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June 30, 2010

O'Malley named "America's Greatest Education Governor"

The National Education Association, the union representing 3.2 million teachers across the nation, will give Martin O'Malley its "America's Greatest Education Governor" award at its conference in New Orleans on July 5.

The award praises O'Malley for leaving education out of the budget cuts and for helping to close the achievement gap. A press release on the NEA website says that the annual award is given to governors who have made major. statewide efforts to improve public education.

Interestingly, local union leaders in many Maryland counties have been less than enthusiastic about the education reform bills that O'Malley introduced and helped get passed during last winter's Maryland General Assembly. The Maryland State Education Association has endorsed the governor.

In the next few days we will see how this may play out in the campaign for governor.




Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:05 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Around the Nation

June 29, 2010

Baltimore applies for federal innovation grants

No one can accuse Baltimore's public school system of not pushing some new ideas in education. The system has recently filed four applications for about $23 million in grants from the U.S. Department of Education. There will be some tough competition for this money. Some 1,700 nonprofits and school districts have applied for the school districts competition, including 30 in Maryland. The first of the applications could be the most innovative because it would require a change in the old model for how teachers are compensated. The grant calls for a Career Ladder that rewards teachers for the amount of professional development they get and their ability to apply what they learn, rather than paying teachers as they get more advanced degrees. The grant would also pay for a data system to track whether the professional development that teachers are getting is having an impact in the classroom.

The other three applications would go to fund a Family Institute to give parents more information about child development and how they can help their children achieve, a program for improving nutrition and fitness in 10 high poverty schools and a program to do on-site, two-day reviews of schools every three years.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:59 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region

June 21, 2010

Charter schools expected to be hot topic Tuesday

Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who is pledging to double the number of charter schools in the state if he is elected governor, will be meeting in Montgomery County with parents who have been prevented from opening charter schools.

Baltimore City still has the vast majority of charter schools, in part because the local school board, which must approve all charters, has been more friendly to these schools than other jurisdictions like Montgomery and Frederick counties. The city also has gotten far more applications from parents, teachers and non-profits who want to open charters.

Tomorrow morning, the Maryland state school board is going to be considering a charter school policy, although the details haven't  been released.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:01 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

June 18, 2010

Best friends are bad?

Some educators and child care professionals are discouraging the practice of having a best friend. Who knew?

This New York Times story looks into all the measures taken by educators and people who work with children to thwart the practice, which they say can lead to exclusion, bullying, etc.

One camp has gone as far as hiring "friendship coaches" to encourage kids to become friends with everyone else.

While I'm all for encouraging peace, inclusion, and all that good stuff, I also think that it is human nature to have a best friend or close circle of friends. I also think that this is the latest way that adults are overextending their reach into the lives of youth. It's kind of hypocritical. I doubt that many of these same adults have such a broad spectrum of friends. Heck, I doubt their friends aren't even all that diverse.

What do you think?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 2:21 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Parents

June 16, 2010

Barbara Dezmon says that she will explain the truth

Barbara Dezmon, the creator of an unpopular grading system that caused an uproar in the Baltimore County system before it was abandoned in January, came before the county school board last night after retiring on June 1 as a longtime administrator. Dezmon told the board that there had been "untruths, deceptions and lies" concerning the county school system. She said she would set the record straight.

She implied that there had been bullying among adults and said she believed it needed to stop. She said horrible accusations, against her and others, had been posted on blogs. (I am assuming she meant this blog). "I am going to tell all," she said, including the details of secret discussions and what happened with the $300,000 Little Brown Book. She said that parents in the county deserved to know the truth.

She was only allowed three minutes to make her comments. She did not indicate when she might "tell all."


Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:24 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Baltimore County

June 15, 2010

New tools to monitor bullying, predators on Facebook

With the news of bullying still fresh on the minds of Marylanders, I thought I might pass along this article to you about new computer programs that help parents monitor bullies and predators on Facebook.

The programs GoGoStat Parental Guidance and Social Shield, are free Facebook apps that allow parents to monitor and set rules for their childrens' use of certain features of Facebook.

Parents can use the program to send alerts about abusive postings and potentially inappropriate contacts originating from a certain geographic range or from potentially questionable online acquaintances.

Have any of you tried out these programs? Do you have any other programs to recommend?

Posted by John-John Williams IV at 5:41 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Parents

June 14, 2010

Newsweek high school ranking is out

Maryland has 98 schools on Newsweek's annual list of "best" high schools in the country released yesterday. Perhaps we should debate what makes a high school one of the best, but Jay Mathews, the Washington Post education columnist who started judging high schools and ranking them more than a decade ago, defines it this way: how hard administrators in the school are pushing Advanced Placement and International Baccalareaute classes. More precisely, each school is given an index number that shows the number of AP or IB tests given divided by the number of graduates each year. A school has to have at least one test given for each graduate to make the list. Only 6 percent, or 1,600, of the 27,000 high schools in the country make the list. 

Missing from the equation is how many students are passing the classes and the exams, not just taking them.  Although Newsweek has, at least, added a number called the E&E number, which is the percentage of graduating seniors who took and passed at least one test during high school.

That may be more important than the high school's rank on the list. So parents might want to look not as much at the relative rank of their school, but what the E&E percentage is. Outside seven Montgomery County schools, which were in the top 100, River Hill in Howard was ranked highest of the schools in the Baltimore metropolitan area. Second in the area was Severna Park at 182,  with Centennial in Howard County at 238 and Dulaney in Baltimore County at 253, following close behind. 

City College was the only city high school on the list this year.  Montgomery County had 25 schools on the list, Baltimore County had 12. High schools in all corners of the state, from the Eastern Shore to Garrett County were represented, though. If you would like to search for your school, it is pretty easy.

In all, Maryland had the highest percentage of its high schools on the list than any other state, which is a testament to the work the state has done to push Advanced Placement in recent years.

The most recent studies indicate that students who have taken an AP course are more likely to graduate from college. Some parents have questioned the need for students to take so many AP classes at the exclusion of other high level classes. Whether a school is on the list, Jay Mathews admits, may not mean the school isn't doing a good job. But he argues that his rankings are simple and easily defined, but shouldn't be the sole way to judge a high school.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:36 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Around the Region

June 11, 2010

Share your best school-year memories

It’s (almost) over.

The school year that yet again saw Maryland’s public schools ranked No. 1 in the nation by Education Week is coming to a close. The year was marked also by controversy over the Race to the Top competition for federal funding, as well as cheating and bullying scandals in Baltimore City. But the events that will be remembered for years to come are the record-breaking snows in December and February, which led to the day after day off. The snowfalls extended the school year, which ends next week for many of our region’s districts.

As schools close for the summer, we want students, parents and teachers to share their thoughts about the past year. Kids, what was your best memory? Teachers and parents, not only can you encourage children to participate, but tell us your favorite memories as well.

Post them here on the blog, and we’ll publish the best ones in the newspaper after school ends. Please also share photos from your end-of-school experiences by e-mailing them to or submitting them to our school memories photo gallery.

Posted by Carla Correa at 8:59 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

June 10, 2010

Improve teacher effectiveness in Baltimore

Yesterday's story on the National Council on Teacher Quality's new report on the how to improve teaching in Baltimore schools raised a lot of questions for the Baltimore Teachers Union about what they will see as the most valuable elements of its contract. The union is now in the midst of negotiations and one could guess that the school board and CEO Andres Alonso will be trying to get as many of the elements of reform as they can into next year's contract. I will be interested in watching the process.

The report believes that school boards in the past gave teachers extra days off or other perks when it couldn't raise pay.  Kate Walsh, who is president of the NCTQ, said, "What we found in Baltimore is the result of decades of contract negotiations and laws being passed without paying enough attention to their impact on student learning." The BTU had no comment, even though its leaders were given the report by the NCTQ in advance and were briefed by the authors. So I can't tell you what is on the minds of the leadership, but I would like to know what city teachers think of the recommendatoins in the report.  And by the way, Cheryl Bost, president of Baltmore County's union, said there's a mistake in the graphics that were supplied by the NCTQ. She says county teachers have only 50 minutes of planning a day, not one hour and 20 minutes.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:50 AM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Baltimore City

June 8, 2010

Should five-year-olds be playing or studying?

The Alliance for Childhood, which has been trying to promote more play and less academic work for young children, suggests today that the new common core standards aren't good for  kindergarten. In a statement, the group said states that adopt the standards will be adding to the need for this age group to do hours of academic work, leaving less time for children to be creative and explore their interests. The group contends there is no research that proves young children will benefit from being given academic work at a young age.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Nation

June 7, 2010

Can all this technology be good for growing brains?

I would like to hear from teachers, principals, parents and kids today about how good they think they are at multi-tasking. Have teachers seen a downside to the constant text messaging, Facebooking and computer use?  Are students able to focus for long periods of time on one task? What do English papers or complex math problems look like these days? Are they more riddled with errors because kids are trying to do their math and write their papers while they text and use Facebook? Or do teachers believe students are able to process information more quickly? Do some children benefit? Here's a New York Times piece to get your thoughts started. Warning: the story is long so you will have to focus for an extended period of time. Can you read it from start to finish without interruption?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:27 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Region

June 2, 2010

Finding the funds to renovate city schools

The ACLU released a report this morning that says at the current funding levels it will take decades before the city is able to renovate its aging schools. The report recommends that the state and city find some more creative ways to finance renovations and new school construction. While the report focuses on the city, it is clear that some other jurisdictions also have great n needs. For instance, Baltimore County still has a significant number of schools that aren't air conditioned. What do teachers and students see as the needs in their schools?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:47 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

June 1, 2010

Thirty-five Race to the Top applications filed today

Maryland's Race to the Top application, which pushed state officials to change laws and regulations, was hand delivered a few hours ago to the U.S. Department of Education. It is likely to be a couple of months before we learn whether Maryland will be one of the finalists. Education experts believe 15 or so states will be finalists. That group of states will then go to Washington to argue their case. A final decision is expected by September.

In the end, the Prince George's County teachers did sign the application, joining the city's teachers as well. Prince George's stands to gain significant money for its schools. 

Gov. Martin O'Malley also signed an executive order today creating the Maryland Council for Educator Effectiveness. The council, made up of teachers, principals, education experts and legislators, will spend the next seven months creating a model for teacher evaluations as is required by the recently passed state education reform law.



Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:28 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region
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