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January 31, 2011

Nonprofit offering tax, financial aid help to city families

A city non-profit organization, Baltimore CASH (Creating Assets, Savings and Hope) Campaign will be offering free tax preparation for city families, an effort that could also help college-bound students vie for thousands of dollars in financial aid.  

We wrote a story last month about the city and school system efforts to encourage all families to file a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For years, city students have been missing out on billions in financial aid for college because families have been reluctant, or have failed to properly file their tax information.

The CASH campaign announced Monday that it will partner with the school system to reverse that trend.

The Baltimore CASH Campaign is partnering with Baltimore City Public Schools to bring FAFSA filing directly to students and their families.  CASH’s trained volunteers from Baltimore City Public Schools and Citi will provide help filling out the FAFSA at more than 7 City high schools during 20 Free Tax Preparation/FAFSA events at the schools. 

“Paying for college can be a huge barrier for our students and families, which is why completing the FAFSA is so critical. It is the door to so many resources,” city schools CEO Andres Alonso, said at a press conference Monday.  

“So the fact that Baltimore CASH Campaign is joining City Schools’ efforts to help our families complete the FAFSA—and doing so free of charge—is a tremendous help to City Schools and a tremendous opportunity for our high school seniors and their families. Baltimore CASH is helping make our students’ college dreams come true.”

Listed below are the sites that the CASH campaign will be offering assistance: (provided by the organization)

Baltimore CASH Campaign  $
111 Water St., Suite 201, 21202
(between Light & Calvert Sts.)
   Mon, 1pm-6pm
   Tues-Thurs, 12pm-6pm
   Sat, 9am-2pm
   By appointment only

Neighborhood Housing Services of Baltimore  $
819 Park Ave., 21201
   Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm
   Sat, 9am-2pm
   (Certain Saturdays, call ahead)
   Not ADA accessible

1199 SEIU
611 N. Eutaw St., 21201
   Tues-Thurs, 10am-12pm & 2pm-5pm
   Fri-Sat, 9am-12pm
   Appointments preferred
University of Maryland Tax Clinic
500 W. Baltimore St. Suite 360, 21201
 Prepares returns for controversies with IRS
By appointment only

Southern Community Action Center
606 Cherry Hill Rd., 21225
   Mon- Fri, 9am-2pm
   By appointment only
Bon Secours of Maryland Foundation*  $
26 N. Fulton Ave., 21223
   Tues & Sat, 9am-11am & 2pm-7pm
   Wed, 2pm-7pm
   Thurs-Fri, 10am-3pm
 Walk-ins welcome

Mayor’s Office of Employment Development  $
Mondawmin Mall, 3rd Floor
2401 Liberty Heights Ave., 21215
   Tues & Thurs, 9am-2pm
   Wed, 9am-3pm
   Sat, 9am-1pm
   Walk-ins welcome - Appointments strongly recommended

Northwest Community Action Center
3939 Reisterstown Rd., 21215
   Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm
   Sat, 9am-1pm
   By appointment only

Northern Community Action Center
5225 York Rd., 21212
   Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm
   Sat, 9am-1pm
   By appointment only

PNC Bank  $
12 E. 25th St., 21218
   Tues-Fri, 10am-4pm
   Sat, 9am-1pm
   Appointments preferred

Baltimore CASH Campaign  $
3232 Belair Rd., 21213
   Tues-Fri, 1pm-7pm
   Sat, 9am-4pm
   Walk-ins welcome
   Self-tax preparation available
   Not ADA accessible

CASA de Maryland
2224 E. Fayette St., 21231
 Tues, Thur, Fri 11am-4pm
 Sat 10am-4pm
 Appointments only
 Not ADA compliant, but wheelchair accessible
 Servicios disponibles en español, llame al 410-732-7777 410-732-7777 para hacer una cita
Baltimore CASH Campaign at:
Southeast Community Development Corporation 
3700 Eastern Ave., 21224
Wed & Thurs, 3pm-8pm
 Sat, 9am-1pm
 By appointment only
Southeast Community Action Center
3411 Bank St., 21224
 Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm
 By appointment only

Eastern Community Action Center
1400 E. Federal St., 21213
   Mon-Fri, 9am-2pm
   By appointment only
Johns Hopkins Hospital
Mon-Fri, 9am-3pm
   For employees only
   By appointment only

Towson University
Stephens Hall
8000 York Rd, Rm 200, Towson, 21252
      Sat, 9am-4pm
      By appointment only

When you come to the FREE tax location, bring the following:

√ A social security card for EACH family member
√ W-2 form for all jobs worked in 2010
√ Child care provide name, address, and tax ID number
√ All banking account information (a voiced check and/or savings deposit slip) to direct deposit your refund into up to three separate accounts
√ A copy of last year’s tax return
√ Any document or information about money you have received from IRS or Maryland
√ All 1099 forms for other income, if any
√ Any other tax related documents you have received
√ Every adult on your return must come to sign the return

$ These sites offer additional financial resources such as:
• Savings Accounts and Certificates of Deposit (CDs)
• Prepaid Debit Cards
• FAFSA/Financial Aid Filing Assistance

* Income guidelines for free services vary at Bon Secours and a small fee is charged after March 1, 2011
OR CALL 410-234-8008

Posted by Erica Green at 5:24 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

Frustration over lack of school board accountability

There's a Facebook page for everything these days, and that includes one for those who want to vent frustration at the school board and hash out the pros and cons of a hybrid school board in Baltimore County. The Facebook page says: "Meeting after meeting, it has become apparent that our teachers, our PTA's, our parents, our students and even our legislators have no influence on policy and decisions made by Baltimore County Public Schools."

In an email today, Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, a parent and frequent critic of the system, is encouraging anyone who has an opinion on the subject to post their comments on the page. The Facebook Page is called Citizens for An Accountable Baltimore County School Board!

Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:00 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County

January 28, 2011

Are city schools helping retain Baltimoreans?

A story today by reporter June Torbati outlines how in the current economic slump, Baltimore homeowners and college graduates may help reverse the trend of declining populations in the 2010 census. 

City planners pointed to the school system's increasing enrollment numbers as an indicator of how the population numbers could shake out. Some residents interviewed in the story say that education opportunities--from having good neighborhood schools, to starting their own charter as an alternative--have helped keep them in the city, even if they had looked to live elsewhere.

In the story, city schools CEO Andres Alonso weighed in on the role he thinks the city's high-profile reforms may have played in retaining residents. The story points out that after years of declining enrollments, the number of children in Baltimore's public schools has risen in the past three years to 83,800 in the 2010-2011 school year, according to figures from the school system.

Alonso said the enrollment jump in 2008 shocked planners, who he said had expected city schools to continue shedding students at the rate of thousands per year as the system had done for decades. Alonso attributed the jump not to the recession but to three years of much-publicized reforms and a better perception of city schools.

Alonso concluded, however, that: "Perceptions about school climate and safety have an enormous hold on many parents," Alonso wrote in an e-mail. "We will probably have to continue improving for a while longer before we improve sufficiently to attract all parents, and old assumptions go away."

Posted by Erica Green at 4:40 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 26, 2011

City student joins first group of elite scholars

A Friendship Public Charter School junior will be among the first class of elite scholars, the school announced this week.

Pereviva Besong, a junior at the Friendship Academy of Science and Technology, has been named a MERIT Scholar, a program that prepares students from low-income neighborhoods pursue a career in medicine. MERIT is the Medical Education Resources Initiative for Teens and is designed to prepare them for the academic and financial challenges that lie ahead.

In her time as a MERIT Scholar, Pereviva will work with undergraduate and medical school mentors, participate in paid summer internships at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and the National Institute of Drug Abuse, and attend Saturday sessions aimed at increasing college readiness.    

Posted by Erica Green at 12:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City

Schools encouraged to apply for arts program by Feb. 1

Applications are being accepted until Feb. 1 from Baltimore City Public Schools for funding for arts experiences from Arts Every Day for the 2011-2012 school year.

Arts Every Day strengthens learning and student development in Baltimore City schools by making arts education and cultural experiences an integral part of curriculum. Application forms and information are available at

For the 2011-2012 school year, Arts Every Day will reach more students than ever before: the number of schools which will receive support is expected to double to 50, according to a release from the organization. Among the benefits that Arts Every Day schools receive are a minimum of $5 per student for arts-integration programming, regular professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators, ongoing support and guidance for school staff coordinating arts integration activities, and training and use of Arts Every Day’s nationally recognized website.

During the current school year, 25 elementary and middle schools, 800 educators, and 11,000 students are benefitting from arts education, cultural experiences, and arts integration - from teaching artists visiting the classroom and school-wide assemblies to field trips to local museums and attendance at public performances.

Additional information about the application process and Arts Every Day can be requested at

Posted by Erica Green at 12:02 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 23, 2011

Cameras in all classrooms? In Wyoming, maybe.

I was taking a glimpse at education news from other states and came across a pretty extreme idea now before the Wyoming legislature, according to a story in the Star-Tribune. The idea is to put cameras in classrooms to video-tape lessons for all new and veteran teachers. What supporters are saying is that teachers and students change their behavior when a principal walks into a classroom to do an evaluation, so this would be a means of figuring out what really happens when everyone in the classroom isn't on their best behavior. Do we really think teachers need that kind of scrutiny? What's next? Live-streamed lessons that parents can check on line, and administrators can watch from the central office? What happened to the idea of just letting great teachers close the door and have a relaxed, human interaction with their students?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 8:49 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Around the Nation

January 21, 2011

Teacher application surge: Contract or coincidence

We ran a story earlier this week about Baltimore city's applicant pool for teaching positions nearly doubling what it was last year in the months after the BTU introduced a radical new contract that positioned the city as a national fixture for education reform. It's no surprise that city school officials attribute the surge in the latter part of last year to the contract, but experts say that the economy and unemployment rates should give leaders pause before they begin touting a pact that still has yet to be fully recognized by even those who work under it.

The expert source in our story, Emily Cohen, who knows all things teacher quality and contracts, also said that teachers are usually attracted more to a leader of a district than a contract--which means that the surge could be a result of schools CEO Andres Alonso's increasing national profile.

I checked in with Baltimore County too just to get a sense if the trend was being experienced in other places, and the county's human resources director said they  currently "had more applications than we know what to do with," and have even had to cut back on their recruitment efforts. Granted, sources say this is not be unusual for the county, a popular destination for teachers who can't quite stomach the city's challenges, but still desire the diversity and proximity to an urban population.

Our editorial board weighed in today on the city's application surge, and whether they believe the contract has become a magnet for talent.

We should know by the end of the summer when all applications and hires are completed for the next school year, whether the uptick reflects a true trend--particularly as more of the contract's nitty-gritty details are due to be divulged in the coming months.  

I'd love for our education community to weigh in on the application surge: Contract or coincidence?

Posted by Erica Green at 11:42 AM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 20, 2011

Stoneleigh parents protest school overcrowding

The Baltimore County parent protests about overcrowding continued last night at the budget hearing at Ridge Ruxton and this time the complaints came from Stoneleigh Elementary School parents. The school community was waiting its turn, hoping that after West Towson was complete and the cramped and croweded Hampton had been expanded, an addition to Stoneleigh would start this fall. But when the parents look at the facilities budgets for the coming fiscal year beginning in July, they don't see Stoneleigh on the list. So they think that relief may be more years away than was anticipated. Parents say that isn't acceptable. The cafeteria is being used from 10:30 am to 1:30 pm., the bathrooms are overused, the classrooms jammed and the nurse has been assigned to an office the size of a closet.  Meetings, they say, are held in the lobby.

Next year the enrollment is expected to grow again and the staff is planning to simply divide existing classrooms by partitions which will make learning difficult for those who are distracted by noise.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:26 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County

January 19, 2011

Facebook's role in helping communicate with students

School was closed in some districts yesterday on a day when many high school students might have been sitting down to take midterm exams. So I began to wonder if students were trying to ask teachers what exams they would be taking the next day? And were teachers trying to answer last minute review questions? Were they texting, e-mailing, going on Facebook or even tweeting?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:41 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Around the Region

Study explores economic benefits of Catholic education

The Baltimore Archdiocese has released findings of a study that explores the economic benefits of Catholic education, namely that the city's parochial schools save taxpayers millions and produce high achieving students who contribute significantly to the local economy.

An independent study conducted by local economist and Baltimore City school board member, Anirban Basu, found that each year, Catholic schools in the Archdiocese of Baltimore save Maryland taxpayers more than $380 million in per pupil expenses and provide an additional $393.3 million into the local economy in income and revenue.  Among Basu's other findings is that graduation rates, college acceptances, and post-college income levels are higher among Catholic school students than those who attend public school.

The full report can be found here.

Basu, chairman and CEO of the Baltimore-based economic consulting firm Sage Policy Group, is also a member of  the recently appointed Archdiocese of Baltimore School Board, which began meeting this month to stabilize a system that has struggled financially and closed 28 of its schools, or 40 percent, since 2000. According to a release from the Archdiocese, Basu's study was completed last year. 

The report comes at a time when the Archdiocese is positioning itself to make sweeping changes to boost its Catholic program's appeal. The new school board, which includes many high-profile members of the education, business and philanthropic communities, will be advising the archdiocesan school system on matters such as advancement, finances, facilities and leadership.

Fellow Ed Reporter Liz Bowie pointed out an interesting tid-bit about this report: It was released the same week that the Maryland General Assembly convened. Last legislative session, Archbishop Edwin F. O'Brien testified before state lawmakers in support of a corporate income tax credit to help public and private schools. With a bleek budget year forecasted for education, it will be interesting to see if the Archbishop makes another appearance in Annapolis this year-- with this report in tow.  

Posted by Erica Green at 11:43 AM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 18, 2011

More on MLK Jr. Day

From reporter Raven Hill, who wrote about the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and the challenges educators face teaching about his life and legacy:

While interviewing students at Leith Walk Elementary School for an article about Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy, fifth-grader Isaiah Pride mentioned that he’d like to learn more about the slain civil rights leader – specifically his name. Pride told me that he’d heard that Martin Luther King wasn’t his given name. I assured him that it was indeed.

Little did I know.

In a conversation with another fifth-grader over the weekend – my goddaughter – I learned that King’s original name was Michael King, Jr., and that his father later changed both of their names.

Sorry, Isaiah – you were right. And don’t worry, I won’t be appearing on “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” anytime soon.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 14, 2011

City charter school sweeps MLK essay competition

City Springs Elementary/Middle School swept a recent Martin Luther King Essay Writing Contest hosted by the Baltimore Urban Debate League and Walter's Art Museum. According to a release from the Baltimore Curriculum Project, the school took first and third place in the elementary division and first, second, and third place in the middle school division of the Essay Writing Contest.

Essays can be read here: City Springs Winning MLK Essays, or spend part of your day off on Monday, Jan. 17 to travel to the Walters Art Museum to hear essay contest winners read their pieces at 12:00 p.m as part of the museum's free MLK Jr. Family Festival.

They are truly impressive. 

Posted by Erica Green at 5:47 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City

National, city movements confronts 'State of Black Children'

In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy, I thought I'd share this report  released earlier this week, which takes a crucial and comprehensive look at the 'State of Black Children and Families.'

The report, a joint project by the Children's Defense Fund on behalf of the Black Community Crusade for Children, provides a deeply researched analysis about the perils of poverty, unemployment that plagues the nation's black communities.

The BCCC, a crusade led by the high-profile educator Geoffrey Canada of the acclaimed Harlem Children's Zone organization in NY (Waiting for Superman), is gearing up to launch the second phase of its journey in combatting some of the problems outlined in the report.

However, a movement that mirrors the BCCC can be found right here in Baltimore, and its leaders are paying attention to the report's findings. We received reaction from one city agency:

“Here in Baltimore, we know firsthand what the Black Community Crusade for Children is trying to combat,” said Nicole A. Johnson, director of Elev8 Baltimore, an initiative that partners with four schools in east Baltimore to ensure that all students – and in particular, middle-graders – are ready to succeed in high school.

“And it’s incredibly distressing that the disappointing statistics that were reported today are the same disappointing statistics from 10, 15, 20 years ago. If it was a crisis a decade ago, it’s a super-crisis now.”
Much like Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone, Elev8 Baltimore works to meet the needs of students, families and the surrounding community – in an effort to eradicate the low educational statistics and poor social outcomes that have plagued African American communities for generations.

By engaging families and students to be advocates for themselves; by providing learning, family support, and health-related services and working to strengthen the focus of schools and government agencies on student success, Johnson said Elev8 Baltimore is doing its part to “close the achievement gap; reweave the fabric of family and community; and build a loud and effective adult voice for children.”
But there is still more to be done.
“Now is the time to pool our resources to foster opportunity and success for all children.  Young people need comprehensive solutions.  ,” Johnson said.
Note: This summer, each of the four Elev8 Baltimore sites will be host to the Children’s Defense Fund’s Freedom Schools program, a model program focused on literacy, civic engagement, social action, intergenerational leadership development, nutrition, and health.

Posted by Erica Green at 5:15 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 13, 2011

Rising class sizes possible in Baltimore County

The budget introduced last night by Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston would save money by reducing the teaching staff by about 200 through attrition. Cheryl Bost, the union president, said she wants to look at the numbers more carefully, but that the reduction may only take the staffing levels to where they were before the enrollment began to dip some years back. In other words, the county school system didn't reduce the teaching staff in the past several years when the number of kids in classrooms went down. However, there's still plenty of worry to go around. First, it isn't clear if Bost's theory will turn out to be correct. There will be 200 fewer teachers and roughly 1,400 more students. In addition, our high schools may feel the worst of the class increases. And high school classes are already some of the largest. One parent of a higher schooler complained last night in an interview that her son had one class with 35 students in it. During a visit during American Education Week she had seen just how disconnected he was to what was going on in the class. And another parent worried what greater burden that would mean for teachers with more papers to grade and more students to keep track of.

While the General Assembly has yet to act, there's plenty of reason to believe that some cuts to education are likely. That would mean far more drastic cuts than Hairston is now proposing and they could come rather quickly just before the budget passes in March.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 8:46 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County

January 12, 2011

Alonso braces school board for tough decisions

Baltimore City schools CEO Andres Alonso and his chief financial officer engaged members of the city school board Tuesday in an intense debate about policy and funding decisions that are imminent in light of the forecast of a tough budget season.

In a school board work session attended by board members and a host of city staff at North Avenue, school officials discussed the history and future of the district's Fair Student Funding model -- a  per-pupil-funding program launched under the schools chief -- which may shake out to not be so "fair"  if, at the very least, a proposed 5 percent funding cut to education at the state level comes to pass this year. 

In anticipation of a cut to education funding, Alonso urged, "the board needs to determine a theory of action ... and be comfortable about what [the funding cut] means."

For example, he said, the 5 percent cut translates to a roughly $45 million hit to the city school budget.  Alonso told the board during the 2 1/2-hour discussion that the money would have to come from the schools, he said.

By definition, the schools chief said, schools will have a smaller per-pupil allotment, aside from other variables (such as enrollment) that already determine a schools' budget under the Fair Student Funding model. If the $45 million cut was passed down, schools could receive $600,000 less than last year. To any school that could mean losing 6 to 7 teachers, larger class sizes, or the preservation of class sizes at the expense of supplemental programs such as enrichment initiatives.

"We will be at a point where hard trade-offs needs to be made," Alonso told board members. "And we need to know that consequences of those trade-offs."

The Fair Student Funding program allots a baseline funding amount for every student in the district, and additional funding for students who have disabilities, fall behind in achievement, are advanced or are at risk for dropping out. When the school board passed its $1.23 billion budget last year, every student received about $5,000, and additional weights ranged from $641 for special education students to $1,500 for basic and advanced students.

The preliminary recommendations for the fiscal year 2012 budget are to maintain the same levels  for additional funding. But that means that other tough decisions would have to be made.

Alonso asked the board to make the following considerations:  

1. The school system has 16 schools with less than 250 students, a number that has starkly increased since 2009-2010 when only nine schools has such few students. Under the per-pupil funding model, coupled with other potential budget cuts, this puts those schools at a disadvantage. Should the school system make an exception for funding small schools?

2. Should city schools' Title I dollars be distributed across more schools with a smaller allocation to each or across fewer schools with a larger allocation to each?

3. Should funding for pre-kindergarten programs be distributed across city schools with a smaller allocation to each or across fewer schools with a larger allocation to each?

4. Should locked funds be appropriated to schools for the specific purpose of enrichment programming, given the potential impact on class size and other academic programming?

Posted by Erica Green at 12:20 PM | | Comments (19)
Categories: Baltimore City

Former Prince George's chief appointed to head LA schools

John Deasy, who left the Prince George's County superintendent's job after struggles with the board, has just been named the superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Deasy, who pushed through reforms in Prince George's moved on to a position with the Gates Foundaiton after leaving Maryland. In August, he took over as the top deputy in LA. His appointment takes effect on April 15. He is viewed as an educator who will work cooperatively with union leaders, charter school operators and others on thorny issues while also focusing on issues of teacher effectiveness. 
Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:21 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Nation

January 11, 2011

Milford Mill Academy construction costs escalate

Milford Mill Academy students will get an addition to their high school completed, but not without months of extra construction at the school and more disruption and inconvenience to staff and students at the school.  Today's story on the delay details the extra millions of dollars the school system may spend on the project.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:06 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore County

January 5, 2011

An interesting analysis of 'School Choice'

An op-ed appeared in The Sun last week that takes a very strong position on the notion of "school choice," a concept that has become a pillar of the Baltimore City school system. Howell Baum, a professor at University of Maryland, offers a provocative look at whether a district that allows parents to choose where their children attend school is an effective avenue to education reform, or simply a modern day example of "separate but equal."

I will be exploring some recent challenges and criticisms of Baltimore City's 'school choice' program, but would love to hear from our Inside Ed community as I continue my reporting.

Posted by Erica Green at 12:46 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Baltimore City

Parents urge Baltimore County Council to deal with aging and overcrowded school facilities

Laurie Taylor-Mitchell, parent of a Loch Raven High School junior, urged members of the Baltimore County Council to visit schools in their districts and lobby strenuously for whatever improvements those schools might need.

At the council session Monday, she criticized education administrators for their failure to address longstanding infrastructure problems, such as the crowded cafeteria at Randallstown High, where students buy lunch from vending machines because they cannot get through a cafeteria line in time to return to class. She decried the numerous portable classrooms that force children into long lines at bathrooms and the numerous schools that still lack air-conditioning. "It will take compassion and courage, from all of you, to insist on finding more revenue for school infrastructure,"she told the council. "The status quo is untenable. Every child attending public school in this county should have a classroom with a healthy learning environment."

-- Mary Gail Hare



Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:44 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County

January 4, 2011

Owings Mills senior takes up anti-gay bullying cause

Brandon Hoffman, a 17-year-old senior at Owings Mills High School, has been disturbed by the number of times he hears anti-gay slurs in his school and wanted to do something to raise awareness about how offensive those terms are to many people. He believes athletes are more prone to this kind of bad behavior. (He runs cross country, wrestles and plays tennis.) So he and other athletes at the school will be holding a No Homo Day at Owings Mills on Friday, Jan. 14. They are making posters, plan to show a short video, and are asking other students to pledge not to use slurs that day. "Every day you should be abstaining from using these hurtful slurs," he said, but he wanted to designate a day so that other students would think twice. What he didn't expect was the outpouring of support on Facebook. Today, there are over 12,000 people around the world who are making the pledge.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:29 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

Maryland Science Center hosts free math and science program for city students

The Maryland Science Center has put this call out to all of Baltimore City's future scientists and engineers:

Beginning January 4, the Maryland Science Center will offer it second annual free program to encourage Baltimore city school students in grades 7-12 to enter the Morgan State University Annual Mathematics-Science-Engineering Fair. 

The After School Science Fair Program will provide free transportation and free admission to the Maryland Science Center for student groups and teachers to learn more about competing in the Morgan State fair.  

Students will meet with professional scientists and engineers during "ask the expert" sessions to get ideas and discuss project topics.  Students who choose to enter the science fair will receive support, guidance and assistance in completing their projects from these same professionals during a free follow up visit to the Maryland Science Center.

Each student who completes the project and submits it to the Morgan State fair will receive a free family membership to the Maryland Science Center.

The program will meet every Tuesday in January, with additional dates being added if students are interested. The program is funded by a major local corporation and a philanthropist.

Posted by Erica Green at 4:11 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City

January 3, 2011

City schools gearing up for legislative session

The Baltimore City school board laid out its legislative wish list for the upcoming session of the Maryland General Assembly, and like most agencies, the school system has budget on the brain.

But among other concerns are: maintaining local authority, and keeping a fully elected school board. A more detailed report of the school system's legislative platform for the upcoming session can be found here.

Another hot topic the school board and schools CEO Andres Alonso have weighed in on is the possibility that legislators will once again revisit the idea of raising the compulsory age of attendance to 17 or 18. The board said it would support such legislation, and it would be of great importance as the city begins to mark historically low dropout numbers--which Alonso touts as one of his greatest accomplishments.

On the topic, Alonso had this to say in an e-mail: "I think kids should be in school. We should not give them a legal out to make wrong decisions. They can’t drink or drive but it’s ok to not be in school! That is wrong and shows how little we value their future.  At the same time, we have to work with them so that they have the motivation to be in school, and provide the flexibility that some might need in order to both help their families and be in school."

Posted by Erica Green at 6:31 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

Let parents and students grade teachers

Maryland isn't the only state to promise that 50 percent of teachers' evaluations will be linked to student growth. A story in the Atlanta Constitution last week points out that Georgia too is now struggling with how to make the details work. One of the largest issues looming is how to judge student growth for teachers who don't teach tested areas. According to the Atlanta Constitution, 60 percent of an evaluation for those teachers in Georgia would be based on observations and walk throughs while the remainder would come from student and parent surveys. Wow. Is this an interesting idea?  Most students really do know who the best teachers in their school are, don't they? If a parent or a student made a list of the top 10 teachers in their school, wouldn't it match pretty closely with the list provided by the principal? Anyone willing to do that test?

What do teachers think about this idea? Would you rather be judged by your students or their test scores?


Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:13 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Nation
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