Friday, December 18, 2020

"There are Brooklines all over the country, but none is quite so Brookline as the actual Brookline."

 This one is about the actual Brookline and the school reopening debate, but there is SO much that is more broadly applicable. 

As a class, Brookline parents might be summed up as: people who can and will fluently cite to you the data about how a child’s socioeconomic circumstances and parents’ educational background actually matter more for their achievement in the long term than the specifics of their schooling. And yet they still can’t stop themselves from trying to maximize their own kid’s shot. Because, mostly, people move to Brookline for the schools.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

December 2020 Board of Ed: update on budget

state and federal resources
FY21 budget was signed late last week: approach six month mark of fiscal '21
pretty consistent what we had seen in the conference report
$53M grant in conference committee was going to go out formulaic aid
Gov instead in a grant structure that DESE would administer with Executive Office "to help remedy all of the concerns that have been relayed...over learning loss and additional needs"
circuit breaker fully funded; reimbursement as high as have been
federal side: Congress has to act by Friday on spending
different versions of bills 
working with administration on FY22 state budget

Peyser: administration of $53M "a more targeted and strategic approach" to learning loss "in particular as well as other challenges"

December 2020: Board of Ed: Vocational

 I am jumping late
there's new wait list data coming "to inform the discussion" this spring
root causes in enrollment disparities
new equity focus initiatives: streamlined and consolidated monitoring; after dark programs; COVID related reopening guidance
emergency reopening information

more coming on this one

December Board of Ed: pandemic learning including emergency regulations

 Riley: air purifiers
webinars on air quality
contracted for over 12,000 air purifiers
MEMA distribution of adult and student masks, 1 1/2 million masks out to districts
P-EBT benefits extended through Sept 2021
no word on when it's coming
Postpone MCAS January for juniors
extended ACCESS testing window
modified CDs for class of 2021: science for classes of 21, 22, 23
high school senior internships in education
$33M in federal funds for technology and internet access
prioritized those with fewer resources
back and forth here with Mary Ann Stewart about what the internship looks like

Riley: vaccine coming February and March to educators
CDC reports increases in mental health visits for young people
struggle with remote and even hybrid learning
emergency regulation: born out of a concern of mental health challenges for children

president of pediatrics "children have fortunately been spared" the effects of COVID-19
mitigation has led to significant harm to our youth
prior to pandemic, struggled to find timely and appropriate mental health services for students
I am going to miss these stats, which are coming from a single doctor, in any case
"we all know we're going through difficult time and it sucks"
sometimes all you can do is be with them and say "yes, it sucks"
fight or flight response...there's a whole thing that I think is supposed to be an analogy...this is going on forever...
"we're going to lose more kids to suicide than we will to the virus"
suicide has been the number 2 or 3 killer of kids before COVID

Mass Advocates for Children: strong support for emergency regulations
"all children have opportunities to learn in real time with their teachers and their peers"
coping with pandemic
anxiety and depression, falling behind academically
isolation from teachers and peers "entirely predictable" that many students are experiencing mental health issues
seeking connections with others through the internet to replace those missing in real life
difficulties with remote learning through technology and translation

Moriarty: this resonates with me in a very big way
"I'm not sure our overall mental health system for children available as it was in the 90's"
students "being in isolation for all of 2020"
"we cannot just sit with the status quo which is what I think many of those speakers asked us to do"
kids ended up in in-patient services because there weren't earlier interventions
connect dots "to end the isolation" from schools and communities
doctor: ....he's telling a story about a patient again...
rates for child abuse are down, teachers see more of it than doctors
"have to have a trusted adult...families that don't have the resources, don't have the ability" to deal with all of this

Morton: tell us why this is the solution
Doctor: two thirds of districts are already doing it
"speaks to me of the recognition" of the importance 
"not just teaching; you're raising a nation"
"neglect and isolation is harmful to kids"
"recommendation to me says...if we're going to be the safety net to protect our kids"
"have a teacher look after them, check in with them"
Morton: there's nothing that I find disagreeable, it all makes logical sense
but I am also "struck by the raging coronavirus in our communities of color in particular"
"is this the time, is this the moment" as opposed to waiting a few weeks for the virus to calm down
suspect that districts not doing it right now are those serving the most vulnerable
their families are those being challenged by the virus
this is founded on the idea of caring adults wants to be in that relationship
"a forced relationship is not the one that we want"
doctor: "the teachers need to be cared for, too. If teachers are convinced that we care for them, they are free to care for students."
insert hollow laugh
"so the solution is care for them, guys...for me, it's about developing a relationship of trust"
"we need the teachers to be well"
advocate: in terms of health and safety concerns...this proposed regulation really provides "a nice balance" between those concerns "and the mental health and well being of children"
"where they're left a list of assignments" with no contact, no ability for them to check in, "creating a situation where that is really lacking" or "if it's half a day"
doctor: looking at this specific proposal, I think...and then he talks about his own son
have to look at the data on what is happening within the schools; schools are not driving this pandemic
"that is a message I am trying to get out"
"if we're not keeping them safe"

Peyser: we're starting to get into the conversation about the regulations themselves
"really insightful...much deeper level of understanding of how this is impacting children and families"
believe that more students need to be in person 
engage daily with teachers and classmates: critical not only to educational process, but to social emotional and mental health
spike in ER visits
"we know that one way to a daily routine of interaction" with teachers and friends
"most districts that are falling short...only need to add a few hours"
can have a waiver
"averaged across all grades" in order to differentiate
further guidelines and recommendations for early learners
"will establish a common but flexible baseline" across the state
urge Board to vote in favor

Lombos: hearing testimony from expert educators at beginning, then from mental health experts
"I don't like that dichotomy" in testimony
I think we're in agreement "there's a huge problem" 
People are starving, they're unemployed
"what I would have liked for you to dialogue...and actually talk about this policy"
"hearing that the quality of time is more important than the quantity"
"I'm not sure this gets at what we're trying to address"
"the intent of these regulations I'm not sure meet what these goals are"
"this is a false dichotomy...I don't think this addresses the magnitude of this crisis"
would have wanted to ask qualitative and quantitative question to superintendents as well
doctor: important of dialogue
"have had children defend their abusive parent"
"you guys will have to come up with a I know you're looking out for the things I can't see"
advocate: have never met a teacher who didn't want to connect to children
"children are really just...there are so many students whose needs aren't being met"
"having minimum the first step"
following this...there will be additional guidance
"there will be opportunities to have discussions with teachers, with mental health professionals"

Coughlin: "not sure how more hours of live instruction" will lead to more connection
"no sense of deeper connection" in sitting six feet apart or on a zoom call
"assumption that more time learning synchronously will" create deeper connections "is false"
rather than expanding the safety net "what would be better than to catch students when they're falling is to prevent them from falling"

Stewart: time and mental space that this takes up is enormous
Has shone a big light on all the holes everywhere
"have just seen this pile up of all kinds of things"
"the challenges at home leave a big gap there in positive learning environments"
"we were taking for granted a lot of what educators were doing for kids"
educators who appeared today spoke to that, "and wanting to be seen and heard"
"have some serious concerns if more time on screens" is going to catch kids in crisis
"what resources...more than guidelines! what resources are going to be available to educators on the other side of the screen"
"need to constantly be working together towards the greater good on this"
doctor: feel that in this situation, this will help
not going to be the end of the process
Stewart: it's the only means we have; it's the best means available
what can we do that's going to support the other third of districts
"and I don't think that these have come from a lot of conversations with classroom educators"

December 2020 Board of Ed: opening remarks

 You can find the agenda here, the livestream here, posting as we go

Public testimony:
Dianne Kelly, Superintendent of Revere 
Bob Baldwin, Superintendent of Fairhaven (MASS President)

Baldwin: listening to superintendents and being their voice is something I've been honored to do
since March, we've had the unpredictable happen
has always been about social emotional, getting students fed, connectivity, and "of course loss of learning"
an initiative to support learning should be supported
concerns about how regulations will be implemented
compliance may overshadow engagement
timing "with almost half of our year completed"
"our educators are our lifeblood"
but the superintendents "are our implementers"
take initiatives from DESE, work with school committees, speak with stakeholders
"very serious decisions" starting in March
"always about emergency learning"
plans for next year "immediately began" as soon as last year ended
looked at classroom configuration, reviewed and vetted plans
"reflected unique...circumstances" of districts
submitted plans in August
"in many cases, we exhausted financial and human capital, but also political capital"
"pivoting this aircraft" midyear without resources
regulations without resources "nothing but political fodder"
"synchronous learning does not necessarily equate to connection"
confident "we will be labelled winners and losers"
ask that you communicate with superintendents before making judgments
"make sure you see the story of each district"
"take a qualitative look" as well as a quantitative one

Kelly: "agree that effective engagement and quality instruction" are key
"disagree that counting hours of synchronous learning equates to either of these"
"although we meet the mark in elementary" miss the mark at middle and high
"not evident" that responses played any role in department's evaluation
meeting with small groups for instruction necessitates some asynchronous learning
teachers collaborating also requires it, as does connection with families
only way to meet mandate is to increase whole group instruction
if being considered out of concern on SEL and connection, this does not meet it
Revere's way of doing it better meets these goals
reviews the work that Revere is doing now
"contrived regulations"

Piwowar Billerica: share concerns
"do not believe these regulations are the right way to achieve these goals"
regulations rely on faulty assumption that synchronous learning is synchronous with engagement and that time is what matters
"these regulations value these" over engaging one
second concern is timing of release
"it is only now at the eleventh hour that these regulations are trying to provide blueprints for a building that has already been built"
third: concern with routines that have already happened, agreements made "in good faith by both sides"
"we should all be spending time" on quality of engagement
getting vaccine out
rebuilding partnerships

sorry, missed Jerry, was catching up

president Haverhill Educators Association
unfortunate we were unable to conduct this meeting remotely
request Board not require testimony
over 100 local teachers unions have taken a vote of no confidence in Commissioner Riley
"a grassroots action" that start with several locals, supported but not proposed by MTA
representing over 50,000 MTA members
Commissioner "continuously moves the goalposts as the pandemic worsens"
"simply redefined what it meant to be high risk"
"without having any conversations with teachers and their unions
teachers "are trying with our superintendents and our school committees to hold this fragile" system of remote learning together
"has all but stopped conferring" with teachers and unions
stop trying to overrule local decisions
call for conferring with educators and their locals before decisions are made

president of Malden teachers union
"having a vaccine doesn't eliminate the need for" surveillance testing
"health and safety measures should not be zip code dependent"
"how do you actually know what the actual transmission is in schools" if there's no regular testing of asymptomatic 
"Educators and students are both contracting COVID-19 in schools"
calls for reallocating funding of MCAS to COVID testing

president of Worcester teachers union
many schools are old, aged ventilation
district is improving that but in the meantime not safe
Commissioner has tried to pressure Worcester to open rather than providing guidance and resources

Superintendents of regional vokes
Keefe Tech: demographics of district and demographics of sending districts
Greater Fall River: my district was ID as a school with concerning demographics
options that were presented to fix it
access to students limiting students that can admit
Southeastern Regional: demographic very reflective of sending districts
interest in vocational education is increasing
propose adding an equity/opportunity factor

Chair Craven: asks Fernández for update on educator diversification initiative
Fernández: impressive to see all the progress that has been made
teacher diversification grant, Influence 100, INSPIREd fellows, DESE racial equity training
committee will meet again in February

Peyser will defer to learning time

Commissioner defers to later

Monday, December 14, 2020

Nine years on

 It's nine years on from the terrible shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, and we still, as I reflected two years ago, have not dealt with that main problem that plagues us. By "us" here, I mean the United States.

I was thinking today, though, not of Friday, December 14, 2012, but of Monday, December 17, 2012, when I and so many other parents hugged our kids a little tighter and then put them back onto school buses or walked them to the door and let them go. 

We place a lot of trust in schools in this country. 

We also place a lot on schools in this country.

We don't place common sense limits on weaponry, yet schools are to keep children physically safe.

We don't provide adequate access and support for mental health, yet schools are to provide for such care.

We don't ensure families have enough to feed themselves, yet schools are to be sure students are fed.

We don't provide the facilities funding needed, yet schools are to have buildings that can safely fit and provide for their ever-changing school population.

We make no massive investment in technology equity, yet schools are to have their students online and technologically apt. 

We don't wish to make changes to overcome the outcomes of systemic racism, yet schools are to ensure their students overcome the consequences of that. 

The list could go on forever. 

And the pandemic has of course just brought this into sharper relief: school buildings must be open to feed children and provide childcare and heal students' mental health crises and provide technology access and overcome the achievement/access/opportunity gap...

Schools have never been able to do it all, 'though not for lacking of trying. We need, though, a societal recognition of our civilization's responsibility for all of our children. 

Not just the ones that look like us or live in our town or speak our language. All our children. 

Saturday, December 12, 2020

Things I have been reading this week

 As always, most of this has probably made its way out to the universe through my other social media postings, but I like having things where I can find them again. 

  • Just out this week in Der Spiegel is a piece on a long term study going on in Austria, which is regularly testing children. They've found: 
    But Wagner's study doesn't just demonstrate that the number of unreported cases among children and their teachers is relatively high. The mass tests also show that younger children are by no means exempt from infection by SARS-CoV-2. Indeed, there was no significant difference to infection rates among adults. Furthermore, schools in poorer areas were found to have 3.5 times as many positive results as elsewhere, which is consistent with generally higher infection rates in lower income neighborhoods. 


    All of these findings have cast doubt on the idea that children are less affected than teenagers. And they have shown that almost half of infected children show no symptoms. Meanwhile, an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States found that asymptomatic cases are potentially responsible for more than half of all infections.

  • This is actually from the beginning of last month, but every time I hear Governor Baker or someone else reference "longitudinal studies," I am reminded that this is so far the largest one I have seen that includes schools, and its conclusion was this: 
    Children’s return to classrooms was followed by an average 24-per-cent rise in the R transmission number, University of Edinburgh researchers found after analysing data from 131 countries.

     The only measure that was associated with a higher increase was lifting the ban on small gatherings.

  • This thread from Dr. Zoe Hyde, an epidemiologist in Australia, further illustrates how (to use her word) "wonky" trying to suss out children and coronavirus is. Kids don't necessarily consistently test positive even when they have it. 

  • This report on a recent study from Korea regarding cases from a restaurant has us all looking at our measurements and air flow again.

  • Given that Imperial College study from about two weeks ago that I referenced here, I've been keeping an eye on the U.K. and here's the latest of what their teachers think of the plans.

  • I've been neglecting the ways in which school buildings being opened and closed around the country is going and being received, but of note from this week was Governor Raimondo of Rhode Island--the state with highest per capita rate of coronavirus in the country--pretty extensively going after superintendents who are (or have been) going remote, which was not well received, which she later apologized to some for. Also, this whole mess in Arizona (there's some reporting from elsewhere there, too), leading to a superintendent resigning after his family was threatened by those who wanted schools open. 

Monday, December 7, 2020

updated WPS planning document

 As much for the ease in finding it as anything, you can find the updated planning document for the Worcester Public Schools here. This was sent to staff this afternoon and discussed in school faculty meetings. 

A few notes:
•It is a PLANNING document. That means that yes, it isn't all fleshed out yet.
• It is shared so that the staff can then continue forward in that planning, as was discussed at school staff meetings today.
• You will note two shifts that may be of interest:

  • • The date at which non-Group C students are entering buildings is pushed back to early March.
  • • The hybrid plan allows for two days for students due to the small number of students who opted for the hybrid alternative.
• The instructional models vary both by grade and by school.