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November 16, 2009

Gov. Martin O'Malley says Maryland is not behind

We wrote in Saturday's paper about the fact that Maryland appears to be lagging behind other progressive states in positioning itself to be competitive in the race to get a portion of $4 billion in federal funds. Education advocates around the state have questioned why Maryland has not been more proactive in talking about the competition for dollars that the Obama administration is saying could start a revolution in education.

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like, for instance, to have every state have a data system that has the capacity to say how much progress a student has made in the past year of school. This involves being able to look at the test scores from one year to the next and draw conclusions. The "growth" a student makes, Duncan says, should be part of a teacher's annual evaluation. I am not aware of any school system currently creating this link between test scores and teacher evaluations and it is a concept that is deeply concerning to the Maryland State Education Association, which is part of a national teachers union.

Gov. Martin O'Malley quickly responded to the criticism this morning and Laura Smitherman's story is now up on the Web site.


Perhaps Maryland is further ahead than people believe. A first test will be whether the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation hands any money to Maryland to hire a consultant to help write the application for the Race to the Top funds. Gates had chosen 15 states to give grants to earlier this fall and Maryland wasn't one of them. Observers thought that was a bad sign for the state because Gates appeared to picking the states it believed to be the most competitive. After some cries that the grants gave those states an unfair advantage, Gates opened up the process and Maryland is now applying for the money. State schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said she expects to know by Dec. 1 whether Maryland will get the Gates dollars, but if the answer from Gates is no, she says she hopes to have raised private dollars.

In Colorado, the New York Times reported, the governor had devoted $7 million to improving the state's chances of getting a piece of the $4 billion and put the lieutenant governor in charge of a public campaign. Other states have gotten legislators to pass or rescind laws that were seen to be stumbling blocks to getting the money.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:00 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Region


"U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan would like, for instance, to have every state have a data system that has the capacity to say how much progress a student has made in the past year of school. This (he asserts) involves being able to look at the test scores from one year to the next and draw conclusions."

It could also be accomplished using the considered input of the qualified teachers who know the students, some 3x5 index cards and some of those old library index cabinets in surplus to store them away as the virtually useless data-point they are.

Then we could use all that computer money (not to mention the BIG Federal money) to provide space and staffing for the "acculturation centers" that problem kids would be removed to and leave the BEST kids with the BEST family support in place as the anchors of the successful NEIGHBORHOOD schools that they should be.

But that would require addressing what the actual problems are rather than merely the symptoms. Is there anyone willing to do that anymore?

Where's all that money from SLOTS for the Thornton education plan?


Another epic fail from O'Malley.

Yet, the Baltimore Sun will keep defending him until the cows come home.

Go figure.

It shows how out of touch O'Malley is concerning charters for him to say that he isn't sure the law needs to be updated because "a number of charters have opened in Baltimore in recent years". Or more likely, the explanation is that he is pandering to the unions.

The law in MD is consistently rated in the bottom of all laws in the country (Center for Educational Reform) - a "D" when it comes to truly encouraging innovation. There is not equitable funding for facilities (systems in MD are not required to help with facilities). Charters cannot negotiate with their own teachers, but must abide by a teacher contract that also does not encourage innovation.

When I saw the Race to the Top criteria, it seems clear that MD is going to be passed over because of its inability/unwillingness to write a judicious charter law. Yes, there needs to be strong oversight, but this can be accomplished without all of the strings attached.

So many issues involved in tracking student performance from year to year, especially when they get to high school and the focus shifts from basics to preparing students for advanced education and career more along the lines of what they are interested in. Add to that the fact that students have more teachers, and often times what makes the difference is the team of teachers.

What I sense is that we want to have common standards, but then we compare school districts against each other. When massive amounts of data meets bureaucratic fear, it will be inevitable that it will get even harder to attract qualified teachers who can drive real improvement into disadvantaged districts.

Will pay follow those teachers who take the biggest challenges in teaching children of poverty? Not likely. Like it or not, government can only do so much to redistribute funding from the rich towards the poor.

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