Tag Archives: Board of Education

Maryland board considers two-tier high school diploma system

msde_store_frontSince most Maryland students didn’t pass a tough new test that eventually will be required for graduation, should the state lower the bar?

The state school board began considering the question Tuesday as members discussed options, including setting a lower passing grade or offering a second-tier diploma for students who finish required high school courses but can’t pass the PARCC test now used in a dozen states.

The Maryland board has until May to decide what standard to set for students entering ninth grade next fall.

High schools in the state gave the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, tied to the Common Core curriculum, for the first time last spring. A much smaller percentage of students passed than did the previous high school exam, known as the High School Assessment. Thousands failed.

 At its monthly meeting, the board engaged in a spirited debate over what to do about that.

Board member Chester Finn reacted swiftly to a suggestion that the state accept a lower standard. “I thought the move to PARCC was to increase standards,” he said. “We are headed toward telling Maryland students they will get a Maryland diploma and they are not ready.” He said a low standard would mislead the public.

He suggested the board consider adopting a two-diploma system, one for students who passed PARCC and are considered ready for college and a second diploma, equivalent to what is given today, for students who have fulfilled the course requirements and achieve minimum passing grades on state tests.

But school board member James H. DeGraffenreidt said he is opposed to such a dual diploma system because he believes it would institutionalize the achievement gap for groups of students with low pass rates, including low-income, minority and special education students.

DeGraffenreidt said he believes it would be better to keep the goal high but gradually phase in the standards, starting with a low passing score and setting specific dates to raise it. The question for the state would then be how quickly students might be able to meet the new standards.

On last spring’s tests, about 45 percent of students passed the 10th-grade English exam and only 40 percent of students passed the Algebra I test. If the state lowered the passing score to three on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, the pass rates would rise to 65 percent for Algebra and 74 percent for English.

The goal of having high percentages of high school graduates ready for college is unrealistic in the near future, some education experts say. Less than half the states require passage of high school exit exams to get a diploma. And only in the past decade has the idea been entertained of making college readiness a graduation standard.

“There is no state in the U.S. that has made the high school graduation requirement the same as a college-readiness requirement,” said David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy. “It is just not possible politically or otherwise to introduce a system that would prevent that many students from graduating.”

Because last year’s test takers knew the results didn’t count for them, education officials say they believe pass rates will go up as students view the tests more seriously.

In addition, students can take the tests numerous times, and they can substitute a teacher-supervised project if they fail a test. Because the bar for passing state exams was relatively low in the past, very few students were prevented from graduating.

Whether all students will ever be college ready is still a question, said Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. He believes most states will phase in higher passing scores.

School board member Linda Eberhart, a former teacher, said she is deeply concerned that Maryland may raise standards too quickly for students who have not had the Common Core curriculum for most of their schooling.

“It is going to take 13 years to achieve these new standards,” Eberhart said, indicating that the first class likely to be fully prepared are today’s kindergartners.

She is concerned, she said, that next year’s ninth-graders will be held to an unrealistic standard.

“It is a high standard, and it would be unjust, in my view, to jerk up the standards,” Steiner said. “You have to build a ladder, but you also have to tell the truth.”

Via Baltimore Sun

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Many Prince George’s County citizenry are extremely disappointed

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County Executive Rushern Baker III

Many Prince George’s County citizenry are extremely disappointed in County Executive Rushern Baker‘s appointments to the Prince George’s County School Board of Education. Our county, schools and students are better off when we elect independent minded and qualified candidates to serve on the board over candidates hand picked by political leaders.

School board members make up the largest body of elected officials in the United States. We entrust them to set the policies of our most treasured institutions: our public elementary, middle and high schools. Every district has a board of education, and boards generally meet every month in meetings that are open to the public.

These gatherings range from tame rubber-stamping sessions to intense, provocative discussions with the community where controversial issues are debated and landmark decisions are made.

School boards are supposed to be nonpartisan. However, in Prince George’s County, they are not.  In most districts, members serve four-year terms, and terms are staggered so seats don’t become open all at once. In general, to run for school board, you have to be at least 18 years old, a citizen of the state, a resident of the district, a registered voter and eligible under the state constitution to be elected to public office.

In most cases, a school district employee can’t be a board member in that district. This means no teacher, principal, librarian, custodian or anyone else that works in a school in the district can serve on the school board, unless they resign from the employed position.

School districts are complex corporations; they’ re often the largest employers in a community and the decisions they make reach far, affecting jobs, resources and most importantly, the education of all children.

What do they do?

Somewhere in between the agendas, public comment sessions and resolutions, school boards make a number of important decisions. School boards establish a vision for the community’s schools. They have to set up and maintain an effective, efficient organizational structure for the district that lets the superintendent or CEO and administrators manage the schools, teachers teach and students learn.

They are responsible for hiring and evaluating a superintendent, evaluating and adopting policies that affect all schools in the district, serving as a judicial and appeals body when conflicts go unresolved, monitoring and adjusting district finances, and managing the collective bargaining process in the district.

A school board has a symbolic role as well. The behavior it shows off in the meeting room, the rapport among school board members and the relationships that members have with teachers and administrators in the district all add up to the climate of public education in a community. Whether healthy or dysfunctional as seen here in Prince George’s County, a school board has a heavy influence on the spirit that characterizes a community’s impression of its school system. This is why is not a good idea to leave a politician or politicians who have no interest in education to run the schools with some other interior motive.  Since the take over of the county school system, Prince George’s County Board of Education has gotten worse than ever before.

On this note and as stated above, Our county, schools and students are better off when we elect independent minded and qualified candidates to serve on the board over candidates hand picked by political leaders as seen here in Prince George’s County.

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PGCPS Board of Education swears in new student member

BOE_Ava_02Ava Perry is not an ordinary high school senior. This year, along with classes, senior projects and college applications, Perry is also taking on the task of serving the Prince George’s County Public Schools Board of Education as its student member.

Perry is an incoming senior at Oxon Hill High School and will turn 17 next month. She said she wanted to serve on the board to be the “eyes and ears” of the students. She has previously held positions on the Prince George’s Regional Association of Student Government, and also as student body president at her high school.

“I’ve been in Prince George’s County since kindergarten and I’ve grown up through the school system,” she said. “I’ve seen how it inspires kids and the improvements that they’ve made. But what made me want to do this was just really my passion for improving policy. It’s something that is not the best within our school system, but we’ve made great strides.”

Perry was elected to serve earlier this year by her peers. She was sworn in on Wednesday, Aug. 12 at a ceremony in the Sasscer Administration Building. The process of nomination involves an application, multiple letters of recommendation, an interview, a selection of the final two candidates, and a vote after a speech in front of hundreds of students.

“It was exciting,” Perry said. “I was ecstatic when I was elected, because you never know. Where do you go from here? All the work that you put in and all the people that you meet are just so inspiring.”

She said as the elected student member she wants to continue to hear students’ stories and be a voice for their triumphs and struggles. She also wants to make sure students have a greater support system, both inside and outside of their schools.

“What I really want to push for is student support in the form of tutoring,” Perry said.

Perry visited 13 schools while campaigning for the board and found that tutoring was the main concern.

“This showed up at every single high school and middle school I visited,” she said. “And they said they need support. Common core is really taking a toll on them and they need support.

Jeffery Taylor II, the previous student board member, said Perry’s dedication to the students is exactly why she will make a great member.

“I truly enjoy her character, her motivation for service, her communication skills, and her love for advocacy,” he said. “I truly think she is going to make an amazing student member of the board of education.”

Taylor said a student’s service on the board is important because it gives a voice to the other 125,000-plus students in the school system. He said the position is a large task to take on, but it is unlike any other.

“At first it can be a little intimidating because you are 16, 17, maybe 18 and are sitting next to adults, but at the end of the day the members of the board of education are truly open and inviting. They know how to truly help you acclimate and truly serve.”

Segun Eubanks, the chair of the board, is excited to work with Perry. He is impressed with her ambition and her passionate advocacy for students needs. He said having a student voice on the board is “absolutely essential.”

“We represent students. Everything we do is for students,” Eubanks said. “To do this work, and not have the voice of the students in the room, would be disingenuous to what we say our mission is all about. So to have students who are committed, who are ambitious, and are intelligent. Who understand what it is the students need and want and what their challenges are. That keeps us honest.”

As the school year approaches Perry said she is ready to tackle her last year in the school system and ready to serve the students.

“This school system means so much to me,” Perry said. “It has pushed me to where I am. I am proud to represent Prince George’s County. I am proud to represent them on the board of education.”

via Prince George’s county sentinel

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County refuses to release names of Board of Education applicants

imageUPPER MARLBORO – Eight people have applied for the Board of Education seat vacated by Dan Kaufman, but county officials refused to disclose the names of the applicants to The Sentinel.

Tehani Collazo, the county executive’s education policy advisor, said County Executive Rushern Baker III’s office will not release the names, citing issues of confidentiality and privacy. The legal counsel for Baker suggested that under the Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) general provisions (GP) four through 101 and beyond, they have a justification for withholding names since they are only in the “accepting applications” stage of selecting an at-large board member.

“If you are simply jotting down a list of names to consider for the BOE vacancy, a strong argument can be made that the list of names could be withheld as an ‘intra-agency letter or memorandum’ under the MPIA exemption, found under GP 4-344,” Collazo said in an email response to The Sentinel.

In addition, the legal counsel advised that because the application process remains ongoing, all information pertaining to the applicants will come from the application documents, which are also considered “personal documents.”

“If you are at the stage where you are accepting applications, under GP 4-311, the names of those seeking appointment to an office may not be disclosed if the information is derived from their applications because they would be considered as ‘personnel records,’” Collazo said.

Baker’s legal counsel sought the rulings of the case of Office of the Governor v. Washington Post Company from 2000 and a letter from Assistant Attorney General Kathryn M. Rowe to Senator Leo E. Green in 2002. The case in 2000 ruled that government officials have no obligation under the MPIA to disclose any memoranda, letter, or similar internal government documents, which contain confidential conversations, that are used in the decision-making process. The letter from Rowe to Green speaks specifically to the release of the names applicants to the Board of Education citing applications as personal records, which are prohibited from being disclosed under law.

While Baker’s office cites the law as justification for not disclosing the applicants’ names, some citizens involved in Prince George’s County Public Schools said feel the county administrations needs to have more transparency.

Felicia Meadows, an employee and “product” of Prince George’s County Public Schools, said she believes one person shouldn’t have “sole responsibility in the selection of something that affects a large organization.”

“There is a distrust of political officials overall, therefore transparency is needed to regain the trust of the people,” Meadows said. “In every other arena, full disclosure of applicants is made available to ensure that candidates are qualified and can meet the needs of the positions for which they are applying.”

Meadows, said she hopes Baker will select a board member who is dedicated to the needs of the children in the district, rather than personal agendas.

“People who are selected to sit on the Board should have a vested interest in education and our children and not use their position for personal or professional gain,” Meadows said.

Via Prince George’s county sentinel

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Application Process For Vacant Board Position Underway

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UPPER MARLBORO – With County Executive Rushern Baker III beginning to mull applications for a vacant seat on the Board of Education, advocates and former board members are hoping Baker selects somebody with the students’ interests in mind. 

Baker’s office released the application on June 29 for the at-large spot seeking applicants who “demonstrate a high level of knowledge and/or experience in the area of management.” All applications must be postmarked or date stamped by close of business on July 27.

“The appointee must possess a high level of knowledge and expertise concerning the successful administration of a large business, nonprofit organization, or government entity,” according to the application. “The appointee, who must be a County resident, will serve a four-year term.”

The application asks people to list professional and organizational memberships and positions they have held and what community involvement experience they possess. The application also requires applicants to provide answers to three questions at no more than page per question:

1) What is your exposure to, or experience with, Prince George’s County Public Schools?

2) What do you believe are the three most critical issues currently facing Prince George’s County Public Schools? And what specific idea do you have to address these issues?

3) What are you interested in serving on the Prince George’s County Board of Education? Please include an explanation of the primary strengths you would bring to this position, and what you believe is the proper role of a Board member?

The job description does not include any mention of education, but Peggy Higgins, a former board member, said she does not have any concerns about the omission. Higgins, who served from 2010 until 2014 when she lost reelection to Lupi Grady, said she did not have a background in education but believes she still made helpful contributions.

“The diversity of backgrounds is beneficial as well, so I don’t necessarily think an education background is critically important” Higgins said. “I do think being able to have enough strength to have an independent voice, because right now the structure is such that it’s the County Executive’s board and the County’s Executive’s ex-brother-in-law who is the chair and certainly Dr. Maxwell is on the cabinet of the County Executive, so it’s more even than having an education background, its being able to provide perspective that may not necessarily be the administrations.”

Higgins said she is more concerned about how Baker picks his appointees than with the candidates’ experience.

“I think it’s not so much who is applying but how they are going to pick the person. I think they are going to focus on people who are going to vote ‘yes’ for whatever the administration wants,” Higgins said.

Board member Edward Burroughs III expressed the same sentiment as Higgins and said he hopes for an applicant that is smart, thoughtful, and has the flexibility to “vote with their conscience.”

“Once you appoint someone that you believe in, from there they ought to have the flexibility to do what they believe is best for kids, because simply appointing a ‘yes’ person does not move the district forward, does not help kids in any way,” Burroughs said. “It has to be more than just control and power, it has to be about appointing someone that’s a value added and allows them to do what you appointed them to do.”

Tehani Collazo, the education policy advisor to Baker, said the last time a position was filled was in December 2013, when Baker appointed Sonya Williams to represent district 9. Collazo said the application process will close on July 27, and the process for filling the position will take approximately seven weeks.

Baker gained the power to appoint members to the Board of Education after the General Assembly passed House Bill 1107 in 2013.

Neither the public, nor the Board of Education will consult Baker on the appointment, but he will seek advisement from his Commission on Education Excellence.

“County Executive Baker has asked his Commission on Education Excellence to serve as the review committee for the Board of Education applications,” Collazo said. “The Commission will select 3-5 finalists who will be interviewed by Mr. Baker. Mr. Baker determines the finalist for the Board of Education At-Large position.”

Although Burroughs worries about how much control Baker has within the board, he said he hopes the new board member will be passionate about issues that students face, especially in special education.

“My hope for the district is we have a board and superintendent that does what is best for the kids, not just for image solely, not what’s best for high ranking elected officials. We really need a board and superintendent whose number one objective is making sure that every child has a high quality education in Prince George’s County. That’s my biggest aspiration,” he said.

Genevieve Demos Kelley, a member of the Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools, said she hopes the next board member will actively engage the community and seek information constantly.

“I hope that the new Board of Education member will be actively engaged in listening and responding to the concerns of parents. I also hope that he or she will give teachers an opportunity to share their practical knowledge of the challenges and solutions that work in the classroom,” Kelley said. “Additionally, I would like all Board members to pursue a thorough understanding of next year’s operating budget. With the hard choices that the school system faces, the Board needs to know the ins-and-outs of our nearly $2 billion budget.”

In 2013 the County Executive received 118 applications for the vacant board seat. As of Thursday, July 2, no applications for the at-large position have been received.

>>>Prince George’s County sentinel

OPINION

County Executive Baker’s take over of the schools in Prince George’s county was not based on sincere efforts to take the schools forward but had a different political agenda. Our hope is for Mr. Baker to withdraw his involvement and focus on other issues other than education. His propaganda is not helping PGCPS in anyway. Selecting “YES” men and women of Prince George’s County  who are well connected to Mr. Baker for other interior motive is not going to take the county school system in the right direction.

The Prince George’s County school Board will be better served without injecting Baker’s selected Board members or a secretly appointed CEO who is a “YES’ man to county Executive Baker. We fought for a better school system using this blog. However, we are afraid we might never get there under Mr. Baker’s oversight which appears driven by “fraud” and mega mismanagement of county resources. Kudos to the two board members who have resigned on their own after seeing the light! income_inequalityprince-large1

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MD Coalition Releases Emails…

…Showing PG Board of Education Communications with Cell Tower Vendor

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PRLogJan. 23, 2015PRINCE GEORGE’S COUNTY, Md.The Maryland Coalition to Halt Cell Towers at Schools ( MCHCTS) released e-mails and correspondence that show direct communication between the Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) Board of Education cell tower vendor, Milestone Communications, and individual Board of Education members.

This information came to the MCHCS through e-mails released by the Prince George’s County Maryland Board of Education in response to a Maryland Public Information Act request.

The MCHCS notes that individual actions of Board of Education members acting on behalf of the board are in direct violation of Maryland law and Prince George’s County Board of Education Policy.http://www1.pgcps.org/board/interior.aspx?id=169032

The e-mails that MCHCS released detail a Milestone Communications representative attempting to get Board of Education member Sonya Williams to respond in an email that she “does not object” to cell towers for the Old Croom Vocational High School and Burroughs Middle School sites.

In the first e-mail of this packet, the Milestone Communications representative states that they had previously contacted Board Member Burroughs, Board Member Jacobs and Board Member Higgins to determine if those Board members had any objections to cell tower projects in their districts.

The January 31, 2014, e-mail from Maureen Smith of Milestone Communications to Board member Williams states:

“As part of the implementation of the existing lease process, Milestone must inform the School Board Member for the Districts where subject properties are located and determine that the Board Member does not object to the proposal.  Then, we move forward to request a Letter of Authorization to Proceed…from Dr. Maxwell.  In the body of the request letter we confirm that the School Board Member has been notified and does not object to the proposal(s).”

Please see the emails here.https://www.scribd.com/doc/253441256/2014-E-mails-to-PG-B…

“This behind closed doors communication with individual Board members has, heretofore, been unknown to the public and is not part of any publicly known cell tower approval process. These e-mails also bring up the question: Do individual Prince George’s Board of Education members regularly communicate directly with all PGCPS vendors?  Is this a common practice in public school procurement?” asked a member of the MCHCTS.

The PGCPS parent requested all correspondence for a three month period in the PIA request but only received these emails written by Milestone. PGCPS states there were 124 additional emails but it would cost to 162.90 to receive them.

“Why did PGCPS only send emails Milestone wrote but withheld the emails that the County officialswrote back? “ stated the parent who initiated the PIA request.

In 2010, Milestone donated 500 dollars to Verajeane Jacobs  PG Board of Education Chair, 4 months before the Board of Education vote to approve the cell tower “deal”. In 2014, Milestone donated $5,000 to the Prince George’s County referendum to extend term limits. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/dec/9/prince-georges-county-term-limit-referendum-drew-d/

Contact
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State delegate proposes bill calling for school board to ban credit cards

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Delegate Alonzo Washingon (D-22)

For the second year in a row, a delegate from Prince George’s County will propose a bill to ban the use of taxpayer-funded credit cards by the county’s Board of Education, and the legislation has the support of at least one board member.

“I think there’s some members who used their credit card in an appropriate manner,” said Board of Education member Edward Burroughs, who does not have a board-issued credit card. “I think there’s some members in the past who have not used it in an appropriate manner. Taxpayer dollars are so important it’s best for no one to have a card.”

Delegate Alonzo Washingon (D-22) said he proposed the bill last year for transparency and accountability reasons, and he decided to propose it again this year.

Earlier this year, The Sentinel reported the Board’s vice chair, Carolyn Boston, and school board member Verjeana Jacobs used their credit cards for the most meals of any board members between January 2013 and May 2014. Boston purchased 114 meals totaling more than $5,500 and Jacobs purchased 87 meals totaling more than $6,200, according to credit card statements and expense reports.

Boston declined to comment and Jacobs did not respond to requests for comment.

“Unless there’s a policy change within the school system this year, I plan on going full steam ahead,” Washington said. “A lot of my constituents are alarmed by the reports. They’d like to see a change happen based on reports that came out. They’re absolutely right.”

Board Chairman Segun Eubanks said the school system conduct an internal review of its policy following reports by The Sentinel and other media outlets, but the school board does not have plans to ban credit cards completely. Details of the policy changes will not become public until January, Eubanks said, and the changes will mainly clarify certain things, like maximum daily meal allowances and frequency of meals.

Additionally, Eubanks also said the school board is not considering an external audit of the reimbursement policy because “there is no evidence that board members have misused the reimbursement policy with use of their credit cards.”

Read more >>> Prince George’s County Sentinel. 

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