Monday, October 20, 2008

Weast, Grasmick disagree over HSAs

Click HERE for the complete article from the Montgomery Gazette dated October 8, 2008

Click HERE for the resolution passed by the Montgomery County Board of Education

FROM SUE ALLISON – MAHST (Marylanders Against High Stakes Testing)

In the October 1, article, MD Supt. Nancy Grasmick scolds Jerry Weast for not being "collegial":

"It is interesting that 23 other school systems have worked collegially with MSDE staff to resolve issues they have encountered with the implementation of both the High School Assessments and [No Child Left Behind],"

Isn't that RICH! Is it "collegial" to force Jerry Weast to tell parents their children's hard earned diplomas will be shredded this spring, despite the fact that Dr. Grasmick and her collegial staff have not lived up to their own responsibilities?

The HSA Bridge Plan is an opportunity for certain students to submit “projects” that will allow them to graduate if those students are unable to achieve passing scores on the HSAs. Superintendent, Dr. Weast is asking parents with HSA, Bridge Plan concerns to attend the October 28th MD State Board of Education meeting in Baltimore.

During a meeting with her child’s high school principal, Nannette, a Montgomery County parent, discovered there would now be two graduation dates. The first being a traditional date in the spring and the second being sometime in August for those students whose final bridge projects were not graded on time. It was also mentioned that the “projects” would now be graded by the county and not by the state as was mentioned all along – including on MSDE’s HSA’s own website. Nannette was outraged to hear that the second graduation date has been set for sometime in August. “Well thank you very much for having a self contained graduation for our children! This is just what we need to hear – more exclusions!”

The Montgomery County Board of Education recently passed a resolution supporting a delay in HSAs being tied to diplomas. This resolution begs the question -- why is Montgomery County standing alone in this fight? Where is the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE)? Isn't this why our county boards of education pay them dues - to join together to fight unjust mandates? Isn't this the perfect time for them to step up to the plate? And if not now - WHEN?

Our friend, Nanette, called all 24 local boards to find out who would be attending the October 28, state board meeting. She found that only five superintendents may attend (Weast-Mo. Co., Alonso-Balt. City, Shirley-Caroline, Teets-Garrett, and Hildebrand-Dorchester) and of them, only three plan to speak (Weast, Alonso, and Shirley).

Why not drop these superintendents a line and give them your concerns and remind them that they will be representing many more Maryland high school students than just those who reside in their own county. Then, drop your own superintendent a line and ask why he or she is not speaking at the meeting. What could be more pressing than hundreds of Maryland high school students being denied diplomas when they’ve clearly passed all their state-mandated classes? While it could be a career-limiting event to cross Dr. Grasmick and the MSDE, (by Maryland law, local boards hire superintendents but only the state superintendent has the authority to fire one) there is more at stake than job security for these well-paid superintendents – our children’s futures!


Anonymous said...

Can someone please justify the overcrowded classrooms in CCPS while we have high school students receiving one-on-one (sometimes as high as 3 to 1) tutoring by certified teachers during the school day so that they can pass their bridge projects in time for graduation? The students work with the teacher during an entire class block. Shouldn't we be using that teacher to reduce the class size of an Algebra I or English II class (also tested areas)? While I understand that we cannot leave these bridge project children "behind," how is it sensible and fair to have such a seemingly gross misallocation of resources? I would like my child to have one-on-one tutoring for an entire class period!

Anonymous said...

Its because our school systems are being held hostage to HSA's and No Child Left Behind. Its more important for our schools to meet the standards set by bureaucrats than to actually educate students.

LegalBeaglette said...

To Anonymous (10/22 7:04AM): Perhaps you could be more specific about how schools are being held hostage to NCLB? What is it about that legislation you think is a problem?

Anonymous said...

Well--for starters...NCLB isn't being funded properly. The federal government hasn't put its money where its mouth is.

Anonymous said...

So if it's not being funded properly, why whore ourselves into providing these services (where we lack the money), whilst the CCBOE administrative offices continue to reap outrageous salaries?

Why do we allow the hideous idea of these countless "specialists"? These people should be teaching a classroom full of students. Doesn't it make sense to do this in order to reduce the number of students per classroom?

Hell, students are complaining that if they don't choose to take AP classes, then they back off to "honors-level courses" that are filled with animals that should be in "A" level classes to begin with? What happened to the "honor" in "honors" classes?

And anonymous above, where in the heck in the U.S. Constitution does it mention that bureaucrats are to stick their booger-filled noses into the state's education?

It's a political pig-sty that causes parents to run for the hills and take their children to private schools, even if it means running them into D.C. and other places, far from this place.
And the county sucks us dry, begging for our tax money to support this crap, while we have to pay $15,000 for a decent education in a private school.


LegalBeaglette said...

Ah, the boogeyman – “unfunded mandates.” Is that what you meant (Anonymous 10/22 5:01) when you stated that NCLB was not "properly funded?"

It’s thrown around frequently and heavily, but not generally with any specific reference. Do you have anything specific – an identified “unfunded mandate” – to which you object?

“Testing,” maybe? Maryland had tests long before NCLB – norm-referenced testing that provided parents and teachers skill information about individual students. Terra Nova, for example, provided a child’s grade-level performance against a local and national percentile comparison, with mastery scores for specific skills, like sentence structure, number and numerical relations, computation and estimation, operation concepts, measurement, geometry and special sense, data, statistics and probability, physical/life/earth and space science, geographic perspectives, history and culture, civics and government. Among others.

Then came MSPAP, where group testing and skill information about “overall” student population was assessed. It was a testing program, not nationally norm-referenced, that yielded little information about any child’s mastery of skills. A request for “individual” scores had to be made in writing by a parent (and many teachers told parents individual scores simply weren’t available), and provided two things: a scale score and a proficiency level (1-5), on a form which contained no explanation of what either represented, and only for the general subject areas of reading, writing, language usage, mathematics, science and social studies. In our experience, those overly broad “individual” scores were inconsistent, and we dealt with children who felt “used” by the schools and their teachers in the grouping and testing process.

And, of course, there were the “functional skills” tests. Pass/fail.

Parents want “accountability.” When a child attends school for nearly 8 hours a day, five days a week, for 183 days…what has he or she learned? When such a large chunk of everyone’s taxes goes to education, how that money is spent, and whether children are learning are questions that deserve to be answered, and for all children.

What seems to be the complaint (and please tell me how you might disagree) is that with NCLB, that testing (which is, please remember, determined by the individual states, not the federal law) is required to show individual results, group results and improvement over time.

That is a bad thing?

Is the teacher qualification issue an “unfunded mandate?” Is that a bad thing? Is it an issue each state could have/should have evaluated and improved before NCLB? Wouldn’t it have been a good place to start, especially with schools that did not show good results with established testing programs within the state? With Charles County going from 51% to 91% “highly-qualified” teachers in the years since NCLB became law (and I’ll admit to being a bit leery of those percentages)…parents should complain and demand the law be rescinded, or that provision be ignored?

Is parent involvement and notification an “unfunded mandate?” Is that a bad thing? Is that something that was not permitted, or objectionable, or just plain “not done” before NCLB? Appropriately so?

Anonymous said...

Well said, Legalbeaglette! The mantra from the educational establishement is always "unfunded mandate" yet, I bet there are very few teachers out there that can support their mantra with facts. As Hitler said, "The great masses of people....will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one." Do these people realize that NCLB gave a lot of power to the individual states? If people have a bone to pick with NCLB, perhaps they need to start investigating Grasmick's part in the mandates that affect Maryland - and Maryland alone! We've already invested TRILLIONS of dollars into the black hole of "public" education and we're told it isn't enough! What do you want? 110% of my salary? Money can't buy love and it's being proven every day money can't buy an appropriate public education either. I've shown you my money, now show me the results!

Anonymous said...

NCLB - not enough money? Ha, ha, harty, har, har! In Joseph Goebbels' words...

"If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

(Goebebel was Hitler's Reich Minister for Popular Enlightenment and Propaganda.)

Anonymous said...

The problem with using testing programs for so called "accountability" is that it is only a snap shot of how a student performed on a single day. In fact depending on the grade level and the classes the individual student takes he/she may take several multi-hour tests in the same week (or even 4 or 5 days in a row!). Someone in need of a PhD topic should study how students perform on their Monday test as compared to their Thursday or Friday test.

A test (which is only useful if it is both statistically valid and reliable) can be one tool in a larger program of truly measuring how a student is doing. Some kids do great in class and bomb the test. Did they not earn that A, do they not perform well on standardized tests, or did they just have a bad day?

The current testing program has placed all resources in the "assessed areas" to the detriment of everything else. It is especially woeful that the areas which enrich students lives the most such as fine arts and foreign language are suffering by having resources diverted away to the "assessed areas". Guidance counselors also routinely try to talk kids out of taking fine arts classes (as an example) to cram them into something that is tested.

Finally, the current testing system provides little accountability on the part of the student. With the pathetic "bridge plan" students can now be rewarded with a back door diploma while the school can potentially be punished for the same student's poor performance.

LegalBeaglette said...

The problem with using testing programs for so called "accountability" is that it is only a snap shot of how a student performed on a single day.

I don’t think I understand what you’re trying to say. You’re framing my argument about testing and NCLB in the context of “a student.” I’m not.

You refer to “statistically valid” and “reliable.” An adequate sampling, consistency of results, and measuring what is supposed to be measured: those are the components of good testing, with which you seem to agree. Accountability – with regard to reported results under NCLB, looks at groups of students, and at schools as a whole.

My point is: If the argument is that testing is required by NCLB, and the testing being used is not good – the flaw is not with NCLB, it is with the state which chooses it. “Testing” – some form of assessment – is used by the education system to determine mastery of objectives, by each teacher in every class, by the school system in every school, and by every state for every school district – and that took place before NCLB. With NCLB, the focus is on core subjects because that is what public education system is for.

Whether a state or county chooses to inundate students with testing – for example, using one testing program for federal measures, another for state – again, that’s the state’s issue to field complaint against, not the NCLB.

I’m not debating the value of fine arts (the example you used) – such programs have their value, and do enrich lives…but the bottom line is that public schools need to focus on what the public school system is intended to do: ensure that every responsible effort is made to educate students (every student) to read, write, and do arithmetic. [There is no prohibition against using music, art, or inclusive languages (CCPS term, not mine) to help teach core subjects.]