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December 28, 2009

Baltimore County teachers and AIM

Baltimore County teachers continue to contact The Baltimore Sun, upset about a requirement by the school district that they use a new detailed progress reporting system called AIM (or Articulated Instruction Module).

Under AIM, teachers must judge whether each of their students has mastered more than 100 specific skills. In an Advanced Placement World History class, a teacher must indicate whether each student can “evaluate the consequences of global pandemics” or “analyze the role of Islam as a unifying cultural and economic force in Eurasia,” two examples among pages of items. One AP course contains an 11-page list of knowledge or skills that must be checked off. To see other examples, go to the Baltimore County schools Web site.

Among the concerns being raised by teachers in posts to our blog is that they will need to set aside hours to complete AIM, which could take away from planning and instruction time.

Schools spokesman Charles Herndon told reporter Liz Bowie that he believes that the teachers who have complained are in the minority. “We feel our teachers are up to the task. We think very highly of the teachers; we think they are capable,” he said. 

Here's Liz's full article about AIM, which ran Sunday.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 12:37 PM | | Comments (202)
Categories: Baltimore County

New trend in suspensions

Because we are about to enter a new year, I thought I would leave this good news item for everyone. Advocates for Children and Youth has just analyzed the recently released data on school suspensions and for a change, there's been a reduction. The number of times that students are suspended each year has dropped significantly, particularly in Baltimore City and Prince George's County. The percent of students suspended statewide dropped by 12 percent from the prior year and fell to the lowest point in more than a decade, according to ACY.

Just a few years ago, Baltimore City was suspending about 12 percent of its students. They have reduced that to just over 9 percent.  The reductions follow years of work by school systems to put programs in place that will reward good behavior. In addition, school superintendents, such as Andres Alonso in the city, have simply ordered principals to lower suspensions for certain offenses.

School systems have stopped suspending students for being truant, for instance.

The only system to buck the statewide trend is Baltimore County, where the suspension rate is still at 11.2 percent, according to ACY.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:13 AM | | Comments (18)
Categories: Around the Region

December 23, 2009

Snow makes holidays longer than usual

As we say in today's paper, most school systems decided not to have their students come back for one day before winter break.   Baltimore and Harford were the exceptions. School systems argue that the snow on side streets and sidewalks would mean students were walking in the street.  Not all city streets, in particular, have been plowed. We interviewed some parents who would have preferred not to have their sweet creatures underfoot in the windup to the big holiday. How do all those kids feel though?
Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:56 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

December 21, 2009

Baltimore County teachers concerned about new program

We've gotten a number of e-mails from Baltimore County teachers in the past several days who are very upset about a communication they received Friday telling them they must implement a new program called AIM, or Articulated Instruction Module, which includes a detailed progress-reporting system. I haven't written stories about this program, so I can't give readers of the blog much information yet. Teachers say that it will place another heavy burden on them and won't improve teaching and learning.

Here's what one teacher had to say:  "This AIM checklist for each of my first graders could be as many as 26 pages long and would require me to judge 101 marks per child, each term and I have 24 students."

I would like to hear from teachers about the pros and cons of AIM. And I was wondering if the AIM program is geared toward today's Maryland state standards, will it have to be redone in a year so that it is consistent with measuring students' knowledge based on the national standards, which Maryland plans to adopt next August?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:28 AM | | Comments (267)
Categories: Baltimore County

December 16, 2009

More than 300 teachers receive national board certification

Maryland added 307 new board-certified teachers to its ranks this year, a 22 percent increase from last year. We now have 1,669 board-certified teachers in the state, about a third of whom are in Montgomery County.

Anne Arundel County, though, which is relatively small compared to others in the metro region, has the second highest number. That county added 48 new teachers this year. The question may be why isn't the city in the game here? The top five school systems in the state based on the number of national board-certified teachers are Montgomery, Anne Arundel, Prince George's, Carroll and Baltimore counties.

The state ranks seventh in the number of board-certified teachers it added this year. and 14th in the nation for the total number. Here is a list of the state's new board certified teachers.

The designation is something of a prize for teachers because it means they have been through a certification process that is far more rigorous than getting a regular teachers certificate. These teachers have to spend a good deal of time and energy on the process, but they are paid extra. The state will match a the salary increase from local school systems up to $1,000, except for teachers who are in high-needs schools. Those teachers will receive up to $2,000 more.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 3:21 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Around the Region

December 15, 2009

Fordham report on tracking provides surprise results

The Fordham Foundation has once again provided a provocative report, this time on tracking in Massachusetts middle schools.

Tom Loveless, the researcher, looked at achievement in the middle schools and found that the schools that had more tracking had a higher percentage of high-level math students. But the tracks just aren't good the high achievers. The lower achievers also did better.

In other words, the more tracks a school had, the fewer failling students it had.

And he found that tracking is more commonplace in suburban school districts with parents that demand that high-achieving kids be able to get ahead into high-level classes, particularly in math.

When we look around the Baltimore area, it is interesting to note that the only school system that doesn't track is Baltimore City. And yes, it has fewer students in high-level classes, even in its citywide schools, than many suburban schools.

Hmmm. Is there a connection here?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:24 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Around the Nation

December 11, 2009

Grasmick proposes teacher reforms

Grasmick's proposed policy shifts announced yesterday attempt to align Maryland with other progressive states that are trying to put more emphasis on teacher effectiveness. The story today  outlines the broad outline of the proposals, but we will wait for the details to come out in the coming weeks. I wonder how many school districts in the state might actually offer incentive pay to certain teachers? And how would districts begin using the test scores as part of the job performance evaluations? At least one state that has linked test scores to job performance prohibits teachers from being fired because of low test scores.

But the issue most on my mind today is this: how difficult is it really to get rid of teachers? Are principals still passing poor teachers around the school district because it is such an arduous process to remove them or are they actually trying to use the evaluation process? We have all heard stories of districts that had great difficulty getting rid of a teacher even when that teacher's behavior was clearly wrong. What is happening here?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:07 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Around the Region

December 9, 2009

Baltimore school board approves charter school

Baltimore's school board approved the opening of a new charter school at its meeting last night, despite comments by the public questioning whether there should  be a limit to the number of charters allowed in the city. After last night's approval, the city has 28 charter schools.

The Tunbridge Public Charter school, which is expected to open at 5500 York Road, will eventually have 400 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade. The curriculum and school plan will be based on that at the Afya Public Charter Middle School, a successful charter school in Baltimore.

The board also turned down an application for The Early Learning Development Academy, which had not yet secured a location.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 3:03 PM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Baltimore City

December 8, 2009

Baltimore NAEP scores better than expected

Baltimore's scores on a NAEP math test were better than many educators might have expected. For the first time, Baltimore volunteered to be one of 18 cities where the NAEP is given to a large  sample of students so that results can be compared to other districts. It was a risky proposition because if the scores had been horrible, the city's multiple year attempt at reform might have been called in to question. In addition, it would have given fuel to those who would like to cut spending on education.

A decade ago, I can remember people asking me whether Baltimore had the worst schools in the nation, a question that couldn't be answered because there was no data that allowed such a comparison. However, we have that data today, and the results show that Baltimore's fourth graders are in the middle of the pack of the 18 large urban areas. They scored above their peers in many tough cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, Los Angeles and others. Eighth graders did not do as well, but the school system points out that the city's African American poor population scored about the same as their peer group across the nation.

The scores are still low and CEO Andres Alonso points out that these results now gives him some good reason to tear up the math curriculum and figure out what might work better, but at least the city can say that its schools probably aren't doing much worse than other cities in America.



Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:42 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City

December 7, 2009

Maryland charter law gets a D

The Center for Educaton Reform released a study this morning that gives Maryland a D for its charter school law. CEF says the state has the ninth worst charter school law in the country.

The state gets low marks for having a law that allows only school districts to authorize charter schools to start up and requires teachers to remain part of the collective bargaining contract. While there is no cap on the number of charters allowed in the state, local school districts can set their own limits.

"Most states still have significant deficiencies in their charter laws—despite the highly publicized 'Race to the Top' competition that promises to distribute $4.3 billion in extra education funding for reform-oriented states," according to the report.

Maryland was in good company. Half the 40 states with charter laws received great grades and 16 barely passed.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:47 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

December 3, 2009

Rape on college campuses

The Center for Public Integrity released a major report this week on sexual assaults on college campuses around the nation, saying that one in five women will be the victims of rape or attempted rape by the time she graduates. But few rapes are reported to police, and prosecutors tend not to want to charge an assailant in a "he said/she said" case. That leaves women asking for some justice from a college administrative hearing. One portion of the series says: 

"Many victims don’t report at all, and those who do come forward can encounter secret disciplinary proceedings, closed-mouthed school administrations, and off-the-record negotiations. At times, school policies and practices can lead students to drop complaints, or submit to gag orders — a practice deemed illegal."

The full report, which is written in a three-part series by an investigative reporter, is on the center's website.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:09 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation

December 1, 2009

Requiring four years of high school math

My colleague, Childs Walker, writes today about the push by the University of Maryland system to require all its entering freshmen to have had four years of high school math. The move would, of course, eventually encourage the state to make four years of math a high school graduation requirement.

There's a growing consensus among state and national education leaders that all high school students should have to pass an Algebra II course before they graduate. The new university system requirement would also mean top students wouldn't be able to drop math after they have finished an AP calculus course in their junior year. University professors argue that students who haven't taken math in their senior year come to college with rusty math skills.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:00 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Around the Region

Are English teachers still assigning term papers?

In a recent post on his blog, Washington Post education writer Jay Mathews writes about the lack of research papers in high school these days. He says that students are no longer being asked to write 3,000- or 4,000-word research papers that require students to go through a step-by-step process of finding a topic, doing research in a library, writing an outline ... . You get the picture and probably remember doing those papers yourself.  He quotes a Prince George's County teacher who gave up the practice of assigning term papers because the writing skills, even of those headed to college, were so poor.

The end result is that some students are arriving at colleges, he said, without writing skills necessary to do the work.

But I would like to know if this is really true. Aren't Howard and Baltimore County English teachers still requiring term papers at least once a year through high school? Are teachers finding that writing is deteriorating? Really? I am not sure I am convinced. So here' a chance for English and history teachers to explain what is going on in practice. And do you have enough time to grade all those papers?  A state task force looking into writing a few years ago suggested that the best way to improve writing would be to lower the number of students each high school English teacher has during the day to allow them to assign more writing.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:55 AM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Around the Region
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