Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell
BALTIMORE – The head of Prince George’s County Public Schools faced the Maryland State Board of Education Tuesday, the first time since a troubling state audit showed grade-fixing and policy violations allowed students to graduate without meeting state requirements.
At the hearing, state board members pressed Dr. Kevin Maxwell on the root causes of the findings and whether there has been a shift in culture in the school system.
“It seems like something is going on here,” said Maryland State Board of Education President Andrew Smarick. “I don’t want to go too far, but it seems like some signal, something is happening to suggest to schools, to teachers, to someone, ‘We gotta graduate these students irrespective of some of these rules we have.’ And that is what I have been grappling with here.”
Smarick noted some of the most outstanding audit findings — grade changes that could not be verified, late changes to student transcripts and students graduating despite more than 50 unexcused absences.
In response to questions about the driving forces behind the audit findings, Maxwell spoke about staff confusion on grade change forms, lack of automation, high staff turnover and people who were not clear on policies. He emphasized the audit found no intimidation or fraud by him or his staff.
After the hearing, FOX 5 asked him again about the underlying causes of the problems uncovered.
“The audit, I think, gave us a very good roadmap to the fact that there are some issues that need clarification, there are some procedures that need to be updated, there is a lot of training and there are some compliance issues,” Maxwell said.
At one point, a school board member asked whether emphasis on graduation rates by the state and federal government was to blame, but Maxwell did not agree that outside pressure was a factor.
Maxwell and his staff outlined their plan to correct what was found by the audit and the ways the school district is tightening up policies, putting more oversight in place and retraining staff.
Janna Parker, a Prince George’s County community member who attended the meeting, said the plan is a good first step, but feels what she did not see from Maxwell was accountability at the top.
“I think when you base any plan on not fully accepting accountability or placing the accountability on who and where it needs to be, it’s flawed plan,” Parker said.
When asked about Gov. Larry Hogan’s recent statement that some of what is going on in Prince George’s County Public Schools is criminal, Maxwell said he did not agree with the governor.
Smarick said the state board is now going to decide how and if the state will intervene in the school system and what is legally possible. He said there should be decisions made by the next meeting in February.
There could be another audit, and while there has been no public talk of the state taking over Prince George’s County Public Schools, it is something that’s happened in other states.
After the meeting on Tuesday, the state released graduation rates for districts across the state. Prince George’s County had a record high of 82.7 percent for 2017.
Gov. Larry Hogan is refusing to endorse the Maryland school board’s plan for helping low-performing schools, saying state board members were hamstrung by a new law limiting what the plan can include.
The General Assembly passed legislation this year that limits ways the state can try to reform its lowest-performing schools — those in the bottom 5 percent. The Republican governor vetoed that bill, but the Democratic-controlled legislature overrode him.
In a letter sent this week to U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Hogan wrote that the state board could not craft a sufficient plan under the “impossible circumstances” imposed by the state law. All states must submit plans for improving low-performing schools to comply with the federal Every Student Succeeds Act.
Hogan’s signature is not required for state education officials to send the plan to the federal government for review. They still intend to submit the plan Monday, a spokesman for the Maryland State Department of Education said.
The Protect Our Schools Act passed by the Assembly this year prohibits the state school board from requiring test scores to count for more than 65 percent of a school’s performance ranking. And it would prevent the state from taking several actions to improve those schools, including converting them to charter schools, bringing in private management, giving the students vouchers to attend private schools or putting the schools into a special statewide “recovery” school district.
In a letter to state school board President Andy Smarick, Hogan wrote that the legislation resulted in a plan that will preserve “the status quo in failing schools.”
But some education advocates were quick to criticize the governor for not backing the school board’s plan.
By not supporting the plan, Hogan is disregarding months of feedback from parents and nonprofit organizations, said Sean Johnson, legislative director of the Maryland State Education Association, the union for public school teachers.
Maryland board approves new rating system for schools
“I hope the strong support from all of those stakeholders makes clear that Maryland is really committed to meaningful and positive education reforms — even if it’s not the privatization and test-and-punish approach that I guess Larry Hogan would rather champion,” Johnson said.
Some state school board members, nearly all of whom were appointed by Hogan, have chafed at the legislation and supported Hogan’s veto. Some members had suggested using more radical measures to reform failing schools, including turning them over to charter school operators.
Smarick said although members disagreed with the Protect Our Schools Act, they “had to follow the letter of the state and federal law. That was our job.”
Senate Minority Leader J.B. Jennings said the state law unfairly limits options for improving struggling schools.
“The Democratic leadership pushed through a horrible piece of legislation that, in my mind, didn’t put kids first. It put special interests first,” said Jennings, a Republican who represents parts of Harford and Baltimore counties.
The U.S. Department of Education reviews each state’s plan for improving struggling schools and can recommend changes. Though Hogan’s signature is not required on the document, its absence will signal to federal officials that he doesn’t support it.
Hogan vetoes bill limiting Maryland school reforms
Gov. Larry Hogan visited Baltimore Collegiate School for Boys to announce his veto of legislation that would limit some school reforms. (Baltimore Sun video)
“I worry that he’s, in a sense, encouraging Betsy DeVos to reject the plan, which puts $250 million worth of federal funding at risk,” said Del. Eric Luedtke, a lead sponsor of the Protect Our Schools Act. He’s also a former public school teacher.
DeVos has been a champion of offering families alternatives to traditional neighborhood public schools, such as charter schools and vouchers that allow students to attend private schools.
The federal government so far has not rejected any state plans, but has suggested changes to some.
“More fundamentally, he’s kind of doubling down on this right-wing school reform agenda,” said Luedtke, a Montgomery County Democrat. “I think somebody needs to explain to the governor there are more ways to improve schools than privatization.”
Sen. Craig Zucker, another sponsor of Protect Our Schools, suggested that the governor is favoring politics over schoolchildren.
“This has always been about Maryland educators and Maryland students. This isn’t about the governor. This is about the future of our children,” said Zucker, a Montgomery County Democrat. “This was a well-thought-out piece of legislation where Maryland can be a leader in terms of education reform.”
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker similarly refused to sign his state’s plan for low-performing schools.
“Your bureaucratic proposal does little to challenge the status quo for the benefit of Wisconsin’s students,” Walker wrote to state superintendent Tony Evers. Evers is one of several Democrats running for Wisconsin governor in 2018 against Walker, a Republican.
via Baltimore Sun
An African American state senator from Maryland wants to censure Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. for his defense of Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, author of the infamous Dred Scott decision, whose statue was removed from the State House grounds last week.
Sen. C. Anthony Muse (D-Prince George’s), who is running for county executive in 2018 and would give up his Senate seat if he won, said the legislative chamber needs to send “an unequivocal message” to Miller (D-Calvert) that it does not agree with his support of Taney. The justice’s 1857 opinion said blacks could not be U.S. citizens and had no rights other than those given by whites.
“In light of the tragic and violent events in Charlottesville and concerns about promoting and inciting a climate of racial hatred and division in our nation, I would hope that the majority of my colleagues will join me in strongly rebuking the senate president’s remarks as well as those expressed by President Trump and others who would defend what Justice Taney stood for,” Muse, who introduced a measure to remove the statue last year, said in a statement.
Jake Weissman, a spokesman for Miller, declined to comment.
Miller, the longest-serving Senate president in the country, is a member of the Maryland State House Trust, the four-member panel that voted 3 to 0 last week to remove the 145-year-old statue. The 46-year lawmaker, who has long defended the statue as an important piece of Maryland history, refused to vote.
He sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan (R) arguing that the panel, which traditionally votes by email, should have held a public meeting to discuss removing the statue.
Miller, an avid reader of history, also defended Taney’s character, describing him as a man with a “complex” past.
“Unlike George Washington who freed his slaves upon his death, Taney freed his slaves early in his life,” the letter said.
“Roger Brooke Taney was not a Confederate officer and he remained loyal to the Union until his death in 1864,” Miller wrote. “Many historians have debated the conflicting anti-slavery words and works of Roger Brooke Taney.”
Miller said he agreed with an 1864 editorial in the New York Times that Taney’s decision, “wrong as it was, did not spring from a corrupt or malignant heart.”
Via Washington Post
Here is a poster which will cost the Democratic Party in Maryland dearly in 2018. Unless Democratic Party machine in Maryland does something to change the perseption, Mr. Baker appears determined to go down with the entire Democratic Party system in Maryland after engaging in a series of misleading posts such as the one shown above.
Everybody knows Mr. Baker did not fight corruption. If anything, he promoted and covered up serious issues to the detriment of Prince George’s county. There continues to be major political violations including promotion of candidates with ties to corruption and corrupt networks such Mr. Calvin Hawkins. (See post below) Money disappeared under Mr. Hawkins and then covered up, yet he wants to be elected for at large seat in 2018. How is that going to happen without accountability? In this paper, we study candidate self-selection with respect to two dimensions of character: public spirit, which is defined as altruism toward other citizens, and honesty, which is defined as susceptibility to corruption. Those two characteristics impact the quality of governance, defined as the net benefit the representative citizen derives from the public sector. In our model, citizens who run for office may hope to benefit from both legitimate compensation (salary and ego-rents) and illicit compensation (contributions or bribes from interest groups). Moreover, dishonest citizens extract greater rents from holding office because of special interest politics. As a result, the citizens with the greatest incentive to run for office are those who are maximally dishonest, and either maximally or minimally public-spirited.
On another note, Others online feel that, Mr. Baker should retire and spend more time caring for his wife who has been sick. (See posts below). Either way, if Mr. Baker is going to be in the ballot for any position in the next several months, watch this space, the Maryland Democratic machine in Maryland will suffer loses never seen before. They will pay the price for cover up of corruption in multiple areas starting with the school systems.
The problem for Democrats is not money, Trump, or, even as some suggest, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The problem for Democrats is they suffer from a cultural detachment as shown in this case here or in the recent elections in the South and areas of the Midwest and now promotion of candidates such as Mr. Baker in Maryland. Until they are willing to accept candidates that don’t adhere to left-wing orthodoxy promulgated by the party at the national level, they’ll keep losing, just like they did in Georgia and South Carolina.
Contrary to the false narrative many helped build about people who live in the south, many of them are not the all-encompassing right-wing fanatics people make them out to be. They are sympathetic to Democratic positions on issues such as healthcare, entitlements and the economy.
Trump won big in the South because he stressed economic issues above all else, but he aligned himself with voters on cultural issues such as abortion and the Second Amendment. People in the South have concerns with trade practices, NAFTA and the lack of manufacturing jobs. But they also have guns to protect their homes and go to the range from time to time to shoot. They also sympathize with the unborn, and when Democrats condescendingly dismiss their concerns with a finger wag or adhere to Pelosi-held viewpoints, they look to Republicans.
Democratic Party in Maryland has been making positive statements on the surface and then doing the complete opposite is what will bring the party down hard. For example,.. …”Democrats know that achieving the American dream requires strong public schools that level the playing field for young people regardless of income, gender or race. And it requires an open heart and warm welcome to immigrants who seek opportunity to work and become Americans in our land of opportunity. Those are the values we will celebrate this holiday weekend at picnics, parades, and family parties all across our beautiful state of Maryland.” …. Those who are in touch with reality knows the opposite of this statement to be true.
Democrats have to change how they recruit candidates to run for offices in Maryland, the south and midwest. If they keep using the same playbook, there will be plenty of moral victories, but it will be Republicans taking oaths of office as the democratic party shrinks in numbers never seen before.
more to come.
Members of the Prince George’s County’s legislative delegation joined the call Thursday for a state investigation into charges that county school officials doctored grades to increase promotion and graduation rates.
In a letter dated Thursday, the delegates called upon state Superintendent of Schools Karen B. Salmon to examine the claims. The letter was signed by Dels. Jerry Walker and Geraldine Valentino-Smith, a Bowie resident and vice chairwoman of the delegation.
The claims were made by four members of the county school board, including David Murray and Raaheela Ahmed of Bowie.
“Given that the Maryland State Department of Education has oversight over public school districts in Maryland and the educational interests of the State, we respectfully request the resources of the Maryland State Department Education for purposes of an in-depth audit and further investigation of such serious allegations,” the delegates wrote.
The allegations of grade tampering came to light this week when county schools CEO Kevin Maxwell revealed that four school board sent a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, asking him to conduct an investigation into possible irregularities. He dismissed the claims as “politically motivated” and revealed that a similar probe conducted last fall turned up no evidence of grade-tampering. However, Dr. Maxwell has refused to sit down with reporters as such fox for on camera interview despite repeated requests.
At a jam-packed and often heated school board meeting Thursday night, during which the $1.9 billion school budget was passed, Maxwell repeated his defense of the school system.
“The false allegations about our graduation rates strike at everything that Prince George’s schools stand for – past, present and future,” Maxwell said. “These allegations denigrate why teachers teach and why principals lead. They are a personal attack on every teacher, counselor administrator and employee in this system.”
In their letter, the delegates said the state probe of anonymous allegations last fall did not go far enough because the school personnel interviewed in that investigation were selected by Maxwell.
“It has come to our attention that a high level of concern exists for those schools that experienced a significant change in graduation rate or that have a significant disparity between graduation rates and the performance of students on high school standardized tests,” delegates wrote. “We are also aware that the local change in grading policy may be causing both confusion and disagreement among teachers and parents and this issue could certainly be clarified through a careful MSDE review.”
County officials adopt slightly increased budget for FY 2018
The other nine school board members and a group of county high school principals released statements this week denying the charges and supporting Maxwell.
But Ahmed and Murray stood by their claims, saying Thursday they’d heard and seen enough evidence from system employees to indicate that something was amiss with the grading system. Hogan’s office has forwarded the letter to state education officials.
“There was enough information that I had received – testimony, having seen documents – that there convinced me there was reason for some of these things to be true,” Ahmed said. “I had reason to expect issues – widespread issues.”
Tracie Miller, principal of Gwynn Park High School, was joined by several other high school principals at the board meeting in Upper Marlboro as she spoke out in defense of her colleagues at the meeting.
“We, as high school principals, are extremely offended about the allegations and hurtful accusations that we pressure teachers to to give students grades in order to (increase) the graduation rate,” she said. Such claims, she added, “stain all of us.”
Many parents have come forward with information that their children grades appear suspicious after receiving an A in their report card. Other students who skipped school for many days got A’s and B’s as part of their grades in a shocking revelation to make the adminstration look good.
Four members of Prince George’s County’s school board have urged Gov. Larry Hogan to order an investigation into what they allege is a systemic effort to fraudulently boost graduation rates in the Maryland school district.
The members, a minority bloc on a 14-member board, say the state’s second-largest district engaged in “widespread systemic corruption” that has inflated graduation rates since 2014. They allege that grades were changed and that students were credited for courses they did not take.
“Whistleblowers at almost every level in [Prince George’s County Public Schools] have clear and convincing evidence that PGCPS has graduated hundreds of students who did not meet the Maryland State Department of Education graduation requirements,” the four said in a letter.
The accusations drew a strong reaction from other school board members and senior school system officials.
School district officials said Monday afternoon that the state had investigated the system’s graduation rates several months ago. The state did so at the request of the federal Education Department, which got an anonymous complaint last summer.
“We already feel this situation was thoroughly investigated and . . . the allegations were unfounded,” Deputy Superintendent Monique Davis said Monday.
The board members who wrote the letter, dated May 30, are Edward Burroughs III (District 8), David Murray (District 1), Raaheela Ahmed (District 5) and student member Juwan Blocker. Burroughs, who provided the first signature on the letter, is a frequent critic of Kevin Maxwell, the school system’s chief executive.
The letter noted that Maxwell started as the top leader of the 132,000-student system in summer 2013 and that he has touted graduation rate improvements as a significant achievement.
Maxwell, who was appointed to a second four-year term this year by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D), issued a statement that called the letter “politically motivated” and welcomed state education officials to “fully explore” the matter.
“These claims are an affront to the hard work of our teachers, administrators, students and parents over the last few years,” he said. “I categorically deny any systemic effort to promote students who did not meet state graduation requirements.”
State data shows that four-year graduation rates in Prince George’s have improved from 74.1 percent for the class of 2013 to 81.4 percent for the class of 2016. That jump was the largest for that time period of any school system in the state, data shows.
Even so, the county’s rate lagged behind the statewide rate (87.6 percent) and the rate in any other Maryland school system except the city of Baltimore’s.
Prince George’s officials attributed their gains to increasing expectations and standards since Maxwell arrived and efforts to provide support to students.
Nationally, on-time graduation rates have risen in recent years, and many school systems, especially those that are lower-
performing, have felt pressure to show gains, said Michael Hansen, director of the Brown Center on Education Policy at the Brookings Institution.
The letter was first reported Saturday by Fox 5 News. It requested that Hogan (R) order the state’s attorney general and the Maryland State Department of Education to investigate and also asked that documents be seized and a process created so that whistleblowers may come forward without fear of retribution.
A spokeswoman for Hogan called the allegations “very concerning” and said in an email that they had been forwarded to the state education department.
A state Education Department spokeswoman declined to comment Monday.
The letter alleged that whistleblowers have evidence about the manipulation of student records both before and after graduation.
According to the four board members, the whistleblowers said:
●Courses that students had not taken had been added to their records;
●Grades were changed without teachers’ consent;
●Students received credit for service learning hours that they had not earned. Maryland requires students to amass a certain number of service learning hours for graduation.
“These actions, which alter the much touted student graduation rate, are occurring across the school system leading us to believe that there are accomplices and complicity at the highest levels of the school system,” the letter said.
In a separate letter to county citizens, nine other school board members said Monday they were shocked and dismayed by the allegations and had no knowledge or evidence of systemic corruption to increase graduation results.
They said it was “appalling” that the minority bloc ignored local leadership and chose to “secretly share and distribute information that seeks to belittle the hard work of students, educators and parents.” The school district has monitoring and compliance systems in place, and those who cut corners would face “definitive sanctions,” the nine wrote.
Baker told reporters he had not seen the letter to the governor but had spoken to Maxwell. Baker said any allegations would be taken seriously, but he also commended the district’s success.
“They’ve done a great job in the school system to get the graduation rates up,” he said. “The teachers and principals have worked really hard. And so I know that they are going to look at this seriously. We’re very proud of the work the school system has done and the progress they’ve made.”
Via Washington Post