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October 31, 2011

Baltimore City school board meeting date changed

The Baltimore City school board has postponed its Nov. 8th board meeting until Nov. 15th because of the general election in the city.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:12 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

October 27, 2011

Baltimore County art teachers sweep awards

Baltimore County, which has long been known for its excellence in the arts, swept the Maryland Art Teacher of the Year awards this year.

Laura Patacca-Kerr of Oakleigh Elementary School, Cecilia Terlizzi of Sudbrook Magnet Middle School and Ryan Twentey of Parkville High School each won for the elementary, middle and high school divisions.
Michael Bare was given the Retired Art Teacher award. Bare left Hereford High School last year after being excessed.

Linda Popp, the county's visual arts coordinator, said state awards are often given to teachers who make strong contributions to their communities as well as their schools. This year's winners mentored colleagues, coordinated exhibits and found other ways to take art into the community.
"Baltimore County has a history of having a really strong art program," she said. The county has outstanding art teachers,  as well as a very strong art curriculum that builds from first to 12th grade. The arts in the county have not been eliminated as they have in some other counties.
"We have a strong artistic community of teachers. They are artists. The collaborate with colleagues."
 Popp said teachers are given opportunities for professional develop and to mentor other teachers. "If we are taking care of the teachers then they are taking care of the kids," Popp said. "All kids deserve the best art."
 County art students have been national winners in the YoungArts competition sponsored by the National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts. YoungArts selects only about 150 students from nine disciplines across the nation to participate in a free week long series of workshops each year. County students are also often chosen as regional and national winnners in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards.
What has made a difference to many students is the county's approach to teaching. Once students have a foundation, he said, teachers allow them to explore their own "personal aesthetic" rather than trying to shape the student's work. "We would not try to change their work but would find other artists that work in that genre," he said.  "Mentally, they start to understand that art is visual communication of an idea....The ultimate goal is to develop their artistic voice." Bare, who is an artist himself, said he is constantly amazed at the dialogue he has with his student artists.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:05 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 25, 2011

Baltimore County school board considers search firms

The Baltimore County school board may speed up its search for a new superintendent by using a contract Montgomery County employed to hire a well known search firm, according to school board chair Lawrence Schmidt. 

Montgomery County hired a new superintendent this year using the search firm, Hazard, Young, Attea Associates. The same firm was used to hire superintendents in Frederick and Carroll counties and is involved in the search for a new state superintendent. Baltimore County used the firm 12 years ago when it hired Joe A. Hairston. 

 The county board first intended to go through the more lengthy process of soliciting bids from firms around the country, but Schmidt said the board could save time and money if it piggybacked on the Montgomery contract. Schmidt said the board needs more of its questions answered by the firm before it can decide whether to hire Hazard.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:09 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 24, 2011

Catholic enrollment declines have slowed

The Archdiocese of Baltimore said today that enrollment at its schools declined 4.3 percent this year, cutting the number of students who are leaving the Catholic school system in half. Last year, enrollment declined by 9 percent overall, and the Archdiocese closed schools and reorganized its system.

The Archdiocese said in a press release today that AdvanceEd, an accreditation organization, had recommended that the system be accreditated after evaluating the 60 schools in the system and the central offices.  A strategic plan completed last year after the reorganization was credited with stemming the decline in enrollment.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:10 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Around the Region

Kamenetz and the golden doorknob comment

 County Executive Kevin Kamenetz in a meeting with the Perry Hall Improvement Association said he thought parents wanted schools to have golden doorknobs. The comments, reported by Patch, have been making the rounds of blogs and Facebook page postings.  On Wednesday at the Board of Public Works meeting, Comptroller Peter Franchot referred to the remark while criticizing Kamenetz for not using any of the $7 million in school construction dollars from the alcohol tax for air-conditioning in schools. The Comptroller, who has been mentioned as a candidate for governor, has been putting heat on the county to improve its climate control.

But Don Mohler, chief of staff for Kamenetz, said the county executive has used the golden doorknob reference on several occasions to express his concern that if the county switched from an appointed to an elected school board, the board might not be as fiscally prudent and would want golden doorknobs. But in a county where most schools aren't air-conditioned and class sizes have swelled this year with the cutting of 200 teacher positions, parents view the remark as out of touch.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:22 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Baltimore County

Speaking out for school construction dollars

While there's been complaining in Baltimore County recently about the lack of air-conditiong and the overcrowding in schools, the city's teachers, parents, students and education advocates have banded together to try to get some solutions to their facilities problems. The group, Transform Baltimore, has started a campaign to get City Hall to agree to some more creative approaches to financing $2.8 billion in school construction needs.

On Nov. 3rd, Transform Baltimore will hold a Speak Out at 4:30 pm in the War Memorial Building where parents, teachers and students from 40 to 50 schools will tell stories about the deficiencies in their schools.

The mayor, city council members and state legislators will be invited to listen. Transform Baltimore has some solutions, including using a financing option that built and renovated 70 schools in Greenville, South Carolina's school district in five years.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:08 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Around the Region

October 21, 2011

Release of salary information for AFT

Since we have been releasing data on school system salaries, we wanted to note here on the blog some of the salary data for the American Federation of Teachers. Drop Out Nation has just posted a story on the salaries of the AFT, the union representing urban teachers. In Maryland, the AFT represents Baltimore teachers and one of the longtime leaders is Loretta Johnson.  Johnson has risen in the ranks of the AFT and is now making $369,408, according to the records Drop Out Nation looked up. Randi Weingarten, president of the AFT, made $493,895.


Johnson, with Marietta English, helped negotiate Baltimore's newest union contract that is considered one of the most progressive in the nation because it rewards teachers for performance rather than the number of years they have been in the profession. Not everyone thinks payiing teachers based on performance is a good idea, and we will see what the results are in Baltimore in several years.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:46 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Nation

October 20, 2011

Today is National Day on Writing

I am going to take the liberty of encouraging all teachers out there to get their students to celebrate the day with a little bit of writing. I know all but the very youngest of your students will probably be doing a little bit of texting today. They might even be tweeting, or heaven to Betsy, putting pencil to paper.

So how about a little creativity? Maybe they could write a poem, a description of the room around them, a funny line or two? Post their work in the comment section here so we can all enjoy the day together! And here's a link to the National Day on Writing  website.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 8:35 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Nation

College Board announces redesign of AP classes

In its latest effort to give depth to its Advanced Placement classes, the College Board said yesterday that AP Chemistry and AP Spanish Language and Culture are being redesigned. The new courses will take effect in the 2013-2014 school year. The College Board has been criticised by some teachers and parents who see some of the AP tests as promoting memorization and a broad, rather than deep, understanding of a subject. Responding to that criticism, the College Board said it will move the chemistry  course from the "lecture and demonstrate" model toward a more "hands on and interactive" approach. The National Science Foundation was involved in the redesign of the chemistry test. About 122,000 students take the chemistry exam each year.

The new Spanish test places more emphasis on what students can do with the language rather than what they know about the language, according to officials.

A new World History test was put in place this year and next year a new Biology, Latin and Spanish Language and Culture start next school year. More information is available at the College Board website at

Posted by Liz Bowie at 5:11 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Around the Region

Middleborough Elementary parents and students fight for air-conditioning

Perhaps it is a sign of the times that a worn out, old school slated to be torn down next year is now being fought over by the public as the answer to overcrowding in the Towson area. The question, among parents at least, doesn't seem to be whether it should be torn down, but what it should become.

Carver, which was built as the first African American high school during desegregation, has had many lives and it appears to be on verge of having more. But the overcrowding in the central area is just one of the many facilities problems facing the county.

  Parents of Middleborough School students went to Annapolis yesterday to protest the inequities in a school system where less than half the schools still aren't air-conditioned. The students, who couldn't have been more eloquent, said they felt sweaty and tired when they went to school in hot classrooms. The Essex parents have taken their case to the County Executive and the school system

leadership, but haven't gotten satisfaction so they went to the Board to try to encourage them to block the spending of new construction dollars that is going to be spent on a locker room renovation, stage lighting and window and blind replacements, among other things. Baltimore County has the second lowest percentage of air-conditioned schools in the state. Only Garrett County has fewer, and one could argue that hot weather probably doesn't decend on Garrett as early in the summer as Baltimore County.

Kevin Kamenetz said he believes the problem only exists for 10 to 17 days a year and suggests the schools close for heat days just as they do for snow days. One parent recently grumbled that if it isn't so bad to be without air conditioning, then why doesn't Kamenetz keep all the air-conditioning off in county buildings until the end of the school year. Kamenetz also said he just doesn't have the money it would take to air-condition all the school buildings right now, so the school system is gradually getting air-conditioning into schools when they are renovated. Whenever a new school is built, it will have air-conditioning.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:43 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 19, 2011

Financial literacy course being proposed by Franchot

Comptroller Peter Franchot, who hasn't gotten very far with the state board in his attempts to make a financial literacy course a requirement for graduation, said he's going to gather 10,000 signatures to support the idea. Franchot said he's already gotten about a third of the signatures  and he hopes to have the full number by the beginning of the legislative session this winter.

The state board has passed a requirement that financial literacy be integrated into the high school curriculum so that every student has some exposure to it, but Franchot wants a separate course required for students if they want a diploma. While few educators would disagree with the idea of having high school students become financially literate, I know many are concerned about the growing number of requirements for graduation. The more state mandated requirements there are the fewer spots in the schedule are open for electives. Often, those electives are the only chance a student has to pursue music, art and creative writing. What do teachers, parents and administrators think about this?

Should the legislature pass a billl requiring a free standing course on financial literacy as a requirement for graduation?

Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:44 PM | | Comments (14)
Categories: Around the Region

October 18, 2011

German American Day Observed at McDaniel

About 1,000 high school students from across the state and Pennsylvania are taking part in McDaniel College's 17th annual German-American Day on Tuesday morning and afternoon, McDaniel officials said.

On Tuesday morning, students participated in workshops that include such topics as “How I survived the Holocaust” and “German Anti-Hitler Resistance.” They also took part in hands-on activities such has how to make marzipan (a confection) and German folk dance.

McDaniel College officials said that the event is sponsored by the Goethe-Institut in Washington, D.C., the German Information Center, the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG), and McDaniel College’s Department of Foreign Languages, admissions office, and bookstore.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 1:06 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

October 17, 2011

Tell the state what type of leader is needed in next state school superintendent

The state school board is holding a series of open forums for members of the public to say what characteristics they would like to see in a new school superintendent. The public also may fill in an online survey at  

 Nancy S. Grasmick, who held the job for nearly 20 years, retired in June.

The forums are being held:

Oct. 27 at Easton High School in Talbot County; Nov. 2 at Laurel High School in Prince George's County; Nov. 3 at Seneca Valley High School in Montgomery High School; Nov. 7 at Huntington High School in Calvert County; Nov. 7 at Mountain Ridge High School in Allegany County; Nov. 9 at Edgewood High School in Harford County and Nov. 10 at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute in Baltimore City.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 2:52 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

October 14, 2011

Roles of Muslim Women Explored at AACC

Anne Arundel Community College will explore aspects of Muslim cultures and the roles Muslim women at a half-day, on-campus event Oct. 22.

“Unveiling the Mystique of the Muslim Woman” will be held at the Robert E. Kauffman Theater at the Arnold Campus at 10 a.m.


The event will feature Imam Yahya Hendi, Muslim chaplain at Georgetown University; Ermin Sinanovic, Ph.D., assistant professor, Department of Political Science, U.S. Naval Academy; and Norbani Ismail, Ph.D., assistant professor, International Islamic University, Malaysia.


Posted by Jennifer Badie at 7:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel

Program Teaches Kids About Science, Nutrition

The Elkridge Branch of the Howard County Public Library is hosting “Chemistry in the Library,” an event that demonstrates the relationship between science, nutrition and healthy living.

Slated for Saturday at 2 p.m., the hands-on event will feature a chemist from the American Chemical Society and is geared toward ages 7 and older.


Posted by Jennifer Badie at 7:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Howard County

Howard County Group Hosts Hispanic Heritage Month Event

In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, the Columbia-based, nonprofit organization Conexiones of Howard County is holding its third annual countywide Hispanic Heritage Celebration on Friday evening at Long Reach High School.


Conexiones president Felícita Solá-Carter said that the event gives the organization an opportunity to showcase the county’s rich Hispanic culture.

"This is about celebrating our students," she added.

Among the performances slated: students from Deep Run Elementary School will perform a traditional Peruvian dance. Wilde Lake High School Spanish teacher Lety Jimenez and her daughter Wendy will perform a traditional Mexican dance. And students from Oakland Mills High School will perform a Columbian dance.

The event will also feature the percussion group Los Hijo 'e Plena. The group performs tunes from the pulsating music genre plena, which has roots in African and Spanish cultures.  Tickets are $25. Solá-Carter said proceeds will fund a Conexiones awards program recognizing student achievement

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 7:00 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Anne Arundel

October 13, 2011

Talking About Race series to look at black male achievement

The Open Society Institute and the Enoch Pratt Free Library will hold the next installment of the series Talking About Race on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7 pm at the Pratt's central branch at 400 Cathedral Street. Ivory Toldson, associate professor at Howard University, and Raymond Winbush, director of the Institute for Urban Research at Morgan State University, will talk about what can be done to improve the achievement of black males.
Posted by Liz Bowie at 6:56 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region

October 12, 2011

Alonso and school board grill charter hopefuls

Seven groups made their pitches to open new charter schools Tuesday, including two existing schools that are seeking to reinvent themselves with more resources and autonomy. From the looks of things, it seems the city school board will be particularly judicious in choosing who will make the cut in November.

Click here to get a full description of the applicants. Among them is a K-8 academy for girls, and a proposed co-ed military academy that is looking to open in 2013. Both were among the few schools that seemed to really capture the attention of the board.

The school board sat through each presentation, extending the meeting to nearly 11 p.m., and peppered each applicant with questions about their motives, credentials, and experience in opening and operating a school.

It was a level of interrogation that is rare for the board , but not surprising given its recent discussions of the board about mitigating the district's bulging school portfolio. About two dozen schools have opened in the district since 2007, and some are floundering due to low enrollment and heightened competition.

The schools who felt the most heat Tuesday were two existing schools seeking charter licenses: the traditional Harlem Park Elementary/Middle School and the Green Street Academy, which opened as a transformation school in 2010. Both schools said they wanted to operate their schools as charters to gain private partnerships and more money.

In his only comments of the evening, city schools CEO Andres Alonso showed a mild disdain for the applicants' notion that the charter label would bring them future prosperity, in finances and the ability to serve their students.

"I have a real problem with schools who only think they can gain that social capital by calling themselves a charter," Alonso said, adding that it was "a bankrupt way of thinking."

It was Harlem Park's second attempt to gain charter status, after being denied last year. The school's principal and her team came back this year with visuals and a more coherent plan, but the same mission: to get more resources.

"We have a challenge around the system when it comes to resources for schools--but 100 other schools aren't applying to be a charter," he told Harlem Parks principal. "I haven't heard anything on the table that you cannot do right now." 

Green Street Academy opened as a transformation school last year, and revealed Tuesday that it didn't originally seek to open as a charter because it wanted to support Alonso's vision for more transformation schools.

Now, the school wants to move out of its current building, which the school's principal said is 'lousy' and hard to share with another school. The school is also hoping to appeal to private funders, and  the schools' administrators say they have a better chance to get the support as a charter. The school's principal said he had a 'fiduciary responsibility' to seek out the best for his students.

But Alonso pointed out that the system invested $2 million for the school to move into the building last year, and he had a "fiduciary responsibility to 83,000 other children."

Posted by Erica Green at 3:59 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Baltimore City

Howard Co. lawmaker drops hybrid school board plan

A move to change the makeup of the Howard County school board stalled Wednesday, as a state lawmaker announced that he would drop a bill that would have added appointed members to the all-elected panel.

Del. Frank Turner, a Howard County Democrat, announced that he wouldn't pursue the legislation a day after a public hearing on the measure. School Board Chairwoman Janet Siddiqui complained Tuesday that Turner's measure would jeopardize the search for a superintendent and could hamper the progress of a high-performing school system. 

The bill had called for five members elected by district and two to be appointed by the county executive. The board now has seven members who are elected at large.

The hybrid school board model was voted on by a school board study commission created in August by County Executive Ken Ulman, who said he sought to address concerns by some county citizens that the board needed more racial and geographic diversity.

"This debate points to some of the frustration that many individuals experience on a daily basis." Turner said in a statement. "Achievement gap, possible loss of voters’ rights, geographic under-representation, economic disparity, recruitment of candidates, district vs. at-large seats and appointed seats were thoroughly discussed and I believe that the citizens are more aware of these complex issues as we move forward as a county.

-Andy Rosen

Posted by at 2:45 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Howard County

Dezmon says get rid of AIM if you don't like it

Speaking at the public comment portion of the Baltimore County school board meeting on Tuesday night, Barbara Dezmon said she had come to the board because "there has been an air of cruelty." She said the Articulated Instruction Module, a computer program the school system developed from her copyrighted ideas, was being "misrepresented, maligned and defamed"  on blogs and websites.

Dezmon retired in June 2010 from the job of assistant superintendent for equity and assurance. She said the public had questioned the ethics of Hairston giving her the copyright to the program which she could have made money on. Dezmon said she always intended to give the money to St. Jude's Hospital, although she had never announced that to the public. She told the school board that if they don't want to use AIM anymore they should get rid of it. "If you do decide to discontinue it, please inform me in writing."

She also told Hairston: "You have to make sure that everyone knows about the struggles to make it better for students in the system."


Posted by Liz Bowie at 11:50 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 11, 2011

The power of positivity: Dunbar High School receives outpour of support

A story about Dunbar High School's recently resurrected marching band graced the front page this weekend, and it seems to have struck a cord with readers and music lovers across the state, and even some in other parts of the country.

We profiled the effort of the school's band director, Charles Funn, a long-time staple of the school system, who has gathered a group of committed students to try and bring back the glory days, when Dunbar's 185-person marching band rivaled any college band in the country.

The students have no uniforms, they share instruments, and they're still getting used to lifting their legs and instruments at the same time.  But the heart and hope is there. And it was felt far and wide.

Readers wrote in wanting to help the band get back on its feet, others just wrote to say how great it was to see a positive story about a city school in The Sun. My email inbox has been overflowing with messages from those who want to help the band. According to the school's principal Kristina Kyles, Dunbar's phone hasn't stopped ringing since Monday morning.

So, here's information for those who are interested: 

You can call the school at 443-642-4478 and arrange with Kristina Kyles or Charles Funn.  Donations can also be dropped off (or mailed) to the school, located at 1400 Orleans Street. Checks should be made payable to: Dunbar High School Marching Band.

Posted by Erica Green at 6:12 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

Should Baltimore City do away with SES tutoring services?

We ran a story over the weekend that examined a recent report published by the Abell Foundation, which revealed some questionable practices in how a tutoring program, called Supplemental Educational Services, has been operating in the city for the past decade. Our editorial board weighed in on the story's findings today.

The program, mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act, is free to the poorest and the most academically challenged students in the system. But, it has costs the system more than $55 million in federal funding--about $2,200-$2,500 per-student every year--though the state and city school systems are limited in how much they can regulate the programs and monitor the vendors. State and city officials said that they also cannot substantiate the program's results on student achievement.

The story has generated some debate, as thousands of SES providers across the country are increasingly finding themselves on the defense about the program. A group of tutoring vendors have launched a  campaign, called Tutor our Children, to lobby for the program to survive the imminent re-authorization of NCLB. We spoke with a particularly vocal vendor for the story, who shed some perspective on the strengths of the services.

But, city schools CEO Andres Alonso said that he would overhaul the program, which serves between 4,000 to 6,000 students whose parents register them every year. Alonso said that any program intended to help the most needy students, but has no accountability, should be scrapped.

The city school system indicated that it is eying  SES as one of the NCLB programs that it will seek relief from if it receives a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education.

Is this a good idea? And if so, what should replace it? 


Posted by Erica Green at 5:40 PM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Baltimore City

Baltimore County school board voted no to new contract

Despite all the attention that Superintendent Joe Hairston has gotten in the last week, the question we will never answer is whether Hairston really wanted another four year contract or not. He told me he never wanted another contract last Thursday, but that was after Patch had written a short story that said the board had voted not to give him another contract.  Previously, he had told my colleague, Childs Walker, that he thought it was "unlikely" he would want another contract, but he didn't rule it out.  Sources said Hairston never made his intensions clear to the board before they voted just before school began not to offer him another four year contract. The question becomes why Hairston waited a month to make an announcement after he was informed of the board decision and after he had gotten advice earller this summer from both Kevin Kamenetz and Nancy Grasmick to get out in front of the decision.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 7:23 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 10, 2011

Baltimore County school employee salary database is now online

Would you like to know the salary of that outstanding teacher your child has this year or what teh colleague sitting next to you at Greenwood is making? Or maybe you are curious about how well the bus drivers are compensated. We've just posted a database with the salaries of all 17,000 employees of the Baltimore County school system  next to a story on average teacher salaries in the county. We aren't picking on the county schools. We have databases of lots of government employees online already.


Posted by Liz Bowie at 12:53 PM | | Comments (11)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 6, 2011

Hairston says he's planning to leave the system

I emailed Joe A. Hairston this afternoon and asked him whether he might want to comment on his future plans. He sent back an email that said he had never intended to seek another term. That was interesting given the fact that he wasn't willing to comment earlier on the week and told WBAL he had until February 1 to announce a decision. So I wrote a story saying he didn't plan to stay past June.  He has not yet talked to school board members, his staff or the county executive, so I was a bit surprised at the response.

Read the full story here. 

Posted by Liz Bowie at 9:57 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Baltimore County

Baltimore Co.’s school board task force meets today

From Baltimore County government reporter Alison Knezevich: 

Baltimore County’s task force on the selection of school board members is set to meet today at 4 p.m. at the Randallstown Community Center, after a controversial meeting last month.

In September, the board took an unexpected vote on the selection issue, ruling out having at least a partially elected board. Members who support a hybrid board weren’t at the meeting to weigh in. The group could reverse the vote today.

One task force member, former County Executive Jim Smith, sent a final proposal to the task force earlier this week. Smith wants to reduce board members’ terms from five years to three, and cut the board’s size from 11 members to nine. Smith, who opposes an elected school board and called for the vote last month, recommends that the governor appoint all members after getting suggestions from a nominating committee.  Click here to read the entire proposal, which was sent to The Sun.

Posted by Jennifer Badie at 2:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Baltimore County

October 5, 2011

National report highlights punitive suspensions of minority students, which are on the rise in Baltimore

A national report released today underscores the widely-known disparity in suspensions of minority students and their non-minority counterparts.

In the report, Maryland is highlighted for its efforts to curb punitive suspensions and expulsions, and Baltimore is highlighted for its effort of significantly reducing its suspension rate in recent years--though the number of suspensions in the district is up this year, including those for "soft offenses" like disrespect and insubordination.

The report, titled “Discipline Policies, Successful Schools, and Racial Justice”  was published by the National Education Policy Center (NPEC), and released in collaboration with the Annenberg Institute for School Reform and the Dignity in Schools Campaign. Using recent data from the U.S. Department of Education, and data from states that have  like North Carolina, the report's authors conclude that harsh discipline is applied disproportionately to students of color.

The report highlights troubling 2006 data, published last year, collected by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. It shows that more than 28% of black male middle school students had been suspended at least once-- nearly three times the 10% rate for white males;  18% of black females in middle school were suspended, more than four times as often as white females.

The report was released in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, with officials advocating more productive solutions that suspending and expelling students. Its authors concluded what we have all heard in Baltimore as the city has campaigned to reduce its suspensions from roughly 26,000 students in 2003 to 11,000 this year: pushing students out of school results in poor outcomes like increased dropout rates and juvenile crime. 

Jonathan Brice, who oversees student support services for the city school system, headed to Washington for the release of the report where he presented the city's successes of implementing positive interventions in city schools, and streamlining discipline policies.

"This report gives further confirmation that city schools is on the right path," Brice said, pointing to the city's recently celebrated graduation and dropout rates. "One of the things that we know is that students who are not in school, are not able to learn. And suspension and truancy is taking kids away from what's important." 

Brice discussed the variety of ways that schools employ alternatives, such as character education programs, restorative justice, community conferencing.  The system has also focused on building a code of conduct that is consistent, Brice said, so that "we have an expectation that an incident that would occur in school A, would receive the same consequences in school Z."

But, this year, the city's suspension rates rose for the first time in four years. About 1,300 more students were suspended last school year than in 2009-2010.

"I think every year we have to be reminded about losing the lowest level consequences first, that every incident does not require an out-of-school suspension," Brice said of the uptick. 

While the system noted an increase of suspensions for violence, like physical attacks on students (385 more suspensions than last year) and adults (200 more), Baltimore city schools CEO Andres Alonso said he was concerned that "soft offenses" rounded out the list of increased incidents. 

City school data shows there were 238 more students suspended in 2010-2011 school year for "disrespect" than in the previous year-- the second-highest increase among the city's 2011 suspensions; 192 students were suspended for "inciting/participating in a public disturbance;" and 82 more students were suspended for "insubordination."

When the data was released in August, Alonso said the data could indicate that educators are resorting to suspensions as a means to maintain order.

"When I see increases in those soft offenses that are not directly tied to violence, I start to get nervous,"Alonso said told a room full of principals. "We'll be watching."

The city also noted a slight uptick in expulsions last school year, according to data obtained through a public information request. Expulsions rose from 534 in 2009-2010 school year, to 558 in the 2010-2011 year. In the 2008-2009 school year, 703 students were expelled.

Last school year, the incident categories that noted the most expulsions was physical attacks on adults with 217, and "other weapons," (besides firearms), which resulted in 132.  The category "weapons possession" had the third highest number, with 82 expulsions. 

Posted by Erica Green at 2:42 PM | | Comments (20)
Categories: Baltimore City

October 4, 2011

Nobel prizes are plentiful in Baltimore County

Is it the water? Perhaps the leafy streets and old houses is what draws them? Or maybe it is just that two Nobel winners wanted really good schools for their children. This morning a neighborhood just south of Towson woke up to find it had its second Nobel Prize winner, Adam Riess who will share the prize with two others for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the universe through the observations of distant supernovae. Riess, 41, is an astronomy professor at Johns Hopkins University. Peter C. Agre, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine biochemist, won in 2003 and lived in the neighborhood at the time as well.

Posted by Liz Bowie at 10:05 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Around the Region
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