Saturday, July 31, 2010

Baltimore Sun: State Stops Practice of allowing Teachers to review MSA booklets before the test

The Baltimore Sun printed an interesting article on its front page this past Thursday.  Apparently the state 'quietly' "...stopped its longstanding practice of allowing teachers to review test booklets up to two weeks before its annual reading and math examinations were given."  Thanks to reporter Liz Bowie and thanks to the Baltimore Sun for its continued series of articles about public education in the area.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dancing in the Red Zone - What the BOE said they'd do in 2005

Here is what the Board of Education minutes of July 6, 2005 say about the plans for the Middle School Magnet Consortium (which is composed of the failing schools that Fred mentions in his article below.) 

http://search.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/cs.html?url=http%3A//www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/boe/meetings/minutes/2005/070605.pdf&charset=utf-8&qt=Loiederman&col=boe&n=1&la=en

Dr. Weast invited the following people to the table: Mr. Erick Lang, director, School-based Curriculum Services; Mr. Martin Creel, project director, Middle School Magnet Consortium; Ms. Jeannie Franklin, coordinator, Preferred Choice,Consortia Office;and Ms. Alison Serino, principal, A. Mario Loiederman Magnet School for Creative and Performing Arts.

The Middle School Magnet Consortium (MSMC) is an initiative that is part of the overall strategic plan to improve academic performance and narrow the achievement gap by race and ethnicity in the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS). The middle schools in the MSMC are Argyle Magnet School for Information Technology, A. Mario Loiederman Magnet School for Creative and Performing Arts, and Parkland Magnet School for Aerospace Technology. This update includes a description of the program goals and design, student outreach and choice process, and program evaluation for this unique initiative.

The instructional focus for each school will be integrated in the Accelerated Core Curriculum and offered for all students in specialized courses.

· Argyle Middle School students will specialize in the mathematics, computer science, and technological skills necessary to learn how information technology can help people understand, apply, and solve real-world problems.

· A. Mario Loiederman Middle School students will specialize in the performing and creative arts and discover how these subjects help build mastery of all areas of learning.

· Parkland Middle School students will specialize in a rigorous mathematics and science program in preparation for the problem-solving challenges of engineering, aerospace, and other sciences.

Elective courses have been designed to provide students with the opportunity for in-depth exploration of the magnet themes at each middle school. Problem-based investigations, enhanced with technology, will culminate with a “capstone” experience. To ensure that every student has an opportunity to experience the magnet focus, one course each year has been designed to be accessible to students of all levels. To accommodate more opportunities, an additional course time has been added to the traditional seven-period schedule, resulting in an eight-period A/B block schedule for each school.

Unique extended-day offerings such as computer animation, robotics, journalism, and dance are under development and will be open to all students. Beginning in 2006, extended learning opportunities will be available to students to accelerate their learning during the summer.

The establishment of the MSMC is a collaborative effort among staff, parents, and the greater school community. Intense work is in progress to ensure successful implementation of the program and the choice process. Work is proceeding on schedule. Because of the importance of this critical initiative, the Board of Education will continue to receive regular updates on the progress of the work in the MSMC.

We Should be Dancin', Yeah: Stayin' Alive in the Red Zone!

by Frederick Stichnoth


Leah Fabel reports today that the Middle School Magnet Consortia schools didn't do well on Maryland State Assessments (MSA). "Middle School magnets show imperfect reform in MontCo," The Washington Examiner, July 29, 2010, page 9.

Loiederman Middle School and Argyle Middle School were "bumped into a probationary category under federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Parkland Middle School's scores were adequate, but below the school district's averages."

Loiederman: what's happening? Failed in math for All students, African-American, Hispanic, Free and Reduced Meals Students (FARMS), Special Education, Limited English Proficiency (LEP); in reading for FARMS, Special Education, LEP. Argyle: failed in math for LEP. Loiederman and Parkland (Community Superintendent Frank Stetson, Board of Education member Christopher Barclay) and Argyle (Community Superintendent Bronda Mills, Board of Education member Christopher Barclay) are part of the Down County Consortium (DCC).

These are magnets (whole school magnets, right?). They have zingy programs in digital design, creative and performing arts, aerospace technology. The idea was to bring in students from the outside, to end the demographic isolation. Isn't it time for Plan B (or is it C?) on isolation? The County Council's 2008 
Office of Legislative Oversight Report said that the Northeast Consortium (NEC) and Down County Consortium (DCC) had failed in their stated goals of ending racial isolation and improving performance.

The curricula from these schools, including their cool signatures, are being imported into all middle schools through Middle School Reform. Are cool courses key to Middle School Reform and red zone success?

But, "Magnet school parents insist that test scores are only one measure of a school's success--and an imperfect one." Ok, only one measure--but a pretty basic one. We're talking here about "proficiency," not the Intel Science Award. No proficiency: don't even think about the Seven Keys or remediation free college or career readiness. Test scores are how we keep track. Test scores are how we know if a segment of our students is being grotesquely, inequitably under served.

An imperfect measure? Examiner writer Leah Fabel offers Board of Education Vice-President Chris Barclay's terpsichorean twist on this trouble. Chris not only represents the DCC where this mess is festering, his daughter attends Loiederman. Chris says that "dance and theater allowed her to stay engaged in middle school when it's also a struggle socially." That's the MCPS rationale for cool courses: engagement is good; dropping out isn't.

I don't really want to suggest that Board member Chris Barclay is fiddling while Rome burns. I'm sure that, with the fire raging in the DCC and NEC, Chris and Board of Education member Mike Durso are turning the system upside down to produce equal educational opportunities--not just cute programming.

But, are they dancing between the desks at
Pyle Middle School?

Thinking about Pyle and Board of Education member Mike Durso reminds me: a couple of months ago I attended a DCC Board of Education meet and greet, and asked Board members Mike Durso, Shirley Brandman, Judy Docca and Phil Kauffman whether MCPS had the same high expectations of red and green zone students. Mike, Shirley and Judy all assured me that this was so. (What wisdom did Phil's silence indicate?) Mike gave an example: a Latino immigrant had done well; we might not have expected her to do any more than show up, but she beat the odds.

Chris Barclay's daughter stays engaged. Mike Durso's Latina shows up. Kids are scoring basic!!! Is this the same high expectations?

What the heck are they doing about it?

Isn't Leah Fabel great! From triumph to triumph.

Gazette Letters: Use of artificial fields could be costly

Gazette Letters to the Editor 
Is it wise to subject children to a carcinogen?
I find the editor's position in "Turf wars," July 14, that "the safety of the county's children is not a matter for debate" very puzzling. Indeed, I agree that our children's safety should not be up for grabs, that their safety must be ensured, if this is what is meant.
But as for the artificial turf fields and tire crumb playgrounds being safe for children, that matter is clearly worthy of debate. The American Cancer Society and three federal agencies have just named 19 chemicals as potential causes of cancer that need further investigation.
Among these is the main component of tires, carbon black — that stuff children are covered with after hitting the turf on the soccer field or falling on the playground. As cancer takes the No. 2 killer spot behind heart disease, is it really wise to subject our children to yet another carcinogen while they are rapidly growing and absorbing the elements of their environment?
Anne Ambler, Silver Spring

Turf more expensive than thought

In response to ["Grass-roots gripes about artificial turf in Montgomery County gain traction," July 7], a few clarifications.
Montgomery County Public Schools has been spending more than $1 million per school field on their artificial turf fields — not the $865,000 estimate...

Respectful oversight on turf
In "Grass-roots gripes about artificial turf in Montgomery County gain traction," July 7, The Gazette reports that a County Council committee has directed three agencies to work together to weigh costs, benefits and risks and report back before a decision is made...

Meltdown in Montgomery County schools | Washington Examiner

Meltdown in Montgomery County schools | Washington Examiner

...And in fact, it likely wasn’t the wind and the rain that cut off communication, but the heat — because the wind and the rain, and the lightning and the tumbling trees, did manage to knock out the central office air conditioning. And that, in turn, seems to have caused some overheating of everything else.
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/blogs/capital-land/meltdown-in-montgomery-county-schools-99242399.html#ixzz0v2b2QfMz

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Middle school magnets show imperfect reform in MontCo | Washington Examiner

Middle school magnets show imperfect reform in MontCo | Washington Examiner

Montgomery County's vaunted magnet middle schools have failed to produce consistent gains on state test scores hoped for in the lowest-performing areas of the district...

...the 2010 results of the Maryland State Assessments, or MSAs, were poor enough to bump Loiederman and Argyle into a probationary warning category under the federal No Child Left Behind legislation. Parkland's scores proved adequate, but still fell below the school district's averages.

Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Middle-school-magnets-show-imperfect-reform-in-MontCo-1004475-99496624.html#ixzz0v2BSKHZA

Happy 20th Anniversary to the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990

This week is the 20th Anniversary of the landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 that ensures that our children and those of us with disabilities have the same access and rights to programs and services as every other citizen in the land. It prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability. President George H.W. Bush signed the act into law on July 26, 1990.

According to Wikipedia, Title II of the Law prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state level. This includes of course, schools; playgrounds; stadiums; parks where our children play; libraries; community centers; in fact, all county government facilities. The law covers access to all programs and services. The law also covers public transportation.

And, the law covers the traffic signalization at the streets our children must cross to get to school, and to walk in our county. Interestingly, Montgomery County does not comply with the law regarding traffic signalization. Traffic lights in the county are currently set at a standard of a pedestrian crossing a street at four feet per second. However, ADA standards are 3 to 3.5 feet per second. When your blogger recently asked when the county was planning to comply with the law (which, of course is now 20 years old), Montgomery County Department of Transportation (DOT) staff told me studies would have to be completed before that could happen.

As a reminder, County Executive Ike Leggett is in charge of the DOT, which falls under the county executive’s purview. To remind Mr. Leggett that Montgomery County should follow the law of the land, please email him here. Ask him when Montgomery County is planning to comply with the ADA. Tell him to stop discriminating against people with disabilities.

Illegal Fees or Enhancements?

Public School students in Maryland are entitled to a free public education - even in Montgomery County! You wouldn't know it by the fees that Superintendent Weast attempts to charge students for attending classes. 


MCPS administrators even try to spin the issue by calling the illegal fees "enhancements." See the letter below.


But make no mistake about it, MCPS students are entitled to a free public education and according the the Maryland Attorney General's office that means that if an item is "curriculum related the school system cannot charge a fee."

Sunday, July 25, 2010

28 Elem and 16 Middle Schools Fail to Make AYP

The 2010 Maryland State Assessment test results show the number of MCPS elementary and middle schools that met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) targets dropped from last year. See the list of schools that did not make AYP here.


The number of elementary schools making AYP fell to 103 out of 131 schools (79 percent), the lowest number of schools in five years.


The number of middle schools making AYP fell to 22 out of 38 (58 percent), a drop of 11 from a high of 33 in 2008. 


MCPS Elementary Schools that met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) testing targets on the Maryland State Assessments (MSA):



2010       103 out of 131
2009       127 out of 130
2008       124 out of 130
2007       124 out of 129 
2006       117 out of 130




MCPS Middle Schools that met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) testing targets on the Maryland State Assessments (MSA): 


2010      22 out of 38
2009      26 out of 38
2008      33 out of 38
2007      27 out of 38
2006      17 out of 38


Source: MCPS Press Releases

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Parents Coalition Second Annual Summer Reading List

This year our Montgomery County Public Libraries will be the only ones in the entire State of Maryland not to participate in the Maryland State Department of Education Summer Reading Program. Why? Budget cuts of 24 percent to our libraries. Also unavailable due to budget cuts is access to Academic OneFile, Encyclopedia Americana, Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia, Historical Newspapers Extra Edition, the New Book of Knowledge, the New Book of Popular Science, and on and on. Eighty positions will be lost, on top of the 60 positions already cut in Fiscal Year 2010. Meanwhile the Board of Education has a surplus to run the public school system. Or something.


In lieu of the public libraries being able to provide staffing and books to our children, the PCMC offers as a public service our Second Annual Summer Reading List.

This year I thought about what I had read as a child and then had a brilliant idea: ask my mom what SHE read as a child, to rediscover those old classics. My mom reminds me that was during the Depression, so no one actually bought books. They went to the library. Her local library was the wonderful Duffield Library of the Detroit Public Library System, on West Grand Boulevard.

Somehow even though it was the Depression, the City of Detroit managed to keep their libraries open and staffed and provide books to their youngest citizens. She remembers her favorites being Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865), by Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), as well as used comic books from the neighborhood grocery store.

Moving to the next generation, friends recommend two books by Howard Pease: Captain of the Araby (1953); and The Ship without a Crew (1934) both featuring the main character, Tod Moran. Pease was born near Stockton, California and his books were based in part on his own adventures around the world. John Billington, Friend of Squanto (1956) by Clyde Robert Bulla is also another book that comes highly recommended.

The younger generation recommends The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster (1961). This is the story of bored Milo who drives through a magic tollbooth. As we are at the height of summer I am sure there are lots of bored boys and girls out there that would like this adventure story.

As last year, if you have a book to recommend to our kids, please post it in the comments here. Enjoy the summer, relax, and read with your children!

Standards: Maryland gets poor grade on standards - baltimoresun.com

Standards: Maryland gets poor grade on standards - baltimoresun.com

Test scores: Small Garrett County school ranks No. 1 in test scores - baltimoresun.com

Test scores: Small Garrett County school ranks No. 1 in test scores - baltimoresun.com

Friday, July 23, 2010

Berthiaume: "They outwit, outlast and outplay."

Board of Education member Laura Berthiaume writes about the Board of Education's failure to exercise their power to oversee the school system in a letter to the editor in The Washington Post.

Maybe it's time for voters to "outwit, outlast and outplay" the incumbent Board of Education members and vote them off the island?


The Washington Post - Letter to Editor: Who really controls the Montgomery schools
By Laura V. Berthiaume
Rockville
Sunday, July 25, 2010


...In the balance of power between the board of education and the bureaucracy, the superintendent and his staff hold all the cards. They outwit, outlast and outplay. In my experience, the board actually has little to no impact on union contract negotiations: The superintendent and his staff negotiate the contracts. Even if there ever were actual board opposition, it would be met with a fierce, resolute wall of angry staff.
Given that Dr. Weast is the one who negotiated and recommended the contracts, budget and benefits over the past 10 years that are now the subject of so much complaint, is it not hypocritical to excoriate the MCEA for unrealistic salaries and benefits yet praise Dr. Weast and demand that his contract be renewed? Both The Post and the voters should consider this issue carefully this fall.

Weast ends year with $32,800,000 surplus

Read the July 26, 2010, memorandum from Superintendent Weast here.


Note the surplus in these two categories:
Category 1, Administration, reflected a surplus of $1,862,479. The surplus is a result of greater than budgeted salary lapse and turnover savings ($900,000) and other savings as a result of the comprehensive expenditure restrictions ($950,000). Savings in Category 1 are 4.4 percent of budgeted expenditures.
Category 2, Mid-level Administration, reflected a surplus of $2,076,598. The surplus is a result of greater than budgeted lapse and turnover savings ($1,600,000), reductions in the acquisition of instructional materials ($200,000), and other savings as a result of the comprehensive expenditure restrictions ($300,000). Savings in Category 2 are 1.6 percent of budgeted expenditures.

And...remember how Superintendent Jerry Weast told the Board of Education that illegal curricular fees could not be eliminated because MCPS didn't have the money to pay for textbooks and instructional supplies? He said the "harsh reality is that MCPS simply would not be able to offer a number of courses that are available to students today..." 


Yet, he eliminated 70% of the fees by adding $1.5 million to the instructional budget. What would it take to eliminate ALL illegal curricular fees? Here's an over $5 million surplus sitting in the Textbook and Instructional Supplies budget. That should do it! 


So exactly why are MCPS students being charged illegal curricular fees?  

Category 4, Textbooks and Instructional Supplies, reflected a surplus of $5,189,453. The surplus is a result of reduced central acquisition of textbooks and instructional materials based on the comprehensive expenditure restrictions ($3,700,000), savings in instructional materials in the Office of Curriculum and Instructional Programs ($900,000), savings in expenditures for staff development training materials ($300,000), and savings in printing and computer supplies ($300,000).

8th Grade "Advanced" Reading MSA Results - 2010

The image below lists each MCPS middle school. For each school the number (count) and percent of students scoring in the "advanced" category on the reading portion of the 8th grade MSA for 2010 is shown. Source: mdreportcard.org

8th Grade "Advanced" Math MSA Results - 2010

The image below lists each MCPS middle school. For each school the number (count) and percent of students scoring in the "advanced" category on the math portion of the 8th grade MSA for 2010 is shown. Source: mdreportcard.org

#1 Carroll; #2 Queen Anne's on 2010 MSA Reading results

Here is how the county Public School systems in Maryland rank on the 2010 Maryland State Assessment (MSA) results for reading, based on the number of students achieving "proficiency."

1    Carroll
2    Queen Anne's
3    Howard
4    Calvert
5    Worchester
6    Frederick
7    Montgomery 
8    Garrett
9    Harford
10  Anne Arundel
11  St. Mary's
12  Caroline
13  Washington
14  Baltimore County
15  Allegany
16  Charles
17  Cecil 
18  Talbot
19  Somerset 
20  Kent
21  Wicomico
22  Dorchester
23  Prince George's
24  Baltimore City


#1 Worchester; #2 Howard on 2010 Math MSA results

Here is how the county Public School systems in Maryland rank on the 2010 Maryland State Assessment (MSA) results for math, based on the number of students achieving "proficiency."

1    Worchester
2    Howard
3    Queen Anne's
4    Calvert
5    Carroll
6    Garrett
7    Caroline
8    St. Mary's
9    Frederick
10  Washington
11  Anne Arundel
12  Montgomery 
13  Harford
14  Talbot
15  Baltimore County
16  Allegany 
17  Charles
18  Kent
19  Cecil
20  Somerset
21  Wicomico
22  Dorchester
23 Prince George's
24 Baltimore City


Duncan sees problems with exams for kids with disabilities

Duncan sees problems with exams for kids with disabilities


“To have a child taking a test that it is literally impossible for them to pass and having that humiliation, and holding schools accountable for that, that doesn’t make sense,” Duncan said in an interview with the Associated Press.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

WJLA: Summer Heat Rekindles Artificial Turf Battle

Gazette: Third-grade reading scores lagging



Third graders in Montgomery's public schools this year did not do as well as the previous one on state reading exams, according to test scores released Tuesday.
Countywide, according to the 2010 Maryland State Assessment, the percentage of third graders who scored proficient or higher dropped from 88.9 to 87.4. That's the largest decline of any grade and subject measured by the exams, which test third- through eighth-grade students in reading and math.
The scores for two other groups also dropped...
...Calls to school administration officials responsible for testing and academic achievement were not returned Tuesday...
...Although the county as a whole is ahead of statewide scores, Forest Oak Middle School in Gaithersburg and Neelsville Middle School in Germantown are among those on a state watch list of schools in need of improvement. Prior to this year, both had failed to make adequate progress four years in a row, putting them in at the bottom of county schools on the list. Neelsville Middle met its target scores this year, and will come off the state list of troubled schools if it does so again next year.
The disparity between county averages and scores at Neelsville Middle and Forest Oak Middle were greatest in eighth-grade math. At Forest Oak Middle, 53.2 percent of eighth graders scored proficient or higher on the math test, compared with 75.1 percent of the county's eighth graders. At Neelsville Middle, 59 percent of eighth graders achieved proficiency.
One county school, Parkland Middle in Rockville, earned high enough scores this year to come off the state list of schools needing improvement...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

MCPS drops in state ranking

Ranking of MCPS vs. the 24 School Districts in Maryland on percent achieving proficiency using the 2010 MSA results just published.

Math
********************
3rd grade - 11th of 24
4th grade - 17th of 24
5th grade - 12th of 24
6th grade - 13th of 24
7th grade - 11th of 24
8th grade - 11th of 24


Overall MCPS ranked 12th out of Marylands 24 school districts in Math, down 2 positions from last year.
 


Reading
*******************
3rd grade - 8th of 24
4th grade - 8th of 24
5th grade - 7th of 24
6th grade - 7th of 24
7th grade - 6th of 24
8th grade - 6th of 24


Overall MCPS ranked 7th out of Marylands 24 school districts in Reading, down 2 positions from last year.

More Montgomery schools fail to meet state standards | Washington Examiner

More Montgomery schools fail to meet state standards | Washington Examiner

More than a quarter of Montgomery County elementary and middle schools failed to meet the "No Child Left Behind" achievement standards this year, according to results released Tuesday by the state education department.
Five middle schools entered a probationary "school improvement" phase, after failing to have met the federal "adequate yearly progress" standard, or AYP, for two years in a row. Nine of the county's 38 middle schools are in improvement, along with Daly Elementary School...

Don't increase AP classes at expense of gifted and talented

Baltimore County parents: Don't increase AP classes at expense of gifted and talented

School officials say they recognize the need for both

By Loni Ingraham
lingraham@patuxent.com


...Parents say the differences between AP and GT courses are profound.


AP courses are "a mile wide and an inch deep," says Towson resident Tracey Myers-Preston, mother of one gifted and talented student at Hampton Elementary and three GT students in the law magnet program at Towson High School.
She said AP classes have, "too much coverage of material that ends up on an exam, and not enough mastery or exploration of the subject, especially for a highly able student."
Myers-Preston is leader of Parents for GT Excellence and Equity, a coalition that formed in April. The group's website is www.gtee.homestead.com.
The coalition says quality and quantity of GT offerings varies by school, and parents are concerned about what they say is an erosion of these programs in the county...
...But perhaps most important, the coalition says its members fear the system may push AP classes to the extent that GT classes will gradually disappear...

Weast and the Board: Who should be on the way out?


by Frederick Stichnoth


I hope you saw Leah Fabel's article in Sunday's Examiner: MontCo schools chief on the way out (Page 5).

Generally, the article said that six of the Montgomery County Board of Education members (all but President Patricia O'Neill) would welcome Superintendent Jerry Weast's departure, largely because of his "imperial attitude," "he's Machiavelli," he uses "bullying tactics."  I've been irritated by these things too.

However, I would ascribe blame elsewhere. Weast is at the center of the Montgomery County political system, and heads a large and important bureaucracy. Given his function, he must manipulate the levers of power, and I greatly respect his skill in doing so.

He has seated other potentially competing powers at his "table," and thereby largely neutralized them.  I would include the unions, the County Council and MCCPTA.

I would also include, first and foremost, the Board of Education. The Board has great statutory powers (to establish policy, including curricula, and to set the budget) but has subordinated itself to the position of a rather insignifcant department in Weast's bureaucracy. (Some members, most notably Ms. Berthiaume, occasionally battle to establish some independence. Perhaps if the six members who want Weast gone had exercised their responsibilities consistently and cooperatively, then system management and priorities would not be so warped.) Weast's necessary exercise of power must be checked through a governance system of checks and balances, which the Board has squandered.

I also find it interesting that President O'Neill is said to approve of Weast's method of operation. It reminds me that Ms. O'Neill called Gifted and Talented parents who pressed to have a role on school improvement teams "PIAs--pain-in-the ass parents." (Board of Education meeting 5/12/09) Current Board of Education VP Barclay said that they were "not agreeable" and "don't know how to agree to disagree;" they should be "respectful" and "professional." In the classic line applied to John Bolton: "Kiss up, kick down."

The Board needs to reassert its prerogatives. This will require responsibility from the individual Board members, and voter insistence on that they assume responsibility. We have the opportunity to make Board responsibility the significant issue that it should be at the forthcoming elections, in which incumbents Brandman, Docca, O'Neill and Durso put their records up for scrutiny.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

2010 MSA Results

Maryland State Department of Education Press Release on the 2010 MSA results.


Click Here for the MSDE website with assessment information for all Maryland public schools. 


The Washington Post: Md. math, reading scores are up, but not by much for those already doing poorly
Math and reading scores for Maryland elementary and middle school students who were already meeting basic expectations improved this year, but the worst-performing students posted smaller gains than they have in the past several years, according to test results released Tuesday.
Statewide averages on the Maryland School Assessment tests improved modestly in every category except for elementary school reading, which dropped slightly. The results represent a leveling-off of sorts for the state, which had been posting bigger increases for several years. About 363,000 students took the exams this year, which will be reformulated over the next several years to conform to new, voluntary national standards for math and reading that theMaryland State Board of Education adopted this spring...

Pearson error delays Minnesota science test results

TwinCities.com Pioneer Press: Pearson error delays Minnesota science test results

Results from Minnesota's science test won't be released next week as planned because of an error by the Bloomington-based company hired to score the exams.
While doing quality assurance checks on the results, Minnesota Department of Education officials discovered Pearson incorrectly scored two questions on the fifth- and eighth-grade science tests, said Dirk Mattson, the department's director of research and assessment.
The results will now be released the week of July 26.
"I'm always concerned, whether it's my staff or someone else's staff, when there are issues with data. The thing I'm pleased with ... is my staff discovered the issue," Mattson said. "We want and are getting it rectified."
Pearson officials could not be reached for comment Friday. In a letter sent to school district assessment Thursday, the company said it "sincerely apologizes for any inconvenience this has caused."
Pearson has held virtually all of Minnesota's testing contracts since 2007. The state paid Pearson about $25 million during the 2009-10 school year for its services.
Nearly 180,000 students — in grades five, eight and high school — took the interactive, online science exam this year. The state first administered the test in 2008.
This isn't the first time Pearson has been blamed for a scoring error...
...And in 2000, more than 47,000 students received incorrect math scores on Minnesota's Basic Standards Test because of Pearson's mistakes; 8,000 were erroneously told they had failed. In some cases, students missed out on graduation ceremonies.
Pearson was sued and in 2002 agreed to a settlement, which provided $4.5 million in attorneys fees and expenses and up to $7 million for the students.

New test scoring problems for Pearson

The Washington Post - The Answer Sheet: 

New test scoring problems for Pearson

On the heels of a major problem with the scoring of standardized tests in Florida, NCS Pearson finds itself with another scoring mess, this time in Minnesota.
According to the Pioneer Press, results for Minnesota’s science standardized test aren’t being released on time because Pearson incorrectly scored two questions on the fifth- and eighth-grade tests. The delay is expected to be at least a week, which would be far shorter than the recent delay in Florida...

"school board that backs [Weast] up without question"

Letters from readers | Washington Examiner



Taxpayers are weary of Weast's demands Re: "MontCo schools chief on the way out," July 18
For several years, I have been dismayed at Dr. Jerry Weast's repetitive raids on Montgomery County's treasury. The school budget now comprises over 50 percent of the total county budget.
His arrogance in pressing his excessive demands with a school board that backs him up without question sets a new standard for hubris, while other county services -- including the libraries -- have been starved.
Apparently Dr. Weast has no concept of the county's present budgetary crisis, nor is he willing to make other than the minimal concessions. I hope that the citizens of Montgomery County finally wake up and demand that his outrageously priced contract not be renewed.
Nelson Marans
Silver Spring


Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/letters/Letters-from-readers-1001656-98768999.html#ixzz0uBroD9qs

Monday, July 19, 2010

"flaws in its latest celebration"

The Washington Post: Better data needed to accurately rate school systems

Educational statistics expert Joseph Hawkins, one of my guides to the mysteries of test assessment, is impatient with the way the Montgomery County public school system is, as he puts it, "always telling the world how much better it is than everyone else." He finds flaws in its latest celebration of college success by county graduates, particularly minorities...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

"A little known gem"


The Washington Post - Letter to Editor: When will Montgomery County learn to embrace charter schools?

By Jeanne Allen
Bethesda
Sunday, July 18, 2010
...The fact that such busy, accomplished, successful people would offer to start another public school is something we should encourage, not hinder. Instead, Superintendent Jerry Weast signed off on a rejection that said there was no facilities plan, when a multipage professional architect's plan and budget accompanied the application. The rejection questioned Crossways' ability to handle accounting matters, despite a 20-year track record of clean audits of multiple programs. The rejection pondered how the proposed charter would handle transportation and food service, even though Crossways' food service is highly regarded and the application made both issues clear. As it did in rejecting the Jaime Escalante Charter School proposed by a veteran Whitman High School teacher in 2003, the system again failed to demonstrate competency in reviewing charter applications...

Fairfax schools undercut Montgomery on costs | Washington Examiner

Fairfax schools undercut Montgomery on costs | Washington Examiner


Montgomery County and neighboring Fairfax trade bragging rights annually on dozens of measures of achievement. But on a basic measure of cost, Fairfax consistently wins.


Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/local/Fairfax-schools-undercut-Montgomery-on-costs-1001086-98637179.html#ixzz0u3eGK2mY

Montgomery schools chief Weast on way out after long tenure | Washington Examiner

Montgomery schools chief Weast on way out after long tenure | Washington Examiner
"If you asked the sentiment today, I'd say it's probably six to one," said board member Mike Durso. By indication from Durso and his colleagues, only President Pat O'Neill would vote to renew Weast's contract for a fourth term.
"He's diabolical. ... He thinks he's Machiavelli," said one county official speaking on background out of respect for a continued working relationship with Weast. "The board is unified in not bringing him back."
...Among board members who would welcome a change in leadership, reasons range from the need for fresh ideas to exasperation with bullying tactics, incomplete reforms and a lack of openness about major decisions...