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February 25, 2010

Getting rid of poor teachers

With teacher quality quickly becoming one of the most popular strategies for reforming education, a piece in the New York Times today is particularly interesting as it details just how hard and expensive it is to get rid of incompetant tenured teachers in New York City. Even with a targeted effort, the city has only managed to fire three of its 55,000 for incompetance. Ten others resigned or retired in the face of charges against them.

Maryland is now considering extending the length of time it takes to get tenure in Maryland to three years from two in order to give districts a longer period of time to assess whether they want to keep a teacher.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:16 PM | | Comments (36)
Categories: Around the Nation

February 24, 2010

School board deadlocked on charter school issue

The Baltimore City school board last night was deadlocked on whether to revoke the charter of Dr. Rayner Browne Academy, a West Baltimore elementary/middle school. Four members voted to support Andres Alonso's recommendation to take away the charter from the Baltimore Curriculum Project, while three voted against. With two members of the nine member panel absent, the board did have the majority vote it needed.

So the issue will come before the board again on March 9, when it is likely to be decided. The board did vote to give five schools a two year charter renewal. They are: City Springs, Colllington Square, Coppin Academy, Bluford Drew Jemison, and Baltimore International Academy. Four charters were given five year contracts. They are: Inner Harbor East Academy for Young Scholars, Southwest Baltimore Charter School, Wolf Street Academy and Independence.

CEO Andres Alonso and the board had a few tense moments when Anirban Basu asked for more data to back up the recommendation that one of the charters only be extended for two years, not five.  "I resent having to do this," Alonso said as he detailed the poor performance of some of the schools so that the board could understand what his reservations are about the schools the renewals. He said school board members had been given a lot of detailed information before the meeting and that it was "their responsibility" to read it.  Alonso said he believed it was "unfair to the schools," that he believed had been working hard to improve. 

The board seemed unconcerned and continued to have a detailed, policy debate over when charters should be renewed.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:50 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City

February 22, 2010

How do you like your charter school?

A parent looking for a school to send her kindergartener to next year commented on the blog that she is having difficulty finding good information about the area's charter schools, particularly in the city. Her comment may not have been seen by many readers, so I thought I would give everyone a chance to offer advice on charter schools in the area. Do you have a charter school you particularly like, or one you have reservations about? Here's the place to express an opinion. Please don't sound off on schools you know nothing about!

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:22 AM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Around the Region

February 18, 2010

Anne Arundel County wants to know how you want to make up snow days

From Baltimore Sun reporter Nicole Fuller:

Here is a chance for all those Anne Arundel County students and parents to sound off on how they want to change the calendar to make up snow days. Do you want to stay in school to July or go to school during spring break?

The school board is soliciting suggestions from county residents on how to recoup the lost instructional time for all those snow days.

Anne Arundel has closed school on 10 days due to inclement weather so far this school year.

Unless the state board grants a waiver from the 180 days school year law, then Anne Arundel students have to make up six of those days. The other four were already calculated in the school calendar.

And Anne Arundel is not alone. Most school systems around the state are in the same boat. What do you think; how should students make up these days? Weigh in here.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:18 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Around the Region

February 16, 2010

So how was that trip to school?

School superintendents finally said, "Enough," and are calling students back into school tomorrow.  We are wondering what the commute to school will be like for teachers and students. So post your comments here on whether it was a piece of cake or horrible to get your child on the bus, to park your car near a school or to walk your child blocks to the front door.  

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:50 PM | | Comments (35)
Categories: Around the Region

Mote to retire as College Park president

The Unversity of Maryland College Park will be out searching for a new leader for the first time in more than a decade, as my colleague, Childs Walker, writes in today's paper. Under its current president, C.D. "Dan" Mote Jr., the university increased its research funding by 150 percent, completed the two largest fundraising campaigns in its history, and increased its applicant pool by 78 percent. So the search this time around will be far different than it was in 1998 when the university was seen as a middling state university.
Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:50 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

February 15, 2010

Valentine from Alonso: dear residents, please dig

Baltimore school CEO Andres Alonso says schools will open tomorrow.

Crews are working hard, he said, but he needs everyone's help. So yesterday, on Valentine's Day, he sent out a letter asking all the city residents who live near a school to help open the sidewalks leading to the school. He is also asking everyone who has a car parked on a school parking lot to move it by 3 p.m. today.

Here's part of what he wrote:

So I am asking for your help. Now that we've all dug out our own front steps, stretches of sidewalks and cars, let us please join together to get the routes to  school ready for Baltimore City's kids. Please look at the area surrounding the school nearest to you - from the perspective of a much smaller, elementary student trying to get there - and do what you can to help carve out a safe path. Some neighborhoods are organizing teams to clear the approaches to their schools. Please contact your community association to see if there is such an effort underway or if one can be organized. High School students can also join these efforts and earn community service learning credit in the process. For those students who want to get credit go here.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:29 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore City

February 11, 2010

Maryland leads the nation in AP

An argument could be made that the College Board's ranking of Maryland as No. 1 on AP tests passed is a much more significant accomplishment than the Education Week ranking that came out last month.

As my colleague, Childs Walker, writes in today's paper  Maryland had the highest percentage of seniors last year who took and passed at least one AP test in their high school career. One can argue that this is the result of a lot of high-achieving students in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., suburbs, but in fact, the numbers of students around the state taking AP also has increased a lot in the past decade.

Still, the AP is a consistent, rigorous standard and the fact that the state's pass rate was 24.8 percent, nearly 10 percentage points higher than the national average, should give parents and educators a sense of what is possible among its highly motivated students. And there are a lot of them. In Maryland, 40 percent of seniors took an AP course before they graduated, giving them a taste of what college may be like. That is significant because studies have shown that students who have taken a course, even if they didn't pass the test, are three times more likely to graduate from college.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:02 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Region

February 9, 2010

Cabin fever after winter break (number two)!

Dare I suggest that perhaps students won't be going back in school for another week? Yes, I do believe that if another 18 or 20 inches of snow drops down on the region today and tomorrow, it is possible schools won't be able to open this week at all. With the Presidents Day holiday Monday added to the closures for snow, students will have been off for 11 straight days or exactly the same length of time they had off for the winter holiday.


Are all the teachers who read this blog wondering whether it will take students a long time to settle into the routine of school again or do you believe that they will have been cooped up inside for so long that they will be dying to get back to school?

What about students in AP classes or students preparing to take the MSAs in about a month? Have any teachers tried to be in contact with their students to give them a few extra assignments? Are you posting notes on your websites to students to ask them to work ahead or are you just hoping they will have taken this time to relax, read a good book and get in some serious shoveling and sledding time with friends?


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

February 6, 2010

Let's start betting on when schools will reopen

I am pretty sure that schools will be closed on Monday. I have no facts to back that up, but it seems a pretty good bet.  Readers of the blog may have some extra time on their hands. I thought I would start a poll on what parents, teachers and administrators are thinking? Should I mention the Tuesday forecast of up to 8 more inches?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 7:41 PM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Around the Region

February 3, 2010

Area superintendent in Baltimore County is reassigned

Bill Lawrence, a well-liked area superintendent in Baltimore County, was reassigned last week to a job in human resources. I write about the job change in today's paper. I wasn't able to determine what new job he has in human resources, but it looks as though it was a demotion.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:31 PM | | Comments (31)
Categories: Baltimore County
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