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MABE - The Monitor - January, 2011

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  • Allen Dyer
    MABE - The Monitor - January, 2011 Blue Ribbon Schools Recognition The State Board and Dr. Grasmick recognized the 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools, including: Eastern
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 31, 2011
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      MABE - The Monitor - January, 2011

      Blue Ribbon Schools Recognition

      The State Board and Dr. Grasmick recognized the 2010 Blue Ribbon Schools, including: Eastern Technical High School (Baltimore County), Northern Middle School (Calvert County), New Market Elementary School (Frederick County), Ellicott Mills Middle School (Howard County), and Northwestern Elementary School (Wicomico County). The National Blue Ribbon Schools Program, administered by MSDE, recognizes up to six Maryland schools each year for outstanding student performance or significant improvements in student performance.


      Race to the Top Grant Program Update

      Dr. Grasmick introduced the presentation on the status of the Race to the Top (RTTT) program and focused on how the program‟s statewide and local implementation will be evaluated. The evaluation will involve the collaboration between the University of Maryland system and MSDE, with the Center for Applications and Innovative Research in Education (CAIRE) at Towson University serving as the coordinating body.

      Dr. Jim Foran, MSDE, described the current status of allocating funds to local school systems and necessary modifications in local scope of work plans dictated by the U.S. Department of Education. He also described in more detail the program, procedures, and training required in ramping up the department‟s responsibility to track the 54 separate grant projects. He outlined the components of the RTTT evaluation, including the ongoing review of products, processes, professional development and results. Regarding outcomes, Dr. Foran noted that the evaluation will examine the relationship between the RTTT strategies that are implemented and key educational outcomes including student achievement and measures of college readiness.

      Dr. Grasmick said she is very pleased with this collaborative effort to build the capacity within the State to conduct our own ongoing evaluation of RTTT rather than waiting for outside reviews. In this regard, she and Dr. Foran noted that MSDE is still waiting for guidance from USDE on amendments to local scope of work plans and specific procedures for MSDE to following overseeing the program.

      The State Board then heard from University of Maryland Chancellor Dr. Brit Kirwin, and Vice-Chancellor Dr. Nancy Shapiro, and Dr. Raymond Lorion, Dean of Towson University‟s College of Education.

      Dr. Shapiro opened with congratulations on winning the RTTT grant as no easy task but also observed that "you must be careful what you wish for". Chancellor Kerwin shared that he is pleased by the strong partnership between K-12 and the university system, describing RTTT as a huge

      catalyst for Maryland to move ahead. He listed the accomplishments and recognitions by

      Education Week as the Number One public school system in the nation, the College Board for outstanding achievements on Advanced Placement exams, and Kipplinger for rating Maryland as having five of the nation‟s 100 „best value‟ public universities. He described RTTT as a huge catalyst for moving Maryland forward.

      Board Member Gates asked about the alignment with the common core curriculum as opposed to what we have in Maryland, and in terms of data, what the project manager will need and what do LEAs already have. Dr. Lorion responded that the goal is not to reinvent anything, but to partner with and involve the assessment capacity of LEAs and MSDE, which will include convening teams of representatives from local school systems.

      In response to a question from board member Sidhu, the panel stressed the objective to build sustainable capacity to implement the RTTT projects but also to plan beyond the terms of the grant program for continuing collaboration.

      Board Member Staton inquired as to funding and who will have proprietary rights to final work products created through this process. Dr. Grasmick responded that funding for this evaluation is built into RTTT and that MSDE in tandem with the University System will have the ultimate responsibly for managing funding, in accordance with very detailed federal requirements. Dr. Grasmick and State board counsel Liz Kameen acknowledged that ownership of intellectual property is an important issue for further discussion.

      Dr. Lorion commented further on the goal to involve teachers, parents and students in the evaluation as Maryland proceeds with the incredibly ambitious goals of RTTT.

      Board Member Montero-Diaz noted the agreement with the positive outcomes of RTTT in allowing us to speed up what we were already on course to do, but also pointed out the note on one slide referring to a goal as „contingent upon availability of sustained funding‟. Dr. Shapiro responded that this is a question about any capacity building exercise and hopes that once the program is established and working, and relationships exist, that individual school systems have the funds to sustain the improvements. Dr. Shapiro also emphasized the hope that school systems and the university system have the budget to do the work, that local systems know who to call for supporting work, and that they do not have to go outside the state for other vendors and consultants.

      Chancellor Kirwin went further in describing the university system as MSDE‟s agent, but that this effort is in the university system‟s self interest as well, referring to the goal to achieve system-wide 55% college completion, which now is 24%. He stated that this goal cannot be achieved with system-wide assessment and partnership.

      Board Member Dukes asked about the role of higher education in teacher preparation, and Dr. Shapiro responded that students cannot learn what they haven‟t been taught, teachers can‟t teach what they haven‟t learned, and that the more we find out about what works, the more we can infuse teacher preparation programs with what they need. Handouts:

      Memo and Presentation

      Seed School Change in Admissions Policy

      The State Board reviewed and adopted requested changes to the SEED School‟s admissions policy. Dr. Grasmick began by outlining the State Board‟s role as the oversight of this state school for at-risk students from across the State. She described the two recommended changes: lowering the family

      income standards from 300% to 250% of the poverty level; and to implement strategies that will engage more systems and students from a larger pool.

      Jerry Kountz and a panel of staff presented the recommend changes as needed to increase the opportunity for enrollment by students in the underrepresented counties (counties with two or fewer students enrolled). The SEED School‟s admission policy now requires an admission by lottery of at least one 6th grade student from each county. One of the requested changes in policy would ensure that if a 7th or 8th grade student withdraws, the vacancy will be filled by a 6th grader from one of the underrepresented counties. The other change would automatically offer an additional two slots to any county with two or fewer enrolled students.

      Mr. Kountz described the changes in admissions policy as needed to increase the diversity of the student population and offered that parents and students would feel more comfortable with enrolling if more than one student from the county was also enrolling.

      Board Member Dukes questioned Mr. Kountz as to how the change to set aside only one or two slots per county would promote diversity when the vast majority of students come from Baltimore, Howard, Prince George‟s Counties and Baltimore City. The Board and Panel also discussed at length the request to raise the poverty level standard.

      Board members raised questions and voiced concerns about the requested changes, with Mr. Kountz responded by emphasizing the changes are based on recommendations from parents, to guarantee more than one slot per county; and from legislators urging the school to serve students most in need. The State Board adopted the requested policy changes, with Board President DeGraffenreidt requesting a more detailed report on the SEED School‟s history, programs and performance in February.


      Baltimore City Schools Annual Report

      Dr. Andres Alonso, CEO of the Baltimore City School System, presented the systems 2010 Annual Report, which includes multiple mandated reports in addition to the reports required of all other school systems under the Bridge to Excellence and No Child Left Behind laws.

      Board President DeGraffenreidt shared the Board‟s appreciation for the comprehensive nature of materials presented, and referred to proposed legislation to eliminate unneeded duplication.

      Dr. Alonso thanked the State Board and department for their support and collaboration and described the attention being brought to the City schools‟ success. He also described initiatives not receiving much public attention, but important nonetheless, such as expanding the number of pre-kindergarten seats to over 2000 in three years and making almost all slots full-day.

      Regarding the Master Plan, Dr. Alonso described the plan to continue to provide resources and flexibility to schools with assurances of the right guidance and forms of accountability.

      Dr. Alonso emphasized the system‟s progress in expanding choice through charter schools and enrollment growth through expanded pre-kindergarten, and reduced drop-out rates by targeting resources to at-risk students in middle and high school.

      Dr. Alonso then highlighted the two major changes for the school system in 2010, the ending of the federal special education lawsuit of many years, and the negotiated agreement with the Teachers Union which he described as creating a framework that will allow continued collaboration. In addition, he also noted the Governor‟s proposed budget which reduces funding for the City schools by more than $15 million, which he contrasted with the system gaining 683 students. He stressed that regardless of resources the system would continue to push forward.

      Board Member Staton asked Dr. Alonso to drill down to what strategies most impacted the drop-out and graduation rates. He responded by describing his belief that there is no silver bullet, but that it takes choice, accountability, the right people in right positions, and the ability to reward success and remove those not performing. He cited the decisions to move resources to the schools, to close 26 schools, to analyze and identify achievement gaps, and moving away from zero tolerance in student discipline actions. He reiterated the focus on school based decision making and resources, and the incentive for schools to successfully retain students and the resources they bring to the school. He noted the push back that can be exerted in response to these new initiatives, but that the progress is proving the value of the hard work.

      Board President DeGraffenreidt asked about the community‟s role in improving attendance, and Dr. Alonso described the enormous impact of engaging the community, contracting with community organizations, and the reaching out done by partners.

      Board Member Walsh asked Dr. Alonso about his definition of college ready and whether he is prepared to achieve that with the high school population. He responded that he has hired new chief academic officer, and the challenge to retrain staff to focus on being rigorous, because the success will only come from good teachers, principals who are paying attention, and creating all kinds of supports for kids. He pointed to the goals to continue to focus on middle school students staying in school and expanding AP courses to all high schools.

      Board Member Gates thanked Dr. Alonso, and asked for clarification on the rationale for eliminating these useful reports to the State Board. Dr. Alonso responded that although the separate reports required of the City have been useful, the master plan reporting requirements applying to all 24 systems are sufficient for the City as well, and that in these fiscal times both the department and the City, which has reduced central office staff by 500, cannot afford duplication of work.

      Student Board Member Sampson asked whether the zero tolerance policy had been eliminated entirely, and Dr. Alonso responded that certain actions such as arson continued to result in expulsion for students over the age of 16, but that the system is trying to move away from practices to automatically suspend or expel a student and trying instead to get at the root causes of the behavior.


      Charter School Review

      The State Board received a panel presentation from teachers association, the Baltimore Teacher‟s Union (BTU), and Maryland State Education Association (MSEA), regarding their positions and perspectives on Maryland‟s charter school law and policy. Dr. Grasmick introduced Marietta English, representing the BTU, and Clara Floyd, representing MSEA.

      Ms. English described the overall success of the City school system, the success of the system‟s charter schools, and that she therefore sees no need to change the state law. She also highlighted the recent success in negotiating a contract that creates career ladders and allows good teacher to keep teaching, including in the City‟s successful charter schools.

      Ms. Floyd presented MSEA‟s similarly strong support for maintaining the current statute, praising the role of local boards as sole charter authorizers, the large numbers of approved charter schools, and the limited public resources in these economic times. She described Maryland charter school law a model for the nation, with a measured approach that relies on accountability, and thoroughness, rather than rapid proliferation of schools that have had poor results. She observed that we may not have had the rapid growth of other states but also have not had problems, and cited Ohio as such a state. She agreed that there is no need for any changes from current law.

      Board Member Gates queried how the system can be working fine, and for whom, when the vast majority of districts have no charter schools. Randy Mickens, MSEA, responded that charter schools are formed within communities identifying the need for the school, and that in places with no charters it is a sign that those communities are not seeking to form charter schools. Dr. Gates responded that the Board is hearing differently, that communities do desire to form schools but that the law is onerous. Ms. English responded that the process in Baltimore is open, but that some people who want to open a school are not capable, even if they think they are, and that the current process protects children without preventing anyone from applying. Mr. Mickens observed that he is not aware of any reason why anyone wanting to pursue a charter program could not approach their local board, and that he knows there is a perception that local boards are hostile to charters but that he not aware of that being the case. He noted that MSEA has had input into the process in many cases and that this has strengthened the applications. Dr. Gates reiterated that some boards are less amiable than others.

      Board Member Dukes questioned the criticism of Maryland‟s charter school law by Race to the Top reviewers and also asked Ms English to describe the role of collective bargaining as a positive or negative influence on charter schools. She responded that Baltimore City already had a strong charter school program before the recent push by the Obama administration. She cited Maryland being ranked Number One in the nation three years in a row and that she told President Obama herself that if he wanted to know what works, look at Maryland.

      Board Member Walsh asked, specifically, if a group of teachers wants to do something in a school and they agreed to the terms the school system puts forth, is it not left up to those teachers to decide, if the union disagrees, because then it enters into the conversation. Ms. English responded that this is what is good about the new contract, that it opens up this opportunity. Ms. Walsh asked then if this contract would resolve KIPP‟s problem, and Ms. English that this issue will be negotiated and that they will make it work for the kids.

      Board President DeGraffenreidt asked the panel if, hypothetically, they could make one modification to the current law, what would it be? Ms. English and Ms. Floyd both responded that because the current law has worked for them, they had no immediate suggestions, but they welcome further open dialogue.


      State Legislative Update

      Renee Spence, MSDE, updated the Board on recent departmental briefings before the education and budget committees, briefings she referred to as the "Dr. Grasmick, Dr. Wilson and Dr. Foran Show". She described the briefings as informing and educating delegates and senators in Annapolis on Race to the Pop grant program, the common core standards, the four assurances under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), and the longitudinal database.

      Ms. Spence stated that one objective is to emphasize that the $250 million Race to the Top grant is dedicated for the purposes in the grant application, not available for any legislative shifting for other purposes. She also noted that is does not hurt that for the third year in a row, and the day before the legislative session began, Maryland was named the number one public school system in the nation again for the third consecutive year.

      Pending legislation includes the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) accompanying the Governor‟s State Budget Bill. The budget includes a proposal to merge the Maryland higher Education Commission and MSDE, but this proposals is not in the BRFA and would require separate legislation. Ms. Spence also noted that legislators, including committee chairs, are sharing complaints from constituents about GED waiting lists and other concerns since the shift of adult and correctional education programs from MSDE to the Department of Labor and Licensing. She observed that there might be legislation to return these programs to MSDE, but stressed that this would not be a departmental initiative and that she has communicated this to the Governor‟s staff.

      Ms. Spence stated that she is tracking nearly 50 bills already and would eventually be tracking approximately 20% of the bills introduced. She reviewed several education-related bills, including :

      Senate Bill 41, which would raise the compulsory attendance age from 16 to 17, and on which the State Board did not take a positions last year but sent a letter recommending that the age not be raised until additional interventions were provided for these students.

      Senate Bill 53/House Bill 44, which would add to the criteria the State board must consider in reviewing maintenance of effort waiver requests, and which is a reintroduction of the same bill broadly supported last session but which failed to pass in the final hours of the 2010 session. She noted that while there is some interest in changing the dates referenced in the bill for submitting requests, the legislature does not appear interested in amendments.

      House Bill 26, which would change the method for counting student enrolment to Average Daily Attendance, which factors in prior year rates of absenteeism, and which would reduce education funding significantly. She noted that this bill has been introduced many times but never passed.

      House Bill 127, which would make Financial Literacy a semester long course and graduation requirement, and which the State Board opposed last year as intruding on the authority of the State

      Board and local boards to determine curriculum. Board Member Staton reiterated the State Board‟s opposition to this bill to guard local autonomy to design programs and curriculum. Board President DeGraffenreidt described the bill as going against the movement toward common core standards and objectives, and also flies in the face of the outstanding work done by the financial literacy group that included Dr. Dukes. Dr. Dukes described talking to bill sponsors about some of the things that a semester long high school course cannot accomplish that can be accomplished through the more sustained instructional program required in the State Board‟s adopted regulations. Mr. DeGraffenreidt emphasized the larger issue regarding bills introduced to mandate curriculum and the need to more broadly guard the expertise of the agency from any mandated curriculum, and the Board directed Ms. Spence to do so.


      State Budget Update

      Steve Brooks, MSDE, opened his presentation of the Governor‟s FY 2012 State Budget by sharing that he yearns for a boring budget but has not yet met one. He described this as the first budget after the so-called funding cliff following the end of the short-term money provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). He described ARRA as having enabled the State to do a lot of good things, not the least of which was fully funding education in FY 2010 and FY 2011. However, the expiration of ARRA funding leaves a nearly $2 billion gap between mandated state funding and expected revenues. He outlined the major provisions of the headquarters budget, which includes a reduction of $1.9 million resulting from eliminating the High School Government HSA. He noted that this being done because this assessment is not aligned with the Common Core and while MSDE would not like to lose it, the budget realities demand certain cuts. In addition, MSDE will lose funding for surveys, travel and other regular expenses, but most importantly 15 state PINS, or full-time positions, in addition to positions that may be lost under the voluntary separation program.

      Mr. Brooks outlined the budget‟s proposed $94 million in state aid by reducing the per pupil foundation amount, full funding of the Geographic Cost of Education Index (GCEI), flat funding for public libraries, SEED School funding required under the contract, and a 5% cut to school based health centers. In addition he described continued funding for the Juvenile Services Education program and the use of Cigarette Restitution funds to pay for the $4.4 million nonpublic school textbook program.

      Mr. Brooks also described the proposal to have local school systems reimburse Department of Juvenile Services residential facilities by one time the regular cost of educating the student, and noted that MSDE is looking at how that would be implemented.

      Mr. Brooks provided a more detailed analysis of the flat funding of the Bridge to Excellence formulas at the FY 2011 level, but said that while this ensures the same total will be paid, it does not mean each LEA will be paid the same, as aid for some grows and for some decreases substantially. He stressed that the reason is this is the way the formulas work, and that certain parts of the formula determine the size of the pie and others determine the relative slices of the pie, based on local wealth relative to the way the rest of the state is doing, and enrollment growth relative to the state average.

      Dr. Walks asked about the proposed 5% cut to school health centers. Dr. Grasmick called on Donna Mazyck, MSDE, to describe the impact of this proposed cut on these services. Ms. Mazyck shared that there are 64 centers in schools in 11 school systems; centers which saw more than 70,000 students last year, and which offer mental and physical health services to students and the larger communities they serve. She emphasized that the program is amazingly successful at keeping

      students in school, providing access to students to health care for asthma, obesity, and chronic illnesses, and that any cut is a cut to students. Dr. Walks asked why are these health centers in only11 school systems and Ms. Mazyck responded these facilities require significant collaboration, and time commitment, with Somerset to be the 12

      th school system in the near future.

      Federal Update

      Debbie Lichter, MSDE, presented a brief update on the status of federal legislative and budget issues. She informed the State Board that no one on the House side from Maryland is on the education Committee and that while Senator Mikulski is, she is not on the Education Subcommittee. She noted that the State of Union scheduled for that evening would feature bipartisan partners sitting together, including Senators Mikulski and Murkowski, and Congressmen Dutch Ruppersburger and Andy Harris. Ms. Lichter observed that the president may call for the reauthorization of ESEA, but that his administration has not offered any new proposals since last year‟s Blue Print for Reform, and since then the changes in the House leadership present tremendous challenges. She described Education Committee Chairman Kline‟s interest in seeking piece meal changes to NCLB.

      In addition, she described the federal budget picture as very bleak, with advance warning that the President would call for a five year freeze on discretionary spending, and that this may be much better than the alternative Republican proposal to hold the FY 2011 budget and reduce funding to FY 2008 levels, before proposing to go back to FY 2006 levels. In conclusion, she noted that the Governor‟s office put a hold on the department‟s federal requests, recognizing that the purpose has been to request earmarks which are no longer being adopted.


      Calendar Modification

      The State Board approved Dr. Grasmick‟s request to allow Garrett County to use the Monday after Easter as one school day to make up for lost snow days, and to have the authority throughout this school year to grant such waivers.


      Public Comment

      A Towson University professor testified in opposition to the proposed elimination of the Government HSA, sharing that he has studied the marginalization of citizenship and social studies education and concluded that in states where it is not tested, the average instructional time drops to 14 minutes per week. He observed that Maryland has recognized the need to make a commitment to Social Studies education, and the HSA helps to ensure a solid grounding in this field, but that eliminating the test will cast us in a negative light and result in protests from teachers and parents. He recommended reconsidering eliminating the Government HSA.


      The State Board issued legal opinions in the following cases:

       Carroll Creek Montessori Public Charter School v. Frederick County Board of Education, denying the waiver request

       Global Gardens Public Charter School, Inc. v. Montgomery County Board of Education, reversing and remanding the local board‟ denial of the charter application for failure to state any rationale for its decision, and providing 90 days for the local board‟ reconsideration

       Crossway Community, inc. v. Montgomery County Board of Education, reversing and remanding the local board‟ denial of the charter application and providing 90 days for reconsideration


       Jennifer Matthews v. Prince George‟ County board of Education, affirming the local board‟ employment termination decision

       Washington County Board of Education v. Washington County Teachers Association, declaring the case moot but also declaring that substantive performance evaluation criteria that may be mutually agreed to under the Education Reform Act are not legal topics for collective bargaining

       Hil and Teresa R. v. Allegany County Board of Education, denying the request for reconsideration

       Wayne and Michelle J. v. Anne Arundel County Board of Education, dismissing the appeal as moot

       Ronald S. v. Montgomery County Board of Education, dismissing the appeal as untimely

       Grace H. v. Howard County Board of Education, dismissing the appeal as untimely

       Lisa McKelvie v. Howard County Board of Education, affirming the local board‟ termination of a probationary employee

       J. Christopher S. v. Frederick County Board of Education, affirming the local board‟ student transfer decision

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