Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Why Performance Incentives and Public Schools Don't Mix

Huffington Post
By:  Peter Greene

We have always paid public servants a flat fee, untethered to any sort of "performance measures." That's because we want public service to be completely disconnected from any private interests.

Fighting Fire With Money
Imagine if, for instance, we paid fire fighters on sliding scale, based on how many of which type fires they put out at a certain speed. This would be disastrous for many reasons.

Fire fighters would refuse to work in cities where there were few fires to fight, because they couldn't make a living. In cities where there were commonly multiple fires and their livelihood on the line, fire fighters would be encouraged to look at each fire call through a lens of "What's in it for me?"

For instance, in a system where fire fighters were paid based on the value of the flame-besieged property, fire fighters might view some small building fires as Not Worth the Trouble. Why bother traveling to the other side of the tracks? It's only a hundred-dollar blaze, anyway. Let's wait till something breaks out up in the million-dollar neighborhood.

In the worst-case scenario, one of our fire fighters depending on performance-based pay to feed his family may be tempted to grab some matches and go fire up some business.

Perverse Incentivization
Occasionally we've seen these kinds of perverse incentives in action, and we don't much like it. The areas of the country where you take extra speed limit care at the end of the month because the local police have a quota to meet. The neighborhood where cops have to roust a certain number of suspects a week to keep their job ratings. Nobody thinks these are examples of excellence in public service.

In fact, we have tried private police forces and private fire companies in the past. We don't much care for how that works out, because it creates a system that provides excellent service -- but only for the customers who are paying for it.

The idea of public service is to create a class of people who are above self-interest and who do not respond to a single boss. We are outraged when abuse of police power happens precisely because we expect the police to act as if they work for everyone, and to put their dedication to that service above any single interests, including their own.

That's the definition of public service -- service roles that are stripped of any possibility of incentives other than the mandate to serve the public good. That's what we mean by "professional" -- a person who puts all personal self-interest aside and focuses on Getting the Job Done. Trying to motivate a public servant with self-interest inevitably tends to pollute the professional setting with the very self-interest that we're trying to get out of there.

Read more HERE

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Board Legal Bill over $140,000

Montgomery County school board,
critics at odds over $140,000 legal bill

October 18 

First there was public uproar about how members of Montgomery County’s Board of Education used their district-issued credit cards. Now comes fallout regarding the $140,000 in legal bills that piled up as the records for those credit cards went under review and investigation.

Board President Phil Kauffman (At Large) defended the legal costs in a commentary recently published by The Washington Post, arguing that hiring outside lawyers to examine members’ spending decisions was “the right thing to do” as the school board sought to examine its own actions and come up with new procedures.

“Objectivity was an important part of this process,” he wrote, saying that the board hired the Venable law firm for its experience handling public-integrity issues. The board asked Venable to review board expense records, provide a written report and recommend actions.

“This is standard operating procedure when an organization is reviewing its own practices, whether it’s a business, a sports league or a government agency,” Kauffman wrote.

But several Montgomery County Council members and a Montgomery watchdog group have challenged the need to involve outside lawyers and assailed the cost of the help.
“I just don’t think there is any way you can tie a ribbon on the fact that our school board spent $140,000 getting advice on how to stop wasting money and make it look good,” County Council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large) said.

Read more HERE

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Now this is interesting! Opting Out Of State Testing - Could we do it?

Florida School District Sets Precedent
By Opting Out Of State Testing

Huffington Post
August 28, 2014
By Letitia Stein

TAMPA, Fla., Aug 28 (Reuters) - A Florida school district is opting out of all state-required testing, a move that experts said on Thursday sets a national precedent amid a growing controversy over the use of high-stakes standardized assessments in public education.

The Lee County School Board voted 3-2 on Wednesday to reject state-mandated testing in a district of some 90,000 students, saying it was acting on behalf "of administrators, teachers and most importantly students, whose educational growth has not been enhanced as a result of such testing."

Lee ranks as the 33rd largest school district in the nation, according to school officials based in Fort Myers in the southwestern part of Florida.

"We can sit here and roar like little kitty cats in the future and nothing is going to happen," said school board chairman Thomas Scott, who voted to reject the testing. "We have to make an impact on what is going on."

District Superintendent Nancy Graham raised concerns about the move. "This will hurt children. There is no way around it," she told school board members.
Read more HERE

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We're not the only ones feeling the growing pains...

Montgomery schools see enrollment jump of 3,000 students

Starr says he will try to restore construction projects that were cut

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Notes from Board of Education Meeting, 10/14/14

The Board of Education Meeting on Tuesday, October 14 will be re-broadcast on Comcast Channel 96, Verizon FIOS Channel 12 and is available via webstream at . To view the full agenda and the various reports, please visit BoardDocs.

The below notes are my personal notes and are not intended to be all-inclusive or official minutes for the Board of Education meetings and are provided as a request from my supporters and the general public in a personal effort to be more transparent. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes.

Executive session – 12 p.m.
Call to order – 1 p.m. - Pledge of Allegiance – Henry E. Lackey High School

Superintendent’s update to the Board - See Report

Correspondence/board member updates
  • Pedersen - GWWO survey, thank you to everyone for attending
  • Wise - College Fair
  • Abell - APFO Committee; commissioners dismissing
  • Lukas - New Teacher Reception
Education Association of Charles County update - See Report
  • testing, teacher workloads, emails of complaints, edline does NOT make it easier, natives are restless, do more with less, no one listening to concerns, SLO workshop
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees update - See Report
  • Assist Lifestyles, collecting Twin size blankets to help the homeless.
  • North Point HS incident.  Lockdown.  Commend them on their efficiency regarding students.  Need training for visiting staff, maintenance, and parents.
Student Board member’s update - See report

Access control system
  • All exterior doors will be locked during school hours. Main door entrance will need to be buzzed in.  Doors utilized by students during school hours have been fitted with access control panels.
Student recognition update
  • Individual plans for each school.  More opportunity for students to be recognized.  Board members will receive invitations.
  • No more cluster recognition
FY 2014 Independent financial audit - nothing noted; no abnormal findings
Pension Policy -
CIP update - Report
  • St. Charles High School - Pool walls are going on now.
  • F.B. Gwynn Center - Completeing roof top units and Boiler replacements
  • Dr. Brown - Completeing roof top units and Boiler replacements
  • Lighting Improvement project at 18 schools almost complete
  • Gale-Bailey - new sewer system should be complete in the Spring.
  • Henson - Gym upgrade ongoing
  • LaPlata - Gym upgrade just began in September
  • Aging schools program - funding from state to replace ventilators
  • Access Controls - large project; installation, badges, programing and training; lost badges should be reported ASAP and there is no penalty
  • Security initiative to place outside cameras at 18 schools
  • T.C. Martin - site refurbishment for parking and bus flow to get permit for work over the summer
Bridge to Excellence and Race to the Top - Report

Secondary Academy of International Languages (SAIL)
Microsoft Office Textbook Approval - Report
  • Book will be on display at Thomas Stone, Westlake LaPlata and Starkey building)
Recruitment and staffing update - Report
  • Math and English areas of greatest need
  • Special Education is a need across the state
  • Attended additional job fairs at historically black colleges
  • Abell - requested additional information on where are we losing teachers to?
Proposed 2015 legislative positions - Report

Unfinished business
  • Review of 2012 Board goals - alot of talk about not reviewing, changes, not holding accountability.  I again requested a review on how we, as a board, did on the goals we set just two years ago.
  • Review of Board benchmarks - done in 2005, different board, rejected.
  • Bowie - requested next board to be more proactive and almost demanding of co-board meetings with the commissioners, delegates, etc.
  • Pedersen - board should get more involved in other community agencies, such as the planning commission.
New business - none

Future agenda items -
  • Lukas - eligibilty requirements, based on current numbers how would we fair
  • Pedersen - how is lack of activity buses affecting extracurricular activities other than sports and was the number of buses being used prior inflated.  Could we reinstate at lower quanitity.
  • Abell - GWWO study review of public comments and decide where we are going from here.
Recognition – 4:30 p.m.
  • Students - Jack Goodwin, 5th grade; Academic Achievement; Gale-Bailey Elementary School, Principal: Toni Melton-Trainor; John Gibson, 5th grade; Personal Responsibility; Mary H. Matula Elementary School; Principal: Carrie Richardson; Allissa Barnes, 5th grade; Academic Achievement; Arthur Middleton Elementary School; Principal: Sabrina Robinson-Taylor; Emily Maljack, 8th grade; Personal Responsibility; Milton M. Somers Middle School; Jordan Parker, 12th grade; Career Readiness; Maurice J. McDonough High School; Principal: Bradley Snow
  • Employees - Debra C. Haan, physical education teacher, Middleton; Christine D. Busey, pre-k instructional assistant, Bailey; Lauren M. Hoza, kindergarten teacher, Matula; Holly C. Marsh, instructional assistant, Somer
  • ResolutionsAmerican Education Week; Accepting: Linda McLaughlin, President of EACC, Georgia Benson, student member of the Board; and student liasion; American Freedom Week: Accepting: Henry E. Lackey's JROTC Unit
Public Forum – 6 p.m.
  • Jonathan Cook - Broadband education and issues in the county.  Disparity. FCC information provided.  Copper, fiber optic, cellular, satellite, fair access...bandwidth restrictions.  Homework or data given to our students eats through a families data usage.  Please consider when assigning homework.
  • Debbie Vahl - school bus driver; notification of delayed opening, closing, bad weather, etc. Now has to log into email.  wants reinstated.  Notification needs to be made sooner and more efficiently.  Staff explained new county system. 
Action items
Motion to accept the minutes by Cook; Second by Pedersen
Yes = Abell, Bowie, Cook, Lukas, Pedersen, Wise
  • Personnel
Motion to accept the personnel by Abell; Second by Pedersen
Yes = Abell, Bowie, Cook, Lukas, Pedersen, Wise
Motion to accept the comprehensive maintenance plan by Lukas; Second by Pedersen
Yes = Abell, Bowie, Cook, Lukas, Pedersen, Wise


Monday, October 13, 2014

WANTED: Corporate Sponsors to Build It!

Ever since I was first appointed to the Charles County Board of Education in 2004, I have repeatedly advocated for developer built schools.  WHile I have heard arguements ranging from "it can't be done" to "we don't have a big enough developer in this county" there are counter-arguements to ALL of them.  Yes, it can be done! No it's not against the law!  Yes, we the school system still have control over design and programs!  And if we don't have a developer big enough in the county (which i find hard to believe), what about a consortium of developers.  Come on people, think outside the box and let's work together.  See the article below.  Yes, it's just a stadium and it is on the other side of the country....but can we at least SERIOUSLY, look into this now?

Albuquerque Schools Seeking Corporate Sponsor For New Stadium

Huffington Post
By Joseph Kolb
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M., Oct 7 (Reuters) - A New Mexico public school district is following the lead of professional sports teams and searching for a corporate sponsor for its new stadium to raise funds for dwindling athletic and classroom budgets.

Monica Armenta, spokeswoman for the Albuquerque Public School District, said that, faced with an increasing number of private and charter schools in the region, the public school system needs to be inventive to make up for lost revenue.

She said there has been a drive to market the district, its programs and its facilities, including the year-old $38 million Community Stadium complex on the city's west side, which boasts a 7,000-seat football stadium, a 2,600-seat track and field area, and parking for more than 1,400 cars.

She would not comment on what the district was looking for, but local media have cited an asking price of $1.8 million over the course of a 10-year deal.

"The majority of the money will go to the APS Education Foundation to fill the education gaps in programs for literacy and middle school sports," Armenta said.

The Albuquerque district's drive to find a sponsor is part of a growing trend nationwide as school districts look beyond selling the local sponsorship banners that have been a mainstay of scholastic sports for years.

Brian Siatkowski of Baltimore-based marketing strategists Tebo and Associates said he was hired to spearhead the district's efforts after doing similar work in Florida.

Siatkowski said that Nemours Children's Hospital in Orlando, Florida, signed a five-year sponsorship deal worth $108,000 for the Lake Nona High School football stadium. Baptiste Orthodontics, also of Florida, underwrote the Olympia High School baseball field for $78,000 for five years, he added.

He said he had already received inquiries about Albuquerque's stadium, which he described as "a new shiny toy."

Mark Koski, director of Sports, Events, and Development for the National Federation of State High School Associations, said the corporate sponsorship at the high school level is still in its infancy.
"The Albuquerque Public School District needs to be commended in spearheading this new trend," Koski said. "If this is successful, many schools will follow suit." (Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Andre Grenon)

Link to article:  HERE

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Common Core: A Good Journey

(This is a blog post published by a teacher, interesting.)

Huffington Post
October 8, 2014
By Nicole J. Di Donato

Little heads bent over white-lined paper, pencils scratching out a story barely keeping up with the imaginative ideas swirling. I survey my third graders while they write -- their passion for what they have to say, and the diligence with which they tackle saying it is heart-warming. A few years ago, I wouldn't have asked my students to write a fictional story, narrative writing being difficult for young learners to handle with all of its many attributes. But along came the Common Core, and when it did, I was forced to rethink my stance, and find ways to begin teaching this style of writing. That was just the beginning of my journey with the new standards.

I am a teacher, and I support the Common Core State Standards. These days it feels like I need to keep this to myself. The Common Core seems like everyone's favorite initiative to hate, but exactly who are the critics? Politicians running in mid-term elections? Celebrities like Louis C.K.?

In the last few years, my colleagues and I have been stepping up the rigor and content of our instruction in response to the standards' implementation. Dare I say we have actually enjoyed this work? I must admit that Massachusetts' educators were lucky. Our former learning standards were comprehensive to begin with. For us, adopting the Common Core has been more of a shift than a radical change, but a shift I am more than happy to make if it leads to equal educational opportunities for students in all parts of the United States.

The Common Core is a list of vertically-aligned learning standards from grades K through 12. The skills build year to year, allowing students the opportunity to go deeper in their understanding of each standard as they mature as learners. This type of intentional, developmentally-appropriate plan for instruction is not easy to create, but yet, here it is, arguably one of the most sweeping education reforms in our country's history.

Where there are learning standards, there needs to be an assessment for measuring how schools are doing in their teaching. Of course an assessment tool needed to be developed to go with the Common Core. Massachusetts has chosen PARCC. It is computerized, although a paper/pencil version exists, and has been designed to match the rigor of the Common Core. Having seen samples of PARCC questions, it is definitely not a typical fill-in-the-bubble test, but one that will ask students to think critically about the information they are given.

Read more HERE.

Friday, October 10, 2014

New Charles County Public Schools App

Charles County Public Schools (CCPS) has launched a mobile App that puts all the school information in one easy to use location. Called CCPS On the Go (OTG), the App makes it easy for parents, students, teachers and other members of the CCPS learning community to access information while on the go, from the device of their choice.
Users can enjoy custom feeds to the CCPS calendar, news, contacts, CCPS TV, transportation, My Payments Plus, meal menus and more. The news feed provides personalized, on-demand access to news and alerts for parents, students, staff and community members.
Additionally, parents and students can now easily access their Blackboard/Edline accounts and their personalized activity feeds, grades and calendars. 
For more information about the CCPS App, visit
Parents, students and staff can download the application for free through the Apple iTunes and Google Play App stores.
How to find and download the CCPS App
On your iPhone or other Apple device (iPad, iMac)
Launch the App Store on your device.
On your Android or Samsung device
Go to the Google Play Store and search for CCPS. Look for the foursquare CCPS icon and select install.

Download and user advice for all devices:
Use the search function and type in CCPS or Charles County Public Schools. A four-color CCPS icon followed by the initials CCPS OTG  (pictured) will appear. Click on the word free to initiate the install process. If you are using an Apple product, your device will prompt you for your Apple iTunes account information in order to verify the App download. Click install.

Once the installation is complete, your device will ask you to turn off or allow push notifications. Push notifications require an active Wi-Fi or cellular connection and firewalls and proxy servers may affect your ability to receive notifications. CCPS will only push important notifications like emergency alerts, school closures or early releases.

CCPS will only push emergency or important notifications. For example, if CCPS sends a message through Blackboard about school closings or delays or an emergency situation, your device will notify you based on the notification settings on your mobile device. Check the settings tab on your cell phone or portable device to get push notifications.

Once your App is installed, press the three bars to the left of the CCPS icon for a drop down menu of available information.

The App is free; however, standard data rates through cell phone carriers apply.

Student Government Afraid To Fund 'Sex Week,' Says It Could Be 'Dangerous'

(Not sure of my opinion on this one, I can see both sides.  Maybe a less "in your face" approach, or different name.  I would love to hear your feedback.)

ETSU Student Government Votes Against Funding 'Sex Week' Fearing Conservative Backlash

Huffington Post
Tyler Kingkade
October 8, 2014

The student government at East Tennessee State University voted Tuesday against providing funding for a student group that wanted to organize a "Sex Week" event on campus, with student leaders going so far as to call the proposed events "dangerous" because of potential backlash from conservative lawmakers.

With 23 students in favor and one opposing, the ETSU student government overwhelmingly voted against providing the nearly $10,000 in student fee funding requested by the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, a pro-abortion rights student group, to cover costs for a Sex Week on campus in February. Student senators told The Huffington Post that they were worried the sex education events for adult students would prove too risqué.

"When they started organizing this at ETSU, we were very concerned about it," Brandon Johnson, a junior and student senator at the university, said. "We are all for sexual education -- we made a very proud stance on that, everyone should be informed about it. Unfortunately, the 'Sex Week' banner has such a negative name associated with that."

Read more HERE

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Montgomery school officials asks for delay in using new state tests for graduation

October 8, 2014

Montgomery County school leaders asked state officials Wednesday for a two-year delay in requiring that Maryland high school students pass new standardized tests in order to graduate.

The new tests, based on the national Common Core State Standards, are viewed as a more rigorous replacement for the High School Assessments, or HSAs, which Maryland has used since 2005 to test learning in Algebra 1, English 10, biology and government.

Montgomery has supported the new state tests — developed by the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) — but district officials have voiced concern about how the results will be used as Maryland transitions to them.

Students in Maryland will take the PARCC tests for the first time this year across grades three to eight, and in Algebra 1 and English 10, courses linked to a high school graduation requirement.

“We think there are lots of practical issues we should be looking at before we make these tests count, so to speak, for our students,” Montgomery County Board of Education President Phil Kauffman said Wednesday, shortly after the county released a letter he sent to the state on the board’s behalf.
“Time is of the essence; this is a real issue that will impact the real lives of students,” Kauffman wrote in the letter.

Maryland education officials emphasized that passing the new state tests is not a graduation requirement for this year’s juniors or seniors, who must still show that they have passed the HSAs or completed a project-based assessment known as a bridge plan.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

School meals face rules on fat, meat, veggies -- but no limits on sugar

[Note: This article was published a year ago.]

Eleanor Yang Su
October 3, 2013

Almost everything about a school cafeteria meal has a regulation. The federal government caps the amount of fat and salt in breakfasts and lunches. It sets minimum standards for servings of fruit, vegetables, grains, milk and meat.

But one widely used and often-overused product has no official limits: sugar.

As Congress faces increased scrutiny over subsidies to the sugar industry, nutritionists and anti-obesity crusaders are focusing on the amount of sugar in school meals – and asking whether regulations governing school lunches deliberately exclude limits on sugar to favor a powerful industry.

“Certainly, the food industry has pushed back against having a sugar standard,” said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which has been pushing for a limit on added sugars for years. “If the USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) is going to address other key parts of the dietary guidelines – fats, salts and calories – why choose to leave one dietary guideline out?”

Recent research shows that sugar levels in school meals are more than double what is recommended for the general public. Elementary school lunch menus contain 115 percent of the recommended daily calories from added sugars and fats, according to a November study by the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service. Middle school and high school lunch menus also are sugar- and fat-heavy, averaging between 59 and 74 percent of the recommended amounts.

About 1 in 5 school lunch menus includes dessert, the federal study said. The most common are cookies, cakes and brownies, some of which are counted as grain requirements. Other popular options are fruit with gelatin, ice cream and pudding.

The data from the School Nutrition Dietary Assessment is based on a 2010 survey of about 900 schools across the country and is considered the most comprehensive federal research on school meals.

For years, schools added sweets, such as graham crackers or cookies, to bump up calorie counts and meet minimum thresholds. Researchers say that practice is less common now that the USDA has implemented calorie limits. But some say sugary treats still are appealing to school administrators.
“Sugar-related products are the least expensive source of calories in the school meal program,” said Matthew Sharp, senior advocate for California Food Policy Advocates. He said many school officials oppose reducing sugar in meals because it would force them to buy more expensive products.

The report did not break out sugars specifically. It also didn’t count sugars that occur naturally in fruit and milk, but rather sweeteners added to processed or prepared foods...

...“Sugar is the only nutrient with no dietary reference intake, and it’s because the food industry doesn’t want it,” said Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC San Francisco. “They know when they add sugar to food, you buy more. So they don’t want any limits. And they have very effectively lobbied the USDA to not have any limits.”

Read the complete article HERE.

SAT scores plummet as test takers increase

October 7, 2014
As more students took the SAT in Maryland last year, average scores on the college readiness exam plummeted, falling below the national average for the first time in years, according to data released Tuesday.

The drops appear to have been influenced by policy changes in at least two large school systems — Baltimore and Prince George's counties — that allowed every high school junior to be given the test.
With the school system paying for the test, Baltimore County had a 58 percent increase in test takers and saw scores drop about 50 points on each section of the test — critical reading, math and writing.

The school system expected to see dramatic drops but wanted to remove barriers, said Russell Brown, chief accountability officer for Baltimore County Public Schools.

"It is a push to afford that opportunity to all students. Many students find the additional cost to be a burden," Brown said. "It communicates to the students an expectation of college and career readiness."

Statewide, the average score dropped 5 points in each section to 492 in critical reading, 495 in math and 481 in writing. The national average was 5 points higher in critical reading, 18 points higher in math and 6 points higher in writing. The highest score on each section of the test, which is administered by the New York-based College Board, is 800.

The number of students who took the test in Maryland increased by 3 percent.

Read more:,0,6331784.story#ixzz3FYcdcfGx