Saturday, January 30, 2010

Why students fail AP tests

Wasington Post
Jay Mathews

My column last week about how to reveal the secrets of which teacher is getting the best Advanced Placement results received many more comments than I expected. This was, I thought, a topic only for insiders, AP obsessives like me. I forgot, once again, that college-level exams have become a rite of passage for at least a third of American high schoolers, with that proportion increasing every year.

The column provided links to the several local school districts that have posted the subject-by-subject AP results for each school. I was shocked that any were doing it, since five years ago when I asked about this, few school officials had given it much thought. Since the AP tests are written and graded by outside experts, a teacher who does not challenge his students in class is likely to have lots of low scores on that school report, which until now hardly anyone had a chance to see.

Many thought I glossed over the effects of opening up AP courses to anyone who wants to get a useful taste of college trauma, sort of like camping in the back yard before your dad takes you to the Sierras. Enough mediocre students have enrolled in AP, and a similar program International Baccalaureate, to lower average scores even in the classes of the best teachers.

Read more HERE

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Exercises can help combat and prevent girls' ACL injuries

by Lenny Bernstein
The Washington Post by Lenny Bernstein
Thursday, January 28, 2010

It's no secret that young women athletes are suffering an epidemic of crippling injuries to their anterior cruciate ligaments (ACLs), one of the four strong bands of tissue that connect the leg bones at the knee joint. A decade of research and books such as Michael Sokolove's "Warrior Girls" have shown that our daughters are three to eight times as likely as our sons to tear an ACL.

Less recognized is that preventive measures can be quite effective if the right program is implemented in the right way, according to some of the same research.

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Notes from the APFO Meeting with the Commissioners

The Board of Education met with the Charles County Comissioners on January 26th to discuss the next Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance (APFO) Cycle. To view all the documents click HERE.

Interesting facts....

  • The state recently analyzed the use of classrooms in our schools and derived new state rated capacities (SRC) for eight of them. Of these eight, six were elementary schools that received renovation to accomodate for the all-day kindergarten. In other words it was expected. The two remaining schools were NOT expected and are listed below. (Old SRC/New SRC)....Lackey 1474/1539........Davis 949/1148
  • Bad news.... if you were interested in building a home in the following school districts, Diggs, Jenifer, Malcolm, T.C. Martin, LaPlata or Westlake....ummmm...there is none. Sorry Charlie :(.

One last side note and something to what is exactly happening to the DRRA funds that are collected for the building of the schools? The balance is decreasing at alarmingly levels but the school system hasn't received any of it....(scratching my head)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Your school's AP secrets

Jay Mathews’s Class Struggle
January 21, 2010
The Washington Post

[This is my Local Living column for Jan. 21, 2010.]

Ever seen the Advanced Placement Grade Report for your high school? I thought not. Most people don’t know it exists. That is why I have so much pleasure going over the reports. It is like reading the principal’s e-mails, full of intriguing innuendo and secrets that parents and students aren’t supposed to know.

Although these subject-by-subject reports rarely appear on public Web sites, some schools will show them to me if I ask, for the following reasons: 1. I am very polite; 2. no reporter has ever asked for them before, so there are no rules against it; and 3. they don’t think anyone will care.

They are wrong on that last count. The AP Grade Report allows the public to see which AP courses at a school produce the most high grades, and the most low grades, on AP exams. You can gauge the skill of the teachers and the nature of the students who take various AP subjects.

This region’s schools have made AP (and the similar International Baccalaureate, which provides comparable reports) the most challenging and influential courses they have. On Feb. 1, The Post will publish my annual rankings of Washington area schools based on participation in these tests, written and scored by outside experts. Students who do well on them can earn college credit. Many people would be interested in the actual results (different from the participation figures I use in the rankings) if they were readily available. To my surprise, that is beginning to happen.

Read more HERE.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

In Suburban Schools, an Alternative to A.P.

Published: January 8, 2010

JERICHO, N.Y. — In a St. John’s University English class the other day, 10 students tackled George Orwell’s “1984” like generations of collegians before them. But while there was plenty of higher-order thinking, the class — and the students — were technically still in high school.

The college class is one of 16 being taught at Jericho High School here on Long Island, half of them added in the past two years through new partnerships with St. John’s in Queens, Molloy College in Rockville Centre and the Rochester Institute of Technology. The Jericho students simultaneously fulfill their high school graduation requirements and, for a reduced fee, earn college credit.

These so-called dual-enrollment courses have long been used in urban schools to provide some higher education to poor and minority students and encourage them to go on to college. But now many top suburban high schools are embracing dual enrollment as a way to challenge their brightest students and ward off senioritis once college applications are done. They say the college courses offer an alternative to the high-pressure AP program, in which students receive college credits or advanced placement based on their performance on an exam at the end of the year. The courses are also attractive in the current economy because they award college credit for a fraction of the normal tuition cost. (At Jericho, for example, students pay $250 for a three-credit course, while the cost for a St. John’s student would be $2,934.)


Friday, January 15, 2010

Another "PRIVATE" Meeting?

When will the commissioners learn that Charles County citizens do NOT condone or want the county business decided at the golf course, country club or behind closed doors?

On Wednesday January 13 there was a meeting that occurred between BOE Chair Bobbie Wise, BOE Vice-Chair Donald Wade, Commissioner Wayne Cooper, and County Administrator Dr. Rebecca Bridgett. Mr Wade and Ms. Wise were informed that the Commissioners were very "disappointed" that the Board of Education gave their employees their step increase. Dr. Bridgett wanted to know why the Board of Education didn't transfer any extra money they had in the salary category to another category that would allow "students to graduate without any fees" or "transfer to a category so that teachers don't have to spend their own money on supplies" and "every department gave back 2% except the Board of Education". "What are you going to do next year when you don't have the money for this reoccurring expense?".

Fees? What fees?

Transfer? Wasn't the BOE told we could not do this at our budget meeting?

Did they ever hear of MOE?

Well read the press statement you have in front of you - it states exactly what could happen next year.

Lots more was said and discussed and I suggest that you the public query those that were present!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Charles Schools Will Pay 73% of Employees Retroactive Pay Raises

Posted on January 13, 2010

LA PLATA, Md. (Jan. 13, 2010) -- The Charles County Board of Education voted Tuesday to provide eligible employees step increases, effective immediately and retroactive to July 1, 2009. The change affects 73 percent of employees.

The vote closes this school year’s negotiations, which did not provide for any raises in July, but were left open for renegotiation in January to discuss step and scale increases. No cost of living (COLA) raises were provided. Negotiations were completed earlier this week with the school system’s two bargaining groups, the Education Association of Charles County (EACC), which represents certificated employees including teachers, and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), which represents support or classified employees.


Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Union Chief Seeks to Overhaul Teacher Evaluation Process

Published: January 12, 2010

WASHINGTON — Facing criticism that her union makes it too hard to get rid of bad teachers, Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, on Tuesday announced a union-backed effort to develop a new model for how public school teachers should be evaluated, promoted and removed.

The effort will be run by Kenneth R. Feinberg, the federal government’s special master for executive compensation.

In a speech at the National Press Club, Ms. Weingarten sought to present a more flexible, cooperative face for her union as she announced Mr. Feinberg’s new role and called for sweeping changes in how school districts evaluate teachers and work with teachers’ unions.


As School Exit Tests Prove Tough, States Ease Standards

Published: January 11, 2010

A law adopting statewide high school exams for graduation took effect in Pennsylvania on Saturday, with the goal of ensuring that students leaving high school are prepared for college and the workplace. But critics say the requirement has been so watered down that it is unlikely to have major impact.

The situation in Pennsylvania mirrors what has happened in many of the 26 states that have adopted high school exit exams. As deadlines approached for schools to start making passage of the exams a requirement for graduation, and practice tests indicated that large numbers of students would fail, many states softened standards, delayed the requirement or added alternative paths to a diploma.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NOTES from Board of Education Meeting, 1/12/10

The Board Meeting on Tuesday, January 12th 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, North Point High School's JROTC unit

Election of Chairman/Vice Chairman

  • Chair Nominations - Wade 4; Wise 3
  • Chair Vote - Wise 4; Wade 3
  • Vice-Chair Nominations - Wade 3; Abell 1; Pedersen 1; Wise 1; Carrington 1
  • Vice-Chair Vote - Wade 5; Wise 1; one blank vote
Chair Official Public Vote-

Pedersen motioned to accept Wise as Chairman; Cook seconded.
Yes=Abell, Bailey, Carrington, Cook, Pedesen No=Wade,
Vice-Chair Official Public Vote
Pedersen motioned to accept Wade asVice-Chairman; Carrington seconded
Yes=Bailey, Carrington, Cook, Pedersen, Wade, Wise Abstain=Abell

Reports of officers/boards/committees

Superintendent's update - Read report

  • Correspondence/Board Member updates - Wise pointed out recent articles on CCPS. Parents magazine on autism. Maryland Independent article on student & teacher cancer survivors at Higdon and the school family support. Carrington enjoyed the choral concert at McDonough

  • Education Association of Charles County update - Read report

  • Student Board Member update - Read report

  • CIP update - Read report; Wineland attended commissioners mee

  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) kindergarten through grade 12 Algebraic Thinking - Awesome demonstration of "Magic Planet"; please see the report and view this portion either online or on television.

  • Budget update - Read report

  • Legislative update - State Budget Review

Unfinished business

  • Pedersen - Finalize What Counts? specifics; Cook says they still need a moderator; Bailey suggested Cecil Marshall

New business

  • Strawberry Hills school site - See report. Abell - confused about this being on the agenda, thought it was decided that we were requesting this in writing and hold off. Wineland stated a letter was sent on 12/8, never forwarded to board. Abell - park has already been placed on the property? not prepared to move forward. Pedersen in ready.
Wade motioned to return the property to the county. Bailey seconded.
Yes=Bailey, Carrington, Cook, Pedersen, Wade, Wise. No=Abell
  • Negotiations
Carrington motioned to accept the Superintendent recommendations for
FY2010. Abell seconded. Yes=All

Future agenda items

  • Abell - Parent@School update
  • Pedersen - hold off on Policy review until March after budget and What Counts.

Recognition - 4:30 p.m.

  • Students
  • Employees
  • Resolutions: African-American History Month; Career and Technical Education Month; and National School Counseling Week.
Public Forum - 6 p.m.

Action items

  • Minutes
Carrington motioned to approve. Cook seconded. Yes=all.
  • Personnel
Cook motioned to approve. Carrington seconded. Yes=all.


Friday, January 08, 2010

REMINDER: Board of Education Meeting, 1/12/10

The Board of Education's next monthly meeting is Tuesday, Jan. 12, at the Jesse L. Starkey Administration Building on Radio Station Road in La Plata. The public portion of the meeting begins at 1 p.m.; recognition begins at 4:30 p.m. The meeting is televised live on Comcast Channel 96 and Verizon Fios Channel 12 and is rebroadcast throughout the week. Programming schedules are available at

Executive session - 12 p.m.

Call to order - 1 p.m.

Pledge of Allegiance, North Point High School's JROTC unit

Election of Chairman/Vice Chairman

Reports of officers/boards/committees

  • Superintendent's update
  • Correspondence/Board Member updates
  • Education Association of Charles County update
  • Student Board Member update
  • CIP update
  • Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) kindergarten through grade 12 Algebraic Thinking
  • Budget update
  • Legislative update
Unfinished business

New business
  • Strawberry Hills school site
Future agenda items

Recognition - 4:30 p.m.
  • Students
  • Employees
  • Resolutions: African-American History Month; Career and Technical Education Month; and National School Counseling Week.
Public Forum - 6 p.m.

Action items
  • Minutes
  • Personnel



The Maryland State Department of Education has released the 2008-2009 FACT BOOK. Please click on the link below for a wealth of information and comparison on the school systems throughout Maryland.


Thursday, January 07, 2010

Gifted education outrages

Class Struggle by Jay Mathews

Washington Post  [This is my column for the Local Living section of Jan. 7, 2010]

My Dec. 10 column about that troublesome Washington area gifted child, future billionaire Warren Buffett, said our schools are never going to help such kids much. I said the gifted designation was often arbitrary and should be disposed of. Instead, we ought to find ways to let all kids explore their talents.


This produced a flood of comments on my blog. Many readers thought I was callous and daft. “Unfortunately, eliminating the label generally means that the schools give up doing anything for advanced learners,” wrote a reader signing in as EduCrazy. Another commenter, CrimsonWife, said “if educators are fine with giving special attention and services to kids who are far out of the mainstream on the low end of the spectrum, why is it so controversial to provide specialized services to kids who are far out of the mainstream on the high end?”


But some wondered if there might be promising alternatives. “When schools fail to challenge our most capable learners, what they learn is that effort is not required,” said mom22. “Unless, of course, some adult gives them the chance to do things differently, and to focus on something fascinating. My kids have found these things often in school, but out of their classroom.” I wonder if she realizes the consequences of such an approach, taken to its logical extremes. 

Take, for instance, Quaker Valley High School in Leetsdale, Penn., a Pittsburgh suburb. Linda Conlon, an academic specialist there, explained to me what they are doing. If you are easily shocked, please stop reading. I have checked Conlon out. She is telling the truth. Her school is like many in the Washington area, mostly middle class kids. But Quaker Valley lets them get away with stuff that flouts well-established educational rules and procedures.


One Quaker Valley student realized the established sequence of math courses barred her from taking calculus before graduation. She felt she needed that course to look good to colleges and prepare for advanced science, since she wanted to be a doctor. She asked to take trigonometry on her own over the summer, just her and the school textbook and maybe a tutor. Yeah, right, I said. But the Quaker Valley math department said yes. She passed the trig exam without taking the course, eventually took calculus, got the college she wanted and is now in med school.


It gets worse...

Read more HERE.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010



The Board of Education will be hosting a forum entitled "What Counts?" scheduled on Thursday, February 18th at Westlake High School. This forum will include roundtable discussions to gather input from our community on "What Counts in Education.". Attendance and participation at this forum is by invitation only. Each board member has been asked to submit a list of 20-30 names by January 12th as invitees.

If you are interested in being one of my 20-30 invitees to this event, please EMAIL ME as soon as possible, with your name and mailing address.

Friday, January 01, 2010

Earlier bedtime 'cuts teenage depression'

Going to bed earlier protects teenagers against depression and suicidal thoughts, research suggests.

A US study of 12 to 18-year-olds found those with bedtimes after midnight were 24% more likely to have depression than those who went to bed before 2200.

And those who slept fewer than five hours a night had a 71% higher risk of depression than those who slept eight hours, the journal Sleep reports.

Read more HERE.