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September 30, 2010

Baltimore City wins national school board excellence award

Baltimore City is the winner of the 2010 Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for Urban School Board Excellence.

The award was presented to the district this past weekend at the CUBE organization's annual conference at the Baltimore Renaissance Harborplace Hotel where national leaders in urban education gathered to addressed the challenges facing urban school districts.  CUBE member districts total more than 110 urban school districts in 35 states and the Virgin Islands. The award is presented annually to a school district by the National School Board Association.

"Baltimore City Public Schools is a shining example that school reform can work in large, diverse urban school systems," said National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Executive Director Anne. L.  Bryant. "Many critics said the district's problems were permanent and unfixable. But school board members and educators in Baltimore refused to accept that grim prognosis and thanks to their vision and hard work, Baltimore City Public Schools are now thriving."

The award comes as the district is celebrating several groundbreaking reforms that is putting Baltimore on the national stage.

One of the trademarks of the city school board has been allowing city schools CEO Andres Alonso to use his autonomy to lead the district in the right direction, said Neil Duke, president of the city school board. "This recognition will serve to reaffirm our resolve as a Board to transform our entire school system into a model of excellence in urban education."

Alonso said that the school board has been an integral part the successes during his tenure.

"From day one as CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, I have felt very fortunate to serve this board," Alonso said. "It is a board that is first and foremost focused on our kids, and that supports every effort to give schools the resources they need to do right by our kids.

Thanks to this board's leadership, we have been able to build the necessary infrastructure to truly transform our schools, and we are now seeing the results: Our students have posted three straight years of record achievement gains, and the larger Baltimore community is rallying around our students and our schools like never before."


Posted by Erica Green at 1:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 29, 2010

Details of the BTU and city contract begin to emerge

We will know more details about the landmark agreement between the Baltimore Teachers Union and the city schools later today, but the outlines are in a story on line and in the paper today. Once again, the city school system and its teachers are on the leading edge in Maryland and the nation. This time the system is trying new ideas to reward good teaching in schools. I would like city teachers to give us their feedback here as they begin to get more information.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 7:49 AM | | Comments (33)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 24, 2010

BTU and City Schools reach tentative contract agreement

The Baltimore Teachers Union announced Friday that union and city school officials have reached a tentative 2010-2011 contract, to be ratified and approved in the coming weeks.

Negotiations have been ongoing for months, and last year's contract had to be extended while officials reached an agreement.  Officials didn't reveal exactly what the hold-up was, but BTU president Marietta English alluded at the beginning of the school year that the delays were due to reforms the district is making in teacher quality.

In a forum this past spring where schools CEO Andres Alonso addressed the district's challenges with teacher quality, he said that many of the shortfalls would be remedied by a "cutting-edge contract" this year.  

Very few details were included about the new contract, but in a statement, the union called the contract "landmark."  English said she was "excited" about the agreement.

"I think teachers are going to like this contract because it addresses many of the concerns they expressed in a survey we conducted last school year," English said.

Baltimore City schools CEO Andres Alonso said in the statement that the agreement will "put instructional effectiveness at the core of everything, which is where it should be. I congratulate our teachers and school communities for what is a landmark moment for us all -- especially our kids."

Stay tuned.

Posted by Erica Green at 7:30 PM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 22, 2010

Study says merit pay for teachers doesn't work

A new study out of Vanderbilt University says that offering merit pay to teachers doesn't improve student performance. The debate over pay for performance is a hot topic these days as the state and local school systems grapple with how to evaluate teachers and whether excellence in the classroom should be given monetary rewards.

The National Education Association put out a press release touting the results today and saying that this proves that finding answers to student achievement is more complicated than paying teachers more for increased test scores.

In the study by the National Center on Performance Incentives, teachers were given $5,000, $10,000 and $15,000 bonuses based on whether they could get their student test scores up a certain percentage over a specific period of time.  The outcome showed the extra pay did not improve achievement.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 4:57 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Around the Nation

September 21, 2010

Michelle Rhee cites Baltimore in justification for tough tactics

Michelle A. Rhee, the embattled Washington, D.C., schools chancellor, may not get much love around the region, but yesterday she received the ultimate gold star for her tough tactics in leading the school system: the approval of Oprah Winfrey.

Winfrey hailed Rhee, once a Baltimore teacher, as a "Warrior Woman" in her controversial tenure overseeing and shaking up the D.C. public school system. Rhee appeared on Winfrey's Monday show, which highlighted the film, "Waiting for Superman." 

The film, due to be released in select cities on Friday, takes a critical look at the politics of education and how it's failing the nation's students. It's directed by Davis Guggenheim, who also directed "An Inconvenient Truth."  The movie's tagline reads: The fate of our country won't be decided on a battlefield, it will be determined in a classroom."  (I will definitely be checking that out).

As Rhee used her daytime-TV platform to explain her tough reign in D.C. -- which has included a mass and very public exodus of both teachers and principals -- she cited her time as a Teach for America teacher in Baltimore as solidifying for her that "children have the potential -- they can achieve."

"The children are not the problem," Rhee said, "the adults are the problem."

Winfrey offered to the brief Baltimore conversation that the city's dropout rate (which was 6.2 percent in 2009) was poor.

The chancellor went on to explain how hard it has been to fire ineffective teachers, saying that school officials "basically have to meet a criminal standard" to get rid of poor teachers. She also said it's "ludicrous" for children to wait until teachers reach their full potential to receive good instruction.

I couldn't help but notice that Rhee's responses read from a familar playbook here in Baltimore.

Anyone else finding other similarities between D.C. and Baltimore's school system leadership?

Posted by Erica Green at 1:58 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Around the Region

Baltimore Teachers Union responds to school officials about teachers' appeals

Our story last week about the group of Filipino teachers who protested their contracts being non-renewed for this school year has the Baltimore Teachers Union and school system at odds.

City school CEO Andres Alonso said that teachers showing up last week to air their grievances was inappropriate, and that ultimately, he will scutinize the facts of individual appeals cases keeping in mind that the result will not be about what's best for adults. We posted his full response to the protests here.

Below is the Baltimore Teachers Union response to Alonso:

"Dr. Alonso's comments in The Sun's Education Blog on Thursday, September 16th are contradictory. The BTU began filing appeals for teachers who's contracts had been non-renewed on May 25, 2010 and kept filing appeals through the summer and into the new school year.

Each appeal was hand delivered to Dr. Alonso's office, but the BTU and those non-renewed teachers have yet to get a decision from the CEO. When several BTU staff members and several teachers, who had been non-renewed and were waiting for the CEO's decision on their appeals, attended the School Board Meeting on September 14th, they were told by Board Chair Neil Duke that they could not speak about personal experiences pertaining to their non-renewal.

Dr. Alonso says in the blog, that the discussion at the School Board Meeting pertaining to the non-renewals was inappropriate and that he had yet to see any appeals, however he continued the discussion by offering specific information such as out of the 103 appeals filed by the BTU 22 involved Filipino teachers.  Also, Dr. Alonso admitted, during the meeting, that he was "sitting on several appeals." If he hasn't seen any appeals yet, then how can he be sitting on them and how could he know, 22 out of the 103 are involving Filipino teachers?

Dr. Alonso needs to be truthful with himself, the School Board, the media and most importantly with the teachers desperately waiting to hear his decision on their cases. I hope if he is sitting on these cases, that he takes a long look at each case individually and does what is right for the teachers involved and their students."

Marietta English, President
Baltimore Teachers Union

Posted by Erica Green at 1:46 PM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 20, 2010

Art exhibition of work by Maryland students opens today in D.C.

An exhibit of work by three dozen Maryland public high school students from 10 school districts opens this hour at the U.S. Department of Education.

The juried exhibition will hang in the headquarters building on Maryland Avenue as part of the department's student art exhibit program. Maryland is only the second state to have a show that displays work from around one state.

A ribbon cutting was held at 11 a.m.  The following students have work that is being shown: 

From Anne Arundel County: DeAndre Knight and Ashley Lim from North County High School; Louis Fratino from South County High School; and Kristin Schmit and Katie Emmitt from Southern High School.

From Baltimore City: Javonia Hartman, Nasheam Rodgers, Mark McGlothin, Gregory Jenkins, Ericka Kimbrough-Byrd, Brieawna Mason and Stacey Simmons from Heritage High School.

From Baltimore County: Katrina Navarro and Lauren Hartman from the Carver Center for Arts and Technology; Rodnique Steele and Bernadette Szrom from Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts; and Annie Bishai, Molly Broom and Emma Popp from Towson High School.

From Howard County: Briana Hanlon and Jane Yoon from Marriotts Ridge High School; Katherine Chorosinkski and Peter Favinger from River Hill High School; and Josh Tulkoff from Wilde Lake High School.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:12 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

September 15, 2010

School system to investigate claims of Filipino teachers

Today I wrote a story about dozens of Filipino teachers and a room packed to the brim with members of the Filipino community who showed up to confront the Baltimore City school board Tuesday night, alleging that principals broke several protocols in deciding not to renew contracts for this year.

Baltimore Teachers Union officials said that teachers (Filipino and not) were being "treated like trash," districtwide by school leaders who arbitrarily were able to decide whether to renew teachers contracts, and asked for school board to intervene and review and re-review individual cases of dismissals. The teachers, union officials said, were at the mercy of personalities rather than the proper process. One-by-one teachers, Filipino and not, offered testimony that ranged from heated to heartbreaking.  

The school system praised its cohort of Filipino teachers, saying they were among the best in the system. Schools CEO Andres Alonso said he took the allegations seriously, and there would be consequences if the process of determining contract renewals was not being properly followed by principals. 

Neil Duke, the school board president, was visibly moved by the testimonies. And while he's a stickler for protocols (which didn't allow him to address individual personnel concerns), he asked the entire Filipino cohort to stand and engaged the audience in thunderous applause for their courage.

I followed up today to see how whether school officials would conduct an investigation into the claims and here is the response from the schools CEO:

"We will look at every case, and make sure that nothing inappropriate was done in any case.

All cases come to me for review when they are appealed.  None have come to me yet. The discussion last night was very inappropriate, even if framed generally, because there are pending cases, including cases that might have involved people who were providing testimony.  It was premature in terms of our protocols, since the appeal process has not ended, and individual personnel matters should never be part of board public testimony, period.

There are two levels of review for me in every personnel case. One level of review is whether the rules were followed.  If the rules were followed, then the presumption is that the principal acted within his or her rights in non renewing a teacher.  The rules are very different (and far more liberal) for non renewing probationary teachers (teachers in the first two years of their teaching career) than for tenured teachers.  There is no requirement that the probationary teacher had to be evaluated as unsatisfactory, as in the case of tenured teachers. And we cannot create procedural rights for some teachers and not for others, where there are none. 

But the other level of review is whether the process was done in the right spirit, independently of the rules.  That requires a deeper look at what was done, and is an accountability conversation with school leaders.

As I stated yesterday, I take this very seriously.  And as I also said yesterday, the decisions need to be made on the basis of what is right for kids, as always."

Posted by Erica Green at 2:50 PM | | Comments (25)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 10, 2010

Baltimore named finalist for excellence in urban education

Baltimore City is among four urban school districts named as a finalst for the the the 2010 Council of Urban Boards of Education (CUBE) Annual Award for excellence in urban education. 

The award is given annually by the National School Boards Association (NSBA,) and Baltimore joins the Houston Independent School District, Virginia Prostmouth Public Schools, and Florida Broward County public schools in the final round, the NSBA announced this week.

The four finalists were selected based on materials submitted by the school districts, independent follow-up research, and state datam according to the organization. They were also judged on the following criteria: excellence in school board governance, building civic capacity, closing the achievement gap/equity in education, and a demonstrated success of academic excellence.

NSBA organization said this of Baltimore's accomplishments:

 "In the early 2000s, the Baltimore schools were a poster child for the ills of urban education: low academic performance, a financial crisis and declining enrollment. But a comprehensive plan and new CEO have led to dramatic turnarounds. Standardized test scores have made double-digit improvements, and achievement gaps have closed considerably. The dropout rate has improved by 33 percent. Perhaps most notably, the district has recorded enrollment increases each of the past two years – the first time in four decades that Baltimore schools have grown – showing renewed public confidence in the schools."

The winner will be presented on Oct. 2, at the organization's national conference, which will take place at the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel.

It's the second award the city is celebrating this week. Roland Park Elementary/Middle was among two Maryland schools honored for its arts education by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Posted by Erica Green at 2:08 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 9, 2010

Seven Maryland schools receive National Blue Ribbon status

Five Maryland public schools, including Eastern Technical High in Baltimore County and Ellicott Mills Middle School in Howard County, were named National Blue Ribbon schools this morning. Two Catholic schools also were named.

The designation recognizes schools that have consistently high achievement or have improved dramatically. "This is one of the nation's most significant awards presented to public schools," state superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick said in a statement. The three other schools in the state are: Northern Middle School in Calvert County, New Market Elementary School in Frederick County and Northwestern Elementary School in Wicomico County.

The Catholic Schools were St. Louis in Clarksville and St. John the Baptist in Silver Spring.

Eastern Tech has maintained a record of high achievement over a decade, according to the state. It's High School Assessment scores were 99.7 percent in reading and 100 percent in math in 2009. About 20 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged.

Ellicott Mills also has a high percentage of students scoring well on the Maryland School Assessments, has high parent involvement and a record of outstanding music programs, according to the state.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:03 AM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region

September 7, 2010

Can Detroit be more like Baltimore?

Baltimore and Detroit have competed in the past for the distinction of having the most murders per capita. And I recall Baltimore leaders once wondering if the city had the worst schools in the nation. Well today, the answer seems to be a resounding no, for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that the city's test scores on a national test called the National Assessment of Educational Progress were considerably better than Detroit's. In fact, Detroit's scores were far below every other major city that took part in the testing. The whole subject is covered in a recent piece that explains how Detroit schools might like to try some of the strategies that have worked in Baltimore.

The piece gives a good measure of credit to the fact that the Maryland legislature decided to rework how it funds schools and now provides more than $1 billion a year toward education than it did earlier in the decade.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:18 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Nation

September 3, 2010

Westside Elementary School closes due to power outage

Westside Elementary School (School #24) closed early Friday morning, due to a power outage in the neighborhood, according to city school officials. The school will remain closed for the rest of the day.

Posted by Erica Green at 10:32 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 1, 2010

Negotiations still underway for 2010-2011 BTU contract

The Baltimore city school board authorized Tuesday, for schools CEO Andres Alonso to sign off on an extension of the current Baltimore Teacher's Union contract until the end of October, while negotiations continue for 2010-2011.

For months, school and union reps have been negotiating what Alonso has called a "cutting edge contract." The extension of the current contract means that the terms of the 2009-2010 agreement still stick until the new contract is agreed upon.  

Marietta English, president of the BTU said Tuesday, that while the union doesn't disclose details during open negotiations, some of the hold up has to do with sweeping reforms due to be implemented in the district, the most drastic of which will affect how teachers are evaluated, and how much of their success is measured by student outcomes.

Of the continuing negotiations, English said: "We're just trying to reach an agreement that's acceptable to all parties."

Posted by Erica Green at 3:02 PM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Baltimore City
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