THANK YOU, Worcester Magazine!

Thank you for the endorsement, Worcester Magazine!

…In short, we do not agree on all the issues with Novick. However, Novick is, in our opinion, hands down the most well-versed of all School Committee members in just about every area of education. She blogs about it. She goes to Boston and sits through meetings that would make most of us pull out our hair. She explains the most complex issues. You may not always understand what Novick is saying unless you bury your head in textbooks and sleep with Department of Elementary and Secondary Education audio books, but take our word for it: she knows what she is talking about. You do not need to agree with someone on every issue. We believe Worcester’s schools are better off with Novick on the School Committee. We encourage voters to check the box next to her name at the polls.

Stand outs this week!

We’ve got ONE WEEK til the election. Join us for a few last stand outs!

  • TONIGHT, 5 pm, Park and Salisbury
  • Friday night for our traditional Halloween Eve stand out at Kelley Square (costumes welcome!)
  • Monday, Election eve, 4: 30 pm, Newton Square

And we’d welcome help on election day! Please get in touch if you have time.

What just happened with MCAS and PARCC?

After Tuesday’s Board of Ed meeting (which I attended), I saw a lot of confusion about what the Commissioner actually said. I thus posted this:

When we walked into the Board of Ed this morning, our last indication on where we were going was the comment from Commissioner Chester last night which was clearly an attempt to walk towards a third way:

I am considering this new model, this door number three, that takes advantage of our access to PARCC development … but uses that development for the construction of a MCAS 2.0, and gives us the running room to ensure that MCAS 2.0 is exactly the test that we want

Today, though, at a “just before adjournment” section, and in response to questions from Ed Doherty, Chester used a key verb: recommend:

recommending to the Board that we not just stick with MCAS as it is now; that we not just adopt PARCC and hope that it’s a great test, but that we go down a path of developing our own test

So what does that mean?
First of all, as pointed out by Deputy Commissioner Wulfson, it changes nothing for spring, as there is no MCAS  2.0. We as a state are either doing MCAS or PARCC during this school year, this spring.

Second, it potentially tries to answers everyone’s criticism at once. Don’t like having other states decide? We won’t! Don’t think we should be stuck with the MCAS? We aren’t! Think PARCC has more challenging questions? We’ll keep that! And so forth. It can capture thepush coming from the superintendents this morning without (potentially) alienating those who are convinced that only Massachusetts going it alone can do best.
Side note from me: I found Superintendent Chang’s discussion of what Massachusetts might, as an educational leader, owe the country an intruguing thought (as did Vice-Chair Morton, who picked it up later).
Now, this only works with PARCC’s new(ish) choices; previously, you were in or out. Now can you be partly in, or buy their services, or pick and choose. Pragmatically, I suspect it’s the only way to keep the consortium together at all, ‘though given the number of states that are doing things like keeping Common Core but naming them something else, they may well have takers on such a system.
Also, if everybody wins, everyone can also be seen as losing.

For those really looking for a third way, this timeline from Chester today is interesting:

if we were building a next generation MCAS from scratch…that’s probably…and we’d very much want Massachusetts educators involved…that’s easily a three year timeframe

Now, this proposal is that we NOT build a next generation MCAS, but build it off the PARCC, which, as Chester said, would take less time. There is going to be time involved in building any such assessment, ‘though, which (I’d argue) leaves a bit of an opening for conversations about what it really looks like to have assessments that are the “real work” happening in the classroom.

So far, we haven’t.


Testimony before the Joint Committee on Education: charter schools

Cross posted from Who-cester

Good morning, Madame Chairs. My name is Tracy O’Connell Novick and I am a six-year member of the Worcester School Committee. I am here today on behalf of my fellow members from Worcester, who unanimously support Senator Michael Moore’s bill S321, requiring local authorization of charter schools that use local funding. This is also reflects years of advocacy by the Mass Association of School Committees.

S321 requires local authorization for charter schools that will receive local funding. If a charter is instead authorized by the state, the state pays for it.

I suspect the first response is that this would be impossible. I would respectfully point out that this is just how Mass Academy of Math and Science’s budget works. Mass Academy is state-chartered, working with WPI, and their budget is a line-item allocation in the state budget. So it is not only possible; you’re doing it currently.

This is in marked contrast to Worcester’s experience with Spirit of Knowledge Charter School. In 2010, a delegation from Worcester testified before the Board of Education regarding Spirit of Knowledge’s application for a charter. We laid out, in detail, the issues with the proposal: the founder’s troubling history with regard to management; the substantial lacks in the administration and facilities plans; the holes in recruiting a student body that reflected Worcester’s population; and, most telling, a fiscal plan that simply did not work. At the time, our CFO testified:

This proposed school will spend 1 out of every 3 dollars on non-instructional expenses.  The school will have 13.5 non-instructional and administrative staff for a school with less than 600 students…there are items in the application which seriously question the financial viability of the school.  In fact, the proposed spending plan is out-of-balance during the three year period submitted…The Board should reject this recommendation from the Commissioner.  Although mathematics appears to be a core focus of this school…the financial plan just simply does not add up!  

The charter was granted.

In 2013, the school closed in October, for all of the reasons listed above, with the finances finally clobbering the school for good.

And 150 students were back on the doorstep of the Worcester Public Schools in the first week of November.

We told you so. And we were ignored.


Madame Chairs, the current system is questionable in its Constitutionality. The partnership laid out by John Adams in Chapter 5, Section II is for education to be “the duty of legislatures and magistrates.” That is you, yes, at the state level, but it is also, we–Adams’ “magistrates”–at the local level.


As the current chartering system stands, it is only legislatures–not magistrates–that are overseeing education within charter schools. As a result, there is no local accountability (budgetary or otherwise) for charter schools within our communities. They are free to spend money without local transparency, to make decisions without community input, to counsel students with extra needs that they would be better off elsewhere,  to suspend eye-popping numbers of students…and then when they fail, to return all of those students to the public school system.


What is the goal, here, Madame Chairs?

If, as we are Constitutionally charged, it is “spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in the various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people,” the system you’ve created isn’t doing that. You’ve made it okay for some schools to pick their kids, throw out those that won’t work on data charts, and then be held up as unmitigated successes, while other schools teach all kids, and somehow fail by contrast.


We on the local level endeavor to educate every child, every day. We invite you to join us in this effort by passing this bill, and other reform bills before you today.

Please note that this does NOT include the Governor’s bill.

Worcester Magazine profiles

From Worcester Magazine this week:

“I always hope people are looking for people who are thoughtful and do their research and don’t just react to things,” Novick said. “I hope people are looking for something beyond an emotional appeal. One of the dangers I always see in political campaigns is people saying things that aren’t borne out by the facts, and I hope people wouldn’t vote for people who are intentionally or unintentionally misleading the public.”

Like, you know, phantom administrators.

T&G profiles

Here’s mine:

Whether it’s live-Tweeting state education board meetings or raking woodchips at a local elementary school playground, Tracy O’Connell Novick gets hands-on when it comes to education.

But the incumbent School Committee candidate, who is seeking her fourth term on the board, is also a crusader for a hands-off approach to the state’s influence over local school districts like Worcester.

“We don’t need state takeovers, we don’t need more charter schools – we don’t need you to micromanage our money on our behalf,” said Ms. Novick. “Just get out of our way so we can work with our students and work with our parents.”