Monthly Archives: July 2016

Andrew Smarick Elected President of Maryland State Board of Education

Headshots for Bellwether Education. Photos by Toby Jorrin.

Andy Smarick, longtime contributor to Education Next is now the elected President of the Maryland Sate Board of Education – Photo by Toby Jorrin.

Congratulations to Andy Smarick, longtime contributor to Education Next and the EdNext blog. We are hoping he is going to bring much needed order in the State Board of Education and fight corruption within the Maryland state Education system heads on.

Also as Liz Bowie writes in the Baltimore Sun

Andrew Smarick, a longtime education policy expert who has worked on the national and state level, was elected president of the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday.

Smarick, who was appointed as a member of the school board a year ago by Gov. Larry Hogan, works as a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit. He was formerly an education official at the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush.

Andy has written frequently for Education Next about how difficult it is to turn around failing schools. He has described how school districts could get out of the business of running their own schools and instead oversee a portfolio of independently run schools.

In 2013 Andy wrote a series of blog entries in which he interviewed interesting people in the world of education policy and these interviews shed a bit of light on what Andy himself is like. They’re great reads. Here’s an interview with Kaya Henderson, for instance. You can find lots more here.




U.S. Education Department issues guidelines for supporting homeless students


New guidance, aligned with the new federal education law, aims to help the more than 1.3 million homeless students in U.S. public schools. (iStock)

With millions of students across the United States set to begin returning to school in coming weeks, the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance Wednesday for states and school districts on how to respond to the specific needs of homeless students.

The guidelines, provided in response to new provisions in the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, emphasize practices aimed at providing stability and safety for the homeless public school population, which included more than 1.3 million students in the 2013-2014 school year.

“Homeless children and youth face a number of barriers to getting the education they deserve and the services they need to succeed in school and beyond,” U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King, Jr. said in a statement. “It is our hope that the guidance we are releasing today will serve as a tool to help states and districts better serve homeless children and youth – we can and we must do better.”

The department’s guidance addresses changes in the new law and is intended to help states and districts understand and implement provisions under the reauthorized McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program. Those provisions affect homeless students in numerous ways, including how homeless students are identified; the coordination between schools and other homeless and social service providers; protecting privacy of student records; and increasing college and career readiness.

“Homeless children and youths must have access to the educational and related services that they need to enable them to meet the same challenging state academic standards to which all students are held,” department officials wrote in an executive summary. “In addition, homeless students may not be separated from the mainstream school environment.”

The guidance drew praise from Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) who had helped shepherd passage of ESSA through Congress last year.

“I was proud to fight for these improvements in our new education law and I thank the department for working with me to prioritize and serve these students so they can achieve at the highest levels and secure a pathway to the middle class,” Murray said in a statement.

The department’s guidance, which is non-binding for states and districts, emphasized paying particular attention to “services for preschool-aged homeless children, which data show compose a major share of the overall homeless population.”

The department also offered new guidance on making it easier for homeless students to access financial aid for college and helping them better navigate federal financial aid forms. Students who are designated as homeless will be considered independent and will not need to provide their parents’ financial information.

>> Via Washington Post


Tim Kaine Loves Public Schools. So Does His Wife Anne, Who is Virginia’s Secretary of Education


Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia and his wife Anne Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina

Hillary Clinton’s choice for her running mate is Tim Kaine, Senator from Virginia. Tim Kaine is one of the few people in American politics who has been elected mayor (of Richmond, Virginia), governor, and senator.

He is also a steadfast supporter of public education, even though he graduated from a Jesuit high school. His own children attended primarily black schools in Richmond. His wife is now Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virgina.

This is what he wrote three years ago about his life as a public school parent in Richmond.

Anne and I are now empty-nesters. Combined, our three kids spent 40 school years in the Richmond Public Schools. While we both interact with the school system in our professional lives, we’ve learned even more from back-to-school nights, parent-teacher conferences, attending school events and pulling crumpled notes to parents out of our kids’ backpacks. The lessons learned as parents have made me think about what works and what doesn’t work in Pre-K-12 education. Here are seven changes I’d like to see:

It’s about the individual!

Most policy debate these days seems to be about charter schools or high-stakes testing. But I’m convinced that the most important reform has been under our noses since 1975, when legislation was passed to guarantee children with diagnosed disabilities receive individualized learning plans tailored to meet their specific needs.

Each child brings a mix of strengths and challenges to the classroom. Let’s use the insight gained through advances in educating kids with disabilities to leverage new technologies and teaching methods that can individualize learning for each child.

Early childhood education works

My daughter was able to attend a year of high-quality pre-K in our city schools. This experience made me a believer, and it’s one of the reasons why I greatly expanded pre-K for at-risk 4 year olds when I was governor.
The research is powerful — if you invest in high-quality programs that coordinate with K-12 curricula and have mandatory teacher standards, the gains from early education are lasting. It’s also important that we focus on coordinating investments made in early childhood programs — such as Head Start — to ensure we are effectively using our funding, eliminating any waste and bolstering the structure of our education system.

The article goes on to add other recommendations, including the importance of arts education and the necessity of reducing testing.

His article ended like this:

Finally, a note of gratitude. Our kids were blessed to have many wonderful teachers. There were some weak ones, but RPS teachers were mostly solid, some spectacular and a few life-changing for our children. As I listen to public debate, it often sounds like our main issue is how to get rid of bad teachers. But this problem pales beside the larger issue of how to keep good teachers.

Too many great prospective teachers never enter the profession and too many great teachers leave too early over low salaries, high-stakes testing pressure, discipline challenges and an overall belief that society doesn’t value the profession. We need a robust debate about how to value and attract good teachers.

Better yet, Tim Kaine’s wife Anne is a long-time champion for children and for public schools. Reformers will not find an ally in her. She cares about children and has a deep commitment to improving their lives.

As a schoolgirl in 1970, she was on the front lines of the fight to desegregate Virginia’s public schools. Holton is the daughter of Virginia Gov. A. Linwood Holton (R), who championed integration in a state that was known for its vigorous efforts to resist it. To drive home this point, he sent his daughters to a historically all-black Richmond City public school, escorting Anne Holton’s sister to class in a gesture captured in a historic photograph.

“I have spent much of my working life focused on children and families at the margin, with full appreciation of the crucial role education can and must play in helping young people escape poverty and become successful adults,” Holton wrote in a Washington Post op-ed in June 2015.

Holton and Kaine also sent their three children, who are now grown, to Richmond public schools.

The pair met at Harvard Law School, from which they both graduated. She became a legal aid lawyer representing low-income clients in Richmond and eventually a judge in the city’s juvenile and domestic relations court. She stepped down when her husband was elected governor in 2005 and as first lady made a priority of finding and stabilizing homes for teens in foster care.

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools….

She continued to work on improving opportunities for foster youth after Kaine left the governor’s office.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) chose her as the state’s education secretary in 2014. In that role, she has worked to reform a standardized testing regime that had been criticized as unnecessarily time-consuming and onerous.

“Teachers are teaching to the tests. Students’ and teachers’ love of learning and teaching are sapped,” she wrote in 2015. “Most troublesome, Virginia’s persistent achievement gaps for low-income students have barely budged,” she continued, arguing that “our high-stakes approach” with testing has made it more difficult to persuade the best teachers to work in the most difficult, impoverished schools.

Tim and Anne will be great advocates for public schools. Unlike many reformers, who never set foot in a public school, they actually know from personal experience what they are talking about.


Residents debate adding at-large Seats


UPPER MARLBORO – County residents came out in force to have their say in not only who will represent them, but how many people will represent them.

The county council held a public hearing on July 11 to get residents’ comments on CB 40-2016, which would add a referendum to the November ballot asking voters to decide whether the council should add two new at-large members to its ranks. Members who had previously served as district-based representatives would be eligible to fill the new at-large seats.

Residents packed the hearing room, with approximately 30 giving testimony. The ratio of those against the measure to those in favor of it was more than two-to-one, and residents expressed a variety of reasons for taking either position.

A major theme brought up by many opponents was the fact that the bill appears to be a way for the sitting council members to circumvent term limits.

“This is another obvious attempt to give some of you additional time on the council. The self-serving nature of the proposal is so glaring that I don’t need to dwell on the issue,” said Accokeek resident Tommi Makila.

Another Accokeek resident, Philip Van Wiltenburg, speaking on behalf of the Greater Accokeek Civic Association, agreed about the importance of term limits. He said voters have already shown their disfavor with eliminating term limits as recently as 2014, with Question J.

“Term limits are something that was decided by voters before. That is not something that we should look at circumventing through this process,” he said.

But others in the audience expressed their disagreement with term limits. Douglas Edwards said the other jurisdictions in the region don’t have term limits on their elected officials, which gives them an advantage.

“I am a community activist, not a politician, but I do understand the process,” Edwards said. He said policies such as term limits “have hampered Prince George’s County from moving forward with the rest of the region long enough. It’s time to take the shackles off of this county so it can compete with other jurisdictions.”

Dennis Brownlee of Mitchellville agreed.

“I take issue with the fact that anyone questions my ability to vote for who I want to, and the fact that if I don’t like my representation, that I should have the unalienable right to vote for who I want to at any time,” he said. “Why should that be limited?”

Floyd Wilson, a former council member who served for 17 years before term limits were instituted in the 1990s, also gave his opinion. He said when he served on the council, both at-large and district members were present, and it made it easier to accomplish his goals – like funding new amenities such as a recreation center for his constituents – when he could turn to at-large members for support.

“It was my experience that parochialism has a tendency to sneak its ugly head into the process when you are only representing one particular district. In my opinion, it helps to have other support coming from other districts. I think we’re more effective,” he said.

But other residents felt the council members should already be acting for the good of the county as a whole and not solely their specific district.

“What the council needs to do is look at what is good for the county and what can we afford to do for the county. Not ‘I need a park here, I need a facility here,’” Van Wiltenburg said.

Gloria Johnson of the Woodmore Civic Association said members who previously served in a district-based role would still harbor loyalty to their original district, which could disadvantage other districts if the measure was to become law.

“If at-large members previously sat as district representatives, would it not give those districts effectively more influence on county policies than other districts?” she asked.

Other residents instead thought the proposal would give less power to the districts and the council members elected to represent them.

“Another thing that bothers me a great deal is what I see as a betrayal of my representative that I voted for to represent my district,” said Jason Amster, a resident of District 3 for 24 years. “I did not vote for her to diminish her power, to dilute, going from 1/9th to 1/11th.”

Another recurring concern from residents was the high cost of running a county-wide election campaign, which would require the at-large members to accept large donations from special interest groups, who could then have influence with the members.

Sarah Cavitt of Fort Washington said, “The cost of a county-wide campaign is daunting. Where is the money going to come from? It’s not going to come from (Sen.) Bernie Sanders types of contributors, I can tell you that. It’ll come from special interest groups, and despite the 2011 law, there are so many loopholes that can be gotten through, it’s not going to matter,” she said.

She and other residents also pointed out the current financial situation of the county, saying the structural deficit it has already lead to cuts in areas such as schools and to the creation of the Blue Ribbon Commission by the council itself to study solutions. Many residents expressed concern about how the new members’ salaries and staffing costs would be paid.

“Property taxes were increased last year, and then you turn around and you want more money for bureaucracy,” said Holliday Wagner of Accokeek. “I think your timing is horrible. There are a lot of things going on in the county right now. There are a lot of other things that are more important in this moment.”

Council Chair Derrick Davis said the council will weigh the public’s comments as well as other factors, and vote on the proposal during the July 19 session.

If the bill passes with seven or more votes, it will be sent to the county board of elections to be formatted for inclusion on the November 8 general election ballot, where the public has the final say over whether or not to approve the additions.

Via Prince George’s county sentinel



Is Partisan Politics Poisoning Prince George’s County School Board?

Today at noon, the Kojo Nnamdi Show (WAMU 88.5) will discuss the topic, “Is partisan politics poisoning Prince George’s School Board?” This will be one of two segments during the mid day hour. Dave Cahn, an activist known to speak his mind and the co-leader of Citizens for an Elected Board, and Cheryl Landis, school board candidate and chair of the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee, are the invited guests. The call-in number for the show is 1-800-433-8850.

Maryland requires that school board elections in the Old Line State be non-partisan contests. But a new state law allows the executive in Prince George’s County to appoint officials to the board here, and one recent candidate with party connections boasted about it on the campaign trail recently we hear. Now a group of activists are demanding a return to a fully elected board of non-partisan officials. Kojo explores the role partisan politics plays in local school board races and what’s at stake in the debate in Prince George’s. In the middle of this, we have unions which are powerless to help with the situation except to collect money from its members without providing the necessary benefits.


David Cahn Co-Chair, Citizens For An Elected Board
Cheryl Landis Candidate, Prince George’s County Board Of Education; Chair, Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee


Will you answer the call for democracy & education?

Julian Vasquez Heilig asks if you will answer the call for education and democracy in his speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial at the Peoples March on Washington 2016


PGCPS Ex-school janitor stole MacBooks, iPads meant for students, sold them online

image.jpegA former elementary school janitor has been sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to stealing laptops from the campus where he worked.

Kenneth Foster, 34, was sentenced in Prince George’s County Circuit Court on Thursday and ordered to pay $18,000 in restitution with five years probation, prosecutors announced in a statement.

Foster worked at Vansville Elementary School in Beltsville, Md., at the time of the theft, according to the Prince George’s County state’s attorney’s office. The school received about $30,000 worth of MacBooks in January 2014 and put them in storage, but when officials went to retrieve them months later, they found that the equipment had disappeared, prosecutors said.

Foster had left the school system on medical leave shortly after the laptop delivery and was still on leave when authorities discovered that the computers were missing, prosecutors said. Authorities later learned that Foster was working in a North Carolina school district when several iPads went missing and while he supposedly was still on medical leave from Prince George’s, prosecutors said.

Investigators later found that Foster was selling the iPads and MacBooks on Craigslist.

Authorities recovered 18 of 30 stolen laptops.

Foster was charged in North Carolina in 2015, prosecutors said. In May, Foster pleaded guilty in Prince George’s to one count of a theft scheme between $10,000 and $100,000.

via Washington post


PGCPS Vansville Elementary at Laurel



The Eagle and the snake.

image.jpegThe Eagle does not fight the snake on the ground. It picks it up into the sky and changes the battle ground, and then it releases the snake into the sky.

The snake has no stamina, no power and no balance in the air. It is useless, weak and vulnerable unlike on the ground where it is powerful wise and deadly.

Take your fight into the spiritual realm by praying and when you are in the spiritual realm God takes over your battles.

Don’t fight the enemy in his comfort zone, change the battle grounds like the Eagle and let God take charge through your earnest prayer. You’ll be assured of clean victory.
Pray without ceasing.

Blessed day


Oklahoma: Teachers Fight Back! 40 Run for Office!


(AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki). Mickey Dollens distributes campaign yard signs in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, June 29, 2016. Dollens said he decided to run for the state House in Oklahoma to fix what he saw as problems in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

NPR reported on a new, smart wave of activism in Oklahoma: 40 teachers are running for office this year. They are running because they want to increase funding for the public schools. Most are Democrats, but some are Republicans and Independents. One of the candidates is Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year for 2016.

This is great news! The best way to change the legislature is to run for a seat at the table.

Getting elected to the State Senate or Assembly (or whatever it is called in your state) is far more powerful than posting a petition on or holding a rally to get the attention of the legislators.

If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em, and change the face of the legislature.

Go, Oklahoma teachers!


Educator Shawn Sheehan of Norman was named Oklahoma’s Teacher of the Year 2016


The Oklahoma City skyline