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May 28, 2010

Diane Ravitch's change of heart

Diane Ravitch, one of America's most influential education scholars, was in town yesterday afternoon and spoke to a couple hundred people in Baltimore, some of whom have spent as many decades thinking about education as she has.

The former No Child Left Behind cheerleader released a book several months ago called The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education.

In the book, she details her change of heart over school reform in America, saying that accountability and charter schools have not worked. After a decade of espousing the cause of the conservatives who said choice and testing were the key to closing the achievement gap and making schools work for all students, she has decided she was very wrong.

Yesterday, she said that studies have shown that while some charter schools are working well, overall students do no better in charters than regular public schools. She believes that charters have focused attention away from resolving the most vexing problems in public education.

And while she supports testing students, she says the results are now being used to punish teachers, principals and students. Rather, she said, we should be using poor test scores for a school or a student to diagnose a problem and then using all our energy to zero in on fixing it rather than punishing the offenders.

"There have been no results from this eight-year investment in tests," she said. While she acknowledges that National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) test scores have risen over the eight years, she says they rose faster during other time periods. (Although I might add the caveat here that I am not sure we have enough research to document why test scores rose in the 1970s and 1980s faster than between 2002 and 2010.)

She's against much of the core of teacher reforms now being proposed across the country, including linking teacher evaluations to test scores.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:58 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Around the Nation

May 27, 2010

Montgomery County as the school bully

Today, the editorial board at The Sun has taken on Montgomery County, commenting on what it sees as its flawed reasons for not signing the Race to the Top application.

Who agrees?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:00 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Around the Region

Cheating at George Washington Elementary

The discovery of cheating at George Washington Elementary, besides being horribly sad, is a great who-done-it mystery. Investigators were more like detectives who combed through eye-popping amounts of erase marks on tests to uncover what they weren't able to reveal by interviewing staff.

They also sifted through a year's worth of emails and did complicated test score analysis to find a pattern that could only lead to one conclusion.

There's still no proof of who was responsible for the cheating, but Andres Alonso is holding the principal accountable because she is in charge of the school and she should have known, he believes, of any cheating that was that pervasive.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:05 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Baltimore City

May 24, 2010

Are teachers' unions roadblocks to reform?

As the discussion about reforming education around the country increasingly begins to focus on improving the equality of teaching, the unions have come under pressure to agree to changes in the way teachers are paid, evaluated and promoted. In yesterday's New York Times magazine, writer Steven Brill explores the subject of whether unions have become the last roadblock to reform. It is worth a read, particularly this week as unions around the state make a final decision about whether to sign the Race to the Top application.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:35 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Around the Nation

May 19, 2010

Dezmon to retire on June 1

Barbara Dezmon, the Baltimore County teacher who rose to become an assistant to the superintendent for Equity and Assurance, is retiring effective June 1.

The announcement was made in one small line on a list of promotions and transfers during the school board meeting last night. Dezmon developed the controversial grading system known as AIM that the county tried to implement last December, but was dropped after public protest.

Dezmon stands to gain financially from the program if it is used in other states.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:08 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore County

May 17, 2010

Baltimore City Council president calls for hearing on bullying

City Council President Jack Young called today for top school officials to come before the council and discuss what steps are being taken to reduce bullying. The request comes after two incidents involving elementary students who reportedly were bullied.

Young is asking city schools chief Andres Alonso, Baltimore Teachers' Union president Marietta English and the president of the administrators union, Jimmy Gittings, to testify. A date for a hearing has not been set.

Alonso and the union presidents will likely have to answer questions about incidents of harassment and how prevalent leaders believe it is in schools this year. The district has reported a significant increase in bullying this year, which has been attributed to better staff training and a greater awareness of the issue.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:40 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City

Baltimore Teachers Union election

As some readers have pointed out, I didn't do a very good job of covering the Baltimore Teachers Union elections on May 12th. So I will try to make up for it here. The president of the union, Marietta English, as well as the rest of the executive board, ran unopposed. Of the 7,633 teachers and paraprofessionals who are in the union, about 800 voted, according to Jessica Aldon, a spokeswoman for the union.

So the question is, why did English run unopposed? Is there general satisfaction with the union leadership or is it a case of teachers being apathetic to who runs the union?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:58 PM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore City

Disparities in arts education on display at the Walters

There's an interesting piece in the Huffington Post today about an art show at the Walters Art Museum this weekend and the disparities in the resources available to art teachers in suburban districts and the city. In Baltimore and Howard counties, art and music classes are a given that start early in elementary school and continue through high school. There's comparatively little in the city. The piece also looks at the effects of zero basing schools. 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:33 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

May 13, 2010

Montgomery says maybe to Race to the Top

Montgomery County hasn't yet agreed to sign the Race to the Top application and is one of only two districts that is holding support back from the state's efforts to win as much as $250 million in federal funds later this year. (Frederick is the other.)  The Montgomery County school board voted earlier this week to sign the application if state education officials allow it to continue to use what it says is a highly successful teacher evaluation system. The board wants the state to say that its evaluation system is currently in compliance with the Education Reform Act recently passed by the General Assembly and any other regulations passed in the future by the state board.

Since on the face of it the evaluation system doesn't seem to meet the standards that the state wants, we will have to watch and see if the state trades such a blanket OK for school leaders' signatures. I am guessing not.

A state education spokesman said state officials are reviewing the Montgomery County request and are continuing to discuss it with the county school leaders.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:51 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

Grasmick speaks at Gallaudet graduation

Friday afternoon, Maryland State Schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick will be the commencement speaker at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. The choice might seem unusual for a university where many of the students are deaf, but it illuminates a fact few in the public are aware of: Grasmick got a master's degree in deaf education in 1965 from Gallaudet. She then began her teaching career in Baltimore City as a teacher of deaf children.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:59 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

Hairston celebrates 10 years as superintendent

Joe Hairston celebrated his 10 years as superintendent in Baltimore County yesterday with the debut of a movie about the successes of his administration. The movie came after a morning of speeches and proclamations from politicians in the county. For a look at the movie, titled "Decade of Distinction," go to the website and click on one of the four pieces.  Hairston is now one of the longest-serving superintendents in Maryland.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:04 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Baltimore County

May 10, 2010

Maryvale will try to help students learn a life lesson

For many years, Maryvale Preparatory School has required its seniors and their parents to attend sessions about alcohol addiction and abuse a few weeks before the prom. If you don't attend the session, the school says, then you aren't allowed to go to the prom. This year will be different though. This year, Michael Gimbel, a well known substance abuse consultant, will use the death of University of Virginia student and Cockeysville resident Yeardley Love last week to talk to the girls about the pressures they will face in just a few months when they head off for college. And he won't just talk about drinking on college campuses but physical violence against women as well.

"This year I can get into talking about alcohol and violence and using this case and this tragedy to say 'Look it does happen,'" he said.

But the issue won't just be raised with students, said Margaret White, the dean of students. Parents will attend their own session separately and be told what questions they need to ask next fall. I am guessing Gimbel won't have trouble getting anyone's attention.

With so much national attention focused on the death of one local woman, Maryvale might well also use the opportunity to tell students to be alert to the signs of abuse and to report those to  coaches, teachers, parents or whoever will take action.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:48 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

May 6, 2010

Naval Academy professor wins parental involvement award

Jeffrey Macris, the parent of Anne Arundel County public school students, won the third annual Comcast Parent Involvement Matters Award at an award ceremony this evening.

The U.S. Naval Academy history professor and his wife have five children, none of them yet in a middle school, but he helped lead an effort to make major changes in two middle schools in Anne Arundel County, according to a statement by the Maryland State Department of Education. Under his leadership, a group of Annapolis parents lobbied officials to bring a "world class academic program" to Annapolis Middle and Bates Middle and to establish better discipline. Annapolis Middle is now an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme school and Bates Middle is an arts magnet school.

The five finalists for the award included Donna Hager, a parent at the Midtown Academy Public Charter School in Bolton Hill, and Jay Wolf Schlossberg-Cohen, a Cromwell Valley Elementary School parent.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:01 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

Hawaii envious of Maryland

Hard to imagine that there's much Hawaii has to be jealous about when they think of Maryland. Let's see. Glistening water and white beaches or four feet of snow. Fantastic waterfalls, exotic flowers and volcanos or, well, rolling green hills and flat marsh land.

Well, turns out that at least one person in Hawaii has found a reason to think Maryland has it all over that fine vacation destination.  The author of a piece in Honolulu Magazine thinks Maryland's public schools are far better than those in Hawaii. The piece says we have better governance, spend our money more wisely and have better accountability systems. The piece is so glowing that it could have been written by the governor or Nancy Grasmick herself (although she might have had a few more caveats than the author did.)

Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:13 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

May 4, 2010

Pinsky blasts Grasmick on teacher evaluations

Just in case someone thought that state schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick's proposal to require 50 percent of teacher evaluations to be based on student achievement would sail through the regulatory process,  check out Sen. Paul Pinsky's Op Ed piece today.  It is clear he doesn't think the state board should go through with the proposal. And it is hard to imagine that his view won't carry a lot of weight when it comes before a committee that he co-chairs in Annapolis. He's also employed by the union.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:03 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Around the Region

May 3, 2010

Remembering Notre Dame Prep alum Yeardley Love

This morning, a 22-year-old University of Virginia lacrosse player and Notre Dame Prep alumna died in her apartment in Charlottesville, the apparent victim of an attack, according to police. A Chevy Chase man, who is also a lacrosse player and UVA student, has been charged with her murder.

I have been working on the sad story today of her death, but I wanted to pause to give NDP graduates, students and teachers and anyone else who knew her a place to write about their memories of Yeardley. What do you remember most about her?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:05 PM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Around the Region

Baltimore City recognized for vegetarian lunch efforts

Baltimore City Public Schools has been named the Most Vegetarian-Friendly Cafeteria in the nation by peta2, a Norfolk, Va.-based youth animal rights organization.

Baltimore beat out Gwinnett County Public Schools in Georgia, Prince William County Schools in Virginia, the Los Angeles Unified School District, and the Berkeley Unified School District in California.

Baltimore won the distinction for: its efforts to serve fruits and vegetables grown by local farmers; and  Meatless Mondays, an initiative where students can chose from vegan and vegetarian foods such as spicy vegetarian chili, and Tex-Mex style black-bean nachos.
"Baltimore City Public Schools stands as a role model for school districts across the country when it comes to educating students about how their food choices affect not only their own health but also the world around them," said peta2 director Dan Shannon, in a prepared statement released today. "More and more young people are learning that the best thing that they can do for animals, the planet, and themselves is to go vegan."
Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:25 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City

Howard County Student Named U.S. Presidential Scholar

A Howard County student has been named one of 141 U.S. Presidential Scholars in the nation.

Richard Li, a senior at River Hill High School, is one of four Maryland students to receive the distinction. The other three Marylanders attend schools in the Washington, D.C. suburbs. The scholars will be honored in Washington, D.C. from June 19-22.

The students, who are chosen by the White House Commission on Presidential Scholars, have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, artistic excellence, leadership, citizenship, service, and contribution to school and community. Essays, school evaluations and transcripts are also used to determine the scholars.

“These student leaders and scholars show that setting high expectations and striving for excellence pays off,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said today when he made the announcement. “Their academic and artistic achievements reflect a sense of purpose that we should seek to instill in all students to prepare them for college, careers, civic responsibilities, and the challenges of today’s job market.”

Since the award's inception 46 years ago, more than 6,000 students have been honored. More than 3,000 candidates qualify annually for the award based on performance on the College Board SAT and ACT exams, or by nomination through the nationwide YoungArts competition conducted by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts.

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 12:18 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County
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