Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Maryland Students Demand Removal Of Foam Lunch Trays

Maryland Students Demand Removal Of Foam Lunch Trays

Proposed Md. bill allows property tax hike above caps for county education

...The bill would also allow counties to increase property taxes over current tax caps - provided that the additional revenue collected is only used for funding education, said Bohanan.
Forcing counties to pay for the state's bad financial decisions is unacceptable, said Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold in a phone interview Tuesday.
Anne Arundel County already spends 52 percent of its budget on schools, which does not leave enough room in the budget for other institutions like libraries, he said.
Leopold called the property tax idea "a menu of distasteful dietary choices causing acute indigestion."
Sean Johnson, managing director of legislative affairs for the Maryland State Education Association, called the bill a great step in the right direction... article continues at
Text of proposed House legislation is below:  


What Montgomery County elected officials are saying about this bill and a companion Senate bill:
Montgomery County Council President Berliner said in his testimony today on SB 848, the Maintenance of Effort sister bill to HB 1412 shown above:

Delegate Anne Kaiser (sponsor of the HB 1412 shown above) said in Baltimore Sun article:

Bloomberg on public teacher evaluations:...

Parents have right to know, and anyway you asked for it.

NY City Teacher Data Reports Are Released

School Book:  NY CityTeacher Data Reports

 After a long legal battle and amid much anguish by teachers and other educators, the New York City Education Department released individual performance rankings of 18,000 public school teachers on Friday, while admonishing the news media not to use the scores to label or pillory teachers...

"A perceived conflict between the ordinance and standards landed the city in court in October."

Gazette:  Rockville councilman proposes revisions to city development law
...Former Rockville mayor Larry Giammo requested in the Circuit Court for Montgomery County a review of the Oct. 26 Rockville Planning Commission approval of a site plan for Silverwood/Shady Grove LLC. Giammo argues the ordinance says Rockville Planning Commission should decide school capacity and the standards says that decision is up to Montgomery County Public Schools, putting the two documents in conflict. The city is defending its decision in court...


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                CONTACT:  Bill Reinhard 

BALTIMORE (February 28, 2012) “ The Maryland State Board of Education today approved regulations that would set in place for the first time minimum standards for Gifted and Talented education programs in school systems throughout the State.
The regulation supports the identification of a diverse gifted and talented student body, specifying that local school systems draw from a pool of candidates that encompasses all students and use multiple indicators of potential and achievement.
Maryland's new regulation bolsters local school systems as they seek to achieve equitable representation of gifted and talented students, English language learners, and students with special needs, by recommending early talent development for all students.
"Maryland schools must provide for the diverse learning needs of all of our students, if our education is to reach its full potential," said Interim State Superintendent of Schools Bernard J. Sadusky. "All students can learn, but students learn in different ways.  Our job is to make certain that we have programs in place for every learning style and need."
State Board members today made it clear they will be monitoring reports and data from local school systems to make certain the new policy acts as a catalyst for improved services for students.  Local school systems provide information on gifted and talent programs through the annual Master Plan process required by the Bridge to Excellence Act legislation since 2005.
The new gifted and talented policy, in development since 2006, is flexible and does not dictate details for local systems.   The State Board published the regulation in December, receiving and reviewing public comment prior to their discussion and approval today.
The regulation as proposed can be found here:
# # # 

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

ABC7: Jerry Pasternak at center of debate to turn organic farm into soccer fields

Balt. Sun: Bill would force counties to pay for schools

Local governments could lose piggyback tax dollars

To force counties to pay their share of the cost of operating K-12 schools, top legislators in Annapolis want the state to seize local tax dollars and deliver them directly to school systems.
The plan is outlined in legislation introduced Tuesday by delegates backed by House Speaker Michael E. Busch. Some senators are developing a similar plan with the blessing of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.
If the approach is adopted, it could set up a clash between county governments and the state over their respective powers...

State School Board Approves Gifted and Talented Standards

...In other business, the school board also approved standards for gifted and talented education, despite concerns that the standard does not go far enough to require school districts to ensure that minorities and students learning English as a second language are fairly represented among the gifted.
The standards require schools to identify students in pre-kindergarten who may need gifted classes in the future. Board members also said they will ask school districts to report on the numbers of minority students in their gifted programs.
Schools also would have to offer consistent opportunities for gifted students throughout their education.,0,6813513.story

Lower salaries drive teachers out of Frederick Co.

...Madert is paid $56,122 a year, according to school system salary documents.
"To me, that's not a competitive salary," she said.
At that same level in Montgomery or Washington counties, she could be earning $76,148 or $56,402, respectively...

Monday, February 27, 2012

WAMU: Students Lecture Board and Superintendent

Montgomery County Students To Lecture Board On Sustainability
...Today the students are here at the regular meeting of the board of education to give public testimony and demand a fair hearing on their so-called, "healthy schools project." Student activists and their advisers say the school system's $137 million budget shortfall demands the project's healthy sustainable initiative, which they say will save $5,000 in its first year of operation.

Special Education Community Rallies!! Amendment to be removed.

As we have been reporting on this blog, an amendment to existing law governing when parents are provided copies of documents prior to their child's Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting had been proposed in the legislature by Delegate Anne Kaiser and 11 co-sponsors.  
A Petition was started and as of today that Petition had over 550 signatures from parents, guardians and citizens from all over the state of Maryland that opposed this legislation.
Late today, the legislation's lead sponsor, Delegate Anne Kaiser issued the statement below.  According to Delegate Kaiser's letter, the proposed amendment changing the word "business" to "calendar" will be removed from proposed legislation.
Delegate Kaiser statement

Breaking: Board of Ed. to Evaluate Self during Dinner!

At the beginning of this afternoon's Board of Education meeting, Board President Shirley Brandman announced that the Board "work session" this evening will be a work session on the Board's Self-Evaluation.

Drop by the Board of Education work session at 850 Hungerford Drive this evening from 5:30 PM to 9:00 PM to hear how the Board will go about evaluating themselves. Remember this work session will not be televised and minutes will probably be closer to "seconds" in detail.  
The work session will be in Room 120, next to the Board meeting room.  Dinner will be served, but you can't have any so bring a snack.

Imagine, if the Board of Education respected the Maryland Open Meetings Act you would have known this was the Agenda for this evening before the meeting started.

Drink Wine. Benefit Bethesda-Chevy Chase HS Students

I was surprised to see the following advertisement in the Gazette Newspaper, page C-3, last week:

Sixth Annual Community Fundraiser Wine Tasting on March 8th!

Sixth Annual Community Fundraiser for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Educational Foundation honoring:

CollegeTracks, a B-CC HS Educational Foundation Signature Program, and its founders Cathie Goltz, Nancy Leopold and Nancy Zeller

“Wine Tasting: An International Sampling” with “heavy” hors d’oeuvres
Thursday, March 8, 2012, 7–9 pm Woman’s Club of Chevy Chase
7931 Connecticut Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland

RSVP by Sunday, March 4th Tickets: $50 per person (estimated ticket value $30)

The "College Tracks" program is described on the BCC Educational Foundation website as follows:

CollegeTracks helps B-CC students overcome the hurdles standing between them and college. A significant number of our students don’t know how to apply to college or get financial aid.

I don't think it is right for a group using the name of a High School to have a Wine Tasting, and I question whether this is permissible under MCPS policy. If it is, maybe it is time for the policy to be reviewed.

Board to play Hide and Seek and Eat. Your bill: $30,380 + dinner.

A public body cannot avoid its obligations under the Act by labeling its meeting a “work session” or “pre-meeting,” or by gathering together at some location other than the customary meeting room.  Maryland Open Meetings Act manual, page 9. 
That's a quote from the Maryland Open Meetings Act manual.  That's Maryland law. 
But, this afternoon, in direct violation of the Maryland Open Meetings Act the Montgomery County Board of Education will move their meeting to a side room without cameras, and without room for the public to observe, and have a "work session" for an undisclosed amount of time.
Topic? Unknown.

Your right to observe the deliberations of this public body? That is irrelevant to our elected officials apparently.

What the Board has spent on legal advice about the Maryland Open Meetings Act?  In November 2011 alone, your Board of Education paid $30,380 in legal fees from the MCPS Operating Budget to one outside law firm. 
Your* cost for dinner: unknown.

Yes, $30,000 is one less teacher in a classroom.  But it's worth it for the elected Board of Education to conduct the public business off camera, in violation of the Open Meetings Act, and with food, right? 


*It's your tax dollars.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Bd. of Ed. Candidate Signs Petition

Montgomery County Board of Education candidate Saqib Ali joins the list of those that have signed the online Petition to OPPOSE HB 596

This is an open invitation to all Montgomery County Board of Education candidates.  We would like to know your position on this legislation.  We will keep track of the candidate positions and post them on this blog.

To date this bill does not have any known supporters except the 12 Delegates that have sponsored the legislation. We'd like to hear from the supporters to understand the rationale for this proposed legislation.

E-mail us at contact AT

Howard Co. Bd Member Cynthia Vaillancourt Stands Up for Children

Howard County Board of Education member Cynthia Vaillancourt joins the list of elected officials that have signed the online Petition to OPPOSE HB 596

Ms. Vaillancourt is also on the Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) committee that will be meeting on Monday, Feb. 27th and discussing what positions to take on pending legislation.   

Patricia O'Neill and Shirley Brandman are our local Board members that are also on this committee.  What position will Ms. O'Neill and Ms. Brandman take on this legislation?

Gaithersburg City Council member Cathy C. Drzyzgula Stands Up for Children

As we reported earlier this week, 9 Maryland State Delegates have sponsored state-wide legislation to shorten the amount of time parents have to review reports prior to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting.  IEP meetings are held for students in need of special education programs and services.

On Monday February 20, 2012, an online Petition was posted by a parent that OPPOSED this legislation.  As of today, that Petition has over 500 signatures from all over the State of Maryland.

Gaithersburg City Council member Cathy C. Drzyzgula joins the list of those signing the online Petition in OPPOSITION to HB 596.

If you haven't signed, here's the link to the Petition:

$3.8 Million AMEX Bill 6 months into fiscal year

A picture is worth a thousand words...
Click the image to see the AMEX total for FY 2012 as of January 2012.

How many MCPS staff have credit cards? 
What do they use them for?
Are lunches, dinners, staff gifts, and travel still being charged to taxpayers?

Saturday, February 25, 2012

But wait, there's more...

...And more development in the WJ Cluster. This time its Lerner Enterprises, and the Tower Companies owner of the White Flint Mall property, who have sent out their plans for development in the White Flint Sector (please note, now we live in 'White Flint, MD') and here it is, below. All in the WJ Cluster. So let me see, that's 339 residential units + 2459 residential units + ?? Oh my.

Sketch Plan No: 320120040
Name of Plan: White Flint Mall Redevelopment
Current Zoning: Cr-4, C3.5, R2.0, H-250', CR3, C1.5, R2.5, H200' and CR1.5, C0.25, r1.5, H50'
Geographical Location: Southeast quadrant of the intersection of Executive Boulevard (extended) and Rockville Pike in White Flint, Maryland
Plan Proposed: 2,059,985 sq ft of commercial development (office and retail), 2,911,815 sq ft of residential development (approximately 2,459 residential units), 279,175 sq ft of hotel, and multi-level parking garage structures, for a total maximum density of 5,250,975 sq ft.
Date: February 15, 2012

The above-referenced Sketch Plan application has been filed with the Montgomery County Planning Board. ...You may participate in this review by sending written comments at any time to the Development Review division, M-NCPPC, 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, MD 20910-3760, or by contacting the M-NCPPC Lead Reviewer, whose name you can get by calling 301-495-4595

The Montgomery County Planning Board will also hold a public hearing on the above-referenced plan application to obtain public comment. Written notification of the public hearing date will be sent no later than ten days before the hearing.

And More Development in WJ Cluster

Hi all,
I received the following notice for development in the White Flint Sector, below. All the development will be in the WJ Cluster. I believe 'east of Woodglen' means those children will go to Garrett Park ES.
Paula Bienenfeld

Notice of Public Hearing, March 1, 2012
A hearing for the Preliminary Plan and Site Plan referenced below will be held March 1, 2012 in the Montgomery County Planning Board’s first floor auditorium at 8787 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring. You may testify before the Planning Board by signing up in advance at, by calling 301-495-4600, or by filling out the yellow form at the public hearing.

Name of Plan: North Bethesda Market IIZoning: Split Zoned CR3 C1.5 R2.5 H150 & CR4 C3.5 R3.5 H300
Acres: 4.41
Location: Located in the southeast quadrant of the intersection of Nicholson Lane and Woodglen Drive
Proposed Use: 290,282 sq ft of commercial uses and up to 382,986 sq ft of residential uses for up to 339 units, including 12.5% MPDUs; modifications from the approved Sketch Plan for this site include changes in building massing and public benefits.

The staff report will be available online via the link to the Planning Board’s Agenda at on Monday, Feb 20, along with an approximate time that this item will be heard, or call 301-495-4600 for more information.

For information about the staff recommendation or to offer comments on the plans, please contact Patrick Butler via email at or by phone at 301-495-4561 for the preliminary plan, or Joshua Sloan via email at or by phone at 301-495-4597 for the site plan.

Written testimony should reference the agenda item and must be submitted at least one full business day before a scheduled hearing, i.e., by COB on the Tuesday before a scheduled Thursday hearing, may be emailed to or faxed to 301-495-1320.

Friday, February 24, 2012

$6,000 a day to fight one small child

As reported in a previous blog posting, the Board of Education has been retaining outside attorneys for years without putting these contracts out for a bid.  Last we knew, the outside counsel for the Board of Education mentioned in this case was charging about $6,000 a day for hearings.
Read this U.S. District Court case filing and count the hearing days to determine how much Montgomery County tax payers paid to fight this one small child over a hour and a half of speech therapy a week. 

Spoiler alert: 14 x $6,000= $84,000

Closed meetings used again to get same result

Rock Creek Hills Local Park is committee’s preferred site for new B-CC middle school

...The recommendation comes 10 months after the Kensington park’s selection as the site of the school was met with criticism, prompting the superintendent to order a new review of potential school sites....

Cost doesn't spell success for Colorado schools using consultants to improve achievement

...These schools are sharing $5 billion in federal tax dollars in a massive, three-year rescue effort, but no one nationally is tracking how the money is spent and no one can say whether the influx of cash will end up helping kids.
A Denver Post investigation found one clear winner so far: consultants.
In Colorado — one of the few states willing to tally such spending — consultants are taking home 35 percent, or $9.4 million, of the $26.6 million that came to the state from the U.S. Department of Education in the past two years....
Read more:Cost doesn't spell success for Colorado schools using consultants to improve achievement - The Denver Post

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Argyle Middle School: We Shave, You Pay

A fascinating article in the Gazette: fewer than half of the eligible students had signed up for outdoor education, so two teachers agreed to shave their hair into Mohawks if 85 percent of the sixth grade signed up. And so they did, and a special assembly was held for the head-shaving ritual.

The Gazette explained why there was initially low registration for outdoor ed:

A student must have permission from a parent and pay a fee to take the trip. Sixth grade administrator Sundra Mann said Argyle generally gets about 70 percent of sixth-graders to go on outdoor education. The school has a 70 percent FARMS rate, meaning most of the students receive free and reduced rate meals.

“You don’t usually see so many students [on outdoor education] from a high-need school,” Siddons said at the assembly (...)

I'm sorry, but this is just flat-out wrong. Peer pressure to convince students to sign up for a trip that their parents may not be able to afford? When they shouldn't have to pay for it in the first place?

Outdoor ed is a nice activity, when properly supervised. But why on earth does Montgomery County Public Schools allow such a distinction between the "haves" and the "have nots?"

State Sen. Karen Montgomery Stands Up for Children!

As we reported earlier this week, 9 Maryland State Delegates have sponsored state-wide legislation to shorten the amount of time parents have to review reports prior to an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meeting.  IEP meetings are held for students in need of special education programs and services.

On Monday February 20, 2012, an online Petition was posted by a parent that OPPOSED this legislation.  As of today, that Petition is about to hit 400 signatures from all over the State of Maryland.

Today, we learned that Maryland State Senator Karen S. Montgomery is strongly OPPOSED to this legislation. On February 16, 2012, Senator Montgomery wrote to the Bill sponsor and co-sponsors, most of whom are from Montgomery County.  Senator Montgomery's letter to the sponsor and co-sponsors is below. 

Congratulations to Senator Karen Montgomery for standing up and speaking out for Maryland children in need of special education services!  
Sen Montgomery Feb 2012

What other elected officials will join State Senator Karen Montgomery in standing up for children needing special education programs and services? 

Starr Eliminates One of "Seven Keys"

Starr eliminates the TerraNova assessment

...Many parents are relieved by the assessment's elimination after witnessing their children's stress. However, there are several possible consequences that could result from the removal of the TerraNova. "Eliminating the test means that parents will no longer have results from a nationally-benchmarked test to assess their children's progress, especially those with high achieving students" Michelle Gluck, chairwoman of the county Parent Teacher Association (PTA) Gifted Child subcommittee, said in an interview with The Gazette. MCPS stated in its annual report last year that students who score at or above the 70th percentile in the TerraNova reading section are considered to be on the path to college and career readiness... 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

More Development in WJ Cluster -- Planning Board Hearing Tomorrow

Hi all,
Here is the notice of public hearing for the Federal Realty plans for Mid-Pike Plaza (where Toys R Us, CVS, etc. are currently located). This is another enormous development with residential/commercial that will affect our traffic, pedestrian and bicyclist safety, schools and existing infrastructure and demands on our parks and libraries, police, etc. This is in the WJ cluster. Please take a look at the plans and see if this amount of density is appropriate for our current infrastructure and schools. While there may be an additional elementary school built eventually there are no plans for a new middle or high school. If you are concerned please write to the Planning Board today. The hearing is tomorrow, Thur, Feb 23rd.

Paula Bienenfeld

Name of Plan: Mid/Pike Plaza
Zoning: Split Zoned CR3 C1.5 R2.5 H200 & CR4 C3.5 R3.5 H300
Preliminary Plan No. 120120020 $& Site Plan No. 820120020
Master Plan: White Flint Sector
Location: northwest corner of the intersection of Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike
Acres: 24.38 acres (6.77 acres - Site Plan)

Proposed Use: Five (5) lots (2 temporary) dedication for two new roads and additional right-of-way along three perimeter roads for ultimate construction of up to 3,442,888 square feet of mixed-use development over multiple phases; phase 1 to include 605,057.5 square feet for commercial uses and 818,507.5 square feet for residential uses.

The staff report is available online via the link to the Planning Board's agenda at along with an approximate time that this item will be heard, or call 301-495-4600 for more information. If the approval of a final water quality plan is required, the Board will consider such plan at this public hearing.

For information about the staff recommendation or to offer comments on the plans, please contact Patric Butler via email at, or by phone at 301-495-4561 for the preliminary plan or Joshua Sloan via email at or by phone at 301-495-4597.

The Black MCPS Advanced Placement Team is Getting Lapped

....If the AP exams were an Olympic footrace with four major teams—a white team, an Asian team, a Latin team, and a black team—the black team would come in dead last.  The black team is so far behind it probably gets lapped by the white and Asian teams.
There was a time when MCPS could barely say it had a black team in the AP footrace. Black AP participation rates were horribly low. That is no longer the situation, and frankly, MCPS gets credit for jacking up AP participation rates for all students. But MCPS should not just be proud of getting the black team in the race. Nor should MCPS try to dupe the public into thinking that because the black MCPS team outruns black AP teams from Harlem, Prince George's County and Atlanta that the AP performance gap within our county has closed.  It has not closed and that must change. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Delegates want Parents to have LESS time to review documents

There is a new Bill that has been introduced in Annapolis this legislative session that if passed, will change the time parents have to review the psychological tests MCPS (and any public school in MD) school psychologist provide prior to IEP meetings. Currently parents have 5 business days to review these papers. The new bill wants to reduce that to 5 calendar days.This will drastically impact the amount of time a parent has to review these documents. Many times once parents like myself receive reports we need to engage and pay for help understanding what the reports mean.
Please support special needs families by signing the petition "The MD State House: OPPOSE House Bill 596".
Our goal is to reach 1,000 signatures. The signatures will be forwarded to the sponsors of the bill.
 MCPS Parent
This Bill is brought to you by the following Montgomery County Delegates (shown in yellow):

Gallup Poll of Teachers will Replace Tell MD Survey

Tell Maryland Educator's Survey and Results from MCPS can be found at this link for your reference.

Below is the MCPS answer as to why the Tell Maryland Educator's Survey should not be used, and instead $300,000 of MCPS Operating Budget funds should be spent on an educator survey from Gallup.  

MCPS can use the Tell Maryland survey for free, but would rather spend $300,000 on a Gallup survey?

43. What will the Gallup Staff Engagement Survey provide compared to using the Tell Maryland Survey?

Budget page reference: N/A
The following provides a comparison of the TELL Maryland Survey and the proposed Gallup Staff Engagement Survey:
  • The TELL Maryland survey was initiated by the Governor of Maryland in 2009.  The surveys were administered in 2009 and 2011.  It is not clear if the survey will be administered in 2013.  Moreover, some revisions have been made to the questions from 2009 to 2011 so it is more difficult to make comparisons between years.  The Gallup survey, on the other hand, contains consistent questions so that results can be evaluated over time.
  • The response rate for the Gallup survey piloted during the 2010–2011 school year was 92 percent.  The response rate for TELL Maryland was 30 percent for the 2010–2011 school year. The results can be accessed for only 45 of 200 MCPS schools.  This is because they only allow us to access results for schools with a response rate of 49.5 percent or above and a minimum of five faculty members responding.  Also, the low response rate makes it more difficult to meaningful comparisons make comparisons between years.
  • The Gallup survey has only 12 questions, and they are focused on measuring staff engagement.  TELL Maryland on the other hand, has 146 questions and measures several constructs (e.g., time, facilities and resources, community support and involvement, managing student conduct, teacher leadership, etc.).  Fewer, well-constructed questions are more likely to elicit better information regarding staff engagement.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Exclusive: MCPS Confidentiality Agreement Exposed

PTA members, parents, and citizens have been forced by MCPS staff to sign "Confidentiality Agreements" in order to participate on Board of Education and MCPS committees for the last couple of years.

Committees such as the MCPS (secret) Operating and Capital budget committees, Site Selection Advisory Committees, Superintendent Selection Committees and curriculum committees have utilized these documents to silence members of the public from discussing public business with the public. 

The Parents' Coalition has obtained a copy of one of these "confidentiality agreements." To our surprise, the document isn't worth the paper it is printed on.

The MCPS "Confidentiality Agreement" references the Maryland Open Meetings Act, as if that act somehow binds participants to a Closed Meeting and to secrecy.  The Maryland Open Meetings Act does neither of these things. 

The Maryland Open Meetings Act only provides exceptions when a meeting can be closed, it does not mandate that a meeting must be closed. That is why a public vote of the meeting participants to go in to a Closed Session is so important.  The participants can vote to keep a meeting open, even if it could be closed under the Maryland Open Meetings Act.  

The public has the right to witness the meeting participants vote to go in to a Closed Session. 

A participant can't be told in advance that meetings will be Closed. It is the decision of the meeting participants, by a public vote, to close a meeting. It is possible that the committee will vote to hold the entire process in full view of the public!

Below is a copy of one of these MCPS "Confidentiality Agreements."

Note:  The Open Meetings Act itself also doesn't prevent participants in a Closed Meeting from walking out the door and discussing what went on in the meeting.  The "not divulge to another person" phrase in the MCPS Confidentiality Agreement is, well, just bullying.


I have agreed to be a member of the XXXX Committee to XXXXXX and participate in making a recommendation to the Superintendent of Schools. In carrying out this task, I understand that I will be given access to confidential information and participate in meetings that are closed to the public in order to maintain confidentiality.
I agree that I will not divulge to another person any confidential information or any information discussed or otherwise a part of any closed meeting. I understand that Section 10-508 of the State Government Article, Annotated Code of Maryland, permits closed meetings by the XXXXXXXXX and I recognize and will honor my obligation to maintain the confidentiality of the meetings and materials.
Print Name


Starr-Weast-Gallup Connection

It's a small world after all.

Gallup is a founding national partner of MCBRE's new business the 114th Partnership.

The 114th Partnership was formed to work closely with former MCPS Superintendent Jerry Weast's new business the Partnership for Deliberate Excellence.

MCPS' current Superintendent Joshua Starr is on the Board of Advisors of MCBRE.  The MCBRE Board of Advisors elects the MCBRE Board of Directors.* 

Superintendent Joshua Starr recently announced that he would be cancelling the MCPS administration of the McGraw Hill Terra Nova standardized test.

Starr announced that money saved by eliminating the Terra Nova tests would be used to purchase $300,000 in polling from Gallup.  

Superintendent Starr is apparently making a direct award of the $300,000 contract to Gallup without competitive bidding or a RFP.  Gallup was named as the recipient of these funds without mention of a competitive contract award process by the Board of Education. 

*The MCBRE Board of Advisors elects the MCBRE Board of Directors as detailed in the Harvard Case Study on MCBRE.  Buy the Harvard Case Study on MCBRE for $6.95 and learn all about how MCBRE runs and its history.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

PATCH: AP Scores on the Rise for Black, Hispanic Students in East County

...Of the 180 Blake seniors who identified as African-American in 2011, 68 of them took at least one AP exam. Over half of that group, 39 students, scored a 3 or better. That’s a jump from 2010, when 55 black students took an AP exam and 29 scored a 3 or better.
Hispanic seniors at Blake followed a similar trend: Although the number of Hispanic seniors who took an AP exam fell in 2011 from 37 to 33, the number of those who scored a 3 or better increased from 22 in 2010 to 24 in 2011. 
Berry said that what makes a black or Hispanic student attempt and succeed in an Advanced Placement course may be no different than students of other ethnicities. However, there is, for some students, less knowledge of the program.
“Some students will take AP because their older brother or their parents took Advanced Placement classes and understand what that’s about,” he said. “There has to be some frame of reference to go on. I think it’s an education about the benefits of taking an AP course.” 
At Blake, all students are encouraged to take rigorous courses to develop the skills needed to do well in Advanced Placement. Berry calls the process “scaffolding,” and said that teachers work together at different grade levels to prepare kids for AP.
“For instance, if I’m teaching AP U.S. History, the teachers are working collaboratively on the skills needed in ninth grade, 10th grade in order to be successful in that class in 11th and 12th grade,” he explained.
At Springbrook, fewer black students attempted an AP exam last year—69 students in 2011 compared to 86 students in 2010—however the number of test-takers who received a score of 3 or higher dropped by only three—from 38 in 2010 to 35 in 2011. That means the percentage of black students who are succeeding at AP exams increased, even though participation decreased.
For Hispanic students at Springbrook, participation doubled, from 20 students who attempted an exam in 2010 to 40 students in 2011. The number of Hispanic students who scored a 3 or higher also doubled, from 13 students in 2010 to 26 in 2011.
Paint Branch High increased participation for both black and Hispanic students by a relatively small number—six more black students and seven more Hispanic students took AP exams in 2011 compared to 2010. Performance for black students decreased slightly in 2011 and doubled for Hispanic students, from only nine Hispanic students scoring a 3 or higher in 2010 to 18 in 2011.
“I am very proud of how MCPS students are performing on AP exams and the role they have played in making Maryland a national leader in AP,” said Superintendent Joshua P. Starr. “I am also extremely pleased to see significant improvement in AP participation and performance by our African-American and Hispanic students.”  
The overall percentage of graduates within the Northeast Consortium who attempted AP exams fell slightly last year, resulting in a drop of between two and four percentage points, depending on the school...

Saturday, February 18, 2012

AJC: Lawmakers propose to ban cellphone towers from school property

Lawmakers hold hearing on cell towers |

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Lawmakers will hold a hearing on a proposal to ban cellphone towers from school property...

Friday, February 17, 2012

AZ Schools ask for fees, take what they can get

azdailysun:  School not entirely free

Class fees can't be written off as tax credit donations, because tax credits only apply to extracurricular activities. Art or anatomy or welding classes may be electives, but they're still curricular.
At the end of the day, there is no penalty if the fees aren't paid, and the student won't be dropped. But what can be paid is accepted, and administrators say boosters or parents of better means will often quietly sponsor their child's friend.
"You don't want to embarrass a kid," Kuhn said.
Read more:

Montgomery County officials release internal audits

Responding to a clash with Montgomery legislators last week, the county’s executive branch has published nearly all its recent internal audits online, county officials announced this week...
...Responding to these requests, Leggett officials have created a new Web site that includes reports dating to September 2009.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Civic Fed BOE Candidates' Forum March 15th

The Montgomery County Civic Federation is sponsoring a Board of Education Candidates’ Forum on March 15th, at 7:30 PM, at the Silver Spring Civic Building. Moderators will include the editors of Silver Chips, the Montgomery Blair High School online and print newspaper. So, mark your calendars! More information to come.

Transparent Frederick!

Frederick, Maryland has unveiled 'Transparent Frederick.' From the new website:

Transparent Frederick is The City of Frederick's initiative to provide citizens the ability to see their tax dollars in action. These intuitive applications will allow the public unprecedented access to the City's finances by giving them the ability to look at different sets of financial data. This initiative will produce multiple applications over the next couple of months. Please stay tuned and enjoy the first application.

How Your Money is Spent
The first Transparent Frederick application available to the public will show citizens where their tax money is being spent. The public will be able to search our financial data just like they were using our financial software. This application will show how the City spends money from the fund level to the department level all the way down to the actual purchase order used to pay a vendor. If you want to how the City spends its money, you can find it here.

For more information about what transparency looks like, go here.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Transparency Camp Registration is Open

Once again the Sunlight Foundation is putting on their annual Transparency Camp, this time, Saturday and Sunday, April 28th-29th, with an additional day, April 30th, for their first Hackathon. Transparency Camp 2012 will be at Founders Hall, George Mason University in Arlington, Virginia. To register go here. The fee is only $20, and includes breakfast, lunch, and coffee -- and wonderful company. See you there!

Rockville Patch: AP Scores at Rockville HS Lag Behind County

Rockville High Lags Behind County on AP Exams
School faces choice of high participation vs. high scores, principal says.

By Sean Sedam February 14, 2012

For Rockville High School principal Debra Munk, the approach to Advanced Placement comes with a choice: Open AP classes to only the best and the brightest students and passage rates on AP exams are most likely to be high. But encourage more students to take AP classes and the school’s scores are at risk.

“We have opted to give more kids the experience [of AP],” Munk said Tuesday.

Munk said she is “distressed” by Rockville High’s scores.

“However, we have put a great deal of effort in getting our kids exposed to AP,” she said.

Of the 283 members of the school’s Class of 2011, 111 (39.2 percent) earned a score of 3 or higher, according to scores released Wednesday by Montgomery County Public Schools. That lags behind the county (49.6 percent), but ranks ahead of the state (27.9 percent) and the nation (18.1 percent).

To read the whole Patch article, CLICK HERE.

Closing racial gap on academic targets shows mixed results

Gazette:  Black students score well on recent AP exams, but fall short of academic targets
“When I ask for, ‘What are some of the new things that you’ve done?’... I get silence,” said Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown.

Should candidates for Board of Ed seats need permission to run?

2015 UPDATE:  The Montgomery County Delegation to Annapolis is once again proposing to give the student member of the Board of Education full voting rights.  Previous attempts at getting this legislation passed have failed.  

As we have documented in the past, the election of the student member of the MCPS Board of Education is nothing like the election of the adult BOE members. In addition, student members of the BOE are not subject to the same ethics filing requirements as the adult members.  

This is a re-run of a February 4, 2010 post on the same issue because the same Bill is once again before the Montgomery County Senators on Thursday, February 16, 2012.

Currently the Montgomery County Delegation to Annapolis is considering Bill MC 9-12 Montgomery County Board of Education - Student Member Voting.  This bill would expand the voting rights of the Student Member of the MCPS Board of Education (also known as the SMOB) to include:

-Attendance at Closed Sessions where Collective Bargaining is discussed
-Voting on Collective Bargaining Agreements
-Voting on the MCPS Operating Budget
-Voting on the MCPS Capital Budget
-Voting on school closings, reopenings, and boundaries

The bill would give the Student Member of the Board of Education almost all of the attendance and voting rights of a Member of the Board of Education elected by the citizens of Montgomery County. 

The only time the SMOB would not be automatically entitled to attend a closed session or vote would be on a matter involving the suspension or dismissal of an MCPS employee.

However, while the SMOB's voting rights would be increased, the position of the SMOB would remain very different from that of the adult elected Board of Education members.
1. The Student Member of the Board of Education is supervised by a MCPS employee. This relationship creates an obvious conflict of interest as the Board of Education is the governing body for the school system.

Yet, for the SMOB, an employee that they oversee, supervises them. If MC 9-12 passes, the SMOB would be in the position of voting on the compensation of the person that supervises their position.

2. The MCPS Student Member of the Board election is run by the Montgomery County Region of the Maryland Association of student Councils (MCR). The MCR Executive Board home page states that students must maintain a 2.0 Grade Point Average, even though there is no requirement in the state statute of a minimum grade point average for participation as a Student Member of the Board of Education. 
The organization that governs the election and nominating convention for the SMOB is apparently only made up of students who satisfy this grade point average minimum. Do adult members of the Board of Education and the citizens that vote for them have to demonstrate a similar qualification?

3. The MCPS Student Member of the Board needs the signature of their school's principal to run for office. This requirement is not found in the Maryland law. Below is the form that a candidate for the SMOB office must fill out. (It is unclear why the form references Section 3-701 of the Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, as that section applies to Howard County.)

Again, the SMOB candidate is beholden to a MCPS employee. In this case the SMOB must obtain the signature of a MCPS employee in order to even "qualify" to run for this position.

Then the form below must be turned in to a MCPS employee in order for a student to be a candidate. Do adult Board members have any such similar requirement when they run for office?
4. The Nominating Convention for the Student Member of the Board of Education is overseen by MCPS staff. Note at the link that only "authorized adults" can register students to attend the Nominating Convention.