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September 30, 2011

More bridge projects reported by state school officials

Those bridge projects that everyone hoped would go away when they were introduced four or five years ago, are here to stay as long as the High School Assessments survive, it appears. Yes, more students, not fewer are using them to meet the HSA requirement, the state reported today. Bernard Sadusky, the interim state superintendent for schools, was originally in charge of those bridge projects for the state. In an interview today, he said he has interviewed hundreds of students about their experiences with the test and the bridge projects.  "We would like to see that number (of projects) decrease," he said. "I think we would have to take a strong look at the interventions" students are getting before they take the tests. "In my mind there is no reason every student can't pass the test." 

Those students who struggle, Sadusky said, tell him they give up on the test about 45 minutes into the end of year assessments. But students tell him that the projects can be done in segments. "The bridge examples are practical and they can relate to them," Sadusky said. Teachers who overseen students working with the bridge projects, tell him that they know use some of those projects in their regular lessons because they are so successful with struggling students. About 30 percent of all special education students and a third of English Language Learners are using the bridge plans to meet the graduation requirement.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:06 PM | | Comments (8)
Categories: Around the Region

State says graduation rate highest in history

Maryland's graduation rate rose to - 87 percent - the highest in recent history, according to state officals. The bad news, however, is that the drop out rate has risen as well, apparently because of a poor economy.

We haven't heard from many school systems around the region, but Baltimore City CEO Andres Alonso called the system's graduation data "awesome." In the past four years, the city school graduation rate has risen 20 percent to 70 percent, a figure that is unusual he said among large urban school districts.

The other big news is that nearly half of schools in the state haven't met AYP.

We will update the blog through the day with more information as we sort through the recently released charts.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:50 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Around the Region

September 27, 2011

Filipino teacher featured in new documentary blogs goodbye to Baltimore

One of the Filipino teachers featured in 'The Learning,' the documentary about four teachers' journey from their lives in the Philippines to Baltimore city classrooms, is leaving the city school system to take a job in Philadelphia.

In a blog post, Angel Alim-Flores, who started her American teaching career at Harlem Park, shares her decision to leave Baltimore city for a new life in Philadelphia. It appears that it was driven primarily by her faith, and, in part, job and citizenship security.

Here's an excerpt from her post: 

I have gained a lot of skills working in BCPSSS (Harlem Park Middle, Dr.Roland N. Patterson Sr Academy, Pimlico Elementary Middle & North Bend Elementary Middle) and I am so thankful for that. Baltimore molded me to be the tougher teacher that I am today. I will surely take all the good memories with me wherever I go. Their support and care have made me stronger. The kids that I have worked with, the colleagues that have shown me greatness and the administrators that gave me love and covered my backs will always be my part of my life."

Posted by Erica Green at 11:51 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

Roland Park parents rally behind middle-school recess

This past weekend, we ran a story about a group of Roland Park parents advocating for recess for their middle school students.

While recess in elementary school is pretty standard, it's less common in middle schools--not just in Baltimore, but in neighboring districts as well. City school officials said that 53 of its 88 schools with middle grades offer some form of recess, while 86 percent of its elementary schools do. Still, parents say that it's essential to their students academic and sociological development.

It was quite an experience reporting the story, with only a few parents willing to go on the record about what has become a particularly charged issue in the school's community. And it has sparked quite a debate in the district and from our readers.

Here is a Letter to the Editor , titled "Roland Park is no academic sweatshop" from the school's PTA President that we ran today. Another reader, also a middle-school teacher,  from Rochester wrote in today to weigh in on the issue.

My reporting found that the parents desire for more recreational relief from the school's stringent academic model is running up against the schools budget and staff realities. But, it is hoped that the school can come up with a compromise and serve as a model for the rest of the district as schools try to juggle the demands of a well-rounded education.


Posted by Erica Green at 11:30 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 25, 2011

Maryland State School Board discussing discipline

On Tuesday the Maryland State Board of Education will continue its discussion of discipline policies, with a panel of experts to talk about the length of time a student can be out of school while appealing a suspension. The board also will discuss the search for a new state superintendent.
The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at its Baltimore headquarters at 200 W. Baltimore Street and continue until late afternoon.
Discussion of the discipline policies is expected to begin at 2 p.m. The board also will hear a report on Maryland’s Race to the Top program and the SEED School, a public boarding school.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:43 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

Parents join effort to push for renovated schools

A campaign called Transform Baltimore has been taking shape as city activists make the rounds of back-to-school nights around the city to get parents to join a coalition that has been building to get the city's schools renovated or rebuilt. So far Transform Baltimore has gotten a warm reception at 49 of the first 50 schools they have gone to around the city, according to Bebe Verdery, the ACLU of Maryland's education director. The group has created a video which can be viewed on its website to show what can be done with federal stimulus funds to improve a school.

As the efforts get rolling in the city there's a separate campaign building among parents in Baltimore County who live along the York Road corridor from Hereford down to the city line where overcrowding has become a constant problem, particularly in the elementary schools.

At the most recent county school board meeting there was some good news on the horizon. The county school system is apparently in the planning stages to build a large elementary school on either land it owns in Mays Chapel or slightly to the east. But that doesn't solve the overcrowding problem which is expected to continue long into the future. Together the city and the county have a $4.9 billion need. The question now is whether city and county leaders will respond to the ground swell of concern by citizens on both sides of the city line.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:05 PM | | Comments (7)
Categories: Around the Region

Architecture honors for AACC students

From Anne Arundel schools reporter Joe Burris:

Anne Arundel Community College architecture students won both top awards and two Citation Awards in the 2011 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Maryland Student Design Awards Competition for community colleges.

The AIA is a professional membership association for licensed architects.


AACC student Alec Harper won an Excellence in Digital/Hybrid Media award for a Petra Visitor Center project he created in the school’s Architectural Design 3 class. 

“This is truly an outstanding example of how well prepared our AACC students are to compete with their peers on the state level,” said Michael D. Ryan, AACC professor and department chair of architecture, in a prepared statement.

AACC student Daniel Reynolds won the The Prize for Excellence in Hand Delineation for his rendering of the Milwaukee Art Museum created for his “Architectural Design 2” (ACH 112) class.
Each of the top award winners receives a $500 cash prize.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel

Arundel holds information sessions on magnet programs

From Anne Arundel schools reporter Joe Burris:

Anne Arundel County Public Schools will be holding information sessions on its magnet programs at Annapolis High School on Thursday and Old Mill High School on Oct. 5.

AACPS has 13 magnet programs for county students, including three International Baccalaureate (IB) and two Performing Visual Arts (PVA) magnets.  Applications for magnet programs will be taken beginning on Oct. 1.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel

September 24, 2011

Howard Community College holds annual horse jumping meet

From Howard County schools reporter Joe Burris:

On Saturday, Howard Community College will hold its 24th annual thoroughbred-horse-jumping competition to raise funds for students as its enrollment exceeds more than 10,000 for the first time.

School officials said that the Howard Community College Grand Prix will feature show-horse jumping and equestrian competitions. The event will be held at Marama Farm in Clarksville.


HCC officials said that for the fall semester, the school has seen a 5 percent increase in full-time re-enrollment and that over the past 10 years enrollment has increased 87 percent. Financial aid applications at HCC have increased 53% over the last three years alone, officials said.
Posted by Jennifer Badie at 12:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County

Vaillancourt opposes possible changes to school board

From Howard County schools reporter Joe Burris:

A Howard County study group formed by County Executive Ken Ulman to probe racial and geographic diversity on the county’s school board is expected to finalize a report on Monday proposing that the board be changed from comprising seven at-large elected seats to five seats elected via district and two appointed seats.

Among those voicing objections to the proposal is board member Cindy Vaillancourt, who said that she hopes Howard citizens voice their opinions to the state legislature, which must approve any changes to the board.

“I can see pros and cons to both the at-large and the by-district elected options, so honestly, I would not get any heartburn over leaving all seven positions at large or changing to the five elected by district and two elected at large,” Vaillancourt said. “I am, however, one-thousand percent opposed to taking a step backward to making any seats appointed.

“It is a slap in the face to the citizens of this county to suggest taking away their right to vote for their own elected representation,” Vaillancourt added. “In the end, this matter will be decided by our elected legislature and not a political committee.”

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

September 20, 2011

Maryland taking lead on new science standards

The next step in national standards seems to be science which are being written by 20 states including Maryland based on a framework developed by the National Academy of Sciences. Given the level of angst about STEM by business and higher education leaders, I have always been surprised that the same level of attention is not given to those subjects in classrooms. One of the concerns about any attempt to write national standards for history or science was that politics would interfere. Would everyone argue over whether to teach evolution or global warming or some controversial aspect of history?

While this may not be an issue in Maryland where evolution and global warming have been taught, it could be troublesome for a state like Texas. But so far the 20 states have gotten past this hurdle by making adoption of the standards voluntary and having a panel of scientists and educators write the framework. Achieve is once again organizing the effort and these standards may well follow shortly behind the Common Core math and language arts curriculum now being put together by the state based on the national standards.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:29 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Around the Nation

Updated: 'The Learning' makes national debut Sept. 20

The Learning has its national broadcast premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 20, 2011 at 10 p.m. on POV (Point of View) on PBS. (Baltimore broadcast: Sunday, Sept. 25 at 10:30 PM on MPT-2). The film will stream in its entirety on the POV website, Sept. 21 - Oct. 21. The Learning has been selected as part of The Economist Film Project, which presents documentaries in partnership with PBS NewsHour.

Click this link for the website, where the film will be streaming.

For those interested, here is a transcript transcript of a live chat on 'The Learning,' which took place last week after a PBS screening of the film.

Among the panelists were: Baltimore filmmaker Ramona Diaz, who directed the film; Sara Neufeld, former Baltimore Sun reporter, whose coverage of the Filipino teacher recruitment inspired the film; Erica Green, covering the current state of the Filipino teaching community; and Anthony Japzon, president of the Filipino Educators of Maryland.

'The Learning,' is a documentary that follows four Filipino women as they leave their lives behind to find the American dream-- teaching in Baltimore city schools. The four teachers represent a time early in the decade when the city struggled to hire highly qualified teachers to teach math, science and special education, and the city joined districts across the nation in hiring from abroad.

Though the recruitment--which as we have reported has recently come under scrutiny--has ceased in Baltimore city, Filipino teachers account for roughly 10 percent of the city's 6,000 teachers. As we've also reported recently, many Filipino teachers face an uncertain future in the district, as it struggles to show the need for them as the job market tightens for American teachers.

In the film (I've seen a screening) Diaz captures the good, the bad and the raw aspects of the teachers' lives, in and outside of the classroom. Featured in the film are teachers' experiences at Harlem Park, Renaissance Academy, Lockerman-Bundy and Polytechnic Institute.


Posted by Erica Green at 11:19 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City

Third graders show purple pride with poem

If you're still reeling from the Ravens lost this weekend, I thought this might lighten you up. A third-grade creative writing class at Alexander Hamilton Elementary School in West Baltimore wrote this poem after the Ravens dominated the Pittsburgh Steelers in their opening game.

The students' teacher, Phallon Perry, passed this along this week to showcase her students' work and to promote writing in schools.

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore city Ravens are the BEST

The Ravens are better than the REST

Their colors are Purple and BLACK

They gave the Steelers a SMACK

Ray Lewis tackles HARD

The Ravens stomped the YARD

The Ravens are a winning TEAM

They are the best you've ever SEEN

Posted by Erica Green at 10:58 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 16, 2011

Promoting civic engagement in schools

In light of Constitution Day, and in the wake of the city's recent record-low voter turnout this week, I thought I'd share an effort that seeks to promote civic engagement in schools.

Today, former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor championed an effort undertaken by the Campaign for the Civic Mission of Schools, a coalition of 40 organizations committed policies that would improve civic learning in grades K-12.

The organization released a full report with analysis and policy recommendations for civic engagement in schools. O'Connor also wrote an interesting op-ed in the Philadelphia Inquirer about what she called "America's civic education deficit"

In the group's policy report, they build their case on a jarring national trend: "On a recent national assessment in civics, two-thirds of all American students scored below proficient. On the same test, less than one-third of eighth graders could identify the historical purpose of the Declaration of Independence, and fewer than one in five high school seniors were able to explain how citizen participation benefits democracy."

In the city, we marked a critical mayoral election this week that marked the lowest turnout numbers to date. I have always been interested in the debate about whether civic engagement is something you learn at home, or are taught in school. Either way, it's apparent that we need to do a better job of both.

Posted by Erica Green at 12:55 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Around the Nation

Balt. Co. Council members protest school board task force vote

A recent unannounced vote by a legislative task force that ruled out changing the Baltimore County school board to at least partly elected is being protested by four County Council members.

Members of the School Board Task Force abruptly decided Friday against recommending the addition of any elected board members. The group was created to explore ways that the recently embattled school board could be more transparent and responsive to the public.

County lawmakers said in a letter Thursday that they would like to see the action reversed and a new vote taken. The letter signed by Vicki Almond, David Marks, Todd Huff and Cathy Bevins expressed "disappointment" that there was no advanced notice of a meeting, the vote did not appear on the meeting's agenda, and three voting members were absent, including a County Council representative.

"The issue of direct elections is central to any discussion of school board reform," the letter read. "There are different viewpoints among members of the county council, but one thing is certain: our representative should have been given the opportunity to vote."

To read the full letter, click here.

Posted by Erica Green at 12:23 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County

September 13, 2011

Maryland schools would get boost from Obama jobs plan

Maryland's schools, particularly Baltimore City, stand to receive millions of dollars under President Barack Obama's new jobs plan, according to our political reporter Annie Linskey.

According to our coverage, Maryland schools would receive $315.8 million in federal construction money and $114.2 million would be directed to Baltimore City Schools under the $447 billion jobs bill President Barack Obama sent to Congress this week.

The city's dilapidated school buildings, and the $2.8 billion needed to improve them has emerged as a top priority for lawmakers, community activists and state education officials. And recently, Baltimore County revealed that it also had a $2.2 billion need. State officials said conditions are similar across the state and a large-scale alternative financing plan is in the works.

The money is part of a $25 billion program the Obama administration says would be used to modernize 35,000 public school across the country. Of that money, $10 billion would be directed toward the 100 largest high-need public school districts, including Baltimore, Prince George's County and Montgomery County schools, according to a list released by the Obama administration.

This week, three Baltimore city teachers joined officials from the American Federation of Teachers in the White House Rose Garden to hear Obama present his plan. Afterward, they engaged in a one-hour discussion with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, where they joined teachers from across the country in sharing the struggles of their school districts.

In addition to the funding for school renovations, another $541.7 million would be used to help the state pay salaries for teachers, police and firefighters.

Baltimore teachers told Duncan about the pipes that leak dirty water into students' eyes, the strained budgets in their schools, and the need for stronger support of the nation's educators, said Terrell Williams, a teacher at Holabird Academy, who attended the events. 

“It was an absolutely incredible experience," Williams said. "It made me realize that these issues are not particular to Baltimore City. We are feeling this across the country. Teachers are losing jobs. Buildings are not holding up. And it’s really important because if this [bill] gets passed, we can deal with some of these issues.”
Posted by Erica Green at 2:49 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

Report sheds light on college enrollment trends for city school graduates

This week we reported a finding about the city's college enrollment trends, highlighted in a new report by the Baltimore Education Research Consortium,  which provided the most comprehensive tracking to date of how many Baltimore city students head to college after they graduate, what kinds of programs they are enrolling in, and the percentage of students who end up earning a degree.

In a story Monday, we highlighted one of the trends that I found drew the most attention in my reporting: more Baltimore city students are enrolling in two-year-colleges, reversing a long-standing trend of city school graduates primarily enrolling in four-year-universities.

The report concluded that this should be an area of concern for the school system, because research shows that city students who have enrolled in two-year-colleges have been far less likely to complete college, and the numbers, which you can find in the story or report, are jarring.

Researchers began with the class of 2004, tracking its college enrollment and degree completion rates through 2010. Of all city schools graduates from the Class of 2004 who ever enrolled in college, 23% earned either a 2-year or 4-year degree within six years.

While city school officials called the report a "wake-up call," officials at local colleges said the report failed to take into account the circumstances that make them the ideal and most practical choice for Baltimore city students who want a college career--particularly in this economic climate.

I would encourage readers to take a look at the actual report. It's full of interesting information--I could write dozens of stories from it--broken down in different ways (i.e. charter vs. traditional vs. transformation vs. entrance criteria school graduate college completion rates, the selectivity of the schools that each group is enrolling in, etc.)

Weigh in on what you find most interesting. 

Some other highlights from the report are listed below, (from the BERC):

• Local colleges and universities have disparate definitions of college readiness. Local institutions vary so greatly that students who are labeled college ready at one local college often will not be at another. This has far-reaching implications for students in term of the cost of college and time to graduation.
• Recent national statistics indicate that about 70% of high school graduates enroll in college right after high school graduation, while 54% of low-income students do so (U.S. Census Bureau, 2009). On average, about 48% of Baltimore’s recent graduating students enrolled in college immediately after high school graduation.
• Over time, the number of graduates who enroll in college rises: Among the Class of 2008, 60.8% had enrolled by 2010.
• There has been an increased enrollment of City Schools graduates into 2-year colleges compared to 4-year. Both national and City Schools data show that students who enroll in 2-year colleges are less likely to complete degrees.
Posted by Erica Green at 11:39 AM | | Comments (21)
Categories: Baltimore City

September 9, 2011

Baltimore County task force votes on hybrid board

Baltimore County's task force on the selection of school board members unexpectedly voted today against recommending a hybrid board. Some members say opponents forced through a vote when they knew the vote would go their way. Several members who supported a hybrid board were not present at the meeting. More details will appear later tonight at the Baltimore Sun website and in the paper tomorrow.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 7:05 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County

September 6, 2011

Alonso named to board overseeing NAEP

Baltimore City CEO Andres Alonso was named to the National Assessment Governing Board today, one of seven new members named by Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Alonso will be one of 24 members of the board that overseas the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test given to students around the nation that is considered the only current measure that compares one state to another and some cities to one another. The term begins in October and runs for four years. Six other members were appointed, including a high school math teacher from Indiana, Kentucky's commissioner of education, the chairman of the Tennessee State Board of Education, and a research  professor in Oregon.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:09 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Around the Nation

Questioning technology in the classroom

A long piece in the New York Times on Sunday questions whether technology has really produced tangible results that can be measured. The Times quotes a myriad of different voices saying there is no solid research that proves students learn more in technology rich classrooms. A school system in the west has spent tens of millions on technology, even changing the way teachers deliver their lessons, but the test scores have stagnated. Voters there will now have to decide whether to continue spending extra money.
Posted by Liz Bowie at 1:47 PM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Around the Nation

September 2, 2011

Recent graduate of Dundalk says the school changed in four years

I received an email from Dundalk High School's salutatorian yesterday and I wanted to share with readers what he wrote after reading my story in Sunday's paper about Dundalk's turnaround.

Dear Ms. Bowie:

  Let me give you a little background about myself before I launch into the real reason I am writing you. I was the Salutatorian of the Class of 2011 of Dundalk High School. I took at an FBLA team to the National Competition this year in Orlando, Florida under the tutelage of Mr. Patrick Holt. I received several scholarships from Dundalk and attended the CTE dinner for my work in conjunction with my education at Sollers. I am by no means the average DHS student, but I still have a passion for the school and the teachers that have so greatly impacted my life. I am currently studying Church Ministries at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida.

As a recent graduate of Dundalk High, I can tell you personally how your article on its improvement has impacted me. I started as a freshman at DHS in the fall of 2007, a short whilte before the restructuring was ordered. I would simply like to take a moment and let you know from the perspective of a student that has seen both sides of the restructuring about the incredible change that has taken place in that institution.


Freshman year at Dundalk was terrible, there was an extreme lack of interest in students by the teachers, I'd even wager that they didn't care whether you passed or failed, they just wanted you out of their class and their paycheck at the end of each month. Fights were a near daily occurrence and teachers hardly ever got anything done because of the constant interuptions of students.

Sophomore year, when the restructuring was first initiated was quite a different story. I noticed Shouldice pushed the teachers to their limits. He wanted them to care whether the students succeeded or not and he wanted them to teach to the best of their ability. I would say Shouldice was an integral part in the driving force that continues to shape Dundalk today.

Junior year marked the same gradual change as did Sophomore year. Slightly elevated test scores, better attendance, more strict enforcement of rules and policies. New teachers coming and going each year threw some of the students, including myself off. However, I would say my defining moment came junior year. This was the second year that I had Ms. Jane Dulin for English. She is perhaps one of the best teachers in teh school and I have developed a close relationship with her. She was the one that really pushed me to be all that I could be, to challenge myself and stretch my limits.

Senior year was notably different than my freshman year. All of the teachers were happy  to be teaching there. There was a great difference in student motivation and conduct because of the enforcement of the rules and the friendlier atmosphere. There was a great deal more technology in the school and it was much more accessible to the average student. Senior year was the year that I met mr. Pat Holt, my FBLA advisor and a close friend.

The difference between the "old" DHS and the current DHS is the difference between night and day. I wrote this message both to share with you some of my own experiences in this "failing school," but also to reinforce the fact that there have been great changes in Dundalk as a whole.

Thomas Wood

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:15 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County

September 1, 2011

Catholic school helps city school welcome more students this year

A Baltimore city Catholic school stepped up to provide 100 desks and chairs to the Holabird Academy, a school that was once slated to be closed but is slowly getting back on its feet--or seat

The St. William of York Catholic Church in Baltimore, donated 100 desks and chairs from the former parish school to Holabird Academy.

According to a letter of thanks from Brown Advisory, a local investment firm that has been working with the struggling school since 2007, the donation represents a new phase at the school.

"Holabird’s previous placement on the City’s list of schools to be closed left them with a facility, programs and grounds that had seen little, if any, regular maintenance, let alone improvements," wrote Barbara Baines.

" Holabird has gone from the brink of closing to a real City success story.  In doing so, of course, their enrollment soared, which led to the need for 100 new desks and chairs."

Community help is still sought to outfit students for the new school year. The school system saw a surge in request from families for school uniform vouchers. Hundreds of students remain on the list.

Posted by Erica Green at 7:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore City
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