each Friday. 
I don't remember what day of the week it was, but it was well after football season. It was into the part of the year where we'd all settled in, the course changes had long been made, and this was where we were for the duration. 
And that day, for whatever reason, he just couldn't settle in. As I was trying to get through the work of the class, he kept pushing back and not doing it and getting in the way of others doing it. 
And I spoke to him and I spoke to him and I spoke to him, and eventually he snapped.
I can still remember him getting up out of his seat, outraged with me, and yelling back at me.
I sent him to the office.
My classroom was next to one of the sets of swinging fire doors that all schools have, and as he left, and went through the doors, he hit the window of the door hard enough that it shattered. 
His hand went through it.
And so he came to the office, furious and bleeding, and he went to the hospital.
And I sat down at my desk that afternoon and filled out the office referral form. 
And he was suspended for a few--two? three?--days for the damage to school property.

While he was gone, the assistant principal came to my classroom during my prep period with the referral, and he asked me to talk him through it. This didn't always happen, but, after all, this one had ended with stitches and a broken door. 
And so we sat and talked through it.
My assistant principal--and as teachers know, you need the secretary and the custodian to like you, but an assistant principal can make or break you--never questioned my judgment and he never argued with me. What he did do was make me think about how it could have gone differently.
Kurt had, clearly, been having a rough day before he got to me. I had even seen it in how he carried himself as he came in. This, like so much of what happens in school, wasn't about me or my class at all. 
Was there a point at which a choice that I, the adult in the room, made could have meant that Kurt didn't end up in the hospital that afternoon?
In retrospect, there were several.

When Kurt came back to school, he came by my room and apologized before school. There are many ways I messed up as a teacher over that part of my life, but in this case, I didn't: I apologized to him, as well.

None of this is to absolve a fifteen year old from breaking a door or even from being disruptive in class.
Schools are not just about English and math and history, though; they're about becoming people. 

As a teacher, I had the luxury of time with someone wiser than me who wasn't accusatory but who asked what happened in terms of what the adults, the ones who have the most agency, can do.
To that question, we need to add: what resources are needed to create institutions that support, rather than hurt, the young people in them?