Friday, August 31, 2007

Swimming against the Current

I have had some contact from the community about the profile that appeared in today's Newburyport Current. I wanted to take a moment to clarify a point that was made in that profile.

We have two great kids. My son spent his pre-school and kindergarten years at Newburyport Montessori; he stayed at the Montessori School for first grade because I was teaching there that year. He then went to the Brown School for 2nd grade, will be at the Bresnahan for 3rd grade, and the Molin for 4th grade. That makes 4 schools in 4 years, the first one a private school.

My daughter spent pre-school and kindergarten at Montessori, then 1-4 at the Brown, and 5th grade at the Middle School.

As a School Committee member, my first and foremost concern has always been making sure that our educational system meets the needs of every child where they are, encouraging and working with their strengths, and recognizing and providing support for their challenges. I have worked very hard to do this; our system is on the way, but not there yet.

As a parent I have a responsibility to ensure that any unique needs my child has, socially or educationally, are met in a setting where my child is most likely to succeed. To that end, my daughter will not be attending the middle school next year; she will be returning to attend Newburyport for High School. Perhaps she will return later this year, if we and she feel that she isn't getting what she needs to succeed. That decision is one our family made based on the unique needs of our particular child, and in no way should be construed as a rebuff or critique of the current Middle School. I am very excited and optimistic about the changes, and firmly believe we are closer than many think to achieving some wonderful goals as a system. And The Middle School will lead us there.

As difficult a choice as this has been, we feel we have done what any parent would do.

For those of you who believe that making the decision as a parent that the current system serves the needs of one of my children, but may not meet the needs of another is critical to my credibility as a School Member, you are free to settle on that judgment on Election day.

Despite the choice my family has made regarding what may be in the best interest of one of our children, it is worth noting that that we continue to pay full taxes, and
make additional donations of cash and time to ensure viability of our schools; our son, who is part of the "cohort" that will experience the greatest change over the coming two years will continue in the system; and that my record of working hard six years as a passionate and relentless advocate, working my butt off to kindle a School system that serves every child where they are and helps them fulfill their greatest potential remains unquestioned. How that would change, should I be re-elected, is unclear to me. Please let me know if you think you have some insight into how my role would change.

We are all human, we all make assumptions. As a hypothetical, suppose you had to make a choice about finding a program that served your child best because of a particular range of learning challenges; and that program existed outside the current school system you were in. And you chose to send your child there, footing the bill yourself. Is that fair game for public debate and judgment? Would the parent who made such a choice, yet continued to advocate that local schools need to be supported to the fullest extent possible, be a hypocrite?

For those of you you who understand my responsibilities as a parent and SC member sometimes don't overlap exactly, I appreciate your understanding.

If anybody has any questions, or comments that stay within the disclaimer guidelines, I'd very much like to hear from you.

Keep those cards and letters coming in...

Recently, I received a letter from City Council At-Large Candidate Bill Deans asking the School Committee to consider a number of points regarding the salaries of teachers, and their impact on the school budget. His analysis of the most recent teacher's contract is exhaustive, and he raises a number of very important points.

Over the next week, I would like to try to respond to the points he has made, by sharing his thoughts and then sharing mine. At the end, I will write a post that can be considered as my "position" on the issue of teacher salaries; as you know, we will be beginning negotiations for a new teacher contract this winter to replace the one that expires next June 30th.

Doing so is a tricky business, for several reasons. The first and most obvious one is that I am speaking for myself, not any other SC member, nor the School Administration, nor the SC as a whole. The second is that while I have already participated in a contract negotiation with the teachers (6 years ago), I obviously do not know if I will be re-elected, although if I am, I'm prepared to serve as a member of the SC team doing the negotiations. So-- please understand that my statements with regard to any negotiated contract to be done in the future represent broad ideas, do not reflect any particular strategy to be engaged in. Finally, I am offering responses, not necessarily defending either the status quo, or decisions that were made by negotiating teams 20 years ago for reasons that I'm sure made sense at the time, but have created issues we need to deal with know, as the deferred bills come due. His letter was extensive (5 pages), and I am exploring some way to link to it on my site. Until then, I will break out his many points and respond to them a few at a time.

Mr. Deans noted that the largest single item in entire City budget is the school system; as it is in virtually every community in the Commonwealth that operates schools.

Worth noting is that nearly salaries make up the majority of those expenses that are operationally related. While this may seem unreasonable, it actually makes a lot of sense. Schools are a service-based enterprise, and in most human service organizations, salaries represent by far the largest item in the budget. The reason is clear. The product is quality education for children; teachers, and their supervisors deliver that product with the help of resources like curriculum and supplies. Although there has been a tendency to try to frame the operations of schools as if they were businesses, designed to make a profit, they aren't. They produce responsible citizens, whose creativity and resourcefulness prepares them for life in the reality-based world. I fully agree, and have for six years, that they should be run as efficiently as possible, and that there should be ongoing measures of accountability in place that can indicate issues immediately, and not quarterly.

Next up, specific elements of teacher salary noted by Mr. Deans.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Singing those "Rock and a Hard Place" Blues...

A long post about money woes; digest in small bits.

For those of you unable to attend the Chapter 70 presentation offered tonight by Dave Tobin, who works with the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, you missed an expert and somewhat demoralizing explanation of upcoming changes in the Chapter 70 School funding laws that will benefit Newburyport over the coming four years-- sort of.

A quick overview (look for a linkage to useful documents in a day or two) is that when the Education Reform Act of 1993 was adopted as law, it used certain formula to calculate a number of factors affecting the amount of state aid going to municipalities for schools. The good news is that for the first time since 1993, some of those formulas will be adjusted. Slightly. Over time. One would say glacially, but at the rate glaciers are melting, that would imply far greater speed than we are looking at here.

In 1993, the state established what is called the "Foundation Budget", which essentially established the cost of providing a "fair and adequate minimum" funding per student- that is, the Foundation Budget establishes what it costs to educate a student. Since it has not really been adjusted since 1993 to any significant degree, it is fair to say "what it cost to educate a student in 1993." That would be the same 1993 that is 14 years ago. That one. Yup.

The next part of the formula was establishing a standard minimum for each community to pay towards education; this was based on a very complicated series of calculations somewhat related to demographics, evaluations, the number of blintzes consumed on a monthly basis, whether or not it was a good year for lemmings, and the number of letters in the Governor's middle name. Sorta mysterious. What the state did, in effect was say, "Hey Newburyport, since you have exceeded what we think you need to pay by supporting your schools better than many other communities, we'll set your local contribution at that 'high water mark.' That way we won't have to screw around with any magical formulas!"


Finally, Chapter 70 Aid was supposed to make up the difference between A (the Foundation Budget) and B (the local contribution). Net School Spending is therefore equal to, or exceeds the total of Municipal Spending plus Chapter 70. Of course, the only way NSS would exceed Foundation would be if the municipal spending exceeded the minimum required by the state.
Which Newburyport, to its credit, has nearly always done.

You can see where this is going.

The next bit of '93 Ed reform news was that any money needed for charter schools would be taken right out of the 'cherry sheet,' the state estimated aid for the given fiscal year. Without arguing about the need, or efficacy of the charter school, the net result impacted state aid for Newburyport.

Cut to 2004, a good year for cheese, but not for state revenues. The state, low on revenue, pulled a number out of the hat and took back 20% of the Chapter 70 Aid from every community in the Commonwealth. They soon discovered that such a dramatic and seemingly arbitrary cut would push a number of school systems to funding levels that dipped below the Foundation Budget. Those communities saw their money restored. Newburyport did not.

It cost us $750,000. If the number sounds familiar, it is the average deficit run by the schools for the years 2004-7. Punched a whole in the budget that you could drive a mack truck through for four straight years. Five, if you count last year, six if you count the year to come. Like clockwork.

The good news is that there has essentially been legislative "buy-in" to a plan developed jointly by the MA Association of School Committees, and the MA Assoc of School Superintendents; at some point, this will be codified into law at some point.

The new formula will include setting a floor for minimum Chapter 70 Aid at 17.5% of Foundation. Nbpt has fluctuated over the past five years between 24.8% and 17.8%.
Well, that doesn't really look like a winner for the City, does it.

It also caps the Local Contributions (the local support expected) at 82.5% of Foundation. Newburyport has exceeded minimum local contributions; it has had to, because the formula in use has inadequate inflation estimates factored in, and the overall Foundation budget is filled with expense estimates that have little relationship to the reality-based community.

The upshot, the good news, is that Newburyport can expect a gradual reduction in local expected contribution of about $4,000,000 over the next four years; that hole will be filled by additional state aid which is estimated to total, over the next four years, top estimate, no fooling around, not kidding, of $640,000.

Well, I bet you can see a problem here, can't you. We're heading backwards. At top speed.

I'm putting a lot of faith in the School Revenue Task Force, most of whose members were in attendance tonight. I'm hoping that those City Councilors who were present, don't rush off in the great excitement of reallocating that money away from schools and into other City projects, not just yet.

Folks, we have some thinking and wishing and a lot of creative work to do in the months ahead. More information on the new formula tomorrow; and about the presentation in the days ahead.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

Another worthwhile aricle to read

Recently, Newburyport resident and grandparent Clare Keller sent the School Committee a link to an article she recommended regarding the role of schools in serving the changing needs of students.

It's a great article; with her permission I link to it and encourage you read it:

The article quotes Neil Postman, who has been one of the most assertive, challenging and thoughtful philosopher writing about schools and popular culture. He rarely minces words; the first paragraph of the first chapter of his first book, Teaching as a Subversive Activity, suggests that the most important job of a teacher and a school system is provide kids with a "crap detector", so that they can actively filter out the unrelenting commercial garbage they are exposed to everyday.

I'm a big fan of Postman.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

School Committee Candidates Forum

The "i's" are dotted and every last one of those "t's" are crossed (another victory for literacy in Newburyport), and I am pleased to announce that there is a scheduled Forum for all Newburyport School Committee candidates.

I'm sure there will be others, but my goal all along (as it was the last time I ran) is to make sure that the candidates get a chance to talk to the community, to each other, and then open to questions from the audience- no moderator, no prepared questions, just a timekeeper to make sure we stay within the agreed to guidelines for making opening statements.

We are all adults, we are not running against each other but for the same goal, so I think it will work.

All candidates, and members of the community. Please join me at the Program Room of the Newburyport Public Library on Wednesday night, October 17th, from 7:00 PM to 8:45(ish), knowing that the Library closes precisely at 9:00 PM.

I told the library I'd provide some refreshments; if any of you want to help with water and caviar let me know.

If the forum has unfinished business at that point, maybe we can head down to the Cafe Di' Sienna and finish up.

Unlike the candidate-debate debacle in Amesbury, I have no problem setting this up, and no vested interest in making anyone look bad. I genuinely think the community deserves a full dialogue, and have set up 60 chairs, hoping the community will come. Too few? Too many?
Maybe community access cable will be solid enough to cover it live, or at least tape it, by then.
(What about it, Sarah Hayden?)

Let me know, candidates (although I'll try to contact y'all directly) if you can be there.

Clothing optional.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A web of information

Dr. Lyons mentioned on Monday that within two weeks, "a whole new School Department website" would be going on-line. The goal has been to make it much more user-friendly, and have it evolve into an interactive vehicle for dialogue with the community. It will not only provide more information that is updated much more frequently, but it should enable us to create surveys, possibly create listservs... who knows where we'll end up, once we launch ourselves out into cyberspace.

Information. Dialogue. Transparency. Doc Lyons is singin' my favorite song.

I heard it through the grapevine...

In the interest of full disclosure: I took my training to work with Montessori Students age 6-9 with Margaret Shields, who is the sister of Dr. Cathi (sp?) Heap.

Dr. Heap is one of the foremost literacy and reading experts in the country. She is a dynamic speaker, an inspirational teacher, and absolutely terrific with kids; she is especially magical working one on one with those who had learning difficulties. Apparently, Dr. Lyons had known her from previous experience, because he brought her into Newburyport as a consultant on literacy issues in the school system (as in LITERACY ISSUES). I was delighted when I heard she was working here, several months after she had begun.

Over the summer, she offered a two week workshop for teachers on Guided Reading.

I recently stopped by the Nock to drop off some Montessori materials for her deliver to her sister. I arrived about 30 minutes after the class had ended, and found the room was still filled with teachers, talking with great excitement in groups of two and three. I checked in with them about the workshop and they were very enthusiastic, and talked about the immediate applications they would be able to make now that the each grade was working in the same building.

I handed Dr. Heap the materials for Margaret, and without any prompting, she shared a little bit of her experience of the last several months working with the teachers, students and the School Administration.

"I really have come to love this town," she told me.
"And you guys should know how close you really are to turning things around. The teachers are ready, and excited, you have the best leadership possible in Dr. Lyons and his team. Bringing the grades together, you've already solved a lot of problems. Everything is place, once you can figure out how to fund it, to take this system to another level. You guys are soooo close."

Nice to get a little unsolicited positivity from a relatively objective and highly respected educational professional.

"First I look at the purse"

An immediate positive outcome that will emerge from the Mayorally appointed School Committee anointed Task Force on School Revenue should be the realization that the annual budget, as presented and debated, does not provide a complete picture of the real costs to run a school.

On Monday night, the Committee voted to accept a donation of more than $10,000 from the Athletic Boosters Club, for the restricted purpose of funding 5 assistant coach positions. The vote is a formality, a needed part of the process, and the ten thou gets entered into the books and counts as revenue.

For several years, I have been requesting that we do a better job of tracking money spent on behalf of the schools that doesn't get entered into the books, because it never formally comes before the School Committee, except in the form of an acknowledgment or thank you.

Specifically, over the past ten or so years, a range of expenses have simply been pared away in an effort to bring the budget closer to the revenues available. But if you spend, say $5,000 on literacy materials in 2001, (a hypothetical), does that mean you won't need to spend a similar amount in 2003, when we've budgeted far less?

No. What has happened is that the burden for covering costs that ten years ago would have normally come out of the school budget has shifted. Where? To groups like the PTO.

PTO's now raise and spend money on expenses that were and should be covered by the school budget. Reading materials like Guided Reading series', critical to the development of fundamentally sound literacy. Hundreds of dollars for those series. And cultural arts programs.

These items have simply disappeared from the budget by being annually reduced to a pittance of the actual cost; although they have not disappeared from the schools, thanks to the largesse of the PTO's. Therefore, even the emaciated budget we approve and send on to Mayor does not reflect both the presence of these expenses, and the fact that they are being offset now by the community. It's a wash; which results in an actually inaccurate picture of what it really costs to run a school. It isn't a matter of extra money stuffed secretly into line items; or stuffed behind stairwells; the budget itself actually does not capture all the operating costs.

Finally, the Task Force will identify how much money groups like the PTO's have raised to replace normal and reasonable items in the school budget. Like paper towels, and supplies for teachers. Construction paper. Visiting artists. Tissues.

I think the amount raised by the parents to meet basic building and student needs will shock some members of the community, and provide a better account of actual costs. Especially this year, it is important for the community to know that without the full support of the PTO's financially and physically, the reconfiguration would have been far more difficult.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

What we did on our summer vacation

Ok, ok, so I've really posted this because my kids wanted to see themselves on the web. Actually, if anybody wants to plan a perfect vacation for an 8-year old and an 11-year old, I'd really recommend Calgary. Within a four hour drive, there are Badlands and the finest paleontology museum in the world (i.e. dinosaurs), a very compelling UNESCO National Heritage Site operated by the Blackfoot Indian Nation, and the Rocky Mountains.

Caption Taken from The Drumheller Daily News, the paper of record, where this photograph appeared on the front page (not).

"Noah Dash, Linnea, Julie and Bruce Menin photographed just before they were detained by Royal Canadian Mounted Police for attempting to climb the HooDoos behind them. They may look small, but some of the wind-carved rock formations reach a towering six feet tall. When questioned by police, Julie, Linnea and Noah Dash all agreed that it had been Mr. Menin's idea. The Police released them after they agreed not to listen to any more suggestions from Mr. Menin for the rest of their stay in Drumheller. Mr. Menin, in what was an apparent first for him, had no comment for the reporter."

School Budgeting 101

For those with a keen interest in learning more about the budgeting challenges and approaches used by school systems, and their strengths and weaknesses, this piece from the University Encyclopedia is a great introduction, written in clear language. Among the approaches it considers you'll find Zero-Based Budgeting, which was part of the discussions in the recent Override debate.

The Charge of the Task Force

The following are the Mission, Goals and Tasks of the newly formed Task Force to Find Money for the Schools.

August 20, 2007

NEWBURYPORT SCHOOL COMMITTEE TASK FORCE to Research and Analyze Sources of Revenue for the District

Mission, Goals and Tasks

To provide an objective, comprehensive and transparent examination of the existing and future revenue streams of Newburyport and its Public School System.


1.Identify possible methods for increasing city revenue (primarily for the schools)

2.Identify and clarify forces impacting the financial status of the City of Newburyport.

3.Provide information in a clear and comprehensive manner suitable for the layperson and with the specificity necessary and appropriate for school and public officials.

4.Establish a strong working relationship among the City’s financial and governing bodies, it's School Committee, and its citizens.


1.Identify all existing revenue sources. Identify all entities that impact the dollars allocated to the schools, including but not limited to government agencies, private or non-profit organizations, and individuals from both the private and public sectors.

2.Identify existing channels of private fund raising and the impact of each on school expenditures

3.Local Property Taxes - Present the economic outlook for Newburyport as told by:

i.Reasonably accessible regional economic report
ii.A broad base of City Officials, Local Business Establishments, and the Chamber of Commerce

•Identify a range from pessimistic to more optimistic possibilities for tax revenues, assuming no increase in our tax levy limit.
•Identify plans, either under development or in effect, to enhance business and commercial tax revenue. If possible, conservatively estimate the level of potential supplementary revenues.
•Qualitatively and, to the extent possible, quantitatively analyze the community’s ability to pay additional taxes.

4.Review other city and town methods of funding district public schools and provide a summary of innovative methods in other cities or towns within MA.
5.Review other private funding mechanisms. How is it done? Are there examples out there of sustainable programs funded with private money?

Deliverables and Schedule For Completion

Identify Task Force Members In Progress
Complete by Fri., August 31, 2007

Review the Mission, Goals, and Tasks
Task force members (chairperson at a minimum) to review this document with the finance subcommittee or other school committee representative.
On or before Tues., September 4, 2007

First Presentation
Introduce the Task Force. The group is to describe the outcome of initial planning meetings to determine the methodology to accomplish the mission
Mon., September 17, 2007

Second Presentation (7 weeks later)
Present the preliminary results of Task Force
Mon., November 5, 2007

Third Presentation (6 weeks later)
Present the additional results of Task Force
Mon., December 17, 2007

Final Presentation (4 weeks, excluding 12/24 – 12/31)
Comprehensive presentation of all Tasks along with the conclusions and recommendations.
Tues., January 22, 2008

In all seriosity, good people of the community, this is a welcome development, the membership is, in my opinion well-chosen and well suited for the task, and we are motivated. I like the idea. It reminds me of one I suggested in yearly between 2002-2006, except that in my proposed framework, I saw it as an extension of the work done by the Finance Committee of the School Committee. Well, we didn't have a Finance Committee of the School Committee between 2002-2005.

Nonetheless, I am absolutely delighted that it has been formed, and especially thrilled to have an opportunity to work with Dr. Orlando, Mr. Iannini and Ms. Supple, who have been active, thoughtful and vocal participants in the education dialogue both pre- and post Override. I've already had the pleasure of working with Mr. Wright, Ms. Reffett and Mr. Hennahan in their capacities as elected officials, and would add that Mr. Heenahan is one of the most skilled facilitators I know. Finally, I really look forward to working hard. Hard as in "my butt off."

I think we can beat the benchmarks easily. Piece of cake. Actually, that was a pretty bad use of metaphor; I think our mission is to grow the pie.

A Committee By Any Other Name

Today, Mayor John Moak named the members of a Task Force to Research and Analyze Sources of Revenue For The District. The Task Force is actually an effort undertaken by School Committee; with a Mission of "provid(ing) an objective, comprehensive and transparent examination of existing and future revenue streams of Newburyport and its Public School System.

Drawing from across the city, the Mayor has invited William Heenahan, Dr. Ralph Orlando, Brenda Reffett, Jay Iannini and Ellen Supple from the Community; Deidre Farrell will represent the School Administration, Ari Herzog will represent the mayor, Mark Wright and I will represent the School Committee, and a member of the City Council will have the opportunity to volunteer next Monday.

The work of this Task Force will hopefully produce a clear, transparent understanding for the larger community of the sources and potential sources of revenue needed to operate Newburyport's Schools. Although the Mayor has requested a final presentation by the end of the year, several members present at the School Committee meeting tonight expected a much more accelerated reporting out.

Although the Task Force has yet to meet, it will reportedly not be recommending the printing of money as an option.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

"Anyway, Part II"

Here are the rest of the "Paradoxical Commandments."

6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.
7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.
8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.
9. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.
10. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

You could turn this into a year-long seminar, make it a graduation requirement at the High School.

Better yet, when people running for office go down to the City Clerk and ask Mr. Jones for papers, he could hand them a copy of these. I'll be happy to keep him supplied.

Bet it wasn't so hard to look around this community, or any place you've ever lived or worked, and come up with an example of every one of these Paradoxical Commandments, in action. It wasn't for me.

"Anyway, Part I"

On a recent CD by the Roche Sisters, "Zero Church," among the collection of prayers from around the world they put to music was something Sister Theresa had posted on the wall of her Hospice in India. It called "Anyway."

Not long after the CD came out, the original, long-forgotten author of the piece contacted them to thank the sisters for putting his ideas to music. It turned out that he had been a student during the sixties, and was deeply troubled by the violence and conflict of the times. Through his college years, he remained an activist, and eventually came to believe that the only thing that could head the apocalypse off at the pass was what he called a "Silent Revolution." Much like Maria Montessori, a century ago, he believed that the people capable of changing the world through such a "Silent Revolution" were the ones in school, so as part of a handbook he wrote for High School Student Council Members, he included what he called the "The Paradoxical Commandments."

Somehow, these commandments, directed at high school students, morphed into a prayer, and ended up on many walls in many community centers, churches, missions, and schools.

Remember, the next time we are grappling with funding staff for the High School, that these ideas were meant for High School students:

The Paradoxical Commandments, 1-5

1. People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.
2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway.
3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.
4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.
5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.

Continued next e-mail

"Talk To Me"

In an effort to ensure that each School Committee candidate gets to speak about their ideas in a forum other than a choreographed debate or a 10 second, oft-misquoted sound-bite, I am almost able to confirm that I have reserved the Program Room at the Public Library for a Candidate's Forum in late October.

My hope is that we won't have a moderator, but will have a timekeeper. We'll draw names from a hat, and in the order selected each candidate will get up to five minutes to share their concerns and ideas; then we'll question each other, and finally open the floor to questions from the community. You can't do a Lincoln-Douglas style forum with six people; but maybe this is close and informal enough.

I have had some incredibly interesting conversations with a friend about a You-Tube type of debate, but it make take more planning than I have time for.

There may be other "debates" which will be more formal. I hate to cut out the middle man (person? persons? corporations?), but I do have faith that the community will find this type of event useful.

I should know by Monday.

Oh, and obviously every candidate for School Committee is invited; I may ask y'all to share the burden of publicizing the debate.

Thoughts on proper attire can be communicated to me by e-mail. I already know I'm not going to wear a hat.

"The World Isn't What You Think It Is, It's What It Is"

I wanted to take a moment to welcome the five other individuals who have chosen to run for School Committee seats. Although I'm not so altruistic as to name them individually, I am grateful that the community has been activated by our recent efforts to meet school needs. I am sure that a good, vigorous, and respectful public conversation will happen during the election season; I am genuinely delighted by that. My cohorts are all bright, thoughtful people; any community is best served when citizens actively participate.

I do not believe that we are running against each other. I believe we are running to ensure that we have the best schools, run efficiently, that are run creatively and produce students who are ready to clean up the mess we've made of this world. We are all running for the future.

On your mark, my friends.

Oh, and to those candidates who keep saying the School Committee needs new faces. Am I going to have to shave to get re-elected?

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Putting No Child Left Behind in Perspective

The passage of the federal No Child Left Behind statutes, (never been funded at more than 15% annually of the estimates for getting the standards met) has had a significant impact here in Newburyport.

Dr. Lyons has identified literacy as a critical issue that needs to be addressed in our schools.

The following link will send you to a very thoughtful piece about how the NCLB laws are impacting language instruction. The second paragraph of the piece establishes the bona fides of Jim Cummings, who delivered this analysis at a recent conference in California.

"A treasured, no-nonsense voice in the world of second-language acquisition, during the past three decades, Cummins, now a professor at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, has touched the life of many an English as a second language teacher, inspiring thousands with a thoroughly grounded iconoclastic approach to the pedagogy of language. He has shattered myths, developed new theories and concepts, promoted innovations in the classroom, affected policy, and arguably done as much to shift the paradigm of language instruction as Noam Chomsky 20 years earlier did to shift scientific thought toward a paradigm of innate universal grammar."

Thanks to Daily Kos Commentator Meteor Blades for providing the diary discussing Cummins' ideas. Despite all the brouhaha about the Kos website, there are a number of regular diarists who have a great deal to say about education in the United States. I would recommend the diaries of TeacherKen as a place to start.