Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

PARCC, Autism Endorsement, Civics Learning, STEM Standards, and More...

The MA Board of Education met from 8:30-1:30 today in Malden, and highlights as they impact Melrose are below. Other topics were discussed and they can all be found on the BOE web site at http://www.doe.mass.edu/boe/.

·      PARCC review (summary from last night’s special meeting and additional info today)
Bottom line: BOE plans to vote on PARCC vs. MCASII implementation at their November meeting. October meetings (10/19 and 10/20) expected to be long and comprehensive.
o    Released statewide MCAS and computer-based PARCC data last night; the rest    will be 9/24.   
o    Purpose of testing is to identify achievement gaps and help educators learn to teach better.
o    Exploring how ready districts are technologically to take on PARCC.
o    Average cost for PARCC exam (ELA & Math for all grades) = $32/student;  average cost for MCAS exam (ELA & Math for all grades) = $42/student; it’s unknown where costs will go in the future.
o    Amounts of standardized testing (DIBELS, etc.) vary significantly by district. Districts must have the capacity and knowledge to interpret and employ data from assessments as soon as possible in order to modify teaching and  learning for students – otherwise the testing is a waste.
o    We must learn from district case studies and research: schools that focus on intellectual quality and ambition don’t need test prep; no need for prep  assemblies either
o    Massachusetts Study on Assessment Practices in Districts found at       (http://www.doe.mass.edu/research/reports/2015/08AssessmentPractices.pdf)
·      Regulations on Autism Endorsement for Educator Licensure (voted to approve)           
Bottom line: Special education teachers will have the opportunity to earn an endorsement (like a certification) that provides training in working with students with autism.
o   It will be voluntary, and the state won’t tie districts’ hands re: whom they can   hire.
o   Regular ed. teachers may have the opportunity to earn this in the future (and parents would like that since it could potentially allow more autistic students to access the general ed. curriculum), but right now, they don’t have the necessary foundational skills on which to build.
·      Response to Recommendations from Working Group on Civic Learning and Engagement
Bottom line: Student groups and many other groups across the state, as well as legislators who consistently file bills in favor, are urging DESE to implement civics education in MA schools.
o    The Board says that all six recommendations previously presented were endorsed but DESE won’t implement.
o    DESE says there is no budget for this and there are also many competing priorities. They don’t want to create another unfunded mandate.
o    Budget Committee of BOE will take this on as part of their work, and the topic will be on next month’s BOE agenda.
·      Proposed Revised Science and Technology/Engineering Standards
Bottom line: The standards change will impact what is taught in this content area. Budget impacts include professional development, curriculum materials, etc. This effort has been in the works for a number of years.
o    Timeline: Oct/public comment and district support; Nov/final edits; Jan/BOE vote to adopt; Early 2016/DESE publishes frameworks.
o    Main changes since May: ensured every standard is performance-based; illustrated specific skills related to practices; clarified the importance of  vocabulary; checked content alignment of draft to current (confirmed, edited,  moved some content to maintain alignment); adjusted format and tone;  emphasized state assessment boundaries.
·      Update on Holyoke Public Schools and Update on Level 5 Schools
Bottom line: Good ideas are good ideas…schools that are most challenged are doing some excellent work around family/community engagement, setting a high bar for all learners, and offering quality professional development time (including collaboration) are proven strategies that support success.     
·      School Finance: Update on Foundation Budget
Bottom line: Areas in most immediate need of recalculation – employee health insurance, in-district and out-of-district special education. Final report expected from the Foundation Budget Review Commission expected by 11/30/15.
o   Calculating poverty is important because it helps determine rates/needs of free and reduced lunch (now 48 districts enrolling 200,000 students have all free lunch – no stigma and all students eat nutritious meal to improve learning).
o   Any increases in funding would have to be phased in and total cost of addressing just highest priorities is estimated at $800M.

More detail from Worcester School Committee member Tracy Novick here: http://who-cester.blogspot.com/