« September 2009 | Main | November 2009 »

October 30, 2009

Panelists to talk about race, segregation and achievement in schools

The Open Society Institute-Baltimore is hosting a panel discussion Monday evening called "Can We Talk About How Race Affects Our Classrooms?". It's the next installment in OSI's "Talking About Race" series, and will focus on the impact of continued segregation in public schools on achievement, among other issues.

Monday's panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, is to be led by Beverly Daniel Tatum, president of Spelman College, and David Hornbeck, the former superintendent of Philadelphia schools. 

The event will be in the Wheeler Auditorium at the Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral Street, and starts at 7 p.m. 

Posted by Arin Gencer at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation, Baltimore City, School Diversity/Segregation

October 29, 2009

Win a technology makeover for your classroom

I received an email about a national "Classroom Makeover Contest" put on by the company eInstruction, involving a prize of $30,000 in educational technology - i.e., interactive white boards, Dell netbooks and a range of software for teaching and testing students - for each of three grand-prize winners.  This is the third year of the contest, which is open to primary and secondary students and teachers.

Entrants have to create "short, creative music videos demonstrating how they would use advanced technology to enhance their learning experience in the classroom," according to the company. For your information and entertainment, you can check out some of the entries.

Considering the difficult economic times we're always talking about, I thought I'd share the information in case any of you enterprising and creative teachers might be interested. Deadline is Nov. 10.

Of course, if you do enter, we'd like to see your video.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 9:50 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Nation

October 28, 2009

City school board continues debate on expulsion

The Baltimore school board delayed a vote on the hottest topic of the season, permanent expulsions, but there continued to be some spirited dialogue during the public comment session last night on the issue.

As the story in the paper today says, the board received a lot of last-minute suggestions on the policy that hadn't been aired sufficiently to warrant a vote last night, according to school board members.

Dennis Moulden, who represents the Parent and Community Advisory Board, spoke in favor of a permanent expulsions policy. "We all have the belt in our closet; we hope that we'll never use it," he said. He suggested the permanent expulsions should be used only as a last resort, but that the threat of an expulsion provides a boundary for students.

After his comments, two other members of the board, Neil Duke and George VanHook, commented that belts had been a common threat used in their families. But David Stone asked Moulden why he would compare an expulsion to an outdated and possibly illegal form of punishment.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 3:00 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Baltimore City

Absenteeism affecting schools?

I'm working on a story about how high rates of absenteeism and illness among students are affecting schools. Several school systems throughout the country have already begun to make adjustments: A Florida county is looking to suspend its exam exemption policy to prevent sick students from dragging themselves in to make sure they can get out of finals. Some student athletes in New York are no longer allowed to shake hands after games.

Please send me a note with your stories about how things have changed in your school or district.  Are you having to adjust things in the classroom, such as assignments and project deadlines - or facing challenges in terms of just getting through curriculum with so many students out? 

Posted by Arin Gencer at 9:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation, Around the Region

October 27, 2009

Jury awards retired Baltimore teacher $210,000

A Baltimore jury has awarded $210,000 to a retired city teacher who says she wasn't protected from students who assaulted her and was told to give students the answers to questions on the Maryland School Assessments.

The story in the paper today  details the allegations the teacher made.  What do readers of the blog believe? Was an award correct if she proved to the jury that she had lost income because she had been forced into an early retirement after the principal accused her of being a whistleblower and had her escorted from the building? And what about being forced to use sick leave for seven months after the attack rather than being able to use assault leave, which is unlimited?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:23 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City

October 21, 2009

Bob Hallett, Baltimore County librarian extraordinaire, dies

In an obituary in today's paper, we mark the passing of one of those teachers who made a difference in the lives of thousands of students over a career that spanned 30 years.

Most of us are lucky if we come in contact with a handful of these gifted teachers in our lifetime. We all know who they are: the teachers whose voices and quirks we can still remember 5 or 40 years after we left their classrooms, who taught lessons that challenged us to think differently about the way the world works. I don't know about you, but I can even remember certain moments in their classrooms.

Perhaps Bob Hallett's final gift was that he will have allowed everyone in the Riderwood Elementary School community to remember to celebrate the achievements of all great teachers while they are with us.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:08 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore County

Students pledge to address anti-gay bullying

There's nothing like peer pressure. That is the idea behind Ally Week, a week when lesbian and gay students are asking their straight peers to make a pledge to come to their assistance when they see or hear bullying in their schools.

Nearly nine out of 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender) students experience harassment at school because of their sexual orientation, according to a 2007 survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network.

So this week in schools, the LGBT students will ask others to sign a pledge that says they will not use anti-LGBT language or slurs, that they will intervene when it is safe in situations where students are being harassed and they will support efforts to end bullying and harassment.

For more information go to Is there any high school in Maryland where students are taking the pledge?





Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Around the Nation

October 19, 2009

"Wiki fever" in Baltimore County and beyond

My story in today's paper takes a look at the increasing use of the Web 2.0 tool known as a wiki (not to be confused with Wikipedia, which is certainly in the same family).  These online spaces, which allow people to modify, contribute to and comment on content, are starting to take off in schools throughout Baltimore County, as well as the Carroll and Anne Arundel school systems.

You can check out Carroll's pilot wiki, done by social studies students at Northwest Middle last school year, to get an idea of what one looks like.

Teachers at Catonsville Middle, where I had the chance to observe a wiki lesson, say they have already noticed more engagement and interest among students - and several of the kids I spoke with were very much in favor of ditching traditional, hand-written class assignments for good. (I wonder how teachers and parents feel about that.)

One thing I found particularly interesting in all of this is how schools are working to teach students about Web etiquette, training them to flex their digital muscles with care.  Could these kids help usher in a new era of online civility?  Or is it too much to hope such lessons in polite discourse will stay with them?

Posted by Arin Gencer at 5:27 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore County, Teaching

October 16, 2009

Gifted-and-talented conference for Maryland teachers

Today I sat in on an annual conference for gifted-and-talented educators at Randallstown High School, which drew teachers from throughout the state.  There were a variety of sessions on ways to inspire creativity and critical thinking among students in math, science, reading and other areas - led by teachers from various area school systems. 

The keynote speaker was Dr. Bertie Kingore, a longtime gifted-and-talented educator who also held a session on books and teaching tools.

I thought I'd share some very interesting tips/tidbits from her session and another I attended - some of which could certainly apply to all types of students (or so this non-educator thinks).

A sample of Dr. Kingore's recommended children's books that promote higher-level thinking:

  • First the Egg, Courage and If the World Were a Village for abstract and critical thinking
  • My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks, If... and The Dot for art, visual and spatial concepts
  • Marianthe's Story: Painted Words and Spoken Memories and Winston the Book Wolf for inference
  • If You Hopped Like a Frog, A Place for Zero and Sir Cumference Series for math concepts and terminology
  • The Boy Who Loved Words, Once Upon 1001 Stories, Around the House the Fox Chased the Mouse and Mom and Dad Are Palindromes for oral and written language
  • I Wanna Iguana and Joyful Noise for the concept of point of view
  • Dear Deer (an exercise in homophones) and Pig in the Spigot for skills and written conventions

Kingore emphasized the importance of teachers documenting what they are doing - showing how they are covering the requirements (testing standards) even as they implement more creative strategies.

She also repeatedly reminded teachers to take Saturdays off.

After the reading workshop, I headed over to one whose title grabbed my attention - and evidently, that of the many teachers who crowded into the classroom: "The Singing Math Teacher."

Howard County teacher Marian Dingle showed her peers the art of teaching math concepts to song - and not just your typical "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star."

A self-described lover of music, Dingle has called on the likes of Stevie Wonder, James Brown and the Jackson Five to help teach fractions, times tables and geometry. She demonstrated the idea by singing the seven times table, set to Brown's "I Feel Good." While kids usually have a hard time with that particular table, they remember the song - and master the math while also associating it with fun, Dingle said.

Here's Dingle's "Elevens Song," to Ray Charles' "Hit the Road Jack":

Elevens, we'll be fooled by them
No more, no more, no more, no more
Elevens, we'll be fooled by them no more
What you say?
11, 22, 33, 44
55, 66, 77, 88
99, 110
121, 132
(Back to verse)

This, of course, does not do justice to the idea - which Dingle actually demonstrated, singing along to the music. I imagine she'd be willing to take questions or do another demo if you asked; she teaches at Guilford Elementary.

The best part, however, was when she turned things over to her class of teachers, who, in a matter of minutes, came up with clever songs about exponents (to "Silent Night"), area and perimeter ("Farmer in the Dell") and - my personal favorite - geometric shapes (to Beyonce's "Single Ladies"..."A circle is just a great big o, oh-oh, oh, oh-oh, oh, oh-oh-oh...").

Truly creative and entertaining. Wouldn't something like that stick in your head?

Posted by Arin Gencer at 5:26 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Around the Region, Baltimore County, Teaching

October 15, 2009

Baltimore County officials gather to celebrate education

The virtual classroom at Chesapeake High School was packed earlier today with a slew of county and state officials, including two past superintendents.

County Executive James T. Smith has spent this year celebrating the county's 350th anniversary, and this month has been designated for recognizing education.  Gathered at Chesapeake this morning were the major players from all segments of the academic pipeline:

Towson University's President Robert Caret
UMBC's President Freeman Hrabowski
CCBC's President Sandra Kurtinitis
President Kevin Manning of Stevenson University
President Sanford Ungar of Goucher College
Former BCPS superintendents Robert Y. Dubel and Anthony G. Marchione
Current Superintendent Dr. Hairston

Stuart Berger, who led the school system in the early 1990s, also was supposed to attend, but he was delayed at the airport.

Although the new hi-tech classroom has been filled with visitors a lot recently, today's group was a unique combination of past and present, particularly in a setting that district officials have touted as the future of education. 

Smith gave everyone citations for their service to the county - and the educators spoke of the importance and value of working together, even when it means working with the competition (as in the case of higher education)...while also taking time to highlight what their institutions have to offer, of course.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 3:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County

Teaching science teachers

A study available tomorrow in Science reports that giving teachers better training in their field can have a profound impact on the how well students learn science. A study of teachers' research experiences over time by Samuel Silverstein of Columbia University found that students of teachers who participated in Columbia's Summer Research Program outperformed their peers by 10 percentage points on New York Satte science assessments. The middle and high school teachers each spent a summer working on research under the supervision of science faculty at Columbia. Once a week the teachers got together for programs that were designed to help them better communicate the science to students.

The study says the schools saved money over time because those teachers stayed in their jobs.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:21 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation

October 14, 2009

City principals say permanent expulsion warranted

The emotional debate over whether the Baltimore City schools should be able to permanently expel students continued at last night's school board meeting with principals coming to testify about their experiences with incidents that involve fires and explosive devices.

Laura D'Anna, the principal of Patterson High School, recounted an incident that happened a year ago when two boys put cleaning fluid in a bottle, shook it up and caused an explosion. The incident, she said, occurred in a hall outside the cafeteria and near the door of a day care center that is operated in the school.

Because no one was sure what was in the fumes, several public agencies came to the school to investigate, including the fire, police and a Hazmat team, she said. The result was that students spent two hours outside the building after a diffiuclt evacuation. "This was really, really traumatic for my school community. It tore at the fabric of the community."


D'Anna supports permanent expulsions, she said, particularly for students who don't seem to feel remorse for their actions. She said the two boys were the first to be permanently expelled from the school system.

But PECAB presented another view, saying that most parents and community comments have suggested that expelling a student and not allowing them to continue their education in any setting, including an alternative school, is a drastic step. While the organization supports it in rare circumstances, they said parents should be given multiple chances to appeal. In addition, a system should be in place that makes sure there are no quick, arbitrary expulsions. A final public meeting on the issue will be held Wednesday, Oct. 21 at 6 p.m. at the school board meeting room.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:39 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Baltimore City

October 13, 2009

Patapsco High School students to restore photos damaged in Dundalk flood

Students in Katie Calkins' photography II and III classes at Patapsco High and Center for the Arts are in the business of repairing pictures this month - a service they are offering to victims of last month's flood in Dundalk.

They've gotten one batch of photos from a local second-grade teacher so far, and are hoping more folks will take advantage of their skills.

Anyone interested can find more details on the school Web site, contact Calkins directly or simply mail the damaged pictures to her at Patapsco: 8100 Wise Avenue, Baltimore 21222.

Posted by Arin Gencer at 5:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 8, 2009

Student pictures of dilapidated school buildings on display

Baltimore Freedom Academy students and members of the Maryland ACLU were in Washington, D.C., this week to view the work of the students, who took photographs of their run-down city schools for an exhibition called "Through Your Lens."  The exhibition, which spotlights the problems of antiquated buildings across the nation, is on display in the Rotunda of the Russell Senate Office Building in Washington. The work can be viewed online as well.

In 2004, a task force studying school facilities found that it would take $4 billion to bring buildings up to minimum adequacy, according to the ACLU. In Baltimore City, the school system said it needed $2.7 billion to modernize all of its schools.

Recently, more money has been designated to school construction, but the ACLU says it is not enough to keep up with the problems.

Baltimore City is not the only one with problems. Parents in Baltimore County have been fighting to get air conditioning installed in several recently renovated middle schools.

The city school system agrees with the students about the need to improve facilities. Edie House, a spokeswoman for the school system, said in an e-mail: "We have documented that we have the oldest and neediest infrastructure in the state. Combined funding from the state and the city this year was less than $50 million. We are thankful for the aid we have received given the current fiscal crisis." She added, however, that the amount of aid is still not enough.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Around the Region

October 2, 2009

Does your school bathroom have soap? Sanitizers?

Since a 14-year-old girl died of the H1N1 virus on Tuesday night. I have gotten some e-mails from parents saying that getting information out about prevention is important, but just as important is making sure that schools have the basics: soap and paper towels in the bathrooms and hand sanitizers in classrooms. I was wondering how uniform a problem the lack of supplies is in schools. So parents and teachers, can you tell us whether your schools are taking precautions? And are parents made nervous by the death of a girl who had no underlying illness when she got the flu?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Around the Region

October 1, 2009

A new college prep resource

State officials launched a new Web site today, geared toward helping high school students plan and prepare for college. The site,, features a virtual college campus, as well as information about financial aid and college life in general.

Give it a whirl.  Tell me what you think.  Could this site help get students on track for higher education?

Posted by Arin Gencer at 5:09 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Region
Keep reading
Recent entries

2011 Valedictorians and Salutatorians
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Education news
• InsideEd's glossary of education jargon

School closings and delays's school closings database is designed to provide up-to-date, easy-to-access information in the event of inclement weather.

Find out if your school is participating and sign up for e-mail alerts.
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Spread the word about InsideEd
Blog updates
Recent updates to news blogs
 Subscribe to this feed
Stay connected