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October 31, 2007

HSAs are here to stay... but with a project option

The state school board voted 8-4 today to continue requiring students starting in the class of 2009 to pass the four High School Assessments. But it will give an option of a senior project to students who fail the tests repeatedly. See Liz's story here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:23 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Testing
        

The Baltimore school system vs. Martin O'Malley

The state's $1.7 billion budget shortfall has left Gov. O'Malley proposing to curb legally mandated school funding increases based on inflation. And, as I report today, the governor is quickly losing his allies in the Baltimore school system, which he fought so hard to protect as mayor. School board chairman Brian Morris, a longtime friend, told a joint committee in Annapolis yesterday to keep their hands off education funding. When the city school system had a $58 million deficit a few years back, Morris said, he and his board managed to make all the cuts (including 1,000 layoffs three weeks before Christmas) at the central office without hurting individual schools directly. He told the legislators they should have similar "non-negotiables."

New city schools chief Andres Alonso, who's made it clear he does not care to play politics, didn't mince words when he appeared before the joint committee: He said O'Malley's proposal would result in a $131 budget shortfall for the city schools over three years. Click below to read his full written testimony, submitted in addition to his oral comments. Interesting statistics he provides on education funding as a percentage of median household income. Maryland doesn't fare so well.

On a side note, it's funny how power is relative... I'm used to seeing Morris and Alonso at school system headquarters, where everyone does as they say. Yesterday, they were caught in a line outside the Department of Legislative Services building, which had run out of seats in the hearing room 15 minutes before the event was to begin. I was eventually allowed in despite my lack of State House press credentials, but it made no difference when Morris and Alonso told the guards who they were. They were stuck outside with everyone else until their turn came to testify.

Testimony of Andrés A. Alonso, Ed.D.

Chief Executive Officer of the Baltimore City Public School System

Before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee

House Committee on Ways and Means

House Committee on Appropriations

On the Budget Reconciliation Act

October 30, 2007

Thank you for the opportunity to address the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, the House Committee on Ways and Means, and the House Committee on Appropriations about the Governor’s Budget Reconciliation Act on funding for education. I want to thank this body for its investment in our schools during these past six years.

The Bradford Opinion defines a constitutionally adequate education as one commensurate with "contemporary educational standards". During this decade, this body has invested great resources in order to bring about this outcome in Maryland schools. Considerable amounts of this investment have gone to Baltimore City schools. As a result, we have seen improvements in the readiness of our students for schools, double digit increases in the percentage of students scoring proficient and advanced for all grades and all tests in the Maryland State Assessments since the first year of testing (except in one grade, where there were single digit gains), increased passing rates in all High School Assessments despite increased numbers of students taking the assessments, and increased numbers of students graduating from high school despite falling enrollment levels. We have also seen more than doubling of students passing AP exams with a score of 3 or higher and more than doubling of AP classes offered by schools. We have been able to reduce staffing rates for our schools, as well as increase the number of highly qualified teachers in our schools.

These accomplishments would have been impossible without the investment in education made by the state of Maryland. Unfortunately, we have a long way to go to bring our students to "contemporary educational standards," especially in a context of increased standards and accountability. I will give you only one statistic to buttress this unassailable fact: today, 3356 or our Class of 2009 students, the first class that must pass four High School Assessments to graduate from high school, have to pass at least one High School Assessment to graduate. The percentage of our graduates in 2006 who enrolled in either four or two year college programs was 44% compared to the national average of 66%. The college graduation rate within five years for those in the class of 2001 who enrolled in college was 14%. These numbers, so unacceptably low, define the challenge for us as a school system, but they also define the extent of the need, not only for the city but for the state.

The job has not been done. I appreciate the attempt to continue to incrementally raise funding for our schools, but the work demands transformation, not incremental thinking. And transformation demands commitment, not retrenchment. We cannot balance our budget by cutting our schools, especially in this the wealthiest state in the nation. I will remind this body that Maryland ranks 13th in per pupil education spending in the nation, but 40th in per pupil education spending as a fraction of median household income. New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC all do better. I just arrived from New York, where education spending is 28 percent of median household income. In Maryland, that number is 15.7 percent. But New York has recognized, through the Campaign for Fiscal Equity, the need to fund education adequately and equitably. Maryland must do the same, since the future costs to this state of not funding education adequately and equitably are immeasurably larger than the costs of providing for an adequate education for all.

We in Baltimore City face shortfalls under the present proposed funding plan of $51.2 million in FY’09, $47 million in FY’10, and $32.7 million in FY’11. The present proposal to close the $1.7 billion shortfall in the state budget represents a drastic retreat from the commitments and recommendations of the Commission on Education Finance, Equity, and Excellence (the Thornton Commission) and the Judge Kaplan decision in the Bradford litigation. It is not based on any measure of what an adequate education demands. The constitution of the state demands more. Any proposal that shortchanges the students of our city from their right to an adequate education is unacceptable. We in Baltimore City plan to make sure that our students get the resources that they deserve. It takes adequate funding to bring about the change that BCPSS needs and must do. This proposal does not provide adequate funding.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City, School Finance
        

What grade would you give your parents?

A Connecticut school board member wants parents to be evaluated on criteria including: whether their children have done homework and eaten a good breakfast.

Needless to say he has caused quite a stir.

Steven Edwards, a Republican member of the Manchester Board of Education, wants teachers and school administrators give the parents a pass or fail check during parent-teacher conferences.

Read more about the story here.

Is it time that the tables are turned on the parents? With all the pressures that educators have to deal with, should parents also get a grade?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 9:17 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Nation, Parents, Trends
        

October 30, 2007

Less tricks and treats this Halloween

With pressures mounting from religious groups and parents, more schools are abandoning traditional Halloween parties.

Child obesity and wellness policies have also altered the traditional menus of candy corn, and cupcakes. Now, you’re more likely to catch a kid snacking on carrot sticks with reduced fat ranch dressing.

Take Running Brook Elementary School in Columbia for example. Tomorrow I’m heading to the school for their annual vocabulary parade. The school asks students to dress up as vocabulary words. If a student picks the word “rain”, he or she will dress as a rain drop.

The parade will be followed by a party featuring healthy snacks.

This definitely isn’t your mama’s Halloween party!

What are your schools doing this Halloween? Are schools going to far to curb the Halloween tradition?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 7:03 PM | | Comments (2)
        

What does it really mean to be Maryland Superintendent of the Year?

What does it take to be the state's Superintendent of the Year? 

The Harford County Public Schools announced that its superintendent, "Jackie Haas has been named the Maryland Superintendent of the Year!"

So how many other superintendents were vying for this esteemed state title? When the Sun contacted the Public School Superintendents Association of Maryland, the executive director, James L. Lupis Jr., was strangely mum.

"I can't divulge that.  We have countywide school systems in Maryland where we have 24 school systems and 24 superintendents."  The number of nominations varies year-to-year, he said.

"Was Dr. Haas the only one in the applicant pool this year?"

"No."

"Was it less than five?'

"Yes." 

Lupis wouldn't say the exact number of nominees for this year's Maryland Superintendent of the Year, although now we can narrow it down to two or three or four.

The award implies that  the superintendent is picked statewide, in the same fashion as the state's Teacher of the Year prize.  But the average number of nominees each year is less than five, Lupis said.   

Haas receives a traveling plaque with her name engraved along previous winners.  She will be one of the 50 superintendents vying for the title of National Superintendent of the Year awarded by the American Association of School Administrators (AASA).  Read the full two-page announcement here.

Posted by Madison Park at 1:46 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Maryland's "Dropout Factories"

Click here to get a detailed map of the schools labeled "dropout factories" by Johns Hopkins University for the Associated Press. Hopkins applied the label to schools where no more than 60 percent of the students who start out as freshmen make it to their senior year. The Sun ran this story today.

Maryland is home to 13 "dropout factories" including Meade High in Anne Arundel County and five schools in Baltimore: Edmondson-Westside High (a vocational school), Frederick Douglass High, Northwestern High, Patterson High and the now-closed Southwestern High. For whatever it's worth, Douglass, Northwestern and Patterson are the only large neighborhood high schools remaining in Baltimore. All the rest have been broken up into smaller schools within the big campuses. And many of those small schools are too new to have data measuring seniors who started as freshmen.

For the sake of the students at these schools, I hope the dropout factory label doesn't stick as other labels in education do. Which would you rather attend: A dropout factory or a persistently dangerous school? (Fortunately, no school in Maryland has the distinction of being both.)

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:38 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Around the Nation, Around the Region, Baltimore City, Trends
        

"What College Means to Me" winners, and other awards

Click below for a list of the 27 students who won the CollegeBound Foundation's "What College Means to Me" contest, which I wrote about in today's paper.

Other news on the education awards front in Baltimore.... Brad Nornhold, an eighth-grade algebra teacher at KIPP Ujima Village Academy, has been named Maryland's Teacher of the Year in the Wal-Mart and Sam's Club Teacher of the Year contest. KIPP Ujima Village received a $10,000 check as a result. 

This morning, officials from Samsung will present $30,000 of new technology to the Crossroads School, a charter school run by the Living Classrooms Foundation. Crossroads won a contest for a "technology makeover."

"What College Means to Me" contest winners 

Art, Kindergarten-Second Grade

1st Place: Cliff Wilson, Belmont Elementary

2nd Place: Maurice Boone, Leith Walk Elementary

3rd Place: Toni Armwood, Hampden Elementary/Middle

 

Art, Third-Fifth Grades 

1st Place: Shayla Arrington, Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle

2nd Place: Latifah Fasancy, Matthew A. Henson Elementary

3rd Place: Mehgan Kane, Lyndhurst Elementary

 

Art, Sixth-Eighth Grades

1st Place: Jakeara Peak, Garrett Heights Middle

2nd Place: Bakhita Emmanuel, Cross Country Elementary/Middle

3rd Place: Analicia Archibald, Cross Country Elementary/Middle 

 

Essay, Kindergarten-Second Grade

1st Place: Valerie McCauley, Hampden Elementary

2nd Place: Nour Abou-Hussein, Hampden Elementary

3rd Place: Toni Williams, Leith Walk Elementary

 

Essay, Third-Fifth Grades

1st Place: Kerron O'Brien, Leith Walk Elementary

2nd Place: Kayla Washington, Leith Walk Elementary

3rd Place: Alexander Levy, Leith Walk Elementary

 

Essay, Sixth-Eighth Grades

1st Place: Breyona Dandridge, Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle

2nd Place: Darryl Almond, William H. Lemmel Middle

3rd Place: Jazmin Goolesby, William H. Lemmel Middle

 

Poetry, Kindergarten-Second Grade

1st Place: Raymond DeBarge IV, Hampden Elementary

2nd Place: Jordan Turrentine, Leith Walk Elementary

3rd Place: MaKayla Westry, Leith Walk Elementary

 

Poetry, Third-Fifth Grades

1st Place: Daysha Sanders, Rosemont Elementary/Middle

2nd Place: Morgan Askew, Pimlico Elementary/Middle

3rd Place: Coryia Thomas, Franklin Square Elementary

 

Poetry, Sixth-Eighth Grades

1st Place: Ashanti Raymond, ConneXions Community Academy

2nd Place: Briante Lashawn Maultsby, William H. Lemmel Middle

3rd Place: KaVaughn Ruffin, William H. Lemmel Middle

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:59 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 29, 2007

Stress-reduction at school

As an avid yoga practitioner (and newly christened yoga instructor) in my life outside The Sun, I took particular interest in today's New York Times story, "A Principal Who Cracks Down on Stress." The article looks at Needham High School in the Boston suburbs, where the principal asks teachers to schedule homework-free weekends and yoga is required of all seniors. The goal is to combat a culture of such high achievement that students put their health, physical and mental, at risk. The stress-reduction initiative at Needham High began after a spate of student suicides.

Check out this site about a non-profit working to bring yoga into Baltimore's schools. Covering the city schools, I often wish I could teach yoga to the kids I meet to help them deal with the overwhelming stress in their lives outside the classroom.

Educators and parents: How do you see the effects of stress manifesting in your students? What, if anything, are your schools doing to help? And do you think it's a school's place to have stress-reduction initiatives?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 2:36 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation, Baltimore City
        

A touching blog by city students

Thanks to M. Corbin for the referral to the new student blog at the Academy of College and Career Exploration. ACCE is one of the city's innovation high schools and, at four years old, it will graduate its first senior class in June. The blog, News from Room 123, is written by students in that class, reflecting on their lives and what lies ahead after graduation. In its week of existence, the blog has touched on subjects ranging from excitement over good SAT scores to getting by without family to lean on to playing catchup for credits. Consider this entry, by student Qwashawn Daniels, called "Mind of a Senior":

As (I) sit in room 123 my mind sometimes wonders off into space. I look at my peers and within I see excellence, but when I analyze myself I don’t find the same greatness. I live in the projects with my mom and two younger sisters. My mother has always tried to make a way for us, she takes care of needs instead of wants. When I see my mother struggle taking care of my sisters it makes me think. I want more out of life and I know that if I apply myself then I can be something or make something out of my life. We talk about college and the steps we take to reach our goals in this class. In my daze I always find myself putting myself down and giving up. In my heart I know that I can do it and it shows in some of my work, that’s only when I feel that I’m college bound. Other times I feel that I am as smart as the young adults that surround me in this class. Im afraid that I won’t make it in the “real world” because there won’t be anyone to push me. Over time I sit in room 123 my mind shuts the world out and thinks of the negative aspects in my home and educational life. 

I look forward to hearing more of these students' stories throughout their senior year.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 26, 2007

Katya Denisova answers your questions

Katya Denisova, the physics teacher I profiled last Sunday, responds here to questions from blog readers.

Questions from Bill: 

1) Assume no funding increase (fixed funds), what would be the most significant priority shift that occur in city schools?

KD response: Hire more qualified teachers and staff.

2) Who is more important to school success - teacher or principal (and I know that it's a combination, but if you have to choose)?

KD response: I'd say principal. Because a good leader sets tone to the entire school and is able to lift experienced and motivated teachers and inspire new teachers, or teachers who need an additional push to success. One teacher or even a group of teachers cannot influence an entire school community. Their power is limited to the students they teach. A principal can.

3) What does the ideal teacher's schedule for one day look like - high school, middle school, elementary (or which ever level you choose to focus)?

KD response: You mean in an ideal, hypothetical situation? I'd say, for high school, teach two (90-minute) periods a day, observe a different teacher teach or co- teach with a different teacher for one period, and then spend the rest of the day planning and preparing lessons, reflecting on their practice, and meeting with coaches and mentors.

Question from Ann: did the school system apply a visa or green card for you, and how did you go about it?

KD response: I hired a lawyer, who completed all the necessary paperwork for the visa, its extension, and later the greencard. I paid the lawyer myself. I physically took all the papers to be signed to the Central School District Office. And that's when I met all the resistance.

Question from Steegness: I've found that the best teachers fall into one of two camps: Those that love the subject they teach, and want to share it with others (and) those that love teaching itself, and teach whatever it is they know best. With which of the two (if either) would you most identify? And why?

KD response: I am a physics geek. I think physics is the most powerful body of knowledge that humans have achieved. I can teach other sciences if I need to, but I do not see as much beauty, symmetry, logic, and universalism in those. I do like to teach, but there is nothing in the world more inspiring than opening and shaping students' minds with physics concepts.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:57 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City, Teaching
        

Maryland's Siemens Competition Semifinalists

Here are some kids who are definitely smarter than I am:

Gabriella Biondo, George Washington Carver Center for Arts and Technology, Towson

Sarah Kamel, Centennial High School, Ellicott City

David Lai, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Baltimore

Phillip Sandborn, Wilde Lake High School, Columbia

Liv Johannessen, Governor Thomas Johnson High School, Frederick

Paul Kominers and Damjan Korac, Walt Whitman High School, Bethesda

Andrew Kung, Benjamin Lee, Boris Vassilev and Yang Yang, Montgomery Blair High School, Silver Spring

These 11 students are Maryland's semifinalists in the Siemens Competition, a national science research competition administered by the College Board. They are among 295 semifinalists from 34 states, selected from a pool of 1,641 applicants. Another 95 kids nationwide -- including Benjamin Lu and Louis Wasserman from Montgomery Blair -- earned the even greater distinction as regional finalists. They'll compete to go on to the nationals, where they can earn up to $100,000 in scholarship money.

As evidence of how smart these kids are, check out this descrption of David Lai's project from a press release sent out by the Ingenuity Project, the program at Poly for kids gifted in math and science:

"Mr. Lai’s project, entitled 'Characterization of Genomic Instability in SGS1 Mutants,' is a part of the research on a cell’s ability to efficiently repair damaged DNA. Genes like SGS1 are important for the proper repair of DNA breaks in human cells. Mutations in homologs of SGS1 produce genomic instability syndromes, symptoms of which include premature aging and a predisposition to cancer. In the research, the SGS1 mutant yeast was used as a model for human cells. The results show that this approach can be used to give insight into the dynamics of certain specific cancer pathways."

Anybody care to explain what a homolog of SGS1 is?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:16 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Howard County
        

October 25, 2007

Fighting for Thornton

Education advocates in the city are rallying the troops to go to Annapolis on Monday, the first day of the special legislative session, to fight potential cuts to Thornton funding. The cuts would help offset the state deficit.

If Gov. Martin O'Malley's proposal stands and schools do not receive a funding increase to account for inflation, Baltimore would take a hit of $29 million and the state would lose $207 million next school year, according to information on fliers being distributed by the ACLU of Maryland.

The fliers tell us what $29 million means to the city schools:  the equivalent of $350.83 per student or 10 months of school transportation costs or 500 teachers' salaries.

The advocates are arranging to have buses drive as many people as they can gather down to Annapolis on Monday night, leaving from school system headquarters. Should be an interesting fight, pitting O'Malley again people who were among his core supporters when he ran for governor.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:05 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Should colleges give admissions preference to mostly-male talented "slackers"?

This morning's story about Towson University's decision to scrap a controversial admission's scheme favoring men -- has been drawing some interesting reaction from readers.

Launched in 2005, the experiment let in students with relatively low high school grades but high SAT scores -- a combination found more often in males. It was designed in part to address concerns about declining enrollment of males, who make up just 40 percent of Towson's undergraduate student body.  

Here's a sample of reader response, along with some additional items that didn't make it into the story, because of length:

Carl from Baltimore says the low retention rates for this group are Towson's fault, not the students. "So, what Towson is saying is that high potential, low production students are not worth their effort? ... Towson-- YOU failed, not the students! These high potential-low production students deserve your support-- they are usually highly creative, bright kids who need help."

Deborah Leather, the Towson prof who administered the program, says the university poured resources and attention to the group. "I think the university did a phenomenal job of providing exceptional support for this group," she said. "I don't think it's about resources."

Tom from Baltimore said he fit the mediocre grades/high test score profile 20 years ago when he was admitted to Towson. "I got in. Were there bumps along the way? Absolutely. But I graduated with ... honors. I hope Towson finds a way to look at individuals and not simply ditch the philosopy because of the attrition rates."

Tom, you're right in assuming Towson has become increasingly selective in recent years. Public universities in Maryland are under constant pressure to increase retention and graduation rates, in part because recruiting and enrolling students who are statistically less likely to succeed is far more expensive than taking a chance on those who need extra help.

Towson officials have found that high grades and a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum are very good predictors of success there, while the SAT less so. One benefit to Towson's increased emphasis on grades has been increased enrollment and achievement of minority students in particular, who tend to score lower on standardized tests.

Finally, university officials have stressed that not all students enrolled in this program fit the typical "slacker" profile. Some experienced economic or family hardships during high school, challenges which affected their high school years.

Check out this chart for a comparison of graduation and retention rates at Maryland colleges.

What do the rest of you think? Any other questions you'd like us to put to Towson officials?

 

 

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 10:53 AM | | Comments (3)
        

October 24, 2007

At Woodlawn High, some good news and some bad news

Good news is a welcome respite at Woodlawn High School, where this week's news coverage of student violence on campus has once again brought unwanted attention to the school.

So here's something good to report --- an extremely reliable source has told me that a couple days ago the air conditioning was finally restored to the school's computer lab. Apparently, students had been unable to use the computer lab, which houses about 30 fairly new computers, since the beginning of the school year because of that air conditioning problem.

Now for a bit of bad news --- at least for those of you who have applauded Miko Baldwin's efforts as a parent to get more attention paid to needed repairs and other concerns at the school. According to Miko, during Tuesday night's meeting of the school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association, Miko was stripped of her role on the group's executive board. With only 11 members present, the board decided to cast votes on "reaffirming" the positions of the group's officers. Some time ago, Miko had been asked to serve as the group's treasurer. Last night, however, she wasn't even listed among the officers being considered when the members took a vote, which essentially left Miko without a role.

An obviously disgusted Miko called me after the meeting to tell me about this latest development. She believes the group's leaders are trying to send her a message that they weren't happy about her contacting a reporter from The Sun (me) to talk about issues at the school. But she said she is vowing to be unmoved. With or without the PTSA's support, she said she will continue to advocate for the school's needs.

However, she did add this troubling thought ---

"This kind of mess is part of the reason some parents don't get involved. They don't want to deal with this."

It's sad to think that some people might be turning something as seemingly wholesome as the local PTA into petty power struggles. And I wonder how many parents have been turned off by the politics of their school's PTA.

Any advice for Miko???

Check out earlier discussions about Miko's efforts at Woodlawn.

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/education/blog/2007/10/what_people_are_saying_about_w.html

http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/education/blog/2007/10/water_woes.html#comments

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/bal-md.co.water22oct22,0,1273872.story?coll=bal_tab01_layout

Posted by Gina Davis at 6:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County, Parents
        

Where are they now? Kimberly A. Statham

Today’s installment features Kimberly A. Statham, the former chief academic officer for Howard County Schools who resigned following allegations of a grade changing scandal involving her daughter.

Statham, 49, has resurfaced as deputy superintendent of teaching and learning for the Office of the State Superintendent of Education for the District of Columbia.

Statham's career as Howard County's chief academic officer ended after allegations that she intimidated school staff members at Centennial High School to obtain preferential treatment for her daughter, who was a student there. She resigned in 2004 and eventually was exonerated by the Howard County Board of Education. Statham was a consultant for the Howard County school system the next year.

During that period, Statham, who is African-American, was the victim of an apparent hate crime when someone used a chemical to burn a cross into the front lawn of her Ellicott City home.

Deborah A. Gist, state superintendent of education for the District of Columbia, said she was aware of the events that preceded Statham’s departure from Howard County.

 “We discussed it really briefly,” Gist said. “It seems clear that it was an unfortunate situation, and that Kimberly had done the right thing, and that she did not do anything that would concern me at all.”

Prior to her return to the Beltway, Statham had been working in the Oakland (Calif.) Unified School District. In fact, Statham was working as the interim chief executive officer for the 41,000-student system, when she resigned. She held that position for the final five-months of her 28-month stint.

Statham was instrumental in advancing the performance of Oakland's public school students, according to officials there.

She is credited with requiring all students to take the PSATs. In addition, officials say that the number of Oakland students accepted to the California state college system nearly doubled.

For more, check out today’s article.

Statham, who has never made herself available for an interview with me on numerous occasions during the past two years, was surprisingly not available for comment for today's story.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:50 AM | | Comments (1)
        

School leaders, talking about leadership

Around 250 people gathered Monday night in the swanky Corinthian Room at the Tremont Grand Hotel to hear Andres Alonso, John Deasy and Nancy Grasmick talk about school leadership. The panel was organized by New Leaders for New Schools, a principal training program that's holding its national conference in Baltimore this week (with many of the participants from Baltimore and Prince George's County). A selection of the panelists' comments:

Deasy (the Prince George's superintendent): Called the principalship the "lonliest and most powerful position" in public education. He said great principals are "on the verge of insubordination" and "willing to make public acts of courage" on behalf of kids. Said principals must use the expertise on their faculty to educate themselves and build a team. But, firing ineffective teachers is "exactly part of the job." He asks his principals about their teachers: "Who are the bottom five percent and why are you keeping them? Who are the top five percent and what are you doing to keep them?" Said his job is to get out of the way of principals whose schools are performing well, but to give less autonomy to principals where students are not achieving.

Alonso (the city's new schools CEO): Echoed Deasy's call for insubordination. "It can't be about the rules," he said. "It has to be about pushing through the rules for the benefit of student achievement." Said the principalship is an intellectual, spiritual and emotional enterprise, but "good principals have great common sense... It's easy to see how often people lack common sense." Said school districts often fail principals by leaving them to sink or swim. He supports giving principals the authority to get rid of ineffective teachers -- but not simply to transfer them elsewhere. "The dance of lemons is taking place is many, many urban schools in the country," he said. But once teachers have tenure, it's "extraordinarily difficult" to get rid of them, and where he came from in New York City, the number of teachers denied tenure is "extraordinarily small." Disagreed with Deasy on the autonomy issue, saying that principals should all get autonomy and then be held accountable for the results, once clear metrics are established. In Baltimore, he said, "we will move toward autonomy when we're ready. We're not ready now."

Grasmick (the state superintendent): Said no other position in education is transforming like the principalship, and retaining good principals is one of the biggest problems in education. There must be a recognition that principals don't enter their jobs with all the requisite skills. "We've done a poor job of providing requisite skills for principals in higher education," she said.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:19 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Sobering stats on college readiness in Baltimore

As I report in today's Sun, Andres Alonso has ended each Baltimore school board meeting for the past few months with a presentation of student data on various topics, from suspensions to truancy to test scores. The presentation at the end of last night's meeting, on college readiness, was the most sobering yet.

A word of warning: The numbers would have looked somewhat better if Morgan State University had submitted information to the National Student Clearinghouse, which compiled the data. There also would have been a bump if they included students who deferred their college acceptances. But the figures are still frighteningly low.

The presentation, posted on the school system's BoardDocs site, reveals the following:

-- Among Baltimore students who graduated high school in the spring of 2006 (and remember, only about 60 percent graduate), just 44 percent enrolled in a two- or four-year college that fall. That compares with a national college enrollment rate of 66 percent.

-- In Baltimore, the college enrollment rate has declined slightly since 2001, from 49 percent to the 44 percent in 2006. Nationally, it's increased slightly during that period, from 64 percent to 66.

-- Only 14 percent of students in Baltimore's Class of 2001 had earned a college degree within five years.

-- Among students who attended the prestigious citywide magnet schools (Poly, City, Western, Dunbar, School for the Arts), 33 percent earned a college degree in five years.

-- At the city's career and technology high schools (Mervo, Carver, Edmondson), six percent of students in the class of 2001 had a degree five years later. And at the neighborhood high schools, the percentage with a college degree was just four percent. (Keep in mind that the class of 2001 graduated before a major reform, breaking big neighborhood high schools into small ones, took effect.)

High school teachers: Do these figures accurately represent what's happening with your seniors, or do they overstate the problem? And what should Alonso and his team do to better prepare students for college?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:01 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 23, 2007

Guess who’s back to the Beltway?

Tomorrow as part of our “Where are they now?” feature, I will update you on the latest accomplishment of a former top-ranking Howard County Schools official who left Maryland shortly after a controversy erupted at a high school.

Turns out this educator has returned to the Beltway. Read about it online tomorrow. Comment about it on the blog after.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 4:48 PM | | Comments (0)
        

We want your blogs

We’re revamping our rail – items that run along the side of the blog -- and we want to link to teacher blogs and other education sites. What do you read? Where do you go to get the scoop -- other than us, of course?
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 1:32 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Media attempts to open 'Jena 6' proceedings

A slew of media outlets - including our sister paper The Chicago Tribune - have filed a motion challenging the decisions by a judge to close the proceedings in Mychal Bell's juvenile case. The judge, J.P. Mauffray, also called for a gag order for all parties involved in the case.

Bell is the first of the six black Louisiana teenagers known as the “Jena 6” to face trial.

Read more about the legal debate here.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Diversity/Segregation
        

Where are they now?

Welcome to a new occasional feature on Classroom Connections (really, really, we're changing our name soon) looking at past newsmakers in the world of Maryland education, from the prominent to the obscure.

Today we start with T.S. Grant, whom you city folk may recall as the guy who unsuccessfully challenged Marietta English two years ago in the Baltimore Teachers Union election, running for president of the teacher chapter. English won easily, though only a small fraction of the union membership turned out to vote.

Grant has since left his job as an American government teacher at New Era Academy. Now, while English fights the union's battle over planning time, Grant is enrolled in a Ph.D program at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He's studying African-American boys in the foster care system with the hopes of one day opening a boarding school for them. He also runs an educational consulting business.

In his spare time, Grant has memorized -- yep, MEMORIZED -- the entire U.S. Constitution. It takes around an hour for him to recite it aloud. He likes to tell people that, if he can commit the thing to memory, they can at least take a little while to read it. Last month, on the 220th anniversary of the document's adoption, Grant traveled to Philadelphia and showed his stuff at the National Constitution Center. Check out some local media coverage of his performance (video included) here.

Any other ghosts from education stories past care to reveal themselves? Anybody whose whereabouts you'd like us to track down? Drop your suggestions in the comments section.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:56 AM | | Comments (3)
        

October 22, 2007

What people are saying about Woodlawn

On The Sun's discussion forum, lots of people have been weighing in on today's story about the Woodlawn High School mother who has been taking the school to task about the building's maintenance.

Click the link below to check out what they're saying. (Also, here's a link to my blog post this morning about the story, including parts of the story that were cut because of space limitations in the paper).

COMMENTS

DOC
The Principal should be fired. He knew, or should have known, the condition of the school. For him to lie, says volumes about his charactor.

Pirate1001
Harrisburg, PA
Dear Miko Baldwin ,
I hope you see this. GOOD JOB!!! As an ARCH-Conservative, I still beleive that investing in our schools and children, of ALL colors and socio-economic backgrounds, is critical to our survival. I HATE taxes, but schools are one of the few things I have no problem funding. Anyone who does, is not thinking clearly.
2 years without hot water, what the hell is going on?
Good Job, Ma'am.


Pirtate1001
You are right Doc!!

    DOC wrote:
    The Principal should be fired. He knew, or should have known, the condition of the school. For him to lie, says volumes about his charactor.


Bob of Florida
New Port Richey, FL
Ms Miko Baldwin may have started a necessary enlightenment for the community parents of Woodlawn High to become involved with their students. Stop making excuses and focus on fixing the problems.
Kudos to Ms Baldwin.


Jane of Baltimore
Glen Burnie, MD
Ms. Baldwin-I applaud your actions, although if you'd had a child in Woodlawn since 2000, things should've been addressed before now. Thank you.


Stephanie from SC
Lexington, SC
As a 1983 grad from Woodlawn, we never had any of this “under-cover” operation that is currently obvious. If there was a problem, we could always go to administration (or even a teacher for that matter) and express our concerns.
My question is… why did the student complaints go unrecognized for so long? Or, did the students actually bring their concerns to the administration and admin brushed them off? And why has it taken this long for someone to step up to the plate? It seems to me that Ms. Baldwin is the only parent involved in her child’s education, which is commendable. Why aren’t the other parents stepping up and helping?
Get involved with your child’s education people. Don’t think that the principal and teachers are your child’s babysitters !!! Many thanks to Ms. Baldwin for getting involved in her child’s education and the resolution of this particular problem.


Monica
Windsor Mill, MD
My son is a 2005 grad of Woodlawn. The reality is that it takes more than one parent and a few students to solve these problems. The parents refuse to be involved in the students education so these problems will always exist despite Ms. Baldwin' s efforts. This is a small accomplishment that could lead to huge accomplishments if all were involved. The difference in Dulaney and Towson high schools is not race but parent involvement. Also this principal is not to blame , the school has decades of problems from maintance to student behaviors that can not be fixed over night. There are small groups who have tried over the years to better Woodlawn but it's just not enough!


bryanintimonium
Catonsville, MD
I like how the person interviewed here directly named Towson or Dulaney as not having problems like this. Well, I am a Dulaney alumnus (1999) and, yes we had all of the problems that are listed at Woodlawn. Broken, fogged windows and many that did not open or would not stay open. Brown water from some of the drinking fountains and any number of the issues that come with 40 and 50 year old school buildings.

yay
I hope other parents and community members who want a strong leadership recognize the change one woman was able to make happen. May many more show concern for the youth of the city and do the same. Excellent work, Ms. Baldwin.


Gina Davis
Baltimore, MD
Hi everyone,
Please check out my recent post on our education blog (http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/educatio... ). I've included a few things that didn't make it into the story.

On another note, as I did the reporting for today's story, I noticed a pattern of people either not speaking up or speaking up but not taking the steps (as Miko did in the case of the hot water) to talk to someone who could do something about getting the problem fixed.

How many of us would be willing to work in an office or some other workplace that lacked such basic needs, or where the company continually ignored problems until someone complained loudly enough?

But still, there are plenty of reasonable people who grow weary or complacent in less-than-ideal situations. Maybe Miko's efforts will reinvigorate parents at Woodlawn and at other schools. It could happen.

Hoodlawn
That's the least of the problems at Woodlawn. A student was stabbed today in the courtyard at lunch and the school didn't skip a beat, they allowed classes to go on as usual. I guess our kids should be accustomed to violence, police, blood, and helicopters at school. The principal and his administration are clueless and ineffective. Most of the students couldn't tell you what the principal looks like. In a school of 2300 students, 2000 are doing the right thing. Its a shame the administration can't put things in place to provide a safe and orderly environment, with about 300 to control or expel.


america57
Port Republic, MD
All children deseve a good education in this country. Baltimore County needs to step up and give the dedicated teachers and staff of Woodlawn High the matierials they need to teach these children!


Bless that parent
Baltimore, MD
You hear all the time these days, "Have a blessed day." Ms. Baldwin is a parent involved with her child's school and that will make all the difference. She is bringing the blessing personally to Woodlawn.
The first school where I ever substitute taught was Woodlawn. I was given a class, and during my "break" I was sent to another class where the teacher had left no lesson plan, and the kids took advantage of the situation. It was a rough, long day. In the hallways, the kids were respectful, and no different than kids in most high schools. But I'll tell you right now all schools are not equal in this county, and the biggest difference is the involvement of the parents. Where parents are involved, then you can have a Towson High.


Rob
Las Vegas, NV
Hey lady don't you know that education is not a priority in this country...our goverment use Billions of dollars on our oil excavation.. [oh sorry] war in Iraq.. what do you expect us to do use money to improve conditions for our on children at home that would be ludacris and unprofitable...let the poor kids remain hopeless uneducated and desperate and go to jail so we can collect billons of dollars for their incarciration heath care food service etc.yhen we dont have to worry about them moving into our neighborhood...God bless you mother.. keep fighting.

Miko Baldwin
United States
While attending a meeting, I was sent a text that there was a stabbing at Woodlawn High School. Everything I spoke of did not make the paper. I have been trying since 2001 to make a difference at Woodlawn but have gone unheard. There is a serious need for security, the PTA is not operating under Maryland PTA. I need help and the funny thing is now that there was a stabbing today all kinds of parents are going to show up.

Ex-Woodlawn Teacher
Ellicott City, MD
The key to any school's success is parent involvement. I retired from Woodlawn in the early 1990s. On Back to School Night I would average about 5 parents per class of 30 students each. I don't imagine there is any more parent representation today. All we need to do is get the parents involved the way my wife and I were with our children's schools. Since this is impossible to do I'm afraid things aren't going to get any better at Woodlawn

ekost21043
United States
I applaud Ms.Baldwin as well. How did anyone of authority in the school not know they did not have hot water. Unexceptable! I'm a 1981 graduate of Woodlawn. The days of Dr. Walter Amprey. He would not have allowed that to go on for a day. What happen to the wonderful school on the hill. It was once a school you could be proud of. If you have a kid who is attending this school it is important to make sure as Ms. Baldwin has said, to make sure they are not being educated in a slum school. This is not how Woodlawn should be ran. It has a great reputation that is being destroyed.

Miko Baldwin
United States
No I said that because the parents at Dulaney and Towson are involved with their children. I am positive that the olders schools have some issues but why does it take so long to get things fixed?

    bryanintimonium wrote:
    I like how the person interviewed here directly named Towson or Dulaney as not having problems like this. Well, I am a Dulaney alumnus (1999) and, yes we had all of the problems that are listed at Woodlawn. Broken, fogged windows and many that did not open or would not stay open. Brown water from some of the drinking fountains and any number of the issues that come with 40 and 50 year old school buildings.

Pam
As a member of the first graduation class at WHS, I am saddened to read about the deterioration of this once fine, new school. Since I no longer live in the area, I cannot comment on the situation at the school but I am sure that the level of involvement of the parents is reflected in the behavior of the kids attending the school. Parents involvement in their kids' lives both at and away from school is essential in leading them down the right path. You see it everywhere- kids are roaming the streets or the malls without parental supervision and their parents have no idea what they are doing and probably don't really care. Kids have to be taught right from wrong and many parents today weren't taught the right values by their own parents, so how are they going to be good, teaching parents to their own kids? It is a sad state of affairs, what our cities and surrounding areas have become. You have to fear for the future of our country when you see the lack of values in our society today but that is another story. Getting back to WHS, how is it possible that a principal cannot know that his school is without hot water in the gymnasium for the past several years? I find that totally uncomprehensible. He needs to be held accountable for the condition of his school. If it's not working, fix it or replace it (and that means staff as well as physical items at the school.) I wondered why the kids don't complain about taking cold showers and then read somewhere that the kids aren't taking showers at school any longer. I know I am giving away my age but we always had to take showers after gym class. Since when has that not been the norm? The Baltimore County Public School leadership needs to get out into the field and gain control over what is happening in these schools. They have to make sure that the faciilities at each and every school in Baltimore County are as top notch as they can be given the age of the various buildings so that the schools in the southwest and eastern parts of the county are as good as they are in the northern sector. Teachers and administrators have to be given the authority to punish bad behavior like they had years ago and they have to start from kindergarden on up - don't wait until a child reaches middle or high school to start enforcing rules- start early. Schools can't do it all but something is better than nothing when it comes to teaching acceptable behavior. If it means keeping a child after school than that should be done and a teacher would have to take the responsibility of staying after for that session. If this isn't done, our families, communities, cities and towns will continue to deteriorate - Then God help us all!


Miko Baldwin
United States
I agree! The PTA needs to be stronger and I see that they are just there to hold space. I am a single parent of three and my son attends Mount Saint Joseph. You do not have to encourage parent involvement there because it is a given.

    Ex-Woodlawn Teacher wrote:
    The key to any school's success is parent involvement. I retired from Woodlawn in the early 1990s. On Back to School Night I would average about 5 parents per class of 30 students each. I don't imagine there is any more parent representation today. All we need to do is get the parents involved the way my wife and I were with our children's schools. Since this is impossible to do I'm afraid things aren't going to get any better at Woodlawn

Gina Davis
Baltimore, MD
    Miko Baldwin wrote:
    While attending a meeting, I was sent a text that there was a stabbing at Woodlawn High School. Everything I spoke of did not make the paper. I have been trying since 2001 to make a difference at Woodlawn but have gone unheard. There is a serious need for security, the PTA is not operating under Maryland PTA. I need help and the funny thing is now that there was a stabbing today all kinds of parents are going to show up.

To read more about some of the issues Miko has raised, check out our education blog, where I was able to post information that was trimmed from today's article because of space limitations.

Miko is right. She needs help. And lots of it. One person can light the fire, but it's going to take a concerted, group effort to fan the flames.

Gina Davis
Baltimore, MD
    
    Hoodlawn wrote:
    That's the least of the problems at Woodlawn. A student was stabbed today in the courtyard at lunch and the school didn't skip a beat, they allowed classes to go on as usual. I guess our kids should be accustomed to violence, police, blood, and helicopters at school. The principal and his administration are clueless and ineffective. Most of the students couldn't tell you what the principal looks like. In a school of 2300 students, 2000 are doing the right thing. Its a shame the administration can't put things in place to provide a safe and orderly environment, with about 300 to control or expel.

It's hard to see any of these problems as "the least" of them. In a fundamental way, it all ties together. As Miko pointed out time and again during our many conversations in the past few weeks, even the seemingly small oversights contribute to an attitude of "if they don't care, why should we?" Miko said she hears from students all the time who have that attitude. And it's that kind of "they don't care, so I don't care" attitude that leads to situations like today's violence at Woodlawn.

Gina Davis
Baltimore, MD
    Miko Baldwin wrote:
    I agree! The PTA needs to be stronger and I see that they are just there to hold space. I am a single parent of three and my son attends Mount Saint Joseph. You do not have to encourage parent involvement there because it is a given.

Miko raises a huge point regarding parental involvement, in terms of Woodlawn needing a strong PTA. I had tons of notes about Miko's concerns with the school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association, but there was only so much I could fit into the story!

Miko has formally requested that the state PTA conduct an evaluation of the schools PTSA. In her lengthy email request, she pointed to several troubling issues ---

1. The school's PTSA is not incorporated, as the state PTA requires for a local PTA to be a recognized group.

2. The school's PTA apparently isn't insured or bonded. It's president (from what I've been told) has been collecting dues from members, which is a function that the group's treasurer should be doing. But again, with no insurance or bonding, NO ONE should be collecting money from anyone.

3. Miko believes that the president wasn't properly elected during a general membership meeting. The state PTA requires that local PTAs announce plans to hold an election and convene a general membership meeting --- unless Woodlawn's president can prove, with documentation, that the group abided by this rule, the group will have to hold new elections.

4. The group's by-laws appear to be outdated. State PTA requires locals to file updated by-laws every three years. Woodlawn's PTA is being asked to prove that by-laws that were submitted earlier this month (and which were said to have been approved by the local PTA during the summer of 2005)are legitimate. That means the group has to show evidence that in 2005, they convened a general membership meeting to approve the by-laws. I would further wonder why, if the by-laws were properly adopted (which remains in question), would it take 2 years to mail them to the state PTA?

The bottom line is that Woodlawn's PTSA may have its own cleaning up to do, and that will be necessary if it can be expected to contribute in any meaningful way to turning things around at the school.

Posted by Gina Davis at 2:13 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Should special ed students be required to pass the HSAs?

That's the quesion that Liz explores in her story today. How to test special education students has been a dicey subject for years. But previously in Maryland, much of the debate centered around the consequences for a school (i.e. sanctions under No Child Left Behind) if special education students weren't tested or couldn't pass standardized tests. With the advent of high school graduation exams, the students themselves could potentially be denied diplomas if they fail. Some advocates say the tests will ensure that schools give special education students a basic education, while others say they're unfair and can't account for the range of students' disabilities.

What do you think? Should special education students be held to the same standards as their classmates?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 12:20 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: SpecialEd, Testing
        

Sex abuse: Who is teaching your children?

The AP is reporting that American teachers commit an abusive sexual act at a rate of nearly three times for every school day. Wow!

A seven-month investigation reveals that there were more than 2,500 cases during a five-year-period where educators were disciplined for sexual misconduct.

Of the 2,570 educators, young people were the victims in at least 1,801 of the cases. More than 80 percent of those were students.

This is a subject that I have dealt with extensively in Howard County. During a two-month-period last school year, I reported that three Howard County teachers were arrested for having inappropriate sexual contact with students. Their cases are currently making their way through the judiciary system.

There were also a slew of cases in the counties surrounding Baltimore.

What safeguards do schools need to take to ensure that abusive teachers are kept out of the classrooms?

Can a well-maintained school change attitudes?

In my story, "Parent decries school neglect at Woodlawn," that appears in today's Maryland section, I wrote about a Woodlawn High School parent, Miko Baldwin, who says she was jolted into action when she discovered the school had been without hot water in the gym area for years --- depending on who you ask, anywhere from 2 years to 8 years (Miko's daughter who was a freshman there in 2000-2001 said they didn't have hot water then, but the school system said it can only confirm the lack of hot water for the past two years).

Miko, who has been a member of the school's Parent-Teacher-Student Association since 2001, has several initiatives on her plate. Not all of them could fit into today's story, so here are some of the others:

With an eye toward increasing parent and community involvement, Miko has been recruiting local community leaders to help create a mentoring program for students.

She is asking for more textbooks, enough to assign each student a book for each class. (The school's principal, Edward D. Weglein, said he approves of the school's textbook arrangements --- each classroom has enough books for students to use during school, and students may request to check out books overnight.)

And last week, Miko requested the state PTA to conduct an evaluation of Woodlawn's PTSA because she questions the way it is being run. (Sue Katz, president of the Baltimore County Council of PTAs, said it is the group's policy not to comment on PTAs for individual schools, but that she plans to review Baldwin's concerns.)

Miko said she wants Woodlawn --- which is one of the county's largest high schools with about 2,000 students and has struggled to meet statewide assessment standards --- to be a place where teachers and administrators want to stay. (During the past 12 years, the school has had five principals.)

Miko said she knows she is making some people uncomfortable, but she said she firmly believes that improving the school's physical condition can improve attitudes, especially among students.

The old saying goes, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Well, Miko decided to squeak.
I wonder how many other schools out there have similar maintenance issues that are being ignored, waiting for someone to squeak.

Does your school have similar maintenance issues? Please tell us about them here on the blog. Or, if you need to remain anonymous, you can email me directly at gina.davis@baltsun.com or call me at 410-494-2938.    

Posted by Gina Davis at 11:11 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Baltimore County teachers' union "call to action"

Baltimore County's new progress-reporting system, still in its pilot phase, continues to come under attack from the district's teachers union.

The system, the Articulated Instruction Module --- or AIM for short --- is a computerized checklist that charts detailed objectives and skills that children are expected to be taught. Tested last spring in a few county schools, the system is being made available on a voluntary basis to all of the county's teachers. With AIM, participating teachers will provide parents progress reports that will tell them whether their children are learning what is expected.

Leaders with the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) are calling on the group's 6,000 members to take a stand against AIM. The two-page letter to members includes home addresses and phone numbers for all board members and encourages teachers to write them to express their opposition to AIM. Union leaders also are encouraging teachers to attend tomorrow's school board meeting (7:30 p.m., 6901 Charles St., Towson).

The call to action reads, in part:

Are you are willing to stand by while BCPS puts another data collection requirement on your already full plate? ... We can’t afford to sit by and allow individuals who are not doing the daily work in our classrooms to create yet another data collection piece that takes time away from teaching. Enough is enough! ... We don’t need another form to complete to indicate whether or not a student is making progress. There is
already a myriad of tools in place to track student progress and share that progress more objectively, rather than subjectively, with parents. ...
BCPS leaders need to decide: Do they want teachers to teach --- or do they want teachers to spend hours completing reports, checklists, data sheets, tabulating scan sheets, and so on?

If you're a Baltimore County teacher, what are your thoughts about AIM? Will you join the union's call to oppose it ... if so, how ... will you write or call board members, or attend tomorrow's meeting ... or all of the above? Have you used the system in your classroom yet? If you have, please share your experience with us here on the blog.

Click below for my earlier story about AIM.

System charts pupil progress
Baltimore County tests computerized checklist for parents

Gina Davis
Sun Reporter

 
   For years, parents have complained that report cards skimp on the details and don't go far enough in helping them understand what their children have - or haven't - learned in school.

    But a new progress-reporting system developed by a longtime Baltimore County educator aims to fill that gap with a computerized checklist that charts detailed objectives and skills.Tested this spring in a few county schools, the system is being made available on a voluntary basis to all of the county's teachers this coming school year, and the superintendent hopes it will be widely used.

    In addition to the traditional reports with letter grades that measure students' mastery of a given subject, participating teachers will give parents progress reports that will tell them whether their children can, for instance, convert fractions to decimals or determine percent of a number. Until it is mastered, a skill or objective follows a student from grade to grade.

    School officials and community leaders see the reporting system, called the Articulated Instruction Module, as a tool for parents who want guidance on how to help their children.

    "As test scores show, too often children are failing, and no one responsible for their education seems to know why, and there is no other evidence in the student's folder other than a bunch of papers with letter grades," said Barbara Dezmon, assistant to the county school superintendent for equity and assurance, who created the program. "At the end of an education, we just know that the student is not adequately prepared."

    Some educators and civic leaders applaud the new reports, especially their plain language. Others, including the county's teachers union, worry that the checklists will be one more task on teachers' already full plates and leave them open to undue scrutiny.

    It's hard to peg how many school systems nationally are using similar progress reports, but Baltimore County's effort appears to be a rare step toward providing a comprehensive skills inventory that should systematically track a student's progress. Education advocates point to it as an example of what more school systems ought to be doing to ensure that students aren't falling behind.

    "These type of growth models go beyond the one-time snapshot and tell us how much does Johnny know now and how much did he progress," said Reginald M. Felton, director of federal relations for the National School Boards Association. "This comprehensive measuring of progress is a step in the right direction so that parents understand, `What is it my child should know?'"

Pleased parent

    James West, a 42-year-old logistics manager, said he was pleasantly surprised this spring when his stepson's math teacher gave him a three-page report during a parent-teacher conference.

    His stepson, 12-year-old Tyre Bethea, is a rising seventh-grader who was among the students whose teacher at Woodlawn Middle School participated in a small-scale pilot of the program in the system's northwest-area schools, including Powhatan, Hebbville, Woodmoor and Featherbed Lane elementaries.

    "It helped us out a great deal," said West, who added that Tyre has struggled with math. "I know what I need to do to help him out. I know what he can do and can't do, and what he's working on."

    West said the report helped him determine where Tyre might need tutoring and gives him, as a parent, the confidence that his stepson is on the right track.

    "I'd hate for him to go along through each grade and get to the end, get a diploma and still not know what he needs to know to be successful," West said. "This little piece of paper could make a big change for a lot of people."

    Other districts, including Prince George's County and Baltimore City, are interested in using the system, according to Baltimore County school officials, who added that all of Maryland's systems can use the copyrighted program for free beginning this year.

    Dezmon, a former English teacher, said she began developing the program nearly 20 years ago when she was looking for ways to better communicate with parents, especially those of minority children, and homeless and otherwise transient students.

    "This makes it easier to do individualized instruction because the teacher knows exactly what a student has or hasn't learned," Dezmon said. "With this, there are no good kids and no bad kids, just children and the skills they should know."

    But the president of the county's teachers union said preparing the progress reports - which would be done quarterly in addition to report cards - will burden overworked teachers. She also worries that instructors will be blamed when a child fails to master a skill.

    Doing such reports, in addition to regular report cards, "would create an enormous amount of work for teachers," Cheryl Bost, president of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County, wrote in a July 10 letter to school board members and schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston.

    In a recent interview, Bost said she has several questions, including: What happens when a child continually fails to master a skill - mandatory summer school or repeating a grade? What are school officials doing to ensure that the progress-report objectives are built into teachers' lessons? And, when will teachers find time to do everything that is asked of them?

    "This is going to tell parents where the deficit is, but is there a plan in place for when, during the school year, teachers are supposed to find the time to meet the student's needs?" she asked.

    School officials said they are still working out details such as when to retain a child in grade.

    Bost said she hasn't seen a presentation of how the progress reporting system works, but she has spoken with teachers who participated in the small-scale pilot this spring.

    "It's an add-on, from what teachers tell me," she said.

    Bost added that she doubts that the system will remain voluntary because it's likely teachers will feel pressured to create the reports by principals who want to impress administrators.

    Hairston said he hopes many teachers will choose to create the reports, adding that the school system has "a moral obligation" to provide them because it can.

    "What responsible parent would not want this information on their child?" Hairston said. "My responsibility is to at least bring it before the public and let them know it's there."

    By the first day of school, school officials say, Baltimore County parents will be able to log onto the system's Web site to access lists of objectives and skills for every class. That way, parents can chart for themselves what their children should be taught during the year.

    The computerization of the reports also should make it easier for teachers and administrators to track and analyze student progress, from individuals to the entire district.

    Because the reports will show how well students are progressing, officials say, teachers can use them to focus their classroom time.

    Under the system, a teacher would give each student letter-grade type ratings every nine weeks on a series of knowledge and skill indicators for each course. Unlike the traditional report card grade, an "A" on this evaluation would mean the child needs "acceleration," or remedial help. An "I" would indicate the need for further "instruction." And an "M" would signal the student is at or approaching "mastery."

    Dezmon said she hopes teachers welcome the evaluations as a way to provide more information about their students than they can with the current system of test scores and report cards.

    "In this era of testing - state testing and national testing - they have removed the teacher, period," she said. "Teachers are represented in modern education by the letter grades they put on report cards. Everything else fades out. But these [progress reports] are based on teachers' observations of their students."

Teacher in favor

    One teacher who tested the new system this spring said he liked it.

    Robert King, a math teacher at Woodlawn Middle School, said he found the reports "no more time-consuming" than regular report cards. He said he finished an entire year's worth of reports in about an hour and a half for each of the 25 students in his sixth-grade math class.

    King said the list of objectives and skills closely matched what he had taught, and knowing his students' strengths and weaknesses enabled him to quickly complete the checklists.

    "As a teacher, whenever they tell you there's something new you're going to have to do, you have reservations," he said. "But with what this allowed me to do, I was impressed."

    Besides making his parent-teacher conferences go more smoothly, King said, he can target his instruction for a student who transfers to his class late in the year. He foresees that it could save teachers time, especially at the beginning of the school year, because they won't have to do diagnostic testing for children who are in the database.

    "To me, it's a no-brainer," King said. "This is one of the simplest things we've done to get solid tracking of student data. We track grades, but let's be honest, what does a grade tell you? ... This is better than a standard report card because it's a justified grade. It allows parents to have a solid footing of where a student stands."

    gina.davis@baltsun.com

Posted by Gina Davis at 7:06 AM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Baltimore County, Teaching
        

Top of their game: teachers with National Board Certification

Earning National Board Certification is an intensive process that takes more than a year, requiring the submission of portfolios and undergoing extra observations by fellow educators. I learned more about it researching my Sunday story about Katya Denisova. (Katya will answer your questions on this blog this week, so post your comment today.) 

The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, which administers the certification program, sent me a neat little spreadsheet listing how many teachers have earned the credential in each of Maryland's 24 school systems. I've compiled some interesting tidbits.

Maryland school district with the most nationally board certified teachers: Montgomery County (300)

Second place: Anne Arundel (87)

Maryland school district with the fewest nationally board certified teachers: Garrett County (1)

Somewhere in between: Harford County (14), Carroll County (22), Howard County (23), Baltimore City (24), Baltimore County (62)

Total number of nationally board certified teachers in Maryland: 822

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:13 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City, Teaching
        

October 19, 2007

Questions for a driven teacher

In Sunday's Ideas section, I'll profile Katya Denisova, a physics teacher at Homeland Security Academy who is a candidate for the nation's most prestigious type of teaching certification. She has agreed to respond to readers' questions and comments after the article is published. Click on the comments section below to join in the dialogue, and check back to see her responses.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:35 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Youth access to contraception

The news that schools in Portland, Maine, will allow their health clinics to dispense birth control pills to middle schoolers without parental permission generated enough national buzz to make the Today show.

Here in Baltimore, we've been giving out birth control at school-based health centers for more than 20 years. In 1993, we created international news with our program to give girls Norplant. 

In our article today, medical reporter Stephanie Desmon and I look back at the history of dispensing birth control to Maryland kids, and the effects. The state's law that allows minors access to contraception without parental consent is credited with a big drop in births to teen mothers, especially in Baltimore. But some parents and activists feel strongly that the law is wrong, as are policies such as Portland's. If middle schoolers are having sex, the critics say, there are bigger problems that adults need to know about.

Which side of the fence do you stand on? Does the benefit of preventing a pregnancy or sexually transmitted disease outweigh a parent's right to make medical decisions for a child?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:06 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City, Trends
        

October 18, 2007

"Major grant" to fund laptops

A "major grant" is expected to be announced Monday morning to help Baltimore County schools buy more than 400 laptops for students. The benefactors are the Edward A. St. John Foundation and the Middle River Business Center.

No word yet on the amount, so stayed tuned. This could be interesting.

Posted by Gina Davis at 1:27 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Comparing teachers' contracts, Part 2

Many thanks to Bill for his comment the other day about the extra class time required of teachers in Montgomery County. As you'll see in my story today, I dug through all 24 contracts in the state and found that Baltimore teachers are required to spend less time in school than teachers in any other Maryland jurisdiction except Baltimore County. We know, of course, that teachers in the city and everywhere often work far, far more than what's required. But for the record, here's an interesting chart I snagged, compiled last year by Carroll County schools, comparing the required teacher workloads around the state. The stats for each district are, first, the number of days a year that teachers must be in school and, second, the number of hours they must be in school each day.

Allegany County: 190 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Anne Arundel County: 191 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Baltimore City: 190 days, 7 hours and five minutes a day

Baltimore County: 191 days, 7 hours a day 

Calvert County: 190 days (192 for new teachers), 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Caroline County: 189 days, 7 hours and 15 minutes a day

Carroll County: 192 days (198 for new teachers), 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Cecil County: 189 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Charles County: 190 days (192 for new teachers), 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Dorchester County: 189 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Frederick County: 189 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Garrett County: 187 days, 7 hours and 36 minutes a day

Harford County: 190 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Howard County: 192 days, 7 hours and 35 minutes a day

Kent County: 191 days (193 for new teachers), 7 hours and 20 minutes a day

Montgomery County: 195 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Prince George's County: 192 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Queen Anne's County: 190 days (up to 200 for new teachers), 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

St. Mary's County: 190 days (191 for new teachers), 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Somerset County: 190 days, 7 hours and 45 minutes a day

Talbot County: 191 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Washington County: 190 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day (eight hours a day at two schools)

Wicomico County: 190 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Worcester County: 188 days, 7 hours and 30 minutes a day

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:15 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City, Teaching
        

She said, he said

I have another story in today's paper about the ongoing dispute between the Baltimore Teachers Union and Andres Alonso/the city school board. Here's a glimpse into the sniping that's going on behind the scenes.

She (Marietta English, BTU co-president) said: The North Avenue mailroom is preventing the BTU from sending mailings out to its members in the schools. Last week, the union was not allowed to send fliers to schools promoting a protest at last week's school board meeting. Since then, the mailroom has again denied a BTU representative access. As a result, the union doesn't have a way of reaching all its members -- and thus has not yet scheduled the general membership meeting where votes of no confidence in Alonso and the school board will be taken.

He (Alonso/the school system) said: There has been no change in procedure (which permits the BTU to use interdepartmental mail to send notices to members), and no one from the union has returned to the mailroom to try to send anything since the problem last week. No one is being denied access. 

Hmm.... Could it be that the union is not confident in the outcome of the no-confidence vote?

She (English) said: New York City teachers get more planning time than teachers in Baltimore.

He (Alonso) said: "Are they suggesting that we have the New York contract?" In New York, the contract has eliminated the principle of seniority. Tenured teachers for programs that are eliminated may have to reinterview for their jobs, and if schools don't want them, they can end up becoming substitutes indefinitely.

English and Alonso will appear back-to-back on today's Marc Steiner Show at noon on WYPR. And Alonso is scheduled to speak tomorrow at a union conference. Should make for interesting debate. Meanwhile, check out this nasty rumor reported by the Epiphany in Baltimore blog.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:02 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

The digital dirt in the education world

What are you’re thoughts about my story today that delves into digital dirt being used against people?

Were you surprised by the digital dirt that exists in the education community?

Are educators held to an unfair standard? Are employers over reaching in their efforts to monitor the actions of employees outside of the workplace?

I’ll be responding to any comments you have about this story throughout the day.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:50 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County, Trends
        

October 17, 2007

The Baltimore Algebra Project is at it again

You've got to hand it to the Baltimore Algebra Project. Year after year, the students in this tutoring group are out in the streets fighting for what a judge has said the Baltimore schools are entitled to... what amounts to an extra $800 million in state funding. Year after year, they're driving politicians crazy.

This afternoon, Algebra Project students are planning to march from City Hall to the Inner Harbor, starting at 3:30. They'll be demanding more youth jobs along with other teen advocacy groups (including a few other Algebra Project chapters) in Philadelphia, Boston, Miami, and Asheville, N.C. The theme of the protests is "Jobs and Education" -- namely, inner-city kids need a good education, and they need access to jobs. Kids who don't get a good education and don't have access to legal after-school and summer jobs turn to drug dealing to make ends meet, thus the rise of gangs, thus the killings. (Students in the Algebra Project, by the way, make a couple thousand dollars a year for tutoring their peers in math. Some contribute to their families' electric bills and rent.)

On top of those issues, an Algebra Project protest would not be complete without calls on the governor to give the city schools $800 million. Those demands take on added meaning now that Gov. Martin O'Malley is talking about scaling back on yearly funding increases to school districts to keep up with inflation. As mayor, O'Malley met with the Algebra Project in March 2006 and told the students to hold then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich accountable for adequately funding the city schools.

Check out this video chronicling some of the group's history of civil disobedience:

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:22 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 16, 2007

Staph deadly in Virginia; new case reported in Howard County

I informed you about the recent slew of staph outbreaks last week. Here’s an update. A 17-year-old Virginia high school student died after being hospitalized with the infection last week. As a result, officials shut down 21 schools for cleaning to keep the illness from spreading. Read more in this article.

Last week, Ruma reported that four local high schools - Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Old Mill and Chesapeake - had received reports of 28 staphylococcus infections over the past three weeks.

On Friday, Wilde Lake High School in Columbia informed parents that one student had been infected with the staph. The school shared the following safety tips to protect against the infection:

1. Keep your hands clean by washing thoroughly with soap and water or using alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

2. Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed.

3. Avoid contact with other people’s wounds or bandages.

4. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

5. Use a barrier between your skin and shared equipment.

 

5:20 p.m. UPDATE: Read this article about a disturbing CDC report. One official believes that deaths tied to the drug-resistant staph "superbug" could exceed those caused by AIDS.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 3:00 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Jena 6 congressional hearing

C-SPAN is currently broadcasting congressional hearings about the Jena 6 incident. Simply scroll down to the C-SPAN3 logo and click on "Watch" or "Listen." For those of us who do not have the luxury of watching every minute of the hearing, write in and update us…
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:33 AM | | Comments (2)
        

Mays Chapel residents say 'no' to new school

Baltimore County school officials were short on answers, and the obviously unhappy --- and at least mildly hostile --- crowd of about 250 Mays Chapel residents who packed the auditorium last night at Dulaney High School in Timonium had an ample supply of frustration.

I'm working on a story for tomorrow's paper about the residents who came to the meeting hoping to get answers to concerns they have about an idea to build a school for special-education students on a parcel of land the school system has long owned, but which is home to a park that many in the community say they don't want to lose.

In addition to losing the park space, residents said they worry about the increased traffic from school buses and staff members for the new school in an area that they say is already congested. Many seemed downright indignant that the school system --- which has owned the land since 1972 --- would suddenly want to use it.

With each response that amounted to a "we don't know" from school officials, residents grew openly irritated, and about 45 minutes into the meeting several began leaving.

"We're leaving because they're not giving us any answers," said Cynthia Brown, who lives in the Roundwood Ridge condos.

School officials acknowledged that they had few answers, in part because they have yet to do a feasibility study.

"They had this meeting way too soon, they don't know anything," complained Sid Caplan, as he walked out of the auditorium.

Many figured that the hastily planned meeting had been scheduled because school officials were learning about the mounting opposition. In recent days, petitions had been circulating throughout the community.

School officials say building a school in Mays Chapel could help them alleviate crowding at other schools, particularly in the central area of the county. Residents insist that surely the school system has other properties they haven't considered that wouldn't disrupt their community.

"We're not opposed to the school, we just don't have space for it here," was a commonly heard refrain.

These kinds of "community needs" vs. "school system needs" scenarios play out in neighborhoods across the region and the country all the time. Is there a middle ground?

Posted by Gina Davis at 9:55 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

A school named after an undertaker?

It sounds strange, but there's good reason that Harford Heights Middle School in the city was renamed after William C. March last week.

Not only did March found one of the largest African-American owned funeral service companies in the country, he also gave college scholarships to more than 50 Baltimore students.

Learn more about him in the obituary that The Sun published when Mr. March died in 2002.

THE BALTIMORE SUN
March Funeral Homes' founder dies at age 79
William March conquered barriers to build business

Date: Saturday, August 3, 2002
Section: LOCAL
Edition: FINAL
Page: 1B
Source: SUN STAFF
Byline: Johnathon E. Briggs
Illustration: Photo(s)
Graph Source: 2. 1987 SUN PHOTO
Caption: 1. March
2. The death of William C. March means "the industry has lost a legend," a protege said.
 
   William C. March, founder of March Funeral Homes, one of the largest African-American-owned funeral service companies in the country, died yesterday of complications from Parkinson's disease at his home in Towson. He was 79.

    Mr. March got the idea to become an undertaker from a man he met in a pool hall and launched the family-owned funeral business in 1957 from the living room of his rowhouse at 928 E. North Ave., which the family still owns. Initially, he used a 1939 hearse, which he once said "looked like a stagecoach coming down the street."In the beginning of the fledging enterprise, the majority of his clients were indigent veterans and welfare cases, eventually earning March a reputation as "the welfare undertaker."

    Business grew steadily, and by 1978, Mr. March constructed a sprawling funeral home in the 1100 block of E. North Ave. between Ensor and Aisquith streets. Seven years later, he built a second facility in West Baltimore in the 4300 block of Wabash Ave. He also founded King Memorial Park, a cemetery catering to the African-American community in Baltimore County, which, at 154 acres, is the largest black-owned cemetery in the country, according to March Funeral Homes.

    "I never wanted to be rich," Mr. March, the father of four, said in a 1984 Sunday Sun Magazine profile. "Just wanted to pay my bills and educate my kids."

    At the time, his funeral business was valued at $5 million. Today, it is worth an estimated $25 million, said Mr. March's son, Erich W. March, vice president and general manager of the enterprise.

    Along the way, Mr. March received numerous awards and recognition as a leader in the funeral industry for his entrepreneurial savvy and commitment to providing services for everyone -- regardless of their financial situation.

    "Mr. March is one of the role models for African-American entrepreneurs in this city," the Rev. Walter S. Thomas, pastor of New Psalmist Baptist Church, said yesterday. "He was a man of the community. There wasn't a church that he didn't help. There wasn't a person he didn't rescue. He buried more people with no money," Mr. Thomas said, his voice trailing off. "He was that kind of a person."

    "The industry has lost a legend," said Vaughn C. Greene, 39, founder of Vaughn C. Greene Funeral Services, who recalled meeting Mr. March when he was 16. "He literally changed the face of the funeral industry.

    "He talked to me. He encouraged me, and I wasn't even a member of his staff. He planted seeds in me as young person that are germinating right now."


    Business obstacles

    But building his enterprise wasn't easy. Even as his business grew steadily in the 1970s, Mr. March had difficulty persuading loan officers to advance him money and believed he was often rejected because of his race. Financing for the East North Avenue funeral home came from the Small Business Administration, an African-American savings and loan association and $150,000 of his own money.

    Knowing firsthand the importance of access to capital for small-business development, Mr. March helped finance and co-found the Harbor Bank of Maryland, the city's first minority-owned commercial bank.

    The bank controls more than $200 million in assets and is listed among Black Enterprise Magazine's top-performing minority-controlled financial institutions.

    A generous and civic-minded man, Mr. March also helped restore Orchard Street Church, a landmark that sheltered slaves as they made their way to freedom along the Underground Railroad. In 1982, Mr. March established the Thelma March Scholarship Foundation in honor of his sister, who died in a fire during her first year of college in 1941. The scholarships are for college-bound students from Dunbar and Douglass high schools, which he attended.

    Born in Salisbury, N.C., and raised in Baltimore, Mr. March was a veteran of World War II and the Korean War. He recently received a commendation and a medal from France for participating in the Normandy invasion.

    He dreamed of becoming an architect in 1946 after a stint in the Army. But after talking with a man in a pool hall about becoming an undertaker, he headed for New York to study at the American Academy of Mortuary Science. (The man who gave him the idea abandoned the notion.)

    After he graduated, no one would hire him to provide the apprenticeship required to obtain a funeral director's license. At the time, he recalled in 1984, funeral directors hired only relatives.

    He eventually got an apprenticeship but was required to serve four years without pay instead of two. To support his family, he took a night job at a post office.

    In 1955, after getting his license, he joined an established black funeral director who acted as his mentor.


    `A very humble man'

    "My father had an incredible life," said Erich March. "He was a very humble man and achieved so much. He really wasn't comfortable with attention. He was always being honored and given so many accolades, but he was just a humble person and just wanted to help somebody."

    Funeral services are pending.

    Mr. March also is survived by his business partner and wife of 59 years, Julia Roberta March of Towson; son Victor C. March Sr. of Baltimore; daughters Cynthia March-Malloy of Tappahanee, Va., and Annette March-Grier of Baltimore; 13 grandchildren; a brother, Edward March of Baltimore; and a sister, Doris Wright of Baltimore.

    The family requests that donations be made to the Thelma March Scholarship Foundation, 5819 York Road, Baltimore 21212.

Keywords: OBITUARY

All content herein is © 2007 The Baltimore Sun and may not be republished without permission.

  All content herein is © 2007 The Baltimore Sun and may not be republished without permission.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:01 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Would you live in rent controlled teacher housing?

In New York City -- land of ridiculous rent -- a 234-unit housing project is being developed specifically for educators.

The $28 million project is backed with the New York City Teachers' Retirement System. Some are saying that this project could be the model for other cities in with soaring rents. Read more about it here.

Out here in Howard County, I constantly hear that teachers cannot afford to live out here. Many have to live in cheaper counties and commute long distances just to go to work each day.

10:23 a.m. UPDATE: This story hits close to home. There are plans to convert a building at 2601 N. Howard St. (Baltimore City) into 40 apartments for new teachers and office space for nonprofit, education-oriented groups. The project is slated to open in late spring 2009. Thanks to Sara for calling this to my attention.

 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:13 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation, Trends
        

October 15, 2007

A fight ahead over Thornton

Liz's story Saturday touched on what's bound to be a hot issue in Maryland education in the coming months: what happens now that the $2 billion provided by Thornton has been phased in. I went to the city schools' legislative forum last week. Though it was sparsely attended (only around 20 people), those who were there -- including five school board members, the head of the city's Parent and Community Advisory Board and the education director of the ACLU -- vowed a quick mobilization to lobby for the continued inflation increases that the law currently requires. Otherwise, they warn, schools will face millions of dollars in program cuts.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:09 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City, School Finance
        

Comparing teachers' contracts

In reporting on the teachers union dispute in the city, I came across this interesting Web site that publishes the contracts for all 24 teachers unions in Maryland: http://www.mnsmd.org/. Check it out to see how they compare.
Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:03 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore City, Teaching
        

October 12, 2007

Mother armed son in thwarted Pennsylvania shooting, prosecutors say

Prosecutors say the mother of the Pennsylvania high school student gave her son the guns and bomb making materials prior to the thwarted attempt.

Michele Cossey, 46, is accused of buying him a .22-caliber handgun, a .22-caliber rifle, a 9 mm semiautomatic rifle and black powder used to make grenades.

Cossey was charged today with unlawful transfer of a firearm, possession of a firearm by a minor, corruption of a minor, endangering the welfare of a child and two counts of reckless endangerment.

Read more about it here on CNN.com.

What kind of punishment – if any – do you feel she deserves, if she's found guilty?

Maryland PTA takes on Prince George's County... and maybe Baltimore?

I came across this bizarre blog all about the Maryland PTA revoking the charter for the Prince George's County chapter. It says that Baltimore might be next. Check out this letter written last fall to the city chapter.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:13 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore City
        

October 11, 2007

Students give accused rapists' names at UM event

Students at the University of Maryland, College Park are holding their bi-annual "clothesline project" rape-awareness event today, in front of the Hornbake library.

The 17-year-old event at UM made news earlier this month, after university officials banned participants from naming accused sexual predators on T-shirts, which hang from clotheslines as a symbol of assault victims.

The event is endorsed and sponsored by the university, and UM officials said the ban was made to avoid potential defamation lawsuits. Student activists protested, calling the ban censorship, and vowed to hang shirts naming alleged perpetrators in a separate -- but public -- forum.

Earlier today, Angela Boos, a junior, told me that about 15 shirts with names on them were hanging today, near the larger university-sponsored event.

A representative of the national grass roots Clothesline Project said that naming alleged perpetrators is not appropriate:

"We ask that perpetrators not be named on survivor's shirts unless they have been convicted. It is a liability issue for the local projects," said "Carol C," in an e-mail.

What do you think?

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 2:58 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Dream Teens

A source called recently to tell me about what appears to be a really interesting opportunity for creative teens who are interested in exercising their imaginations --- and going to Disney World!

Walt Disney World Resort and comedian Steve Harvey are seeking nominations for teens in grades 9 through 12 who want to participated in "Disney's Dreamers Academy."

Disney wants 100 teens for its Dreamers Academy (being held Jan. 17-20 at Walt Disney World in Florida) and the net is being cast far and wide. Nominations are being accepted across the country from guardians, parents, schools, churches, social organizations and youth programs. Of course, teens may nominate themselves!

Dreamers Academy is designed to expose students to "creative, non-conventional" careers. The academy is expected to include workshops on animation, set design, show production, culinary arts and the business behind sports.

What's the catch?? Nominations are due by Oct. 15, which is Monday.

Check out the link below for more details on the Dreamers Academy, including a Q&A and a fact sheet about the program.

Disney’s Dreamers Academy Searches for Creativity and Imagination Among US Teens

Walt Disney World Resort and Radio Personality Steve Harvey Call for Nominations

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – parentschild Walt Disney World Resort has announced that nominations are now being accepted for its first ever Disney’ s Dreamers Academy. During the "Year of a Million Dreams" celebration, Walt Disney World Resort Resort is reaching out to teens, parents, educators, and community members to find 100 high school students with the potential for greatness to be part of Disney’s Dreamers Academy, an enrichment event weekend Jan. 17-20, 2008.

Walt Disney World is searching for teens, in grades 9-12, from across the nation with a special appeal for African American teens, to give them the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and their imaginations will take them.

During the Disney’s Dreamers Academy program, the students will be immersed in creative, non-conventional careers at Walt Disney World. Disney’s Dreamers Academy nomination process runs through October 15, 2007.

Walt Disney World has partnered with nationally syndicated radio personality Steve Harvey to create this innovative program. Disney’s Dreamers Academy is designed for students who show promise – but may need a little motivation – and share one common trait: the power to dream.

"Disney’s Dreamers Academy is very important to me because it’s about the education of our young people who are oftentimes slighted and don’t have the chance to be exposed to a variety of job skills and job sets and meet with people in the fields they’re interested in," said Steve Harvey. "We want to give our young achievers the tools to become overachievers – to take their dreams stratospheric."

The lucky participants will be selected from among young dreamers nominated by their parents, legal guardians, their school, churches, social organizations, youth programs – or even themselves. Participants in the program must be enrolled in high school. A select panel of judges including Steve Harvey, key community leaders, Disney representatives and educators will choose the 100 finalists. Nomination forms and more details about Disney’s Dreamers Academy with Steve Harvey can be found on www.steveharvey.com/disneysdreamersacademy.

Selected students will be treated to complete immersion in career development. Sessions will include interactive workshops, motivational talks with sports and entertainment celebrities, and discussions led by Disney cast members and executives sharing their blueprint for success. Workshop topics will feature everything from business to architecture/engineering, animation to set design, show production to culinary arts, to learning the business behind sports. There also will be free time to enjoy the Walt Disney World’s famous theme parks and recreation.

"This is about taking youth with potential and opening doors for them – helping them to realize their dreams," said Xiomara Wiley, Vice President of Multicultural Marketing, Disney Parks and Resorts. "And what a place to do it! At 40 square miles, Walt Disney World is the world’s largest creative classroom designed to inspire people. These young people will have unprecedented access to the magic behind the magic."

# # #

Walt Disney World Resort’s Dreamers Academy Q & A

Q. How does the nomination process work?

A. Individuals and groups such as teachers, parents, legal guardians, church members, community members, local organizations, and social organizations nominate a teen in their community who is enrolled in a local high school to be chosen for this program.

Q. When does the nomination process begin and end?

A. Applications must be postmarked between September 24 and October 15.

Q. Can you self nominate?

A. Yes, students can self-nominate, but their nominations must be endorsed by a parent/legal guardian and must include a reference such as a teacher/church/local or social organization.

Q. Who is selecting the 100 nominees?

A. A select panel that includes key community leaders, Steve Harvey (comedian, actor, and national morning show DJ), Walt Disney cast members, and educators.

Q. Will we get to spend time in the Walt Disney World Resort theme parks?

A. Yes, There will be free time to enjoy in Disney World’s four theme parks, Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Disney-MGM Studios, and Disney’s Animal Kingdom.

Q. What are the dates for the Disney Dreamer’s Academy?

A. January 17-20, 2008.

Q. Can I take someone with me?

A. Yes, One designated guardian will be eligible to accompany each student.

Q. What will the students do at the Disney’s Dreamers Academy?

A. Students will have extensive exposure to career options, immersive behind-the- scenes experiences, as well as participate in interactive workshops, motivational talks with sports and entertainment celebrities, and discussions led by Disney cast members and executives sharing their blueprint for success.

Q. What is provided to the selected students?

A. Airfare, room, meals, airport and on-site transportation, meals and all program and theme park activities are provided for the selected students.

Q. Where can I go to get nomination forms and more information?

A. Go to http://www.steveharvey.com/disneysdreamersacademy

Q. What is the criteria for nominations?

A. Your nominee must be a high school student in grades 9-12 as of 9/1/07 and a legal resident of the United States.

Q. Will this be an annual program?

A. Yes

Q. What happens after the program has concluded?

A. The 100 alumni will become a part of the Disney’s Dreamers Academy Mentorship program aimed to provide advice, support and guidance in the areas of professional development, personal goals, good citizenship, and Disney careers.

FAST FACTS

WHAT: Walt Disney World Resort has created Disney’s Dreamers Academy, an innovative program that will provide 100 teens the opportunity to go as far as their dreams and imaginations will take them. The program is designed for is reaching out to African American teens, in grades 9-12, from across the nation with a special focus on African American teens, to give them the opportunity to go as far as their dream and their imaginations will take them, and encouraging them to dream big by bringing 100 high school students to the place Where Dreams Come True.

The Walt Disney’s World’s Dreamer’s Academy is set in the world’s most creative classroom to inspire people – Walt Disney World. The event immersive program will include, interactive workshops, motivational talks with sports and entertainment celebrities, hands- on creative experiences and discussions featuring Disney cast members, Walt Disney Imagineers, community leaders and role models.

WHEN: January 17-20, 2008

WHERE: Walt Disney World Resort outside Orlando, Florida

HOW: A select panel that includesmade up of key community leaders, spokesperson Steve Harvey (comedian, actor, and nationally-syndicated morning show personality), and Walt Disney World cast members, and educators will identify select the top 100 candidatesstudents with the power to dream.

DETAILS: During the Disney’s Dreamers Academy, students will be immersed in a fun and motivational environment designed to inspire them to pursue their own dreams. The nomination process begins September 24, 2007 and runs through October 15, 2007. For more information on Disney’s Dreamers Academy go to http://www.steveharvey.com/disneysdreamersacademy/

Posted by Gina Davis at 2:15 PM | | Comments (0)
        

Lockdown lifted

Update: Carroll County schools are no longer on lockdown.

School officials issued this statement moments ago ...

At 1:00 p.m., the Maryland State Police advised Carroll County Public Schools to reduce our security level from CODE ORANGE to CODE YELLOW.  The school system normally operates on CODE YELLOW. Accordingly, all school and after school activities will continue as scheduled.

 

Posted by Gina Davis at 2:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

School shootings, armed teachers: Should bullets mix with books?

I was watching a very interesting segment this morning about the Cleveland high school shootings on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet  that I thought would interest you.

Not sure how they were able to pull this off, but the show was able to have the mayor of Cleveland,  Frank Jackson, and its CEO of schools, Eugene Sanders, appear on the show with Shirley Katz, the Oregon teacher who wants the right to be able to bring a concealed gun to school. Talk about great producers!

Anywho, the show had a brief overview of the issue of teachers being allowed to bring guns to schools. I learned that politicians from Wisconsin and Michigan are currently working on legislation that would allow school employees to bring guns to school.

Katz threw a curve ball when she said that she wanted to be armed to protect herself from her abusive ex-husband and to thwart school-related shootings. [Way to use a current situation to help your own cause….] Up until now every story that I have read about this teacher has pointed to her ex-husband as the reason for wanting to bring a gun to school.

I thought it was interesting that both Jackson and Sanders disagreed with Katz and said that teachers should not be able to bring guns to schools. Think about it. Both of them now have first hand knowledge about the effects of a school shooting and neither believe that teachers should be armed… Just a little food for thought.

Oh yeah, when asked if she has snuck a gun into the school in the past, Katz would not answer. Her silence spoke volumes to me. If I was a parent at that school my kids would be withdrawing immediately!

For more about the shootings in Cleveland click on this link for stories, and videos. Sounds like the kid was pretty disturbed. It also appears that there were a few warning signs...

Have a safe day…

UPDATE: Carroll County Schools are currently locked down after someone threatened a shooting at a county high school. Read more here. Check for updates on The Sun's homepage.

The Parents Trapped

The Baltimore Teachers Union protest got most of the attention at this week's city school board meeting. But during the public comment portion of the meeting, two desperate mothers stole some of the thunder.

One was Sheila Slade-Lee, whose 7-year-old son is in second grade at Northwood Elementary. He has hearing problems, sensory and auitory processing disorders, attention deficit disorder, and possibly dyslexia, though she hasn't been able to get the school system to test him for that. In two years at the school, she's called 16 IEP meetings, and the boy still isn't getting the special education services he needs. She said staff at the school have told her that he's getting more services than his classmates with disabilities. "These are the kids where the parents don't fight for the children," she said.

And special education is only one of the problems. In two years, she said, her son has never brought home a piece of artwork that he made. The cafeteria, she contended, "is pure chaos." Paint is peeling off the new doors at the school, and it's falling off the ceiling. There aren't enough books for children to bring home.

Slade-Lee works as a nurse at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, the correctional facility on Madison Street. She said she asks the young inmates she meets there, "'Why are you here? What started you on the path to this destruction?' Guess what it was? School. They couldn't read. They couldn't write. They couldn't get a job." 

The other parent was Blondelia Caldwell, past chair of the city's Special Education Advisory Committee. In Baltimore education circles, she is known for her activism. Until this week, her grandson was enrolled in eighth grade at George Kelson Elementary/Middle, where she ran a support group for other grandparents.

Two weeks ago, much of the public comment at the board meeting centered around praise for Kelson, as parents and staff turned out to praise the school's partnership with the Enterprise Foundation. This week, Caldwell was there to tell a different story. On Sept. 27, Caldwell said, she was at the school when some bigger kids tried to attack her grandson. She got in the middle of the fight, and, she said, one of the boys accused her of threatening to stab him with a pencil. She was arrested and charged with second-degree assualt and spent the night in jail. Her pastor accompanied her to the board meeting to urge system officials to resolve the charges against her. Caldwell transferred her grandson to another school this week.

Caldwell's description of the middle school portion of Kelson was similar to Slade-Lee's description of Northwood: "out of control."

"Every year for five years, it's been a new principal," she said when I talked to her Wednesday. "They can't handle the school." Of the self-contained special education class where her grandson was enrolled, she said: "Those kids run the hall every day. They should be in the classroom with instruction going on. There's nothing."

School board Chairman Brian Morris assigned staff to follow up with both the women.

UPDATE: Slade-Lee met with a system administrator on Wednesday who promised to get her son the help he needs.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:01 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City, Parents, SpecialEd
        

October 10, 2007

"Jena 6" Copycats abound

"Jena 6" gave Americans a wake up call to a major soft spot in society today – race relations.

In this USA Today article, Marisol Bello, a talented reporter who used to work at my old paper the Detroit Free Press, compiles examples from across the country. She leads with a familiar anecdote from the University of Maryland.

Another example in Winchester, Ky., was particularly disturbing. In that case, four teens were charged with terroristic threats for taunting a black classmate with drawings of a noose, a Confederate flag and someone being whipped and lynched. I wasn’t necessarily disturbed by the actions of the teens – heck, it takes a lot to surprise me at this point. I was disgusted by the reaction of the parent of one of the offenders.

“I know he meant nothing by it,“ she said. “I know he’s not racist. He said he was just joking around. They were passing time in class."

Joking around? Passing time in class? Are you serious? I’m so sick of hearing the “he/she was just fooling around” excuse. People, take some ownership for your hate. Stop passing the buck…

Also, check out these stories about nooses found at the Coast Guard Academy and at Columbia University.

Race-relations in this country are in need of some serious attention. Read the entire article, and look at the description of the perpetrators. Are you also bothered by the fact that these incidents are taking place in learning environments?

What is being taught in the classroom to encourage civility and tolerance? What are schools doing to thwart the damaging, hateful thoughts that many parents are forcing upon their children? Are there any programs/ teachers that you know about that are working to encourage a better heterogenous tomorrow?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 3:37 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: School Diversity/Segregation
        

Cleveland: latest site for school shooting

In yet another sad sign of the times, a school shooting has captured the attention of America. This time a High School student in Cleveland has apparently shot five people today.

Read more in this AP account.

What can be done – if anything – to thwart these incidents from taking place?

Unsafe schools and staph infections

Forget about school violence for a moment. American schools now have to worry about a lack of safety because of unsanitary conditions.

Four local high schools - Severna Park, Glen Burnie, Old Mill and Chesapeake - have received reports of 28 staphylococcus infections over the past three weeks. Read Ruma’s story for more details.

I also stumbled upon this story from Troy, Ohio detailing similar conditions.

What is going on here?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 11:20 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

Interesting reading: Tested by Linda Perlstein

Barely a day goes by when I don't get a new education book in the mail, and -- truth be told -- most of those books go straight to The Sun's giveaway pile. But I held onto one that came a few weeks ago, called Tested: One American School Struggles to Make the Grade.

The book was written by Linda Perlstein, whose work I greatly admired when she covered education for The Washington Post. For Tested, Perlstein spent a year at Tyler Heights Elementary in Annapolis, a school where the student population is largely poor and minority. She began her time at Tyler Heights when the principal and her staff were reveling in the news that their students had earned sky-high scores on the Maryland School Assessments, the tests mandated by No Child Left Behind. Immediately, they felt the heat to replicate that success the following year.

We often hear that No Child Left Behind is turning schools that serve impoverished kids into test-prep factories, at the expense of everything else. Tested goes inside one of those schools and shows us how that happens. It's particularly interesting in light of Eric Smith's appointment as Florida education commissioner this week. The story of Tyler Heights is part of the legacy he left behind in Anne Arundel County.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:44 AM | | Comments (1)
        

November 1 deadline for '68 Baltimore riots conference at UB

The University of Baltimore is looking for scholarly, artistic and other community-based proposals for presentations at its Baltimore '68: Riots and Rebirth conference April 3-5, 2008.

The conference will commemorate the 40th anniversary of the riots that followed Martin Luther King's assassination. For an overview of UB's conference, and some history of the riots themselves, see this story: Baltimore's riots remembered

The deadlines for proposals are November 1.  

Here's an overview of the guidelines, per UB: "Proposals for participation may take the form of papers, presentations, panels, roundtables, poster sessions, film screenings, art installations, musical compositions, or workshops and should include a one page abstract, a one page resume including contact information for each participant (phone number, address, affiliation, and e-mail), as well as technology needs."

Send submissions to:

University of Baltimore -- AC 602, 1420 N. Charles St, Baltimore MD 21201, 410 837 5340, baltimore68@ubalt.edu

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 8:20 AM | | Comments (0)
        

Teen driver restrictions said to be working

I spent a good part of yesterday tracking down statistics on teen drivers after getting word about a car crash Monday night in Anne Arundel County that involved a 16-year-old driver.

Police say the teen driver had three teen-age passengers and a 22-year-old. According to county police, the driver struck a pedestrian, blew through a stop sign, hit some shrubs and finally a tree. Amazingly, no one died in the crash. Alcohol wasn't believed to be a factor, but speed was a "major factor," police said. (Read Nicole Fuller's and my article in today's paper for more details).

Not surprisingly, I came across study after study that said the same thing -- teen drivers pose considerable risks on the road. Drivers 16 to 19 remain four times more likely than older drivers to be involved in a crash and, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Web site, the risk is highest for 16-year-olds.

Teens have long been considered among the highest-risk drivers, prompting many states, including Maryland, to come up with ways to curb crash rates.

But I was intrigued by a national survey that recently credited programs that grant driver privileges in stages with reducing teen-related car crashes. These so-called “graduated driver licensing” programs typically limit the number of non-family passengers that young drivers are allowed to carry and include nighttime driving restrictions. Maryland’s youngest drivers must pass through three stages -- learner’s permit, provisional license and full driver’s license.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s study, released in June, found that between 1996 and 2005, fatal and police-reported crashes fell 40 percent among 16-year-olds, 25 percent among 17-year-olds and about 15 percent to 19 percent for 18-year-olds.

Fairley Mahlum, a spokeswoman for the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, said that group likewise has found a connection between graduated driver licensing programs and reduced crash risks. She said restrictions such as limiting passengers for young drivers are proving to be effective.

“When young drivers are driving, we found that it’s extremely dangerous to have young passengers in the car,” she said.

The foundation’s study revealed that states with more restrictions on young drivers saw the sharpest declines in teen crash rates.

The AAA foundation also found motor vehicle crashes are the primary cause of death among teens, with about 1,000 16-year-old drivers killed each year. The group concluded that 30 percent of fatal crashes involving a 16- or 17-year-old driver happened between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Teens, parents, teachers -- what do you make of Maryland's graduated driver licensing program? Does your experience match with what these driver safety groups have found? What more, if anything, needs to be done to help keep teens -- and the rest of us -- safe on the road??

Posted by Gina Davis at 7:35 AM | | Comments (4)
        

The honeymoon is over

As you'll see in my story today, the Baltimore Teachers Union contract impasse is getting nasty. After the school board meeting last night, where teachers and their supporters booed him and called for his ouster, Andres Alonso pointed to the editorial he wrote for The Sun the day before the new academic year started. "If I'm still in a honeymoon two months from now, I've yet to begin doing my job," his piece concluded.

It's a month and a half later, and the honeymoon is definitely over. Alonso says it's because he's doing his job. Union leaders say it's because he's not.

Where do you stand? And how do you think this dispute can end? Each side is urging the other to come to a resolution quickly, but neither side seems willing to give in.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:36 AM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 9, 2007

Howard County School ‘shooting victims’ lied

Today the paper ran a story I wrote about two 11-year-old Howard County boys whom alleged that they were shot by pellets on their way to school last week.

Police now say that the two lied.

At this point police do not know what prompted the two to fabricate the incidents. In addition, no charges have been filed against either youth.

What kind of punishment – if any -- do these two deserve?

The police department used a helicopter and its K-9 units to search for the suspect that the two boys lied about. In addition, the accusations caused a panic in the area. One school held indoor recess. Many said that the incidents reminded them of the sniper attacks of October 2002.

Should the two have to pay the police department for the time and resources spent on these false claims? You decide.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:22 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Howard County, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)
        

Baltimore teachers, still in the street

"Street Heat" is the name of the demonstration the Baltimore Teachers Union has planned outside North Avenue before Tuesday night's school board meeting. The fun starts at 5 p.m. and will surely continue inside during public comment after the meeting starts at 6. Andres Alonso has promised to be on his best behavior.

To learn about the union's contract dispute with Alonso and the board (and the outdoor demonstrations held last week), check out my earlier entries here and here and here and also here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Former Arundel Supe. named Florida Education Commissioner

Eric J. Smith was named yesterday to the position.

The State Board of Education voted unanimously to select Smith, who was was one of three finalist.

Smith took over the Arundel system in 2002. All elementary schools met state targets on
standardized tests in his final year; the scores of black high school students ranked among
the top 10 in the state. He also conflicted with the teachers union. In fact, the union was poised to vote on a no-confidence motion when Smith resigned in 2005.

Smith has been senior vice president for college readiness with the College Board since last year. 


Like him or not, Smith made an impact on Maryland. Is his new job Maryland’s loss and Florida’s gain?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:52 AM | | Comments (1)
        

More on that dreadful civics test

Kudos to Alexander and Claude, who wrote in to say they scored a 90 and 82, respectively, on that civics test I wrote about on Friday. My boyfriend took the test over the weekend, and he also scored an 82. (He wanted me to point out on the blog that he knows more than the average Harvard student. He went to Princeton.)

I was talking the other day to a middle school social studies teacher, and -- while she aced the civics test herself -- she said it's easy to see why many college students would fail a test of basic facts. Teachers are constantly encouraged to teach students to write and think critically, often at the expense of fact memorization. And, she makes the argument, this test is case in point that there are certain facts that every American should know, in addition to being able to think and write.

Educators, do you agree? Has memorization become taboo in our schools? (Personally, I was embarrassed by how much I had forgotten, so I've been studying the test and accompanying answer sheet.)

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:08 AM | | Comments (3)
        

October 8, 2007

Oregon teacher sues to bring gun to classroom

A Medford, Oregon, teacher is suing for the right to bring her semi-automatic handgun to work with her.

The teacher says that she needs the concealed weapon for protection from her abusive ex-husband.

Click here for the Oregonian article; here for the CNN video. View the YouTube link down below. I wish I were making this up, folks!

To the teacher: enroll in witness protection if things are that bad. If you are this worried about your safety, then why are you putting the lives of all your students in danger? I think this is a truly selfish and potentially dangerous act. Find a new profession!

 

Teachers, tell us what's on your minds

I was truly gratified to read the post from the city teacher-blogger known as Epiphany in Baltimore encouraging his colleagues to read our site. I was less gratified to read another teacher's comment to that post, saying he/she would respect me more if "she/the Sun actually chose issues that were meaningful" and that many of the issues I do report on are "red herrings."

One of the topics the teacher suggested that we write about: behavioral incidents being underreported because schools are afraid of being labeled persistently dangerous. That is actually something we've covered before, both on this blog and in the paper. (Click to read more at the end of this post for a great story that my predecessor on the city schools beat, Laura Loh, wrote in 2004.) Could we have written more, and more recently? Of course. But we can't write a story, for the newspaper at least, when teachers won't let us quote them by name. It's a problem I've run into over and over in my nearly eight years covering education.

On this blog, however, it's a different game. While I encourage everyone to take responsibility for their comments, the blog is meant to be a forum where teachers and parents can speak candidly. If something is important to you, post a comment on this site. We're here to generate discussions about the issues that are meaningful to you. 

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Suspensions discouraged, educators say

Unions say officials fear `dangerous' designation

Aspect of No Child Left Behind

City schools head insists no such directive exists

Date: Sunday, October 24, 2004

Section: LOCAL

Edition: FINAL

Page: 1B

Source: SUN STAFF

Byline: Laura Loh

 

Baltimore school officials are suspending fewer disruptive students to keep schools from being labeled "persistently dangerous" under the federal No Child Left Behind law, some city teachers and principals charge.

"They don't want to suspend people," said Marietta English, president of the Baltimore Teachers Union. "But they have that backward. The children need to be disciplined. That's what makes the school safe."

With 15 city schools placed on probation this summer and told they're one year away from the "dangerous" label - which would give parents at those schools the right to transfer their children to other schools - some principals and teachers say they're being pressured to avoid removing disruptive youngsters from school. They contend that might be one reason for the spate of violence and fires in schools this year.

Under the federal law, schools are classified as persistently dangerous based not on how many assaults or fires occur within their walls, but on the number of students suspended for such violent acts.

City and state school officials insist that they are not encouraging principals to bend their suspension policies to satisfy the federal law.

But officials with the labor unions that represent teachers and principals said Maryland's interpretation of No Child Left Behind has created an environment in city schools in which students know they can get away with offenses because administrators are under pressure to keep discipline numbers low.

The pressure on administrators may be higher in Baltimore than elsewhere in Maryland because the city has the only schools in the state that have been deemed to have an unacceptable level of violent offenses. By contrast, elsewhere in the country, some urban districts far larger than Baltimore do not have as many schools bearing the "dangerous" label because their states use more rigid criteria.

At least two of the 15 city schools on the state's watch list have been disrupted by student-set fires this school year, and one was the site of a large brawl last week that police broke up using pepper spray.

About a dozen schools not on the list also have been disrupted by minor fires, and serious incidents occurred recently at two of those schools. Two teenagers were wounded in a shooting outside Thurgood Marshall High on Thursday, and a gun was fired near students as they stood outside Walbrook High Uniform Services Academy during a fire evacuation last month.

Some administrators contend that the pressure not to remove disruptive students is coming from the school system's leadership.

"My principals have been told in a roundabout way that if a large number of suspensions come out of their schools, there's a possibility they could be rated `unsatisfactory,' or receive some type of letter of reprimand," said Jimmy Gittings, president of the Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association.

But city schools chief Bonnie S. Copeland denied that her administration has issued such a directive.

"Just the opposite," she said. "I had this very conversation with a number of staff members yesterday that, regardless of [the persistently dangerous label], we need to have consequences for the young people who are starting these fires or disrupting the school day.

"If that means [using] suspensions or expulsions, absolutely we want to extend those consequences."

Copeland said some school leaders may have gotten a wrong impression from their supervisors. School officials have said that some principals might have unknowingly inflated their numbers by overzealously reporting fights or other physical contact as violent assaults.

Copeland said she will make sure principals understand that they should always suspend or expel students for violent offenses.

To comply with the No Child Left Behind Act, the Maryland State Department of Education collects data on long-term suspensions and expulsions that stem from nine types of offense - including arson, assault and bringing a weapon to school.

Under Maryland's interpretation of the law, schools are classified as persistently dangerous based not on the number of assaults or arson fires, but on the number of students suspended for such acts.

The law gives parents the option of transferring their children out of schools deemed unsafe. In Maryland, such a school is defined as one that reports, for three years in a row, a combined suspension-and-expulsion rate of 2.5 percent or higher of its enrollment. After two years of poor records, schools are placed on probation.

Sixteen city schools were put on probation in August. One school, Lakeland Elementary/Middle, was removed from the list recently after the state examined revised data.

State education officials said the law was not intended to scare principals into not suspending or expelling students.

"The message should not be that you shouldn't be looking at suspensions and expulsions for fear of being designated," said JoAnne L. Carter, assistant state superintendent for student and school services.

The point of the law, Carter said, is to require schools with persistent problems to examine why students are misbehaving and adopt preventative strategies. Long-term suspensions and expulsions, she said, are reactions that do not get at the root of the problem.

But Lily Loring, a teacher at Highlandtown Middle School - one of the schools on probation - said she and her colleagues have not been trained or given resources to deal with disruptive pupils in alternative ways.

"The principal was told, `Your suspension numbers need to come down, and you need to seek other methods,'" she said. "Taking away our only tool [suspensions] is like sabotaging us."

The school's principal could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon.

The issue of removing students from schools is a controversial one.

Some educators believe that offending students should be swiftly disciplined to send a message of zero-tolerance.

Others, such as Lakeland's principal, Jacqueline Ferris, said she thinks suspensions and expulsions are "an awful solution for kids."

"You try everything before a suspension," said Ferris. "They're children. Children make mistakes. If you don't do everything you can, and you just put them out, what do they learn?"

But she said she draws the line when someone gets injured. "If you hurt somebody else's child, then you have a problem, or if you bring things to school that you shouldn't bring," Ferris said.

Many teachers and administrators, however, say that removing students from a school is sometimes necessary.

A disruptive student "needs to know he's going to be removed and not brought back until there's been a satisfactory conference with the parent," said English.

Tierra Redd, a senior at Walbrook, said her school has been strict about suspending students who fight.

But Bryant Williams, a seventh-grader at Highlandtown, said pupils at his school don't fear repercussions because they don't think they will be caught or receive long suspensions.

"I think they should be expelled from Baltimore City public schools," he said.

Sun staff writers Liz Bowie, Scott Calvert, Matt Dolan, Stephanie Hanes and Jill Rosen contributed to this article.

 

All content herein is © 2007 The Baltimore Sun and may not be republished without permission.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 12:42 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City, Teaching
        

October 5, 2007

Thoughts on the beverage ban?

Morning readers!

Today my story ran about high school’s cracking down on underage drinking at sporting events through the use of beverage bans. Essentially, all fans are prohibited from bringing beverages into football stadiums. And yes, that includes water bottles.

I found out about the ban from an e-mail that was sent home this week to parents at Wilde Lake High School in Columbia. School officials enacted the ban after several students were drinking in the bleachers during games.

In addition to Wilde Lake, Centennial High in Ellicott City has also enacted the ban. I’m now hearing that Atholton High in Columbia also has a ban.

While researching this story, I discovered that Baltimore City has a systemwide beverage ban. Harford, Carroll, Anne Arundel, and Baltimore Counties do not.

In Harford County, high school principals observe students during games and can ask someone suspected of drinking to take a breath test. During the past three years, each high school in Harford County has been equipped with a breath alcohol tester.

I recently learned that a high school in the Midwest makes students take a breath test before allowing them entrance into school events.

What do you think about this? Are these effective ways to curb drinking at sporting events? Do you think that the beverage ban – it applies to all spectators at games – is excessive. Weigh in. I’ll be responding to comments all day.

I got this e-mail from Dennis Sirman:

According to the Sun's report on teen alcohol use at athletic events ("Beverage ban aims to curtail teen alcohol use"), the problem is widespread and "alarming." As a former athletic administrator at Hereford and Catonsville High Schools and assistant principal at Loch Raven High, I find it hard to understand why addressing this problem is so difficult.

First and foremost, let me refer to the long-standing policy in Baltimore County wherein any student found in possession of alcohol or drugs or under the influence of same at ANY BCPS EVENT is referred to the superintendent's designee for expulsion from his/her home school. This usually results in a suspension lasting two quarters. The student has an option of attending alternative school or receiving limited home teaching during that period. This policy is, and has been, a substantial deterent.

Additionally, at most Baltimore County schools (where entrance to events can be controlled -- such as at stadiums or gymnasiums) outside drinks and containers are not allowed. Some exception is made for adults and/or families with small children who bring "fast food."

Finally, at major BCPS events, County police -- often the school's resource officer -- are in attendance. Their presence acts as a deterent and if necessary they intervene when necessary to address substance use. Arrest and criminal charges may result.

When all appropriate steps are taken -- such as those cited -- and students are convinced that violation of the law and school policy will not be tolerated and that consequences are well-known and enforced, the problem of teens drinking at sports events will be significantly diminished if not eliminated.

My response:

Dennis,

Most school systems have fairly strict punishments for students caught with alcohol. These punishments have not deterred students in Howard County and school systems acorss the country.
Officials in Howard County will probably object to the fast food exception because many of the students have been disguising alcohol in beverage containers. Teens are extremely smart. They will find ways to conceal their alcohol. A cup of soda from Wendy's can easily be replaced or mixed with alcohol. And unfortunately schools cannot rely on parents and other family members to do the right thing. There have been reports about parents who provide their children with alcohol. Heck, a couple in Virginia was recently sentenced to jail time after providing alcohol at their child's party.
Both of the schools in Howard County have police officers on duty at all games, so that argument does not really hold much weight.
The old tactics are not working. Something needs to be done. And these schools think they have found a more effective way to combat underage drinking.

 

Do you have a comment? Please feel free to weigh in. 

 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 10:40 AM | | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Trends
        

A teacher's take on the union dispute

Thanks to VoiceForSchoolTruth for such interesting comments in response to my post yesterday about the union dispute in the city.

Voice, a teacher in the city schools, also emailed his/her thoughts to me and Andres Alonso. Alonso replied to both of us that the letter was "awesome." I doubt the union leaders would feel the same way.

See what was written here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:22 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Do you know more than a Harvard student?

I don't.

I got an email Thursday about an American civic literacy test that the Intercollegiate Studies Institute gave to college students around the country, with pathetic results. Students at Harvard had the highest score in the country on the 60-question test, and their average score was a D-plus.

I went online and started taking the quiz myself. A few questions in, I decided I didn't want to know what my score would be. When was Jamestown first settled by Europeans? When was the Constitution amended to guarantee women the right to vote? Ms. Duffy, my beloved high school history teacher, would be ashamed.

At least I'm not alone. Only 47.7 percent of the college seniors tested knew that Fort Sumter came before Gettysburg and that Gettysburg came before Appomattox. Just 45.9 percent knew that the line “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal” comes from the Declaration of Independence. (Even I got that one.) And a mere 42.7 percent knew that NATO was formed to resist Soviet expansion.

Think you would do better? Click here to take the test yourself.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:49 AM | | Comments (2)
        

Administrative appointment power

There are many ways in which Andres Alonso is exerting more power than previous CEOs of the city schools. Here's one: He announced the appointment of a new human resources officer this week without official approval from the school board. The press release announced that JoAnne Koehler was replacing Gary Thrift "effective immediately," but it also said the appointment was "pending Board approval," and the board doesn't meet until next week.

For the record, Koehler -- a longtime Baltimore County schools administrator who's worked the past two years on the team of state managers overseeing special ed in the city -- gets rave reviews from her colleagues. I was curious about the process, though, since last I knew, the school board had to approve all administrative appointments. When I asked Alonso about it, he responded in an e-mail that he's talked to board members about his plans for staffing, and they understood that "in the case of this position I needed someone right away."

Alonso's predecessors followed the board appointment rule a bit more closely, but often not by much. Many times, I've seen the board approve appointments of people scheduled to start their new jobs the following morning. Normally, though, an announcement doesn't come until after the vote is final.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:35 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Disturbing behavior at D.C. high school for the deaf

A group of seven students – six white and one black -- at the Model Secondary School for the Deaf drew "KKK" and swastikas on a black student's body with a marker while holding him against his will, according to District of Columbia Police.

The incident occurred in the dorms of the school, which is located on the campus of Gallaudet University. A campuswide e-mail said the seven were sent home. Read more details in this story.

First Jena 6, then those fools at that elementary school in Grambling, La. What is going on in America? Have people seriously lost their minds? I can’t wait to hear the excuses of the offenders in this apparent hate crime.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:59 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation
        

October 4, 2007

Cracking down on underage drinking

Check out tomorrow’s paper to see what two Howard County high schools are doing to thwart underage drinking at athletic events. It’s part of a growing trend that might leave you parched…

Tomorrow I’ll be available throughout the day to respond to comments about the story.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Trends
        

Passing Fantasies

Every summer and fall, we bombard you with percentages of how many students passed state tets in every school in the Baltimore metropolitan region. Some of you devour the numbers to see if your child's school is on track. Real estate agents pick up the numbers to sell homes near "good schools!"

But a study released today suggests those numbers might be playing tricks on us. States have too many different definitions of what it takes for a kid to pass, the report from the Washington D.C.-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute found.With such an "elastic yardstick", the Institute's vice president for national programs and policy Michael J. Petrilli says it's hard to measure whether American schoolchildren as a whole are really doing better in reading and math.

The study, "The Proficiency Illusion," found states have low expectations for elementary schoolchildren, in particular,  with the majority of states dramatically lowering standards under pressure to meet ever-rising demands under No Child Left Behind. (Remember, this is the law that spurred states to create lists of failing schools, complete with a complex hierarchy of sanctions including state takeover.) The report found a "walk to the middle," as some states with high standards dropped their expectations in order to meet the punitive federal law's mandate to have every child proficient by 2014.

Clear as mud, now? Ok, good. Let's continue.

Of the 26 states in the study, Maryland had among the lowest reading proficiency cut scores -- the number of questions students have to get right to pass the annual state tests. In fourth grade reading, Maryland ranked 22nd of 26. That means 20 other states had higher expectations in reading for their fourth-graders. In third grade reading, Maryland ranked 16th of 26. In fifth grade, 20th. 21st in sixth grade, 20th in 7th grade and 18th in eighth grade. The report also found that tests were too easy in the early grades, making it easy for elementary schoolchildren to pass them, but making it hard for the same children to pass the state test in middle school, even if they stayed on track academically.      

The study joins a growing chorus of critics who say No Child Left Behind needs to soften its edict for 100 percent proficiency and the study might also provide fuel for a new bill in Congress that seeks to create a national standard for passing and national tests, so parents, policymakers and educators alike can be sure that it takes the same to pass a test in Maryland than in does in Washington state.

Posted by Ruma Kumar at 3:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: NCLB
        

Need money for J-School?

Are you a high school senior who wants to pursue a career in journalism and needs money for college?

The Al Neuharth Free Spirit Awards is for you. The award recognizes top high school journalism seniors who are free spirits as well as other free-spirited individuals.

One female and one male high school senior are selected from each state and the District of Columbia to receive a $1,000 scholarship and the opportunity to attend a journalism conference in March. Of these students, two will be selected to receive $50,000 college scholarships.

I’ve known several people who have been chosen for the award. It sounds like a really solid program. Take a chance and apply today. The Feb 15 deadline is looming.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:37 AM | | Comments (0)
        

A slow start to picketing

All of the city's TV stations, along with yours truly, turned out Wednesday afternoon for the Baltimore Teachers Union's informational picketing outside Patterson High School. The school police turned out, too: about five officers, by my count. Unfortunately for the union, though, the media and the cops outnumbered the protesters. About a dozen teachers and union workers, most in yellow union shirts, waved signs and encouraged passing cars to honk.

The protests are scheduled to continue this morning at the Poly/Western complex, Dr. Bernard Harris Elementary and West Baltimore Middle.

For a refresher on the union dispute with the city school system, see my earlier entry here.

UPDATE: I hear the crowd outside Poly/Western this morning was much bigger.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:09 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 3, 2007

Where is the money going in Baltimore County?

A scathing study just out from Advocates for Children and Youth finds that only about 13 percent of low-performing eighth graders in Baltimore County attended summer school this year. In Prince George's County, the number was around 5 percent. These numbers come despite a "tremendous infusion of additional funds for low-performing students," ACY's press release says. 

ACY studied the number of students who failed the state tests in reading and math, and asked the school systems how many had enrolled in summer school. Its findings on Baltimore County are here and Prince George's County here.

The advocacy group also studied how Baltimore County has been spending its money from the state's Bridge to Excellence Act, also known as Thornton. It found that only about 5 percent of the $13 million the county received this school year for low-performing students resulted in new spending for that population.

Sounds like Dr. Hairston will have some explaining to do when Gina gets back from some time off tomorrow.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 3:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Charter school conference

Ever wanted to start your own charter school? The 5th Annual Maryland Charter School Conference will give you the goods.

Baltimore City Mayor Sheila Dixon; Joni Berman, president of the Maryland Charter School Network; and Kate Sullivan, founder of the Chesapeake Public Charter School, are just a few of the guests scheduled to appear at the conference.

Information sessions include: teacher exchanges about best practices; special education done right in charter schools; financing charter school facilities; and accountability.

The conference is free and will be held on Oct. 19 at Sojourner-Douglass College.

Did I mention that a complimentary continental breakfast and lunch will be provided?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 6:29 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Charter Schools
        

October 2, 2007

What’s going on in Louisiana?

Yet another chapter in the Jena 6 saga. This time, the AP is reporting another noose incident that occurred. This incident occurred at Alma J. Brown Elementary School in Grambling, La. A teacher at the school wrapped a noose around a student’s neck to teach a lesson about racism. The lesson was actually prompted by the Jena 6 happenings.

Another interesting wrinkle to the story is that the school is run by Grambling State University, a historically black college and university.

Check out the CNN.com interview with Grambling’s president, Horace A. Judson. Also check out this YouTube video of a newscast.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:14 PM | | Comments (0) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: School Diversity/Segregation
        

National blue ribbon announcement

Congratulations to this year's National Blue Ribbon schools from Maryland, just announced by the U.S. Department of Education. They are: George Washington Elementary in Baltimore, Burleigh Manor Middle and River Hill High in Howard County, Hereford Middle and Red House Run Elementary in Baltimore County, and St. Andrew Apostle School and Winston Churchill High in Montgomery County.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:19 AM | | Comments (1)
        

School uniform talk: So what?

OK, I have to admit, I don't understand why some of my colleagues at other media outlets are making a big deal over a proposal that may or may not come from Sheila Dixon's office to mandate school uniforms citywide. First off, most city schools require their students to wear uniforms anyway (though the decision is up to the principal). And second, even if Dixon wanted uniforms to be universal, only the school board has the power to make that so. Lobbying board members would be as far as she could go (though, granted, she does have joint appointment power over the school board). At the moment, there is no proposal pending.

Much to my relief, Andres Alonso seemed as perplexed as I was by the news coverage -- and he has four Ivy League degrees, compared with zero for me. "I don't know what this uniform thing is about," he said before I interviewed him about the meatier topic of the day, the contract impasse with the city teachers union. "I don't get it.... I got asked at some point in the past three months, 'What do you think about uniforms?' Well, I think they're nice and if a school community wants them, they should have it of course."

But in case you're still curious about Dixon's involvement, here is what she had to say at a press conference yesterday, as kindly transcribed by Sun City Hall reporter John Fritze. Thank you, John!

TV reporter: Do you have a plan, or do you support having all city students in the city wear uniforms? 

Dixon: At this point, we're looking at it. 

TV reporter: Can you tell me whether that's an idea that intrigues you, that you like, can you characterize...

Dixon: It's an idea that intrigued me for many years. It is an area that, I guess if you go way back, I probably introduced something when I was on the City Council because I think it does help in a child's education. So, we're looking at it.

Fritze: Does that take an ordinance or is it something the school system would just do?

Dixon: Not to go into details now, because we're exploring it, because I know there's some constitutional issues as relates to public schools and uniforms, but I think it's something that we're looking at. 

TV reporter: Why is it that you do support it? Do you feel it adds to the sense of decorum?

Dixon: I think it adds to, one, the budget of families. That's No. 1. I think it takes away from the competitiveness in what young people wear in school and you focus on education. I am an advocate, my kids have been in uniform since... kindgergarten and if I could have it right now, my daughter in college be in uniform, I would have that, too. ... With uniforms, if everyone looks the same, they can focus on the education.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:01 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Student loan shocker!

If you couldn’t tell by the sarcastic headline, this AP story foreshadows problems in the economy because of high-priced student loans. Surprise, surprise.

These student loan companies are ridiculous! Who knew that going to college would be on par with paying for a mortgage, or car?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 7:23 AM | | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)
        

Digging in their heels

In today's Sun, I report on the ongoing contract dispute between the city school system and its teachers union. Both sides are digging in their heels over how teachers spend ONE planning period a week. Yup, all this over what amounts to 45 minutes in most cases. All the pay and benefits stuff was settled months ago.

The union is asking its members to take a vote of no confidence in Andres Alonso, and teachers will begin picketing before and after school -- Wednesday at Patterson High, Thursday at Poly/Western, and who knows where after that? And remember, teachers are already torn over whether to follow the union's call that they work to rule.

Teachers, parents, where do you stand? Is this much ado about nothing? And what will the ramifications be for Alonso if he makes an enemy out of the teachers union?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 5:45 AM | | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

October 1, 2007

More city school changes

Shortly after my colleague Sara started a running tally of high-level administrators who have left the city school system since Andres Alonso's arrival this summer, we here at Classroom Connections got word that yet another officer has "resigned."

This time, it's Gary Thrift of the human resource department. Thrift is being replaced by JoAnne V. Koehler. Koehler has been working with the state Department of Education overseeing special education staffing since 2005.

With all the changes, we half expect Alonso to enter into the next school board meeting blaring Queen's 'Another One Bites the Dust' as his theme song. Bet Michael Carter would get a kick out of that.

Posted by Brent Jones at 11:11 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Unlucky Seven

We told you on Friday about the 13 high schools that got off the list of failing schools because they met state standards for two years in a row. Well, here is a list of schools that the state doesn't advertise in its press release: seven schools that were added. They come from all over the state.

   Northeast High in Cecil County

    Edgewood High in Harford County

    Stephen Knolls School in Montgomery County

    Crisfield High in Somerset County

    In Baltimore City, there were three: Homeland Security High School, Institute of Business and Entrepreneurship and Liberal Arts Academy. The Liberal Arts Academy closed down this summer.  

Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: NCLB
        

The Madness At Mount Hebron High

I am on my way to cover the Howard County school board approval of the 2009 fiscal capital budget. One of the hottest ticket items this year is a renovation plan at Mount Hebron High School in Ellicott City.

Read this story for a brief recap of what's going on at the school.

What is your definition of bad school conditions? Parents, students, and staff at Mount Hebron High School think that their school is in desperate need of repair and attention.

Mount Hebron is among Howard County’s oldest.

Top-ranking school system officials have favored a renovation project at the school that includes mechanical upgrades, full systemic renovations and an expansion of the school's art, athletic and administrative offices.

Many parents at the school want the renovation project to correct a slew of deficiencies, which is in excess of 20, and would essentially require a replacement school.

Advocates have made the conditions sound like the school is a step down from Beirut.

Watch the YouTube video below, which was produced by students at the school. Judge for yourself.
In 2004 students made a video about the school. As a result, the school was featured on a morning television news show. The school later received a renovated auditorium.

Should the squeaky wheel get the oil? Are there other schools that do not get the resources they need because their parents, students, and staff are not as vocal and skilled in the arts of effective communications? You decide.

Do you know of schools with worse conditions that you would think are in more need of attention? Do you think that the conditions documented at Mount Hebron High warrant immediate attention?

In the coming weeks we will solicit input from you about unfavorable facility conditions in Maryland public schools. Believe me, this is an award that schools do not want to receive.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:01 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County
        

Here yesterday, gone today

An awful lot of administrators in the city school system are worried about losing their jobs under the new regime of Andres Alonso. Here at Classroom Connections (or whatever we decide to call ourselves when we settle on a new name), we'll be keeping track of high-profile departures. The big ones so far:

1. Marilyn Perez, the area academic officer overseeing middle schools, announced her resignation Friday. Perez, you may recall, became rather unpopular with the kids she oversaw when she canceled all non-academic field trips last spring. She'd been in her job just a year, and she was on maternity leave during part of it. Previously, she had resigned abruptly from a new position overseeing a group of low-performing schools in Philadelphia.

2. Linda Chinnia, the chief academic officer, abruptly resigned on the first day of school. Chinnia got into hot water a few years ago when the system adopted a controversial middle school English curriculum that tried to interest kids in reading by giving them magazines like CosmoGIRL!, only to drop the curriculum midyear amid a public outcry. Still, she'd been in the system for decades and was well-regarded by many of her peers.  

3. Jennifer Green, the system's director of secondary school instruction, resigned over the summer. Green had worked previously with former CEO Bonnie Copeland at the Fund for Educational Excellence.

Know of any others on the way out? Drop me a line at sara.neufeld@baltsun.com.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 1:08 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City
        
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