Archives for category: Massachusetts

This is funny.

Politico reports:

“BAY STATE SMACKDOWN: Education Secretary Arne Duncan penned a glowing tribute in the Boston Globe [http://bit.ly/1w1kx3J] this week praising the legacy of outgoing Gov. Deval Patrick in improving the state’s schools. “Quite simply,” he wrote, “Massachusetts leads the nation.” That raised the hackles of Jim Stergios, executive director of the conservative Pioneer Institute. He responded with his own op-ed [http://bit.ly/1BMUz8Z ], which opens with the line: “Who says Common Core advocates don’t like fiction?” Stergios notes that the big gains in Massachusetts test scores came before Patrick took office – and that scores have since dropped in several key areas, such as third-grade reading proficiency and SAT scores. Stergios blasts Patrick for abandoning Massachusetts’ famously high standards in favor of the Common Core. He’s even harsher on Duncan, suggesting that the secretary suffers from a “toxic mix of self-importance and the inability to see reality.”

A reader informsus that the auditor of Massachusetts recently released an audit of the state’s charter schools. Our reader offers some of the findings:

“Suzanne M. Bump, Auditor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has finished her audit of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s (DESE’s) oversight of the Commonwealth’s charter school system.

“Since 1996, Massachusetts has spent $4.3 billion on charters, and this report shows that DESE—known for its emphasis with local public school districts on data collection and data-driven-decision-making—doesn’t ensure (maybe they can’t) ensure the collection, storage, security, reliability, validity or the dissemination of THEIR data. Such data has been the used to determine policy affecting the future of Massachusetts School Districts since 2009.

“Here’s just a sampling of the report says:

•Charter school waitlist information maintained by DESE is not accurate. A lack of accurate waitlist information may result in ineffective planning and oversight, as well as policymaking consequences such as an inaccurate assessment of demand when charter school approval, renewal, or expansion applications are considered and when the Legislature makes decisions on changes to existing limitations on the number of charter schools.

•Operating under different statutory requirements, charter schools have lower percentages of licensed teachers than traditional public schools.

Additionally, charter school teacher salary levels average 75% of those at sending districts.

•The reliability and accuracy of charter school information in DESE’s data systems are questionable.

•The extent to which the charter school system has provided a successful mechanism for developing and disseminating replicable innovation models is not determinable.

•DESE was inconsistent in its decisions regarding whether to impose conditions for school charter renewal.

EduShyster pays a visit to Salem, Massachusetts, where “school choice” has enabled the affluent families to go to some highly-resourced schools, while the less-affluent go to less-resourced schools.

 

If you want to see how bizarre and brain-dead “reform” is, look no farther than Salem. There, the town has fallen in love with jargon and data, and looks to edupreneurs to solve all problems by supplying edumanure.

 

She writes:

 

“At the center of the Open System beats an edupreneurial heart, one belonging to Empower Schools, founded by edupreneur Chris Gabrieli, whose list of political connections is as long as an extended school day, and Bret Alessi, former Education Pioneer and current Mass 2020 visionary. What precisely Empower Schools does, other than BELIEVE IN OPEN SYSTEMS…and produce case studies like this one, remains a bit vague-ish. What I can tell you is that Empower has quickly one over powerful friends aka *aligned leaders,* like Massachusetts Commissioner of College and Career Readiness, Mitchell D. Chester, who recently sang Empower’s praises to the Boston Globe in a story on how school partnerships with edupreneurial groups like Empower are failing to produce results…..Everybody who is anybody
But I digress. The important thing is that the Salem schools bus is hurtling towards a new system, an Open System, and that everyone who is anyone appears to be on board, from the city’s politically ambitious mayor, to the members of the Salem Partnership, to the members of the Community Advisory Board of the Salem Partnership, to the members of the Salem Education Foundation. In other words, everybody who is anybody in the city is *highly aligned,* jargonically speaking, behind a vision of what the city’s students need to succeed. A *laser-like focus on instruction* and *frequent assessments.* The Open System comes with transportation — and to quote district leaders, *data drives the bus.* And that teachers don’t just want to teach, they want to Teach Plus co-captain the data bus.”

 

But what happens when one family says “No, we don’t want our child to take the tests?” Shockingly, the family won the right to opt out. They have been joined by five other families. Hopefully there will be more. How will the “data bus” function if there is no data? Stay tuned. Will the data bus veer out of control? Or will it continue to drive right over the cliff with the children of Salem?

 

 

In this post, EduShyster asks a question that more and more people are beginning to ask: Why don’t poor minority students get to have public schools?

 

There was much celebration and anticipation when the state announced it was building a new high-tech STEM school in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury called The Dearborn STEM Academy.

 

She writes:

 

Now if by chance you’ve yet to watch any of this season of As the School Turns: $70 Million Dollar Listing, here’s what you’ve missed so far. Things got off to a rousing start with the news that, after seven long seasons, the Dearborn STEM Academy was FINALLY going to get a brand new building. That sound you hear is the studio audience applauding wildly. You see, this was to be the first new public school building in Boston in more than a decade and would feature all sorts of cool STEM stuff, like state-of-the-art science, technology and engineering labs. This wasn’t just a feel good story, viewer, it was a feel great story as the $70 million project symbolized a major investment in Roxbury and in the future scientists, engineers and STEM-sters who live and go to school there.

 

But then the authorities decided it would not be a neighborhood public school but a citywide charter school. When there was strong negative reaction from the public, the city determined that the school would not be a charter but would be run by a private operator. EduShyster was suddenly reminded of what happened in Chicago:

 

If by chance you happen to be viewing this show from, say, Chicago, you’re probably feeling like this is a repeat. You see, on Chicago’s South Side a very similar battle has been playing out over the future of Dyett High School, the last open-enrollment high school in Bronzeville. After the Chicago Public Schools announced plans to close the school, students, parents and community leaders fought back, putting forward their own story line: for a community-based plan to make Dyett a neighborhood STEM school. And just like in Boston, officials in Chicago blinked. Dyett can stay open, but there’s a catch: a private operator will be brought in to run the school. Community organizer Jitu Brown—take it away. *Why can’t we have public schools? Why do low-income minority students need to have their schools run by private contractors?* As Brown sees it, handing the school to a private operator isn’t much better than closing it. *We want this school to anchor the community for the next 75 years. We’re not interested in a short-term contract that can be broken.*

 

That was not the conversation in Boston. The city is going to pick one of two finalists to run the $70 million school, both private contractors. Did anyone mention the word “privatization”?

This article in Jacobin magazine describes the astonishing victory of the Massachusetts Teachers Association in a recent confrontation with the state board of education and the state commissioner. The state commissioner floated a proposal to remove teachers’ licenses if they failed their evaluation, a draconian step that would bar the teacher from teaching in the state in the future. The MTA, under the leadership of recently elected president Barbara Madeloni, informed its members, mobilized the membership, and refused to negotiate this draconian and punitive plan. The MTA did not want a seat at the table; they knew the members were on the menu.

 

It was not always this way. Not long ago, the union negotiated with the anti-union “reform” group called Stand for Children and bargained away some of their rights to avoid something worse. They dared not be militant.

 

This time, the teachers of Massachusetts under bold leadership were militant and well organized, and they won. That is the only way to stop the destructive reformers. Not by meeting them half way. Not by giving them half a loaf; they will be back for more. Stand up to them and fight against their efforts to destroy the teaching profession, to destroy teacher unionism, and to destroy public education.

A few days ago, I posted about a plan by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) to take away teachers’ licenses if they received poor evaluations. Not just to take away their tenure or their job, but their license to teach. I relied on a terrific post by Peter Greene saying that Massachusetts had come up with an ingenious way to chase teachers out of the state. Given how flimsy and flawed the new test-based evaluations are, this was a horrendous plan that lacked logic, common sense, or basic decency. Given the fact that Massachusetts is by far the highest performing state on NAEP, these draconian measures were incomprehensible.

 

The Massachusetts Teachers Association rallied their members against the DESE plan, and the state DESE backed down. This is the MTA’s description of what happened, how they mobilized, and why good sense prevailed.

 

Here is the communique from the MTA leadership:

 

MTA MEMBERS SHOW UNION POWER; DESE RESCINDS PROPOSALS LINKING LICENSURE TO EDUCATOR EVALUATION

 

 

MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following message to MTA members on Friday, November 14:

 

We did it! In recent days, thousands of you have contacted state education officials to express your opposition to linking your license to your evaluation. MTA members sent e-mails, spoke out at DESE’s “town halls,” organized building meetings and made plans to attend upcoming DESE meetings in Malden and Bridgewater.

 

Today, the commissioner of education released a letter that says: “… we are rescinding the draft options that link licensure to educator evaluation.”

 

Our message — Union Strong — is making a difference.

 

While the immediate threat is lifted, there is much more to be done to make sure state officials hear what educators think we and our students need.

 

Here’s the background on the licensure story.

 

Twenty-five days ago, MTA received notice of licensure changes proposed by DESE that would connect performance evaluation to license renewal and advancement. These proposals and the façade of voice given within the DESE “town halls” exposed the deep disconnect between educators and the department. Union members spoke out resoundingly. Several members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education joined us in telling the commissioner they opposed this licensure plan.

 

The decision announced today is a good start, but other aspects of proposed licensure changes are still unsettled, and the disconnect between educators and DESE remains.

 

The commissioner has invited us to “continue the conversation.” Let’s do just that by showing up in Malden on Nov. 19 and Bridgewater on Nov. 20 to tell our stories, speak our truth, and reclaim public education.

 

Here are the details of the meetings next week:

 

DESE-sponsored Town Halls on Licensure

 

Wednesday, November 19
4:30-7 p.m. (arrive at 4:15 p.m.)
Malden High School
77 Salem Street
Malden

 

AND

 

Thursday, November 20
4:30-7 p.m. (arrive at 4:15 p.m.)
Bridgewater State University
Crimson Hall – Dunn Conference Room
200 East Campus Drive
Bridgewater

Even as we move forward with our plans to make our voices heard, this is a moment to celebrate our strength and acknowledge the hard work of our members on this crucial issue. So thank you, and let’s keep up the fight!

In solidarity,

Barbara and Janet

 

 

Yesterday, I posted about the plan by Massachusetts to strip teachers of their licenses if their evaluations were poor.

As it happened, the Massachusetts Teachers Association had already issued a forceful response to this misguided proposal. President Barbara Madeloni posted this as a comment on the blog. It was released on October 27:

MTA to BESE: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure?

In response to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s proposed changes to initial licensure and relicensure, MTA President Barbara Madeloni and Vice President Janet Anderson sent the following letter to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester. More information and recommended actions are forthcoming.
October 27, 2014

To: Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell Chester, Commissioner of Education

From: Barbara Madeloni, President, Massachusetts Teachers Association
Janet Anderson, Vice President, Massachusetts Teachers Association

Re: Changes Proposed by DESE to initial licensure and relicensure

On Monday, October 20, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education released proposed changes to requirements for both initial licensure and relicensure. A day later, the DESE held its first “town hall” hearing about these proposals. These hearings were facilitated by the Keystone Center, but DESE staff were present.

While there are many questions to ask about these proposals that would allow us to gain some clarity of meaning (e.g., what does “grit” mean as a requirement for initial licensure?), the primary question is: How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight? We know of no other profession in which licensure is contingent on employment evaluation. More insidiously, the employment evaluations include student learning outcomes, thus connecting relicensure to student test scores.

“ How can anyone in good conscience connect an employment evaluation to licensure when these are entirely different areas of authority and oversight?”

We are asking the commissioner to rescind these recommendations in whole for the following reasons:

1. The DESE is advancing policy options that almost exclusively base license advancement and license renewal on the summative performance ratings in the educator evaluation framework and the student impact rating derived from MCAS growth scores and District-Determined Measures. This is a misuse of measures of student learning and is counter to the DESE’s own assertions about how student learning measures would be used.

2. As a professional organization representing approximately 80,000 licensed preK-12 practitioner-members, the MTA does not support either the design principles or the policy options outlined in this document. To connect licensure to evaluation is a serious breach of lines of authority and responsibility. The state’s determination of having met requirements to teach should not and cannot extend into performance on the job, which falls under the authority of school administrators. Further, linking performance evaluations to licensure puts all educators on notice: Be careful what you say and do or you risk not only your job, but also your ability to teach or administer in Massachusetts schools.

3. The MTA does not support short-track preparation programs that allow unqualified and underqualified individuals to enter classrooms as teachers of record without the requisite knowledge and skills to be “classroom ready” on day one. Too often, these underqualified individuals enter high-poverty, low-performing schools, thus contributing to existing achievement gaps and the inequitable distribution of highly effective practitioners.

4. The MTA decries the use of $550,000 in public funds to pay private vendors for this project. The process employed by these vendors shows little or no interest in engaging in meaningful dialogue about what is and is not effective in the current licensure and relicensure processes. Educators report that they have attended tightly controlled “town halls” in which the outcome seems predetermined and voices of dissent are not welcome. We need meaningful opportunities for input into the development of licensure regulations.

We urge the commissioner and the board in the strongest possible terms to heed the overwhelming opposition to these proposals from the people most directly affected and to act immediately to withdraw the policy options currently being considered.

Peter Greene writes that there seems to be a contest among the states to see which one can be most hostile and punitive towards public school teachers. Is it North Carolina? Is it Tennessee? No, writes Greene, the state that is in the lead in this category is Massachusetts.

 

Massachusetts, which leads the nation by far on federal tests of mathematics and reading, intends to adopt regulations that will take away a teacher’s license if his or her students get low test scores.

 

Can you believe that? The teacher won’t  just be fired; she will lose her license to teach!

 

He writes:

 

There are three proposed versions (A, B & C) of the new system, and they all share one piece of twisted DNA– they link teacher evaluations to teacher licenses. Not pay level or continued employment in that particular school district– but licensure. A couple of below-average evaluations, and you will lose your MA license to teach.

 

There is no profession anywhere in the country that has such astonishing rules. Good lord– even if your manager at McDonalds decides you’re not up to snuff, he doesn’t blackball you from ever working in any fast food joint ever again! Yes, every profession has means of defrocking people who commit egregious and unpardonable offenses. But– and I’m going to repeat this because I’m afraid your This Can’t Be Real filter is keeping you from seeing the words that I’m typing– Massachusetts proposes to take your license to teach away if you have a couple of low evaluations.

 

It will not surprise you to learn that those evaluations would include all the usual groundless baloney. Student Impact Ratings– did your real student get better test scores than his imaginary counterpart being taught by an imaginary average teacher in a parallel universe? Did you successfully climb the paperwork mountain generated by a teacher improvement plan (duly filed with the state department that doesn’t have time to do the work it has now, so good luck with the new influx of improvement plan filings)? One version of the plan even allows for factoring in student evaluations of teachers; yes, teachers, your entire career can be hanging by a thread that dangles in front of an eight-year-old with scissors.

 

Which groups are advising the state in this draconian effort to drive teachers away? Some group called “the Keystone Center” and TNTP, the organization founded by Michelle Rhee.

 

Greene writes about these organizations:

 

“The Keystone Center was established to independently facilitate the resolution of national policy conflicts.” Those conflicts seem to most often have to do with oil and gas stuff, as well as Colorado higher education and monarch butterflies. How they ended up helping Massachusetts blow up teaching careers is not clear to me. But it’s easy to see how their “project partners” ended up here, because they’re teamed up with TNTP, a group that never met a set of teacher job protections that they didn’t want throw in a woodchipper and burn with fire.

If TNTP ever has a legitimate mission, it has long since been replaced with one single-minded focus– to make it easier to fire all teachers everywhere all the time.

 

The Massachusetts Teachers Association is fighting this irrational plan. They see that it is a looming disaster for teachers and public schools.

 

Greene writes:

 

I would point out to the people pushing this that it’s a great way to chase people away from teaching in Massachusetts ever. I would point out that young people interested in starting a teaching career might favor a state where that career can’t be snuffed out because of random fake data that’s beyond their control. I would point out that this is one more policy that will almost certainly make it even harder than it already is to recruit teachers for high-poverty low-achievement schools. I mean, most states are settling for evaluation systems that punish inner-city teachers with just losing that particular job; it takes big brass ones for Massachusetts to say, “Come teach in a poor struggling under-funded low-resource school. Take a chance on the job that could end your entire teaching career before you’re even thirty.” Who on God’s green earth thinks this is a way to put a great teacher in every classroom?

Well, the answer is nobody. I would say all those things to the people pushing this program if I thought they cared about any of that. But it seems increasingly obvious that creating a massive teacher shortage is not a bug, but a feature. It’s not an unintended consequence, but the chosen objective.

 

Good luck, MTA. The people of Massachusetts should celebrate the successes of their schools and send these interlopers who want to ruin teachers’ careers packing. How is it possible to improve education by ruining the lives of teachers? How is it possible to improve education by making test scores the measure of everything? Good business for Pearson, not so good for the children.

 

The charter industry is stunned by the possibility that Massachusetts may not authorize any new charters this year. This would be the first time in 15 years that no new charters were opened.

“Proponents say the move represents another blow in their quest to open more charter schools across the state. It comes just three months after the state Senate overwhelmingly rejected an increase in the number of charter schools that can operate in low-performing districts.”

Charters were stopped in Brockton and Fitchburg because the law says that they should open only in districts that are in the bottom 10% on state tests. Neither district is in the bottom 10%.

“Created under the 1993 Education Reform Act, charter schools are intended to be laboratories of educational innovation. They operate under looser state regulations than traditional schools and are rarely unionized.

“Seventy operate independently of local school systems, while 10 others operate in partnership with a school district.

“Many charter schools have among the highest MCAS scores, but some struggle academically and more than a dozen have closed, typically because of low test scores or financial problems.

“The move last week delighted charter school opponents, who argue that such institutions drain funding from traditional school systems and cherry pick students, assertions that proponents dispute.”

“While the effort to add more independent charter school proposals appears stymied, the state continues to review three other proposals for charter schools that would operate in partnership with the Boston, Salem, and Springfield school systems.

“Many charter school proponents, however, consider these “in-district charters “ to be less ideal than independent schools because they employ unionized teachers and are often subject to districtwide policies, restricting their autonomy.”

In other words, the charters were offered the chance to open but refused because they would have to have a union staff and some regulation, perhaps limiting their ability to exclude students they don’t want.

Educators in Worcester, Massachusetts, spoke out against the school committee’s decision to adopt the federally-funded Common Core test, at least partially, splitting the district between PARCC and the established Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS). PARCC was field-tested last year in Massachusetts. See what the teachers say about it. The Commissioner of Education in the state, Mitchell Chester, is chairman of the PARCC governing board, which the teachers consider a conflict of interest.

The following is a Press Release from the EAW. Please Read.

EAW DOES NOT SUPPORT WORCESTER SCHOOL COMMITTEE’S “YES ON PARCC” VOTE

The Worcester School Committee, in 5-2 vote, recently elected to split Worcester Public Schools (WPS) between two different standardized tests: the established MCAS test; and the PARCC pilot test. This “Yes on PARCC” vote goes against the Educational Association of Worcester (EAW)’s publicized March 2014 vote of No Confidence on PARCC and its vote to pause PARCC.
The EAW, comprised of WPS teachers, is not alone in its public position on pausing PARCC. In May 2014, delegates of the Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) passed items calling for a three-year moratorium on PARCC testing at its annual convention.

Also, over 66% school districts in Massachusetts have chosen the MCAS test option over the PARCC pilot test for 2014-2015.
PARCC started with 23 states in their consortium; four years later, 13 states have dropped out. That’s a drop of 44 percent.
The EAW stands behind its vote of No Confidence on PARCC, and believes Worcester Public Schools should put a three-year pause on PARCC and re-assess high stakes testing.

In light of the Worcester School Committee’s recent “Yes on PARCC” vote, the EAW supports parents/guardians and students who choose to refuse the PARCC pilot tests in their respective schools. Because PARCC is still in a test year, Worcester students can to refuse to participate in the PARCC “research study” without punishment; and designated PARCC schools will not be penalized for any pilot test refusals.

Note that the Worcester School Committee, in March 2014, voted to allow parents/guardians of WPS students selected to take PARCC to refuse the test. WPS Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone informed parents/guardians of their right to refuse the PARCC pilot test via letter.

MCAS was developed and vetted by Massachusetts teachers. Massachusetts DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester is also Board Chairman of PARCC, Inc., the organization controlling the development and promotion of the PARCC test – a clear conflict of interest for the children and schools of Massachusetts, because he has a completely biased opinion towards implementing PARCC in the Bay State.

Massachusetts currently has the best standards in the country. By moving to PARCC, a national test, our schools will be forced to lower standards to make it fair for all states involved.

During the 2013-2014 school year, PARCC was field tested on numerous children around Massachusetts. Identified issues include:

· 72% of schools need more devices to test all students

· Almost 50% of teachers said their training was inadequate for administering PARCC on computers.

· 61% of students reported that the Math test was more difficult than their school work (28% for ELA)

· only 70% of students said the test questions asked about content they had learned in Math (87% in ELA)

· 41% of kids said it was hard to type answers for Math

· 46% of kids experienced tech-related problems with Math (31% ELA)

Student scores on the PARCC pilot tests are not be shared with students, parents/guardians, schools, or states. PARCC Inc. uploads student scores for use in data mining and storage.

If Massachusetts eliminates MCAS and moves toward PARCC, the state will no longer control its own assessment system. The PARCC test will be controlled by multiple other states and management that the citizens of Massachusetts did not elect.

Again, the EAW stands behind its vote of No Confidence on PARCC, and believes Worcester Public Schools should put a three-year pause on PARCC and re-assess high stakes testing. All parents/guardians and students should, once again, be notified in writing by WPS Superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone on how to refuse the PARCC pilot test.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 121,392 other followers