Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Board of Ed loses Round 1 of Brickyard Middle School Site Appeal

The Montgomery County Board of Education attempted to stop neighbors around the Brickyard Middle School site from appealing their decision to lease the 20 acre property to Montgomery County for use as "ball fields."  The Board of Education had argued that these neighbors did not have the required standing to pursue appeals to the State Board. 

Yesterday, the Maryland State Board of Education ruled in favor of the neighbors right to appeal the decision of the Board of Education. 

The appeal will now go forward on the merits of the case.  

Brickyard Middle School Appeal Decision August 30, 2011

$69,713 spent on hiring Superintendent

Remember the press release from MCPS that said the Board of Education had hired a search firm to find the next superintendent for a cost of $35,000 plus expenses?

Well those "plus expenses" are rolling in.  Total for FY11 in payments to the search firm of Hazard, Young, Attea and Associates is $69,713

That's $34,713 that was spent on "plus expenses" for this search. And those expenses were for...?

Thanks to the Funding and Accountability Database for that little ray of sunshine for taxpayers. 
But that doesn't tell us if that is the final total for this outside consultant. Are there more bills to be paid on this tab? 

For Who? For WHO?

Grammar takes a break in Montgomery County, Letter to the Editor, Washington Post, Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Regarding the Aug. 28 Metro article “A page out of Disney’s book: Montgomery County schools apply company’s training methods to motivate employees”:

“ ‘A high-quality education is a fundamental right for who?’ asked a high-energy facilitator. ‘Every child,’ came the muffled response. ‘For WHO?’ the call came again. ‘Every child,’ the group said, a little louder. ‘That’s right,’ the facilitator said. ‘Every child.’ ”

Sigh. I guess a high-quality education in grammar isn’t a fundamental right for every facilitator.

M.S.D., Kensington

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Middle School Fees

High school students and their families in Montgomery County Maryland aren't the only ones subject to educational extortion.  Middle schoolers and their families are also asked to pay for what should be a free public education.  Here is a list of fees charged.

Some fun facts about middle school fees.

1.  Not all schools charge fees.  Consider your child lucky if he or she attends Argyle, Clemente, Forest Oak, Frost, Key, Lee, Poole, Ridgeview, Sligo, or Tilden.  Your child is among the few who are truly getting a free public education.

2.  Even though course offerings are supposed to be consistent across the county, some schools charge fees for the same classes offered for free at other schools.

3. If your student is enrolled in a "high school course" in middle school, your student may be charged a fee - even if the course is a graduation requirement.  See Banneker, Montgomery Village, Pyle, Shady Grove and White Oak, offering Introduction to Engineering Design.

4.  Red/Green zone distinctions don't seem to apply.

5.  Are the lists accurate?   Readers will need to report back whether they were charged additional fees not on the list.

So - what is a parent to do, other than try to transfer their student into one of the free schools?

As with the high school fees, ask for a waiver.  Students are not supposed to be denied educational opportunities based on whether a fee is paid.

And, if you do choose to pay a fee, consider it a donation.

But most importantly, let Dr. Starr know if you are assessed a fee to attend a middle school class.  He has stated in interviews this week that MCPS only charges for high school courses. 

I guess Dr. Starr has a lot of learning to do.   Maybe he should stay home for a few days and catch up on his reading.

MCPS, Wireless Generation, and our Tax Dollars

Readers of this blog know that the MCPS Board of Education has been paying Wireless Generation for years to the tune of at least $500,000 of our tax dollars. Here is more news on the corporation, from The New York Times. Note also the involvements of Stacey Childress, of the Harvard Business School.

Mr. Barclay, where are our taxpayer dollars and what was our involvement in Wireless Generation? Is it still continuing? And, what has been the involvement of the 'Harvard Public Education Leadership Project' in this deal? Answers, please.

Subsidiary of News Corp. Loses Deal With State
Published: August 29, 2011

The New York State comptroller’s office has rejected a $27 million contract with a News Corporation subsidiary to build a data system for tracking student performance, as fallout widens against the international media conglomerate due to a phone hacking scandal in Britain.

Thomas P. DiNapoli, the state comptroller, had given the green light to state education officials in May to pursue a no-bid contract with Wireless Generation, an education technology company based in Brooklyn in which News Corporation had acquired a 90 percent stake last November for more than $360 million.

Last week, however, Mr. DiNapoli decided that the revelations surrounding News Corporation had made final approval of the contract untenable. In a rejection letter, first reported on Saturday by The Daily News, he told state education officials that they should instead put the project out to bid to a variety of companies.

“We believe the record remains incomplete with respect to the vendor responsibility issues involving the parent company of Wireless Generation,” the letter said.


New York will still work with Wireless Generation indirectly, as part of a consortium of states building a shared data framework known as the Shared Learning Collaborative. Financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the $44 million project, awarded to Wireless Generation in June, is being directed by Stacey Childress, a former board member at Wireless Generation. She stepped down and sold her stock in the firm before taking the position at the Gates Foundation, a Wireless Generation spokeswoman said.

“It is especially troubling that Wireless Generation will be tasked with creating a centralized database for personal student information,” the New York State United Teachers wrote in a letter, “even as its parent company, News Corporation, stands accused of engaging in illegal news gathering tactics, including the hacking of private voice mail accounts.”

For more go to The New York Times, here.

Starr: Week 2, Trip 1

What does a superintendent do the second week of a new gig? Why travel out of town, of course! 

Here's video of Superintendent Joshua Starr, at his very first Board of Education meeting for MCPS, announcing that the next week he will be traveling to Boston with the Board of Education President Christopher Barclay, unnamed "senior staff" and unnamed union leaders. 

How many attended and at what cost to taxpayers? 

Well we know that attendance at the Harvard Public Education Leadership Program event is pricey (tuition $4,600). But we don't know about food, lodging and transportation. 

Remember that Superintendent Starr sits on the board of one of these Harvard education projects. 

With this video the Parents' Coalition kicks off the Starr's Treks page to track the Superintendent's travels out of town

Patch Video: Joshua Starr on Special Education and Charter Schools

In the second part of our video series, the superintendent discusses special education and his views on charter schools.

Patch Video: Joshua Starr on His Educational Philosophy

In part one of our video series, the superintendent discusses his views on advanced placement and student achievement.

Monday, August 29, 2011

DC Examiner: MontCo residents to take legal action against county over soccer fields

A Potomac community is taking the first step toward suing over Montgomery County's plans to turn an organic farm into soccer fields.

Residents of River Falls have joined with the county's Citizens Association and other activists to file official notice on Tuesday "to preserve a claim for monetary damages," according to a flier circulated by the coalition. The notice is a formal way to alert a party that a lawsuit could hit them if the matter isn't resolved.

WAMU: Q&A With New Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr

Q&A With New Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Joshua Starr

WTOP: Starr thinks illegal fees collected end up in MCPS budget

Thanks to WTOP for getting the new Superintendent Joshua Starr to comment on fees charged to students.
It's clear from the interview that Superintendent Starr thinks that the illegal curricular fees collected by local schools end up in the MCPS budget. Is Superintendent Starr getting some bad information from the "transition team" or the "community committee"?

FYI for new superintendent: illegal fees don't end up in the MCPS Operating budget. 
You won't find them accounted for on any page in the budget.

That's how you can tell they are illegal!

If they were legal fees they would be accounted for in the annual budget process, and the fees would have been voted on by the Board of Education.

WTOP: 7 Montgomery Co. schools to close on 1st day of class

From the WTOP audio interview:
WTOP:  A lot of school systems have had to start charging kids if they want to play sports and extra-curricular activities. Where are you on that?  
Superintendent Joshua Starr:  We have some fees for some specialized classes at the high schools, you know. But we certainly make accomodations for families. And you know, I am not of the mindset that we will want to increase fees in any way, shape, or form. It is something we'll certainly take a look at in our budget process. We know that it's not ideal but it is necessary right now. We have no plans to increase it at this time.

8/30/11 UPDATE: Parents' Coalition releases list of MCPS Middle School Curricular Fees

Hearing on Board of Education Redistricting Plan

The following hearing has been added to the Montgomery County Delegation 2011 fall calendar and has been posted to the Delegation website calendar page:

Thursday, September 15, 2011:
Joint House & Senate Hearing on Proposed Montgomery County Board of Education Redistricting Plan
4:00 p.m. - 3rd Floor Hearing Room, Stella Werner Council Office Bldg., 100 Maryland Ave., Rockville, MD 20850
Please see below for details and a link to the Board's resolution, which includes the options and maps.
Click here to sign up to testify (after clicking this link, choose "Bill Hearing" to sign up)

Board of Education Redistricting
In Montgomery County, a Board of Education district means a geographic area in which an elected member of the Board must live. In Montgomery County there are five resident-district members and two at-large members of the Board; however, all Board members are elected by the county as a whole. 

According to Maryland state law, the five Montgomery County Board of Education residency districts must be redrawn after each decennial (10 year) census to make sure that the districts  are “substantially equal in population”. The 2010 Census revealed that over the last decade, the population of Montgomery County increased 11.3 percent and that the boundaries of the five Board of Education districts needed to be redrawn.  The Maryland General Assembly, at the request of the Montgomery County Delegation, must enact legislation during the upcoming 2011 special session to redraw the districts so that they can be in place for the April 2012 primary and November 2012 general elections.  

On August 24, 2011 the Board unanimously voted to approve RESOLUTION to recommend a redistricting plan to the Montgomery County Delegation that both establishes districts substantially equal in population and allows for anticipated growth.   

The Board of Education has forwarded its recommendation to the Montgomery County Delegation. The Delegation will develop a local bill and has scheduled this hearing.

Welcome Back!

The Parents' Coalition welcomes all new and returning students, teachers, staff, parents, guardians and well wishers in general to a new school year. Have a wonderful year.

Fresno Superintendent: “There’s no reason for me to keep stockpiling money.’’

Schools chief forgoes $800k in pay - The Boston Globe

WUSA9: First Day Of School Uncertainty In Montgomery County

Where's the new Superintendent? Here's WUSA9's story on the inability of MCPS to know which schools had power and which didn't.

WUSA9:  First Day Of School Uncertainty In Montgomery County

The closed schools list shrinks and grows

Superintendent Joshua Starr removes schools from the closed list, and adds others. As WUSA was reporting last night, Superintendent Starr didn't have a handle on which schools had power and which didn't. Here's the clue, if the lights are on - the school has power. 

Sunday, August 28, 2011

All schools with power will open on time

From MCPS, for updates go here.

EMERGENCY MESSAGE: 8/28/2011 at 8:57 PM --

Hurricane Irene Recovery Update

Montgomery County Public Schools continues to recover from the effects of Hurricane Irene. All schools with power will open on time on Monday, August 29. As of 8 p.m., 23 schools remain without power. MCPS will monitor the power situation at these schools overnight and make a final decision by 6 a.m. about the opening of these schools. Each school community without power will receive an automated telephone call updating them about the power restoration efforts.

The schools without power include:
Benjamin Banneker Middle School
Briggs Chaney Middle School
Broad Acres Elementary School
Burtonsville Elementary School
Emory Grove Center
Fairland Holding Center
Fairland Elementary School
Flower Hill Elementary School
Forest Knolls Elementary School
Galway Elementary School
Glen Haven Elementary School
Greencastle Elementary School
Highland View Elementary School
Francis Scott Key Middle School
Col. Brooke Lee Middle School
Neelsville Middle School
Paint Branch High School
Piney Branch Elementary School
Sargent R. Shriver Elementary School
Takoma Park Elementary School
Takoma Park Middle School
Westland Middle School
Woodlin Elementary School

When You Wish Upon A Starr

Washington Post, Sunday August 28, 2011

In their ongoing quest to eliminate academic achievement gaps, Montgomery County educators are seeking help from the Magic Kingdom.

It is not enough, they realized, to spend more on poor children or to promote college-level classes for all if school employees are not fully committed to the cause.

So Maryland’s largest school system sent a delegation to Disney’s complex in Orlando a few years ago for a lesson in motivating employees from a company that specializes in making dreams come true.

To read the complete article, CLICK HERE.

Friday, August 26, 2011

How to Fix Our Math Education

From The New York Times.

How to Fix Our Math Education
Published: August 24, 2011

THERE is widespread alarm in the United States about the state of our math education. The anxiety can be traced to the poor performance of American students on various international tests, and it is now embodied in George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind law, which requires public school students to pass standardized math tests by the year 2014 and punishes their schools or their teachers if they do not.

All this worry, however, is based on the assumption that there is a single established body of mathematical skills that everyone needs to know to be prepared for 21st-century careers. This assumption is wrong. The truth is that different sets of math skills are useful for different careers, and our math education should be changed to reflect this fact.

Today, American high schools offer a sequence of algebra, geometry, more algebra, pre-calculus and calculus (or a “reform” version in which these topics are interwoven). This has been codified by the Common Core State Standards, recently adopted by more than 40 states. This highly abstract curriculum is simply not the best way to prepare a vast majority of high school students for life.


Imagine replacing the sequence of algebra, geometry and calculus with a sequence of finance, data and basic engineering. In the finance course, students would learn the exponential function, use formulas in spreadsheets and study the budgets of people, companies and governments. In the data course, students would gather their own data sets and learn how, in fields as diverse as sports and medicine, larger samples give better estimates of averages. In the basic engineering course, students would learn the workings of engines, sound waves, TV signals and computers. Science and math were originally discovered together, and they are best learned together now.

To read more go here.

Back to School Fair

UPDATE: 8/26/11 EMERGENCY MESSAGE: 8/26/2011 at 6:14 PM --
Due to emergency weather conditions related to Hurricane Irene, the Montgomery County Public Schools Fourth Annual Back-to-School Fair scheduled for tomorrow, Saturday, August 27, is cancelled.

Backpacks and school supplies for needy families will be distributed while supplies last on Monday, August 29 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. in the auditorium at the Carver Educational Services Center, 850 Hungerford Drive, in Rockville

Montgomery County, MD, issued a press release about the potential upcoming weather emergency:

Hurricane Irene May Impact Region in Coming Days; Residents Urged to Prepare for Hurricanes and Other Emergencies

Currently at category 3 status, Hurricane Irene may impact the region in the days ahead, and officials remind residents that they should prepare for the possibility of high winds, power outages and flooding. The hurricane season traditionally runs through November.

Meanwhile, MCPS is busy getting ready for the Back To School Fair, scheduled for this Saturday from 12 - 3. Thursday, multiple tents were set up in the parking lot at 850 Hungerford to get ready for the event.

Incredulous that MCPS would go forward with the fair while everyone in the county is being urged to prepare for a Hurricane, we drove over to see the tents. At 6:30 pm, on Thursday night, two MCPS employees were dutifully in the parking lot. When they saw me taking pictures, one woman rushed over to us as we were leaving the parking lot, to tell me: "Don't worry, it's all donated!"

I asked her if she knew there was a hurricane on the way. She said yes, not to worry, that MCPS was coordinating with the police.

Last I heard, not even the Montgomery County Police Department could stop a hurricane! I hope folks use their common sense and get those tents down if it looks like the winds will be picking up on Saturday afternoon.

The National Weather Service has placed Montgomery County, MD, under a tropical storm watch, and says that: TROPICAL STORM WATCH REMAINS IN EFFECT...







Parents Coalition Annual School Fees Survey

Did you think MoCo students are constitutionally guaranteed a free education?  

Wrong again. Even with a new school superintendent, Joshua Starr, at its helm, Montgomery County Board of Education continues to approve certain educational fees.

Just in time for back to school on Monday, August 29, here is the annual back to school fees list for high school students.

New this year?  A list of fees approved for middle school students will be posted separately.

So what is a parent or guardian to do?  Ask for a waiver.  You don't need to demonstrate need, just ask.  According to Brian Edward's cover letter in the attachment, no child is denied an educational opportunity because fees are not submitted.

And if you do pay the fees, do so as a donation to the school, not because you feel bullied by the school system.


Thursday, August 25, 2011

Civic Fed Program/Panel: Sustainability: Definitions and Implementation

Please join the Montgomery County Civic Federation monthly meeting for our program on Sustainability: Definitions and Implementation. Find out what the County is doing and what the Federal Government is doing, and ask questions of your county officials.
Paula Bienenfeld
Education Committee Chair, Montgomery County Civic Federation

Monday, September 12, 2011
7:45 p.m.
County Council Building - 1st Floor Auditorium
100 Maryland Avenue
Rockville, Maryland

For directions go here.


Jennifer Bitting, Environmental Engineer, Conservation and Energy Branch, Environmental and Energy Division, Customs and Border Protection, Department of Homeland Security

Doug Weisburger, Senior Planner, Sustainability Programs, Montgomery County Department of the Environment

Eric Caufman, Senior Planner, Montgomery County Dept. of the Environment

Councilmember Roger Berliner, Chair, County Council Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

RIP - Brickyard Middle School

This is from our friends at the Brickyard Neighborhood Coalition.

The property at issue was a formerly dedicated school site. The Board of Education leased the property back to the county, and the county is now planning on developing the property.

Past history with other long term leases of developed school sites has been that once the property is developed, the cost of reclaiming the property is prohibitive. Think Berman High School.

The BOE and the County could have tried some creative uses for this property - but no, we need soccer fields instead of classrooms.

If your child is in a portable or an overcrowded school, think of this property that the Montgomery County School System decided it no longer needed.

Do we get value for our education dollars?

Its not a question of spending money, but spending money wisely.

Are we getting a good return on our precious MoCo tax dollars?

Here is an interesting perspective from today's New York Times:

from the article:

There is a total disconnect of student job expectations, college curriculums, and the realities of today’s labor market.

Something to ponder during the next round of budget discussions. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Guest Post - Wheaton/Edison Modernization

Subject: response to request for comment on wheaton-edison modernization


This a short comment on behalf of parents from Edison High School of Technology in support of Option A in the modernization feasibility study as drafted by Grimm and Parker. The stated deadline for comments was "by Aug. 19." It is customary for comments to be permitted by the end of a business day, so I ask that these comments be added to the record.
In addition to supporting Option A, we secondarily we request that the cell tower be removed in response to health concerns and in support of an appeal by the Parents Coalition questioning both the safety of such towers and the legality of the BOE's lease decisions. In the feasibility drawings it is now placed next to classrooms. In a related matter, we urge careful and deliberate reconsideration of the artificial turf planned for Wheaton.

Thirdly, we request that Dr. Starr's recommendation be released as soon as possible, and, in the event he chooses to support the combined school option, that this item be removed from the BOE's Sept. 13 meeting and be placed for consideration on a future agenda.

This would give the community time to respond to such a decision, which would go against community consensus and the recommendation of the feasibility committee, which cited no reasons to support a one-school building over two. In fact, the report found cost savings and significantly less disruption in the two school model.

Finally, no modernization decision should be considered by the BOE until ALL the educational specifications have been finalized and shared with the schools and the community. We still have no information regarding Edison programs, class sizes and dimensions or student enrollment capacity.
Please be assured that the community strongly supports two separate schools and has spoken with a united voice on this issue for a year. Any dearth of comments now no doubt is due in part to summer vacations.

I want to personally thank you, Dennis, for your work with us thus far. Going forward, we pledge to work, as we have the past year, in cooperation with MCPS, Dr. Starr and the BOE, but do expect transparency, opportunities for engagement and meaningful input, in addition to a full, open and honest decision-making process and implementation of the project as it moves ahead.


Theresa Defino
Edison Parent

Another Day, Another $52K to Wireless Generation

Math Challenge: How much taxpayer money has the Board of Education funnelled to Wireless Generation over the last several years?

Wednesday, the Board of Education will vote to fork over another $52,000.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Slow Learners at the Board of Education Continue to Violate the Open Meetings Act

Looks as if the folks at Carver are at it again.

Despite Dr. Starr's public statements that he doesn't want to be compared to his predecessor, Dr. Jerry Weast, his actions speak louder than his words.

Just look at Wednesday's Board of Education agenda

Dr. Starr, in his own words, requests that the Board of Education conduct its meeting in secret, behind closed doors.

All this, despite numerous opinions by the Maryland Open Meetings Compliance Board, that the Board of Education conducts too many of its meetings in secret.

Everyone knows MCPS and the Board of Education has a problem.   Apparently, everyone except for Dr. Starr.

What's on the agenda that shouldn't be kept secret?

Dr. Starr's transition plan. 

The Board's discussion of the Open Meeting Act.

What else?  This writer isn't sure, because once a meeting is in closed session, we don't know anything more than what is on the agenda.

If you would like to have these agenda items removed from the closed session of the meeting, you have several options before Wednesday's meeting:
1.   Contact the Board Office and tell them to stop hiding in closed session.
2.  Call the County Council
3.  Contact the Open Meetings Compliance Board.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Baltimore Sun: MCPS teacher chooses 37 minute commute from Howard County

Generally, we don't write about the home purchase and commuting decisions of individual teachers, but this was published in the Baltimore Sun, so we're just passing on this news.
Area high school teacher buys 5 BD, 3 BA home in Clarksville, Maryland

On July 12, Russell Scott Hamilton sold his home at 14140 Brighton Dam Road in Clarksville, MD, to Lahouaria Berrabah. Berrabah bought the home for $578,000.

Lahouaria Berrabah is a teacher at Clarksburg High School in Montgomery County.

14140 Brighton Dam Road sits on 3.1 acres and has 1,774 sq ft of living space. The ranch-style home features 5 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. The one-story home was built in 2000 and aso features a two-sided fireplace, wrap-around porch and an attached, 2-car garage.

14140 Brighton Dam Road is located in the Gosman Property subdivision, which is in Howard County.
According to Google Maps, Ms. Berrabah will have a 22 mile commute that will take at least 37 minutes each way.

Friday, August 19, 2011

WTOP Breaking News: Mont. Co. superintendent: School budget should be open

Montgomery Co. superintendent: School budget should be open
"Our books should be open, it's taxpayer dollars," Starr says.
"I have a sacred trust with the taxpayers of Montgomery County. We have absolutely nothing to hide."

Commentary on the MCPS Math Work Group Report

Here is my review of the Math Work Group Report from November 2010. It is cited as a rationale for the new one-size-fits-all math curriculum being uncorked in MCPS elementary schools starting this Fall. Those of you wondering about, or struggling with, the new math curriculum may find this interesting. Report content is in bold; my comments are not.
Alan Stewart

"During the past decade MCPS' mathematics program has both evolved and been strengthened. Institutional barriers limiting opportunity for African American and Hispanic students have been dismantled and expectations for all students have been raised."
No one can tell me what those barriers were and when they were dismantled. I think MCPS would make BIG proclamations about this; I do not recall seeing that.
Written Curriculum Recommendations:
This whole document is an extreme example of logorrhea. Is someone getting paid by the word? Fire the people who wrote this.
Adopt the Common Core State Standards because, well, they are common, and they are core, and they are state standards, and they are way better than what MCPS has now – enough said.
Implemented Curriculum Recommendations:
"Support the improvement of mathematics teaching through the development and use of an instructional practices rubric that includes but is not limited to fidelity of curriculum implementation, equitable practices, inquiry-based instruction, mathematics discourse, metacognitive strategies, and differentiation."
Hahahahaha, what? Translation?
"Monitor implementation of MCPS Regulation IHB-RA, School Academic Grouping Practices, which establishes standards for ongoing and flexible grouping and regrouping of students to provide instruction differentiated to meet the needs of all learners."
IHB-RA does not discuss differentiated instruction; it mandates flexible readiness grouping, which reduces the variation in student readiness and decreases the need for broad differentiation. MCPS has repeatedly told advocates of readiness grouping that this policy permits flexibility at the school level; that is; the principal and local school community determine grouping practices at each school. This recommendation does not appear consistent with IHB-RA as written or practiced. Is there a hidden agenda here?
Assessed Curriculum Recommendations:
Only CCSS is new here; if assessments are aligned with CCSS, they should align fairly well with state assessments. Otherwise – nothing to see here, move along.
Mathematics Targets and Acceleration Recommendations:
"Guiding the recommendations below is the belief that the MCPS mathematics program should be challenging and rigorous for all students and should be taught to mastery."
Belief? What happened to a "research-based approach" based on "years of research and scholarly publication"? Seriously?
Okay, no hidden agenda here. MCPS should decrease readiness grouping and increase age grouping. Only students who are really, really (yes really) ready for above grade level math get to learn new stuff. This is a triumph of pure ideology over classroom grouping practices that have worked quite well for students and teachers over many years. You gotta believe.
Again, we see that MCPS must monitor placement decisions. Who monitors? What will they look for? Will they know it when they see it? What will they do about it?
Teacher Preparation and Development Recommendations:
Nothing new, nothing to see here, move along.
We spent a lot of time and money on a wordy document that merely rehashes well-meaning concerns over unequal results and offers up the pre-ordained recommendations that MCPS continue to increase age grouping and decrease readiness grouping. These changes will leave significant numbers of students bored and unchallenged, as we know that differentiation does not work in classrooms composed of students with widely varying mathematical readiness. It will leave teachers frustrated and unhappy that their students cannot learn and practice math concepts for which they have demonstrated readiness.

MCEA Plans to Force County Gov'ts. to Apply for MOE Waivers

Last year the Montgomery County Council made a decision not to request a Maintenance of Effort waiver. This allowed the County to hit the 'reset' button on per-pupil spending. As a reminder, the MCPS is not a county agency. It is a 'quasi-state agency.' The response from MCEA is below, proposed by Bonnie Cullison, state delegate (D-MCEA):

From the Gazette:
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Montgomery lawmaker seeks to protect education funding
Counties might be required to seek waivers from per-pupil spending requirements
by Andrew Ujifusa and Erin Cunningham, Staff Writers

A state lawmaker from Montgomery County wants to force the government entities that fund schools to apply for waivers from education spending requirements.

Had such a law been in place this year, the Montgomery County Council would not have been able to reduce school system funding as much as it did a move that reduced the base from which future budgets will be derived.

Del. Bonnie Cullison (D-Dist. 19) of Aspen Hill expects to introduce legislation next year that could require counties to apply for a waiver from Maryland’s “maintenance of effort” law for education spending if certain economic conditions are met. Her bill also would set a floor for just how low per-pupil spending by a county could be, based on a new formula.


The state’s maintenance of effort law requires counties to spend at least as much per pupil on public schools as they did the previous year, in order to qualify for increases in state education funding aid.

However, counties can apply for a waiver from that requirement with the state Board of Education if they think they cannot meet that per-pupil amount.

This year, the County Council chose not to seek a waiver and make cuts to Montgomery County Public Schools from maintenance of effort levels. This decision allowed the council to set a new and lower per-pupil spending level that it believes will be easier to meet next year.

Instead of spending $1.497 billion on the school system, the maintenance of effort level for fiscal 2012 based on enrollment, the council spent $1.37 billion. That decision has resulted in a $26.3 million penalty in lost state aid to the school system for fiscal 2013.

Read more at The Gazette, here.

Va ACT scores outpace national averages | The Associated Press | Nation | Washington Examiner

Va ACT scores outpace national averages | The Associated Press | Nation | Washington Examiner

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Got a Question for the New Superintendent?

Patch is sitting down with Joshua Starr tomorrow, and we want to hear your questions.

Big MCPS Math News

Here comes the Pearson-MCPS curriculum!

Principal Math Letter EIC

Save Rock Creek Hills Park!: How much time would you have put into this decision?

Save Rock Creek Hills Park!: How much time would you have put into this decisio...: Yesterday, the Parents' Coalition for Montgomery County shared an April 20th email from Mr. Jeffrey Bourne, Chief of the Division of Faci...

MCPS and Vulnerable Families

A tragedy recently occurred in Kensington, Maryland. Local media reported that Margaret Jensvold, a psychiatrist, murdered her son Benjamin (who was reportedly diagnosed with Apersger's Syndrome) and then committed suicide. Dr. Jensvold's ex-husband told the Gazette:
Benjamin had complained he was picked on and bullied at Hoover Middle School, but Montgomery County Public Schools would not cover the expense of sending Benjamin to Ivymount, something Barnhard said could have led to Jensvold’s breakdown.
“She was frustrated and devastated by what was happening with the school system and the rejection of the assistance that she needed to get Ben into Ivymount,” he said. “She couldn’t bear to see him face the pain and the torture and the torment that he received [at Hoover].”

An article in the Washington Post contained a similar, sad story:
Bob Baum, who represented Jensvold in her divorce, said his client was constantly fighting with the public school system over her son’s education.

“She had just this list of horror stories about how they would have IEP meetings and they wouldn’t invite her. If she would come to a meeting, they wouldn’t let her talk,” Baum said. “There’s probably nothing more frustrating in her life than dealing with Montgomery County public schools.”

This tragedy has hit way too close to home for many reasons. Fifteen years ago, I saw Dr. Jensvold, who helped me manage the post-traumatic stress of our own dispute and due process hearing with MCPS over our son's placement. Luckily, back in 1995, we prevailed, and our son with autism was subsequently enrolled at Ivymount School, where he spent the next 14 years. But the stresses back in 1995 didn't have anything to do with the fact that our son had autism: it was a direct result of shitty treatment by the MCPS administrators who had never laid eyes on our child.

Instead of helping us, MCPS threw obstacles in our path, denied information to us, denied listed IEP services to our son, lied to us, lied to the hearing examiner, and finally admitted that they "knew at the time when they didn't have staff that they would not be able to provide the services" that our child needed.

The hellish treatment that MCPS put our family through, and has put other families through for the past 15 years has been the direct cause of my determination to be an advocate for other families embroiled in the same nightmare, and played a large part in both my husband's and my decision to run for Board of Education. I have known and represented too many families that MCPS has pushed to the breaking point, and can say with first hand knowledge that some of those families have been irretrievably broken. Families of children with severe disabilities are vulnerable, and you can't predict how they will react if they are kicked when they are down. Our family reacted by fighting back. Unfortunately Dr. Jensvold reacted in a tragic, tragic way.

During my 15 years of advocacy for special education families, I would have to say that the overwhelming majority of folks working in special education are kind, caring, and want to do the right thing. But the decisions aren't always made by people in special education, or even people who have first-hand knowledge of the child. The MCPS budget director, for example, has on multiple occasions stated that he views special education litigation against families as a deterrent to keep other families from requesting what their children need. And certainly long-timers remember when MCPS's senior attorney went to a national conference and mocked Montgomery County special education children and families.

It only takes a few mean-spirited people, or people more interested in getting the next promotion up the MCPS ladder than in serving disabled children, to cause damage to families that will take years to heal. Unfortunately, this Kensington family won't get that chance. Dr. Jensvold was ultimately responsible for her own actions, but let's not deny the role that this family's disputes with MCPS may have played.

Teacher-union thugs - The Frederick News-Post Online

Teacher-union thugs - The Frederick News-Post Online
...One of the union's top priorities includes passing legislation to make it impossible for counties to spend less on education than in a year prior -- regardless of the number of students enrolled and the economy...

Gazette: Montgomery lawmaker seeks to protect education funding

Counties might be required to seek waivers from per-pupil spending requirements

A state lawmaker from Montgomery County wants to force the government entities that fund schools to apply for waivers from education spending requirements...article continues here.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

MCPS Misleads Board of Ed and Public in Site Selection report

The Parents' Coalition has obtained an April 20, 2011 e-mail (see image below) from the Montgomery County Department of Recreation to Montgomery County Public Schools' Director of Long Range Planning that contradicts the composition of the BCC Site Selection Advisory Committee (SSAC) as described in the report that now appears on the MCPS website.

The e-mail is from the Chief of the Division of Facilities and Capital Programs for the Montgomery County Department of Recreation, Jeffrey Bourne. 

In the e-mail Mr. Bourne tells MCPS to remove his name and the name of his Department from the list of site selection committee participants. 

Did MCPS comply with his request?

The April 20, 2011 e-mail from Mr. Bourne was explicit about what was to be removed from BOTH the text and Exhibit B of the March 8, 2011 report (link goes to original March 8th report). The report was apparently changed AFTER March 8, 2011 to remove Mr. Bourne's name from Exhibit B's list of names of members of the site selection advisory committee, but the report was NOT changed to remove a reference to the Department of Recreation from the list of participating agencies in the text of the report (Page 1). 

The fact that a MCPS report with a date of March 8th was revised after March 8th without indicating the date of the revision (e.g. by an errata sheet) raises questions in itself. 

The fact that the explicitly requested revision wasn't made to the text of the report when a revision was made to Exhibit B raises even more questions.

Relevant excerpts from report and e-mail:

Page 2 of the report dated March 8, 2011 states:
"The SSAC for Bethesda-Chevy Chase Middle School #2 met on December 14, 2010 and on January 25, 2011."
The April 20, 2011 email from Jeffrey Bourne states:
"For the record, neither I nor the Department of Recreation were a member of any Site Selection Committee for any MCPS project nor did we participate in any evaluation of any sites related to BCC MS #2. ...Prior to publication of this report (or in case of publication) remove any reference to the Department of Recreation or my participation in any Site Selection Committee activities other than to indicate that I was present at the announcement meeting in January, 2011."
The April 20, 2011 email from Mr. Bourne notes that:
"...the text of the report indicates that the Department of Recreation was a participating agency in the site selection process. ...In Exhibit B it lists my name as a member of this same committee." 
Page 1 of the report dated March 8, 2011 currently posted on the MCPS website (August 16, 2011) states:
"The SSAC was comprised of staff from the Montgomery County Office of Management and Budget, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation, the Montgomery County Department of General Services, the Montgomery County Department of Recreation..."
However, Exhibit B of the report dated March 8, 2011 currently posted on the MCPS website does not list Mr. Bourne's name as a member of the Site Selection Advisory Committee.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

No free public education at lawless Sherwood High School

Get ready to open your wallet when school begins if you're a Sherwood High School student (or parent). Illegal curricular fees are "required financial obligations to SHS", according to an announcement on the Sherwood web site.

For those who don't remember -- or who weren't here a couple of years ago -- the Attorney General of Maryland has repeatedly stated that curricular fees are illegal under the Maryland constitution.

Sherwood HS Class Dues Fees Doc

More information about illegal curricular fees can be found here.