Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Parks Disputes MCPS Cost Data

The M-NCPPC Department of Parks has submitted a 10 year cost comparison of natural grass football fields versus artificial turf football fields to the Montgomery County Council for a hearing on artificial turf environmental concerns on July 1, 2010.

But the numbers are very different from what MCPS submitted to the County Council in February 2008. Remember? Superintendent Jerry Weast said, "The 10-year life-cycle cost to install artificial turf is approximately the same as the 10-year life-cycle cost to install and properly maintain a natural grass field."

But now M-NCPPC says that the 10 year cost of a natural grass football field is $555,000. 

In 2008 MCPS told the Council that the 10 year cost of a natural grass football field was $967,500.

Why is there a $412,500 difference in the cost of a natural grass football field from the M-NCPPC number to the MCPS number? Whose cost quote for a natural grass football field is correct?  

Here is what MCPS showed the County Council for a cost comparison in 2008:

But on July 1, 2010, the M-NCPPC Parks Department will tell the County Council that this is the cost comparison: 

How come when M-NCPPC Department of Parks buys an artificial turf football field it costs $865,000, but when MCPS buys an artificial turf field it costs $981,000

Artificial Turf: The Staff Report

Thanks to Keith Levchenko (brother of Council member Phil Andrews [D-District 3])and Essie McGuire for the staff report, below, dated June 29, 2010, for the T&E Committee meeting to take place tomorrow, July 1, at 2 pm at the County Council office building, 100 Maryland Avenue.  A stellar cast hand picked by these staff members and I assume, council members show without a doubt that artificial turf is safe and a great investment for Montgomery County.  Heat islands seen from space? No worries.  Lead? no worries.  Carcinogens, heavy metals, leaching into our groundwater and the Chesapeake Bay? No worries. This County Council has no worries about any of it.  Read the report yourself:

Artificial Turf Montgomery County Council Staff Report July 29 2010

Mont. Co. only County in State to Suspend Summer Reading Program

We are sure that when Superintendent Jerry Weast gets back from advising California how to run their school systems he will be able to explain how summer reading programs at local libraries are not needed in Montgomery County. 

There is a cost to the lack of oversight in the spending of MCPS, and here is one of the programs that is paying the price. Note there is no Inspector General to review the spending of MCPS so the travel to out of state conferences, credit card spending, hiring of consultants, and addition of administrators while teachers are cut continues unabated.

Gazette: Summer reading program canceled in Montgomery
County is the only one not participating in statewide program
by Cody Calamaio | Staff Writer

...Decreased staffing — a result of county budget cuts — has forced the library system to suspend its participation in the popular statewide summer reading program, said Michele Sellars, county library public services administrator for community engagement and outreach. The library system is decreasing hours at most braches and shuffling many employees to new locations.
As part of a 23 percent reduction in funding for fiscal 2011, the library system will lose 80 positions, said county library business manager Eric Carzon. Fiscal 2010 budget cuts forced the system to eliminate 60 positions.
...Montgomery County is the only county in the state suspending its participation in the Maryland State Department of Education's summer reading program, said Bill Reinhard, a department spokesman.

Gazette Letter: Weast received poor report card from MSDE

Gazette: School system needs intervention

Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jerry Weast just received a poor report card from the Maryland State Department of Education.
As part of ongoing efforts to improve results for students with disabilities, states must make a determination annually about the performance of each local school system in meeting targets such as high school graduation rates. Each system is assigned to one of four levels: meets requirements, needs assistance, needs intervention, or needs substantial intervention. This May, using a results-based rubric, Maryland determined Montgomery County Public Schools to be needs intervention, year three.
Montgomery County Public Schools' noncompliance with the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has persisted over many years. Weast and the Board of Education need to demonstrate more effective efforts at improving educational outcomes for Montgomery County students with disabilities.
Kathleen Gilhooly, Bethesda

High School Ranking by National Merit Semifinalists

There are many ways that high schools can be ranked. One suggestion for ranking high schools is to rank them by the number of National Merit Semifinalists
Here is how MCPS high schools rank based on the 2009-10 National Merit Semifinalist results. 

1. Montgomery Blair: 53
2. Richard Montgomery: 28
3. Wootton: 19
4. Walt Whitman: 17
5. Winston Churchill: 11
6. Walter Johnson: 5
7. Bethesda-Chevy Chase: 4
8. Northwest: 3

9. Damascus: 2
9. Poolesville: 2

10. Clarksburg: 1
10. Gaithersburg: 1
10. Rockville: 1
10. Seneca Valley: 1
10. Springbrook: 1

Tied for 11th place:
Blake: 0
Einstein: 0
Kennedy: 0
Magruder: 0
Northwood: 0
Paint Branch: 0
Quince Orchard: 0
Sherwood: 0
Watkins Mill: 0
Wheaton: 0

Pearson finally releases scores in Florida

2010 FCAT scores: 2010 FCAT scores released -

...The 2010 FCAT season was marred by delays in getting scores out, a problem caused when testing contractor Pearson's database system had trouble meshing its files with the state's.

Both Pearson and the Florida Department of Education have insisted the problems did not hurt the accuracy or validity of the scores. The department hired testing experts at the University of Nebraska to make sure the scoring was reliable.

"You can put complete faith in these numbers," Smith said. "The problem that has plagued this year's assessment program has been one of matching up the databases" but not about "getting reliable scores."

The FCAT, a series of exams in reading, math, science and writing, was taken by some 1.8 million Florida students earlier this year. The state had previously released scores for third-grade exams and for the "retake" tests taken by high school students who had previously failed.

The results are used to judge student, school and teacher performance. They are the basis for Florida's annual A-to-F school grades — typically announced about a month after the FCAT release — and help determine if some students are promoted, earn diplomas or are assigned to remedial classes.

The delay in the release of scores has frustrated many school administrators who use the results to schedule students into classes and even to make hiring decisions. Pearson has agreed to reimburse school districts for any extra costs associated with the delay. The state also will seek millions of dollars in damages...

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Grasmick Admits Bias in Pearson Contract

Citing an "abundance of caution", State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick recused herself from consideration of the Request for Stay filed on June 14, 2010

State Superintendent Grasmick states that:
...Because in one conversation on June 17, 2010, I discussed the substance of the Partnership Agreement with Pearson, albeit without any knowledge that this Request for Stay had been filed, I believe in an abundance of caution that I must recuse myself from making a decision on the Request for Stay...
Therefore, the Request for Stay that was to be reviewed by the State Superintendent was passed on to Deputy Superintendent John Smeallie who denied the request. 

The Request for Stay will now be reviewed by the State Board of Education on an expedited basis.

6/30/2010 UPDATE: The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) public relations office confirms that State Superintendent Nancy Grasmick's recusal was based on a phone call that she made to Pearson Education, Inc. on June 17, 2010 to inquire about any potential problems with the MCPS contract with Pearson Education, Inc., as MSDE also has a contract for testing with Pearson Education, Inc.


What Weast Wants for California


1. This presentation, in California, is dated June 22, 2010. That same date was a Board of Education Worksession on Educational Facilities. Why was Weast in California instead of Rockville at a scheduled Board of Education worksession?

2. This presentation, in California, is described as Weast speaking on California's Race to the Top application. Did I miss something here? When exactly did Jerry Weast jump with both feet into the "Race to the Top" pool here in Maryland? Now money that isn't worth it for Montgomery County is good enough for California?

3. Two Words: Travel Freeze.

4. Anyone ever heard of Skype?

UPDATE: It appears that Jerry Weast did TWO presentations in California on two different days: one, the subject of the video, was for the "Bay Area Council." The second presentation was for an association of California school admininstrators on "Leading for Equity."

PG Superintendent E-mails Parents!

The Washington Post reports that Prince George's County Public Schools has a real Tech-Savvy Superintendent! 

The Washington Post: For Hite and Prince George's schools, a smooth year, for a change
...Hite has also worked to be accessible to students and parents. He carries a BlackBerry and tries to respond to every parent who e-mails him -- usually about 50 a day, he said...

A far cry from MCPS where the Superintendent doesn't even give parents access to his e-mail address.  Instead the MCPS website shows his assistant's e-mail address. 

MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast only makes his personal e-mail address known to other superintendents.

Any MCPS parents ever received an e-mail from Superintendent Weast in the last 11 years?

Navigating by North Star, Weast hits Algebra Iceberg

Weast misses Algebra target.

In February of 2008, Superintendent Jerry Weast proclaimed that the "North Star" was guiding MCPS to a goal of 80% of students college and work ready by 2010. 

One of the "North Star" goals was to have 80% of students successfully complete Algebra by 8th grade in 2010.

That "North Star" goal has now been crossed out in the MCPS Strategic Plan.

Maybe the "North Star" goal has been crossed out because in 2009 only 65.5% of the Grade 8 students had successfully completed Algebra 1.

According to what Superintendent Weast told the New America Foundation on March 30, 2010, the new "North Star" goal is now 80% of students successfully completing Algebra by 2014

Have to watch that "North Star", it may not always point in the same direction.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Leggett approves $200,000 for Consultants for Pearson project

County Executive Ike Leggett has approved the expenditure of a secret stash of MCPS cash in the amount of $200,000 to be moved from the MCPS Entrepreneurial Activities Fund to pay for Consultants for the Pearson Education, Inc. online curriculum.

Montgomery County Council staff has advised the full Council (you know - Floreen (President), Ervin (Vice-President), Andrews, Berliner, Elrich, Knapp, Leventhal, Navarro and Trachtenberg - all up for election this year - except Knapp who is not running) to also APPROVE the shifting of this $200,000 to pay for Consultants. 

Teachers? Who needs 'em? 

Here's enough cash to pay for 2 or 3.  But the County Executive and County Council say no. Money will go for consultants. 

Sorry students. 


Open Letter from MCPS Parent to Superintendent Weast

850 Hungerford Dr
Rockville, MD 20850
Office of Superintendent – MCPS

Subject: Your Vision

Dear Dr Weast,

I am a military parent of a disabled child who has been in the MCPS system for three years now. My daughter just completed her first year at a stand-alone special education facility. The resources and support available at this school are a great fit for many children. However, the buzz in the county’s special education community is that you have plans to eliminate this and the few remaining special education schools in Montgomery County.

My first thought was; what is his vision and overall strategy for Montgomery County Special Education?

As I attempted to learn more about your vision and your Strategic Plan for MCPS /Special Education, I became more and more confused. I researched the MCPS website and read all available write-ups and memos. I attended SEAC meetings and I even read numerous county discussion boards and blogs regarding your administration and past/recent efforts for narrowing the achievement gap. The results? I found very little on vision (unclear discussions on Inclusion without a detailed approach) but a lot on tactics (closure of schools, CSLC committees and co-location assessments, etc.)

I understand and support your desire to implement IDEA which requires that disabled children be educated with children who are not disabled “to the maximum extent appropriate” but what about those children who completely fall outside of the LRE bell curve? IDEA certainly does not call for the elimination of stand-alone schooling for disabled children, but your actions since 1999 seem contrary to the letter behind the law/federal regulation regarding the same. Your overall vision of FAPE for the disabled child is very unclear in the eyes of the special needs community that you serve.

I need reassurance that you are truly committed to all children, including those with disabilities. I need to know that your efforts in planning and implementing executable strategies for the success of all MC students extend to those students with special needs. I need to know that your level of knowledge on the intricacies of special education is just as substantial as your resume posted on the MCPS website. I need to know your vision, plan and strategy for ensuring the overall success of our special needs students.

I am asking that you stand by your statement to “serve the students and citizens of Montgomery County” by providing an opportunity to share your vision and strategy for our children in order to address/eliminate the confusion and discontent plagued by some (many?) members of the special needs community.

I appreciate a personal response and decision to call a public meeting to share your vision for special education.


Shameen Anthanio-Williams

State determines MCPS "Needs Intervention" re: performance under IDEA

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, the Maryland State Department of Education is required to make a determination annually on the performance of each local school system and assign the school system to one of four categories: Meets Requirements, Needs Assistance, Needs Intervention, and Needs Substantial Intervention.

Assistant State Superintendent Carol Ann Heath notified MCPS Superintendent Jerry
Weast by letter dated May 18, 2010 that Montgomery County Public Schools has
been determined to be
Needs Intervention, Year Three, based on federal fiscal
year 2008 data, as well as information obtained through monitoring and complaint

The determination is that MCPS is in the category of "Needs Intervention, Year Three" regarding its performance under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) is based on targets for 20 indicators such as graduation rate, dropout rate, participation and performance on assessments, meeting evaluation timelines, and ensuring that complaints and hearings are resolved within required timelines. 

According to this report, one of the major ways MCPS is failing is that only 67.23% of students with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) are graduating with regular diplomas, and Maryland's expectations are that 85.5% of students with IEPs will graduate with a regular diploma. 

The full text of the letter is at the link below:  

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Artificial Turf: 161 degrees F today at Blair...

Kathy Michaels of Safe, Healthy Playing Fields reports that today at the Montgomery Blair High School Artificial Turf (read: ground auto and tire crumb rubber material) temperatures were as follows:

Air Temperature: 98 degrees Fahrenheit
Grass Temperature in the Sun: 94 degrees Fahrenheit;
Asphalt (black) Temperature: 120 degrees Fahrenheit;
Asphalt (white) Temperature: 115 degrees Fahrenheit; and, wait for it...
Artificial Turf Temperature: 161 degrees Fahrenheit.

Thanks Kathy and thanks to the Safe, Healthy Playing Fields group for monitoring these unhealthy surfaces.

Funding found for 80 portable toilets and two school security officers

Following an inquiry by County Council President Nancy Floreen into property taxes that had been unpaid for several years, sufficient funding to cover the cost of 80 portable toilets and two school security officers has been located.

Deerwood International Ltd, a foreign corporation registered in the British Virgin Islands that owns valuable real estate in Potomac, had developed a practice of not paying their real estate property taxes. By law, unpaid property taxes are supposed to be collected each year through a tax lien sale process. But for unknown reasons, Deerwood had escaped the tax lien sale process, and had accrued $162,605.88 of unpaid taxes and interest dating back to 2006 and 2007.  An additional $67,169.90 in 2009 taxes and interest also remained unpaid as of the 2009 tax lien sale date.

In total, Deerwood owed the county $225,681.19 in taxes, interest and fees as of June 2010.

As a result of the tax lien sale a few weeks ago, Montgomery County government finally collected the unpaid taxes.  A third-party paid the taxes, and now Deerwood must reimburse the third-party for the amount of the taxes, plus interest, or Deerwood will lose ownership of their property. 

Deerwood International is not the only company that didn't pay their property taxes for several years and that wasn't pursued by the county for nonpayment (until now).  Millions of dollars of delinquent taxes from several years back for many other properties are also finally being collected this year.

As for whether the "found" money will go toward portable toilets, school security officers, or some other expense, that's up to the County Council.

Artificial Turf: Council Revisits this issue July 1 at 2pm

The Transportation, Infrastructure and Environment, aka T&E, Committee of the Montgomery County Council will discuss the environmental impacts of artificial turf at its July 1 meeting at 2:00 pm. The staff report, by Keith Levchenko (PCMC shout out to this brother of Councilmember Phil Andrews!) should be posted here soon. Members of the T&E Committee are: Nancy Floreen (D-Developers), Chair; George Leventhal (D-At Large); and Roger Berliner (D-District 1), Lead Member for Energy and Environment.

Be there or be square!

To brush up on the environmental impacts and safety issues of these ground rubber car and truck tire fields, type ‘Artificial Turf’ in the text box.  Key issues: 1. lead content; 2. carcinogens and other hazardous materials; 3. heat islands with temps up to (our data) 167 degrees F; 4. cost.  I will post a review of key issues later this week, so stay tuned…

DATE: Thursday July 1, 2010
TIME: 2pm
LOCATION: 7th Floor Auditorium, Council Office Building,
100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville

Can’t make it? Make sure to email the council here.

We hear from the Safe, Healthy Playing Fields Coalition that in addition, State Senator Jamie Raskin (D-District 20) has asked the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to revisit its earlier determination on the safety of these playing fields. Readers of this blog will remember that we posted here about how FieldTurfTarkett and other members of the artificial turf industry successfully lobbied the CPSC to make sure that artificial turf was not categorized as a ‘childrens’ product’ making sure it would not be tested for lead content, as is required for children’s products.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Why Johnny can't pee

Here is another cut that the county government must make to fund the bloated public school system which is not even a county government agency. The Montgomery County Parks Department has announced they are forced to close the port-a-johns in the County Parks. So, all you coaches, and moms and dads, make sure you have a place for Johnny and Suzie to pee, because it won’t be in a port-a-potty.

And be sure to drop a line to Board of Education president Pat O'Neill and to the County Council who approved the MCPS budget to say thanks.  O'Neill's email address is here.  Or, you can call her at 301-320-7600.  As for the County Council, their email address is here.  The President of the Council which approved the budget is Nancy Floreen.  You can send an email to her directly here.

...state-led movement to unify instruction...

Post Now: Md. adopts 'common core' standards

The Maryland Board of Education Tuesday adopted academic standards for reading and math that are part of a state-led movement to unify instruction in those subjects across the country.
The unanimous vote by the board now requires new teacher training and standardized tests and will eventually affect all of the state’s 844,000 students...

Friday, June 25, 2010

"Board is always free to alter procedures designed to assist it in the orderly transaction of its business"

Below is the MCPS Board of Education Opposition to Request for Stay regarding the Board of Education's surprise vote to approve a contract with Pearson Education, Inc. on June 8, 2010. 

Bottom line? Don't count on the Board of Education following their procedures. 
Don't count on the Board conducting business in an orderly fashion. June 24, 2010 MCPS Opposition to Request for Stay

"...we don't know what the downsides are..."

School system to respond to curriculum deal challenge

Critic calls for more time to review Pearson contract

School News | Marcus Moore
...Overall, county parents aren't concerned about the details of the contract or the speed at which it was approved, said Ted Willard, co-chairman of the curriculum committee for the Montgomery County Council of PTAs.
Rather, he said, parents have questions about whether the curriculum being developed will be better than the one that's already in elementary schools.
Also, Willard said, the contract with Pearson is unclear on how long school system administrators would be away from the county to help the company develop the curriculum.
"The contract uses the word ‘reasonable' a lot," he said. "I don't know what would be considered reasonable."
Some parents would have liked to have a review period to learn more details of the contract, Willard said. Until then, several questions remain.
"There's some upside to [the deal]; there's some downside to it," he said. "The downsides are that we don't know what the downsides are."...

Weast to eat his anti vegetable words?

MCPS damages neighbors property, so taxpayers will pay

As a follow up to the recent news about the Cabin John Middle School surprise "Wall" that is now going to be reconfigured after community protests, take a look at the damage MCPS did when constructing the Bells Mill Elementary School. 

Who is paying for all this damage and these construction "surprises?" You are - the taxpayers. 

Potomac Almanac: Good Neighbor
MCPS says it is willing to mend the damage done to neighboring properties during school construction.
...Officials from Montgomery County Public Schools say they are willing to take responsibility for damage to landscape, sod and drainage problems caused by the construction project that several nearby property owners were unhappy with from the beginning.
Hideko Takahashi’s home is so close to Bells Mill that her wooden fence technically stands on school property. But the fence posts alongside Takashi’s cypress landscaping have been damaged and the grass uprooted, leading to complications with water run-off in her yard. Takahashi said she repeatedly approached MCPS with a "break it — buy it" mentality.
"They should respect your property," said Takahashi...
..."They know my requests are reasonable," said Jorge Cardona, whose property parallels the school and consequently suffered water damage to his yard and flooding in his basement. Cardona has been living in his home for 27 years and said he never saw a drop of water on the interior until construction on the new school began.
"It came from the school in droves," said Cardona, referring to the water run-off that forced him to replace the tile flooring in his basement. But Cardona described MCPS officials as receptive to evaluating his property damage that resulted from the construction...
...SUCH DAMAGE was among the concerns voiced by several Bells Mill neighbors who opposed the construction project before it began early last year. The neighbors said they were not able to dissuade the county’s school system from progressing with their chosen design, which was intended originally for a property on Kendale Road and then was subsequently relocated to the smaller Bells Mill site when the Kendale plan was abandoned in the face of public resistance...

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Goodbye History

Here is another sad goodbye to a valued part of Montgomery County because of budget cuts to every part of our county government, except of course the bloated MCPS budget. The Gazette reporter Andre L. Taylor writes here of the closing of The Waters House. The Waters House is the oldest house in Germantown, dating to around the late 1700s/early 1800s. For the last 10 years it was run by the Montgomery County Historical Society as a library and research center, the Waters House History Center, and was also available to be rented out for special occasions. Heritage Montgomery, the Lincoln Park Historical Foundation, and the King Barn Dairy MOOseum also use the house for their offices. No more, as the county axed the budget of the Historical Society, which now has to vacate the property and remove everything by August 1.

Meanwhile the Board of Education is crying all the way to the bank...

Just Released: MCPS Draft Strategic Plan

Scroll past the memo from Superintendent Weast to the Strategic Plan document to see the insertions and deletions that will be voted on by the Board of Education on June 28, 2010.
June 282010 MCPS Strategic Plan Draft

3,300 Out of Date MCPS Classrooms

We saw this coming. Too bad the Board of Education didn't. 

We showed our readers that the technology existed to make an Interactive White Board for under $100 from parts purchased at an electronics store. 

The "writing was on the wall" as they say. 

MCPS' Promethean Boards aren't even paid for yet, lease payments are still due, and the next generation of interactive whiteboards is being introduced. 

Imagine a cheaper, wireless and more compact set up using existing classroom whiteboards. It's here!

Here's the pitch for the new Mimio system that turns existing whiteboards (no need to purchase a whiteboard to put in front of an existing whiteboard) in classrooms into Interactive whiteboards by just attaching their "bar":
"Unlike bulky conventional whiteboards, mimio's technology is housed in a compact bar that attaches easily to any whiteboard, converting it into a vibrant teaching medium. The mimio Interactive Stylus acts like a mouse, so you can manipulate anything on your computer screen right from the whiteboard."

Here's the price list for the Mimio component parts. Compare to the average of over $5,000 per Promethean Board that MCPS paid here. 

See the image at right for what you need from the Mimio system to turn any laptop computer and LCD projector into an interactive projection system.  By using existing whiteboards and a wireless system, Mimio allows teachers to continue to use dry-erase markers on their boards and keeps the front of the classroom free of additional equipment and structures.

It's the next generation of Interactive Whiteboards! 

(But it's not going to be used in MCPS, we are still making lease payments on Promethean Boards purchased by MCPS COO Larry Bowers.)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Mont. Co. Commission on Health on MCPS Ban of Vegetable Gardens

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                          
June 23, 2010  
Gordon Clark                                                                             
Montgomery County Commission on Health Challenges
MCPS Ban on School Vegetable Gardens
Commission Is Latest Group to Join Public Letter to Superintendent Weast

Silver Spring, MD - The latest in a growing collection of civic and community groups in Montgomery County requesting that the Montgomery County Public Schools ban on vegetable gardens be revoked is a government agency that knows something about health.
On Tuesday, June 21, the Montgomery County Commission on Health, part of the County's Department of Health and Human Services, signed on to the public letter to MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast requesting that he reconsider his anti-vegetable garden policy.
Joining initial co-signers such as the West Montgomery County Citizens Association, the Audubon Naturalist Society,  the Montgomery Countryside Alliance, and the National Capital Area Garden Clubs, MC Commission on Health Chair Wendy Friar yesterday delivered her group's support to Montgomery Victory Gardens and the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association, co-writers of the letter to Superintendent Weast.
"Your leadership in this area is most timely and welcome," noted Ms. Friar, adding "your organizations' initiative is directly tied to a goal of the Commission's Prevention and Wellness Committee to actively pursue reduction of childhood obesity through diet and exercise."
The open letter was delivered to Superintendent Weast and the School Board of Education on June 3; as of this date, neither has responded.
The open letter to Superintendent Weast regarded school vegetable gardens can be viewed at

Deasy now LA Deputy Superintendent

Controversies Surround LAUSD's New Hire John Deasy

Board members of the Los Angeles Unified School District agreed to hire John Deasy as deputy superintendent yesterday, which will make him a major player in the operation of the nation's second largest public school system, and a possible successor to Superintendent Ramon Cortines.
While the Los Angeles Times touts Deasy's previous jobs with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Prince George's Public County Schools in Maryland, and the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District, the Griffith Park Wayist reports that the new deputy superintendent found himself in the middle of two major controversies only a few years ago...

"‘It will cost you money, and you will lose.'"

...Suzanne L. Rotbert, an attorney with Samek and Rotbert LLC in Gaithersburg, said she reviewed the education article in the Maryland State code and found a clear mandate for the county to review an application and render a decision within 120 days, regardless of deadlines.
"Because it's so clearly in the law, we called the county before we sent the appeal and said, ‘look, this is so stupid,'" she said. "‘It will cost you money, and you will lose.'"
She offered to drop the appeal if the board would simply review Ross' application, but they declined, she said.
Ross' appeal went to the state, which has yet to rule on the appeal, a Maryland Department of Education spokesman said...

New Promotion Criteria for MCPS High School Students

New Promotion Criteria for MCPS High School Students

Your Call to Action

by Frederick Stichnoth

The Board of Education will adopt the 2010-2015 Our Call to Action/Strategic Plan, on Monday, June 28, 2010 at approximately 7:10 pm.

Why should we pay attention? Our Call to Action is a central document that states what MCPS thinks it's doing and where MCPS wants to take our kids. The Board will be focused on this strategy very briefly, and we're invited to help them focus. Whether we like what they're doing or we don't, it's the best time to weigh in.
(I know a lot of people think this Board/Our Call to Action stuff is sorta abstract and political--not related to what programming is available to my kid, and how can I get it. I think we have to be political, and talk to the Board and the Superintendent Dr. Weast, in order for the programming our kids need to be provided. It's not absent by accident.)

I don't like what Our Call to Action says MCPS is doing regarding Gifted and Talented and regarding the red zone. Here's why.

Gifted and Talented(GT):

1. SET NUMERICAL GT GOALS. In order to drive improvement in GT student performance, numerical goals are necessary. Look at the goals that OCA establishes for GT programming: GT screening percentages, Math 6 in Grade 5, AP and IB enrollment, AP and IB performance (measured at AP 3 or higher). (See page 12 of the 2009 Our Call to Action)

These are not GT goals. Forty percent of students are screened GT; 49% take Math 6 in Grade 5; 50% score AP 3+. So, instead of focusing on the top 3%, or 10% or 20% of students, MCPS' "GT" focus is directed at kids right in the middle of the pack. These middle-performing kids should be well-served, of course. But we need GT goals for GT kids: you know, "serve ALL the children."

My recommendation. First, scrap MCPS' pseudo-GT goals. Second, establish goals that focus on the top performers--maybe the top 20%. My goal would be to attain year-by-year increases in the median scores of the top 20% on TN/2, SAT, ACT; and to increase the percentages scoring AP 4 and AP 5. The goals would apply to each school and to each disaggregated subgroup.

MCPS would have to publicly report the median scores of the top 20%, disaggregated, school-by-school, each year.

2. LEAVE A BLANK WHERE GT PROGRAMMING IS DISCUSSED. Why not?--there isn't any (other than William & Mary). The draft Our Call to Action that MCPS and the BOE currently are discussing, under the heading "Continuum of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction," discusses two things: the supposed "continuum of programming" and the new SIPPI articulation and screening process. First, both of these notions pertain to MCPS education as a whole, not to "accelerated and enriched" (fka GT) education in particular. Second, how can MCPS claim to have a "continuum" and a placement process if there are no advanced programs along the continuum in which placement is made? A bridge to nowhere. Third, the continuum paragraph says stuff like "programs that encourage all students to achieve at their highest level" and "students may accelerate learning and participate in advanced-level course work at their local schools." This just doesn't pass the laugh test.

So I would leave a few inches of white paper under the subheading "Continuum of Accelerated and Enriched Instruction."

3. DISTRICT PERFORMANCE TARGETS: PITIFUL FACADE. Look at 2009 Our Call to Action pages iv and v, and the Annual Report pages xi -xiv. MCPS sets targets for individual students. Then MCPS sets targets for the number of schools that will hit the targets for students, with the number of schools increasing each year. So first, MCPS projects that certain schools will be the last to reach the targets. And which schools would those be?

Second, you can see that while MCPS rosily ratchets up the number of schools projected to hit the targets, year after year, especially for African-American and FARMS students, MCPS grossly misses the targets. The targets have lost touch with what's real. And where do the majority of African-American and FARMS students go to school?

The sad fact is that realistic targets differ between the red and green zones. MCPS says that it can't admit this--it can't get real, because parents and press would rip them up. Better to just pretend, and hope to fly under the radar of public scrutiny (or snoozing).

Whatever happened to the BOE's commitment to equity? to "serve the neediest first!" and "whatever it takes!" The reliance on rhetoric varies inversely with actual functioning and the bona fide expectation of progress.

4. SEE GT ABOVE. Given the low average level of student (and MCPS) performance in the red zone, top red zone performers fall farther and farther behind their green zone counterparts without real GT programming (homogeneous grouping) in the red zone.


Email the Board and/or testify at the Monday meeting.

Email the Board at

To testify Monday at 6:15 pm, you need to sign up in advance by calling 301-279-3617 between 10 and 10:30 am Monday 6/28. The public comment rules are at here.

The new Our Call to Action may be posted with the meeting agenda by the end of the week. See the Agenda here. Otherwise, you can probably get it by contacting, and then fetching it from, the Board office at Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, Rockville. is now available here.

Keep pushing.