DESE Report Criticizes Waltham Schools for Poor Training and Micromanagement
The Waltham Patch just published a very interesting online article. It states that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has reviewed the Waltham schools, and drafted a report very critical of the school system. The article states:
A new state report, which will be formally presented at the Oct. 17 Waltham School Committee meeting, harshly criticizes the committee itself as well as the district.
The report will unveil the findings of the state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s review of the district, which it began in January. The report will be presented at 7:30 p.m. at Waltham High School.
The report criticizes the School Committee for “micromanaging” the district and recommends that Superintendent Susan Nicholson and the committee join the District Governance Support Project that is intended improve members’ understanding of their roles in the district.
The report also says that some school committee members told the review board that there should be no “micromanagement” of the district and that they should mostly be creating the budget setting district goals. Other members said that “most school committee members do not recognize their proper roles in that they tend to micromanage or ‘want to manage more than support.’” Other district staff, not school committee members, agreed that some members have a tendency to micromanage.
Others interviewed cited a lack of trust between the committee and staff.
“Many interviewees expressed concern about a perceived tendency of some school committee members not to trust and support the superintendent and her staff and not to work with school leaders to support higher levels of student achievement. They described a ‘disconnect’ between the school committee and the administration and said that committee members ‘minimize reports from the district about student performance,’ the report reads.
The report also chastises the district for not having a comprehensive and coordinated professional development system for teachers, which ultimately results in teachers missing a lot of classroom time. The current system has teachers missing many hours of crucial classroom time when they are given school days off for professional development time, according to the report. Also, the current program is not properly coordinated with the district’s goals, according to the report.
“The team found limited evidence to suggest that the district uses student achievement data, program evaluations, or information about staff needs from personnel evaluations to plan professional development,” the report reads.
In total, the district has around 80 initiatives to help teachers improve their performance, but they have not been adequate.
“Interviewees told the team that professional development has been unfocused and superficial, initiatives have been scattered, and there has been no accountability for sharing or using professional development information to improve instructional practice,” the report reads.
The report recommends that district better align teaching priorities with professional development efforts.
The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters throughout Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.
Norton Public Schools: DESE to Conduct Coordinated Program Review
The Norton Patch published the following online. The original article can be found here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/75f8jca.
Patricia H. Ansay, Ed.D., Superintendent of the Norton Public Schools was informed by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education of an upcoming Coordinated Program Review that will be taking place this school year.
As part of this review, department staff will visit the district during the week of March 5. Such visits are routinely conducted by the department to satisfy federal and state requirements for the periodic review of specific education programs and services in schools throughout the Commonwealth. The department is reviewing several programs during a single visit in order to use department and school staff’s time most efficiently and to encourage strong connections among the programs.
The review will address the following programs: Special Education, English Language Acquisition and Civil Rights. After reviewing school district procedures for these programs, a department team will make its onsite visit, during which it will review individual student records, interview administrators, teachers and paraprofessional staff, survey parents and observe instructional spaces. After the onsite visit, it will prepare a report for the superintendent and school committee with detailed findings for each program.
Using a scale of ratings ranging from “Commendable” to “Not Implemented,” the report will rate the implementation of each requirement reviewed by the department. Where requirements are found not implemented or only partially implemented, the district must propose to the department corrective action to bring those areas into compliance with statutes and regulations. Districts and schools are encouraged to incorporate the corrective action into their district and school improvement plans and professional development plan. The school district will be provided with technical assistance from the department in developing a corrective action plan.
Both the department’s report and the corrective action plan are public information and will be available to the public upon request. Program Review Final Reports are also available on the Department’s Internet website at http://www.doe.mass.edu/pqa/review/cpr/reports/.
Any member of the public may request to be interviewed by telephone by a member of the department’s visiting team. Those wishing to be interviewed should call the Superintendent’s office at 508-285-0100 no later than Feb. 22 to leave their name and phone number, or they may call the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at 781-338- 3722.
A member of the visiting team will contact each person desiring an interview within two weeks after the completion of the onsite visit. If an individual is not comfortable communicating in English or requires some other accommodation, the Department will make arrangements to communicate appropriately with the individual.
The Law Office of James M. Baron represents students and parents in special education and other school-related legal matters. Please visit http://www.lawbaron.com, or call 781-209-1166 for more information.
Procedures Lite = Rights Lite
Have you ever heard of “Procedures Lite?” If not, don’t feel bad. Very few people have, though you will probably be seeing reference to this more and more.
Federal and state special education laws grant numerous rights to parents, and create numerous requirements for public school systems, to ensure that disabled children are provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE) in the Least Restrictive Environment (LRE). Anyone who has been involved with creating or implementing an IEP, or dealing with disputes that may crop up regarding a child’s education, can attest to the large overhead that is involved with special education.
Procedures Lite is an attempt by school districts to avoid the time, paperwork, cost and accountability that are required by federal and state special education laws. Here’s how you will “ benefit:”
- You will “agree to suspend state and federal special education procedural requirements…”
- You will “understand that an Individualized Education Program (IEP) will be replaced by a one-page Student Learning Plan (SLP)…”
- You will agree not to:
_____convene the Team meeting to develop an IEP.
_____develop an IEP.
_____ send/receive periodic parent notices.
_____conduct procedurally required evaluations
- You will agree to “forever WAIVE [your] rights to appeal all issues under all state and federal laws… including all rights related to compensatory services or damages.”
Is Procedures Lite sanctioned by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) or the Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA)? I can find no reference to it in any state or federal website or communication, yet its advocates will have you believe that it is sanctioned by the DESE. The Town of Weston – the only district of which I am aware that openly makes reference to this procedure – states, “DESE identifies the purposes of Procedures Lite as follows… DESE suggests that Procedures Lite agreements be limited….” http://bit.ly/owsn9r.
I can’t think of any good reason for parents to agree to the use of Procedures Lite. I see lots of benefits for the school districts, but none for the parents. Is a district asks you to utilize Procedures Lite, would you mind notifying my office? I would like to keep a running list of districts attempting to utilize Procedures Lite. Thank you.
For further information about the Law Office of James M. Baron, please visit http://www.lawbaron.com,or call 781-209-1166.