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November 30, 2007

For Bridget Banks and her daughter, vindication

This just in: The city school system has dropped its appeal of the lawsuit filed by Bridget Banks and her daughter alleging that the girl was sexually assaulted in math class five years ago. It will pay the family $100,000. More details to come in tomorrow's Sun. Read my earlier story about the case here and a lively blog discussion about it here.
Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

The special-education debate --- is mainstreaming good or bad for kids?

This recent front-page article from the Wall Street Journal raises some intriguing points in the debate over "mainstreaming" special-education children. It's an understandably emotional, complicated and thorny issue. What are your thoughts? I'd especially love to hear from teachers and parents on this one.

Here's an excerpt (click on the link below for the full article).

Parents of Disabled Students
Push for Separate Classes
November 27, 2007; Page A1

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Last fall, groups who favor placing disabled students in regular classrooms faced opposition from an unlikely quarter: parents like Norette Travis, whose daughter Valerie has autism.

Valerie had already tried the mainstreaming approach that the disability-advocacy groups were supporting. After attending a preschool program for special-needs students, she was assigned to a regular kindergarten class. But there, her mother says, she disrupted class, ran through the hallways and lashed out at others -- at one point giving a teacher a black eye.

"She did not learn anything that year," Ms. Travis recalls. "She regressed."

As policy makers push to include more special-education students into general classrooms, factions are increasingly divided. Advocates for the disabled say special-education students benefit both academically and socially by being taught alongside typical students. Legislators often side with them, arguing that mainstreaming is productive for students and cost-effective for taxpayers.

Some teachers and administrators have been less supportive of the practice, saying that they lack the training and resources to handle significantly disabled children. And more parents are joining the dissenters. People like Ms. Travis believe that mainstreaming can actually hinder the students it is intended to help. Waging a battle to preserve older policies, these parents are demanding segregated teaching environments -- including separate schools.


Parents of Disabled Students
Push for Separate Classes

November 27, 2007; Page A1

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. -- Last fall, groups who favor placing disabled students in regular classrooms faced opposition from an unlikely quarter: parents like Norette Travis, whose daughter Valerie has autism.

Valerie had already tried the mainstreaming approach that the disability-advocacy groups were supporting. After attending a preschool program for special-needs students, she was assigned to a regular kindergarten class. But there, her mother says, she disrupted class, ran through the hallways and lashed out at others -- at one point giving a teacher a black eye.

"She did not learn anything that year," Ms. Travis recalls. "She regressed."

As policy makers push to include more special-education students into general classrooms, factions are increasingly divided. Advocates for the disabled say special-education students benefit both academically and socially by being taught alongside typical students. Legislators often side with them, arguing that mainstreaming is productive for students and cost-effective for taxpayers.

Some teachers and administrators have been less supportive of the practice, saying that they lack the training and resources to handle significantly disabled children. And more parents are joining the dissenters. People like Ms. Travis believe that mainstreaming can actually hinder the students it is intended to help. Waging a battle to preserve older policies, these parents are demanding segregated teaching environments -- including separate schools.

'Fully Included'

In 2005, more than half of all special-education students were considered mainstreamed, or "fully included," nationally. These students spent 80% or more of the school day in regular classrooms, up from about a third in 1990, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

"The burden is on school districts and states to give strong justification for why a child or group of children cannot be integrated," says Thomas Hehir, an education professor at Harvard and former director of special education at the U.S. Department of Education.

That point of view frustrates many parents. Some have struggled to get services from their local school districts; others have seen their disabled children falter in integrated settings.

Mary Kaplowitz, a special-education teacher in Kingston, Pa., was a bigger supporter of mainstreaming before she had her son, Zachary, who has autism and is mildly retarded. She says his preschool classmates rarely played with him and he came home from summer camp asking why the nondisabled children laughed at him. On a visit, she saw them drawing away from her son.

"They shunned him and it broke my heart," says Ms. Kaplowitz. Earlier this year, she and other parents fought successfully to preserve separate special-education classes in Kingston like the one Zachary, now 9 years old, attends at a local elementary school.

Such parental pushback has prompted local school districts across the country to delay or downsize mainstreaming initiatives.

Last year, parents of disabled kids in Walworth County, Wis., clashed with an advocacy group over the creation of a new special-education school. As part of the battle, Disability Rights Wisconsin sued the county in Milwaukee federal court to try to block the school. The new school is currently under construction and the lawsuit is under appeal.

And earlier this year, parents in Maryland's Montgomery County asked the state to continue a special-education program their school district was scheduled to discontinue. After initial protests, the district agreed to phase out the program -- letting enrolled kids continue -- rather than close it outright.

The debate has grown contentious in New Jersey, a state with a strong tradition of separate education for the disabled. Only about 41% of the state's 230,000 special-education students are deemed fully included, compared with 54% nationwide. About 9% of the state's disabled students -- triple the national average -- attend separate schools.

New Jersey passed some of the nation's first special-education laws. In the 1950s, it began requiring public schools to pay for special-ed services that they didn't offer. State law also gave counties and groups of school districts broad powers to build stand-alone schools for the disabled. Today, there are 80 publicly funded separate schools for the disabled in New Jersey and about 175 private ones. They receive tuition from public districts for handling special-ed students.

But in 2004, the state, which had faced federal pressure to mainstream, placed a year-long moratorium on the opening of new special-education schools. Since then, it has stiffened the approval process for private facilities and bolstered funding for local districts to broaden in-house programs.

In a budget-strapped state where voters have been demanding tax relief, cost has been a factor. On average, New Jersey spends about $16,100 a year on each special-education student, including those who are mainstreamed. The average annual tuition at the various, separate public schools for the disabled range from $28,500 to $42,000; at private schools, it's $44,000.

Overall, tuition and transportation costs for out-of-district placements accounted for 39% of the $3.3 billion a year that the state spends on special education. "That's a huge cost driver for our education budget," says state Sen. John Adler, who last year co-chaired hearings on school funding reform.

Many parents, including state Sen. Stephen Sweeney, bristle at moves that could foreclose their options. His daughter, Lauren, who has Down syndrome, attends a regular middle school. But Mr. Sweeney says her nondisabled classmates never visit or ask her to hang out. Next year, he's moving Lauren to a separate high school operated by the publicly funded Gloucester County Special Services School District. The system's special-education facilities also include a new $14 million school for children with autism and multiple disabilities.

'The Choice of Parents'

"Just to put my child in a building to make people feel better because it's inclusion is outrageous," says Mr. Sweeney. "As long as I am in the legislature, they are not going to take away the choice of parents with children with disabilities."

The school funding hearings, held in various towns and cities last fall, were emotional. Ruth Lowenkron, a special-education attorney, testified that beyond being the right thing to do, mainstreaming would save money. "Repeat after me," she told the legislators, "inclusion is cheaper than segregation."

But the panel also heard often from parents who argued for continued access to separate schools.

They included Adela Maria Bolet, of Teaneck, N.J., whose suit-clad son, Michael, sat beside his mother while she testified. The 17-year-old, who has Down syndrome, now attends a private high school on the state's tab. In earlier years, Ms. Bolet fought to get Michael into regular public schools only to find that he sometimes became depressed and had little positive interaction with nondisabled peers.

Until high school, he had few friends, says Ms. Bolet. Her voice still quivers when she talks about what happened when the family rented a pool in town and invited classmates from Michael's neighborhood elementary school to a swimming party for his 13th birthday. "Nobody came," she says.

Concurrent with the funding hearings, another debate was boiling at New Jersey's publicly funded Middlesex Regional Education Services Commission. It had already supported and built a network of six special-education schools, and planned to open two more, including a 24-classroom facility. The commission, controlled by a consortium of school districts, had built its other schools using bonds guaranteed by Middlesex County's governing board. Its school projects had never faced significant opposition.

This time was different, as the proposed schools became a target for mainstreaming advocates. Critics like William England, a school board member in South River, N.J., wrote to local papers. To endorse the sort of segregated special-education schools that most of the country is busy abandoning would be "a waste of county resources," he said in a letter to the Home News Tribune, East Brunswick, N.J.

Mark Finkelstein, the Middlesex commission's superintendent, scoffs at such criticism. He estimates his schools save local districts $10 million a year over the cost of placement in privately owned facilities. "It's easy to say that all kids should be in mainstream schools but let's talk reality," he says.

On a recent morning at the Bright Beginnings Learning Center -- one of the Middlesex schools -- a hallway painted mint-green was lined with children's wheelchairs and walkers. In one classroom, a teacher and four aides were working with seven disabled students, most strapped into devices designed to help them stand or sit.

Mary Lou Walker, an aide, crouched beside the desk of Teresa Condora, a petite 7-year-old who suffers from cerebral palsy and is largely nonverbal. "All right T, come on," Ms. Walker said, gently urging the girl to press a big red plastic button attached to a buzzer. Responding with a soft moan, Teresa pushed against the button as though it were impossibly heavy.

Factions Face Off

Last September, pro- and anti-mainstreaming factions faced off at a meeting where the fate of the proposed new Middlesex schools was to be decided.

At the microphone that evening, Paula Lieb, president of the New Jersey Coalition for Inclusive Education, cited multiple examples of severely disabled children who had been successfully mainstreamed. She said that "the vast majority of children can be included in the public schools."

But the parents of children already attending the commission's schools had also been organizing, urging each other to come to the hearing and bring their disabled children.

Sandy Epstein's family had moved to New Jersey from Oregon a decade earlier to take advantage of specialized schools for students like her son, Brandon, who has autism. For the hearing, the 48-year-old homemaker dressed her teenager in a bright red polo shirt and sat near the front. "I wanted him to stand out," she says. "I wanted these politicians to see what we are talking about."

Ms. Travis, a 41-year-old bookkeeper from Milltown, N.J., says that while waiting to speak that night, she grew angry with the criticisms of the inclusion advocates. She thought they had no idea what her daughter Valerie, now 11, needed.

The Travises had spent eight months on a waiting list to get Valerie into the Academy Learning Center, one of the Middlesex schools located in Monroe Township, N.J.

During that time, she says, the progress Valerie had made learning to speak all but disappeared. Along with reports of her outbursts at school, Ms. Travis says the family had to cope with frequent meltdowns at home. Valerie slept fitfully, ripped up her homework and beat up her little brother to the point that he once needed stitches.

"It was the worst eight months of our lives," Ms. Travis told the county officials, adding that families like hers needed schools like the Academy, where Valerie is now learning geography and double-digit subtraction.

Mr. Finkelstein believes parents' testimony helped convince county officials to unanimously back the bonds needed for the new construction, which is under way.

"If inclusion worked for all of our residents," the superintendent says, "they wouldn't be fighting so hard for these new schools."

Their efforts are far from over. In June, a coalition of disability-rights groups sued the New Jersey education department in U.S. District Court in Newark. Taking a page from the racial desegregation battles of the 1960s, it alleges the department isn't moving fast enough to integrate disabled students and asks the federal court to take over the process.

Write to Robert Tomsho at

Posted by Gina Davis at 1:00 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Around the Nation, Parents, SpecialEd, Teaching, Trends

"Teddy Bear" teacher sentenced

The British teacher in the "teddy bear" case has been sentenced to 15 days in prison after a Sudanese judge found her guilty of insulting religion for allowing a teddy bear to be named "Mohammed," according to media reports. The teacher, Gillian Gibbons, also faces deportation from Sudan after her prison term, her lawyer told CNN.

The teacher --- who was not convicted of two other charges brought against her, inciting hatred and showing contempt for religious beliefs --- was spared from being sentenced to 40 lashes.

Click here for video coverage of the latest development:

Posted by Gina Davis at 12:50 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the World, Teaching

Tupac Shakur, on his time at Baltimore School for the Arts

In this video, he described his alma mater as a school mostly for "white kids and rich minorities" when he was a student in the late 80s. He said his friends in neighborhood high schools were deprived of a good education while he was being exposed to Shakespeare and Broadway plays. "I would've been a totally different person had I not been exposed to these things," he said.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City

November 29, 2007

Michigan students suspended over MySpace photos

There's an interesting lawsuit playing out in Michigan, where four students were suspended from Belleville High School over photos on MySpace showing them with what appear to be guns, drugs and gang signs. The students sued, and a judge ruled this week that they must be reinstated because the school board didn't keep records of their suspension hearings. But the board plans to hold new hearings by the end of the week, and it's possible the students won't get to return to the same schools. A Detroit Free Press article is here.

This seems to be a slippery slope. You don't have to spend more than a few minutes on MySpace or YouTube to find kids from a school near you apparently engaged in, or at least talking about engaging in, criminal activity. (Remember the brawl after the City-Poly game a few weeks ago that stemmed from a dispute on MySpace.) But should schools be allowed to discipline students for stuff they post online in their free time? Does it matter if the photos or videos are taken at school (for instance, boxing in the halls at Mervo)? In Belleville, the photos were apparently taken after the students had left a school dance.

It certainly is instructive for teachers and administrators to look at the online diaries their students have posted for the world to see. But what is appropriate use of the information beyond that?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Nation

November 28, 2007

Suspicious numbers not so suspicious

I guess I qualify as what Sara calls an "old timer" because I do remember why the suspension rate went down abruptly in the city during the 2004-2005 school year.

The city school system was trying to avoid having its schools labeled "presistently dangerous" under No Child Left Behind. Principals and teachers told us that year that the city school administration had warned them to stop suspending so many students because they feared too many schools would receive the designation the following year.

The problem was that teachers weren't given any training or help in reducing misbehavior in the classroom. So teachers reported that when students misbehaved and were sent to the office, nothing happened. Students weren't being suspended, even for serious infractions, and so began an escalation of violence in the schools.

Some readers may remember a rash of fires in high schools and middle schools as well as an increase in fights that year. Fire engines began parking in front of some schools, like Walbrook High School, for most of the school day. Eventually, the violence subsided, but schools in the city did get the dangerous label.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:34 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City, NCLB, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

Curious figures on suspension and truancy

Andres Alonso gave so much interesting data to the City Council yesterday that I didn't know where to begin in reporting it. (See my story in today's paper, and stay tuned for more in the coming weeks.) In some cases, though, I have to wonder about the numbers -- and, apparently, so does Alonso. Looking at both the city's truancy and suspension rates over time, there were big drops a few years back with no ready explanation.

Consider these official city figures:
-- In the 2002-2003 school year, there were 13,671 students in the city identified as habitually truant (absent for more than 20 percent of school days). In the 2003-2004 year, however, there were only 9,266 habitual truants.
-- In 2003-2004, that same year that truancy supposedly declined, there were 26,310 incidents in city schools that led to students being suspended. In 2004-2005, there were just 16,625 such incidents.

Alonso was candid with the council, saying he didn't know if the figures reflected real drops in truancy and suspension, or if they reflect a change in bookkeeping practices. But he's only been in his job since July. And I've just been covering the city schools since the summer of 2005. Do any old timers have thoughts on what happened with truancies between 2002 and 2003 and suspensions between 2003 and 2004?

Meanwhile... Want to know the city's top 10 schools for suspension and truancy so far this academic year? Read on.

Schools with the highest suspension rates 
1. Gilmor Elementary
2-3 (tie). Dr. Samuel L. Banks High and Furman Templeton Elementary
4. Northwestern High
5. Homeland Security Academy
6. Calverton Elementary/Middle
7. West Baltimore Middle
8. Patterson High
9. Dr. Roland N. Patterson Academy
10-11 (tie). Hazelwood Elementary/Middle and Booker T. Washington Middle 

Schools with the highest truancy rates
1. Dr. Roland N. Patterson Academy
2. Lombard Middle
3. Benjamin Franklin Middle
4. Paul Laurence Dunbar Middle
5. Hamilton Middle
6. Diggs-Johnson Middle
7. Canton Middle
8. Calverton Elementary/Middle
9. Southeast Middle
10. William C. March Middle

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Baltimore City

November 27, 2007

Report: GED pass rates down in U.S., Maryland

Welcome back to all of you InsideEd readers who have been glued to "developments" from today's peace summit-cum-conference-cum-"launchpad," where Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed to try to agree on something more substantial than that before the end of the Bush administration. 

We offer you now a smooth transition back to the more provincial battleground of secondary education with some "facts on the ground" of our own, namely, the results of the 2006 GED test.

Yes, the results of last year's General Education Development test -- better known as the high school equivalency exam -- like beaujolais, est arrive! For those of you planning on actually reading the just-released report, we don't recommend popping the bottle just yet. It's a bunch of tables, and you'll need to focus.

But for the rest, kick back with a glass of young fermented grape juice, and skim the following Maryland-centric summary.

But first (for what our editors call "sweep"), the national context:

*More than 39 million U.S. adults lack a high school diploma, according to the 2000 census. That's 18 percent of the over-16 population.

*614,000 test-takers worldwide took the GED in 2006 and 68 percent of them passed, or 419,000 newly minted GED holders. Last year, 72 percent of test-takers passed.

*The average GED candidate in 2006 was 25 years old. Fifty-three percent were white, 23 percent black, and 19 percent Hispanic.

*States with the highest pass rates were more likely to require candidates to complete practice tests before taking the official test, according to the study. Iowa had the highest pass rate of nearly 99 percent, followed by Delaware's 94 percent. (Must be all that time studying while waiting in the toll-booth line.)

Now, for the Maryland results:

*There are about 618,000 Marylander adults without a high school diploma. Last year, about 8,100 Free Staters took the GED. Of those, 63 percent passed. (That's about 5 percentage points below the U.S. average, for those of you who skipped the national sweep and went straight for the terrapin meat.) Last year, Maryland's pass rate was 67 percent.

*African-American test-takers represented the largest percentage of GED candidates only in Maryland and Washington, D.C. In Maryland 49, percent of test-takers were black, though only 39 percent of successfull passers were African-American.

*Sixty-one percent of Maryland test-takers were male; nationwide, men comprised 56 percent of all GED candidates.

*The GED is offered in French, but no Maryland test-takers opted for the French version. In New York, 328 people took the French-language version. C'est la interesting bit of petite trivia, non?

Peace out.




Posted by Gadi Dechter at 3:36 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Testing

Imperfect choices for overhauling school?

Faced with planning an academic overhaul of Woodlawn High School, principal Edward D. Weglein acknowledged in a recent interview (in my story this week) that of the strategies being considered, "there's no real perfect answer."

Under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, schools that fail to reach state standards after five consecutive years enter the restructuring planning stage. Failing schools must develop a plan to replace most or all of the staff, reopen as a charter school, contract with a private entity or bring in a "distinguished principal" from another district.

With little data on which of the options has proven most successful, Weglein and other school system officials are facing a difficult choice. Teachers are understandably concerned about what this means to their job security. Parents are worried about how this will affect their children.

Which option do you think is the best course of action?
Troubled Woodlawn High plans academic overhaul
By Gina Davis

Sun reporter

November 26, 2007

Administrators at Woodlawn High School, the only Baltimore County high school to have reached "restructuring status" after years of failing to meet state benchmarks in reading and math, have begun the wrenching process of planning an overhaul of the school's academic program.

In recent meetings with teachers, staff and parents, Principal Edward D. Weglein explained the four options being considered but stressed that no decisions have been made.

"Within any of them, there's no real perfect answer," Weglein said in an interview. "But we'll work toward picking the best option."

Under the No Child Left Behind Act, schools that fail to reach federal standards after five consecutive years enter the restructuring planning stage. Failing schools must develop a plan to replace most or all of the staff, reopen as a charter school, contract with a private entity or bring in a "distinguished principal" from another district.

In Maryland, 40 schools are in restructuring planning. Three of those schools are in Baltimore County - Woodlawn High and Southwest Academy and Lansdowne middle schools.

Woodlawn Middle implemented its restructuring plan last year, though it wasn't required to do so because it made required gains during the 2005-2006 school year.

Nearly 70 schools statewide have launched restructuring plans. Woodlawn High - whose plan is due by April to state education officials - would have to restructure next school year only if it fails to meet reading and math benchmarks this school year.

With nearly 2,000 students, Woodlawn is one of the county's largest high schools. In recent results, the school, which is 90 percent black, had only 32.3 percent of the Class of 2009 passing the state's high school assessment for algebra - one of four exams required for graduation.

Weglein said he met with teachers and parents to tell them that the restructuring planning process is under way. Informing the public is one of the first steps required by state education rules.

He said the meetings were not scheduled to quell rumors of a state takeover that had been circulating among teachers and parents.

State education officials confirmed that they have no plans to take over the school. Ann E. Chafin, assistant state superintendent, said Maryland law doesn't prescribe a state takeover as a restructuring option. It is, however, an option that federal law allows.

Chafin said the state's role is to ensure that the school's planning is progressing. She said Woodlawn's leaders will need to address such questions as: How well do the teachers know the curriculum? Do the school's teachers have the capacity to move forward with changes? What does the school need, in terms of resources and money?

Weglein said the meetings were held to provide information, which he acknowledged is limited at this early stage in the process.

"I would love to say to somebody, 'Here is what you can expect,' but I can't," he said. "This is something of a major magnitude to the community, I can't play down that point. ... But we can't give details because we don't have details yet."

He said he and his staff noted questions raised during the meetings, and his goal is to gather more information and meet again before the winter break.

Parent Miko Baldwin said changes are necessary but that she worries about losing teachers and maintaining popular programs such as the robotics club and Advancement Via Individual Determination, a national college preparatory program. She said she hopes Weglein, the school's fifth principal in about a decade, will stay.

"If they go with a charter or a private entity, are they going to be able to maintain the same programs?" she asked.

The options have key differences. For instance, reopening as a charter school protects union contract provisions, while all terms are negotiable under a contract with a private entity. Schools that choose to force all or most of the staff to reapply - such as Annapolis High, where about half of its 111 teachers chose to leave this year - experience the turmoil of losing longtime educators.

Manuel Rodriguez, the system's southwest area assistant superintendent, said officials are researching the options. He said the involvement of parents, teachers, students and the community is vital to the process.

"It's natural for them to feel uncertainty because at this point we're all uncertain," Rodriguez said. "I can assure you that the intent is to keep everybody informed along the way."

Copyright © 2007, The Baltimore Sun

Posted by Gina Davis at 12:54 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore County, NCLB, Parents

An unbearable situation

Sudanese officials say pooh to a class teddy bear named Mohammed: They've arrested a British elementary school teacher for allowing her 7-year-old charges to name a class teddy bear after Islam's Prophet. She's charged with blasphemy. Check out a Reuters article here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:09 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the World

November 26, 2007

The role of teachers in school violence

My story in Sunday's paper looks at the case of Bridget Banks, a Baltimore mother who won a $100,000 judgment against the city school system. The lawsuit Banks filed says her 12-year-old daughter was attacked and sexually assaulted by seven boys in a special education class at Southeast Middle School in November 2002 while a teacher failed to intervene.

Reporting this story, it was chilling to think how quickly a classroom can get out of control, with a child's life forever altered. It also made me wonder, what is a teacher's responsibility if an attack is going on in your classroom? I don't think anyone would argue that doing nothing is the answer. But do you jump in the middle? Call others for help? What if there aren't any other adults around? It's a horrible position to be in, and it's a situation I know many teachers in the city are faced with all the time when fights break out. I'm not saying that sexual assaults are common in city schools (at least, I hope they're not, and the statistics show they're not), but violence is a fact of life in many buildings and classrooms. What is the appropriate response?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:40 AM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

November 21, 2007

Good news: more Ph.Ds in science, engineering

The number of newly-minted Ph.Ds in the United States increased last year, fueled by a surge of doctorates in science and engineering fields, according to an annual analysis by the National Science Foundation released this week.

But a growing number of science/engineering doctorates in this country are awarded to non-U.S. citizens, so the news will not likely quell widespread concern among many in higher education that the United States is failing to produce enough so-called S.T.E.M. (science, technology, math and engineering) graduates to meet domestic workforce needs.

Among the findings:

* U.S. institutions of higher education awarded a record number of doctoral degrees in 2006: 45,596.

* For the fourth consecutive year the number of doctorates in science and engineering fields has increased, last year by 6.7 percent.

* Among non-science/engineering fields, Ph.Ds in health grew to their highest point in the last decade, while the number of education doctorates awarded were at their lowest point in the last ten years.

* Non-U.S. citizens received more than a third of all U.S. doctoral degrees in 2006, and about 45 percent of awards in science and engineering areas.

* Non-U.S. citizens particularly dominated in engineering fields and computer science, with 68 percent and 65 percent of U.S. doctoral awards last year, respectively.

* Of doctoral recipients whose citizenship was known, Chinese citizens recieved nearly 27 percent of U.S. engineering Ph.D.s in 2006, followed by citizens of India and Korea.

* Since 2002, doctoral awards given to non-U.S. citizens have increased by 44 percent. Awards to women have increased by 25 percent over the same period.

* Of the 29,854 U.S. science-and-engineering doctorates awarded in 2006, women received about 38 percent.

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 10:29 AM | | Comments (0)

A first-year teacher documents the journey

For something to chew on over Thanksgiving, check out this video by a teacher in the Walbrook high school complex about her first year on the job.

Made by a Teach for America teacher for a graduate class at Hopkins, the video shows the crowded halls at Walbrook two minutes, five minutes, eight minutes after the bell. It gives some stark statistics about the school (though it doesn't say which school in the Walbrook campus it's talking about): an average ninth-grade attendance rate of 60 percent, an average first-quarter report card grade of 60.6. It poses the question, "How do you create a productive classroom in a school that is not focused on student achievement?"

In my favorite segment, the teacher is talking to her students about why they need to pass the High School Assessments to graduate. She compares getting a high school diploma with running a mile and passing the tests (which measure material kids should be learning long before senior year) with walking a mile. "If you can't pass the test where you only have to walk a mile," she asks, "is it fair for you to get the sheet of paper that says you can run a mile?"

This is clearly a teacher who comes to care about her students. She flashes their pictures while stating their accomplishments and career aspirations and ends the video with a shot of her dancing in the hall with one of them. But will she stick it out after her two-year commitment to Teach for America is over? Only time will tell.

UPDATE: The teacher emailed to say she did not intend for people other than her family and friends to see the video, and therefore she's made it a private link on YouTube. It's too bad, because I thought it was both compassionate and insightful, but I understand that many teachers are reluctant to go public about their experiences at school. My apologies to Voice for School Truth and anyone else who tried unsuccessfully to use the link.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:40 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City, Teaching

November 20, 2007

Voting on part of the BTU contract

Today is the day for city teachers to vote on the wage compensation portion of their long-delayed contract. While the school system and the Baltimore Teachers Union have been going back and forth over 45 minutes a week of planning time, teachers and paraprofessionals have been denied their annual raises.

Assuming the pay part of the contract gets approved today, will the planning time issue just fall by the wayside? Will teachers care anymore?

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:06 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Baltimore City

In honor of SAT season...

Remember studying lists of obscure vocabulary for the SAT, taking the test, and then wondering why none of those words were on it? Well, that vocab - or, at least, some rather challenging words - appears to be at

The site, which tests vocabulary, is not only an incredibly handy procrastination tool, but educational - and even philanthropic, according to its creators.

So take a turn and see how you score...

Posted by Arin Gencer at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Testing

November 19, 2007

Gifted and Talented

After my Sunday story on the great disparities in programs across Maryland for gifted students, I received a lot of comments from parents and teachers who said they were disappointed in the lack of programs in their schools.
A Harford County parent wrote to say that the a gifted and talented advisory board's suggestions have been ignored. A Baltimore parent wrote to complain that it has been a problem at most city schools. And I got the following e-mail from a teacher:
I could not agree more.  At the high school where I teach math and technology, we have had this discussion with the administration for years. We spend ten times as much resources on the lower performing students as on the higher performing students; a consequence mostly of No Child Left Behind.  We always seem to be trying to push up the bottom rather than pull up the top. This results in a school where high academic achievement is not encouraged or rewarded. We have never had GT classes and this year, for the first time, we have one AP class.
We receive students who test at a median 5th grade level and continue with Bridge programs, additional classes for students failing HSA's, etc, etc. We do not have classes for the bored, highly performing achieving students. It may be impossible to create a school culture that values college preparation when most of the resources are aimed at the lowest performing students.
Brad Fields
Math Teacher
Dr. Samuel L. Banks High School

Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:21 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region

A closer look at Soulja Boy lyrics

As we've noted in earlier posts, the Soulja Boy dance is sweeping the nation, with teachers and students finding a rare meeting ground in pep rallies and the classroom.

But a casual conversation with my colleague Brent -- whose own eyes had been opened by some students -- spurred a closer study of the, um, rather interesting lyrics of this incredibly catchy song.  Let's just say that I doubt quite so many educators would be jumping in Soulja Boy's ride if they knew what he was planning -- or where he was going.

This ... revelation made me think back to a few years ago, when another popular song had the nation -- including then presidential hopeful Gen. Wesley Clark -- talking about shaking it "like a Polaroid picture." But OutKast's "Hey Ya" basically laments the problems of monogamy -- something many fans most likely hadn't gleaned as they were shaking it with abandon.

So now I'll ask y'all: Where do you think the line should be drawn as educators try to make pop-culture connections with their students?  Should we care about the lyrics -- difficult to understand anyway -- or is it all about the music?

[By Arin Gencer] 

Posted by Mary Hartney at 10:53 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Trends

Enrichment courses on the chopping block?

I was thrilled recently when I heard about the journalism club at New Town High School in Owings Mills. But the thrill was fleeting, as I found out in the same conversation with a teacher there that the club is all that's left for students after the school's journalism class was eliminated this year to make room in students' schedules for tutoring classes to help them pass High School Assessments. As most of you know, HSAs are given in four subjects --- algebra, U.S. government, English and biology --- and are a requirement for graduation starting with the Class of 2009.

When my stepdaughter was in high school, she'd grumble about an unappealing course and ask, "Why do I need to take this?" I'd tell her, "School is as much about learning how to read and write as it is about learning where your interests lie." I told her it was important to try a range of subjects so she could figure out what to pursue in college and in life. The talks didn't necessarily help her like those unappealing courses any more --- for instance, she learned she really didn't like algebra as much as she thought she didn't --- but the point was, she stuck it out, learned a thing or two and lived to tell about it.

I'll probably be sorry that I asked, but what other examples do you know about of enrichment classes that have suffered the same fate as the journalism class at New Town High? Do you see it as a necessary move to ensure students are passing these high-stakes exams, or do you worry that students are losing out on opportunities to broaden their academic horizons?

Posted by Gina Davis at 6:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore County, NCLB, Teaching, Testing, Trends

November 16, 2007

UMCP and Towson hurt by homeless intern's blunder

In's just-released "power rankings," the University of Maryland, College Park and Towson University make the vaunted Top 50, in part on the strength of their proximity to Taco Bells, paucity of male vocal groups and late bar-closing times.

You'd think the humor site's Timonium-raised and Friends School-bred founders would know that "last call" is shouted before the 2:00 a.m. closing time in Maryland, not 3:00 a.m. as the rankings credit. (In Prince George's County, UM's home, some liquor-license holders may remain open until 3:00 a.m., but must cease "operating" at 2:00 a.m., according to the Board of License Commissioner's rulebook.)

Jeff Rubin, managing editor of, did the honorable thing and fixed the blame on the unpaid help rather than his monied bosses. "Our research was done by a homeless intern whom we just took off the street," Rubin explained, adding that the rankings are,"like everything we do, incredibly unreliable."

Asked whether the interns would correct the error, Rubin was noncomittal, though he did say, "I'm giving them an evil look as we speak."

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 12:30 PM | | Comments (0)

"Chocolate War" revisited

Harford County Public Schools superintendent, Jacqueline C. Haas will present her decision on the use of a controversial novel, The Chocolate War Monday. It's listed as a presentation item on Monday's Board of Edu. meeting agenda

The Chocolate War is on the American Library Association's list of the top 10 challenged books and was banned last year by Haas after about 40 parents complained about vulgar language and homophobic slurs. The 1974 teen-oriented novel is about a boy who is bullied because he refuses to participate in his school's chocolate-selling fundraiser. The book was used in a 9th grade course called Living in a Contemporary World, that is designed to ease the transition to high school and part of the course dealt with bullying and its destructive effects.

 According to a Sun editorial from April, "...when some parents protested against the book, Ms. Haas quickly announced that a review committee including teachers, administrators, students, parents and community members would help determine whether The Chocolate War should remain as part of the course. In February, the committee unanimously recommended that it should.

But Ms. Haas unilaterally decided that the controversy over the book made it unusable at this time, took bullying and harassment out of the LICW (Living in a Contemporary World) course and wants another committee to take another year to come up with an alternative literary selection."

The second committee convened three times and has made its recommendation to Haas.  She will issue her decision Monday. 

Some accused Haas of trying to "sanitize" reality, by banning a book that dealt with issues faced in high school.  Others supported her decision saying that the book was offensive and controversial, thus didn't belong in a school environment.  Either way... stay tuned.

Posted by Madison Park at 12:22 PM | | Comments (5)

More fallout from the City-Poly fight

Poly Principal Barney Wilson said he has suspended four girls, all juniors, for their part in the melee after the City-Poly football game Saturday. Baltimore city and schools police arrested 22  girls from the brawl, which you can read more about here. The girls at Poly were given three-day suspensions. According to city police, one girl from the school was treated and released at a hospital after being kicked in the head. 

Wilson called the fight "unfortunate" and said it was a carryover from other venues where students come in contact with each other. Although Poly and City students were involved, Wilson said the fight had nothing to do with animosity between the rival schools, and he reiterated the fact that girls from six other schools were involved.

Some parents, however, say the problem is bigger than administrators are willing to acknowledge. One woman who e-mailed The Sun after the article ran says her granddaughter and her friends have been fighting away from campus recently, although they weren't part of the brawl outside the stadium and haven't been suspended. Another mother says she wants to see the principals from some of the city schools hold a forum to address the rowdy behavior, particularly by the girls. The mother said the fight after the game was fueled by Internet banter on Myspace.

As for Wilson's take on the fight, he called it a spontaneous incident but not much more than that. Wilson said the City-Poly game is one of the oldest in the country (119 years) and rarely has there been something like what took place Saturday. "I don't think anyone involved is proud of what they did. We expect more from them," he said.

Posted by Brent Jones at 7:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

Reconsidering high school exit exams?

It is interesting that the school system that prides itself on being one of the best in the state is now calling on the state board to reconsider the high stakes exit exams for high school students.

Montgomery County's school board is writing to the state school board, the governor and other leaders expressing its disapproval of the vote taken last month to go ahead with the exams for the Class of 2009. The vote gives students the option of doing extensive projects, graded by a local review board that includes a representative from the state.

State school board members from Montgomery County voted against requiring the tests beginning in 2009 and Montgomery's superintendent has expressed a lot concerns about some aspects of the tests, particularly the time it takes to get results.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

November 15, 2007

Staph strikes Harford student

There's another case of MRSA at a Harford County school. A student has a form of staph, known to be resistant to some antibiotics called methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  C. Milton Wright High School parents received a letter last week that the student was treated for a skin infection.

Posted by Madison Park at 5:00 PM | | Comments (2)

Forecast: improving job market for recent college grads

Students who graduate from college this year - especially those with an internship under their belts -- will find an improved job market, according to an annual survey.

Michigan State University's* 2007-2008 Recruiting Trends Survey forecasts a 7 percent increase in job opportunities this year over last, officials said. Business and engineering jobs for recent grads at large companies will grow by more than 10 percent, according to the survey of nearly 1,000 companies around the country.

The survey will be presented tomorrow at a conference in tomorrow, but you can get some additional details here.

Among the main findings:
* Fifty percent of employers said applicants should have completed at least one internship before applying for a proper job.
* Starting salaries for bachelor's degree recipients will likely increase by 4 percent to 5 percent.
* Employment opportunities for recent grads are expected to pick up around the country. 

*An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified the survey as produced by the University of Michigan.

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)

Teachers who inspire

"If you could leave a mark on the world, what would it be and why?"

That's the essay topic for this year's Horace Mann Educator Scholarship, an annual competition named after Horace Mann, the 18th century statesman and educator known as the "father of American public education."

Timed to coincide with American Education Week, The Horace Mann Companies this week called on K-12 educators across the nation to apply for the scholarship. Horace Mann will award 36 scholarships: one $5,000 award payable over four years, 15 $1,000 awards payable over two years, and 20 one-time $500 awards. Applicants must be a K-12 educator with at least two years of experience with a U.S. public or private school district.

Scholarship awards must be applied to tuition, fees or expenses for classes at a two- or four-year accredited college or university. In addition to a 300-word essay, applicants will be judged on their school and community activities. For more details on applying, check out Applications are due by Feb. 29.

So, "If you could leave a mark on the world, what would it be and why?"

Send us your answers and we'll consider posting them.

Posted by Gina Davis at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, Around the Region, Teaching

Carroll County school board roundup

Taking a page from Sara's notebook, there are a couple interesting items that came out of last night's school board meeting in Carroll.

Two issues drew in quite a crowd, making the Board of Ed the place to be (seriously... standing room only).

1. Redistricting.  Parents from the neighborhood that feeds into Charles Carroll Elementary have persistently protested the school board's October decision to allow the redistricting of some neighborhood children - 37, to be exact - to the new elementary school currently under construction, Ebb Valley Elementary.  Several parents were seen (and heard) during the school board's last meeting, when they marched around the central office building with signs, protesting the vote.
Last evening, their efforts paid off: the board voted to reverse its decision - 3-2 like the first, with board President Gary Bauer tipping the vote this time.

2. Jewish holiday closings.  A number of Jewish parents, teachers and children came asking the board to reconsider its recent vote on the 2008-2009 calendar, which does not account for Jewish holidays.
Several parents - and students - described the frustration and anxiety that surrounds missing days of school - days that aren't supposed to have scheduled tests/quizzes or new taught material, dances or field trips... but regularly have all of those things, they say.  And several said last night that the pressure/stress surrounding missed days often makes truly enjoying the holiday and its spiritual significance almost impossible.
As one ninth-grader told the board: "It ruins the holidays to have to worry about work that you're going to have to make up."
Not giving the "most holy day" of the Jewish calendar off is "wrong," a parent said.  "I ask the board to make it right."
Teachers like South Carroll High's Lisa Katz also chimed in, mentioning the personal days they have to use up in order to observe their holy days.  She noted that Jewish students aren't alone in their scheduling frustrations: In one year, she had to contend with conference days and grade due dates - among other deadlines - set on holy days.

Now for a bit of background:
Board members voted in October to approve the superintendent's proposed calendar for the 2008-2009 school year.  
This version eliminated Oct. 9, which coincided with Yom Kippur, as a school closing date.  The district's calendar committee had originally suggested closing that day to be consistent with several other school systems that close on that day - and because residents have made such recommendations.  
But at that meeting, the district's legal counsel pretty much nixed the idea of doing something just because other school systems do it.  Schools could only close if there were "an adverse impact on attendance.... You cannot close simply because it is a religious holiday," Rochelle S. Eisenberg, the district's legal counsel, said at the time.
A report on staff and student absences on selected religious holidays in 2005 indicates that Carroll schools don't fit the bill on the attendance count, either.... student absences on Yom Kippur were about the same as a randomly selected day in September.

Whew.  Obviously these kinds of issues affect school systems near and far... any thoughts on closing for Jewish (or other religious) holidays?  Or, in a completely unrelated vein, do any of you have tales of boundary-line battles - and victories - you'd like to share?

Posted by Arin Gencer at 10:40 AM | | Comments (3)

Looking for powerful parents

At Baltimore County's Cromwell Valley Elementary School in Towson, state education officials and cable giant Comcast this week launched the Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award. The award, whose theme is "Choose Your Seat. Get Involved.," is believed to be the first of its kind in the nation and was created to bring attention to the ever-important role of parents in local schools.

The award will recognize a parent or guardian in each of the state's 24 school systems whose "exemplary contributions to public education have led to improvements for Maryland’s public school children, teachers, schools, programs, and/or policies. The purpose of the award is to highlight the positive impact parents have on public schools and to encourage all parents to get involved in whatever they can," according to a statement from state education officials. In addition to the local winners, one state-level winner will be chosen.

Nominations, which must be postmarked Jan. 23, may be made in five areas of parent involvement:

Communication – Fostering communication that impacts the school community.

Volunteering – Recruiting or organizing volunteers, or supporting school activities, both internal and external.

Learning – Organizing or coordinating learning activities that reinforce homework or classroom skills.

Decision Making – Participating on decision-making committees, or in programs that advocate system or policy changes, or serving as a representative for the school or education community.

Community Collaboration – Coordinating resources and services for the school community, which could include fundraisers that would enhance a school’s services or environment, or coordinating resources or services from the school community that may serve an external community.

To be considered for the Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award, nominees must be a parent, or legal guardian, of a child who attends a Maryland public school and not an employee of Comcast, MSDE, or the Maryland public school system.

If you know someone worthy of being nominated, you can download an application at

Posted by Gina Davis at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, Parents

November 14, 2007

School board meeting roundup

Tidbits from last night's city school board meeting:

A lobbyist for parents? Eric White, president of the Baltimore Council of PTAs, used his time during public comment to express his dismay that PCAB (the school system's Parent and Community Advisory Board) wants to spend $15,000 to hire a lobbyist. The PTA's representatives on PCAB delayed the lobbyist vote, saying it's not the best way to spend money designed to increase parental involvement and, furthermore, PCAB put the issue to a vote without showing the voting members a copy of the proposed lobbyist's contract. In the meantime, White asked the school board if its own legislative liaison could lobby on behalf of parents in Annapolis in place of a lobbyist. Michael Carter, chair of PCAB, came to the podium after Carter. The folks sitting near me were bracing for a confrontation, but Carter didn't even mention the lobbyist issue. Instead he talked about...

Admission to citywide high schools. Carter asked the school board to consider giving students at the city's public middle schools preference in applying to the prestigious citywide magnet high schools (Poly, City, Western, etc.), assuming they meet the admissions criteria. Right now, those students could be shut out by higher-scoring students living in the city but attending private middle schools, or by students living in the suburbs who will pay tuition to attend one of the citywides. Andres Alonso said he's recommended to the school board that the system give preference to city residents in high school admission. But board members said they didn't know if they could give kids in public schools preference over kids in private schools if they're all Baltimore residents. Carter said the public school kids should be rewarded for "sticking it out" in the city's failing middle schools.

A parent's struggle continues. Sheila Slade-Lee, the parent who's been at all the recent board meetings complaining about the lack of special education services for her son, was back to update the board that administrators have agreed to pay for the boy to attend a private school. She was upset, however, that there had been a recommendation to send the 7-year-old to a school for troubled adolescents. Board member Buzzy Hettleman said he wants the board to study Slade-Lee's case to see where the system dropped the ball and what lessons can be learned. He said he's concerned that it took her coming before the board several times and being "accused of being a troublemaker" for her son to get needed services. He said he fears the boy would not have gotten services "had you not come up here and irritated everyone in the world on behalf of your child." He told her she had "inspired us to work harder to deal with systemwide problems."

Doing more with less. Dr. Alonso seemed resigned that school systems are not going to get their way in Annapolis and there will be less money in the coming years. He vowed: "The schools will get better regardless of the funding we receive."

Too hot for socks. Jimmy Gittings, president of the system's administrators union, complained when he came up to speak that the temperature in the board room was too hot. "I half expected you to take your socks off," board chairman Brian Morris quipped. Gittings is known for wearing dress shoes and pants with no socks.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 10:49 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City

Take thys blog and spel it corectely*

I got a chuckle out of the responses generated from this Orlando Sentinel School Zone blog post:

"Hi, all. I am working on a story about teachers, principals and school administrators who can't/won't write properly. So, I am collecting anecdotes and accompanying evidence --anything and everything from letters sent home with kids, websites plagued with errors or wacky signs (a school sign in Orlando says it is "illeagle" to park within 50 feet of a stop sign). If you've got kids or know people who do and would like to share your stories and notes, please write me at Thanks in advance. And keep the stories coming!"

The blog entry at our sister paper generated 34 comments – by far one of the most commented blog post of the year. (I visit the site regularly.) Who knew that spelling could be such a touchy subject?

One reader wrote: “Can I ask why? What is the purpose of this? To further damage the reputation of our schools? Why don't you spend the time you are putting into this story to volunteer and help out at a school-maybe by proofreading newsletters, etc.? Is this the kind of journalism we should be promoting?"

Another reader wrote: “This is despicable. Teachers are busy people. I think PARENTS need to be more concerned about what their students are turning in as opposed to how we compose emails. Have you seen your kid's homework lately? How about the text messages? Guess what, what they give to teachers looks exactly the same. How about you help them out, teach them how to spell "because" instead of "bc".”

A reader named “Former source of Sentinel revenue!” wrote: “The Orlando Sentinel should ashamed of themselves for employing this so called journalist, and for entertaining the idea of this article. Shame on you! I just called and cancelled my subsciption, and will no longer advertise my business with your paper, as I have for the last 2 1/2 years.”

The other comments included readers who supported the idea of holding teachers more accountable to readers who echoed the three opinions from above. I tried to contact the reporter who posted the blog entry and got no response. Thanks Claudia. Anywho…

As one of the worse spellers in the world – thank goodness for spell check – I wanted to get your input on this issue. Do you think that this is a relevant story? Or do you think that this is yet another unfair attack on educators? Do you think that educators should be held to a higher standard because they are in charge of molding the future generation?

* And yes, I know that the headline and some of the reader comments are spelled incorrectly…

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 9:49 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Nation

Alonso's Enoch Pratt welcome

Andres Alonso has been the CEO of Baltimore's schools for more than four months now, but the Enoch Pratt Free Library waited until this week (which just so happens to be American Education Week AND Children's Book Week) to present him with a welcoming gift. And it was a big one.

The library has purchased 6,000 copies of one of Alonso's favorite books, "The Three Questions," and handing them out to all the teachers in the city.

The book, by Jon J. Muth, is based on a short story by Leo Tolstoy. I've never read it myself, but reading a synopsis online, it's easy to see why Alonso likes it. It's the tale of a boy named Nikolai who wants to be a good person, but he needs help from his animal friends in answering these three questions: "When is the best time to do things? Who is the most important one? What is the right thing to do?"

I don't know Alonso's thoughts on timing, but the second two questions are ones I've heard him pose and answer a lot in the last four and a half months. He says, of course, that the children are the most important, and the right thing to do is always what's best for the children. Whenever he's making a controversial decision (angering a politician or the teachers union or both), he reminds us that the children are more important than adults and says he's acting on their behalf. It will be interesting to see how that logic holds up over time.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City

November 13, 2007

Encuesta: foreign language study increases

There's been a boom since 2002 in foreign language course enrollments at U.S. universities, according to a survey released today by the Modern Language Association.

Interest in traditionally popular Spanish, French and German continued to grow and represented about 70 percent of total enrollments, but "their dominance is slowly decreasing in the face of growing interest in" Arabic, Chinese and Korean, according to the survey of about 2,800 campuses.

The largest growth was seen in Arabic classes, with enrollments up 125 percent since 2002.  That pushed Arabic into the top ten foreign languages studied in the United States for the first time since the MLA began these surveys in 1960.

American Sign Language also showed a nearly 30 percent increase, edging it above Italian for the number four spot.

Here's the organization's breakdown of the top 15 languages taught in higher education, including total enrollments and percentage increases since 2002:

1) Spanish, 822,985, 52.2%, +10.3%

2) French, 206,426, 13.1%, +2.2%

3) German, 94,264, 6.0%, +3.5%

4) American Sign Language, 78,829, 5.0%, +29.7%

5) Italian, 78,368, 5.0%, +22.6%

6) Japanese, 66,605, 4.2%, +27.5%

7) Chinese, 51,582, 3.3%, +51.0%

8) Latin, 32,191, 2.0%, +7.9%

9) Russian, 24,845, 1.6%, +3.9%

10) Arabic, 23,974, 1.5%, +126.5%

11) Ancient Greek, 22,849, 1.4%, +12.1%

12) Biblical Hebrew, 14,140, 0.9%, -0.3%

13) Portuguese, 10,267, 0.7%, +22.4%

14) Modern Hebrew, 9,612, 0.6%, +11.5%

15) Korean, 7,145, 0.5%, +37.1%

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 12:42 PM | | Comments (1)

Link between Finland school shooting and thwarted Pa. attacks

Here’s an update to two stories that you have been reading about on this blog.

CNN is reporting that a jailed Pennsylvania teen, who is suspected of plotting a Columbine-style attack on his old school, was in communication with the student who killed eight people in a shooting last week in Finland.

The pair met through the social-networking Web site MySpace. Read more here.

As you may remember, Dillon Cossey, 14, of Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania, was charged 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 after his arrest last month.

His mother 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 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.

Pekka-Eric Auvinen, 18, fatally shot three women and five boys before turning his gun on himself last week.

The AP reported that the shooting appeared to have been planned out in videos posted on YouTube by Auvinen.

How can schools keep good teachers?

Yesterday, John-John posed the question of what happens to teachers who quit their jobs.

Today, I flip things around a bit and ask: How can school systems prevent teachers from quitting?

Thanks to InsideEd reader Bill for alerting me to this new blog of a city middle school teacher. On the most recent entry, the teacher -- who says he has a masters degree in education from Stanford -- posts a letter he wrote to Dr. Alonso posing this question: “Why should I stay and teach here in Baltimore City?” He says he loves his students, but that teachers' work is undermined by incompetent administration. Check out the blog for more details (plus interesting commentary in an earlier entry about Teach for America).

Meanwhile, the Baltimore Teachers Union and the city school system are back in arbitration this week trying to break the impasse in contract negotiations. The result of the contract dispute could influence whether some teachers stay or go.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Baltimore City, Teaching

November 12, 2007

Where are all the teachers going?

I was reading the comments on Sara's blog post about Mervo high school -- the one with the boxing -- and one of the comments stuck out.

One of the commenters stated that she is a Baltimore City teacher who was ready to throw in the towel. I immediately thought about a friend of mine -- a former colleague here at The Sun -- who is now enrolled in a law school in Oregon. She told me that one of her classmates is a former Baltimore City teacher. Small world...

We education reporters hear that the retention among teachers is pretty bad, to say the least. More than 50 percent of new teachers leave the profession in the first five years, according to statistics by the Maryland State Teacher's Association.

In all of the reporting that I have done, pay seems to be a big factor. Whenever the teacher’s union -- in school systems that I have covered -- has made a case for more money they always point to retention.

I just want to know where all the former teachers are going to work? Are they going to law school like the current Oregon student? Are they doing some other form of community-related work? Or are they going for the big bucks in the private sector?

Are you a former school teacher who switched gears? Is the pasture greener on the other side of the fence? Do you miss the classroom? Do you feel that you made a difference?


1:30 p.m. UPDATE: Appears that this post has been quite a talker. One of the commenters appears to be the classmate of the former co-worker that I alluded to yesterday.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 1:51 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Teaching

Boxing in the halls of Mervo

Mergenthaler Vocational-Technical High School in Baltimore has been the site of several arson fires in recent weeks, with instructional time severely disrupted amid the constant evacuations. Some Mervo parents I've talked to said the school was out of control last spring, too. To judge the veracity of that claim, look no further than YouTube.

The video broadcasting site contains two videos under the headline "Mervo Boxing," showing kids literally boxing in the halls of the school as a crowd looks on and girls scream. I'm posting the tamer one here. (The other involves repeated use of the "n" word and several other obscenities.) Another obscenity-laced video on YouTube shows boys "freestylin'" during a fire evacuation.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Baltimore City

November 8, 2007

BTU/BCPSS arbitration begins

Formal arbitration proceedings to break the impasse in contract negotiations between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the Baltimore school board began today. In arbitration, each side sends a representative to present its case to a neutral, mutually agreed-upon third party. It's unclear how long the closed-door talks will last, but, presumably, once the arbitrator issues a recommendation, both sides will agree to abide by it.

The issue on the table, of course, is planning time. The school board and Andres Alonso want principals to be able to require teachers to spend one planning period a week collaborating. The union says teachers don't have enough planning time as it is.

See earlier entries on the dispute here, here and here.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 4:59 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City

High School Assessment Perfect Scores

In the debate over the high school assessments, Howard County parent Sara Seifter asked a question that got lost in the shuffle of wider issues. She wanted to know why some highly able students she knows haven't scored in the stratosphere on these exams. She said these are kids who have aced their AP exams, get high scores on the SATs but don't score much above 490 out of 650 on these exams. Mind you, that is still about 100 points above passing. But she still wanted to know from the Maryland state school board why they weren't getting the maximum 650 or close to it. In her testimony to the state board she asked, "How is it that these students who are receiving 800s on their SATs are not receiving at or near a perfect score on the HSAs which are supposedly tests of basic skills?"

I asked Leslie Wilson, who's in charge of testing for the state board of education, to answer this question. She said there are some perfect scorers, but not many. Last year, of the roughly 55,000 students who took the test, 39 students had a perfect 650, the top score. Another 50 students scored in the 550 range or up.

Wilson says that the high school tests aren't designed like the SATs to measure high achievement or very low achievement. They are designed to concentrate on whether students pass or not...That is the English translation of the complexity of scoring.

Seifter would like the state to use a national test with a proved track record that students can look at and see where their weaknesses are.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region, Howard County, Testing

Teen stress and depression presentation tonight

Life got your teen stressed, depressed?

Tonight HC DrugFree, a Howard County nonprofit organization, is sponsoring a free program for parents and teens that will address the factors that can lead to stress, depression and substance abuse in teens.

Dr. David Gold, a counselor with Crossroads Psychological Associates in Columbia, will share tips about how to spot signs of teen depression.

Organizers of the program promise plenty of time for parents and teens to converse about their experiences.

If you are interested in going, the 90-minute program starts at 7 p.m. at Atholton High School, 6520 Freetown Rd., Columbia, MD 21044.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 1:12 PM | | Comments (1)

Where is Richard Donald?

Anybody remember Richard Donald? If you were working at city school system headquarters in the spring of 2006, you probably can't forget him.

Donald had been fired the previous fall from his job as a data analyst for the city schools, and he alleged he was the victim of institutional racism. On May 19, 2006, Donald called into a radio show on WOLB-AM and told the world that 10 top school system officials were out on a recreational boat trip as he spoke, and that the system had cut a check to cover the expense. After the broadcast, the officials paid for the trip with a personal check written by Alexandra Hughes (then an aide schools CEO Bonnie Copeland, now a spokeswoman for House Speaker Michael Busch). But Eric Letsinger, the system's chief operating officer and the organizer of the trip, was fired anyway amid an investigation into the trip and other allegations. A few weeks later, for a variety of reasons, Copeland stepped down, too.

So what became of our whistleblower? It had been awhile since I'd heard from Donald, but he called me this week from Denver, where he's enrolled in the Keller Graduate School of Management at DeVry University. He was calling to ask my help navigating The Sun's online archives. Turns out, he needed some old articles for a term paper he was writing. By the next morning, he had finished the paper and emailed it to me. He called it "Baltimore City Public School System: A Case Study of an Aggressive/Defensive Culture." I'll paste a few particularly inflammatory excerpts below.

From "Baltimore City Public School System: A Case Study of an Aggressive/Defensive Culture," by Richard S. Donald. Reprinted with permission.

The Baltimore City Public School System has been experiencing myriad management problems as of 1997. Since 1997, those appointed to senior management roles seemed to have ignored the system’s vision to accelerate “the academic achievement of all students, in partnership with community to ensure that students have the attitudes, skills, and proficiencies to succeed in college and in the 21st Century global workforce (BCPSS, 2007).”  Few superintendents and their deputies had been dismissed from their positions for being insensitive to multiculturalism and ethical lapses in decision making. In other instances, misappropriation of funds allocated for bus repairs were used for pleasure trips during the workweek. The alarming fiscal deficits, coupled with other administrative deficiencies have created hygiene factors among employees. These mounting problems inhibited the organization from meeting its goal of educational excellence for its stakeholders....

The school district is very politicized, internally and externally. The governor of Maryland and the mayor of Baltimore, by law, appoint their friends to the school board of commissioners at the Baltimore City School System. Other stakeholders, such as parents, community leaders, and education activists, are excluded from that school board. With such noticeable vacuum on the school board, politicians use the board to their best political advantage, while students are deprived of academic excellence....

Employees feel that they should compete and out-perform one another. In a culture like BCPSS’, many organizational members usually do not “fit in” to meet the expectations of corporate constituencies. The system’s employees are rather high on dogmatism and authoritanism. Subordinates see the world as a threatening place and regard authority as absolute....

Baltimore City Public School System is diversity immature. Its leadership practices what a former Equal Employment Opportunity  (EEO) official once referred to as “intersectional discrimination (Dominguez, 2007, October).”   In November 2003 during the financial crisis, senior management laid off 1,000 employees, the largest staff reduction in 20 years. Many of those affected were African-Americans. No Caucasian was impacted by such move. A year later, most of those jobs were replaced with whites....

Baltimore City Public School System’s management has been structured on the basis of authority inherent in members’ positions. Members believe they will be rewarded for taking charge and controlling subordinates, and being responsive to the demands of superiors. In this case, those superiors are the schools superintendent, the city mayor or the state governor. Of what those ineffective managers are oblivious is that power-oriented organizations are less effective than their members might think; subordinates resist this type of control; hold back information, and reduce their contributions to the minimal acceptable level....

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:33 AM | | Comments (1)

In Baltimore, turning off the water fountains

Everyone I talked to for my story today about the city school system's decision to ditch its water fountains and provide univeral bottled water agreed it was the right move, both from a financial and a health perspective. But I can't help but wonder, if the city school system has been trying to get the lead out of its water since the early 1990s, how much money has been wasted? How much could have been saved if the schools just got bottled water to begin with 15 years ago? We'll probably never know the answer.

UPDATE: Here are two blog entries by city educators with different views of the water situation:

Epiphany in Baltimore's points about the problems with water coolers in his school (not changed often enough, not enough cups) are ones the school system will have to address.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:16 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City

November 7, 2007

YouTube, Finland school shooting linked

At least eight people were killed today when an 18-year-old gunman went on a shooting spree at a school in Finland.

At least 12 people sustained minor injuries during the shooting.

The suspected shooter is in critical condition. A hospital official would not say how he was injured. The AP is reporting that police sources say he tried to take his own life.

The AP is also reporting that the shooting appeared to have been planned out in videos posted on YouTube by Pekka-Eric Auvinen.

YouTube has appeared to have removed 89 videos linked to his account shortly after the shootings. Many of the videos feature Nazi imagery.

There seem to be a few similarities between this case and past American shootings.

The Columbine kids also expressed a fondness for Nazis. The Virginia Tech shooter videotaped himself shortly before that massacre.

Guess this most recent shooting dispels the belief that school violence is an American problem.

Voucher program defeated in Utah

Utah voters yesterday shot down what would have been the nation’s first statewide school voucher program. Read more in this AP story.

The program would have provided tax dollars for private tuition, no matter family income or whether kids were in bad schools.

In 2000, voters in Michigan and California also defeated efforts to subsidize private schools.

Since 1972, there have been 10 state referendums on various voucher programs, according to
the National School Boards Association. All of the referendums – by the way – have been unsuccessful.

Edward J. McElroy, President, American Federation of Teachers, issued the following statement: “Utah voters have underscored America’s unwavering support for public education. Vouchers
weaken the public schools, which serve the vast majority of our nation’s children. Clearly, Utah’s voters took a look at the facts and chose to support the success of their students over the misleading claims of vouchers proponents.”

What are your thoughts on universal vouchers? Doesn’t it defeat the purpose if vouchers are given to the rich? How is that evening the playing field? And isn’t it a slap in the face for schools that are not failing to have students leave and go to the “greener pastures” of private schools?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:51 PM | | Comments (1)

Baltimore schools announce switch to bottled water

This just in: The city school system will provide bottled water at all its schools from now on, after 10 water fountains at four schools -- City College, Douglass High, Carver Vocational-Technical High and Northwood Elementary -- failed lead testing. Lead had supposedly been removed from those fountains, but the fountains failed on a retest. The school system says it will be cheaper to provide bottled water than remove lead from all the water fountains. 

Any BCPSS parents or students interested in commenting (on the record, with your names) for my story tomorrow, particularly at the four schools named above, drop me a line at

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 12:11 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City

A mother gets what she wants

Score one for Sheila Slade-Lee, the parent whose relentless activism to get better special education services for her 7-year-old son caught both the attention of the city school board and this blog. She called this week to report that her son, a second-grader at Northwood Elementary, has gotten a one-on-one aide. And, much to her surprise, administrators have agreed to transfer him to a private school for special education students in the coming weeks. "Non-public placement," as it's called, as an incredibly expensive option and therefore one of last resort for school systems, which effectively have to admit that they aren't capable of serving a child and therefore need to foot the bill for private school.

Slade-Lee has spoken passionately about her son's plight at the last two school board meetings. She's hired a lawyer, and she's gotten help from one of the city's loudest special education advocates, James Williams. (She's also been more than a little persistent about contacting me with updates.) Last week, she attended an IEP meeting for her son, her 17th such meeting in two years. While there normally are about five school officials present at an IEP meeting, she said, this time there were around 20. Previously, the officials have resisted when she requested additional services for her son, who has hearing problems, sensory and auitory processing disorders, attention deficit disorder, and possibly dyslexia. This time, "everybody changed their story." When they offered non-public placement, "I was just floored."

"He got what I asked for a year ago," she said. "If he got all this stuff I've been asking for, that means they were wrong, right?"

A victory, yes. Yet she was still in tears. Why? "I'm still not happy about it because it's been such a terrible fight."

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 7:41 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City, Parents, SpecialEd

Opposite views on the O'Malley budget bill

Reporting on an issue as complex and political as Thornton funding, it's hard to please anyone.

In response to my story Monday, the governor's office wanted to point out 1) that Maryland's public schools got record funding increases from the state for the current academic year, raising the bar for all future funding and 2) that Governor O'Malley's budget package exceeds a "hold harmless" provision for education requested in a letter last month by Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon. A hold harmless provision would ensure that schools don't receive less than they did this year, and the governor's staff says the budget bill goes beyond that by guaranteeing at least a 1 percent funding increase for the next two years.

On the flip side, education advocates say my story didn't go far enough to make the case that the 1 percent increase really doesn't mean anything because most of the money goes toward teacher retirement, which the state must fund anyway (for now).

I'm printing below a letter that landed in my inbox, written by David Merkowitz, executive director of the Prince George’s Business-Education Alliance, and sent to members of the General Assembly. While written specifically about the impact that the governor's budget bill would have on Prince George's County schools, it essentially summarizes the concerns I'm hearing from educators around the state. The letter says that Prince George's Superintendent John Deasy has instructed his staff to prepare an alternative budget for the 2008-2009 school year preparing for a worst-case scenario, in which that district would see $65 million of cuts. I wonder how many other superintendents have started engaging in such an exercise. (The letter is reprinted with Merkowitz's permission.)

November 2, 2007

Dear Delegate:
Within the next two weeks, you will be making a series of critical decisions that will affect the lives and educational prospects of students in Prince George’s and the future economic health of our community.  The outcome of the special session of the General Assembly not only will determine the fiscal 2009 state budget; it will reverberate for years to come in terms of opportunities provided or foregone for the children of Prince George’s County.
The Prince George’s Business-Education Alliance consists of the leaders of many of the county’s most important businesses, the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), and Prince George’s Community College.  Our purpose is to ensure that the children of our county receive an excellent education, from kindergarten through college, that prepares them to compete in the nation’s economy and participate fully in the civic life of our society.
While evaluating the budget and tax proposals before you, negotiating a final package to address the projected revenue shortfall, and ultimately casting your vote, we urge you keep the interests of Prince George’s children and schools foremost in your considerations.  In that respect, I ask that you pay special attention to several issues that will have a substantial impact on their future success:
 The frozen foundation.  The Budget Reconciliation Act (House Bill 1) would freeze state education aid under the Bridge to Excellence in Public Schools Act (Thornton) at fiscal 2008 levels for the next two years.  This would cost PGCPS alone more than $40.6 million in fiscal 2009, compared with projected funding under current law.  That cut would be compounded in fiscal 2010, resulting in a net loss over two years of more than $120 million.
 IPD vs. CPI.  H.B. 1 also would change the Bridge to Excellence Act so that, beginning in fiscal 2011, the annual increase in school aid would be set using the Consumer Price Index, rather than the implicit price deflator for State and local government expenditures.  Over time, this change may not be significant; in the 1990s, the CPI was higher than the IPD, while more recently, the IPD has been greater.  But whatever index is used beginning in 2011, its application to a substantially lower base will impose a permanent penalty on Prince George’s County students and schools.
 The 1% non-solution.  Section 2 of the Budget Reconciliation Act would establish a supplemental grant that guarantees at least a 1% increase in state education aid in 2009 and 2010 to those county boards of education that otherwise would not receive at least that amount over the previous fiscal year.  As detailed in Exhibit B1 of the Fiscal and Policy Note to House Bill 1, this provision would benefit only six jurisdictions.  It would be of no assistance to Prince George’s County.  The supplemental grants are designed only to hold harmless those school systems that would not receive additional funds from the expected phase-in of the Geographic Cost-of-Education Index.
 Where’s “F”? Governor O’Malley promised during his campaign to fund the Geographic Cost-of-Education Index.  Although that did not happen during the 2007 regular session of the General Assembly, he reiterated that promise during the rollout of his deficit elimination plan.  Section 2 of H.B. 1 would insert new language in the Bridge to Excellence Act, as Subsection (E)(1)(II), referring to “funding received under the GCEI Adjustment Grant Program under Subsection (F) of this section.”  However, there is no F in H.B. 1.  In effect, the Budget Reconciliation Act calls for a “phantom” GCEI phase-in—one that apparently does not yet exist.  One assumes that the Governor plans to propose language for Subsection (F) eventually.  However, at this point, without such language, it is impossible to determine what the phase-in schedule for the GCEI might be: over how many years it would be implemented, at what rate, and how much the affected school systems, including Prince George’s, would receive each year.
 No fix for the NTI.  H.B. 1, as currently written, would do nothing to repair one of the major flaws in the current formula for determining state education aid: the inconsistency between the date Maryland uses for measuring each jurisdiction’s relative wealth, or net taxable income, (September 1) and the deadline for late filing of federal income tax returns (October 15).  This discrepancy, which developed in 2005 when Congress changed the automatic income tax filing extension date, rewards counties with many upper income taxpayers, who are more likely to file their tax returns near the deadline, and penalizes jurisdictions with more lower and middle income families.  As a result, PGCPS lost $23 million in state aid it otherwise would have received in the current fiscal year.
 HSAs: High stakes and high costs.  The Maryland State Board of Education this week reaffirmed its intent to require students to pass the High School Assessments to graduate in 2009 and added a “Bridge Plan” that would allow students who fail the tests repeatedly despite remediation to complete a project demonstrating that they have gained the equivalent knowledge.  The HSA requirement was not in place in 2002 when the Thornton Commission developed its recommendations and the General Assembly passed the Bridge to Excellence Act, and thus was never considered in calculating funding needs and formulas.  Nonetheless, PGCPS, which is disproportionately affected by the requirement, has been devoting a major portion of new Bridge to Excellence funds to remediation for students at risk of failing the HSAs.  Superintendent Deasy has indicated that implementing the Bridge Plan will impose a substantial new burden on school staff and require significant expenditures that had not previously been budgeted.
 Retirement contributions: The big shift (and shaft).  Absent adequate new revenues or sufficient spending cuts, one alternative that has been discussed to achieve a balanced budget in fiscal 2009 is shifting a substantial portion of retirement contributions for teachers and some other public employees from the State to the counties.  This notion, embodied in House Bill 50, would cost Prince George’s more than $37 million, most of it for school system personnel.  The possibility of such a shift prompted Superintendent Deasy to instruct his staff to prepare an alternative fiscal 2009 budget with cuts totaling $65 million: $37 million from loss of the inflation adjustment plus $28 million to cover retirement contributions, with no provision for new funds from the GCEI.

The challenge you face in the coming weeks is enormous, and I know that you already are being subjected to incredible pressure by various interest groups with a stake in the outcome of your decisions on tax increases and spending cuts.  However, I urge you to remember that the sole mandate the Maryland Constitution imposes on the State government is to establish “a thorough and efficient system of Free Public Schools; and… provide by taxation, or otherwise, for their maintenance."

It was the failure of the State to fulfill this mandate that led to the establishment of the Thornton Commission and to the enactment of its recommendations.  Substantial and permanent cuts to education funding would put Maryland once again in violation of its own Constitution, with the greatest burden falling on Prince George’s County and its young people.

You now have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to reform Maryland’s tax code to ensure that the State has adequate revenues to meet its constitutional obligations.  It’s an opportunity that requires courage, boldness, and a determination to act in the best interests of those who represent the future of our county.

Prince George’s students and schools have made significant progress in recent years—progress that will be jeopardized by cuts of the magnitude being proposed.  Your constituents are looking to you to prevent such an outcome and will, to a great extent, judge your performance in office on that basis.

If I can be of assistance, or provide additional information, please do not hesitate to contact me.


David Merkowitz
Executive Director
Prince George’s Business-Education Alliance

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:24 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, School Finance

November 6, 2007

Our glossary of education jargon

Here is our first stab at a guide to “educationese,” the acronyms and jargon you’ll encounter in the education world. By no means do we claim it's comprehensive, but it does contain many of the terms that we use in our daily lives on the education beat. This will be a permanent post on the blog, so please feel free to send us additions and suggestions. We've divided the glossary into national, state and local sections, with subsections for terms related to No Child Left Behind and special education.

AFSCME: American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees. The union representing custodians and maintenance and transportation workers in many school districts.
AFT: American Federation of Teachers. The nation’s second-largest teachers union. The Baltimore Teachers Union is an affiliate. (Other Maryland teachers unions fall under the nation's largest union, the National Education Association.)
AP: Can mean Advanced Placement or assistant principal. Advanced Placement is a program run by the College Board where high school students take advanced classes (called AP classes) with tests (called AP exams) at the end. The tests are scored on a scale of 1 to 5. Scores of 3 and higher can earn students college credits (called AP credits).
AVID: Advancement Via Individual Determination. A national college-preparatory program that helps students strengthen their academic skills. 

Benchmarks: Tests that measure student progress throughout the year.
BOE: Board of Education. A school board.
Capital budget: A school system's budget for construction and renovation projects.
CAROI: Cooperative Audit Resolution and Oversight Initiative. A federal mediation program run by the U.S. Department of Education used to resolve audit findings.
Charter school: A public school that operates independently, under a contract with a local school board. 
CTBS: Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills. A national standardized test.  
CTE: Career and Technology Education. Programs that prepare students for specific career fields; the new term for vocational education.
DARE: Drug Abuse Resistance Education.  
DIBELS: Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills. Quick assessments developed by the University of Oregon to check whether young children are on track to learn to read. Used in the early grades in many Maryland schools.
DOE: Department of Education.
ELL: English Language Learner. ELLs are enrolled in ESOL.  
ESOL: English for Speakers of Other Languages. Also called ESL. Refers to the program for students who speak English as a second language.
FARM: Free and reduced-price school meals (breakfast and lunch), subsidized by the federal government for poor kids. A school’s FARM rate generally indicates how poor its student population is. A school’s FARM rate is more reliable in elementary and middle schools because in high schools kids are often embarrassed to turn in applications for free meals because it’s an admission of poverty.
FAFSA: Free Application for Federal Student Aid.  The form all students interested in financial aid for college must complete.
GT: Gifted and Talented. Refers to an exceptionally bright student. GT classes are classes for GT students.
INTASC: Interstate New Teachers Assessment & Support Consortium. According to its Web site, “a consortium of state education agencies and national educational organizations dedicated to the reform of the preparation, licensing, and on-going professional development of teachers.”
IB: International Baccalaureate. An international education program, with divisions designed for elementary, middle and high schools. High schools with an IB program allow students the opportunity to work toward a prestigious IB diploma.
LEA: Local education agency. A fancy name for a school district.
LEP: Limited English Proficiency. Refers to a student learning English as a second language.
Paraprofessionals (“paras”): School assistants. “Instructional paraprofessionals” are classroom assistants. “Non-instructional paraprofessionals” are assistants who work in the school outside the classroom. 
NAEP: National Assessment of Educational Progress. Also referred to as “The Nation’s Report Card.” The only standardized test administered to schools around the nation. The standardized tests administered under No Child Left Behind vary from state to state, and therefore it’s difficult to make comparisons. NAEP is considered to be a harder test than many of the statewide assessments. But NAEP does not provide scores for individual students or schools as the statewide assessments do.
NAME: National Association for Multicultural Education.
NCTE: National Council of Teachers of English.
NEA: National Education Association, the nation’s largest teachers union.
NSTA: National Science Teachers Association.
Operating budget: A school district's budget for all expenses except construction projects, which are contained in the capital budget.
PBIS: Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. A program many schools use to improve student behavior.
Praxis: A test that teachers must pass for certification. Praxis 1 measure basic skills while Praxis 2 measures subject-area expertise. 
PTA: Parent Teacher Association. Sometimes called a PTSA, Parent Teacher Student Association.
SAT: Scholastic Achievement Test. The most widely used college admissions test. Students generally take the PSAT (P stands for pre) the year before the SAT. Contains sections in critical reading, math and writing, each scored on a scale up to 800, with the maximum possible score 2,400. There are also SAT subject tests, sometimes called the SAT 2’s. 
SGA: Student Government Association.
SIP: School Improvement Plan.  
SIT: School Improvement Team. A group of faculty and parents appointed to make decisions about school reforms. 
SRO: School Resource Officer. A police officer assigned to a school.
TAS: Targeted Assistance School. A school that provides targeted assistance to a select group of students; is ineligible or has chosen not to be a Title 1 school.
TFA: Teach for America. The program that places recent graduates of prestigious colleges and universities as teachers in inner-city schools for two years.
Title 1: A federal program for poor schools. Schools are designated Title 1 based on the number of FARM students they have.
USDOE: U.S. Department of Education.
YRE: Year-Round Education.
Zero-basing: When the whole staff of a failing school must reapply for their jobs.
AMO: Annual measurable objectives, a set of state-established benchmarks for student subgroups that schools must meet to make AYP.
AYP: Adequate yearly progress. No Child Left Behind requires that all students be proficient (translation: pass state tests) in reading and math by 2014. Until then, schools must make “adequate yearly progress” on tests each year. The state establishes how much they need to improve each year to get to 100 percent proficiency by 2014. AYP measures scores not only for the school as a whole, but also by “subgroups.” Schools need to meet AYP for categories including racial minorities, poor students and special education students. Special ed is the most common area where otherwise high-performing schools don’t make AYP. Though it is primarily based on test scores, AYP also incorporates the attendance record of elementary and middle schools and the graduation rate of high schools.
HQ: Highly qualified. What No Child Left Behind wants educators to be. For teachers, it means certified with subject-area expertise. All teachers in “core” academic subjects (math, English, science, social studies) were supposed to be highly qualified by June 2007. For paraprofessionals, highly qualified means passing a standardized test (the ParaPro) or earning an associate’s degree or enough credits for an associate’s degree. All “instructional paraprofessionals” (classroom assistants) in Title 1 schools were supposed to be highly qualified by June 2006. 
NCLB: The federal No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, signed into law by President Bush in January 2002, up for reauthorization in 2007. Requires that all students be tested in reading and math annually in grades three through eight, and once in high school.
Persistently dangerous: No Child Left Behind requires states to label schools that are “persistently dangerous” but leaves it up to the states to determine what a persistently dangerous school is. Maryland makes it easier to be labeled persistently dangerous than most other states. It bases a persistently dangerous designation on a school’s suspension rate for violent offences (attacks on teachers, weapons in school, arson, etc.), not the number of incidents that actually occurred, leading to criticism that schools are discouraged from reporting what happens. 
504 Plan:
A legally binding document outlining the accommodations that a school must make for a child with a special condition. Accommodations range from a providing a wheelchair ramp to administering medication to giving a child more time on a test. Students with 504 Plans are not considered special education students.
ADD: Attention Deficit Disorder.
ADHD: Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder.
ARD: Admission, Review and Dismissal Committee. The committee that develops a student's IEP (see below) once the child has been deemed eligible for special education.
ED: Emotionally disturbed. Students can be classified as “emotionally disturbed” because of severe behavior problems that are considered a disability. Also called "EH," or emotionally handicapped, or "SED," severely emotionally disabled.
FAPE: Free and appropriate public education.
FCI (Federal Census Index) Codes: National codes that schools use to refer to specific student disabilities. As provided by a Baltimore special educator: 01 is mental retardation, 02 is hearing impaired, 03 is deaf, 04 is speech or language impaired, 05 is visual impairments (including blindness), 06 is emotionally disturbed, 07 is orthopedically impaired, 08 is "other health impaired," 09 is specific learning disabilities, 10 is multiple disabilities, 11 was student in need of assessment but is no longer used, 12 is deaf and blind, 13 is traumatic brain injury, 14 is autism,
15 is developmental delay.
IDEA: The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the major federal law governing special education. IDEA entitles students with disabilities a “free and appropriate public education” in the “least restrictive environment” until they are 21. 
IEP: An individualized education program, an individual education plan… take your pick of translations. But an IEP is the legally binding document created by the educators and parents of a special education students dictating what services the child is entitled to receive and outlining how those services will be provided. “IEP meetings,” or meetings reviewing the terms of a child’s IEP and the child’s progress, must be held at least once a year. If a child does not receive all the services outlined in the IEP, a school can be required to provide “compensatory” (makeup) services.
Inclusion: A classroom where disabled students are educated alongside their non-disabled peers. A regular class, but generally with two teachers: the classroom teacher and a special education teacher who works with the disabled kids to give them the help they need to keep up.
Interruption: When a child is supposed to receive a special education service, such as speech therapy or counseling, and doesn’t. There can be a variety of causes, including buses not showing up to bring the child to school and a shortage of clinicians to provide the services, especially speech therapists. 
LRE: Least restrictive environment. This means that students with disabilities must be mainstreamed with their non-disabled peers to the greatest extent possible, rather than segregated in classes that are only for special education students.
Non-public placement: When a school system acknowledges that it can't meet the needs of a special education student and pays to send the child to private school. 
SECAC: Special Education Citizens’ Advisory Committee. Maryland’s name for a local committee, often made up of parents of special education students, that advises a school district on special education issues.
Self-contained: A segregated classroom only for special education students. Class sizes are usually very small, and students have severe disabilities. Some self-contained classes are for students classified as emotionally disturbed.

AIMMS: Achievement Initiative for Maryland’s Minority Students, a state-appointed steering committee. 
BCR: Brief Constructed Response. A short-answer question on the MSA. 
Bridge Plan: Plan to allow students who fail the High School Assessments twice to do a project instead in order to get a high school diploma.
CAC: Community Advisory Council.
CIP: Capital Improvement Program. Every year, each of Maryland’s 24 school systems submits to the state a “CIP request” listing the school construction and renovation projects it wants to do. It includes a request for money for the subsequent fiscal year, and a list of the projects it is planning for the next five years.
COMAR: Code of Maryland Regulations. Contains the state education code that governs a wide variety of rules in the state on public and private education. The code includes specific procedures for public notification and comment that a school board must follow before closing a school. In Baltimore, people often refer to “going through COMAR” or holding a “COMAR hearing” when they’re talking about public notification of impending school closures.  
ECR: Extended Constructed Response. An essay question on the MSA.
GCEI: Geographic Cost of Education Index. An unfunded part of the Thornton legislation (see below) that would provide extra aid to 13 Maryland school districts based on their higher costs of living. 
HSA: High School Assessments. The four exams that students are required to pass to graduate starting with the class of 2009. The exams come at the end of courses in Algebra 1, English 2 (sophomore English), biology and American government. Students can retake the tests multiple times and can fail one test if their average score on the four tests combined is 1602. If they fail twice, students will have the option of doing a project instead. A high school’s Algebra 1 and English 2 scores also count as its MSA results (see below).
IAC: Interagency Committee on School Construction. Chaired by the state superintendent, the committee administers the state’s public school construction program. IAC recommendations on public school construction funding are approved by the state Board of Public Works (comprised of the governor, the treasurer and the comptroller).
MABE: Maryland Association of Boards of Education.
MASC: Maryland Association of Student Councils.
MDPTA: Maryland PTA.
MSA: Maryland School Assessments. Maryland’s annual standardized tests in reading and math required under No Child Left Behind, administered annually in grades three through eight and once in high school. The assessment program is expanding to include tests in science. The “Alt-MSA” is an alternative assessment given to students with severe disabilities.
MSDE: Maryland State Department of Education.
MSPAP: Maryland School Performance Assessment Program. The state testing program that preceded MSA. It was last administered in the spring of 2002 and tested third-, fifth- and eighth-graders.
MSTA: Maryland State Teachers Association. The state teachers union, an affiliate of the National Education Association.
Pony Mail: The interoffice mail delivery within a school system.
PPW: Pupil Personnel Worker. Person who works as a liaison among a school, families and the community. 
Schools in Improvement: The state list of schools that have failed to make AYP based on their MSA scores for at least two years in a row. This list is mandated by NCLB. Once a school gets on the list, it must make AYP for two consecutive years to get off. Schools on the list that continue to fail to make AYP face a series of sanctions that get more serious each year. 
  In Year 1: School must write a plan for improving student achievement. Title 1 schools must offer parents the option of transferring their children to a higher-performing school within the district.
  In Year 2: Title 1 schools must provide extra services, usually outside tutoring, to poor students.
  In Year 3: The school goes into “corrective action” (known as “CA” for short). It must make state-approved reforms such as replacing certain staff members, adopting a new curriculum or lengthening the school year. Title 1 schools continue offering the transfer option and extra tutoring.
  In Year 4: The school goes into “restructuring planning” (known as “RS-Plan” for short). It must plan for a major overhaul, including “zero basing” (where all staff members must reapply for their jobs), converting to a charter school or being taken over by the local school system or by the state. 
  In Year 5: The restructuring plan is implemented. 
SR: Selected Response. A multiple choice question on the MSA.
Thornton: Also known as the Bridge to Excellence Act. 2002 legislation that provided approximately $1.5 billion in extra aide to Maryland schools over five years. Named after Alvin Thornton, former head of the Prince George’s County school board who chaired a commission to determine what constitutes adequate school funding.
VSC: Voluntary State Curriculum. Only it’s not really voluntary.… The curriculum that the Maryland State Department of Education recommends that school districts follow. Outlines material that students should know at a given grade level; that material is then tested on the MSA. 
Anne Arundel County
AACPS: Anne Arundel County Public Schools.
CRASC: The Chesapeake Regional Association of Student Councils.
SMOB: Student Member of Board. Refers to the student who serves on the Arundel school board.
TAAC: Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County. The teachers union.

Baltimore City
AAO: Area academic officer. The administrators who oversee groups of schools. A principal’s immediate boss is an AAO.
ASCBC: Associated Student Congress of Baltimore City. The citywide student government association.
BCCC: Baltimore City Community College.
BCPSS: Baltimore City Public School System. 
Bradford: The ongoing school funding lawsuit, filed by the American Civil Liberties Union accusing the state of unconstitutionally underfunding the city schools. Led to the passage of the statewide Thornton legislation. City school board has joined the ACLU as a plaintiff. The judge in the case, Joseph H.H. Kaplan, now retired, ruled in 2004 that the state had unlawfully underfunded city schools by $400 million to $800 million since 2000. Members of the student advocacy group the Baltimore Algebra Project have used that ruling to stage repeated protests about the underfunding of city schools. 
BTU: The Baltimore Teachers Union. Represents teachers and paraprofessionals. An affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers. (Other Maryland jurisdictions belong to the Maryland State Teachers Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association.)
CAO: Chief academic officer. The top administrator in charge of instruction. In BCPSS, the CAO reports to the CEO (chief executive officer) and works alongside the COO (chief operating officer) and CFO (chief financial officer).
City-state partnership: Refers to the 1997 legislation that gave the state partial control of the city school system in exchange for increased funding. Prior to 1997, BCPSS was an agency of city government. Since 1997, the system has been its own entity, governed by a school board that’s appointed jointly by the mayor and the governor.
DREAA: Department of Research, Evaluation and Accountability. The school system's data keepers.
Facilities Solutions: Name of the process to close 15 percent of the square footage in the city schools over three years. Facilities Solutions 1 refers to the first year (2006), Facilities Solutions 2 is the second year (2007), and Facilities Solutions 3 is the last year (2008).
IMCIT: Intensive Management and Capacity Improvement Team. The team of state-appointed administrators sent by the federal judge in Vaughn G. (see below) to oversee all school system departments affecting special education, from transportation to human resources. 
MDLC: Maryland Disability Law Center. The plaintiffs in the Vaughn G. case (see below), representing students with disabilities. 
North Avenue: Nickname for city school system headquarters, located at 200 E. North Ave. 
PCAB: Parent and Community Advisory Board. Parent advocacy group appointed by the city school board.
PIF: Unclear what it actually stands for, but it refers to a student's identification number in the school computer system.
PSASA: Public School Administrators and Supervisors Association. Union representing middle management in the city school system, including principals, assistant principals and supervisors.
Stanford 10 (SAT 10): A national standardized test that the city gives to first and second graders. 
TerraNova: A national standardized test that city eighth-graders take as part of their application to magnet schools with admission criteria (called "citywide" high schools).
Vaughn G.: Name of the ongoing federal, class-action special education lawsuit filed by lawyers for students with disabilities against the Maryland State Department of Education and the Baltimore City Public School System in 1984, alleging that special ed students in city schools were being denied an adequate education. The judge in the case, Marvin J. Garbis, held the city school system in contempt in the summer of 2005 because of tens of thousands of “interruptions” in services the previous school year. He ordered the state to create the IMCIT (see above), overseeing all departments affecting special education.
Baltimore County
Baltimore Association of Clerical Employees.
BCPS: Baltimore County Public Schools.
Blueprint for Progress: Superintendent Joe A. Hairston’s “vision statement.” A 28-page planning guide that outlines the school system’s academic goals and strategies. First published in November 2000. Most recently updated June 2007.
CASE: Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees. The union that represents certificated principals, assistant principals and curriculum specialists.
CCBC: Community College of Baltimore County.
PDK: Phi Delta Kappa International, an Indiana-based education advocacy group that reviewed the system's curriculum and instruction department. Audit results were released in March 2007.
TABCO: Teachers Association of Baltimore County. The county teachers union.
Carroll County
APSASCCO: Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Carroll County. The union representing administrators. 
ART: Advanced Reporting Tool. An in-house, Web-based application that stores student information (test scores, attendance, etc.) and can help inform instructional decision-making.
CASE: Carroll Association of School Employees, the union that represents LPNs, clericals, and instructional and special education assistants.
CCEA: Carroll County Education Association. The teachers union.
CCPS: Carroll County Public Schools. 
Harford County
CSSRP: Comprehensive Secondary School Reform Plan. A systemwide restructuring of the high schools that includes a fourth math requirement, creation of career clusters, and block schedules to ensure that programs and opportunities are consistent across all high schools.
HCC: Harford Community College.
HCPS: Harford County Public Schools.
HECC: Higher Education & Conference Center located in Aberdeen, which provides higher education. HCEA: Harford County Education Association. Union that represents more than 2,800 teachers.
Howard County
ARL: Applied Research Laboratory, located at 10920 Route 108 in Ellicott City.
BSAP: Black Student Achievement Program. Established in 1986, BSAP has worked to close the achievement gap and to prepare black students to excel as leaders.
FCO: Family and Community Outreach Office, located in Faulkner Ridge Center.
FRC: Faulkner Ridge Center, building where PTACHC has an office and teacher resource center, located at 10598 Marble Faun Court in Columbia.
Focus: Newsletter put out by the PTA Council of Howard County.   
HCASC: Howard County Association of Student Councils 
HCEA: Howard County Education Association, the teachers union.
HCPSS: Howard County Public School System.
PTACHC: PTA Council of Howard County.
SDC: Staff Development Center, located at the Faulkner Ridge Facility.  
SMART: Student Mathematics Activity Resource Tools. A Web site that supports the county's math curriculum, with activities for students. 

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:32 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: EdGlossary

November 5, 2007

Abuse at Oprah’s South African School

Tiny Virginia Makopo, 27, was charged with 13 counts of abusing and assaulting students at Oprah’s school for disadvantaged girls, which is located outside of Johannesburg.

Makopo pleaded not guilty and was released today on bail. Makopo, who was a matron at the school, faces charges of assault, indecent assault, and crimen injuria, which involves verbal abuse which violates the victim's dignity. Authorities alleges there were seven victims. Six are between the ages of 13 and 14 and one was 23.

Sounds like heads are going to role at the school. Oprah said the head mistress' contract will not be renewed. She also indicated that there will be restructuring at the school.

As you may remember, Oprah came under fire for opening the $40 million school in January. Some questioned the amount of money she spent on foreign children when the state of education in United States is in such shambles. (I do not necessarily share these views. I’m just giving you a little history, folks.)

I actually feel really bad for Oprah. The talk show host has been open about the abuse that she suffered as a child. It must really sting that the school she opened has now been affected by abuse. 

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:55 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

Runaway teacher to appear in court today

A Nebraska middle school teacher accused of running away to Mexico with an 13-year-old student is scheduled to appear in court today.

Kelsey Peterson, 25, and Fernando Rodriguez, were taken into custody Friday in Mexicali, Mexico, after the boy called his family asking them for money.

The pair apparently had an agreement to flee after stories that they were having sex surfaced, according to authorities.

Peterson is charged in Nebraska with kidnapping, child abuse and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. She also faces federal charges of transporting a minor across state lines or a foreign border for sexual activity.

Sounds like the relationship might cost Fernando his education in the United States. Turns out Fernando was an illegal immigrant. He has been turned over family members in Mexico. He might not be able to return to the rural Nebraska town where he was an eighth-grader.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:38 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation, School Safety (Or Lack Thereof)

Welcome to InsideEd!

That's right, at long last, we've changed our name. Much as we love to connect with classrooms, we think InsideEd better reflects our mission: to stimulate dialogue among those who work inside the world of education, and to provide an insider's guide to parents trying to navigate the educational system.

We've been making some changes to our site in the past few weeks. We have a new blogroll and a new list of ed-related sites we use. Tomorrow, we'll put up as a permanent post a glossary of education-related jargon (K-12 to start, though we can get into higher ed later). Feel free to send additional educationese our way. We'll also have periodic "How To" posts explaining different components of the educational bureaucracy.

We've started an occasional "Where Are They Now?" feature, catching up with newsmakers of education stories past.

So you can get to know us better, we've all posted new bios of ourselves. If you've ever wondered why John-John gets to have two Johns in his name while I, for instance, have only one Sara, here's your chance to get the scoop.

Questions? Comments? E-mail any or all of the nine of us. Ready for more? Help us spread the word about our new redirect:

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 9:50 AM | | Comments (3)

What classrooms would get in O'Malley's budget package

As I reported in my story today, much of the 1 percent funding increase that Gov. O’Malley has promised to schools in his budget package would be spent on teacher pensions. Direct classroom aid would be virtually flat or even decline slightly. Thirteen districts could receive more money from the geographic cost-of-living index, which O'Malley says he wants to fund, but that’s not guaranteed in the language of the legislation.

According to the fiscal note attached to the governor's bill, here's the direct aid that Baltimore-area jurisdictions would receive before the geographic index.

Anne Arundel County: $266.2 million this year, $264.5 million next year 
Baltimore City: $832.7 million this year, $833.3 million next year
Baltimore County: $509.5 million this year, $510.3 million next year 
Carroll County: $141.1 million this year, $140.8 million next year 
Harford County: $207.1 million this year, $206.3 million next year
Howard County: $183.3 million this year, $185.7 million next year
Statewide total: $4.60 billion this year, $4.64 billion next year 

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region, School Finance

November 2, 2007

Do bulletproof backpacks work?

I stumbled across a promo for this story while watching TV shows the other night.

 I try to stay away from local news stations for the most part. I went to the ABC2News Web site for the story and the video.

ABC2News tested out the $175 backpack by having bullets fired into it. The backpack actually worked, although their expert said the backpack “would likely have been useless against the high-powered weapons used in shootings like Columbine and Jonesboro.”

The ABC story suggests that a bundle of books might be an effective way to protect against bullets.

Would you purchase one of these bags for your kids? Do you think that they are effective? (A bulletproof vest at least protects your torso. These bags would only protect the area that is covered.)

I also included this “Art Fennell Reports” segment on the issue.


November 1, 2007

MSTA video a plea for public schools

Portable classrooms, poor temperature control, over-crowded classrooms, and federal and state mandates are just some of the issues Maryland public school teachers face in a new Maryland State Teachers Association commercial (watch it below).

The two-minute video touches on some of the obstacles faced by Ms. Johnson, an art teacher, during her first day of school.

While wheeling around her cart of supplies, Ms. Johnson observes a series of deficiencies that exist in the school.

“Using a dash of humor and a heavy dose of current reality, the video highlights some of the unmet needs of Maryland’s students and schools,” the MSTA describes the video.

What do you think of the video? What are your thoughts on the video in the context of the current Thornton funding problems? Obviously it is slightly dramatic, but some of the themes are constantly raised by educators in counties large and small.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 4:24 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Region, Teaching

Test your forensic IQ

Villa Julie College's gimmick for getting students interested in forensic science degrees is a grueling five-part multiple choice online test designed to test your "forensic IQ."

If five out of six Sun reporters can ace the test, so can you. (Disturbingly, the journalist who missed a question is on the med/sci desk; he pleaded for anonymity.)

Hint: the correct answer to question #2 is not "Don't know answer." Hint to VJC folks: "know" doesn't start with an "n."

What do you think, Horatio?

"Duly noted, now beat it."



Posted by Gadi Dechter at 11:41 AM | | Comments (1)

Hopkins: Don't call it a business major

In heralding the new Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University, officials at the private school have stressed there are no plans to incorporate a traditional business major into the liberal arts-and-sciences undergraduate curriculum.

But this week, Hopkins announced the formation of a "financial economics" minor at Homewood, with eventual plans to turn it into a full-blown major.

"Coursework will include macroeconomics, microeconomics, corporate finance, investments and portfolio management," according to the university announcement.  

Jon Faust, director of the new program, says the Hopkins program will differ from a typical business major, which often have decidedly practical and low-falutin' business administration, marketing and accounting education at their core.

"The planned financial economics major ... will differ from a traditional business degree in the focus and depth of the training," Faust said. "Our students will receive a focussed training in the technical tools of modern finance and in the economic principles that underpin those tools."

Business administration and management is the most popular course of study at U.S. colleges, according to a survey conducted by the Princeton Review. Hopkins already offers a very popular minor in entrepreunership.

So it's no wonder that Hopkins is full of beans about its new Center for Financial Economics. Just don't call it a bean-counting major.  

Posted by Gadi Dechter at 11:32 AM | | Comments (0)

Let's talk educationese

Several months ago, I started making a glossary of education jargon to give to colleagues new to the education beat. While we try to use educationese as little as possible in our stories, it's critical for us to understand to do our jobs.

Now, we're working on updating and adding to the glossary so we can put it up as a permanent post on this blog, hopefully to serve as a resource for parents and new teachers trying to understand the jumble of acronyms thrown at them.

I started to wonder if I have a) been covering education too long or b) gone insane when I sat down and banged out more than 100 entries off the top of my head, divided into local, state and national sections. (NCLB, AYP, AMO, MSDE, MSA, HSA, BCR, ECR, SR, IEP, FAPE, BCPSS, not to be confused with BCPS... where was I to stop?) And yet I still feel I haven't even scratched the surface. Which brings me to this post.

To those of you who are immersed in education every day, send us the acronyms and other inside baseball lingo that are a regular part of your life. And if there are any newbies out there wondering what something means, pass along your questions as well.

We'll post our first stab at the glossary next week, but I hope it will be a continual work in progress, with regular updates and changes based on your feedback.

Posted by Sara Neufeld at 6:15 AM | | Comments (3)
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