Sunday, March 30, 2008

NSBA Conference: Blogging School District Leaders

I had the distinct pleasure of helping present this session to a standing room only yesterday. (Some were even turned away at the door due to room capacity) The interest of among attendees was astounding and I'm looking forward to hearing from board members across the nation that will soon be starting blogs of their own.
The session ran very smoothly with plenty of time for questions and answers.

Consultant and freelance writer Craig Colgan, whose blog Municipalist discusses blogging issues, began the session with a wonderful overview. School board member Brian Wheeler, SchoolMatters, spoke next about this powerful tool. I spoke last about my journey through design, implementation, and adversity about my blog. Everyone was encouraged to use blogs as another way to communicate with parents.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

NSBA Conference - Making Meetings Matter

Blogging from the NSBA conference in Orlando.

I had the pleasure of attending one of the Early Bird sessions called Making Meetings Matter. The presenters were from the Illinois Association of School Boards and it was very informative with wonderful attendee participation and discussion. Here's some of the highlights...

Ingredients of a Successful Meeting
1. A focus on board work
2. Effective participation by individual members
3. Effective leadership by the presiding officer
4. Efficient procedures for transacting routine business
5. Well-understood rules of order
6. Legal compliance
7. Good record keeping, both minutes and policies
8. A mutually supportive relationship with the superintendent
9. Procedures for policy making and other board functions
10. Public participation that is orderly, democratic and constructive

Legal Requirements
-Legal references and resources (school board association, district attorney, policy, laws)
-Email among board members shall be limited to (1) disseminating information, and (2) messages not involving deliberation, debate, or decision making.

Planning (agenda and time management)

Conduct (set policy)
-Individual board member behaviors can contribute to or inhibit a successful board meeting.

Evaluate (self evaluation)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

High School For Charles Put on Hold

A decision by the Maryland Board of Public Works not to approve funding for a planned new high school in Charles County throws into question the Charles school system's ability to keep pace with years of rapid growth that left every existing county high school overcrowded.

Charles public schools officials have instructed architects from the SHW Group, the Reston-based firm that designed three county schools, to stop work on plans for the school, which had been slated to open in 2011 with a price tag of about $97 million. The County Commissioners, who have urged the Board of Education for months to cut costs on the project, told Superintendent James E. Richmond last week that the high school should be placed on hold indefinitely.

According to the funding formula that governs school construction, the state government would be responsible for about $42 million of the cost of the school as originally planned.

Read more HERE

Md. School Superintendents Push for Changes to No Child Left Behind Law

ANNAPOLIS (March 26, 2008) - Maryland school superintendents met with U.S. Deputy Secretary of Education Raymond Simon on Wednesday, asking him to consider changes to the No Child Left Behind law for disadvantaged students.

"Special education students, English language learners and our poverty students -- those are the issues most of us are grappling with," said Kevin Maxwell, superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools, at a roundtable discussion with 13 county superintendents, Maryland Schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick and other state education officials.

Maryland schools placed in the top three states nationwide in an Education Week survey this year and showed an upward trend in several key performance measures since 2002. Yet Maryland still has a way to go before all children pass basic math and reading proficiency tests by 2014, the absence of which may trigger state takeovers of schools or reduced federal funding.

Read more HERE

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Nearly All Area AP Teachers Get Passing Grades in Audit

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 25, 2008; Page B01

When the College Board announced last year that every high school Advanced Placement teacher would have to prove he or she was actually teaching a college-level course, there was widespread fear the process would purge worthy teachers from the program, weeding out good courses along with the bad.

They needn't have worried. In the first quality-control audit of the AP program, no AP teacher or course was rejected in the Fairfax, Montgomery, Prince George's or District school systems, according to area education officials. Of the 146,671 AP courses submitted for review nationwide, 136,853, or 93 percent, were approved.

Read more HERE

Saturday, March 22, 2008

States’ Data Obscure How Few Finish High School

JACKSON, Miss. — When it comes to high school graduation rates, Mississippi keeps two sets of books.

One team of statisticians working at the state education headquarters here recently calculated the official graduation rate at a respectable 87 percent, which Mississippi reported to Washington. But in another office piled with computer printouts, a second team of number crunchers came up with a different rate: a more sobering 63 percent.

The state schools superintendent, Hank Bounds, says the lower rate is more accurate and uses it in a campaign to combat a dropout crisis.

“We were losing about 13,000 dropouts a year, but publishing reports that said we had graduation rate percentages in the mid-80s,” Mr. Bounds said. “Mathematically, that just doesn’t work out.”

Read more HERE

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

State urged to drop exit test

By Kristen Wyatt
March 17, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — Maryland families are urging state lawmakers to change or repeal legislation that will require exit exams for high-school seniors to receive a diploma.

"It started as a whisper, and now it's growing into a roar," said Delegate Justin D. Ross, Prince George's Democrat. "People are very concerned about these tests."

The class of 2009 will be the first to take the Maryland High School Assessment exams in algebra, biology, English and government. And those who don't pass will not receive a diploma.

The requirements were established in 2000, when Maryland joined a national trend of requiring exit exams. The premise was that diplomas will become a guarantee that students know certain things. But with the pass-to-graduate deadline looming — and no lesser diploma or attendance certificate for students who don't pass despite several attempts — legislators are hearing more calls to modify or drop the exam requirements.

Read more HERE

Monday, March 17, 2008

Smaller Classes Don't Close Learning Gap, Study Finds

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2008; Page B02

For 20 years, a large study of class size in Tennessee, known as Project STAR, has raised hopes that reducing the number of children in inner-city classrooms to 17 or fewer would yield significant increases in achievement. It was by far the most authoritative finding in favor of reducing class size and was generally considered one of the most important educational studies of its time.

But a Northwestern University researcher, looking closely at the same data on thousands of students from kindergarten through third grade in 79 schools, has concluded that high achievers benefited more from the small classes than low achievers. Since low-income students in urban neighborhoods have lower achievement, on average, than students from more affluent families, the finding in the March issue of Elementary School Journal contradicts assumptions that class size reduction might have a significant effect on the gap between rich and poor students.

Read more HERE

Friday, March 14, 2008

Notes from Board Meeting, 3/11/08

This meeting wil be re-broadcast on Channel 96 on Wednesdays at 6:00 pm, Fridays at 9:00 am and Saturdays/Sundays at 2:00 pm.

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.

Superintendent - Report

  • Science fair and Spelling Bee
  • Read Across America
  • Senior Citizens Prom
  • Middle School Transition Dinners
  • Math Challenges, History Fair, music competitions, art show, DI
  • Japan Bunkyo University partnership
  • SAT?ACT podcast
  • New high school

Board Members - MABE Presentation

  • Carrington - Black Saga competition at Indian Head. two teams going to state
  • Carrington - First Tech Challenger - invite middle schools next year
  • Wise - Stone playing at Comcast center
  • Cook - Spelling Bee kudos
  • Pedersen - Legislative update - Letter from Board to say "yes" to public school funding; no cuts to Gov. budget
  • Bullying bills - NO
  • Labor relations - NO
  • Physical education mandates - NO
  • disabled students in athletics - NO
  • HSA Bills - NO
  • Richmond - state supt. meeting report on bridge to excellence act
  • Abell - MABE nominating committee

EACC - Update (Report not available yet)

  • Teacher shortage Task force
  • wants $60,000 starting salary with quick climb to $100,000
  • BOE to pay $75,000 to fully fund 5 students to U of MD
  • Sabbaticals - pay teachers to go back to school to become certified in critical areas
  • Make some teaching jobs 12 months
  • offer free daycare and affordable housing
  • tuition reimbursement
  • DOES NOT support differentiated pay or bonuses for shortage areas

Student Board Member - (report not available yet)

  • Recruiting and electing of officers for next year
  • Senior citizens prom
  • MASE convention

Deputy Superintendent - Pupil Personnel Workers

  • See Report

Instruction Report - Capturing Kids Hearts Report; Presentation

  • Implemented at Stone
  • Flippen Group
  • Training program for staff
  • Very good
  • Abell requests implementation and training for all staff

Supporting Services Report - CIP Update

  • Everything on schedule and running smoothly

Legislative Update - (report not available yet)

Wise motioned; Pedersen seconded to send a letter to Gov. in support of educational funding

Bailey amended; Abell seconded to receive a draft via fax for approval

Yes = Abell, Bailey, Cook, Pedersen; No = Carrington, Wade, Wise


Motion with amendment

Yes = All



  • Abell move public forum to 6:00


  • Task Form Committee Report submitted
  • Abell - requests placement on Board Docs
  • Bailey - Considers this an internal memo, not to be made public
  • Abell - documents presented during public session are public documents
  • Will be placed on Board Docs

6:30 - Public Forum (Must sign-up prior to 6:30)

  • None

Action Items

All board members voted unanimously for all action items.

Panel Proposes Streamlining Math

American students’ math achievement is “at a mediocre level” compared with that of their peers worldwide, according to a new report by a federal panel. The panel said that math curriculums from preschool to eighth grade should be streamlined to focus on key skills — the handling of whole numbers and fractions, and certain aspects of geometry and measurement — to prepare students to learn algebra.

“The sharp falloff in mathematics achievement in the U.S. begins as students reach late middle school, where, for more and more students, algebra course work begins,” said the report of the National Mathematics Advisory Panel, appointed two years ago by President Bush. “Students who complete Algebra II are more than twice as likely to graduate from college, compared to students with less mathematical preparation.”

Read more HERE

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Hovering Parents Bully Teachers

Please let me know what you think about this article....

By John-John Williams IV Sun reporter
March 4, 2008

Carroll County school officials told a grandmother to stop coming to her grandchild's class after she spent two weeks studying the teacher. A Baltimore County teacher recalls being threatened physically by a parent who happened to be a boxer.

And in Howard County, overbearing parents are becoming such a concern that more than half the teachers surveyed say they have experienced "harassing behavior."

For the past two years, 60 percent of the teachers responding to a job satisfaction survey conducted by the Howard County Education Association reported that they have been subjected to harassment. Last year's survey specifically identified parents as the offenders in 60 percent of the cases. This year's survey, to be released in the coming weeks, will report similar results, said Ann DeLacy, the HCEA president.

Read more HERE

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Should We Put the Brakes on Advanced Placement Growth?

Duh! Isn't this what we've been saying?

By Jay Mathews
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 10, 2008; 4:47 AM

Patrick Mattimore -- lawyer, teacher and freelance journalist -- is one of the most insightful writers about schools I know. So when he published a piece in Education Week criticizing the rapid growth in Advanced Placement courses in the country, I read it carefully and asked him to discuss it with me in this column. Mattimore is not only an astute judge of AP policy, but until recently, he was an AP Psychology teacher in San Francisco. He knows the territory like few others, and unlike many people in the debate over how to use AP, he has accomplished the rare feat of changing his mind after discovering facts at odds with his views.

His March 5 Ed Week commentary points out that if you look at all high school graduates, the percentage taking and passing AP exams is increasing. But if you look at the percentage of exams with passing grades -- 3 or above on the 5-point tests -- that is declining in many subjects. To Mattimore, this means the program is growing too fast -- a 10 percent jump every year in the number of exams taken. He says the rapid expansion ought to be reined in until school systems improve instruction in lower grades so students are better prepared for the rigors of AP.

Read more HERE

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Next Question: Can Students Be Paid to Excel?

New York Times
Published: March 5, 2008

The fourth graders squirmed in their seats, waiting for their prizes. In a few minutes, they would learn how much money they had earned for their scores on recent reading and math exams. Some would receive nearly $50 for acing the standardized tests, a small fortune for many at this school, P.S. 188 on the Lower East Side of Manhattan.

When the rewards were handed out, Jazmin Roman was eager to celebrate her $39.72. She whispered to her friend Abigail Ortega, “How much did you get?” Abigail mouthed a barely audible answer: $36.87. Edgar Berlanga pumped his fist in the air to celebrate his $34.50.

The children were unaware that their teacher, Ruth Lopez, also stood to gain financially from their achievement. If students show marked improvement on state tests during the school year, each teacher at Public School 188 could receive a bonus of as much as $3,000.

Read more HERE

Monday, March 10, 2008

Teaching Change

New York Times
Published: March 10, 2008

WHEN teachers at two Denver public schools demanded more control over their work days, they ran into opposition from a seemingly odd place: their union. The teachers wanted to be able to make decisions about how time was used, hiring and even pay. But this ran afoul of the teachers’ contract. After a fight, last month the union backed down — but not before the episode put a spotlight on the biggest challenge and opportunity facing teachers’ unions today.

While laws like No Child Left Behind take the rhetorical punches for being a straitjacket on schools, it is actually union contracts that have the greatest effect over what teachers can and cannot do. These contracts can cover everything from big-ticket items like pay and health care coverage to the amount of time that teachers can spend on various activities.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Quote of the Day

"I would much rather put a phenomenal, great teacher in a field with 30 kids and nothing else than take the mediocre teacher and give them half the number of students and give them all the technology in the world."
ZEKE M. VANDERHOEK, 31, who is starting a charter school that will pay teachers $125,000 a year.

Read More HERE

REMINDER: Board of Education Meeting, 3/11/08

Just wanted to remind everyone there is a Board Meeting Tuesday, March 11th. Can't can watch it live on Channel 96. It will also be re-broadcast on Wednesday at 9:00 am and Sunday at 2:00 pm. To view the full agenda and the various reports, please visit BoardDocs.


12:00 - Executive Session
1:00 - Board Meeting begins

The remainder of the meeting immediately follows Public Forum


4:30 - Recognition

6:30 - Public Forum (Must sign-up prior to 6:30)

Action Items

Friday, March 07, 2008

Merit Pay Yields Mixed Results

By The Associated Press

Texas school districts are paying teachers smaller bonuses than what was recommended by lawmakers, one factor that has led to mixed results in the first year of the nation's largest merit pay plan, according to an independent study funded by the state.

The $100 million Texas Educator Excellence Grant program received a favorable response from teachers in the 1,148 schools where bonuses were awarded, according to the study.

But researchers said they are unsure if the program will prove to be a long-term success, in part because of massive turnover among schools participating in the merit pay program and smaller-than-expected bonuses. Although the Legislature recommended awarding teacher bonuses between $3,000 and $10,000, the average bonus awarded across the state was $2,263.

Read more HERE

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Florida’s ‘Theory of ...’

An intersting editorial from the New York Times about Florida's new science curriculum.

Has Florida come to its senses over the teaching of evolution? Sound science appears to be winning the latest round, but the struggle isn’t over.

We were cheered last year when a committee appointed by the State Department of Education drafted a new set of science standards that, for the first time, actually used the word evolution and called it a fundamental concept underlying all of biology. This was a huge advance over the previous standards, which gingerly referred only to “change over time,” leaving it up to teachers to decide whether they dared to mention the e-word in class.

Read more HERE

Monday, March 03, 2008

Bills Seek New Kind of Graduation Requirement

By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2008; Page PG01

A Prince George's lawmaker has introduced legislation to prohibit the use of standardized tests as public high school graduation requirements in Maryland, arguing that the High School Assessment tests could unfairly deny diplomas to deserving students.

Beginning with the Class of 2009, the Maryland Board of Education will require students to pass a series of curriculum-based exams in algebra, biology, English and government to earn a high school diploma. Students unable to pass the tests could complete projects in those subjects as an alternative.

But legislation introduced by Del. Jay Walker (D-Prince George's) would eliminate the assessment tests as graduation requirements. A second bill introduced by Walker would weigh students' scores on the standardized tests with their attendance record and grade-point average in determining eligibility to receive a diploma.

Read more HERE

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Teaching Boys and Girls Separately

New York Times
Published: March 2, 2008

On an unseasonably cold day last November in Foley, Ala., Colby Royster and Michael Peterson, two students in William Bender’s fourth-grade public-school class, informed me that the class corn snake could eat a rat faster than the class boa constrictor. Bender teaches 26 fourth graders, all boys. Down the hall and around the corner, Michelle Gay teaches 26 fourth-grade girls. The boys like being on their own, they say, because girls don’t appreciate their jokes and think boys are too messy, and are also scared of snakes. The walls of the boys’ classroom are painted blue, the light bulbs emit a cool white light and the thermostat is set to 69 degrees. In the girls’ room, by contrast, the walls are yellow, the light bulbs emit a warm yellow light and the temperature is kept six degrees warmer, as per the instructions of Leonard Sax, a family physician turned author and advocate who this May will quit his medical practice to devote himself full time to promoting single-sex public education.

Read more HERE

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Demographics Change in Charles Co. Schools

From WTOP News...

Black students are expected to become the majority demographic group in Charles County's public school system this year.

School officials say the number of black students in the county surpassed the number of white students for the first time last year, and the number probably will rise above 50 percent this year.

Over the past decade, the school system has increased from about 20,000 to 27,000 students. The number of white students dropped by about 3,000 during that period, while the number of black students has more than doubled.

The school system is mirroring population changes in the county.

Charles County now has the fastest-growing black population of any large county in the nation except the Atlanta suburbs.