Wednesday, December 22, 2021

December Board of Ed laterblog

 Due to the Board changing their meeting to a Friday (they meet on Tuesday) fairly short notice (and this after they cancelled their November meeting at the last minute), I didn't get a chance to watch the meeting live. Here's a blog of meeting as watched afterwards. The agenda is here.

Public comment:

Eighth grader comment on mask mandate enforcement being inconsistent in observers not wearing masks in athletic competitions when athletes are, and some teachers not wearing masks during the day
I think this was supposed to be anti-mask testimony, but that isn't clear
Junior complaining about not being able to have gum in her mouth, about windows being open during class...students being made to feel bad about their choices not to wear masks, while they're hanging out without masks outside of schools...urges statewide mask choice.
Testimony questioning mask efficacy and vaccination of students; "you're not seeing results...what you're doing isn't working"
why are all these people taking their masks off to speak? 
Another adult anti-mask comment "when have we ever used our children has human shields to protect others?" All the time?
"You will give us no choice but to hold each and every one of you accountable"
Another adult anti-mask comment which is listing mitigations like drinking outside the classroom or eating outside or such
A request to not only eliminate the mask mandate as well as limit local districts' ability to implement mandates outside the state of emergency; concern, through tears, over impact on children
I didn't hear anything about being dying or being sick anywhere in there

Early education and literacy
Concord parent: all children have the right to read through an approach that is evidence-based
mandate and enforce the use of evidence based literacy curriculum
See the recent evaluation of Fountas and Pinnell for more on what the discussion is here

Chair Craven: a lot of good news
student member was accepted early to Harvard yesterday
teacher diversification moved during pandemic
to public comment: "we appreciate the frustration, we experience it ourselves, we're feeling it ourselves"
"elective surgery stopped at Children's Hospital due to children mental health cases"
"What are the metrics for success in that regard"
"the conscience of third grade reading sits on the Board in Member Moriarty"

Secretary Peyser:
ARP bill, $100M for ventilation in K-12, skills capital grants; $25M for other vocational/tech initiatives, $25M for YouthWorks, $10M for young adults who aged out, $10M for workforce in 766 schools, $10M for teacher diversity, $1M for training and assessing interpreters

Commissioner Riley:
vocational admission policy: report in January

Early literacy update: Riley "we've always struggled with third grade reading"
thinks the way "we've gone" with "an evidence-based model" is the way to go
I should note that there has been some concerned raised about the high number of school districts in Massachusetts that use F&P and continue to do so, so I'm not sure where he's getting that from
Heather Peske: early literacy prioritized several years ago, only intensified due to pandemic
introducing Katherine Tarca, director of literacy and humanities
"It's well known by this Board that achieving proficient literacy skills by grade three is a key to our students' future success"
linked to a number of outcomes future education, future employment, protect against potentially devastating academic struggles in later childhood and adolescence"
most recent third grade reading scores "not reassuring on this front"
only 50% met or exceeded or expectations in 2021
32% of Black students, 28% of Hispanic/Latino or former EL, 22% of students with disabilities
Black and Hispanic students declined from 2019 and gap widened
highest quality support for all students
Mass Literacy Guide: clear guidance on practices that are well-established
shift towards evidence-based literacy practices: GLEAM "Growing literacy equity across Massachusetts" $19M in federal grants
Early grades literacy grant: 2 years of  professional development
Free professional development online aligned to Mass Literacy Guide
early literacy tutoring for pandemic response; $85M in early literacy tutoring services, K-3 (via Governor's ESSER section)
Jennifer Hogan, literacy coordinator for Pentucket Regional
district was working with "leveled" or "balanced" literacy which was not reaching a large number of students
leveled reading programs "not reliably supported by research"
adjusted "some of our systems" and implement new ones and create a multi-tiered system of support
give teachers knowledge and tools needed to be successful teachers of reading; created literacy plan
adjustment to schedules for small group instruction "and then hired additional personnel to carry that out"
"using data to drive instruction" and hold data meeting
"already seeing a significant impact with tiered evidence based practices"
encourage staff learning
using CURATE to choose and purchase a new ELA curriculum
"21st century readers"
Peske: new aspect of work on literacy
critical that prospective teachers are learning evidence-based literacy as well as current teachers
DESE goal: by 2024-25 all early childhood, elementary, moderate disability teachers will be prepared for evidence-based early literacy
literacy-focused expectations for all relevant licensure programs
guidance and resources to support program improvements and enhancement
update MTEL to align with Mass literacy and curriculum frameworks 
nearly 70 educator programs in Mass, graduating 4200 educators that teach in MA, who teach 65,000 students a year
Moriarty: regulatory authority is the Board
connected to online network of people on "science of reading"
grassroots of teachers who want to know more
"and they are rowing the oars in the same direction"
"in the comments, there was a question: could we mandate this? Maybe we could, but should we"
persuasion over compulsion
in responding to a question, Hogan says the grassroots effort "can be a little bit trendy" and stresses literacy plan
Vice-chair Morton: what about in early education sector?
expansion of early childhood seats
expansion of statewide access to data, rather than starting with third grade
 Carris Livingston asks about parent involvement
Tarca: parents coming to online events put on by DESE
looking at a new section of the Mass Literacy guide
what literacy instruction should look like in schools
what about parents for whom English is not the first language?
Tarca: have not communicated with parents directly as yet; have begun a stakeholder engagement campaign
Peske: high quality instructional materials, assumption then is that students can take those home
West: excited about this goal, ambitious given how hard it is to change higher education
wonder how to speed this along
those trained in a different way "won't be particularly well equipped" to provide the opportunists
could it be done online?
Peske: goal is tied to revision of formal review process
building a methods program
welcoming of revisions; variation in the field in terms of what they're teaching and appetite for shifting what they're teaching
Fernández: importance of parent engagement
parent piece as part of teacher prep program; built into mindset of educators
GLEEM grant: what schools are you working with and how are they chosen
how to encourage districts to participate who don't and should
Hogan: interested in not just dollars but guidance to develop a literacy plan and enact multi-tiered system of support
prioritizing districts with more students in poverty and English learners
connecting with targeted assistance districts
Lombos: what does culturally responsive look like?
Hogan: evidence-based practices scientifically based
delivered with a culturally responsive lens
choosing books in which students can see themselves
Topics of interest and relevance
involvement with families

COVID update from Commissioner Riley:
"continues to inform district and school leaders in new developments in COVID-19"
mask mandate: at least Jan. 15; had planned on an announcement this week, but too fast with omicron, will see in early January
remains in effect til January 15
refine and expand test and stay program; now EEC before and after school programs
promote vaccinations: sent a letter out to leaders earlier this fall to promote vaccinations
also a template letter
was that it? they're not using their voice to advocate for it?
school year to date: communities with lower vaccinations rates have had higher cases
vaccines critical 
Doctor to speak to board about vaccinations
starting to hear about breakthrough cases in fully vaccinated adults
"imploring all adults who work with students in the K-12 sector to go get their booster shots at this time"
will continue to hold webinar and FAQ
Doctor: vaccine is safe and effective
Dose of vaccine is not based on weight but is based on maturity of immune system
lines of parents getting their children vaccinated
trials demonstrated 97% in preventing symptomatic COVID
also safe to receive flu and other vaccines; protect children across the board
while children don't tend to get COVID "however they are not immune to serious outcomes"
some evidence that they spread COVID to adults
"these are children: 172 have died"
Top ten causes of death this past year for this age group
mental health crisis: "none of [my patients]...have told me it's because I have to take this vaccine, they haven't said it's because I have to wear this mask"
"it's because of that" (not going to school...which is not borne out by the research...)
vaccines at preventing severe illness
West: concern over side-effects
Doctor: (in sum: COVID is worse)
Carris Livingston: if a vaccinated person gets COVID, are they as likely to spread it?
they can still spread it to someone else, including a child under 5 who has not been vaccinated
Hills: potential impact of cities and towns having their own mask requirements?
"does that essentially eliminate the benefit"
Doctor: it's obviously hard to predict
reduction in respiratory illnesses last year; "one of the variables is that we were wearing masks"
getting back those respiratory illnesses
hoping that those districts that decide not to have masks have most people vaccinated, hope that they don't get infections that are severe
continue assessing the data
Craven: this is not our primary focus here
"but we're not the end of this discussion here" as decisions will be made locally
"what's the measure of success we can see"
Riley: "we're a local control state" once the state stops the state mandate
Craven: when do we get to stop talking about this thing that's taking away from all of the other things on our agenda
Riley: something on agenda in January
Craven: ask one of those communities that has gone mask optional to present
Hills: "ability to keep students in school full-time in person" is priority
"data on hospitalizations and deaths" matter, but if those are zero but infections are increasing, that's not a good outcome
if that can happen without a material increase on students in remote learning
"that is the lens through which I look at it"
Riley: essentially order districts back to school last year
make good decisions on behalf of kids
boosters for adults in education space; if immunity is waning, and we have more cases in our teachers, we could need to shut down
Craven: question I really have is "what's the measure of success: is it cases or hospitalizations"
Riley: think we have to look at hospitalizations and deaths, not cases


the livestream only came back after people started speaking...Member Moriarty is talking about third grade reading again?

Moriarity: need for professional development for teachers, investment 
"lengthy, detailed, a lot you need to know"
appropriate level of ESSER funds to invest in reading or "we're going to look at it with permanent regret for the rest of our lives"
administrators in a field "that had nothing to do in reading"
"strong professional development and probably licensure-related requirements"
"don't all of them have literacy as a highlight in districts that have less than half of their kids reading proficiency: no they don't"
something that should be looked at
Peyser: "when children are falling off track or need interventions to avoid falling off track"
Need for "screening and assessments"
give parents information "so they can advocate on behalf of their students"
"don't necessarily need to overreact to every data point that you receive"
critical that interventions happen; address those issues as they occur
"deeper oversight" on training of new teachers using evidence-based practices
"having something that is closer to requirement for that"
"it may need a little more push on our part"
"building a coalition of the willing may be the best path to get there" but it's a slow process and our children "don't have the time to wait"

Budget committee: Hills reporting
budget should reflect priorities and goals of the Department and the Commissioner, and that is discussed and approved by the Board
"shouldn't really be a change out of a budget guideline committee from what has already been approved"
goals and priorities discussed, prioritized
"not all goals and priorities will have funding"
he doesn't mention the priorities
"I don't even know if there's a vote we need to take"
Peyser notes this is a recommendation to him
"unusual year" state resources through the normal budget process, but also federal funds
variety of revenue sources that could be applied over and above
Bill Bell: that's why the Board is giving us a charge to work on a series of priorities
"it's very helpful"
"support of the Commissioner's agenda allows us to figure out with the budget writers how best to fund this"

Educator Diversification update
Riley thinks "we are way ahead on this, a leader in this field"
Fernández: committee has reconvened, very excited about work that's taken place
Regina Robinson, deputy commissioner
"critical to success of Massachusetts"
programming and pilots
presentation is here
Shay Edmond, Senior Associate Commissioner for Strategic Initiatives
longer presentation than the Board often gets
not just what but why
Commissioner's "Our Way Forward" report including deeper learning for all
innovation and evidence-based practices
identifying and support teacher diversification
supports needed for our current educators, creating environment that is sustaining to students
diversification theory of action
starts with three overarching main reasons why people of color don't enter teaching:

  1. belief there are better financial rewards in other professions
  2. financial and testing barriers to entering the profession
  3. negative experience in K-12 education
three areas to focus on to move forward towards goal of more diverse workforce
plan then is to:
  1. provide financial supports and benefits to educators of color
  2. advertise the benefits of becoming a teacher
  3. improve the experiences of students and teachers in our schools
to recruit and retain a more diverse and culturally responsive workforce
(does that leave out the testing barrier piece?)
then a strategy to carry out those three areas
on financial supports: identifying funding and "a legal framework when needed" for financial supports as needed to enroll and complete educator certification programs
vouchers or "other financial means" for MTEL and preparation courses
scholarships for students but also for paraprofessionals seeking a bachelor's degree
on advertising: a multi-media ad campaign
demystify some of the myths out there
MassTeach campaign: benefits of the educator profession
educators of colors often feel isolated; can also create community
on improving experience: programming list
academic, social-emotional to change environment that students are learning in and teachers are teaching in
select DESE-led initiatives
MTEL being taken more than once; financial support enabling that
maybe they could not do the MTEL, instead?
Guidebook at creating best practices
alternative assessment; emergency licensure
led to more teachers of color entering the profession
working to support the retention of these teachers
educator effectiveness talent guide 
home mortgage benefits
professional learning communities
leadership academies, Inspired fellowship, Influence 100 fellows programs
data on how we are doing; "the early results are promising"
state overall versus those receiving state grants; state is doing better than before, but districts with grants even more
retention: "recruitment is important, retention is even more important"
equally promising results so far
being done to better support the students in the Commonwealth that the state has historically underserved
not only in testing: discipline rates, access to high quality course work
"a different educational experience"
New data dashboard
scale high school pathway
Craven: would like to celebrate growth already
West: should talk about it over base rate
emphasize share of teachers statewide, share of teachers of students of color perspective
it's important for all children, though
"if I'm a student of color in the state...what are the chances that I will have an educator of color"
Moriarity: see it in mapping as well as bar graphs
Morton: potential partnerships with community based organizations, get in front of high school teachers
Carris Livingston: isolation of educators of color; what is being done on that?
Edmond: how to understand the lived experience of teachers in buildings; work being done around bias and unconscious bias, access to opportunity
"money alone isn't going to change all of our issues"
shift longstanding principles, beliefs, perspectives
Lombos: education of the entire board, work of the team at DESE
pilot put in place: MTEL as not the path "for where we thrive"
once dashboard is up, it won't just be educators looking at it; will be every professional looking to diversity
Hills: increase of retention
Edmond: points in the pipeline when we see a drop-off of educators, particularly of color, often in three year timespan
how else might DESE support schools and districts in this
Hills: getting interest and involvement from all districts most likely to benefit?
Edmond: was focused on schools and districts with most students of color, but data clear of positive impact on all students, so expansion of focus has happened
"tapestry is quite large and robust"
Craven notes one pager sent to White House on this issue

pilot student achievement award program
students of color "who were initially designated as gifted lost that designation within a few years"
"certainly part of the reason may be that we aren't challenging our kids and meeting them where they are"
piloting competency-based schools
"but there may be a communication problem...they may never have been told that they are having this achievement"
"while this one is based on strict achievement...I'm just as interested in improvement"
"I also wonder sometimes if we talk more about the consequences than the celebrations for our kids"
small gift cards "letting them know, we see you"
we're heard that letting kids know can help them sustain gains
Robinson: this is student-centered
"we're able to present some good shine some light on students who have done a good job in the pandemic"
"we recognize that students are encouraged by their teachers, by their principals"
"this is an opportunity for students to be recognized by their district leaders, by state leaders"
"recognize students for a job well done"
innovation and partnership, looking to have others partner with us in this recognition opportunity
"supporting the trajectory of high needs students"
Edmond: proposed award program to students who children of color, of disability, of economic disadvantaged
will be available to students who achieved on the MCAS-Alt as well
Robinson: important for students not to lose the distinction that these students have achieved in a pandemic
"have heard over and over again about how students have been struggling, but have we heard enough about the students who have been achievement"
certificate from commissioner, superintendent, school leader
resources for their parents to support their trajectory of high achievement
Edmond: write thank you notes to teachers
"how do we ensure that teachers that have had the opportunity of teaching them are aware of that successes"
"to simply allow students if they wish to thank educators in their excellence"
"certainly not something that would be required"
but recognizing communication and the lack of it why is it up to the kids to make that communication happen?
Hills: "I think this is terrific"
asks why he has to approve it
Commissioner: Board has the authority to establish these types of programs
"as we evolve in education, we may want to spend more time celebrating our students"
Hills: a nice lead-in
"as a Board member, I feel that this is what we want to see: new ways of thinking from the team, new ways of thinking about issues; they don't have to be big picture policy issues"
"I think it's a good direction"
"this is the mark of a successful management team and the way you interact with the Board"
Stewart: thanks for background and what drives this effort
data tells us that high needs students struggle with high achievement; an effort to acknowledge their effort seems laudable
as a parent of a student with special needs, not particularly high needs, among the most resilient students who continue to retake the test, many times, to hopefully pass the test
feel conflict: the whole class, the whole class celebrates the student and the educators
"I think we all need to be aware that for high needs students...many teachers would need to work with the student to help them write a thank you note"
might be more meaningful if their boss, and the Department would acknowledge the educators who work with them every day
"It doesn't give me an overwhelmingly good feeling somehow" but will support a pilot
"these flags go up for me"
Robinson: noting the challenges while also noting the desire to celebrate
"what we are trying to honor is that balance"
"the Commissioner have been leading this charge" particularly where we are "we are wanting to note that students have succeeded"
Carris Livingston: important to recognize students who have achieved highly and are working hard
wanted to talk to the executive committee of the student advisory council
"the gut reaction was also we had some concerns about this"
MCAS "continues to be a pretty contentious issue on the council"
"achievement extends beyond standardized testing"
on the thank you notes: having an administrator thank the teachers
can be the interpretation that these students couldn't achieve this by their own merits
"there's an expectation that the student has to thank the teacher for that"
we don't have other students who have achieved highly thank their teachers for this
hope that there....the sound on the recording started going in and out at this point
West: mixed reaction to the idea; cash incentive award for students to work harder, mixed records
signaling to students that they are succeeding
then will be able to look at students who barely missed it versus who did
"I've come around to it, and I think it's worth trying."
Lombos: "I'm a big fan. I love to celebrate our accomplishments."
share concern on MCAS
Would be great to have further discussion on what is being lifted up
"would hate to go backwards" on stressing test scores
"go on record that tying it to the MCAS is not something I would like to support"
Fernández: how long within the time frame? whole sections of what she's saying are missing from the recording
"let's hear what the students find to be validating"
"want to hear about school culture...what does it mean if kids are hearing they're being celebrated"
how do we know that they are not?
considering that in that pilot
Riley: at least three years to get valuable data
performance is great, but so is growth
"the bigger issue is we're finally talking about celebrating kids, which has been something that we've been lacking in the Commonwealth"
Craven: was looking to be a Commonwealth Scholar in the 1990's and didn't get there because the program was cut
Moriarty: "I'm a fan....I just want to lift up thank you notes"
gratitude is part of where our character comes from
Morton: parental resources?
also ways to figure out recognizing growth
Robinson: providing caregivers with information on best practices for families to engage in ELA and math
resources in their communities, within DESE
"work with a vendor to curate a set of resources" to support their students or continue to support their students
provide information in a way that we hope can be easily accessible to the adults
Morton: I would encourage you to think of other incentives
"at some point, you're going to come back to us and say '$25 is not enough'"
"Great idea"

Science MCAS: Chemistry and Technology assessment
Riley: high school students have access to different tests for science; these two are rarely chosen
"is it worth spending our resources" on something so rarely used?
Curtin: discussion and possibly a vote at January meeting about these two assessments in 10th grade
students in the class of 2010 were first to be required to take and pass a science assessment: biology, physics, chemistry, technology & engineering
new frameworks then adopted in 2016; prior to the pandemic, were moving on to updated biology and technology and engineering; now will be coming this spring
numbers of students taking technology & engineering and chemistry tests has been decreasing over time and is significantly smaller than the number of students taking the biology (which is the most) and physics
students are still taking these courses; they aren't taking the MCAS tests
question is to devote resources to developing the next generation of these tests
"and these resources are not small" both in terms of human resources and monetary resources
proposing to continue offering the chemistry and technology & engineering this year and next year, which would cover the current students in high school
for students in the class of 2026 and beyond (current 8th grade) only biology and physics
would offer more times to take these two tests
once the resources have balanced versus the amount of kids taking this assessment the recommend is to not offer chemistry and technology & engineering
answering questions today; vote in January
notify schools, particularly those schools that have more taking these tests
Hills: understand and have no problem with it
looking at number of students taking two tests; that's not mirrored by a drop in the number taking the courses
are they not taking these tests because it's earlier, because it's easier?
are we offering a disincentive
Curtin: don't think so; think of MassCore and requirement for lab sciences; think also of sequence of courses
Rouhanifard: we talked about this 
"it's the inevitable outcome given the incentives we've put into place"
"students in schools tend to take the path of least resistance"
bio is in ninth grade "it's a higher pass rate--correct me if I'm wrong--than the other tests"
would argue "we've devalued the other science subjects"
agree with that MCAS is complicated
"but ultimately you measure what you value"
"it's more a symptom of a problem"
higher income communities that are going to deliver these subject
may send a signal that you don't have to offer these higher courses
this is really really incorrect; these are 10th grade tests; and they are looking at data showing that there is no correlation between the MCAS tests taken and the coursework
Fernández: what signal does this send to jobs in the future
Think additional thinking needs to happen around our broader priorities
Peyser: costs don't justify the returns
as we make this transition, "send the right signal"
encourage continued course taking and rigor
there may be a case to be made the AP standards don't necessarily track into our standards
may want to see if there are end of course assessments that we think is worthwhile
computer science may be another
there are also industry-recognized credentials
Carris Livingston: this is supposed to be a standardized test, are there enough students taking the test to identify an objective standard
Curtin: multiple years of data, standards have not been changed
West: there might be a problem going forward
Carris Livingston: is it actually a concern or is it a hypothetical
Curtin: don't believe there is a relation so far between the assessment and the enrollment in the courses
Moriarty: lifting up the pathways as a young student
often frighten math and science students away from it 

Modification of conditions for City on a Hill Charter School
Riley: "we're in a time of change"
chart what that change looks like moving forward
ed reform had run its course, pandemic put that into stark relief
accountability designations: when you do those things it has consequences on the system
Chuang: recognize the realities of COVID
ensuring the time they have to demonstrate what they need to demonstrate given the realities of COVID

adjourned until January

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