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Showing posts from 2016

ESSA: Updates from DESE

Included at the Board's regular meeting this month, was a summary of the Department's stakeholder outreach(1) from 5 Community Forums and the impact of ESSA's(2) final accountability regulations issued by the US Department of Education (US/ED) this past November.

DESE sought feedback from a broad spectrum of stakeholders on a number of ESSA-related areas. Their preliminary analysis of more than 1,500 ideas for accountability indicators appears to (somewhat) edit and reorganize the previous list the Board received at the September Board meeting. At Community Forums, DESE received feedback* to build on:


Modifications to the accountability systemBroad support for accountability metrics that:Measure school climateEnsure students participate in a high quality, well-rounded curriculumProgramming to provide safe and supportive schools and well-rounded programs of studyBroad support for programs that:Provide students with social/emotional/behavioral supportsProvide educators with sk…

O Schlussel Davids

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O Key of David: Come break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people into freedom.

Isaiah 22:22 Jeremiah 13:13 Jeremiah 51:19 Matthew 4:16 Matthew 16:19 Luke 1:79 Revelation 3:7

O Antiphons

Ancient monastics marked the final week of Advent (December 17-23) with a series of traditional antiphons chanted or recited during Vespers, the Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours. Referred to as the "O Antiphons", or "The Great Os", each begins with the salutation, "O", followed by a biblical name, and closes with a specific petition for the day.

Growing up, I'd heard the traditional Gregorian chants sung by the religious sisters at the convent of St Ann, one of two convents in our rural mountain town, now both closed (also where I and two of my siblings attended kindergarten). Now, I'm drawn to Arvo Pärt's settings of "Sieben Magnificat-Antiphonen", as sung by the Taverner Choir. Even amid the frenzy and hubbub of holiday shopping and celebrating, or perhaps because of it, I find them particularly resonant, falling as they do on the darkest days on either side of winter solstice. Pärt's modern settings are like illuminat…

O Spross aus Isais Wurzel

O Flower of Jesse's Stem: Come, let nothing keep you from coming to our aid.


Isaiah 11:1-10 Isaiah 52:15 Romans 15:12

O Adonai

O Sacred Lord of Ancient Israel: Come, stretch out your mighty hand to set your people free.

Exodus 3:2 Isaiah 33:22 Isaiah 63:11-12 Micah 6:4 Acts 7:30-31

O Weisheit*

O Wisdom: Come and show your people the way to wisdom and understanding.


Wisdom 8:1 Isaiah 11:2-3 Isaiah 28:29 Proverbs 8:1-36 John 1:1-5

This post has been edited: a technical glitch prevented the video from uploading, initially, and was thus omitted.

How can being bilingual be an asset for white students and a deficit for immigrants?*

With one tweet, I was linked to perhaps the most on-point question of our time and to information about a dual-language program right here in Massachusetts, in the Mendon-Upton Regional School District:

Attn: @marcela_elisa@SoniaChangDiaz@MAStewartMA#MAEduhttps://t.co/iHYdrFxmJ5 — Tracy Novick (@TracyNovick) November 14, 2016
The link embedded above in Tracy's tweet will still take you to The Hechinger Report article. The Mendon-Upton program (and another one highlighted, from Texas) aims to make all students in the class fully bilingual. The article points out that the Texas program would be illegal in Massachusetts. And, while bilingual education programs aren't part of the ELL construct in the Commonwealth, such strength-based approaches guarantee students who are Limited English Proficient (LEP) access to educational opportunities. These programs allow students to acquire a full command of the English language and employ their native languages to help them master challengi…

Notes from DissemiNATION Fair

DissemiNATION Fair was offered by DESE's Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign a couple of weeks ago. Held in Devens, it was a major event, two years in the making, built on feedback and input from people in the field (both charters and public schools), as to what to offer in the way of sharing best practices from all types of public schools across the Commonwealth. Based on conversations I had with participants, and my observations and experience within panel sessions, I found this to be an energetic networking and high-quality, well-attended professional development event.

Presentations were relevant, engaging, and of high quality. Panel Session presenters were seated at long tables on a dais in the ballroom. I was struck by their non-jargon-y command of presentation material, enthusiasm to share their expertise, and professionalism overall. The format greatly contributed to this and to the elimination of perceived or real contentiousness or defensiveness that can be evi…

FY18: BESE Budget Committee Recommendations*

The Board unanimously approved the following Budget Committee Recommendations at its Regular Meeting Tuesday, November 29, 2016. The budget that the Board approved has been sent by Memo to the Secretary of Education; work is underway to develop the Governor's House 1 recommendations, to be announced in January.

Education Aid Accounts
The Board recommends the Department's education aid accounts be funded at the highest level possible based on available revenues for FY18. The major focus for increase should be the Chapter 70 -- Education Aid and Special Education Circuit Breaker accounts. The Board recommends that any additional funding made available in Ch. 70 after the state's contribution to foundation aid is met, be directed to districts with identified achievement gaps in student learning to support reforms that have evidence of narrowing achievement gaps. The Board recommends the Commissioner work with the Secretary to review other Chapter 70 increase factors including …

Board's Budget Subcommittee

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education exists, primarily, to administer state and federal education laws, of which the State's Education Budget is a part. And, while the education budget is a line item within the State's total budget allocation (as is a local education budget within a Municipality's budget), the appointed State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education exercises no budgetary authority (which is unlike locally elected School Committees who have actual budget oversight); BESE maintains policy and regulatory oversight.

Of the ~$5.2B allocated to DESE in FY17, only a tiny amount is actually discretionary: ~91% passes directly through DESE and goes to local districts in the form of Chapter 70 funding~5% is for federal entitlement programs (IDEA, Nutrition, Perkins, Titles I, II, etc.)Of the remaining ~4%:~3.9% is discretionary for the purpose of assigning FTEs to new programming (Civics Education, e.g.)less than 0.001% goes to the Department'…

Board Retreat: Impressions

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I'd been under the weather for several days, but was feeling better and made a point of going to the Board's scheduled retreat in Devens* this past Tuesday. I thought I'd share some of my lingering impressions:
Elections (and ballot questions) have consequences. Once we were coffeed and seated(1), the Chair opened the meeting with some comments about "company off-sites"(2), the election, and the Board's work. About the election he said (paraphrasing), in terms of Massachusetts, we're "maintaining the status quo" for children in our schools, and members of the Board have a "role to play" and it's more important than ever that we help every student become proficient. Some members said they weren't clear if he was talking about the outcome of the national election or of the charter school ballot question. He clarified that he was indeed talking about Question 2 and was of the opinion that the outcome of that debate had [put] "…

EOE Presentation

Secretary of Education, Jim Peyser, gave a short presentation at today's Board retreat in Devens entitled, "Education Reform in Massachusetts: From Good to Great". I've recreated text from his slides below, with his permission:
Key OutcomesStrengthening the global competitiveness of Massachusetts' workforceClosing the opportunity and achievement gap
Getting the Conditions RightWorld-class standards & assessmentsAccessible, timely & meaningful information for policymakers, providers, educators & parents/consumersTransparent, predictable, sustainable finance systems, with incentives for performanceEffective educators and leadersAuthority to act with accountability for resultsHigh-quality options and parental choice
Focusing, Aligning & IntegratingUpgrading Early Education QualityWorkforce DevelopmentKindergarten Readiness ScreeningRate increases Tied to Quality ImprovementStrengthening & Expanding Career PathwaysVoc-Tech Capital GrantsWorkplace Lea…

ESSA Community Forums: UPdate

If you've registered to attend the first ESSA Community Forum this Monday from 6:00-7:30 PM in Boston, you already know it won't follow a typical "public hearing" format.

As per the email from DESE, those who have registered to attend a session will be seated at tables for facilitated brainstorming sessions, and it looks as though they'll home-in on a few areas, based on the first round of survey and private meetings last spring. An outline of activities was provided in the email:
~10-15 minutes: DESE staff will introduce ESSA and the opportunities for Massachusetts to consider~30 minutes: Brainstorming - Session 1: DESE will conduct brainstorming activities at each table. In this session, they'll be focused on the opportunity to modify our school accountability system (the measures and leveling systems used by the Department)~30 minutes: Brainstorming - Session 2: DESE will conduct a second set of activities at each table. For this session, participants will …

ESSA Community Forums

Five ESSA Community Forums/Fora are being hosted by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The first Forum is this Monday, November 14 from 6:00-7:30 PM (details for all Forums/Fora below).

Each Forum provides an opportunity for stakeholders to join in a regional discussion and share ideas on how to improve K-12 public school assistance, accountability, and engagement, so that schools receive the supports they need to benefit each and every student. A stakeholder is anyone with a stake in the success of all students in our K-12 public schools, including:
Parents Students Teachers Principals Superintendents other education administrators and personnel community members business leaders and entrepreneurs community organizations faith-based communities Statewide organizations and associations post secondary public and private colleges and universities paid or elected public service individuals and committees Monday, November 14 | 6:00-7:30 PM: Boston Public Schools, Bolling Building, 2n…

The Hours*

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I've blogged before about my years living at Shim Gwang SaMind Light Temple, located on the outskirts of Boston. It was wonderful community living and a privilege to train zen martial arts under the tutelage of a modern Zen Master. After several seasons I became attuned to temple life and the concomitant seasonal changes in nature, due in part to the tempo of care and maintenance of the temple building itself, its gardens, and grounds.

With the setting back of clocks this weekend, I'm reminded that we revere monastics (and poets) for their moment-to-moment awareness: awareness of subtle shifts in nature, awareness of time.(1) Thinking further about time found me reflecting on the monastic understanding of the word "hour", which goes back to the Greek word, hora.

The Greek notion means "time" or "season", and is more expansive than our notion of a day evenly divided into twenty-four-hour segments. Modern folk come closer to an appreciation of the …

Modern Lead Learners*

To the Gilbert & Sullivan tune, "Modern Major General":

To model a true Partnership with Fam'ly and Community,
(As leaders of our school it is a key responsibility),
To strive to liberate the barriers with true integrity,
For Stu' success we'engage all fam'lies to our best ability!

We do not hesitate to work hard to improve engagement rates,
Shared vision that we all create will lead us to eliminate
The gaps in learning that exist, the urgency is oh so great,
Our staff is focused ev'ry day, as school improvement demonstrates!

The Partnership needs all of us, it's more than a philosophy,
We take to heart relationships and excellence and equity,
Our strength lies in diversity to re'lize opportunity,
Modern fam'ly 'engagement is a shared responsibility!

We have experience and skill with tools and staff most critical,
Communications ev’ry way from face-to-face and digital,
We build relations big and small, collaborate with one and all,
For…

Parent Perspective: State Assessments Under ESSA

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About state assessment results, parents have said they want to know and understand:
How does this information help me and help teachers to provide a better learning environment for my child?What does this mean? Is she doing well or not doing well? How will teachers get the information they need?(Note to DESE: Look at, and think about, what you're going to say to parents!)

One of the things ESSA has done is give States more flexibility* in education governance. It's not a perfect system; it's a series of trade-offs and choices.

Those trade-offs and choices begin with the question: What do you want the test to do? If one thing is to spend less time on testing, are we trading-off on content coverage, which may result in less reliable data than a longer test. How well is the assessment aligned to state's standards? Both questions are striking, given Massachusetts is in the midst of developing its 2.0 test.

(I'm told every testing vendor, if asked, can give an analysis of…

Modern Family Engagement

Hands: How often have you experienced "random acts" of family engagement at your child's school, those one-off events to count heads in the building toward the school's family engagement plan?

Research demonstrates that when families are engaged in children's education, student achievement and graduation rates increase. Also? Studies show that effectively engaging families is cost effective, so much so that schools would have to spend more than $1,000 per pupil to get the same results.

So, it's clear that schools need families to help close learning gaps, but few know what good family engagement looks like, and fewer are willing to take the risk.

It's been observed that, in the homes of high-achieving children, the academic climate is in-sync with the academic climate of their schools. Together they generate a series of beliefs, attitudes, skills, and motivations that lead to higher achievement of many kinds.

Modern families play critical roles for student su…

Changes for Student Homeless Populations Under ESSA

According to the National Center for Homeless Education federal data summary, the number of homeless students doubled in less than a decade: public schools identified a record 1,301,239 homeless children and youth in the 2013-2014 school year up from 679,724 in 2006-2007.

New provisions under ESSA seek to increase the capacity of coordinators and liaisons to connect homeless youth to needed services and supports, ensure these students receive a quality education, and hold schools more accountable for homeless student outcomes. While states have until 2017–18 to fully implement most major components of ESSA, key provisions related to homeless students were to be implemented by the start of this (2016–17) school year. Amendments to McKinney-Vento went into effect on October 1; provisions for Foster Care take effect on December 10, 2016:
For Coordinators & Liaisons: States must designate state coordinators to monitor local education agencies, inform parents and the public of homeless s…