Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Northern Ireland school district plans no future visits by Weast

No future trips to Northern Ireland's Department of Education are planned for Superintendent Weast, according to Joanne Eland, Senior Press Officer of the Northern Ireland Department of Education.

In an email to the Parents' Coalition, Ms. Eland wrote:
"Our schooling system has had an ongoing link with Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) since 2004 initially as an appropriate partner for a headteacher exchange programme, more latterly given our wide ranging reform agenda, as a schooling system which offers important insights on issues of underachievement and schooling system effectiveness."
Exchange program? Anyone know of any teachers or principals from Northern Ireland or from MCPS who participated in an exchange program?

"An important element of the Northern Ireland reform agenda has involved the setting up of a new Education and Skills Authority (ESA). The Department of Education and ESA officials have visited Montgomery County to access for themselves those aspects of the MCPS system which with contextualisation may add value to local endeavours. We are grateful to MCPS for facilitating the involvement of its superintendent Dr Jerry Weast in the strategic discussions and thinking underpinning our change programme."
Who in MCPS authorized Dr. Weast to provide (free) consulting services to the Northern Ireland Education Department? Did the BOE give their approval?

"Dr Weast’s recent trip to Northern Ireland was funded and organised by the Regional Training Unit (RTU), which has responsibility for leadership training across our system and which has an ongoing relationship with MCPS. Over the course of the week, Dr Weast had discussions with local educationalists, political representatives and journalists."
“No further trips are planned at this time.”

In the meantime, MCPS has its own issues to deal with, mostly in Weast's absence.

Gazette: Audits reveal loose spending practices in high schools

The Gazette's Marcus Moore reports on Audits obtained this year by the Parents' Coalition of Montgomery County, Maryland:
A series of recently released audits shows questionable spending practices at some county high schools, even though school system officials raised a red flag on some of the same issues last year...

In some cases, the money earned through school-sponsored activities was not turned in to the schools' financial offices soon enough, thereby increasing the risk of loss or misuse. In other cases, funds were spent without the principals' approval.

In all cases at the respective schools, the money was taken from Independent Activity Funds, which are collected from classroom fees, event ticket sales and fundraisers. School system policy says that unless otherwise designated, the funds belong to the student body and may not be used to benefit staff or particular student groups...

At Walt Whitman High School, auditors noticed that the school's checking account was overdrawn four times, in part because of delays in recording receipts, according to the audit.

At Montgomery Blair High School, where staff made a purchase for walkie-talkies that exceeded $6,500 without Bowers' permission. Another check for $5,163 had no documents to support the disbursement, according to the school's audit.

Officials at Damascus High School made two purchases — both for more than $6,500 — without approval.

At James Hubert Blake High School, employees spent money on three drama productions without the approval of the principal, Carole C. Goodman...

ABC 7 News - Caught on Tape: Kennedy High School Attack

Update: 9/30/09 11 PM Community Meeting to be held Thursday Oct. 1st

Update 9/30/09 6:19 PM: ABC 7 News High School Attackers to Face Charges

Apparently, Superintendent Jerry Weast can't be bothered with school violence issues, or is he not in town? According to ABC 7 News:

Meanwhile, the school system told ABC 7 News the incident is not the type to require the superintendent's attention.

ABC 7 News Exclusive: A brutal attack caught on tape has become a Facebook sensation at a local high school. But the victim wants to know why she was targeted and claims the school is doing nothing to protect her.

Kennedy Principal says it "is impossible for him to view the Facebook video" and he declined ABC 7's offer to show it to him.

ABC 7's reporter said they are "waiting for a response" from Superintendent Jerry Weast to their offer to show him the video.

Update 9/30/07 3:30 PM
: WTOP - Student attacked during school football game

...Two of the girls involved have been charged - as juveniles - with second degree assault.
The two girls -- a 16-year-old who attends Kennedy and an 18-year-old who attends Montgomery Blair High school -- are sisters, Channel 7 reports...

...The principal has called for a community meeting.
In the past decade, there have been two murders on Montgomery County school property. Both were in school parking lots and both took place after football games...

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bd of Ed: Do we have your attention now?

Article online today on the Washington Post website, about MCPS and PGCPS:

Neither Montgomery nor Prince George's county made Adequate Yearly Progress.

Quoting from the article:

"Montgomery officials were calmer, given that they won't face sanctions unless they turn in a similar performance next year. The county fell short because its elementary, middle and high school special education students failed to meet benchmarks; three other categories of middle school students also failed to meet targets.

"Special education continues to be an area we monitor closely," said Brian Edwards, chief of staff for Montgomery Superintendent Jerry D. Weast. "We made progress on the special education front, but not enough to make AYP. We'll continue to focus on that, and devise the strategies we need to devise to get where we need to be." "


Memo to "Montgomery Officials:"

1. Instead of "monitoring" special education, how about working to improve what has been destroyed over the past several years: the LAD program, the secondary learning centers, the speech/language classes, etc?

2. Parents told you so.

3. Remember last week's article about Montgomery's graduation rate being the lowest it has been in ten years? Enough with the traveling to conferences all over the country touting how you claim you've closed the gap. Gap hasn't closed. Sure, MPCS has more kindergartners reading than it did before...but is that the measure of a successful school system? Even my son with a severe disability could read at kindergarten level in kindergarten. The proof of success is getting these kids to graduation. Stop tearing down the supports that special education students need to get to graduation!

Washington Post: 2 MD Counties Miss the Mark in Academic Achievement

Md. Tests A Blow To Two Counties
Schools Fall Short In Montgomery And Pr. George's

Nelson Hernandez reports:
Educationally speaking, Montgomery and Prince George's counties are a world apart. But when it comes to hurdling Maryland's ever-rising bar for academic achievement, the two school systems have one thing in common: They tripped up this year...

Other warning signs this month:

20% Drop Sports after 50% Fee Increase
Montgomery County graduation rates fall
In one door and out the other: Longview and Gateway

Meanwhile, the Superintendent and staff continue to travel despite the announced hiring and travel freeze.

Meet Me In St. Louis

National Staff Development Council, annual conference, St. Louis, MO (December 2009)
Hear how teachers at Wheaton Woods Elementary School in Rockville, MD, developed and delivered a course for the faculty on research-based strategies for English language learners. Delve into the process and practice some of the strategies. Leave with a plan to replicate this highly successful course.

Deborah Firestone, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD, and Michelle Pace, Montgomery County Public Schools, Rockville, MD
Strand: Race, Class, and Culture

And yet another session, too!
Empower your team through effective facilitation. Learn processes and skills to facilitate collaborative work, and match these processes and skills to outcomes and audiences to maximize appropriate stakeholder involvement. Reflect on collaborative work, and learn to use a measurement tool to guide progress toward effective facilitation.
Linda Natale, Teach for Learning, Gaithersburg, MD
Margaret Hart, Teach for Learning, Darnestown, MD
Elizabeth Sandall, Montgomery County Public Schools, Germantown, MD
Carol Starr, Teach for Learning, Rockville, MD
Strand: Fundamentals of Professional Learning

Imagine our surprise to see the above conference listings, when here we thought all along that there was a Travel Freeze instituted by MCPS! At least, that's what they told the County Council earlier this fall.

On the road again, Jerry Weast!

He's barely unpacked from his week long trip to Belfast, Northern Ireland and he is off to Union, New Jersey - it's Jerry Weast - On the Road Again!

N.J. urban school districts to gather at Kean University to share good ideas
By Eliot Caroom/For the Star-Ledger

UNION -- Teachers and administrators from urban schools in North Jersey will gather at Kean University this fall to share ideas on how they can close the gap between their students and those in more affluent suburban districts...

“There are models of success out there, and we’re trying to learn from them,” Weiner said.

Accordingly, the series of four lectures will feature guest speakers from urban school systems around the country that have shown dramatic improvement.

The speakers include Yvette Jackson, the CEO of the National Urban Alliance, based at Columbia University, as well as Jerry Weast, superintendent of schools in Montgomery County, Md. and author of a book published by Harvard Education Press about a decade of dramatic improvements.

Author of a book? If anyone knows what book Superintendent Weast has written, please post to the comments for this article. Thanks!

Monday, September 28, 2009

20% Drop Sports after 50% Fee Increase

What happened after the MCPS Board of Education unanimously approved Board member Patricia O'Neill's resolution in 2007 to increase the Extracurricular Activity Fee from $20 to $30?

On Thursday, September 24, 2009 The Washington Post ran a story with an upbeat title: More Than Ever, Students Are Playing High School Sports. The article began:
Reporting on its data from the 2008-09 school year, the National Federation of State High School Associations says participation in high school sports, among boys and girls, increased to a new high -- the 20th consecutive year that number has risen. The federation lauded it as high school sports' ability to thrive in spite of the nation's struggling economy.
But tucked in this sports article was a devastating statistic for Montgomery County Public Schools, showing the opposite is happening here.
According to a source at Montgomery County public schools, however, sports participation in Montgomery dropped in 2008-09, down nearly 20 percent from 2007-08... Furthermore, the source said the number of students who received a waiver of the county's $30 athletic participation fee tripled from the previous year.
(According to the MCPS website there is no "waiver" of the $30 activity fee as the article suggests. Rather, if a family makes under $35,000 the fee is reduced to $15.)
How did 20% of our students drop out of sports activities without a peep from the Board of Education or from Superintendent Weast?

What happened? We know what happened. On February 13, 2007, Board of Education member Patricia O'Neill made a motion to raise the MCPS Extracurricular Activity Fee from $20 to $30 to fund JV Lacrosse, a sport that was a favorite of her children.

The resolution, shown below, passed without discussion at the same meeting where it was introduced. There was no opportunity for public notification, discussion or comment. There was also no evaluation of what a 50% increase in the Extracurricular Activity Fee would mean to student participation in after school activities. MCPS requires that this fee be paid by students who participate in any after school activities.

The MCPS Board of Education, in an apparent oblivious haze, assumed that all MCPS families would continue to pay the activity fee no matter what the cost. That didn't happen.

  • The first year (2007-08) of the new fee showed an immediate drop in student activity participation. The $405,000 revenue increase the Board had planned for was off by $159,000. Thousands of students dropped after school activities the first year of the fee increase.
  • By the second year (2008-09) of the fee increase 20% of the students dropped out of after school activities, according to the Washington Post article. That could mean a staggering 8,000 to 9,000* Montgomery County children no longer participate in after school programs at MCPS middle and high schools.
  • We are now in year three (2009-10) of this fee increase. How many MCPS students will be participating in after school activities this year?
UPDATE:'s Bob Cook reports on Montgomery County Public Schools drop in student after school sports participation in his story Will pay-to-play in school sports keep kids on the sidelines?


*Update 10/14/09: Detailed data on after-school sports participation and ECA fee reduction requests has been requested from MCPS.  We will update as soon as we receive that information. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

MSA Performance: The Canaries in the Mine

The downward trend of graduation rates should come as no surprise to a school system with a Baldrige guided, data-driven strategy, and the highest expenditure rate per student (2008 figures).

There were other signs of the impending debacle, not the least of which was the MSA performance reports. Take a look for yourself.

LIVE @ 10:30! It's Jerry Weast in Belfast!

UTV Live presents

"leading American Education expert" Jerry Weast!

Haven't heard of UTV? It's the television station in Belfast, Northern Ireland where Superintendent Weast is consulting this week.

Jerry Weast was interviewed on UTV yesterday to give his advice on moving the best head teachers to failing schools in order to raise academic standards in ... Belfast. Jerry Weast was speaking to the reporter from Stormont, the home of the Northern Ireland Parliament.

Watch the full UTV interview here (click on the "Teacher transfers" video).

Here are some excerpts from Weast's interview:
"There is a moral obligation to help every child in the entire nation of Northern Ireland...we needed the best teacher and the best headmaster...there had to be a whole sea-change in the entire community... Educate all children to a high standard that is acceptable in a high quality workplace or higher education... I think you've got some really good schools and I think you have some really good teachers, but I think you've got a high degree of variability... according to your own statistics about 1 out of every 4 children do not measure up on the standard that you currently have. Now that is a lot of under performance for a system of your size...I am here to show it can be done...I came to help...I am a non-paid employee. I am busy at the job that I am hired for back in America..."
Meanwhile, back here in Montgomery County, Maryland, where we are paying Jerry Weast to be the Superintendent of our public school system, about 1 in 8 students are dropping out of school before graduation.

School-by-school graduation rate data available

School-by-school graduation rates, dropout rates, and other recently released data for high schools in Montgomery County are available at:

After selecting the above link, select "Graduation" for the school of interest. Click on any of the text that is in blue to drill down and obtain demographic and historical data.

Summary of 2009 graduation rates for MCPS high schools
Winston Churchill High97.92
Thomas S. Wootton High97.66
Poolesville High96.71
Walt Whitman High96.57
Clarksburg High94.89
Bethesda-Chevy Chase High94.82
Walter Johnson High94.27
Damascus High94.1
Sherwood High94.08
Col. Zadok Magruder High90.47
Richard Montgomery High89.28
James Hubert Blake High88.89
Quince Orchard High88.26
Northwest High88.11
Paint Branch High88.03
Seneca Valley High87.46
Rockville High86.34
Springbrook High85.28
Gaithersburg High83.18
Albert Einstein High83.08
Montgomery Blair High82.61
John F. Kennedy High82.01
Watkins Mill High81.3
Wheaton High79.11
Northwood High School79.1

Opportunity Costs

Want your child to apply for an opportunity to participate in a MCPS magnet program?

Now it's going to cost you. At Montgomery Blair High School the fee to apply for the magnet program is $40. The Blair website says the $40 is to cover "administrative costs". But isn't that what our taxes cover, the "administration" of the public school system?

When did the MCPS Board of Education approve the implementation of an application fee for these public school programs?

Hundreds of Md. graduates use test waivers | Washington Examiner

Hundreds of Md. graduates use test waivers | Washington Examiner

Students from MontCo, Pr. George's account for 62 percent of total

Shared via AddThis

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Montgomery County High School Graduation Rates Drop | | Washington, DC |

Montgomery County High School Graduation Rates Drop | | Washington, DC |

Shared via AddThis

A Dude, a PC, and MCPS Graduation Trends

In May 2009, I performed a very rough analysis of MCPS graduation trends. The analysis, with a simple linear trend which predicted a further decline on graduation rates, was made available to the public on 8/19/2009.

The extrapolation of the downward trend for all MCPS students predicted a figure approximately midway between 85% and 90%. Today, we learn that the actual graduation rate for MCPS is 87%.

The purpose of the analysis was threefold:

1. Highlight a possible problem;
2. Demonstrate the type of analysis that a bona fide, data-driven school system should perform; and
3. Illustrate what a minimal investment in data analysis (a dude, a PC, and a few minutes) can accomplish.

No one can dispute that the analysis was rudimentary at best. However, that was exactly the point. From the gaming of Gifted and Talented identification, to falling graduation rates, MCPS has shown itself to be supremely oblivious to the story told by its own data. This, despite having a division of personnel dedicated to data analysis.

Shared Accountability” has become an euphemism for unshared data and lukewarm reports—mostly a compilation of numbers. Take a look at the reports on Global Screening. Why weren’t the good folks at the Department of Testing, Research, and Evaluation Reports, able to correlate this data with the reports of academic achievements, of the same students, to determine the efficacy of the Global Screening effort? A rudimentary analysis by this author has shown that it can be done.

Why hasn’t MCPS leadership stepped up to demand more data-driven answers to serious questions that have a direct and lasting influence on the educational future of our children? Why haven’t we demanded more of MCPS?

Are we content to let the anthem for our children be Sam Cooke’s Don’t Know Much?

Don't know much about history
Don't know much biology
Don't know much about a science book
Don't know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be.

Montgomery County graduation rates fall | Washington Examiner

Berthiaume speaks out, while "Jet Set" Jerry is absent.

Montgomery County graduation rates fall | Washington Examiner
...Only about 87 percent of Montgomery County Public Schools students who should have earned a diploma in 2009 actually did, down from a recent peak of 92 percent in 2003...
...It was the lowest graduation rate for the county since the state changed the way it measured the rates in 1996...

From the chart: Montgomery County high schools have seen graduation rates decline in recent years, regardless of student race.

Shared via AddThis

The Washington Post follows up on the Examiner story: High School Graduation Rates Hit 13-Year Low in Montgomery

2009 MCPS Schools Identified for Improvement

2009 Schools Identified for Improvement

On July 1, 2008, the Maryland State Department of Education received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to implement a Differentiated Accountability pilot proposal that allows Maryland to distinguish between schools in improvement that need substantial help and those close to meeting achievement goals. This implementation affects the nomenclature and interventions that pertain to schools in improvement based on the 2007-08 school year testing.

Schools are now placed in one of two pathways: Comprehensive Needs or Focused Needs. They are further identified according to stages (Developing or Priority) based on the number of years the school has been identified for improvement.

Here is the MCPS list of schools identified for improvement:

Elementary schools
Captain James E. Daly Elementary 0111 2008
Focus Developing
Middle schools
Benjamin Banneker Middle 0333 2007
Comprehensive Developing
Forest Oak Middle 0248 2006
Focus Developing
Gaithersburg Middle 0554 2007
Focus Developing
Neelsville Middle 0115 2007
Focus Developing
Parkland Middle 0812 2004
Focus Developing
High schools
Watkins Mill High 0545 2008
Focus Developing
Elementary/Middle/High schools
Stephen Knolls School 0799 2007
Focus Developing

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Turf Talk Better Late than Not at All

Here is an interesting meeting announcement courtesy of the Richard Montgomery PTSA listserve:

MCCPTA Information Forum about Artificial Turf

In response to ongoing concerns and questions about artificial turf, MCCPTA will be sponsoring an information forum for PTA members and interested school community members. The overall goal is to share information from both sides of the issue related to artificial turf versus natural turf. MCCPTA has not taken a position on artificial turf, so the purpose of the forum is informational and not to advocate for one side or the other. We are interested in the overall safety and health aspects of both turfs.

MCCPTA has reserved the date of October 7 from 7:00- 9:00 PM in the Carver Auditorium. Elected officials have been invited to attend.

The MCCPTA Safety Committee chaired by Laurie Halverson and The MCCPTA Health Committee chaired by Susan Young will be the contacts for this event. Contact information is provided below.

MCCPTA Safety Committee - Laurie Halverson, Chair

MCCPTA Health Committee - Susan Young, Chair

Keep in mind that artificial turf fields are now at 3 MCPS high schools - Richard Montgomery, Montgomery Blair, and Walter Johnson, with more to follow. So - is it safe or isn't it, and if we have any question, why are we only asking now after our kids are at risk?

MCCPTA meetings are open to the public. Come out and hear what your elected officials know about the issue.

Jet Set Jerry in Northern Ireland all week!

No need for a Superintendent to improve any standards in Montgomery County, right?

That's why ours is in Northern Ireland this week!

From UTV Television News in Belfast, Ireland:

UTV News - Minister pushes for Irish Act
Meanwhile on Tuesday night the South Down MLA meets Jerry Weast, schools superintendent at Montgomery County, Maryland, about improving standards.
And from the Belfast Telegraph:

Ruane presses for Irish language act
Meanwhile, later tonight the South Down MLA meets Jerry Weast, schools superintendent at Montgomery County, Maryland, about improving standards.

But, why did "Jet Set Jerry" have to go to Northern Ireland when the Northern Ireland delegation was just HERE in August? See page 10 of the Irish National Teachers Organisation newsletter.

Consider, one week of Jerry Weast's time is worth about $9,418 tax dollars.

In one door, out the other: Longview & Gateway

In 2008, MCPS announced that two special schools for high school students had exited school improvement by meeting Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) for two consecutive years: the Gateway to College Program and Longview.

The 2008 announcement is shown to the right.

On September 22, 2009, MCPS announced that those same two schools, Longview and the Gateway to College Program, are now back on the AYP list as "requiring local attention".

100% Pass Rate in All Subgroups!

Today the Maryland State Department of Education released the results of the 2009 administration of the High School Assessments (HSA). 2009 was the first year that passing the HSAs was a Maryland graduation requirement.

The following Maryland Counties are showing that 100% of the 2009 - 12th graders took all 4 HSA tests and met the requirement in ALL subgroups (Amer. Indian/African American/Asian/White/Hispanic/Special Ed/LEP/FARMS)

Click on the County to see the detailed results.

Anne Arundel
Queen Anne's

Doubts emerge as statewide tests keep just 11 from diploma --

Doubts emerge as statewide tests keep just 11 from diploma --

...Bebe Verdery, education director for the Maryland ACLU, said board members should not worry that the standards are too low until more students can pass.

"School systems generally did a good job of supporting students to meet the high school requirement through alternate routes so there were not huge numbers of students who didn't graduate," Verdery said. "The fact remains however, that only two-thirds of the seniors were able to pass all four tests and that points toward the need to improve instruction.

"The number who did not meet the requirement does not include those who may have dropped out because they became discouraged and believed they would never pass. In the Class of 2009, 1,700 dropped out last year and 2,200 failed to graduate because they hadn't passed classes and the tests. About 10,000 students in the class had dropped out over the course of four years, said Leslie Wilson, who is in charge of testing for the state...

Posted using ShareThis

Monday, September 21, 2009

Getting the MCEA History Right

MCEA Paved Its Own Way to Higher Wages

by Joseph A. Hawkins

In my last posting, I noted to readers that I was interested in setting the historical record straight on two fronts. One front was the notion that Montgomery County Superintendent Jerry Weast was the first county school superintendent courageous enough to put race on the table. Even a quick survey of county history reveals that this is wrong. There is plenty of evidence that detailed and formal conversations about race were ongoing back in the mid-1970’s—nearly 25 years before Weast arrived in the county.

In this posting, I take on the “myth” (it certainly seems to be headed in that direction) that Weast made it safe for the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA)—the teachers union, a local National Education Association (NEA) affiliate—to come out of the dark and participate in decision-making. Dark is my word, but it is the image that comes to mind when I read The Washington Post article, Over 10 Years, Montgomery's Weast Aced Tough Tests, by reporter Daniel de Vise on 7/28/09. In that piece, de Vise wrote,
“He forged a rapport with teachers almost unknown in public education, inviting union leaders onto his inner-sanctum leadership team. Weast offered teachers the same deal the school board had offered him: good pay for hard work. He made Montgomery teachers the best-paid in the region. In return, the union took the remarkable step this year of giving up a 5 percent pay raise to balance the budget. Weast collaborated with the union on a program to help struggling teachers improve or exit the classroom.”
“Inner-sanctum leadership team.” Wow! Sounds private, secretive, mysterious, and definitely dark.

But let us get real folks—MCEA has no history of anything close to being a shy wall-flower. And below I make the case for why this is true. Warning: When I resigned my Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) job in 1998, I was not only an active MCEA member but also an elected member of the MCEA Board of Directors. And in 1997 and 1998, I was a member of the MCEA contract bargaining team. I am a little biased.

Commission on Excellence in Teaching: MCEA has always been serious about collaborating

I first became conscious of MCEA’s ability to collaborate with others in MCPS in 1985 when MCEA and the Board of Education established the Commission of Excellence in Teaching. The Commission concluded its work in 1987 and issued a very comprehensive report titled Attracting, Keeping and Enabling Excellent Teachers. One of the really cool things about the Commission was the caliber of experts called upon to serve. Experts like Linda Darling-Hammond (clearly a guru in the field of teaching), Michael O’Keefe (former president of the Consortium for the Advancement of Private Higher Education), and David Tatel (former Director of the U.S. Office for Civil Rights) served on the Commission.

I really became conscious of the Commission’s work when MCPS and MCEA began to implement its recommendations in the late 1980’s. After putting in place in multiple schools, site-based management (teachers and parents involved in local school decision-making), new teacher induction programs (think mentoring programs for novice teachers), and site-based staff development and training (teachers involved in decisions about what training they needed), my old Accountability Office was called upon to evaluate impacts. I was personally responsible for evaluating the teacher induction programs and the site-based staff development efforts. Beyond what was actually going on in schools across the county—new teachers definitely needed supports and were getting them and school staff were extremely capable of designing and managing their own training needs—I got a unique opportunity to view the extent to which MCEA was deeply involved in pushing MCPS in directions that were making schools better. (Note to self: Don’t they call this stuff school reform. The Washington Post called it reform when they wrote about it 1988. So, MCEA was engaged as a true partner and this was more than 10 years prior to Weast arriving in the county.)

And I believe it extremely important to note that the Commission’s work also stressed to the county at large that paying teachers more was a high priority. So, the roadmap, the game plan to have our teachers become the “best-paid” in the region was laid out as early as 1987.

New Unionism: MCEA jumps onboard with both feet

In early 1997, then NEA president Bob Chase set forth an agenda for NEA affiliates to adopt new unionism. In a nutshell, new unionism encourages teachers to partner with administrators in promoting school reforms. For the most part, NEA affiliates around the nation did not rush to sign up for new unionism; however, MCEA did and did so by jumping in with both feet. I remember MCEA’s move to new unionism because I was there. And the jump made sense given MCEA’s history and support of the recommendations of from the Commission of Excellence in Teaching. For MCEA, the move to new unionism was guided by then MCEA president Mark Simon (retired) and MCEA executive director Tom Israel.

(Note: Those seeking additional information on new unionism ought to do a Google search on Bob Chase and new unionism. Lots of links pop up.)

New unionism fit MCEA like a glove, and the tenets of new unionism were first put in play in 1997 as MCEA and the BOE sat down to bargain for a new 1998 teachers union contract. I was a member of MCEA bargaining team. Mark Simon led the MCEA team and Steve Seleznow (now at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) then the deputy MCPS superintendent led the BOE team. The 1998 contract was bargained using interest-based bargaining. This type of bargaining is also known as Win-Win Bargaining, Mutual Gains, Principled or Interest-Based Negotiation, Interest-Based Problem Solving, Best Practice or Integrative Bargaining. Regardless of what it is called, in 1997, it required the bargaining parties—MCEA and the BOE/MCPS—to drop traditions and adopt new ideas and processes for bargaining. For example, neither party came to the table with any predetermined issues or positions.

Now cynics can dump on interest-based bargaining, but the fact of the matter is MCEA used a new approach to bargain a contract and it worked. But perhaps more than anything else, new unionism and interest-based bargaining required greater MCEA and MCPS collaboration (even rapport). And that collaboration was real (sure as member of the MCEA I felt cautious of the other side but the entire process felt honest and open). And this foundation of collaboration laid down in late 1997 and early 1998 occurred an entire school year prior to Weast’s arrival in the county. And this foundation included setting in motion specific actions and plans to aid struggling teachers and counseling failing teachers out the classroom door.

And I believe it extremely important to note that even prior to what occurred in Broad Acres Elementary School—MCPS and MCEA collaborating on moving that school forward in a positive academic direction during the early years of the Weast superintendency—MCPS and MCEA had already begun to test out the Broad Acres collaborating model before the 1999-2000 school year. I was part of a MCEA team that went into Brookhaven Elementary School in the spring of 1998 in an effort to assist struggling teachers and improve the school’s academic outcomes. Again, a roadmap and a game plan were in play.

And Then There’s the Apple Ballot

I moved from my hometown Washington D.C. to Bethesda in 1984. I’m a little fuzzy on my first official county election, but as I long as I have voted in the county, I remember there being a MCEA Apple Ballot. This is the list of MCEA endorsed candidates running for the Board of Education (BOE). County voters may have mixed feelings about the Apple Ballot, but one thing is clear—it works (you can get elected without MCEA’s endorsement but the odds of getting elected with their endorsement are extremely high). And as a former MCEA member I lost track of how many times I volunteered and stood out in front of my own voting/polling location (Pyle Middle School) handing out the Apple.

But getting the right group of people elected to the BOE, as well as to the county council, links directly to higher wages and better benefits. At the end of the day, MCEA wants elected officials that support the rhetoric of we want the “best-paid” teachers. And this is not a deal that was dreamed up by Weast. It is a reality that has been in place for nearly three solid decades. The notion that Weast rode into town and the BOE finally open up their check-books is at best non-sense.

So What Is My Point?

I believe Weast has actively promoted and supported higher pay for teachers. I also believe that he and MCPS management, including the BOE, actively involve MCEA in decision-making. However, both of these things or actions or policies or whatever you call them; especially how well they currently function with Weast as superintendent, result from a fairly long and complex history of MCEA activism and not just from the leadership of one person—no matter what their evangelical skills.


Last week in Education Week, Stacey M. Childress pinned an essay and wrote the following,
“When Weast arrived in Montgomery County, board members rarely agreed, and the unions were at odds with each other and the district. His willingness to blur the lines rather than consolidate power to himself was a first step, and stakeholder groups reciprocated by engaging deeply in the reform efforts.”

MCEA at odds with MCPS? MCEA at odds with the other unions? Who is Childress interviewing to arrive at these wrong-headed conclusions? I was there just prior to Weast’s arrival—working behind the scenes at MCEA—and I simply do not recall my fellow MCEA members at odds with others. Sure there were disagreements but “at odds” sounds like we were fighting it out in an alley somewhere. And what’s wrong with board members disagreeing publicly (or behind closed doors)? However, I also do not recall board chaos. In fact, in 1998, the board that hired Weast, approved one of the largest teacher union contracts ever long before he ever set foot in Rockville. That was not possible without a little peace and harmony.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Council Ed Committee to review MCPS surplus

On September 21, 2009, the Montgomery County Council's Education Committee will meet to discuss and vote on the Board of Education requests to declare MCPS funds surplus and move the funds to other categories.

Included in the MCPS memo on this issue is that $4.6 million in MCPS Textbook & Instructional Funds for the 2008-09 school year were declared surplus to the needs of your child's classroom by the Board of Education.

Your child's classroom had everything it needed last year, right?

Read more about the funds that were not spent on your child's classroom last year here.

Comments to the County Council can be sent by e-mail to:

Comments to the Board of Education can be sent by e-mail to:

RecExtra or Broadband for kindergarten?

Here's the question:

Should Montgomery County spend $4 to $5 million per year for 5 years (that's $20 to $25 million) to bring FiberNet broadband to MCPS elementary schools, or instead should it use the funds to support students in other ways?
For example, what about restoring the $156,000 to the RecExtra program so that 13 middle schools can continue their after school programs?

On Monday, September 21, 2009, the Montgomery County Council's Education Committee will be meeting with the Management and Fiscal Policy Committee to discuss whether or not all MCPS elementary schools should have access to FiberNet.

In a previous posting, this blog noted that this school year 13 middle schools had their RecExtra program cut. How much money did it take to fund the RecExtra program at 13 middle schools? About $156,000.

The packet summary that accompanies the September 21st meeting on FiberNet does not clearly summarize how much this FiberNet initiative will cost. In order to find a clear cut statement on cost, one has to reference a March 23, 2009 packet on the same topic.

Here is the March 2009 statement on bringing FiberNet broadband to all MCPS elementary schools:
DTS estimates that if $4 million to $5 million were allocated to FiberNet construction each year for FYl0 through FYI4, all elementary schools could be connected to FiberNet by FYI6.
Here are the questions that Councilmembers Valerie Ervin, Phil Andrews, Mike Knapp, Dutchy Trachtenberg and Nancy Navarro will be discussing at the September 21st meeting:
1. Broadband connectivity is a strong administrative and teaching tool, bringing internet-based and server-based information to all locations. The use of this connectivity and its impact on efficiency and student performance is anecdotal. More explicit analysis should be done to justify the investments made.

2. The Interagency Technology Policy and Coordination Committee (ITPCC) is recommending to the County Executive the completion-of FiberNet connections to some 119 elementary schools over the next four years as their highest priority. The Committees are still discussing this topic and will weigh in on this issue once the new CIP is released.

3. The end users of broadband connectivity and their unique needs should be heard directly by the Committees.

4. FiberNet is an expensive system to deploy and maintain. In return for this expense, MCPS and other broadband users should be able to demonstrate an explicit reduction in other connectivity expenses (cable modems, T-l lines, wireless systems, air cards, etc.), but making this analysis is difficult given the paucity of data.

The September 21, 2009 Joint Council Committee meeting is at 9:30 AM and will not be televised. But citizens call call the number below and listen to the meeting over a phone line.

You may listen to the Council Sessions by phone
For the 7th floor hearing room call 240-773-3377

Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Arrogance of Planning

Roger Lewis, in today's Washington Post, writes about master planning. Using the language of the developers, so familiar now to those of us in Montgomery County, Maryland, he admonishes us for being so selfish as to only care about traffic and ease of getting from point A to point B. Mr. Lewis testified at the Gaithersburg West Master Plan Public Hearing last Thursday night, September 17. After his testimony as he walked up the aisle, developers crowded around him to shake his hand. Having never met Mr. Lewis before I have no idea if he has spent much time in the county. Does he take the red line? Who knows. Did he take a bus or metro to get to the hearing? Who knows. Those of us concerned about inappropriate unsustainable density, however, have many more concerns than increasing congestion. We are concerned about overcrowded schools. Mr. Lewis never mentions our schools. We are concerned about the quality of our infrastructure, having seen watermains burst along River Road and most recently in Dundalk, Maryland. He never mentions our failing infrastructure. Mr. Lewis is not concerned about restoring the natural environment. He has no concerns about the increase in particulates that our children will be breathing in as the traffic increases to such a degree that the planners themselves, in order to shoehorn in the developments they want, adjust the amount of congestion allowed in the proposed high-density developments.

Mr. Lewis is another example of how Montgomery County is being ‘governed,’ from the top down, by supposed experts who know more than we about our quality of life. The arrogance is unbelievable.

MCPS' no bid turf company in the news, again

Superintendent Jerry Weast bypassed Maryland State procurement laws and selected an artificial turf product for MCPS schools without a Request for Proposal and without taking competitive bids from a variety of companies. Here is another story, this time from Texas, involving the same company that Superintendent Weast has selected as the sole source provider of artificial turf in Montgomery County Public Schools.

The Galveston County Daily News Officials: Surface at stadium should be replaced
School district officials claim the artificial turf at Friendswood’s high school football stadium is coming apart at the seams — and want the contractor to replace it.

Hanks said the district’s attorneys are corresponding with Atlas Track, the company the district hired to replace the turf three years ago. Atlas Track has an agreement with FieldTurf Tarkett to install their product only.

Three years ago, the district spent a little more than $1 million to replace the turf and track at Henry Winston Memorial Stadium, 702 Greenbriar. But the turf was never properly installed, resulting in more than 300 repairs in the past three years, Athletic Director Steve Van Meter said.

Canada-based FieldTurf Tarkett, which has manufactured turf for more than 40 universities, dozens of National Football League teams and three Major League Baseball teams, hired Dallas-based RS Global to install the turf at the Friendswood stadium in summer 2006, Van Meter said.

FieldTurf Tarkett representatives declined to comment about the district’s complaints. Officials with RS Global could not be reached for comment Tuesday...

Shared via AddThis

Friday, September 18, 2009

Grade Skipping: The Mythology & The Facts

Grade-Skipping by Kumar Singam

Parents on school fees: Show us the money -

Parents on school fees: Show us the money -

Kate Ryan,

WASHINGTON - You paid your child's school fee for a field trip, a yearbook and lab. Where exactly did that money go? To cover the cost of the field trip, or to cover a staff lunch?

Shared via AddThis

Consultant's firm reinstated after Washington Post inquiries

In a brief article in today's online Washington Post, staff writer James Hohmann reports:
A consultant hired by Metro to revise its employee handbook said Thursday that he has filed the necessary paperwork to reinstate the incorporation of his business with the California secretary of state.
Metro announced Wednesday that Vehicles Safety International, in Laguna Niguel, Calif., is leading the project. Steve Walsh, 56, said he is the only employee of his business.
A search of online records revealed that the company's incorporation was suspended in May. A spokeswoman for the California secretary of state said that Walsh had not filed an updated statement of information since 2006 and that such a document is required every two years.
Meanwhile, consultant James Gompers continues to provide extensive security system consulting to MCPS, even though his corporate registrations were revoked by the state of Illinois over five years ago.

Even though Mr. Gompers is a one-person business operating under at least five different corporate names, MCPS continues to look to him -- and pay him --- to advise how millions of dollars should be spent on school security.

Golf cart + private business + school administrator

Equals prosecution in Montgomery County.

But not Montgomery County, Maryland. This story is from Montgomery County, Ohio.

Dayton Daily News

DAYTON — The founder of a Dayton charter school faces grand theft charges for allegedly using his private business to defraud the school and Ohio taxpayers of more than $116,000, the Montgomery County Prosecutor’s Office said Thursday, Aug. 13...

...The report said Singleton used some of the money to purchase a golf cart and security system for personal use. He also used his company to bill the school $60,202 for transporting students to and from school facilities...

...“I just think it’s especially egregious when you’re stealing money that’s intended to be used for the education of children,” Taylor said in an interview Thursday...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Blair Gym Towel Fee - Alive and Still Illegal

Imagine my surprise when I went to check the Blair HS PE website this afternoon.

Remember - the Blair gym towel fee was the public face of the curricular fee issue last fall.

We thought the fee had disappeared. Its in the MCPS policy. We cheered.

Oops, MCPS fooled us again.

The Blair towel fee is alive and well, and still on the Blair website. Its a new website from last year, so claims of the fee being old just doesn't cut it with this writer.

From the website as of 5 PM today (9/17/2009):

Physical Education at Blair Information

(en espaƱol)

Due to the nature of physical education courses, there are some special policies, expectations, and items-of-note regarding Blair's physical education courses. If you or your child is enrolled in Blair P.E., please take a moment to examine the information below.

I. Mission

Physical Education will provide an individualized, developmentally appropriate, and personally challenging instructional program that advances the student's knowledge, confidence, skills and motivation to engage in a lifelong, healthy, active lifestyle.

The benefits derived from the physical education program depend upon the amount of effort and positive attitude which a student displays. In order to provide for a variety of student needs and interests, the program is divided into two main components: General Physical Education and Specialized Physical Education.

. . .

IV. To begin each semester, students will need to

  • pay a $4.00 towel fee,
  • bring an appropriate change of clothing,
  • bring appropriate athletic shoes,
  • bring a water bottle,
  • be issued a personal, Physical Education locker.

Its also still illegal, and now its contrary to MCPS policy too.

Wake up, Mr. Williams and the PE department. Stop charging the students.

Watch this space for additional developments. We hope you don't have to wait long for a resolution.


UPDATE 9/18/09 at 3:30 P.M.: Blair High School deleted Towel Fee from website.
Here is what the website used to look like:

And if you click this link you will see the revised webpage without the $4 towel fee.

Critical thinking? You need knowledge - The Boston Globe

Critical thinking? You need knowledge - The Boston Globe

THE LATEST fad to sweep K-12 education is called “21st-Century Skills.’’...

...For over a century we have numbed the brains of teachers with endless blather about process and abstract thinking skills. We have taught them about graphic organizers and Venn diagrams and accountable talk, data-based decision-making, rubrics, and leveled libraries.

But we have ignored what matters most. We have neglected to teach them that one cannot think critically without quite a lot of knowledge to think about. Thinking critically involves comparing and contrasting and synthesizing what one has learned. And a great deal of knowledge is necessary before one can begin to reflect on its meaning and look for alternative explanations...

Posted using ShareThis

Grade Skipping-Slip Sliding Away?

The Templeton National Report on Acceleration, states “Acceleration is an intervention that moves students through an educational program at rates faster, or at younger ages, than typical. It means matching the level, complexity, and pace of the curriculum to the readiness and motivation of the student. Examples of acceleration include early entrance to school, grade-skipping, moving ahead in one subject area, or Advanced Placement (AP). Acceleration is educationally effective, inexpensive, and can help level the playing field between students from rich schools and poor schools.”

Many gifted students don’t find friends among age-peers. They tend to be more emotionally and socially mature than their age-mates. Their ideas of friendship are different. Bright students may be looking for a true friend to share thoughts and feelings, at an age when most kids see a friend as someone to play with. Parents of bright students often notice that their children seem to gravitate naturally to neighborhood children of various ages with similar academic or intellectual interests. The games they enjoy and the books they read are more like those of older children. And the older children happily accept them. So for gifted students, moving up a grade may not be a matter of leaving friends behind but of moving to a place where friends are waiting for them.”

… almost all bright students who are screened carefully and allowed to enter school early are as socially well-adjusted as their older classmates. In short, younger students do make friends. In fact, they are happier with older students who share their interests than they are with age-peers. The other side of that statistic may explain some of the scare stories. Children who are not specifically chosen to start school early, but somehow end up being younger—such as kids with a summer birthday—do tend to show more signs of immaturity than older classmates. That’s because age is only one indicator of readiness. But age plus advanced skills and maturity is a different equation.

In High-Achieving Students in the Era of NCLB, a report by the Fordham Institute, we read, “To hear teachers report it, grade acceleration—or skipping a grade—rarely occurs these days. Approximately one in four teachers (27%) reports that their schools allow students to skip a grade, while a plurality (46%) says they do not. Teachers in high school (48%), middle school (45%), and elementary school (46%) are almost equally likely to report that their schools do not allow grade skipping. The fact that such a large proportion of teachers overall (27%) is unsure what their school’s policy is may also indicate that grade acceleration rarely occurs.”

Three-quarters (76%) of teachers overall would like to see the nation “relying more on homogeneous classes for advanced students so that they learn faster and in greater depth.” More than eight in ten teachers (85%) also favor more reliance on “subject acceleration,” i.e., moving students faster when they have proven their capacity to learn at a quicker pace. But 63% oppose “encouraging advanced students to skip grades when appropriate.”

Advocating for gifted kids is an uphill battle that faces entrenched social norms and beliefs. This is precisely why I strongly believe that MCPS needs competent, qualified, leadership experienced in G/T, with the knowledge and courage to lead the debate.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Gazette: Northwest football & MRSA

Northwest football coach Maradei suspended
...Northwest High School head football coach Mark Maradei is being investigated for allegedly "pushing or shoving" a player, said Montgomery County Public Schools spokeswoman Kate Harrison...

3 MRSA cases reported since start of school year in Montgomery
...Three confirmed cases of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, have been reported to the county Department of Health and Human Services since the 2009-10 school year began Aug. 31, said spokeswoman Mary Anderson. There was one case each at Northwest High School in Germantown, Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda and Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, she said...

Hooray for Highland ES!

On 12/26/2008 1:50 PM I posted an email with the subject line “Labelgate,” which contained the following:

Take a look at Highland ES (#774) a state Blue Ribbon school. They had a 76.2% Hispanic student population. Georgian Forest, the “pilot” school for detracking, had a 49.2% African-American student body. Highland ES beat Georgian Forest ES in every category of the MSAs. Why? What did Highland do right? Shouldn’t we want to know?

On 12/28/2008 11:55 AM, I posted an email with the subject line “Highland ES MSA performance, "Pilot" school performance, and GT screening in 2004-2205.” I wrote “Highland ES deserves our congratulations for their apparent performance on the 2008 MSAs. If they keep it up—give the folks a bouquet.

Today, Highland Elementary School in Silver Spring, became the only public school to win the award in Montgomery County this year.

Without further ado let me present the students, staff, and parents of Highland ES a virtual bouquet. Folks, you made my day!

Too bad that Carver didn’t look to Highland for lessons learned, and replicate it. Then again, that would have required proactive leadership.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

New audits reveal continued school activity fund management issues

A new set of audit reports obtained by Parents' Coalition members reveal continued problems with management of money in Independent Activity Funds (IAFs) at many schools.

The latest audits were obtained through a Maryland Public Information Act request. MCPS has been unwilling to publish IAF audits, even though the audit documents are in a format that is easily distributed on web sites.

Among the findings of the MCPS auditors:

  • At Blair High School, a check in the amount of $5,163 was issued even though no documentation was provided to explain the purpose of the disbursement.
  • At Blake High School, $16,114 of student funds were spent on staff refreshments, which is nearly double the amount that is allowed.
  • At Einstein High School, the principal was reimbursed for over $11,000 that was charged to his personal credit card. The auditor notes that the principal may have received a benefit (a rebate) by using his personal credit card to purchase school supplies.
  • At Watkins Mill High School, nearly 25% of a sample of disbursements were issued without required approval documentation.

The complete set of audit reports for all high schools and several middle and elementary schools is available on the Parents' Coalition web site in the School Audits section.

Previous news reports on audits of MCPS Independent Activity Fund accounts at local schools:

WTOP: Audit of High School Shows Lots of Red Ink

Examiner: Audit: School Staff Misused Funds

WJLA: School Money Spent on Staff Perks at School

Washington Post: Audits Obtained by Parents Show More Misspent Funds

Washington Post: In Md., Teed About Principal's Golf Cart

Parents' Coalition blog: Audit reveals ongoing financial disarray at Whitman High School

Start Saving or Selling MCPS Class of 2010

Do you know how much your child may be asked to pay for the honor of receiving a diploma from a Montgomery County Public School in 2010?

I am not talking about college applications, prom parties, or AP tests. Just graduation. Ninety minutes to two hours, in DAR Constitution Hall for the majority of MCPS graduates.

Here is an interesting posting from one of our top Montgomery County High School's Assistant Principal. Caps and gowns cost $30, but apparently this school doesn't let you reuse or recycle a (standard black) cap and gown from a sibling or neighbor. That also leaves a graduation "fee" of $35, for DAR and a picnic.

So what's the solution? FUNDRAISING. Get the entrepreneurial spirit moving and start selling those magazines, gift wrapping, bath items, kitchen and chocolates.

Its bad enough that MCPS administrators shake down the parents of the graduates, now the pressure is extended to friends, families, and neighbors.

What happened to recycling a gown from a sib or a neighbor? And why does a student incur a penalty for paying after January 1?

Special Note - the students at this school did not view the President Obama's back to school speech, because instructional time is precious. So why did they spend school time on a promotional "informational" session?

Senior Parents
The senior class will be participating in a fundraiser this year to help deter the costs for a variety of activities. As always there is a required senior fee that all graduating seniors pay. The cost of the fee includes cap and gown, graduation expenses, and the senior picnic. Below is the schedule of the fee payments that can be made. Please note the increases the longer a child waits to pay the fee.

Currently- January 1st $65
January 4th- April 6th $70

April 7th-graduation $75

All checks for senior fees can be made payable to [school]. Checks should have the student's ID number written on it. All fees can be given to [sponsor] of the senior class.


All seniors were given a fundraiser packet and participated in an informational session. Please ask your child to view the informational sheet which will also be posted on the XX Website. The purpose of the fundraiser is an incentive for students to lower the cost of the amount they will pay for the senior fee. The fundraising company will credit each student their sales individually. Any overage beyond the amount of the fee can then be utilized to be put toward the cost of the senior banquet ticket. ( NOTE: The cost of the banquet tickets has not been determined at this time)

There is an option for students to acquire customers via online. We strongly encourage students to use this option. Once a customer places and order online he/she can simply credit their order to a specific student. There orders will then be shipped to them directly. This allows for sales all over the country by the simple click of an email. Below are the directions for online ordering which are also part of the informational sheet:

ON LINE SHOPPING - Now friends and relatives can order from our on line store. To use the on line store and receive credit for the sale you must:

1) Go to
and click Sellers Registration.

2) Enter your School Group ID - XXHSSR and click Go. Enter your information and click Next.

3) You will now receive a unique Seller ID to give to friends and family. Be sure to write down your Seller ID. Enter email addresses for friends and family and an auto message giving instructions will be sent along with your personal message. You can send unlimited emails! It's easy, just have email addresses ready to send and we will do the rest. Customers order and pay on line and we will deliver to their home. Your class receives the profit and you receive the credit toward your senior fees and banquet tickets.

4) MAGAZINES: You can also renew current magazine subscriptions or purchase new magazines at the AP Hearst store. Use code #[ ]. Click on "Sellers Registration" and you can also send emails to friends and relatives.

If you have individual questions about the senior fees, fundraiser, or any other senior activity please contact me directly. I can best address your needs through individual questions As always, thank you for supporting your senior.