Sunday, July 27, 2014

With Friends Like These...

Bobby Jindal Sued By His Allies Over Common Core
Huffington Post
July 22, 2014

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) speaks during a news conference about his efforts to remove Louisiana from tests associated with the Common Core education standards on Wednesday, June 18, 2014, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
(AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte) | ASSOCIATED PRESS

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) spent Tuesday fending off a legal attack from his allies.

Two years ago, Jindal visited a charter school operated by the Choice Foundation, a nonprofit organization that manages a chain of charter schools in Louisiana. Jindal was there to announce his support for the Common Core State Standards. As Jim Swanson, chair of the Choice Foundation schools, remembers it, Jindal praised the package of learning benchmarks as state-of-the-art.

Since then, Jindal has changed his mind, demanding that Louisiana drop the Common Core and suspending the state's contracts with testing vendors who create Common Core tests.

Now, Swanson is joining a group of parents and teachers to sue Jindal for trying to reverse his state's adoption of the standards. "This action by him has had an incredible practical effect on the education at our schools," Swanson said Tuesday during a conference call with reporters. "This action of throwing the system into disarray was a very irresponsible action."

The Common Core, a set of learning benchmarks in math and English language arts adopted by over 40 states, has recently become controversial, with tea party networks railing against what they see as intrusive federal overreach, and teachers' unions decrying what they call hobbled and rushed implementation.

On Tuesday, the Choice Foundation, together with a number of teachers and parents, filed suit against Jindal, claiming his executive actions on the Common Core -- specifically, his suspension of the testing contracts -- exceed his authority.

Read more HERE.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Drug-Use Statistics Trouble Those Looking to Curb Addiction

Risks Higher for State’s High School Students

Maryland Independent
by Nicole Clark Staff writer
July 23, 2014

Parents in Southern Maryland have continued to meet since two youth drug summits were held earlier this year, said DeForest Rathbone, a parent and grandfather who has been active in looking for solutions to curb addiction among students.

“All of them are telling the same story,” he said. It’s one of frustration when their children start taking drugs and the difficulty of trying to get youth sober and clean.

“Private programs are costly, and public programs are overwhelmed,” Rathbone said recently. “It’s a big dilemma, and I think that’s going to continue on indefinitely because of the number of kids in the pipeline who’ve already been exposed to drugs.”

Activists like Rathbone, along with community health and school leaders, are looking at data, recently released from the Centers for Disease Control, that offer some clues about what risks Maryland youth are experiencing — everything from getting enough physical activity and eating breakfast in the morning, to being raped or having drugs offered to them in school.

Only 16.9 percent of Maryland high-schoolers questioned said they were currently using tobacco, compared to 22.4 percent nationwide, according to the 2013 CDC Youth Risk Behavior Survey. But Marylanders in that age group reported using a list of other drugs at higher percentages than their peers across the country.

Read more HERE

Friday, July 25, 2014

Maryland School Board Approves Discipline Guidelines

July 23, 2014

The Maryland state school board voted this week to distribute a set of discipline guidelines intended to be a model for school systems as they move away from zero tolerance policies of the past two decades.

The new detailed guidelines provide advice to school systems on how to handle disciplinary issues. They say, for instance, that no student should be suspended for disrespect. Instead, the guidelines suggest a student can be told to do community service, be removed temporarily from the classroom or be told to write a note of apology.

In many instances, the guidelines call for a more nuanced approach to discipline than has been used in some schools throughout the state. For instance, bringing a gun to school is cause for extended suspension and expulsion, but bringing a toy water gun would only be considered a minor infraction. Students who bring an implement to school that could potentially cause injury but is not intended to be used as a weapon would not be suspended from school either, although threatening another individual with the implement could result in an extended suspension.

A work group with members representing teachers, principals, administrators, school board members and other educators took part in a yearlong attempt to write the guidelines. In presenting the report to the school board Tuesday, Robert Murphy, a specialist for school completion and alternative programs at the state education department, and Katherine Rabb, from the Open Society Institute, both said the work group had been split on some of the guidelines.

The work group created a grid that delineates how far school leaders should go to discipline students in a variety of instances from failing to show up in a school uniform to carrying a weapon.

The guidelines are intended to supplement new regulations the state board put into effect earlier this year that require school systems across the state to reduce the number of suspensions. State school board leaders became interested in reducing suspensions after a series of high-profile cases indicated students were being punished too severely for some infractions. One high school student was expelled for a year from a school in Dorchester County after a fight and denied any access to an education during the year.

Read more:,0,7631406.story#ixzz38Nj7EjLx

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Private School 'Designated' Routes Eliminated in Budget Cuts

St. Peter’s School Rolls with Bus Schedule Changes
Maryland Independent
by Gretchen Phillips Staff writer
July 23, 2014
For the first time since it opened its doors 58 years ago, St. Peter’s Catholic School in Waldorf will change its start and end times. The school also will no longer use Charles County Public Schools’ buses, school administrators said.

Beginning on the first day of school Aug. 25, St. Peter’s will start classes at 8:15 a.m. and end at 3:15 p.m., creating a seven-hour school day.

This is a change from the six-and-a-half-hour school day that formerly ran from 9:10 a.m. to 3:40 p.m.

Eliminating school buses and changing the times for school came about last month when cuts in the public schools’ budget eliminated dedicated routes for private schools.

Charles County Public Schools still is offering transportation for the private schools, which along with St. Peter’s include Archbishop Neale School in La Plata and St. Mary’s School in Bryantown. However, the schools now will share buses with public school children, and due to the route sharing, St. Peter’s would have had to adjust its start time to 7:30 a.m.

Read more HERE

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

These Are The Best (And Worst) Places In America To Raise Kids

The Huffington Post

Last year, New Hampshire, Vermont and Massachusetts snagged the top three spots. New Mexico and Mississippi held the lowest spots in both 2013 and 2014.

According to the report, 3 million more children lived in poor families in 2012 than in 2005. Additionally, the number of children who had families where no parent was employed full-time, year-round also climbed nearly 3 million since 2008. The report found that about 8 percent of youth in America are neither in school nor working, although this statistic has not changed dramatically over time.

Read more HERE

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Maryland gets waiver extension for teacher evaluations

July 21, 2014

Maryland can put off using test scores to evaluate teachers through the next school year under a waiver to federal law.

The U.S. Department of Education granted Maryland a one-year extension that will allow it to put off using annual test scores, given in grades three through eight, as part of a teacher's evaluation. The extension was expected, and Maryland legislators had already passed a law prohibiting the use of test scores until the 2016-2017 school year.

Across the nation, national education groups and state leaders are backing away from the requirement until school districts have adjusted to the new Common Core curriculum and the PARCC tests that will be given for the first time next spring.

Teachers have argued that two years of testing is needed before a teacher can be judged on test scores.

Read more:,0,4075275.story#ixzz38CTqhyrO

Monday, July 21, 2014

To Help or not to Help...That is the Question

But I Want to Do Your Homework
Helping Kids With Homework

By Judith Newman
June 21, 20

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Education Segregation to Nationwide Gentrification

A ‘nationwide gentrification effect’ is segregating us by education

Washington Post
July 11

San Francisco. Flickr user Jason Jenkins

Census data suggests that in 1980 a college graduate could expect to earn about 38 percent more than a worker with only a high-school diploma. Since then, the difference in their wages has only widened as our economy has shifted to bestow greater and greater rewards on the well-educated. By 2000, that number was about 57 percent. By 2011: 73 percent.

These figures, though, reflect only part of the inequality that has pushed the lives of college and high school graduates in America farther apart. As the returns to education have increased, according to Stanford economist Rebecca Diamond, the geographic segregation of the most educated workers has, too — and not by neighborhood, but by entire city.

This effectively means that college graduates in America aren't simply gaining access to higher wages. They're gaining access to high-cost cities like New York or San Francisco that offer so much more than good jobs: more restaurants, better schools, less crime, even cleaner air.

"With wage inequality, you could just observe the average wage of a college graduate, and the average wage of a high school graduate," says Diamond, whose research has gone a step further to calculate what she calls "economic well-being inequality." "But then on top of that, college graduates also live in the nicest cities in the country. They’re getting more benefits, even net of fact that they’re paying higher housing costs."

It's easy to recognize this phenomenon in San Francisco, or even Washington. College graduates have flooded in, drawn by both jobs and amenities. Yet more amenities have followed to cater to them (luring yet more college graduates). Housing costs have increased as a result, pushing low-wage and low-skilled workers out. At the neighborhood level, this cycle sounds a lot like how we describe gentrification. At the scale of entire cities — picture low-skilled workers increasingly excluded from Washington and San Francisco and segregated into cities like Toledo or Baton Rouge — Diamond describes this as a kind of nationwide gentrification effect.

Read more HERE

Monday, July 14, 2014

Initiative to put 40,000 laptops and tablets in Montgomery County

Montgomery County unveils initiative to put 40,000 laptops and tablets in schools

Washington Post
July 10

Montgomery County plans to launch a major technology initiative in its public schools in August, providing 40,000 laptops and tablets to students as part of a project that will expand quickly in coming years, officials said Thursday.

The school system at first will provide Chromebook laptops to students in grades three, five and six, and to high school social studies classes. By 2017-2018, Montgomery plans to have 100,000 devices, including Android-based tablets for younger students in kindergarten through second grade.

The effort is a move to bring technology into learning and teaching and to fuel digital collaboration and creativity, by the use of devices that the school system provides and those that students would be allowed to bring from home for instructional purposes.

Montgomery, with an enrollment of 151,000, is Maryland’s largest and fastest-growing school system. The project is not a one-to-one initiative — programs that assign a device to each student — but a combined approach that officials see as more affordable and sustainable.

Schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr said the effort reflects the state of education in the 21st century and takes advantage of a range of opportunities for enriched instruction that digital devices provide.

Read full article HERE

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Prince George’s the latest school system to face debate over planned cellphone towers

Ovetta Wiggins
July 6, 2014

The Washington Post

 Some residents are opposed, citing health and other concerns

Prince George’s County has become the latest school system in the Washington region to become locked in a debate over building cellphone towers on school property.

Montgomery County officials recently abandoned plans to have a cellphone tower built at Wooton High School in Rockville after an uproar from parents.  And this year, a company withdrew its plans to build a tower at Piney Orchard Elementary School in Anne Arundel County after community opposition and issues with zoning.
Now, some Prince George’s parents, concerned about exposure to radio-frequency radiation, are fighting the school system’s plan to allow a Virginia-based communications company to erect towers on county school grounds and then sublease the monopoles to carriers.
Quon Wilson, a spokesman for the county's public schools, said the system has an agreement with Milestone Communications, which is working on nine sites for such towers, including Benmamin Tasker Middle School in Bowie, Charles Carroll Middle School in New Carrollton and Oxon Hill Middle School in Oxon Hill.
Under the agreement with Milestone, the school system would receive $25,000 for each site and 40 percent of the gross revenue from the tower on its site.  The school system estimates that the agreement could generate $2.5 million over five years.
The master lease agreement was approved in 2011, but Milestone is now moving forward with plans to construct the towers.  Milestone can lease tower space for 10 years with up to a 20-year extension.
 “I don’t think putting cell towers on school property should be a business that schools are involved in,” said Thea Scarato, a parent who has testified before the Board of Education on studies that raise concerns about the dangers posed by cellphone towers.
Placement of the towers, which have popped up increasingly in suburban communities as the demand for wireless technology has grown, is often controversial because of the potential to ruin vistas and because they raise health worries.
Shortly after the board approved the policy, but before the lease agreement was signed, Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Prince George's) introduced a bill to block the school system from allowing the towers on school sites after she received complaints from residents.  The legislation did not pass.
When Milestone joined with the county three years ago, it identified 73 potential sites for constructing towers.
Since then, it has received a building permit for a cell tower at Green Valley Academy in Temple Hills and has filed another permit at Benjamin Tasker.
Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said the towers could be built abutting school grounds if the school system did not have an agreement to allow them on school property.
"We felt it was best for us to have control over that situation and be able to have the schools gain the economic benefit that others would be gaining," Eubanks said.  "That has always been our perspective."
Prince George's schools chief Kevin M. Maxwell said the cell towers are not a huge financial benefit for the school system, but they provide the community with a benefit: better cellphone coverage from carriers.
Maxwell said there is also an additional component to having the towers near the schools.  It will help ensure that all of the county schools are connected to wireless networks and that students can use technology that will make them college and career ready, he said.
Read original article HERE.

Common Core work group meets for first time

Work group to review standards, determine implementation practices

By Tim Tooten
UPDATED 6:27 PM EDT Jul 11, 2014

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. —A state Common Core work group picked to review the controversial educational standards met Thursday for the first time to review the standards and how local school districts would implement them.

The goal was to bring more than two dozen people to the table, lawmakers included, to first try and understand Common Core and figure out ways to make sure students are prepared for the change and the test that goes along with these new standards.

Maryland students have already gotten a feel for Common Core when they took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test in the spring. Now, a Common Core work group approved by the governor is meeting to try and make sense of the standards.

"It's important that we are all sitting around the table and that we can have a substantive conversation about what is good for our children in the state of Maryland," said Henry Johnson, assistant state superintendent of curriculum, assessment and accountability.

Read more HERE

Monday, July 07, 2014

Montgomery County School Board Members Questioned about Credit Card Use

Montgomery County School Board Members' Credit Card Use Called Into Question

Saturday - 7/5/2014, 3:41am 
Andrew Mollenbeck

SILVER SPRING, Md. — Reading, writing and arithmetic have temporarily become overshadowed by lobster tail, hotel room service and credit card misuse.  Credit card purchases by Montgomery County Board of Education members and their staff have set off a new round of criticism and an effort to overhaul spending practices.  There was the restaurant meal at Fager's Island during a conference in Ocean City. The final tab, which included orders of the surf and turf, lobster tail and sea bass, was $509.  In another eyebrow-raising charge, a round trip taxi fare to St. Mary's County cost $457. The board member, Judy Docca, cannot drive for health reasons, so she takes taxis to meetings, ABC7 reports. Other purchases have been called "accidental," with school district credit cards covering personal expenses.  One of those, by Board member Roland Ikheloa, was a $581.87 purchase at a tire shop. He later repaid the school district.  Board member Chris Barclay told ABC7 his 14 unauthorized purchases with the school credit card were accidents.  The newly-released documents reveal some lavish indulgences, even while some teachers take it upon themselves to supply their classroom needs.

Read the complete article HERE
I must say I am shocked over the amount of spending.  Before you ask, no Charles County board members do NOT have a credit card.  We currently receive $4,000 per year in salary and $600 per year for all local expenses.  If we attend a conference (such as NSBA), we are entitled to our conference fee, hotel stay (conference member hotels), air travel, and a per diem for food same as all other staff.  No rental cars, tourism, entertainment, etc.  If we go to a fancy restaurant and spend more on food, we certainly permitted, but it comes out of pocket.  We are allowed and encouraged to sight-see while we are there, but it is out of pocket.  If family members attend with us, it is out of our own pocket.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

Budget Shortfalls hit St. Mary's County but NOT THEIR Board of Education

Sequestration finally hits the St. Mary's County budget

Leonardtown, MD - 6/30/2014
By Dick Myers
The Baynet

The effects of last year’s federal government Sequestration have finally come home to roost in St. Mary’s County. Chief Financial Officer Elaine Kramer reported Tuesday to the county commissioners that income tax revenues for the fiscal year that ends today (June 30) are $2,347,132 below what was budgeted. “Certainly the decline in revenue is associated with Sequestration,” Kramer told the commissioners.
The revenue decline was not unexpected and the commissioners put a cushion in the budget in case it happened. The commissioners agreed on Tuesday to use monies in the emergency reserve and OPEB (Other Post-Employment Benefits) reserve accounts, which had not been used, to plug the hole in the income tax revenue account.
Commissioner Todd Morgan (R: 4th) observed that the effect of the Sequestration impact is not over yet. “We should be prudent as we move forward,” he said.
Commissioner President Francis “Jack” Russell said, “We are certainly getting a consistent message from the state that revenues are going to be off.”
The commissioners unanimously agreed to move the monies in the two accounts to cover the shortfall.