Superintendent's Blog

Digital Textbooks: We have Reached the Tipping Point

January 19, 2012 · No Comments

The creation of more opportunities to purchase and author   digital textbooks  is highlighted in today’s edition of T.H.E. Journal which notes the release of the  iBook2 ( http://thejournal.com/articles/2012/01/19/apple-launches-ibooks-2-ibooks-author.aspx)

In Bedford, as we continue the development of our 1:1 initiative at the high school, the opportunity to create and revise our own textbooks is a key component of the shift we are supporting in our classrooms.  With that end in mind, we have joined with Andover and Burlington High Schools submitting an Innovation  Grant to the DESE seeking some financial support for our teachers to continue to work together.  Last June Burlington High School hosted a professional development week so that our teachers could  share digital resources via ePubs.

If the three districts are successful in getting this competitive grant, our cross-district collaboration will provide a great model for the rest of the state.  It is time for Massachusetts to support the shift from traditional to digital textbooks and Bedford is well-positioned to help lead the way.

If you have time, watch the video just released by Apple.

http://www.apple.com/education/#video-textbooks

→ No CommentsCategories: Community · Digital Learners · Teaching and Learning

Project 351

January 17, 2012 · No Comments

During the Martin Luther King weekend Governor Patrick hosted Project 351, the second annual statewide volunteer effort involving  eight graders from across the Commonwealth.  Michael Barkan represented John Glenn Middle School at this event.  Michael’s day included a town hall meeting with Governor Patrick, Lt. Governor Murray and Mayor Menino.  Michael then joined The Cradles to Crayon group refurbishing and packaging supplies for homeless children.

In nominating Michael for this honor, his teachers said the following:

Michael Barkan is an affable and respectful young man.  At an age where many are prone to follow, Michael is a natural leader.  Whether it is working with others in group projects, participating in class conversations or merely in a casual setting, Michael meets peers and adults alike, with the same genuine and congenial smile.

Kudos to Michael for achieving this honor!  JGMS is very proud to have such a caring leader and great role model in its midst.

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Global Education and Technology in Action

January 12, 2012 · No Comments

The current edition of the Primary Source Newsletter highlights an inter generational collaboration that involved multiple school districts and Primary Source, one of Bedford’s Professional Development providers.  Primary Source hosted a rich online discussion of the novel Girl in Translation. This poignant story of a young woman immigrating from Hong Kong to the U.S. highlights many of the issues facing the school aged immigrants who enter our country today. The newsletter notes:

Readers of all ages were engaged in thinking about critical global issues such as immigration, child labor, race, and identity. Educators were inspired to consider ways to incorporate Girl in Translation into their curricula in order to foster a deeper understanding of global issues.

Having an online discussion involving both adult book groups and the first time author Jean Kwok was a great opportunity for our high school literary scholars.

I have read this  novel and recommend it to you.  If you want to read the newsletter that mentions our BHS students, here’s the link:  http://primarysource.org/technology-connects-author-schools-for-global-conversation

→ No CommentsCategories: Digital Learners · Teaching and Learning

Teaching and Learning in 2012

January 4, 2012 · No Comments

One of the blogs that I follow as part of my Personal Learning Network is Mind/Shift.  In a recent post, one of the guest contributors noted that we can expect the following trends to grow in 2012:  Teacher Collaboration, Technology Integration, and Blended Learning.  These trends reflect the work we are doing in our schools as we make the time for more teacher collaboration, encourage the integration of online resources into classroom pedagogy, and support teachers’ efforts to incorporate blended learning models into their practice.  As I think about 2012, I am convinced that we have reached the “tipping point” that will quickly shift our schools into a future where the roles of teacher and student are more fluid, the requirements for time on learning are redefined, the use of technology and classroom access to the internet via 1:1 devices more widespread, and and the need to collaborate across time and space  more urgent than ever before.

I know that our talented faculty is ready for this shift and I, for one, am excited to see them evolve their practice in the coming year.

If you are interested in learning more about these trends, click here:  http://mindshift.kqed.org/2011/12/three-trends-that-define-the-future-of-teaching-and-learning-2/

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Happy Holidays!

December 23, 2011 · No Comments

My Favorite Munchkin Max

Hoping that all of our Bedford families have a wonderful holiday season!  In the coming week, take the time to relax and savor the company of those who are most important to you.   As we end 2011 in the schools, we have much to be thankful for.  Most significantly, we thank you for entrusting your children to our care and for supporting our schools in all that you do.

May 2012 bring you much happiness!

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Social Media and Schools

December 19, 2011 · No Comments

An article in yesterday’s New York Times captures the dilemma schools face as we encourage the use of more social media in our schools.  Teachers, parents, and students use the new media as a primary form of communication so as a district we need to be sure that we enable our staff to use Facebook, Blogs, Google, Twitter, etc. in a manner consistent with the professional standards we set forth for both teachers and administrators.  From my perspective, using social media is just another venue for communicating  with the constituencies we serve.   Whether we use social media or the more traditional newsletters to share information, we are all expected to maintain appropriate boundaries consistent with the professional position we hold and the responsibility we assume in the schools.

The new media present both a challenge and an opportunity enabling us to  generate  online conversations.  Moving  into these new venues, we need to be thoughtful about both  the information we create and share and our capacity to manage a professional online environment that is not intermingled with our personal lives.

Yesterday’s New York  Times article offers some food for thought for all of us as we encourage the use of the new media supporting a culture that fosters collaboration while protecting both students and teachers.    If you are interested in reading the article, here’s the link:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/business/media/rules-to-limit-how-teachers-and-students-interact-online.html?_r=1&ref=technology

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FY 2013 Budget Presented to Bedford School Committee

November 30, 2011 · No Comments

The FY 2013 Budget request for the Bedford Public Schools was presented to the Bedford School Committee on November 29th. The budget request reflects a 4.23% increase and includes an annual cost avoidance of $2.9 million that has resulted from the creation of more in-house programs for specialized Special Education populations.

To view the presentation, click here:
http://www.bedford.k12.ma.us/component/content/article/121-news-district/628-fy13-budget-presentation.html

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Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget’s Core Education Program

November 30, 2011 · No Comments

For today’s blog post, I am featuring a “special guest” piece authored by Tom Scott, Executive Director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents. Tom has written a very informative piece about the chronic underfunding of education in the Commonwealth.

The Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center has released their comprehensive study of the Chapter 70 foundation budget, titled Cutting Class: Underfunding the Foundation Budget’s Core Education Program.  The study investigated and authored by Luc Schuster, Policy Analyst at MassBudget is a comprehensive examination of the now nearly two decade old basis for funding public education in Massachusetts.  The final released study is now available at MassBudget.org:

This thoroughly researched and clearly written report points out the most glaring deficiencies between what is being spent compared to the allowances in the foundation budget and draws attention to its effect on low wealth school districts and on regular education statewide.  The study was funded by our colleagues in MASBO to secure a factual outside view of much that we were experiencing locally but now viewed from a statewide perspective.  The study is an excellent review of the original intentions of school reform legislation and how it has evolved in the reality of present day costs and demands.  We encourage educators to read this important work and to discuss it by participating in a  growing statewide conversation about the  shortcomings of the foundations upon which state and local standards of support for the education of students are now set.

Key Finding:

1.       Foundation understates core SPED costs by about $1.0 billion

2.    Foundation understates health insurance costs by $1.1 billion

3.    Districts have not implemented the low-income student program envisioned in the original foundation budget

4.    Most districts hire fewer regular education teachers than the foundation budget sets as an adequate baseline.  The study was able to disaggregate special education teacher costs from regular education teachers, unveiling the lack of spending on regular education teaching caused by the required demands for special education teaching.  Only the highest wealth communities have been able to spend at foundation for regular education teachers.

5.    Inflation adjustments have not been fully implemented, causing foundation to lag behind true cost growth

6.    Other items uncovered by the study and its analysis

a.     Page 10:  One third of all students attend schools spending essentially only at the foundation budget.  These students live in and attend schools mostly in low-income school districts.  Research from other sources indicates that the greatest achievement gap exists in low income school districts.  The study analyzes school districts by sorting them into quintiles of wealth, “the least wealthy 20 percent have average spending right at their average foundation budget, whereas the wealthiest 20 percent of districts spend 39 percent above foundation.  These findings indicate that communities with greater wealth make it a priority to raise additional local revenue to fund education at levels significantly above baseline foundation amounts.” Page10.

b.    Spending on items that are now forced to be considered as discretionary such as supplies, materials and technology is well below their foundation budget allowance, with most spending less than half that allowance.  Only the highest wealth quintile spends up to the foundation allowance on professional development.  By contrast the greatest achievement gap exists in the poorest districts where professional development is underfunded.  Other grant sources are noted as an alternative source of this funding.

c.     Teachers today have higher levels of education than existed in 1990 when 48.1% of teachers held master’s degrees.  In 2007-09 61.6% hold master’s degrees, also reflecting higher standards to achieve and maintain professional status.

The study is an excellent base for discussion of the short comings of the present allowances within the foundation budget.  It clearly points out that of the $ 9.1 billion in required minimum spending in the FY 2010 foundation budget school districts are forced by current circumstances to spend $ 2.1 billion (23% of all required spending) above what is allowed in the foundation budget for unanticipated on two items alone, special education costs and health insurance.  Money for impactful important spending to fund teaching and learning is being consumed by the faulty assumptions in the historic foundation budget that needs to be corrected.

This latest study, coupled with previous MASS studies, and the MBEA/Boston Foundation Report, A Bargain Not Kept: School Funding Realty, authored by Ed Moscovitch, released in December 2010, makes clear that corrections are long overdue.  Representative Jason Lewis and others have filed H 153 to fund a foundation study.  MASS support that study, but immediate action is needed for schools to draft their budget plan for FY 2013.

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Davis School Garden Celebrated

November 24, 2011 · 1 Comment

Special thanks to Meghan Mathews, our community partner, and Mrs. Davies for their work on a community garden. Today’s Boston Globe includes a story featuring their work.  The project teaches children many valuable skills and the importance of sharing one’s abundance with others.  Very appropriate to the day.  Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s the link:
http://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/regionals/north/2011/11/24/school-garden-offers-learning-from-ground/M7jLkZfRYM2GSwEyQhGxRK/story.html

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Happy Thanksgiving!

November 23, 2011 · No Comments

Happy Thanksgiving to all of our Bedford families.  If you want to enjoy a special treat celebrating the season, visit the video of our 3rd Grade Colonial Concert.  What a great performance with our 3rd graders decked out in costume for a great concert and demonstration of newly acquired dance moves.

Here’s the link:  http://rackerman.wordpress.bedford.k12.ma.us/2011/11/23/colonial-concert/

Special thanks to the children, Mrs. Lang and all of our 3rd grade staff.

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