Friday, July 31, 2020

More on FY21 numbers

Yesterday, the Division of Local Services in the Department of Revenue released the following email from the Secretary of Administration and Finance:
Dear Local Official, 
I am writing to share that information about Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) funding for Unrestricted General Government Aid (UGGA) and Chapter 70 education aid is now available on the Division of Local Services website. 
While critical information from the federal government is still needed in order to finalize a full fiscal year budget for the Commonwealth, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Legislature are committing to no less than the Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) level of funding for UGGA and Chapter 70 education aid as a baseline amount for FY21 funding. 
The FY21 funding commitment also includes Chapter 70 increases for inflation and enrollment that will keep all school districts at foundation, under the law as it existed for FY20, providing an additional $107 million in aid over FY20. This increase comes in addition to approximately $450 million in new federal supports for K-12 schools to assist with educating students during the pandemic. Please click here to view the UGGA and Chapter 70 amounts for each municipality. Local officials with related questions can email 
Michael J. Heffernan 
Secretary of Administration and Finance
This was followed up by an email from House Ways and Means Budget Director David Bunker, sharing this spreadsheet with House members, and writing: 
The attached spreadsheet, put together by the Executive Office of Administration and Finance (A&F) for greater context, displays the main sources of funding that would be available to districts at this time through both the tentative agreement on local aid and the larger distributions of federal funds previously announced by the administration. The fourth column of that sheet shows FY20 Chapter 70, which for most districts becomes the FY21 baseline Chapter 70 funding under the tentative agreement. Under the agreement, no operating district would receive less funding than in FY20. The next column shows, for districts which receive additional funds as a result of increasing the foundation budget by inflation and adjusting for enrollment trends, how much more those districts would receive as baseline Chapter 70. The following column shows the distribution of federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) grants, using the Title I formula. The seventh column shows the $202M of Coronavirus Relief Funds distributed by the Governor to meet school reopening needs. The final two columns are: a) the total of all previous spending amounts, and b) how much of an increase that total is for each district above FY20 Chapter 70. This is not intended to imply that these distributions of federal funds are a substitute for our statutory and constitutional Chapter 70 commitments, but they do provide important resources to school districts at the opening of the school year while we continue to take stock of the economic and revenue changes wrought by COVID-19. and our capacity to make more expansive investments in education and local aid. 
In addition to federal ESSER and CRF funds identified in the spreadsheet, A&F has identified the following smaller sources of funding also made available to districts in recent months: • $16M for ESSER Discretionary Funds; • $25M for Remote Learning Technology Grants; • Up to $15M for Competitive Federal Funds. 
Despite the almost unprecedented fiscal climate, the amount of state and federal aid allocated thus far ensures the administration and the legislature, as well as municipalities and school districts, can continue prioritizing significant investments in Massachusetts students. 
While the tentative agreement was intended to provide a baseline for school district budgeting, and a clear commitment to maintaining the central promise of Chapter 70 to keep every district at a minimum funding level as defined by the foundation budget, it should not be interpreted as abandoning the key commitments to equity made by the Student Opportunity Act (SOA). We remain committed to full implementation of the SOA Act, and its historic investments in increasing foundation budget assumptions both to more fully reflect actual school district spending, and to more fully meet the educational needs of our most historically under-resourced students. As we work towards finalizing an FY21 budget, we will continue to examine all opportunities to meet that obligation, including any additional federal funds made available to the state. Upon completing that review, we will reexamine our ability to move forward with the SOA, and will use the first available additional dollars, if any, to begin moving forward with the implementation of SOA.
If this is all sounding rather defensive to you, then I think you're right. 

Districts in the spring had, in many cases, to shut down and deep clean their buildings. They had to push out a ton of technology. They ran a lot of professional development for teachers. They emptied their buildings of protective equipment when the hospitals had shortages.
And per the Commissioner's directive? We paid everybody.
For fall, districts are having to buy a large amount of protective equipment. They're buying plexiglass and other separations. They might be buying furniture. They're scrambling to staff additional nurses and custodians. They need signs and cleaning supplies.
But we also might go remote and many are going hybrid, so we still need technology, and PD for teachers on that, and supplies for students at home.

So, should you be wondering where that CARES and COVID funding is going, you have your answer. And those, let's recall, are grant funds. They're one time. They're spent and they're gone. It's pretty infuriating to have them all added up nicely on a spreadsheet as if those numbers all were equivalents. They aren't.

Actually running the system--more to the point, actually staffing the system--isn't any less expensive than it was last year. In fact, of course, we need more staff than we have.
And no, it doesn't only cost 2% more than last year, either. That's not how much insurance or transportation went up, for certain, and it doesn't cover most other cost areas, either.

The commitment to SOA is nice, but districts start schools in six weeks. We can't staff based on promises. By the time the state passes a 'real' budget, we will have finished the first quarter of school. Classes are not only assigned, but have been running. 
And, always remember: most of a school district's costs are in staff. 

You might remember the warnings from earlier this spring that flat cuts disproportionally hit higher poverty communities. Having state aid only go up by enrollment and inflation across the board does, of course, hit the districts that are more heavily dependent on state aid. If most of your money is local, you didn't lose that much off of June yesterday.
Worcester lost $14M in operating costs yesterday.

So, it's nice to have numbers. These aren't numbers that help us.

You'll be hearing more about this.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Four months of a budget, but what is the Chapter 70?

This afternoon, the House and Senate both passed a four month budget, the single page document of which is here. It does not contain allocations, but does say this:
SECTION 2. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, items funded through this act shall be funded in a manner assuming not less than the lower of the general appropriations act for fiscal year 2020 or the operating budget submitted by the governor for fiscal year 2021 pursuant to section 7H of chapter 29 of the General Laws.
I am not clear on what "assuming not less than the lower" of level funding from last year OR the House 2 budget from January means!

We are given a bit more via Senator Adams Hinds on Twitter, the following, which I am quoting from State House News for reasons that will become apparent:
Hinds: Budget Level Funds Local Aid, Chapter 70
As lawmakers rush a $16.5 billion three-month budget to Gov. Charlie Baker's desk, the Senate Revenue Committee chairman indicated Tuesday that the bill level funds local aid to cities and towns.
In a tweet posted Tuesday afternoon and then later deleted, Sen. Adam Hinds also said the budget bill level funds Chapter 70 education funds to school districts, plus $107 million for inflation.
As the state delays its annual budget deliberations, cities and towns have been awaiting word on local aid levels, which pair with local property taxes to form the basis of revenues for local school, public safety and other municipal services.
Beacon Hill leaders have been gearing up for an announcement about local aid levels for fiscal 2021. - Michael P. Norton/SHNS | 7/28/20 3:01 PM
UPDATE: And THEN State House News Service added this from Senator Hinds:"I defer to the chairs of Ways and Means. The reality is, the details haven't been finalized."

 So, what would $107M mean? The inflation rate for this year is 1.99%, with 2.34% for health insurance. That isn't...far off what $5.1B would be over last year. So that would be JUST inflation, but the SOA inflation.
And it would be that for the full year, not the one third of the year.

Over the full year, it would also be $14M less than what the Worcester School Committee passed in June.

Monday, July 27, 2020

Commissioner waives time on learning regulations, allowing for 10 days of teacher preparation

This afternoon, the Commissioner announced that he is waiving the time on learning regulations (603 CMR 27.00):
To provide sufficient training for educators and staff, I will reduce the 180 day and student learning time requirements for the 2020-2021 school year to 170 days and 850 hours (for elementary schools) and 935 hours (for secondary schools), so long as districts begin providing instruction to students no later than September 16, 2020.
In conjunction with this, the Department and the MTA/AFT-MA/BTU have jointly signed an agreement which says: 
WHEREAS: The safety and well-being of students, families, and staff has been and continues to be our top priority as an educational community.
WHEREAS: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA), the American Federation of Teachers (AFT-MA), and the Boston Teachers Union (BTU) are working together collaboratively to support a successful start to the new school year.
WHEREAS: DESE, MTA, AFT-MA and BTU recognize and agree that in light of the COVID- 19 pandemic, providing additional time for our educators and staff to prepare prior to the start of instruction of students is important for a safe and successful fall reopening.
1. DESE agrees that school districts will have 10 additional days at the start of the 2020-2021 school year before instruction of students begins, to work with educators to prepare for the new school year.
2. The Commissioner will reduce the 180-day and student learning time requirements for the 2020-2021 school year to 170-days and 850 hours (for elementary schools) and 935 hours (for secondary schools) so long as districts begin providing instruction to students no later than September 16, 2020. If a district is unable to meet the September 16, 2020 requirement, it may apply for a waiver.

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Worcester Public Schools Back to School planning FAQ

This will not be exhaustive and at some point it will be replaced by an FAQ on the district website, which will no doubt be more comprehensive. Note that anything subject to negotiations is something on which I cannot comment; it's both an ethics and an Open Meeting Law violation for me to do so.
In the meantime, though, a few of the questions I am fielding most often. Updating as more is known or asked.

So, what's going on with planning?
Every district in Massachusetts is required to submit three plans to the state by July 31: one for bringing all students back full time, one for doing a hybrid (part at home, part in school) model, and one for fully remote (at home), plus additional planning for students who are the highest need.

I don't hear anyone in Worcester talking about bringing all the kids back. Why?
Because we can't fit all of our students back into our buildings with any sort of physical distancing. About 15 years ago, Worcester closed eight elementary schools, and we now have about 2000 more students than we did then, in those same buildings. We are a crowded system with not a lot of extra space, so our 25,000 students cannot come back to their buildings all together. 

So then what is being planned?
You can take a look at what is mapped out so far over here. After taking a look at our buildings, the administration has laid out a plan for students to come back to buildings two days a week (split in groups; they're calling this 50%) or one day a week (split in groups; they're calling this 1/3) with the other days being learning at home, one day synchronous learning (online "in class" live) and the other days being more independent work. Students in highest need groups--our subseparate special education students, our newest English learners--will be back in buildings for four days. Fridays are for deep cleaning of buildings.

What's the difference between the hybrid models?
 Space. The 50% model gets students in by working at a four foot interval; the 1/3 model goes out to six feet.
The administration is also working on an entirely remote plan.

I don't want my child to go back into buildings. Can I keep them home?
Yes, every district in Massachusetts is required to provide a fully remote option for families who wish to have their child/ren home. There is no requirement for documentation, and there is no negative impact on the child's record or enrollment in a school, program, or district.

When will we know more of what is being planned?
Today's guidance on facilities and transportation were some of the pieces that were missing in figuring out if we have any hope of being able to get students back two days a week. From those bus diagrams, I would say--and this is me saying this, not the district--that hope looks faint. 
The one thing that is still up in the air, though, is family choice. Were enough families across the district--remember it has to be in every building!--to choose to stay remote, we'd have a small enough number of students wanting to be back in buildings that we might be able to run two days. 
I am not sure that is going to happen.
The district, as I said above, has to submit the three (ish) plans on July 31, including what the district is leaning towards. 
The School Committee votes a choice on August 5; the plans are due August 10.
UPDATE: There will be a public session on August 6 for administration to present the plans; the School Committee will vote the plans August 10 (I am assuming the Commissioner is taking them late, because last I heard, that was when they were due!)

What about this change in time on learning I'm hearing about?
The Commissioner has waived the 180 day/900/990 hour learning requirement, rolling it back to 170 days of students in class (850/935 hours). He said this is so long as classes begin by September 16. 
What this does is provide for a way for districts to bring their teachers back and give them ten days of additional training and professional development before school starts without having to change the teachers contract (the number of days teachers are working remains the same).
This does mean that it is likely that Worcester and may other districts will be changing their calendars. Look for that on the August 5 meeting as well.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Know how difficult this is?

Shamelessly swiping this from David Bernstein's tweet: 

You can find the full Albuquerque Journal article here, though the tweet captures the essential point. 

Massachusetts documents released this week

Two documents released by DESE this week of interest:
  • Last night, the superintendents received guidance on "COVID-19 events" which includes this quick reference:
    Image may contain: text
    This also includes elsewhere in the document this sentence:
    “Before a final decision is made on a school or district closure, the superintendent must consult with DESE for further guidance.”
    But in consulting with DESE, it is NOT the Commissioner the guidance connects to.

    Thus the Commissioner:
    A. does not want districts to make the call to close themselves, but also
    B. does not want to make that call himself.

  • Earlier this week, the Department sent out this guidance on the submission of fall plans.
    Of note:
    • By July 31, districts must "must complete and submit a preliminary reopening plan summary to DESE" which includes "district’s contact information, key findings from the district’s feasibility study on in-person learning, and the district’s preliminary thinking about which of the three reopening models it may use to open the school year this fall." Then each of the three models needs to be described further (400 words) which "include support for High Needs students." Emphasis added.
      That means that, indeed, some level of decision-making at the local level IS being made prior to July 31. I have argued and will continue to argue that it should be shared locally.
    • By August 10, districts have to post their plan for the fall. This needs to be "plans should be written in a parent-friendly format, translated into the primary languages of students’ homes, and posted on the district website." This includes what the choice is, with a summary, out of time plans, health and safety information and more (see page 2 for the full list).

Thursday, July 16, 2020

Worcester Voter Registration Initiative presentation

Students presenting on "increasing voter turnout in the city through community engagement, workshops, and civics lessons"
only one out of six registered voters vote
encouraged and excited to vote
civics bill and education and projects and experience in civics
all student run: college and high schools
targeting voter education: getting information to our youth
educational lessons for different age groups: elementary, middle, high
"my own education growing up in Worcester, I wasn't able to have the education I would like it to be"
really connect with our peers
talking about the voting process, how to participate in the community, local state and federal reps
2018 bill only provides a short
especially on the local level
test run with Nativity School in a week
building through Zoom; interactive
talking to different neighborhoods in Worcester
"has to start at our schools"
"especially with the diversity in our city"
"can't have [lack of voting] happening"
have an internship program: making videos, making content
suggestion of what you guys would want and bring it out to students
work with specific history teachers
learning about community and our city
college students working to teacher in different classrooms
using their platform to get information out

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Questions frequently asked

Just what is our actual goal here, Massachusetts?

I ask because, after last week's assumption by the state that districts are stuck on how to arrange desks, the Commissioner's On the Desktop this week features this in the opening letter:
As I said on Twitter on Friday:
Neither the infection rate nor the federal stimulus is going to double or triple the number of buildings in Worcester. Our--or any district's--failing to let families and staff know what we know of that NOW is dereliction of duty.

So what are we really trying to do here?
Read through the FAQ and see if, in your view, this indeed addresses the most pressing questions on the minds of district leaders right now.
What is the main goal? It is to reopen schools.
Why are we reopening schools? There is no substitution for in person instruction.
...and so on. This will mean little to some of you, but it reminds me of nothing so much as the Baltimore Catechism, the learned-by-rote recitation that a generation of Catholics were drilled in that you may or may not have absorbed much from but you could snap out the "right" answer when you were asked!

This is about control.
Somehow, in the middle of this pandemic, facing the worst crisis to Massachusetts education in at least this generation, if not several, the most important thing for the Commissioner is not that students and staff are truly kept in healthy conditions--and note that staff continue to have little said about them--nor that district leadership have all the information they need to make decisions--you can't run schools without a way to get kids there, yet we have no transportation guidance as yet, for one--nor that districts make the best plan for the resources available to them--and that INCLUDES BUILDING SPACE--but that he run the show.

As Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone wrote today in Commonwealth Magazine:
There may be a limited number of activities in which we can engage at this point in time while keeping COVID-19 at bay. We need to admit that to ourselves and to the public. I’m the mayor of a city with a $400 million a year local restaurant industry. We would love to have indoor dining fully up and running. It would do wonders for our local economy, restaurant owners, and employees. Yet this disease forces us to make difficult choices. The safety and operational capacity of our schools should come first. If we can run one extra thing and then try to build around it, that thing should be our schools. 
Instead, the state has put schools at the back of the line. We reveal our priorities with what we do. And Massachusetts just entered a new phase of reopenings called Vigilant that opens casinos in advance of opening schools. That’s where our priorities currently reside.
There are a myriad of ways in which we in Massachusetts are doing better than other parts of the country are doing, but when it comes to school reopening, our priorities are messed up across the board. We aren't doing what is needed to get kids back in buildings safely, and we're attempting to force districts not to be straight with staff and families about what is possible, while building plans for what is impossible.
This is far too important for power trips and literal gambling. 

What parents want

I tweeted this out early this morning (and you can find the thread unwrap here), but for those who like having things in more than 280 characters at a time, here's a prosey version.

I've continued to see this truism online that the "overwhelming majority" of parents want their children full-time back in schools this fall, like so:
It's in today's New York Times again today. This may even be part of the calculation behind the President's push on reopening.

It's not something I'm seeing in my own little corner of the education universe. Here's what I am seeing, all of which is anecdotal, and a lot of which is determined by my own relationships and such, of course.

First a lot of teachers are parents. In fact, a lot of educators--superintendents, business managers, custodians, and on and on--are parents. Drawing a line that puts educators on THIS side and parents on THIS side thus isn't actually possible.
Those who are in education, particularly those who are in or close to the classroom, by and large aren't under a lot of illusions about how this spring went. It was an emergency, on-the-fly, coping with an emerging disaster. Some things went right, a lot of things didn't, and there's a reason why we're getting "How Much Learning Was Lost" pieces now.
It's also a pandemic. And teachers know, school staff know, what school budgets look from their angle even in non-disasterous times. They know what their buildings are like.
And they're scared.
I would add to this group those who are most school-adjacent. There are parents and guardians who don't work for school districts that "get it" when it comes to schools. Maybe they're related to teachers, maybe they volunteer in their schools, but whatever their connection, this is not a group of families that are shocked to hear that districts are scrambling to find funding for COVID supplies or that their buildings that are crowded in regular times are not now magically going to fit all those kids back in much more spread apart.They get the impossibilities.
It's important when we talk about teachers to note:
  • they're college educated
  • they're public employees
  • they're widely (though not universally) unionized
  • they're predominately female
  • they're predominately white
That set of characteristics means many, many things.
One thing it has meant during this discussion is that it lends itself to gendered arguments: those who have concerns are labelled "hysterical" or it is condescendingly assumed that they don't understand the science. There is also a long history of teachers as martyrs that this falls neatly into; see this headline from the UK from May:
And wow, are we seeing all of that in spades.
And no, those arguments don't all come from men (nor are they all directed to women).

There are also parents who see education largely or entirely as a service which they are being denied and which they are demanding return.
We are reluctant to talk about class in this country--we're all middle class, the story goes--but what I see here is the removal from the perspective of educators, These parents in no way identify with their children's teachers and are in no way sympathetic to their views, or if they are, they're viewed as an inconvenience to be overcome. Teachers should get back to work; after all, supermarket workers have.
(We don't, of course, treat service workers well, either.)
And parents can always "choose" not to send their children back to school, after all.
This reminds me of this passage from the book I finished last week, Lily Geismer's Don't Blame Us: Suburban Liberals and the Transformation of the Democratic Party:
Schools are intended to be the bedrock of at least the Massachusetts, if not the country's, democratic system. They're not a convenience, and they're intended to work to best serve all students.
Some such families are discovering to their surprise that their schools are not well provided with supplies, or staffing, or space.

Families with students with special needs, we know from much earlier coverage, have in many cases particularly struggled, particularly if their students can't receive services and support remotely (or well remotely). At the same time, many of these children are medically fragile, and thus are at increased risk to their health by attending school with other. They face an impossible balance.

Black, Latinx, and indigenous people, due to, as the CDC acknowledges, "[l]ong-standing systemic health and social inequities" face significantly higher rates of both illness and death from COVID-19.
I have read a lot of coverage of white middle-class moms' perspective on schools planning for the fall. I have read very little perspective from parents in any of the above groups.
And those are the majority of public school parents in this country now. We need to reflect that in our consideration and in our coverage.
It has also been observed that for some children of color, this past spring was more peaceful and safer because they were not at school, due to the systemic racism within the K-12 educational system (note that the link there is to the U.S. Department of Education; the government itself has said this). We should be ashamed that this is the case, and we as a country should commit to do better by our kids.
I thus wasn't entirely surprised by the results from Mass Inc when they surveyed parents on kids going back to school:
In some cases, those driving for all students to be back full time now are citing students of color as their argument--surely such students need to be back in buildings!--without asking or consulting their families on what they want and need.
That isn't being a good ally.

There are also lots of families--some encompassed in the above!--who are really torn. They want their kids back in classrooms, both for the kids' sake, as they learn more there, and for the adults' sake, as we get more done with them there (or can get anything done at all). Kids get services at school, from food to mental health supports to kinds of therapy to sports and arts, that they simply don't get at home.
But parents also don't want their kids to get sick, or their kids' teachers to get sick, or their kids to bring the illness home to family.

As much as I am seeing it said, one thing I don't think is the case is that the majority of parents simply want their kids back in school full time. It's much more complicated than that.

Saturday, July 4, 2020

DESE room diagrams

Each week, the Commissioner sends to all of the superintendents in Massachusetts and all of the Department's staff an "On The Desktop" memo, which later gets posted over here. By virtue of the Commissioner's position and those with whom he communicates, these messages are public documents.
I was sent this week's message, which went out Thursday evening ahead of the holiday weekend. The accompanying presentation is shared ahead of a session this coming week on arranging classrooms. I have posted this presentation here; I shared it as a Twitter thread here, and as a Facebook album here, those all shared without commentary (intentionally). Below are screenshots of the slides.
The opening slides are as follows:
Add caption

I want to take a step back here and talk about what this is: we're in the middle of a pandemic, one that is not only killing people, but is leaving others with lifetimes of aliments; we have the worst economic crisis (consequently) that the country (the world?) has seen since 1930; we are scrambling to figure out how to best educate children while protecting not only their health but their teachers and other staff's health and their families' health...
...and the Department thinks that the most crucial contribution that they can make at this point is telling us how to arrange desks?

Let's call this what it is: it has been widely noted that DESE's reopening guidance is poorly supported, the first several districts (led by Lexington) have pushed back--let's note that Amherst Pelham wins best headline--

...and now the response from the state is "you just don't know how to arrange your desks correctly."
Condescending much?

I've started a thread over here of things DESE could be doing that would be useful rather than creating PowerPoints and having presentations on seating charts. I'm happy to take further suggestions, as I think there is a real role for the state here.

On to the diagrams:
Let's remember the ground rules under which DESE guidance is playing:
  1. Six feet apart "if feasible" thus all of the below plans are three feet apart (from edge of seat to edge of seat)
  2. Students will be moving minimally, if at all, over the course of the day, and will be facing the same direction
And here are the diagrams they have shared: 

I would urge you to consider these from several perspectives:

First, given what we know of COVID, does these feel safe to you?
Here is why that matters: it's hard to learn if you don't feel safe. If this doesn't feel safe, then it is not going to make nearly as much difference to have kids back in schools.

Second, consider the logistics of this: the students don't simply appear in these seats: they must walk there. How does each student get to that seat without crossing paths with others? And where is the teacher during that time? 

Third, once there, what happens? If the student in the back needs to use the restroom, does that whole line and the one next to it empty into the hall? Or is the space only "feasible" if no one needs to use the restroom or visit the nurse?

Fourth, how does this work as a learning environment? Every student spaced, facing frontwards, and cannot move or turn....

...which of course reminds me: have you met children? Or even people? I don't think adults could stay in these seats, facing entirely frontwards, for hours at a time.
Where is the teacher instructing? How does that teacher check student work? They can't pass papers up; they can't hand things from one to another. The teacher can't go to the back of the room. How does that work?
And of course, there's no group work, no pairing up, no talking to the person next to you...much of the good work of learning is gone.

Fifth, all of this furniture you're moving out is going...where, exactly, since we're using our libraries, gyms, cafeterias, and more as classrooms, and we need our hallways as wide as possible for passing safely? 

Sixth, where do these classrooms of students eat lunch? The guidance is clear that if the masks are off, as they must be to eat (of course), they must be spaced six feet apart. These desks are three feet apart. Are half the students going elsewhere for lunch? Where, if their cafeteria is now classroom space? 

Seventh, look back up at those diagrams.
Now talk to me about kindergarten.
Or computer science.
Or lab sciences.
Or art class.
Or music class. 

I could go on (and on and on) at length about how impractical and poorly focused this is, but I won't, because I think that would be repeating DESE's error here.
Halve each of those classrooms--that would be six feet again--and we're getting somewhere. That's that many fewer bodies, that much less to manage, that much greater ability to work with students with compassion and understanding, that much greater ability for teachers to do the good work that is missed when students aren't with their teachers. 
Spend some of that energy then figuring out how you align staff with students such that someone else (not the same teacher) is working with the students who are at home, rotationally.
Doing all of this while balancing family schedules, teacher and staff health needs and schedules, the ongoing tech and training gaps, the cleaning and nursing needs, and how we're going to pay for all of this is going to take a LOT of logistical work over the next several weeks.

We don't have time to be pushing desks around. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Worcester School Committee: Budget update and fall planning meeting

The agenda is posted here.
Allen: To the best that we know at this time
ASBO /AASA costs that would be needed for cleaning, supplies, nursing, custodial
average district of $1.7M; 10-14% of our size
estimate for us would be $12.7M

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Early literacy: Board of Ed

Report on early literacy: the slide deck isn't posted, but there's a backup here.
Director of Literacy and Humanities Katherine Tarca did the presentation.
This is an outgrowth of DESE's 2019 Literacy Strategic Plan, which set as priorities "high quality core instruction" and "evidence-based early literacy." This report speaks to the latter.
There is grave concern regarding not simply early literacy but demographic differences among our students in literacy; grade three MCAS is the earliest statewide data available and "suggests that many, many of our children are not developing early literacy and writing": 
The Department will issue literacy guidance to the field related to early literacy in order:
  • to provide information about reading and writing acquisition and instruction based in current evidence
  • to describe evidence-based literacy practice to seek to have used in schools and in ed prep programs
  • to compile quality instructional resources and useful references
Teaching is "an extremely complex activity" and DESE heard in developing the strategic plan of the wish for trusted resources
content will be on the Department website
new "Literacy Champions" advisory panel, also national and international researches engaged in
will be developing guidelines about reading difficulties
will be capturing video of excellent teaching 
will offer early grades literacy grant for PD and instructional resources
Department-led professional development : conference and networks
develop free resources PD and curricular materials
new tools for ed prep, as well
DESE has also applied for the Comprehensive State Literacy Development grant; applied for about $20M from fed; "extensive support to our high need districts in support" awards expected to be announced in August

Moriarty: "incredibly excited" about this work
"systematic racism exists in a lot of different places...and we have to call that out and we have to own it and we have to act with real attention"
"otherwise whatever statement we want to make is a platitude"
disparities between Holyoke and the surrounding communities
impact on children's lives if they're not going into fourth grade reading proficiently
"I've been living with the third grade MCAS ever since"
"If it doesn't start right, it doesn't tend to get right, in any endeavor in life, and that includes K-12 education"
"something like this cannot stand"
"if we can provide the resources and the intentionality and support"

West: echo enthusiasm for this initiative
"because of the equity implications that he's spelled out so clearly"
aligning current practice with research done elsewhere
what students need to be come proficient readers
appreciate that it extends into educator preparation as well
also issues with the MTEL
Peske: revising the grounds on which teacher ed programs are evaluated
"evidenced based early literacy" training will be part of that
also including in networks and conferences
Tarca: MTEL is not revised continually, only occasionally
dovetails perfectly with this guidance
foundations of reading test; reading specialist test; general curriculum test; early childhood test
reading specialists seen as reading experts in their buildings, really giving them up-to-date knowledge

Rouhanifard: have seen firsthand the imporance of phonics, phonemic awareness
how it connects to CURATE and the overall curricular network for our schools?
Tarca: curricular materials that are in use in schools often dictate pedagogy and how students are taught
have worked to ensure as we review curricular materials for CURATE
discovering many of the products on the market have gaps in them
hoping for funding to produee open source reading materials
"there is no one thing that a school can go out and buy"
high level literacy development includes phonics and phonemic awareness, and also, equally important, includes authentic engagement with text and language and language-based materials
"both of those are evidence-based practices and both of those are provided in our guidance"

Hills: what districts do you expect to take advantage of this?
Tarca: sense is these resources will have broad relevance
virtually all of our districts are interested in best practices
Hills: do you expect broad interest?
Tarca: different districts take different approaches to early literacy that are in different spaces in aligning with best practices
Peske: if federal grant is received will be targeted at highest need districts
multi-prong report

Stewart: "anti-racist MCAS notwithstanding"
have a whole cohort of students who are far behind due ot COVID
outreach for parents?
Tarca: web based and interactive
designed to be navigable by parents and families
series of webinars in center of instructional support for educators
planning for re-entry
look at a valid and reliable screening assessment
Stewart: anything that the Department can do to ameliorate costs for screening and such
what is the direct actual outreach that is planned for families; how are parents supposed to know that this is a resource
Tarca: at least one assessment approved is free; typical cost is $1 to $7 per pupil
Peske: try to have stakeholders in mind in design
would welcome invitation with parent groups from anyone on the Board
hope that federal grant would eleviate some of cost of doing some of this work

Morton: offer enthusiastic support
would like to hear more in future "is the why behind it's important for us to do this work"
economic and social determinants impacted by third grade reading