Tuesday, April 28, 2020
Sunday, April 26, 2020
In this report, using data from multiple sources, we describe the effects of previous recessions, particularly the Great Recession, on K-12 education finance, as well as the federal, state, and local policies and trends that mediated—for better or worse—the impact of these downturns on public school budgets. We then use these lessons to offer recommendations for short- and long-term responses to our current crisis.Or you can read this piece which talks about it.
The one of two action items is a proposal regarding the small number of the class of 2020 would might have expected to complete their requirements for graduation by taking the MCAS this spring and achieving that required by the competency determination. You can find the backup on that here. As the memo says:
The recent return of results from the February and March 2020 retests showed that a only small number of current seniors—3,476 (4.9% of the current 12th graders)—have not yet earned their competency determination in one or more subjects, with 1,352 (1.9%) needing to pass only one test:The recommendation is a case-by-case "authorizing an emergency process through which students can earn the competency determination through successful completion of a relevant high school course."
Need one subject 1,352
Need two subjects 583
Need three subjects 1,541
Based on past experience, we estimate that a significant portion of these remaining students will have also not met their district’s local graduation requirements. Many of these students will return for a fifth year of high school. Some are students with disabilities who are entitled to receive a free appropriate public education until they turn 22, if they have not earned a high school diploma.
There is also a budget update.
In non-pandemic news, there is also a proposed modification of the regulations for special education collaboratives in response to legal changes from January (which themselves are as a result of a review of the collaborative law from 2012).
It starts at 9, it will be online, and yes, I plan to liveblog it.
Thursday, April 23, 2020
This piece from Teen Vogue (you didn't notice their groundbreaking work these past years?) on how online schooling is worsening race and class divides
A look from Chalkbeat on how the Great Recession worsened things for U.S. schools and how it possible will do the same again
This article looking at how online schooling is particularly a challenge for families who don't speak English in the New York Times
Chalkbeat (who are particularly doing good work during all of this) looking at what schools have been more than educational institutions for homeless students
How for high school seniors with disabilities, this closure is like "walking off a cliff" in the Boston Globe
Note this will NOT replace meals districts currently are serving; this is in addition to this.
All students in districts that serve universal free meals will be counted in that (that means all Boston, Worcester, Springfield, and so forth public school students).
Families will get a letter from DTA in May outlining the eligibility. If families already receive EBT, the benefit will be added to their current cards; if not, they will receive a card with this benefit.
it is $5.70 per eligible student per day, or $28.50 a week.
Please note that this is NOT a public charge benefit and it does NOT impact immigration status.
- Seniors last day is May 27.
- Finals are cancelled.
- Graduation is at the date and time scheduled but will be done virtually. Principals are meeting with the graduation committees over the next week to discuss and make arrangements.
Tuesday, April 21, 2020
still in the surge
health care system keeping up, thanks to a ton of planning
still very much in the grips of the pandemic here in Massachusetts
know that there is no cure, no vaccine, "insidious and invisible virus"
"I think we all want to move on from this"
"doing it wrong could create more hardship in the long run"
only go out if you need to and cover out when you do
"We are all in this together, Massachusetts"
"with respect to schools...will remain closed through the end of the school year"
"remote learning will continue in all school districts"
no authoritative guidance on how to operate schools safely or get to and from school safely
allow districts to plan
"has been a terrible loss" in being outside
help students to keep learning at home
additional steps to prepare for this
DESE to prepare summer learning particularly those behind grade level
remote learning commission, advisory commission to create more resources for schools
puts tremendous strain on families
much at end of year "that won't happen" or will happen differently
but there will be brighter days ahead
likewise childcare to stay closed through end of June
thank teachers, parents, students making remote learning work
know it isn't easy
understand challenges and recognize that we can keep doing better
makes it extremely important for children to continue learning through the school year
minimize learning loss as much as possible
"long way to go" in improving this
additional guidance on remote learning coming later this week
have considered this in four stages:
- closure and feeding kids
- remote learning when we didn't know how long
- remote learning for rest of year
- reopening schools; this announcement gives us more time to work on stage 4
Baker: big issue associated with this: there were a lot of mixed feelings
a lot of folks said that if there were a way to go back safely, they would have done it
"to have a chance to eyeball them a little bit and help them and then figure out how to get through to the fall"
there just isn't enough guidance...to do it safely
how do you configure a school classroom? buses "think of all the kids who pile all over each other to get on a bus"? kids and adults, health of adults
"just really became clear that there wasn't a way to make this work"
plus there is some momentum on remote learning at this point in time
Riley: heard from teachers, administrators, superintendents, that if there were any way to get back, they'd want to do
"but the data just didn't support it"
tried to listen to everyone "parents teachers school committees"
have asked districts to track students who have fallen off the grid; track kids they are most worried about going forward
not everyone has online access?
"remote learning is not online learning" have seen different ways to reach kids
"maximize all of our learning for our kids"
temperature checking students, keeping desks apart
work with everyone, including health care professional
recommend credit/no credit; did recognize that some might want to go forward with grading at high school
Sharing of best practices from both online and not online perspectives
more guidance for mental health supports
discussions about essential standards that our students need to learn to go onto the next grade
A more animated Baker: "I'll be damned if the way this works is we go through this thing, we flatten the curve, we do all the things we're supposed to do, and then we go up again in the fall because we don't handle the re-entry... in a way that keeps people safe." #mapoli— Chris Lisinski (@ChrisLisinski) April 21, 2020
Friday, April 17, 2020
Should you want to take a look, the video is online here. It was, of course, again an entirely remote meeting.
Technically, we had two Worcester School Committee meetings last night: the first was the school choice hearing. This is, note, school choice in to Worcester; school choice out is simply allowed by state law. We actually don't have to have the hearing if we are allowing school choice, and last night, there wasn't a presentation or deliberation; we simply voted in favor of it.
On the regular agenda, the first item was, as I noted earlier this week, Ms. Biancheria's filing of reconsideration of the vote to waive the requirement this spring that students take the AP exam to achieve AP GPA credit. There is no deliberation prior to the vote on reconsideration, and the vote went as the vote on the item itself had gone: 5-2, Biancheria and Monfredo opposed. This, again, means that students who are currently taking an AP course can choose or not to take this spring's AP exam; their Worcester Public Schools GPA will not in any way be impacted by that decision (not taking the exam usually gives only honors level credit).
Our student representative Kwaku Nyarko asked during the section of the agenda that is theirs that we make plans to meet with our student advisory council soon, particularly given the current circumstances. The Mayor agreed, and we haven't set a date, but we'll keep you posted.
The report of the superintendent was not something that usually happens in April: an update on the next year's budget.
The crux of the problem is this: since our February initial look at FY21, the economy has borne the impact of what UMass Dartmouth Professor Michael Goodman has called "a medically induced coma," in which we have intentionally made choices that have slowed the economy in order to bend the curve of the infections of coronavirus. That may well impact the current fiscal year; it will for certain impact next fiscal year, as was reflected in Tuesday's state economic roundtable (my liveblog is here; the MASC coverage is here). This not only raises questions around Student Opportunity Act funding; it raises questions around regular year to year funding.
I will always tell you watch Worcester Public Schools budget presentations, and this one is no exception; it starts about nine minutes into the video.
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
Tuesday, April 14, 2020
A motion to "reconsider" a vote is just what it says: it asks the public body if they want to consider again what they have already voted.
- A "yes" vote to reconsideration means "yes, let's vote that again."
- A "no" vote to reconsideration means "no, let's stay with the vote we already cast."
If the "no" votes succeed, the item goes forward as originally voted.
In most committees, only those who cast a "yes" vote can make a motion to reconsider and it must be done within the same meeting.
In Worcester, any member can file for reconsideration of a vote within 48 business hours of a meeting. They are to give the reason for doing so. It then appears as the first item on the following agenda.
As a result, no vote in Worcester is official until 48 business hours after the meeting.
In Worcester, this is sometimes staved off--and votes go through right away--by voting reconsideration at the same meeting, as an item can only be reconsidered once.
Thus if you are watching the AP item for Worcester for Thursday:
- if your hope is that the requirement for testing is waived for this year, you're looking for a "no" vote on reconsideration (and that's it; the vote from two weeks ago is the vote).
- if your hope is that the requirement of testing is reinstated for this year, you're looking for a "yes" vote on reconsideration followed by a "no" vote on the actual motion.
Friday, April 10, 2020
First, the Senate passed a different bill than the House had, then the House passed the Senate's language. That's what's going on with the sequence over here tracking the bill. (It went back to the Senate again with the emergency preamble added.) S2629 is what actually passed.
It now has been "enacted and laid before the Governor" which sometimes is called being "put on the Governor's desk," though at this point both of those are metaphors.
What did it do?
- The state legal requirement of testing for grades 4, 8, and 10 is waived for the remainder of this school year; the actual language is:
the requirement for a comprehensive diagnostic assessment of individual
students under said section 1I of said chapter 69 is waived for the remainder
of the 2019-2020 school year
The rest of the grades are federal requirements that are thus waived by that federal waiver.
- It provides for the Board of Ed to waive the high school competency determination for any disruption caused by COVID-19. It does not specify year, so this could be an authority that extends beyond this school year.
- It allows for seniors who have not passed the competency determination to take it at a later date.
- It didn't actually cancel the MCAS. It waived the requirement that there be an MCAS. Those are not the same thing.
- It doesn't yet sort out what's going on with the seniors who maybe had a test that they still needed to pass. That one goes to the Board via the Commissioner.
- It doesn't specify which class or classes are included in the competency determination handoff. The obvious question is the above seniors, but juniors lost a retest chance as well. Sophomores, of course, also are off sequence now. Will that power be used elsewhere?
- It doesn't sort out sequencing; if freshmen generally take biology and get the biology MCAS out of the way then, are they finishing bio? When? And when can they logically then take the test?
- It doesn't say we aren't testing next fall. For all the "wow, this is going to kill standardized testing FOREVER" posts I'm seeing, I think people need to understand that there is going to be a countervailing push to want to find out just how much the school closure set us back, and tests like MCAS will be seen as a vehicle for that.
It also provides a way for regional school districts to allow for the Commissioner to establish a 1/12 budget for them if they can't get their budgets passed through town meetings.
The Governor signed the bill this afternoon.
Followed by this Friday night:
With our federal testing waiver secured and the state legislation officially enacted....I can now confirm that this spring’s regular administration of MCAS in grades 3-10 is cancelled. Further info on competency determination et al. will be forthcoming.— Jeffrey C. Riley (@JeffreyCRiley) April 10, 2020
It's never not going to be super weird to me that people are hailing this as some sort of great victory, BTW. We're not actually in school; we're not going to be in school; we can't do this remotely.
Thursday, April 9, 2020
|Bloodwort in bloom|
In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher.
WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction.
We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.
Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death.
Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this virus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.
World Health Organization Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus at the COVID-19 media briefing on March 11
Content warning: coronavirus pandemic, death, trauma
when people are dying due to a virus that hits us on racial disparities, access to health care, socio-economic status, and other inequities;
when people are trapped in homes, if they have homes, that may be unsafe or violent;
when we have literally millions of people losing their jobs;
when children are lacking access to food, to safety, to mental health supports;
when we are in the middle of the biggest disruption to education that we have had since the 1917 World War/flu epidemic combination;
when we have a catastrophic lack of leadership at the federal level that seems bent on getting us all killed;
if in the midst of this, your main concern and your energy around advocacy has been around the MCAS?
you heavily need to reconsider your--no, not the Commissioner, or DESE, or the state, all of whom have made their priorities quite clear--priorities.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Note that this Friday, April 10 continues to be a day off.
Someone asked me what this does for seniors and I don't know. I'll find out.
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
posting as we go...assuming the video loads...which it hasn't so far...
Technical issues with the livestream are delaying the MA virtual economic roundtable with Ways and Means chairs, admin budget chief, treasurer, economists, etc. IT team is working on, SWMs says. #mapoli— Colin Young (@ColinAYoung) April 7, 2020
and, so much for that! Next week!
Mark you calendars. Again. The COVID-19 economic impact hearing is being rescheduled for next Tuesday 🤞 #mapoli— Matthew Murphy (@SHNSMurphy) April 7, 2020
Sunday, April 5, 2020
Education overall has $30B set aside for it, of which $13.5B is set aside in K-12 grants to states:
This grant is distributed to states based on their share of ESEA Title I-A funds. State education agencies will then distribute at least 90% of funds to school districts and public charter schools based on their share of Title I-A funds. State agencies may choose to use a portion or all of the remaining K-12 funds to respond to emergency needs as determined by the state agency.There is also $3B in the Governor's Education Relief Fund, which each Governor will receive a share of to use in everything from early ed to higher ed.
Note that there are also higher ed allocations, so the totals overall are much higher, but recognize the needs of colleges and universities, as well.
The Massachusetts share, from the Congressional Research Service, is projected to be approximately $51M for the Governor's fund and $214M for the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund.
There's of course no telling how Governor Baker will choose to allocate the $51M, so let's set that aside for the time being.
Of the $214M, at least 90% has to go to districts, so that's $193M.
And that's...less than the $300M that Ch.70 was going up by in the FY21 budget for this coming year.
Now, we don't actually know that this is going to be allocated for FY21; the Act itself doesn't specify, and the NCSL says this:
Funds to local districts can be used for coronavirus-response activities, such as planning for and coordinating during long-term school closures, purchasing educational technology to support online learning for all students, and additional activities authorized by federal elementary and secondary education laws....which kind of sounds like this year, if it rolled out quickly enough.
The states are not allowed to use this funding to backfill their own usual funding to schools UNLESS there is a "a precipitous decline in financial resources.”
And that, of course, brings us back to the hearing on Tuesday at 10: are we expected "a precipitous decline in financial resources" for next year?
Does that mean the state fulfills its constitutional obligations ahead of other commitments? In other words, is this a hold harmless and minimum aid year, or do we look first to foundation aid?
And if we are going to have a "precipitous decline," are we still trying to implement the Student Opportunity Act next year? And should we? Is it really fair to anyone to pretend that is what we're doing?
Because it doesn't feel to me as though we are, really.
Should we, perhaps, we targeting the federal funds to the places that we think will have the greatest losses due to the extended school closure?
Grading for Quarter 3 includes work completed from January 20 to March 12. Teachers are completing report cards and special ed progress reports at this time. 4th quarter grading information will be determined in the next few weeks.There will also, in many cases, be messages going out from principals of individual schools
The Commissioner of Education has provided guidance to school districts changing the focus of learning from extended student learning to remote learning. Remote learning includes the completion of learning activities and projects. The Commissioner’s guidance states students should spend around 3 1/2 hours a day learning. WPS students are expected to work on remote learning projects beginning Monday, April 6. Students will not receive grades for remote learning. Students will receive teacher feedback. It is important our students continue to remain engaged in learning.
The WPS launched the new Weekly Remote Learning Plans this afternoon. Individual school’s Remote Learning Plans can be found on the district website, worcesterschools.org, and also on the drop down menu on the new WPS Mobile App.
During the period of the Governor’s Extended Mandatory Closure, educators will make regular contact with their assigned students or responsible parent or guardian as well as provide remote learning to their students.
Principals will be contacting students and families with more information on each school’s Remote Learning Plan. The dedicated WPS staff will continue to contact you to provide the message “ WPS care about our students and families.”
I also was on "508: A Show About Worcester" on Friday, and of course we talked about Worcester and schools during the pandemic. But Mike also spoke with our new city clerk Niko Vangjeli, which, as a Worcester resident, I found very reassuring, too.
April 4, 2020
We would like to thank everyone for their patience and understanding as the district and the EAW have worked to create a reflective and responsible way to deal with the ongoing Pandemic. We have been forced to take a break from our normal lives and this pause gives us a time to connect, reconnect and reach out in new ways to families and friends. This includes our students and their families as we are all under the umbrella of the Worcester Public Schools. We are grateful to those in our community who have demonstrated their unwavering support and compassion for our WPS community as we navigate our way forward.
We recognize that these unprecedented times around the Coronavirus Disease/COVID-19 pandemic are unsettling to all in our school community. We also recognize that there exist many questions around next steps for students and staff. The Governor’s Extended Mandatory Closure resulting from his Order, dated March 25, 2020, extended his Initial Mandatory Closure and presently precludes the reopening of schools before Monday, May 4, 2020. At this point it is difficult to determine whether the Extended Mandatory Closure will be further extended.
Since the closing of school, the District Administrative Team and the Educational Association of Worcester have engaged in many hours of negotiations with regard to changes to terms and conditions of employment for the EAW’s various employee bargaining units, including teachers and assistant principals; bus drivers and bus monitors; and those in positions collectively regarded as educational support personnel, such as instructional assistants; parent liaisons; therapy assistants; and tutors. These negotiations occurred over the span of multiple days, and occurred both after the Governor’s Extended Mandatory Closure order on March 25, 2020 and prior thereto. These formal negotiations were in addition to the many informal conversations between the District Administration and the EAW President since the closing of school on March 13, 2020.
Through these efforts, the District and the EAW have arrived at Memoranda of Agreements for the various employee groups in an effort to memorialize the changes in the terms and conditions of employment for these employees as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic and the need to modify the manner in which we educate all of our District’s students. These changes will also help to ensure that all of the Worcester Public Schools families receive outreach and support from the Worcester Public Schools during these very difficult times.Based on the discussions this week, we have reached a number of fundamental agreements and understandings around what the expectations are for educators and administration during the period of the Governor’s Extended Mandatory Closure.
The collective work of the educators and the administrative team has already produced many examples of alternative learning opportunities for students. These have been the result of creative thinking by all involved and have helped to keep our students engaged and poised to return to school when that is possible. In accordance with guidance from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, we will now turn our attention to providing remote learning to all of our students through various means of communication.
At a time such as this, we consider that among our most important roles is to maintain regular contact with our students and their parents or guardians. These times are extremely stressful to the students and their families. Educators have already taken it upon themselves to reach out to their students. Your school leader will be coordinating a system to ensure at least one adult in your school connects with every student. For our students, we are an integral part of their support network and we provide, as a District, many social and emotional supports over and above what we provide by way of educational services. Again, this commitment of our educators and Administrative Teams to ensuring the well-being of our students is both admirable and appreciated. The provision of remote learning opportunities for students will be another means by which family and student contact will be provided.
We also share the belief that in order to provide for the meaningful remote learning opportunities for all of our students, we must have opportunities for collaboration among educators and administrators. These opportunities will be part of the regular activities expected of educators at this time. Building principals will collaborate with staff in their buildings to make this time as productive and meaningful as possible.We also see this time as one which presents the opportunity for more professional development, although virtually of course, for our educators. These opportunities will be available through the recently launched Worcester Public Schools Enhanced Learning Website for its employees and other scheduled professional development events.
Included in these three fundamental areas of concentration, educators will be expected to continue to meet their other customary professional obligations. Educators will continue to work on report cards for the third quarter, with that work ultimately needing to be completed by April 13, 2020 at noon. Educators will also continue to work on the completion of special education progress reports which must be completed by April 13, 2020. Guidance Counselors will continue to work on individual student schedules as we look towards a promising 2020/2021 school year. Turnaround work will continue; early college work will continue; and AP work will continue. Educators will not be expected to be present in their buildings, but will be expected to check their District e-mail at least twice per day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon, as this will continue to be the most commonly utilized communication tool with staff.
With regard to wages, the District has committed to provide compensation and benefits to its educators and other employees during the period of the current Governor’s Extended Mandatory Closure. We hope that knowing this will assuage any fears you may have about compensation. We recognize that clear and consistent communication is essential at this time. All district directives will come from the superintendent or her designees, including principals, but shall be consistent with the agreements reached through negotiations or the already existing terms of the Parties’ collective bargaining agreements. Every effort is being made to ensure that principals, assistant principals, coaches and department heads are sending the same clear, consistent message subject of course to unique needs and circumstances at different schools and grade levels.
The Memoranda of Agreements reached will be presented to the School Committee and the EAW for ratification votes. However, in light of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s expectation that the remote learning will be ready in early April, the Parties have agreed to implement the new terms and conditions of employment as a show of good faith pending the ratification votes.
With our collective gratitude,
Maureen Binienda, Superintendent of Schools and Roger Nugent, President, EAW
Friday, April 3, 2020
Worcester School Committee meets (remotely) and suspends the requirement that students in AP courses take the AP exam for this year
I'll write more later, but just to push this out:
Tonight, the Worcester School Committee voted 5-2 to suspend the Worcester requirement that students take the A.P. exam to get A.P. credit. In pure policy terms, we struck the final two sentences from the section entitled "Advanced Placement exams" from page 77 of the student handbook:
Advanced Placement Exams...like so.
Students are responsible for costs for Advanced Placement Exams. The cost for one Advanced Placement Exam is $90.00. Scholarships and reduced fees are available for eligible students. School guidance counselors can provide additional information.
Students must take the Advanced Placement Examination in their course in order to receive Advanced Placement credit for the course. Students who do not take the Advanced Placement Examination, but pass the course, shall receive honors credit for the course.
Note that the next section, which spells out how A.P. level courses count for more in calculating student G.P.A. REMAINS IN EFFECT.
And big h/t to our student rep Kwaku Nyarko, who eloquently spoke of what it is like to be taking A.P. courses right now; this isn't what students signed up for.
Other things of note:
- In response to Miss Biancheria's items on third quarter grades and on seniors, there was a fairly extensive conversation around where we stand (I'll pull up the video and find the part where that discussion happened). As has been stated elsewhere, the third quarter effectively closed March 13; students will receive numerical grades for that quarter (and report cards were filled out by yesterday; they're coming). The state's guidance for new work has been feedback for all students, pass/fail with grace for secondary students; my sense is that what this looks like exactly was still being sorted out.
Do note that the superintendent both said that she doesn't expect regular school to resume this year, and sketched out some of what is envisioned for graduations.
- In response to items from both Ms. McCullough and Mrs. Clancey, the administration did give some updates on what contact with families, particularly for students with IEPs and other needs have been. Somewhat worryingly, the district doesn't plan to do IEP meetings during this time. There is more information on this coming, as well.
- I had asked about discontinuing school building projects during the pandemic; it was pretty clear that this wouldn't pass, so I withdrew the item, and then the City Manager stopped the building projects the next day.
- In response to items both Mrs. Clancey and I had filed, Mr. Allen ran through what the district is paying for, as, under MGL Ch. 41, sec. 56, we cannot pay for services not received. Employees, of course, are being paid. The collaborative, as it's considered an extension of the district; out of district tuition for students also is being paid, under the understanding services are still being provided. For in-district transportation, the guidance was that districts should be negotiating with their transportation providers. Worcester has done so, and is paying Durham 77% of the contractual rate under a written agreement that A. employees are to be paid and B. the buses are to be available as needed (they have, at this point, provided some transportation to those at the homeless shelters). That's saving $85,000 a week, but costing $53,000 a day.
Thursday, April 2, 2020
“This is the start of a new process in putting together an FY21 budget,” said Senate Ways and Means Chair Michael Rodrigues, a Westport Democrat...Hearing details for next Tuesday are not yet posted, but I'll share them once I see them.
“In the midst of the continued fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, the fiscal situation the Commonwealth is facing is both dire and unprecedented,” Michlewitz said in a statement. “It is crucial that we have as clear of a picture as possible before we make any substantial budgetary decisions.”
Heffernan said the roundtable “will aid us as we continue coordinating on the potential budgetary and economic impacts of this public health crisis while working to maintain the solid fiscal foundation that our collaborative financial discipline has helped create and build.”
In an interview, Rodrigues said he, Michlewitz, and Heffernan have been working closely together since the beginning of the outbreak. They wanted to give economists time to determine the impact of the crisis before scheduling the new hearing.
“This is uncharted waters,” Rodrigues said. “We’re hoping by next Tuesday we can hear some forecast with some level of confidence from people that we have a lot of respect for and confidence in.”