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April 30, 2011

A call for city school budget scenarios

Friday was the deadline for city school principals to submit their budgets, and we hear that this year, schools were hit unlike any other time in recent history. I've heard school budgets lost figures ranging from $500,000 to $1 million. Sources have reported that programs are being cut, salary costs are skyrocketing and resources are plummeting.

The school system budget is due to be unveiled on May 10, and before we begin dissecting that, we'd like to hear about how individual schools fared this budget season.

Posted by Erica Green at 12:10 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 29, 2011

Western High School college applications compromised

On Friday, Baltimore city school officials confirmed that a handful of college admissions for Western High School students may have been compromised due to missing paperwork that should have been sent by the school. You can read the story here.

We'd asked the district about this last week, and it appears that the number of students that were affected has decreased over time. Some students originally believed to have not been admitted into college based on a misstep, eventually were while the district was still investigating.  Now, about 14 students, from one of the most prestigious high schools in the city, could not be going to the college of their choice next year.

Update: Thanks @avalon for being a junior editor :-)

Posted by Erica Green at 8:06 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Second school official in two years resigns amid investigation of resume claims

A Baltimore Sun investigation revealed Thursday night that Kevin Seawright, the deputy chief operating officer for the city school system, was holding a $135,000 position--and two degrees from online universities that are considered "diploma mills." His undergraduate degree was obtained from a online university that no longer exists, and his master's from a university that awards degrees based on "life experience."

On Wednesday afternoon, I began calling sources around the nation and even the United Kingdom to check into an anonymous tip that Seawright's degrees could be questionable. We also asked the school system to verify his credentials and explain how they qualified him to manage one of the largest departments in the system.

According to our City Hall reporter, Seawright is also a public supporter of mayoral candidate Otis Rolley--which has raised questions about whether the tip was politically motivated. Either way, it checked out.

By Thursday afternoon--as I was putting the final touches on our research and story, and awaiting the district's response--I was informed that Seawright had resigned.

It all transpired very quickly. But, it's also familiar territory for the school system. 

Just two years ago, fellow education reporter Liz Bowie joined other reporters in exposing the turbulent background of Brian D. Morris, whom Alonso created a $175,000 position for as the Deputy CEO. In addition to a history of serious financial woes, it was also discovered that Morris had not been awarded a degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, which was listed on his official resume. He resigned his short-lived post as well.

The school system said that since then, they have put protocols in place to check the credentials of all city school employees. 

They could not say whether the human resources department, now called "human capital," had checked Seawright's credentials when he was hired in 2006 as a special assistant to the COO. He was promoted to deputy COO in 2008, received a nearly $40,000 raise with the promotion, and his credentials were not reviewed.

The school system couldn't say whether Seawright's education background was ever verified because there's been so much turnover in the HR Department since then. (Note: the Chief Human Capital Officer position was recently vacated).

If the district can't account for HR practices from five years ago, it leads one to wonder if this lack of oversight/verification is prevalent?
Posted by Erica Green at 12:19 AM | | Comments (22)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 27, 2011

City hopes to bring back 1,000 students by June

The Baltimore city school system is hoping to bring back roughly 1,000 students who they say have withdrawn from city schools so far this year. We'd heard last week that about 1,010 students had dropped out of high schools since September, but city school officials said that wasn't the most accurate description--yet.

"We have roughly 1000 withdrawals coded in our system as of now," city schools CEO Andres Alonso said in a statement. "These are not considered dropouts until the data cleansing process has ended and we can certify numbers at the end of June. 

"Our high school population is fluid, and many students withdraw and then return. Last year as of this time we had more kids coded as withdrawn than today, and more than eventually were coded as dropouts.  Our job is to reach out to each of these kids and make sure that they have in fact withdrawn from any school, and then offer them choices. 

"To say 1010 kids dropped out of school would be inaccurate," Alonso said. "We have been using the number in conversations with principals and guidance counselors to dramatize the importance of reaching out to every one of these kids who are showing as withdrawals."

The school system said that the next "Great Kids Come Back" campaign will target these students. At 4 percent, the city's dropout rate is now half what it was three years ago.

Posted by Erica Green at 6:36 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 25, 2011

Should parents go to jail when students don't go to school?

Today we ran a story about the 400-plus Baltimore city parents who have been cited for failing to send their children to school, even profiling a mother who was sentenced to jail because her son had missed 103 of 130 days. About one dozen parents have gone to jail time for the misdemeanor this year.

The story spurred a debate about whether or not parents should be held responsible for their childrens' truancy, particularly when the student is at the age (in this mother's case 15 years old) to make decisions for themselves.  I'm interested to hear what our education communities think.  

Posted by Erica Green at 5:10 PM | | Comments (17)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 20, 2011

City students make big moves in national chess tournament

Baltimore city students returned to the district this week with 13 trophies from the National K-9 Chess Championships, held April 15 to 17 in Columbus, Ohio.

According to a release from the school system, teams from four schools captured 13 trophies—and the best individual standings ever recorded for Baltimore Kids Chess League players. Playing in the K–8 Under 750 section, the Cross Country Elementary/Middle team--which notably has three girls and one boy in a usually male-dominated world of national tournament play--finished second out of 34 teams from across the country.   

Team members Morgan Brown and Sydnee Campbell also had top-ten individual rankings in the Under 750 group of 224 players—finishing at sixth and ninth, respectively. Morgan went undefeated in the tournament, with five wins and two draws.

In the even more challenging Under 1000 section, Cross Country player Joseph Grant finished third of 167—the first Baltimore City Public Schools student to earn a top-three ranking nationwide. The Cross Country team finished tenth of 30, despite being short one player.

Posted by Erica Green at 3:51 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 19, 2011

Baltimore to lose more than 330 of its most experienced teachers to buyout

Just 18 takers shy of the number of teachers needed to offer an early retirement incentive, the Baltimore city school system said it was confident that it would move forward with the deal, that could save at least $5 million next year.

The school system said in a story that ran today that 332 teachers with more than 10 years experience opted to take the deal, which offered 75 percent of their currently salary paid out over five years into a city school investment account. The school system was hoping to get 350 teachers to take the early retirement incentive plan (ERIP), but no more than 750.

City school officials said until the final numbers are in--teachers have seven days to change their minds--they won't know the budget impact, or have a breakdown of the group (level of experience, what schools they left, subjects taught).

An interesting development in the story was that Jimmy Gittings, president of the principal's union, said he hoped a similar deal could be offered to city administrators.

We'd heard that there were standing-room-only meetings taking place across the district since the ERIP for teachers was announced in February. Interest was high, but the number of those who committed seemed low (about 3,200 teachers were eligible). 

Any thoughts? 

Posted by Erica Green at 9:42 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 18, 2011

Alonso is not the next Chicago schools chief

It seems that despite some serious speculation, city schools CEO Andres Alonso is not heading to the Midwest to take the helm of Chicago Public Schools. According to the Chicago Tribune, Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel name Jean-Claude Brizard, from Rochester, N.Y., as the new leader of Chicago's school system at a news conference this morning.

Alonso's name had consistently come up in media reports about who Emanuel would tap to head up Chicago's long-beleaguered school system. Out of every city that was rumored to have Alonso on its radar, or vice versa, Chicago made the most sense. And, frankly, the idea of Chicago as a possible contender--Alonso has not announced whether he will renew his contract in Baltimore--made a lot of people in Baltimore's education circles squirm. Alonso's style was said to be a perfect match for Emanuel's job description, though some questioned whether the city was big enough for both personalities.

So, we can cross that one off the list. On to the next rumored city...

Alonso's current contract expires on June 30.

Posted by Erica Green at 12:22 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

City school system to seek private funding for public school improvemements

We wrote a story Monday about how the new Baltimore Design School, due to open this fall, will move into a historic building in the Station North district in 2013.

The deal for the old, Lebow Clothing Factory came by way of public-private funding and what some have called high-profile advocates (the school was founded by MICA President, Fred Lazarus and Sen. Catherine Pugh).

The creative finance model used to buy the Lebow building--which included funding from developers and private bonds--was praised by city school leaders as a model that should be replicated across the district.

The school system signed on to a $1.7 million annual lease for the building--an investment that some city school board members believed should have been made in multiple schools.

City schools CEO Andres Alonso said that he'd like to explore more private funding options, much like the Lebow financing, to help fix the city's dilapidated school buildings. The capital improvement budget alone cannot support the massive, multi-billion dollar overhaul of school facilities, he said.

The school system will begin a $1.4 million assessment of all of its buildings, which will yield a detailed list of improvements for each city school. Those reports would then be shopped around to potential funders in the private sector, who may want to take up a project or two. 

Posted by Erica Green at 10:48 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 15, 2011

A message to county teachers: Stay Focused.

A Baltimore County middle school teacher contacted me today to say that her paycheck had a message from School Superintendent Joe A. Hairston on the pay check stub. The stub read: "Message from Dr. Hairston: Stay focused."

She found this puzzling.  Today, she said, she was hoping for a nice message wishing her a good break. "Times are tough in BCPS," she said. Teachers are being excessed, class sizes are about to rise, she said. The MSA testing is done for the year, so even a small thank you would have been appreciated, she said.

 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:15 PM | | Comments (15)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

April 14, 2011

Baltimore city seeking school board members

Three positions--two of which can be reappointments--are open on the Baltimore city school board. The Maryland Department of Education has announced that the recruitment process has begun for those interested in applying. For more information on how to apply, click here.

Posted by Erica Green at 10:30 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 13, 2011

Maryland Film Festival to feature documentary on journey of Filipino teachers in Baltimore

On the lineup for the Maryland Film Festival  next month is an interesting documentary called "The Learning" that follows Filipino teachers on their journey as they leave their native hometowns to come teach in Baltimore city schools.

This should be a provocative and evocative look into a phenomenon that has taken place across America and right here in Baltimore--there are more than 600 Filipino teachers in the city--with the hiring boom of Filipino teachers over the past decade to fill positions that require highly qualified teachers. The film's synopsis is: (You can check out the film's Facebook and PBS pages.)

"One hundred years ago, American teachers established the English-speaking public school system of the Philippines. Now, in a striking turnabout, American schools are recruiting Filipino teachers. The Learning is the story of four Filipino women who reluctantly leave their families and schools to teach in Baltimore. With their increased salaries, they hope to transform their families’ lives back in their impoverished country. But the women also bring idealistic visions of the teacher’s craft and of life in America, which soon collide with Baltimore’s tough realities."

Here in Baltimore, we've documented over the years what has often been stories detailing the victimization of Filipino teachers. The most recent story was just last week where we found that the district was using the same practices in hiring Filipino teachers as Prince George's County, which was recently ordered to pay more than $4 million in reimbursement fees to its teachers for work visas and nearly $2 million labor violation penalties.

I look forward to this documentary telling another part of the story.

Posted by Erica Green at 11:47 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Harvard educator and researcher defends Michelle Rhee's tenure

A Harvard educator and researcher has come to the defense of former D.C. schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, after a series of newspaper investigations and reports have been released questioning the academic and stylistic accomplishments of her embattled tenure.

Paul E. Peterson, director of Harvard's Program on Education Policy and Governance and a Hoover Institution fellow, released his own analysis that seeks to debunk the recent critiques of Rhee's accomplishments during her time in D.C. He also blogs about it here.

Peterson picks apart several studies and reports about D.C. test gains in recent years, and analyzes other factors of Rhee's tenure that could account for the district's progress in recent years. Of note, he looks at D.C.'s NAEP scores--considered the most reliable measurement of student acjievement available--to find holes in the arguments against Rhee's academic gains, even suggesting that the critiques may be more appropriately directed at her predecessors.

He concludes:

"In all the numbers Rhee’s critics have assembled, the two facts that stand out have nothing to do with test scores, but rather with student and teacher absenteeism. One does not know how quickly leaders can have an impact on student learning, but strong educational leaders are known for their impact on school culture. If we take Rhee at her word, changing culture was what she was trying to do, and those falling absenteeism indicators suggest that she may have had an effect, even in a short period of time. It’s even possible that a change in the D.C. school climate accelerated learning gains. About that one cannot be certain when only two years of NAEP data are available. But one can be quite sure that a case against Rhee has yet to be established."

Posted by Erica Green at 11:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region
        

April 12, 2011

Artwork by city students on display at Walters Art Museum

From city schools partner Arts Every Day:  

Arts Every Day, the nonprofit organization that connects Baltimore City School teachers, administrators and students with local cultural organizations and working artists, will display artwork by students from 20 of its partnering elementary and middle schools at a special exhibit at The Walters Art Museum from April 13 through Sunday, April 17. 

The exhibit, sponsored by Arts Every Day, Baltimore City Public Schools, and The Walters Art Museum will showcase students’ arts integrated creations inspired by the Walters' exhibits or works of art seen during school field trips or interactive classroom lessons using the Walter's website.

On the final day of the Show, Sunday, April 17, students will give vocal and instrumental performances at a reception hosted by the Walters from 1 - 3pm; the reception is open to the public.

The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 North Charles Street in Baltimore, Maryland.  Museum hours are 10am to 5pm, Wednesday through Sunday. For more information on the exhibition and Arts Every Day, visit www.artseveryday.org.

Posted by Erica Green at 3:55 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

County Council questions school budget director

From our colleague Raven L. Hill, who covers Baltimore County government:

UPDATED at 7 p.m. Tuesday:

Baltimore County Council members had a message Tuesday for the local school system: Cut back on top-level administrative positions.

With the county’s proposed budget scheduled for release in a few days, Council Chairman John Olszewski Sr. had tough questions at the council’s work-session meeting for Baltimore County Public Schools budget director George Sarris.

Olszewski questioned Sarris, who was at the meeting for an unrelated issue, about the anticipated savings from eliminating more than 196 teacher positions, saying that he’d been told the district will save more than the estimated $15.8 million.

“If that’s the case,” Olszewski said, “then I want to know where that money is going.”

Sarris said that was not the case, adding that an average salary of $61,336 was used to calculate the savings. The jobs will be cut through attrition, not firings or layoffs.

However, Olszewski, an Edgemere Democrat, also expressed concern that the district was not doing enough to keep its costs in check, saying that long-vacant administrative positions should be frozen. Citing the recent hiring of Deputy Superintendent Renee Foose, whose position had been open for nine months, the council chairman also suggested that the district hold off on filling a liberal arts director position and deputy area superintendent for middle schools. Foose will be paid $214,000 annually.

“If we’re going to have less teachers then the common-sense approach should be less administrative individuals as well,” he said. “If sacrifices have to be made then they have to be made all the way around, not just in particular groups.”

The local teachers union and some members of the county’s state legislative delegation have called for the school system to restore some teaching jobs by cutting back on administrative costs. County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, a Democrat, has said the county can’t afford to restore the positions in his budget plan, which is scheduled for introduction this week.

Councilman Kenneth N. Oliver, a Randallstown Democrat, recommended combining some top-level positions, and asked Sarris whether the district is using operating funds for some testing and assessment materials that could be purchased with grants. Sarris replied that the district was not.

Reached after the meeting, schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston said the district has implemented numerous cost-saving measures over the past year, such as not adding new programs.

The school system restructured the executive team to reduce the number of top-level administrators from 12 to 9 and gave teachers raises, Hairston said.

“We have not cut any teachers. There have been no layoffs of teachers, there have been no furloughs of teachers,” he said. “We’ve been consistent with our message since the beginning of our budget presentation in January. The budget was designed to preserve teaching positions and programs, and we used $15 million to pass on salary increments to teachers and staff.”

Olszweski said he wants any excess savings to go toward keeping teacher jobs.

“We know we can’t restore all of those positions, but if we can restore a few I think that’s heading in the right direction,” Olszewski said.

The school district and council will meet next month to discuss the budget.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 3:43 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Baltimore's state funding restored with alcohol tax, budget hearing scheduled for Wednesday

The Baltimore city school system will receive its full state funding and some additional money for facilities, due to a last minute development Monday night before the closing of the 2011 legislative session. The city school system was facing a more than $17 million cut in the state's proposed fiscal 2012 budget. The impact was said to be devastating to schools in the city because they would have to absorb the cut. The district had already announced other cost-saving measures, including another reorganization that would trim central office staff and an early retirement plan that would seek to buyout about 750 of the city's most experienced teachers.

Not everyone may be toasting to the funding restoration, however. The crisis was averted by an alcohol tax that will rise to 9 percent from 6 percent on July 1, according to our Annapolis reporters. You can read more of our comprehensive end-of-session coverage, which includes other major education developments, in today's Sun.

The state's restoration of funds was a win for city schools as it continues the throes of budget planning with (the last I heard) a $48 million deficit, down from $70 million two months ago.  The city school system will hold a public forum to receive recommendations for its its fiscal 2012 budget at City school headquarters (200 E. North Ave.), Wednesday at 5 p.m. The public will have an opportunity to weigh in. The final budget is due to be released on May 10.

Posted by Erica Green at 12:56 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

April 11, 2011

New contract for BTU paraeducators and professional staff

About 3,000 paraeducators and other professional staff represented by the Baltimore Teachers Union will receive pay raises and more vacation time under a tentative deal struck by the union and city school system.
The union’s announced Monday Paraprofessionals and School Related Personnel (PRSP) chapter of the BTU—which includes teacher's aides, classroom assistants, accountants, secretaries, and office staff—will receive raises retroactive to July 1, 2010, more holidays off, and members who do not work in a school will also be able to take a spring break.
The union would not release any more details until the contract was presented to its members, according to a spokeswoman, who also said that a ratification date has not yet been set.

Posted by Erica Green at 4:26 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Center on Education Policy report on achievement

The Center on Education Policy, a D.C. based research group that has tracked student achievement since the beginning of NCLB, released a report last week that looks at trends in test data from 2003 to 2009 in many states, including Maryland. While most of the raw data can be found at mdreportcard.com, CEP has looked at trends in subgroups at both the proficient and advanced levels on the MSAs. In fourth and eighth grade, students of color, low income students and special education students are all closing the achievement gap in both reading and math.

But that doesn't mean there still aren't gaps. African Americans are far behind white, Asian and Latino students. And compared to white students, a much smaller percentage of African American students are reaching the advanced levels. It is interesting to note that most African American students are in Baltimore City and Prince George's County where gifted and talented programs are very limited compared to the county school systems. 

In addition, boys continue to fall behind girls in reading while girls are catching up to them in math. For anyone interested in looking at trends, the report provides a wealth of data put into bite size chunks.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region
        

April 7, 2011

Kamenetz tells legislators he will not restore 196 teaching positions

There's a late development in the dispute over cuts to high school teaching positions. Tonight Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz wrote to state legislators saying the county can't come up with the money to fund the nearly 200 positions that have been cut. He blames the county school system, in part, because it appears to have underestimated by $9 million how much it will cost to fund employee health care next school year. And, without going into all of the details of the Thornton funding formula and costs the state is shifting to counties, he says the bottom line is that education funding is not going up enough to offset the cost of an increase of 600 students next fall.  I filed a story on line now and in tomorrow's paper that explains the ramifications that are being felt at Lansdowne High School in southwest Baltimore County.  

Parents, students and teachers across the county had hoped that Kamenetz would put pressure on the school board and School Superintendent Joe A. Hairston to perhaps cut some adminstrative positions instead of teachers in schools. Behind the scenes, school employees and parents began to think that a bargain could be struck. 

 

They believed that if the new money the legislature had worked to get for education (about $6.8 million for the county) was added to a few million from Kamenetz, the county school system might be able to cut administrators and come up with the remainder needed to keep teachers in schools. Somehow if all the dollars were put together it would be enough - about $15 million in a $1.3 billion budget  - to restore the positions. Now it appears Kamenetz won't be giving any more money to the schools.

The focus seems to be shifting back to whether the school board or the county council will decide to make any last minute changes and whether either body will begin to intervene in the process. It seemed clear from Tuesday night's board meeting that school superintendent Joe Hairston doesn't intend to make any changes. Rather, he seemed to justify the cuts.

 Kamenetz, in his first year, may be blamed for not working to resolve the issue. Weeks remain before the budget finally is passed and there's still more time for the politicians and the school board to work things out. Principals making crucial decisions about what classes they will be able to hold next year don't have much more time.

One last point about money and spending. At last Tuesday's school boad meeting, the board pulled one contract item that had made it to the agenda off the table for the final vote.

It was a $5 million contract for something called Language!, a series aimed at helping struggling readers, I believe. I asked a board member why the item had been pulled at the last minute and he said the adminstration had made the decision. So, the question is whether the county schools thought that perhaps a $5 million expenditure, one third of what it would take to restore the teachers, would bring criticism in a month when students are protesting and parents are angry.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:00 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

Hairston to meet with Baltimore County legislators in private meeting Friday morning

After having called School Superintendent Joe A. Hairston on the carpet during two public meetings, delegates to the Maryland General Assembly have agreed to meet behind closed doors with him tomorrow morning, according to The Towson Times.

Delegates had asked Hairston to explain why he is cutting teaching positions and not administrative positions in next year's budget. Parent Laurie Taylor-Mitchell said in an email that she hopes the legislators will let the public know the result of the meeting.

 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 3:24 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County
        

April 5, 2011

How can successful public charters bridge achievement gap?

Today we wrote a story about KIPP Ujima Academy, one of the most successful charter schools in Baltimore, stopping a practice that raised the eyebrows of some of its fellow public schools and city schools CEO Andres Alonso.

Since 2003, the school had giving an entrance placement test to rising sixth graders who sought to transfer to KIPP after completing fifth grade at other schools. If the transferring sixth graders failed the test, they'd have to repeat fifth grade at KIPP in order to enroll at the public charter school.

KIPP's position was that they did not believe the test to be a barrier to enrollment, but used it to provide a foundation for students to be successful. Still, it's a foundation that no other public charter in the city--no matter how high its performance-- had the luxury of providing.

"The kids come as is," Alonso has proclaimed, and schools have to rise to the challenge. 

KIPP Ujima, part of a national network that has drawn some criticism for high attrition rates, stopped giving the test for this coming school year, per Alonso's request. They understood the perception that the test could repel families.

But the issue isn't so black and white. There is no doubt that KIPP Ujima has provided a stand-out education to some of the city's most underserved student populations--which is why this entrance exam made for an interesting debate.

KIPP has managed to put hundreds of children--many below grade level and low-income--on an impressive and accelerated path to success through its distinct rigor and school climate. It is also among a handful of charters in the city who allow students to come in after the initial point of entry, which for KIPP is fifth grade. And many of the students who tranfer in sixth grade are at least two grade levels behind. The difference of the levels can be so vast, that students could arguably be set up for failure.

So, how do successful public charter schools bridge the gap between the students they set out on an accelerated path, and the ones who have so far to go to catch up?

Posted by Erica Green at 5:23 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Charter Schools
        

April 4, 2011

Baltimore's graduation rate: A tale of two cities

An interesting debate took place on the opinion pages of The Sun recently. 

A teacher who taught at Western High School--one of the city's historic flagship high school--for 22 years, wrote a scathing analysis of the city's climbing graduation rate, and exposed a practice that could have inflated those numbers in recent years.

Paul Evans, who recently retired after teaching in the district for a total of 31 years, explained how Western administrators were instructed by North Avenue to reduce the number of students on the school's list who shouldn't graduate. Evans claims that in recent years, city school officials would kick back the list of 20-25 and Western would, "dutifully pare the list down to an "acceptable level" by allowing many unworthy students to graduate."  The school would ultimately submit seven or eight, Evans wrote.

Evans was compelled to write in response to another letter to the editor, where authors of a recently released national report, "Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, 2010-2011 Annual Report," sang the praises of Baltimore's improved graduation rate--the same praises that we've referenced in several stories in the months after the city announced its 66 percent graduation rate last year. 

These authors concluded in their letter that, "with the lives of young Americans and the country's future place in the world at stake, the hopeful tale of Baltimore City's educational progress serves as a challenge to other communities."

However, Evans said that as a result of graduating students out of the system, city students have become less serious and are not held responsible for their futures.

He wrote that the city's graduation practices, "also demonstrates why the increase in graduation rates has not resulted in higher SAT scores, nor has it increased the readiness level of Baltimore City graduates for college-level work. It also explains why the large majority of high school graduates in the city still must take remedial courses, in English and especially math, in their first year of college. " (Inspired by the same report, a professor at a local community college later wrote in to comment on the topic.)

Evans concluded: "The city, and especially the students, deserve better. The bar truly needs to be raised."

So whose account do you believe? Do Baltimore's graduation numbers tell the story of a district that is graduating students who are prepared to compete in the world?  Or a district that is graduating enough students to compete with other districts in national reports?

Posted by Erica Green at 9:32 PM | | Comments (12)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Prince George's County owes Filipino teachers $4 million

The Washington Post is reporting today that the Prince George's school system will have to pay foreign teachers $4.2 million in wages that were withheld from them. A federal investigation has concluded that the teachers had to pay visa application fees before they came to the United States in order to get jobs in Prince George's. The fees essentially lowered the total compensation for the foreign teachers compared to the American teachers. "It is appalling that a schoo ldistrict illegally and unfairly exploited workers who came from other countries to teach in Americand schools," said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, in a statement released today. 

The school system is being fined as much as $1.7 million, the paper reports.

The next question is whether Baltimore's Filipino teachers also had to pay for their visa application fees and whether Baltimore may be the next city to be investigated. Hundreds of Filipino teachers were brought to the city about half a dozen years ago when the school district didn't have enough qualified teachers to fill the empty teaching jobs. Today, the city is hiring few teachers and no longer recruits in the Philippines. The AFT has called attention to similar abuses in other states.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 8:25 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Region
        

April 3, 2011

Grasmick still has lots of work to do

In today's editorial, the paper's editorial board writes about Nancy Grasmick's legacy. What has been noted in the past several days, is Grasmick's enormous ability to bring varying interests together to push forward the reforms she wanted. Having watched her for more than a decade, I can say she has gained a lot of friends just by being warm and gracious in public, even to those she had majors disagreements with. She will need every bit of that charm and the steel interior, to get through the next several months. What hasn't been noted is that she has a lot of difficult work ahead to build the teacher evaluation system, a key component of Race to the Top, which may be as defining for the future of education in the state as the high school assessments or the early childhood education initiatives.

 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 8:38 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region
        

April 1, 2011

Baltimore should take notes from D.C.'s massive cheating scandal

Our editorial board weighed in today on the recent USA Today investigation that revealed a high number of erasure marks on standardized test booklets in D.C. public schools--particularly in schools that had seen notable gains in test scores.

While Baltimore has experienced a similar situation in at least one school, though not to the degree found in D.C., our editorial board concluded that city school officials would be wise to take their initiatives to detect possible cheating a step further as a result of what's been revealed about our neighbors to the south.

City schools officials have boasted about revving up their monitoring efforts during testing--spending $320,000 to place monitors in every school during the MSAs this year--but is that enough?

Our editorial board weighed in on that question, concluding: "We hope Baltimore will never have to endure the kind of testing scandal Washington’s school system is currently facing. But that won’t come from resting on its laurels and assuming enhanced monitoring means it can’t happen here. Baltimore should continue to monitor erasure patterns and to make that information available to the public. We have no reason to suspect that the gains shown here aren’t genuine, and publishing that information would serve only to eliminate any possibility of suspicion."

Do you agree?

Posted by Erica Green at 3:57 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Baltimore City
        

Who could fill Nancy Grasmick's shoes?

Today, state education reporter Liz Bowie wrote a story outlining what Maryland's education and state leaders said are the next set of challenges for the next state superintendent, who will be charged with carrying the torch of arguably the state's most respected and successful superintendent.

Many agree that the retirement of Nancy Grasmick--the longest-serving superintendent in the nation--on June 30 will be the end of a formative era in Maryland's education system. Our editorial board weighed in with a piece, "Nancy Grasmick will be a hard act to follow."  Feel free to weigh in on The Sun's poll about Grasmick's legacy.

The burning question now is: Who can follow in her footsteps?

Posted by Erica Green at 11:03 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region
        
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