Tag Archives: MCAS test scores

Bullying knows no boundaries: the insidious nature of cyber bullying

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

The school year has come to an end, and one of the issues that I have discussed for several years has been an anti-bullying law for Massachusetts. Finally, last year Massachusetts became the 45th state to enact an anti-bullying law. Unfortunately, it took the suicides of 11 year old Carl Walker-Hoover of Springfield and 15 year old Phoebe Prince of South Hadley to convince state lawmakers to enact a state law.

Since being elected to the School Committee, I have been a strong advocate for anti-bullying legislation for as a former principal I saw firsthand what it did to our children. Bullying is unfair and one-sided. It happens when someone keeps hurting, frightening, threatening, or leaving someone out on purpose.

It wasn’t that long ago that bullying was often overlooked by teachers and parents, dismissed as a common if painful, rite of passage along the bumpy road to becoming an adult. This is not so any more as research has stated how devastating this behavior can be to the individual. No longer can we can say to the students, “Work it out” for they need to learn specific strategies to cope with these situations. Continue reading Bullying knows no boundaries: the insidious nature of cyber bullying

Worcester’s Level 4 Schools, Union Hill and Chandler Elementary: Moving forward!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee

“Turning around persistently low-achieving schools requires a new way of doing the work that is transformative for the students and teachers in the school… the nature of the work demands a new vision for redesigning the schools and how districts support schools in that process. Bold action is required.”
– Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education

Back in March of 2010 the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced its list of 35 Level 4 schools. A school is deemed “Level 4” if its achievement is in the lowest 4 percent of schools statewide. Two schools in Worcester were on the list: Chandler Elementary and Union Hill School.

The new law, signed by Governor Deval Patrick last January, is designed to close the persistent achievement gap between the schools in poorer communities and those in richer communities. However, as mentioned in previous articles, the idea of closing the achievement gap is a difficult choice, for the administration had a variety of punitive options to choose and the least restrictive was the removal of the principal. Thus, that was what Dr. Boone, Superintendent of Schools in Worcester, chose. The decision was supported by the Worcester School Committee.

At that time Dr. Boone stated, “These schools have worked extremely hard to provide a high-quality of educational opportunities for all the students enrolled there. While significant progress has been made, we acknowledge that the rate of progress has not met the state and federal benchmarks Continue reading Worcester’s Level 4 Schools, Union Hill and Chandler Elementary: Moving forward!

The Goddard School, MCAS scores and political grandstanding

By Rosalie Tirella

There they were – women who reminded me of my mom: first-generation Americans holding minimum-wage jobs, trying to keep their kids safe in a tough neighborhood – pinning all their hopes and dreams on their kids, realizing that if ever they were to become “something” in America it would have to be through public education. There they were – mostly Hispanic – going up to the mic and defending their beloved Goddard School after it was torn apart – brick by old brick – by a few insensitive Worcester School Committee members.

Goddard parents came up and stood before the crowd to tell the Worcester School Committee that Goddard School was tops in their book. The school’s teachers and staff were dedicated, the school-wide reading program – excellent. Some of the Spanish-speaking parents used their kids as interpreters. School Committee Mary Mullaney called the public hearing “a beautiful” experience – seeing the families and hear them all speaking so lovingly of their Main South grammar school.

What we all witnessed was a reaffirmation of America and what it means to be an American. It has nothing to do with being rich or connected – it has everying to do with how hard you try, how diligently you work. If your parents were from Equador – cool! Join the American family! Here is your grand school! Here are the teachers who want to see you read and write and grow up to be teachers and doctors and community leaders.

The American public school system. Books, learning, knowledge. Schools like Goddard that not only teach kids but feed them and welcome their families and anchor an entire neighborhood.
It was wonderful to hear a Goddard parent – a Ms. Ortiz – laugh and speak with pride about her daughter complaining that she is getting too much homework at Goddard. And that it is so hard. Hooray! was Ms. Ortiz’s response. Keep challenging my daughter, keep making her grow and learn!

But let’s back track: The Worcester School Committee held this meeting/public hearing because of a bad thing that happened: the state department of education’s decision to invalidate all of the Goddard School MCAS test results.

It was the kind of meeting where the “people” shone and the politicians bombed. I believe the meeting will make or break the political futures/careers of school committeewomen Tracy Novick and Dianne Biancheria. The two women – especially Novick – believe they have staked out some sort of moral high ground in calling for total access to the state’s Goddard MCAS investigation/findings. Long time (and popular) Worcester School Comittee member Brian O’Connel – who amazingly joined the two women in their foolhardy quest – will most likely come out of this creepy episode in WPS history relatively unscathed. And besides, he sort of backpedaled during the school committee meeting, sounding not half as harsh or accusatory as his two colleagues, even though he signed on to their misguided petition.

And what do Novick and company want? They want to SEE EVERY STATE DEPT. of EDUCATION DOCUMENT re: the Goddard MCAS test investigation that lead to the state chucking all of the Goddard students’ MCAS scores. Novick and company want to see every note, every name, every nuance in the case. They say they want to shed light on this “scandal” and that transparency is golden.

Poppy cock.

The state dept. of education has conducted a thorough investigation, remedies will be made and Goddard School will move forward.

That is all we need to know.

Not Novick and pals. Apparently, they are determined to discover which teachers at The Goddard School were a bit overzealous when adminstering the state MCAS tests. They want to know which Goddard teachers were nudging their student test-takers in the right direction (read: right answers), writing out more of an answer than what a child dictated to them (for the special needs kids with IEP plans) and encouraging students to put down more detailed answers.

Inquiring minds want to know!

Dr. Boone, Goddard School and four of the Worcester School Committee members have accepted the state findings and, like me, want to move forward.

This is not a cop out. The state, working with our school superintendent Dr. Melinda Boone, conducted an exhaustive investigation and has come up with a remedial plan for Goddard School. Months of interviewing teachers, confering with Dr. Boone, poring over the tests – and what Worcester got from the state was this: a reprimand, an official reprimand (not a firing) of Goddard School Prinicpal Mrs. Guerra, and a change in the way the test is adminstered in Goddard – from now on the district takes over. Also, the state is mandating a city-wide training program of all our public school prinicpals during which time they will re-learn how to properly administer the MCAS test.

Everyone accepts this, accept Novick and Company.

No one but Dr. Boone and (I’m assuming Goddard staffers) have seen the state paperwork. The Worcester community just knows the results – outcomes. This is fine with me. This is also fine with Mayor Joseph O’Brien, head of the Worcester School Committee, and three other Worcester School Committee members: John Monfredo, Jack Foley and Mary Mullaney. They have accepted the state’s findings, reprimands and want to move on.

Not Novick and Company.

Why torment an entire school? Why publicly point fingers at kids and teachers? Why make a school that is heroically serving poor inner-city families ashamed?

Novick and Company want to know who did what at Goddard and when – and why. They want to know what went on in each and every Goddard School classroom the day that the MCAS test was adminstered to the entire school. They say they aren’t conducting a witch hunt but that is exactly what they are doing. They say it is all information that the WPS committee and the public should be privvy to.

Oh, yeah?

And here is where Novick and company lose me. So they can do what? Say what? Recommend what? These people – the Worcester School Committee – set policy for the WPS. They do not run our schools, they do not adminster school tests to our students, they do not hire or fire school teachers or principals. Many of them are not school teachers – have never taught kids in a classroom. Novick and company cannot change (in any way) the manner in which the MCAS test is given or the tests’ content, test-taking rules, etc.

I believe this is all about a privileged, white, out-of-touch, stay-at home-Mom – Tracy Novick – and her quest for the spotlight. She is dragging Goddard School students into the mud with her on some self-righteous quest. A quest that serves no one, certainly not the students and staff at Goddard.

Novick took to the bully pulpit with a relish I have not seen in a long time: Yes! Good People of Worcester, she seemed to say, I will save you! Save you from the horrible MCAS tests! Save you from the horrible Mr. Chester at the state ed dept. I will fight for the autonomy of the classroom teacher! Help me dissect all that happend on the horriffic shameful day – so every one – especially the kids – relivesthe horror – the instances when it all went wrong. Then the enitre city will know who these imperfect teachers are and (let’s not kid ourselves) who the underperforming students are.

Can you imagine what it would be like to be the two or three or five or ten Goddard students who made the mistakes that cost the entire school their MCAS test results?

If the MCAS is as irrelevant as Nocick says, why belabor the state results? Why go over tests that she feels are pointless – even detrimental to the stukdents of WPS students? Maybe that’s the answer: This Goddard mini-scandal has given Nocik the chance to UNDO the MCAS and become a hero to families all thorugh the state.

Novick needs to cool her heels – and review the public access channels filming of the School Committee meeting. She looks shrill and immature.

Bianchiaria? God knows who put what in her Kool Aid. As I watched the school committee meetings and heard people testify for and against the state results – Bianchiara came off as the dopiest person in the room. By the end of the hearing, she could bearly talk – had lost her voice. We only wish it had happened earlier. Bianchiria kept saying she was out of the loop – intimating that she was not one of the favored school committe memembers who she thinks have a prtivate phone line straight to Dr. Boone’s desk telephone.

This could not be further from the truth. Other shcool committee members have told the disgruntled Bianchirai that Dr. Boone has a “call me anytime” policy and that all Bianchiria needs to do is to pick up the phone.

There are some observers who have this theory: Dianna Biancheria lost her great job at the Worcester School Department (she worked on Irving Street) and has an axe to grind.

Neither I nor any of these school committee folks are proponets of cheating, believe in cover ups or wish to harm the students of the Worcester public Schools. In fact, people like O’Brien and Monfredo, are passionate about inner-city kids and reaching them in any way they can to improve their lives.

Mayor O’Brien lives in the heart of Main South and said during the meeting that he knows many of the Goddard School students and their families. Monfredo, is one of the most selfless people I kknow. I had him as a fifth grade teacher in the old Lamartine Street School when I was 10. He was – and I can say this with all certainty – the best, the BEST teacher I ever had. He loved all the Lamartine kids and worked so hard to teach us and to help us grow as citizens of the world. Books, games, pocket pets, field trips, song writing contests, cool arts andcrafts projects, etc – this is what Mr.Monfredo did for all of his gradefive students – and the school.
Mr. Monfredo went on to become Belmont Community School principal – one of Worcester’s poorest schools in one of the city’s most challenging neighborhoods.

Mr. Monfredo retired and immediatley began writing a column for my paper – InCity Times – and ran for Worcester School committee – and won. Big time. Every parent in every poor neighborhod of Worcester knows or knows of the great work Mr. Monfredo has done for the neediest kids of Worcester. And did I forget to mention he and his wife, Anne Marie, a former teacher at Nelson Place School, run a county wide book drive, getting thousands and thousands of books donated to their volunteer group Worcester, The City That Reads. The group distributes the books to needy kids, families and schools.

Though I am no huge fan of Mary Mullaney, she had all of her kids (several – a gaggle of them) attend the Worcester Public Schools. She was very very involved in all her kids’ school careers.

Let’s side with these folks in saying NO to Novick and Company’s misguided crusade!

Wrong-headed duo! Worcester School Committeewomen Tracy Novick and Dianna Biancheria need to know Worcester has a #1 urban school system!

By Rosalie Tirella

How wrong Worc. Schoolcommitteewomen Tracy Novick and Dianna Biancheria they are about the Goddard School and how little they know about inner-city schools/urban school districts/educating the poor.

Novick and Biancheria have no idea how wonderful Worcester’s Public School system is! Safe, clean, well run schools where learning goes on every day! Teachers and principals who love their kids and kids who look at their schools as one of the best things about their neighborhoods.

Look at Springfield, Lowell, Lawrence, Hartford – even Boston. All of these urban public school systems can be compared to Worcester’s. All have lower standardized test scores, lower high school graduation rates and more – let’s be honest here – violence. We cannot and should not forget how violent some inner-city public schools can be. Poverty, ignorance, hunger, resentment can all add up to a huge tinder box – not a place to learn and grow. The Hartford Public Schools have security guards stationed in their high schools! Security guards! The kids there call them “Toy Cops.” Students in Hartford Public Schools – one of the poorest in the country – have urinated in hallways, overturned teachers’ desks when they were out of the classroom, broken into teachers’ cars.

Compared to so many urban systems in America, the Worc. Public Schools are heaven – pure heaven.

Novick and Biancheria need to know this – and remember this.

They also need to know they are outnumbered. Worcester teachers and educators (except the grandstanding Gary Rosen) and inner-city youth workers are 100% behind the kids and teachers at Goddard – and the W. School Committee’s 4 to 3 vote to move on and NOT seek the state records re: Goddard MCAS test results (the state’s invalidating the schools scores). A few of these adults – adults who have worked with inner-city families and kids for years – have told me what a great school Goddard is. They have spoken to me over the phone and I have heard their passion and deep feelings for kids who are oftentimes behind society’s 8 ball. Gary Rosen has mocked the true feelings people like Mayor Joe O’Brien and John Monfredo and Jack Foley – all adults who have special and deep knowledge of inner-city kids/life – have for the Goddard School and students.

It was amazing to see Novick get on with her misguided crusade to seek all state records after 100 Goddard parents and teachers, etc filled City Hall chambers to speak lovingly of their school and to say: LET IT GO, BITCH.

But Novick, in her little cheery, voice, in her little trim suit was brutal. It was as if she had not heard the testimony of the Latino parents. It was as if she was deaf to what the community was telling her. She was putting her ego before the Goddoard School parents and students.

Let me say this. While not all teachers love the MCAS, they do undertand that the tests are a way for the state to stay COMMITTED to educating our most disadvantaged students. The State of Mass is saying, through the MCAS tests: We value poor kids. We value inner-city kids who have had none of the lucky circumstances middle-class kids have had. We expect our teachers to teach them – not just promote them to the next grade level. We expect these students to master the basics – reading, writing, math – so they can go onto college and get a a good job. Or if not college, our neediest students will still have the skills to be able to be trained for some work – to succeed in life. Flourish in their communities. Not end up living in poverty like their parents – and most likely their grandparents.

The MCAS are really about moving families out of poverty. They are about respecting kids -wanting them to leave our public schools with a set of skills that will be a foundation for a successful life.

As a Lamartine Street School student years ago – Worcester’s first (labelled) inner-city school – we took tons of standardized tests. So the state could see how we kids were doing. Those test taking days were stressful – and not all the kids did well. But our teachers – Mr. Monfredo, especially – could take those scores and see what we students needed to learn. And after the two or so days of rigid test taking, there was always a party in the boiler room or auditorium. We got to see a great Disney movie and have little Hoodsie ice cream cups! Life went on! We kids felt OK about our school, our teachers and our principal.

Novick has lived a sheltered life. She thinks the MCAS test is the enemy! She thinks the Goddard School staff must be hung out to dry! In front of the entire Worcester community!

How wrong she is …