Sunday, December 31, 2006

A New Education System?

Current method called outdated by Amanda Paulson of The Christian Science Monitor.

Excerpt from the article

What if the solution to American students' stagnant performance levels and the wide achievement gap between white and minority students wasn't more money, smaller schools, or any of the reforms proposed in recent years, but rather a new education system altogether?

That's the conclusion of a bipartisan group of scholars and business leaders, school chancellors and education commissioners, and former cabinet secretaries and governors. They declare that America's public education system, designed to meet the needs of 100 years ago when the workplace revolved around an assembly line, is unsuited to today's global marketplace. Already, they warn, many Americans are in danger of falling behind and seeing their standard of living plummet.

In its place, the group proposes a series of controversial reforms:

  • Offer universal pre-kindergarten programs and opportunities for continuing education for adults without high school diplomas.
  • Create state board exams that students could pass at age 16 to move either on to community college or to a university-level high school curriculum.
  • Improve school salaries in exchange for reducing secure pension benefits, and pay teachers more to work with at-risk kids, for longer hours, or for high performance.
  • Create curriculums that emphasize creativity and abstract concepts over rote learning or mastery of facts.

Read the complete article at

Friday, December 29, 2006

College Board sets standards for Advanced Placement courses

In an article by Elle Ashford on the National School Board Association web-site...

"As the college admissions process has gotten much more competitive, the number of high school students taking Advanced Placement courses has soared. At the same time, there’s been a concerted effort among policymakers and education leaders to get more minorities and students who have not been on the college track to sign up for AP and other rigorous classes.

But as high schools have greatly expanded their AP programs, some are questioning the quality of courses labeled AP. Concerns about AP courses being watered down has led the College Board, which supervises the end-of-course AP exams, to establish an audit procedure to ensure AP courses meet certain standards."

For the complete article,

Saturday, December 23, 2006


From my house to yours,
Merry Christmas!!

A Nation Deceived: How Schools Hold Back America’s Brightest Students

I've actually downloaded and read this full report a few months back (link below). It's quite lengthy but well worth the read if you have a gifted child. Please let me know what you think.

An article by Queue, Inc. - December Issue

America’s schools routinely avoid academic acceleration, the easiest and most effective way to help highly capable students. While the popular perception is that a child who skips a grade will be socially stunted, fifty years of research shows that moving bright students ahead often makes them happy.
Acceleration means moving through the traditional curriculum at rates faster than typical. The 18 forms of acceleration include grade-skipping, early-entrance to school, and Advanced Placement (AP) courses. It is appropriate educational planning. It means matching the level and complexity of the curriculum with the readiness and motivation of the student.
Students who are moved ahead tend to be more ambitious, and they earn graduate degrees at higher rates than other students. Interviewed years later, an overwhelming majority of accelerated students say that acceleration was an excellent experience for them. Accelerated students feel academically challenged and socially accepted, and they do not fall prey to the boredom that plagues many highly capable students who are forced to follow the curriculum for their age-peers.
A Nation Deceived can be downloaded here:

Friday, December 22, 2006

Maryland High School Assessments (HSA)

This post is in response to a question regarding the new testing requirements for graduation.
The Maryland High School Assessments (HSA) are tests that measure school and individual student progress in four core subjects: English, government, algebra/data analysis, and biology. Students take each test whenever they complete the course. For example, some students may take algebra in seventh grade while others may not take it until tenth grade.

The tests contain multiple-choice questions and questions requiring written responses. These questions are based on the content outlined in Maryland’s Core Learning Goals. (See link below for specifics)

Beginning with the graduating class of 2009, students are required to earn a satisfactory score on the HSA, in addition to all credit, service-learning, and attendance requirements, in order to earn a Maryland High School Diploma. Students have several options in fulfilling this requirement:

  • Pass all four HSA (See scores below)


  • Earn at least the minimum score on each HSA and earn a combined score of 1602. This combined-score option benefits students because it allows higher performance on one test to offset lower performance on another test.


  • Earn passing scores on state-approved substitute tests and substitute one or more of those scores for passing scores on the HSA. The state has not yet named acceptable substitute tests, but possibilities include the Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate tests.

HSA Passing Score/Minimum Score
Algebra/Data Analysis= 412/402
Biology= 400/391
Government= 394/387
English= 396/386

Students who do not pass an assessment will receive academic assistance from the local school system. After completing an academic assistance program, students can retake the assessment during the next administration of the test.

To help with intervention and remediation, the state has created a series of online courses in HSA subject areas. Teachers may use the courses with students as an intervention strategy, and students may take the courses themselves to review tested material.

Maryand's High School Core Learning Goals

HSA Fact Sheet

HSA Scores

Practice Taking an HSA Online

HSA Technical Report

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Supreme Court Reviews School Diversity Plans

The U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments Dec. 4 in two cases that could have a significant impact on whether school districts can use race as a factor in assigning students to schools.
NSBA had submitted an amicus brief, along with seven other education organizations, urging the Supreme Court to allow school districts to use as a factor in assigning students to schools in an effort to promote diversity.
However, the tenor of the justices’ questioning during the oral arguments indicates there is a strong possibility the court will rule against the districts.
And if that happens, districts would be left with few remedies to promote racial diversity, ultimately speeding up the resegregation of public schools that already is occurring across the nation. A potential ruling against the districts could undermine the decades of progress that have occurred since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

Read the complete article

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Quote for the Day

Throughout my campaign I stated, "I say what I mean and mean what I say." I was sent this great quote today and wanted to share it.

"Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind."
-Dr. Seuss

Some Improvements Seen in School Safety

According to a report by the National Center for Educational Statistics, fewer students have been victims of school-related crime during the 2004-05 school year, compared to the year before.
The victimization rate of students age 12-18 at school declined from 73 per 1,000 in 2003 to 55 per 1,000 in 2004, states Indicators of School Crime and Safety issued Dec. 3.
But there was no decline in the percentages of students reporting violent crime between 2003 and 2005. The number of homicides of students ages 5 to 18 at school was higher in 2004-05 than in 2000-01 but remained below most years in the 1990s.
The complete report is available at .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

NSBA Advocacy Needs Your Support

Increasing Funding for America's Public Schools
NSBA and our dedicated grassroots network members have been lobbying Congress to increase funding for education as a part of the "Campaign to Restore Funding for America's Schoolchildren." At this time, it is uncertain whether Congress will extend the current continuing resolution for education until the beginning of the 110th Congress. If so, current FY 2006 funding levels would likely apply to all education programs until a final FY 2007 spending bill is passed. Congress could consider an alternative by passing an omnibus appropriations bill that would include all remaining FY 07 spending bills.&nbs! p; If so, specific program allocations may not be disclosed until after final passage, leaving little or no opportunity to oppose cuts to education. Additionally, the number of earmarks for special projects could soar in an omnibus spending bill, which could affect final FY 07 spending levels for education.

NSBA opposes the pending House and Senate bills in their current forms, which would underfund Title I and IDEA by more than $18 billion. NSBA will begin lobbying for funding increases to Title I and IDEA in FY 2008 as well, in order to be proactive before the President's budget proposal is released in January and to ensure that education funding is a top budget priority of the new 110th Congress.

Pledge to America's Schoolchildren
Please join NSBA's newest campaign --the Pledge to America's Schoolchildren. You can get involved by contacting your United States Senators and Representatives, urging them to sign the Pledge to America's Schoolchildren, which includes five broad, bipartisan goals for the 110th Congress—from improving NCLB to supporting 21st century skills needed for global competitiveness. A grassroots action alert is available on the Pledge Campaign website at

Currently, the Pledge has the bipartisan support of almost 50 members of Congress. NSBA is actively engaged in securing more signatures. Federation Members are also utilizing the Pledge in an effort to establish solid working relationships with newly elected members of Congress

Monday, December 18, 2006

Free Housing to Retain New Teachers

According to an article by Carol Chmelynski on the National School Board Association web-site...

"Officials at the rapidly growing Clark County, Nev., school district in Las Vegas, are having such a hard time hiring enough teachers, they are considering offering affordable housing as an incentive.
Clark County is just one of several districts throughout the nation in areas with soaring housing costs that are looking at innovative ways to attract and retain teachers.
The Clark County school board is exploring options for providing a few hundred residences in the form of houses, condominiums, and apartments and will make a final decision in January, said George Ann Rice, associate superintendent for human resources."

For the complete article,

Saturday, December 16, 2006

WANTED: Student Stars

The National Affiliate program will be hosting a Evening of Student Stars at the NSBA Annual Conference. We are looking for talented students to fill out the program. Below are program guidelines. For more information about the application process go to Student Stars Info

General Guidelines:

  • We are highlighting individuals and small performance groups for this event. The size of the group (including instrumentalists, singers, dancers, accompanists, etc.) may not exceed eight people.
  • Each selected individual or group will be limited to one adult accompanist (i.e. - pianist or conductor) for performance.
  • Applications must be received no later than January 20, 2007 and should be sent to: Alyssa Martin, 185 Prince George Street, Annapolis, Maryland 21401. Selections are made by an outside professional consultant (not by NSBA's elected leaders or staff) on the sole basis of performance quality.
  • NSBA provides two nights of complimentary housing for the student(s) and for two or three accompanying adults who will be expected to assume responsibility for the safety and deportment of the group.
  • Transportation and meal costs are the responsibility of the respective school boards.
  • Performing soloist or groups must represent a public school or group of public schools and have school board approval to represent their district.

The deadline is January 20, 2007. For more information contact Sandy Folks at (703) 838-6787 or

Children At Risk

Poverty: A Common Thread

Many students come from impoverished homes with no history of financial or familial success? How can schools help "at-risk" kids beat the odds?

"Over the next several months, American School Board Journal will examine the education of children at risk. We’ll look at their lives in and out of school, the myriad problems they face, and how some schools are responding to their needs. Social scientists have identified six primary risk factors, all of which are common in low-income households: poverty itself, welfare dependence, absent parents, one-parent families, unwed mothers, and a parent without a high school diploma.While it is not necessary to be poor to be at risk—children from single-parent families are found all along the income spectrum—poverty usually is the common thread. How much can schools do to help the poor? That is a matter of considerable debate. Some argue that by becoming more efficient, focused organizations, schools alone can lift children out of poverty. Others say the problems of poor children are so multifaceted and profound that reforming schools is not enough."

For the complete article, please visit the site below.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Why I Do What I Do

I've received a few comments from persons disgruntled by my posting the Superintendent's Contract on my site and I've heard second hand there are some disgruntled by me even having this site at all. This post is dedicated to clarifying Why I Do What I Do.

This blog, is run by me, Jennifer Abell, Member of the Charles County Board of Education, and involves topics and issues on education and children, two of my passions in life. ANY and ALL comments ARE MY PERSONAL comments and do not reflect the opinions of the Board of Education and ARE NOT official communications of the Charles County School Board. (We have a very capable, thorough and dedicated communication person on staff, Ms. Katie O'Malley-Simpson)

The concept of starting a blog began after attending the National School Board Conference in April of 2006. They actually encouraged board members and superintendents to have a blog-site and dialog with the community and held a seminar on the how-to's. After months of pondering the idea, and a plea from the public to be more transparent, it came to fruition with the impending election. I knew so little about blogging, I had to enlist the help of friends to set it up and get me started.

As stated, initially the blog began as part of my campaign. After the election, I received numerous requests to keep it up and running due to the Board meetings being held at an inconvenient time for the public to attend, the televising of the meetings no where in sight, and the minutes from the meetings not reaching the public for a month or more. I agreed. Since then, the blog has become a personal endeavor to try and be more open and transparent to the public, and provide as much information as possible. I encourage everyone...students, staff, teachers, parents, post and give me your opinions, good or bad. You can even do it anonymously if you are shy :)

As for the Superintendents contract, it was posted in response to a request from the public and is strictly for factual informational purposes. My posting of the contract in no way represents my dissatisfaction with it or the Superintendent. I voted for the contract and I support it and Mr. Richmond. In addition, the Superintendent, as well as Board members, is a public servant and therefore his contract is a public document and has been reported in various other media prior to my posting. My posting is not a complete contract and does NOT list all the numerous responsibilites, qualifications and guidelines he must adhere to (please contact Central Office to request a complete copy)

I sincerely apologize if the contract posting or this site has offended anyone or made them feel threatened, for that was not it's intention. This site is not an attempt to "grand-stand" or undermine the Board of Education or staff in anyway. As stated throughout the site, my intentions are strictly to provide the public with knowledge and transparency, answer questions, state my opinions, and hopefully with everyone's cooperation, come up with solutions and innovative ideas for our school system.

Yours in service,

Notes from Board Meeting, 12/12/06

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 transparet. Although I have diligently tried to make these notes as unbiased and accurate as possible, I am only human and do make mistakes. Please follow-up for official minutes upon approval. For copies of printed reports presented visit

Public Forum

  1. Gentleman spoke in support of Margaret Young. Thanked her for her dedication and voice for the children of Charles County. Presented her with flowers. Encouraged the incoming board to televise board meetings and make attendance at board meetings more inviting to the public. Last meeting he attended he felt intimidated.

Action - Approval of Minutes from 11/14/06

  • Young - requested numerous missing items and conversations to be included in the minutes. Currently could not locate her notes.
  • Abell - stated missing items. Conversations regarding color-coded badges, GED rate comparison among counties, food services and nutrition budget, new high school vision committee, NAEP test results, and missing votes on the summary table of votes.

*Vote on amending the minutes
Yes=Abell, Young; No=Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade; Bailey=no vote

*Vote to approve minutes
Yes= Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Wade; No=Young; Abstain=Abell; Bailey=no vote

*Vote to unapproved the October Meeting minutes
Yes=Abell; Crawford; Coggins; Wade; Young; Bailey=no vote

*Vote to correct vote count to go into Executive Session (Young actually abstained)
Yes= Abell; Bailey; Crawford; Coggins; Wade; Young;

*Vote to approve October Meeting Minutes
Yes= Abell; Bailey; Crawford; Coggins; Wade; Young;

Correspondence/Board Member Updates

  • Wade - spoke about the It’s Academic competition. Very professional and well attended.
  • Crawford - relayed his appreciation for serving on the board. Read Psalm 100.
  • Abell - attended the state football game, even though McDonough lost they played a good game and we should be proud of our athletes.
  • Coggins - relayed his thanks for the opportunity to serve on the board.
  • Young encouraged new board to meet soon regarding vision and goals because budget will be coming before them soon.
  • Young - request from last month regarding violent offenders. Staff response was that names could not be released. Young clarified that was not the request.
  • Young - request from last month regarding 10-digit number. Young felt staff response did not answer her question.

Report – EACC

  • Bill Fisher spoke about class sizes and encouraged board members to visit; over testing and teaching to the test and stress placed on teachers; CCPS is outstanding on closing achievement gap and teachers need to know about how children can learn a second language; discipline issues and guidelines and the need for administrative and board support; surveys completed by teachers regarding workload and priorities for negotiations. over testing and teaching to the test and stress placed on teachers; CCPS is outstanding on closing achievement gap and teachers need to know about how children can learn a second language; discipline issues and guidelines and the need for administrative and board support; surveys completed by teachers regarding workload and priorities for negotiations.
  • Meg MacDonald spoke of the discipline issues and teachers being assaulted by students; need to have students removed and changes filed w/sheriff’s office; board policy is to remove the student and they thank us; problem is getting worse and students need to be removed immediately and additional policies needed for special education students.
  • Young – in a perfect world, what would you do to correct the testing issues
  • Fisher – curriculum is suffering due to preparation for numerous tests. Limits need to be set. Don’t know perfect amount. Possibly have report card grades included as part of AYP.
Report - Student Board Member
  • Andrew VanWorkem – At the CCASC meeting students discussed curriculum and instruction in schools; testing is becoming the curriculum; students required to retake course if test is not passed; Mr. Kregar is fabulous for increasing scores on SAT/ACT; students suggest class or seminar is a waste of time and teachers are not effectively teaching; Richmond told Student Advisory Council he would like to implement IB courses and compare to AP.
Report – Superintendent
  • Richmond –McDonough won It’s Academic; met with Dr. Richard Nadolink, Director of Energetics Technology Center and discussed plans to build an ETC in Bryans Road and ETC to give two county scholarships; Student Advisory Council Meeting; Richmond and Marshall attended state football game at Raven stadium and helped present awards.
  • Young – noticed Richmond meeting with business on increasing math and technology curriculum. Has he considered and will he be meeting with professionals regarding the performing and fine arts?
  • Richmond – Always; the arts are very near and dear to his heart.

Report - Deputy Superintendent

  • None

Report - CIP

  • Davis MS – all roof work complete; windows being installed; interior work to be completed throughout winter
  • North Point – baseball field reseeding; underground sprinkler system; waiting on pump station
  • Gale-Bailey – boiler replacement almost complete
  • Smallwood - boiler replacement ongoing January completion
  • Requested $27M from state, IAC recommendations only received $6.5M
  • $161,000 transfer request from Commissioners to cover field conditions
  • Young – Was this an intercategory transfer?
  • Wineland – No. It combined three line items.
  • Young – No notes on the CIP meeting with commissioners that took place following the legislative breakfast on 11/27/06.
  • Wineland – Staff was just there to answer any questions from commissioners
  • Wade – congratulated staff for their professionalism and having the best interest of the school district.

Report – Budget

  • Balides – Food Services is being monitored closely; general funds in good shape
Report - Curriculum Update - Adult Education
  • Estep – JROTC started in county in 1993; Army at Stone and McDonough; Navy at LaPlata and Westlake; Air Force at North Point and Lackey; $645,000 for 12 instructors’ salaries and benefits; students and recent graduates spoke highly and fondly of the program.
  • Young – Upon visiting schools the JROTC classroom students are always very respectful, disciplined and focused. Have we considered offering a similar program at Middle School
  • Peggy Stafford – JROTC groups have done demonstrations for local elementary schools and recruit at middle schools
  • Wade – Great job to staff and cadets

Action - Personnel

* Vote to accept staff recommendations
Yes=Abell, Coggins, Crawford, Marshall, Young, Wade; No=None; Bailey=no vote


Action – Naming of Elementary School
  • Coggins – motions for Mary Burgess Neal
  • Abell – Neal is very deserving of having a school named after her but she is not related to this school or this part of the county in any way. Mary Keech Edelen was a teacher in that area before. Personal opinion is the board needs to consider not naming schools after individuals.
  • Young – agreed with Abell on Neal and Keech but disareed about schools being named after individuals
*Vote to name school Mary Burgess Neal Elementary
Yes=Bailey, Coggins, Crawford, Wade; No=Marshall; Abstain=Abell, Young;


Board Farewell
  • Bailey – speech and presentation of gifts

Unfinished Business

  • Young – Request for a sample Physical Education Report Card
  • Young – update on the committee for the new high school vision
  • Young – NAEP test results; Cunningham clarified these were sent in an update
  • Young – update on the status of the Lackey Drama department

New Business

  • Wineland - Pinefield Site Elementary School #3 to obtain state approval; IAC needs assurance that site approval in process; borderline wetlands issue briefed in hopes of a favorable decision by Maryland Department of Environment.

*Vote to move forward
Yes=Abell, Crawford, Coggins, Marshall, Wade, Young; Bailey=no vote


Future Agenda Items

  • Young – according to the communication goal the board is to meet with the Economic Development Commission and Chamber of Commerce
  • New board should set a meeting to determine goals and objectives for the coming year

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Superintendent's Contract

This post is in response to a request for the details of the Superintendents benefits and compensation through his contract.

The Superintendent’s contract is public information and a complete copy may be requested from Central Office. The current contract is a four-year contract as required by the State of Maryland and was signed by all Board members on 1/24/05. Listed below is the Superintendents current benefits and compensation provided by this contract.

  • Base salary $245,000
  • Annual comprehensive medical examination
  • Lifetime paid family health insurance coverage
  • Automobile and insurance coverage
  • Disability income protection for the base salary contract amount for the duration of the contract
  • Thirty days of annual leave per year and an additional 3 days per month. May be redeemed if not used
  • Sick leave accrued at the rate of two days per month. May be redeemed if not used
  • Board contributes an amount equal to 7% of base salary to a supplementary retirement plan.
  • Board provides term life insurance equal to base salary plus a $40,000 supplemental policy. Benefit will continue upon retirement.
  • Board will contribute 2% of base salary to the Teacher’s Pension System.
  • Board will contribute to a tax-sheltered annuity the maximum amount allowed by the IRS Code.
  • $5,000 annual allowance for unreimbursed medical expenses