Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Sentinel: MCPS does not monitor the cameras

...During the summer MCPS also installed several more new security cameras in the schools. In July, the County Council appropriated $1.67 million in county bonds for the cameras. In total, MCPS installed hallway cameras in 132 elementary schools, interior cameras at 37 middle schools and 18 high schools, and put in exterior cameras at 38 middle schools and 25 high schools.
MCPS does not monitor the cameras 24/7, Tofig said, but it has the ability to access the cameras if an incident occurs...

Teacher in WPost Article had been put on "Restrictions" 4 years before Rape of Student

The teacher that is discussed in today's Washington Post piece was also put on "restrictions" four years before he was arrested for the rape of a 14 year old student.

Is putting teachers on "restriction" something that Superintendents learn when they attend national education conventions?  It's time for parents to know how many teachers are on "restrictions" today in our public schools.

Rambold had been warned by school officials in 2004 to avoid touching or being alone with female students.

Read more:

The Washington Post: Sex between students and teachers should not be a crime

Don't look for any in depth coverage of MCPS teacher Lawrence Joynes pornography, rape or child abuse trials in the upcoming months from The Washington Post

The title of The Washington Post piece sums up the article:

Friday, August 30, 2013

At Today’s Maryland Board of Regents Meeting, the Governor, Treasurer, and Comptroller Should Attend and Discuss Derek Sheely’s Death and Safety in Maryland College Sports

Today, the Maryland Board of Regents, which oversees the State’s University System, will hold a meeting by conference call.  On the agenda for discussion are (1) topics for the upcoming Board retreat; (2) topics for education forums at future Board meetings; and (3) the Board’s process for reviewing the performance of the University presidents they supervise.  (The Board also has an undisclosed item to be decided in executive session.)

The Board needs to add to its agenda a discussion of Derek Sheely, the Frostburg State University student who died two years ago yesterday of head trauma sustained in football practice with the school’s team.  On August 22, 2013, Sheely’s family filed a complaint in which they allege that his death stemmed from misconduct by Frostburg ‘s football coaches and an athletic trainer.  

The Sheely family alleged last week that the football coaches conducted dangerous helmet-to-helmet “Oklahoma-style” tackling drills over three days that caused Sheely to sustain a bleeding gash on his forehead and that the two football coaches an athletic trainers named in the suit ignore concussion signs that he displayed before collapsing unconscious on the field.   Each of these staff currently serves in these positions at Frostburg.  

It is not clear that members of the Board of Regents are aware of Sheely’s death, of the suit his family has filed, or of the broader issues of concussions in college football and other sports.   A review of the minutes of the Board of Regents’ public meeting since August 2011 reflect no discussion of Sheely’s death.  The minutes also reflect no discussion of concussions in intercollegiate football. 

There is no discussion in the Board’s minutes of the long-term risk that repetitive head blows in football may lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) not only in retired NFL players but also in college football players, for example, Owen Thomas, a University of Pennsylvania football player who committed suicide in April 2010.

There is also no discussion in the Board’s minutes of the short term risks that repetitive head blows in football can lead to altered brain function, even in players who are not diagnosed to have sustained a concussion, and that such altered brain function can take months to return to baseline.

Further, on September 28, 2012, 13 months after Sheely’s death, the Board of Regents adopted Policy V 2.10, University System of Maryland Policy on Intercollegiate Athletics.  The Policy requires a University president to report to the Board of Regents information about a school’s intercollegiate athletics program such as student participants’ academic performance and financial aspects of the program.  

The Board of Regents’ Policy, however, requires no reporting on concussions or other injuries that students sustain from participating in intercollegiate athletics.   The report filed by Frostburg State University for the 2010-2011 school year contains no information about concussions or other injuries.  (No report by Frostburg State University is available at the Board of Regents website for the 2011-2012 school year, the year in which Sheely died.)

By law, the Board of Regents is required to invite Governor O’Malley, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, and Comptroller Peter Franchot to attend each of its meetings.  If you will recall, in 2011 Pennsylvania’s Governor Tom Corbett exercised a similar role to lead the Board of Trustees for Penn State University to address the child abuse scandal related to Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky. 

I respectfully urge Governor O’Malley, Treasurer Kopp, and Comptroller Franchot to attend tomorrow’s Board of Regents meeting and play a similar leadership role on the issue of the safety of students when they participate in intercollegiate athletics within the University System of Maryland.  

At tomorrow’s meeting, the Board of Regents should discuss whether football at Frostburg is being conducted safely and whether football at other Maryland Schools is being conducted safely. 

The Board should also adopt limits on full contact football practicies similar to those adopted by the Ivy League, the PAC-12 Conference, and the NFL.  The NCAA has not adopted such limits and appears to be committed to studying the issue.   The Board of Regents’ deference to the NCAA amounts to an abdication of its responsibility to keep Maryland students safe when they participate in interscholastic sports. 

Finally, the Board of Regents needs to evaluate whether it is appropriate for football and other sports programs to be covered by the limited immunity from tort liability that Maryland law provides to State institutions and their personnel.   Under Maryland law, a state agency like the Board of Regents liable for tort damages up to $200,000. 

School personnel, that is, coaches, athletic directors, university presidents, the Chancellor, Board of Regents members are only liable for torts—like a student dying in a school-organized football practice—if their conduct is malicious or grossly negligent.  For negligence, these school personnel get a free pass.

The Board of Regents needs to ask whether the limited immunity has created perverse financial incentives for the universities it supervises.  Football and other sports programs represent significant revenue source and an opportunity to market a school’s “brand.”  If liability for a tragedy like Derek Sheely’s death is capped at $200,000, does this represent a small operating cost with no financial incentive for a University to correct dangerous conditions?

One private sector discipline that gets lost by intercollegiate athletics being conducted by state employees is the discipline of liability insurance.  If the University System of Maryland had to obtain insurance on the private market for the football program at Frostburg, would an insurer be willing to provide coverage?  If so, would the premiums be affordable? 

Would a private insurer condition coverage on the Board of Regents banning dangerous football tackling drills, Oklahoma drills, that the Sheely family allege caused their son’s death?

These serious issues may be beyond the Board of Regents willingness to address.  That is why Governor O’Malley needs to step in.  He is being talked about as a Presidential contender for 2016. 

If the Governor can’t protect Maryland students from what some call the Football Industrial Complex, how can Americans expect him to protect them from Al-Qaida and other national threats?

Tom Hearn is a parent from Montgomery.  Last year, after his son sustained a concussion playing JV football, he advocated to the Maryland State Board of Education that they take steps to address concussions in high school sports.

A link to the letter Hearn sent to the Board of Regents is at this link

Delegate Eric Luedtke Charging Students $80 to Attend Public School

Maryland Delegate Eric Luedtke is also a MCPS teacher.

We are pretty sure that Delegate Luedtke is familiar with the Maryland Constitution's guarantee of a free public education, yet here we see him charging students $80 to attend Outdoor Education at his school. He's a social studies teacher after all, so shouldn't he be familiar with the Maryland Constitution?

Outdoor Education is a program that is part of the MCPS curriculum, but in order to charge students for this class program MCPS administrators deny that the program is part of the curriculum.  MCPS administrators say that if your child does not attend the Outdoor Education program they will receive the same instruction sitting in a classroom while all their classmates go on an overnight.

The Board of Education approves of this charade and has set the fee for students to attend Outdoor Education at $76.  Yet, even $76 isn't enough for Delegate Luedtke.  He's charging his students $80 to attend Outdoor Education!

Starr, what are you, a teenager or a celebrity?

From an anonymous Parents' Coalition reader:

Starr, what are you, a teenager or a celebrity? With all due respect, twitter is a stupid way to communicate anything except the most trivial ideas. There is no room for complexity, nuance, thoughtful debates. What are you doing to address safety in the schools, particularly sexual abuse of children; failure of teachers, principals and administrators to report; failure of Board of Education to step in and provide oversight? Why does it take so long to get abusers out of the schools and away from the children? What are you doing to get rid of extreme bullying? What are you doing to put a stop to pre-gang behavior in elementary schools? What are you doing to help the children who have been damaged in the schools? Please give us your philosphy and your plan (you are the leader, no?) in 160 characters. Thank you.

Starr's Treks: What Starr says on the Road

Did Superintendent Joshua Starr tell this convention that students will not have access to wireless Internet in schools?
...That was one of the major themes education technology experts, lobbyists and policy makers repeated at a Monday roundtable discussion, organized by Internet Innovation Alliance, and which focused on how private and public sectors can work together to improve digital learning in the nation’s classrooms. 
Montgomery County schools Superintendent Joshua P. Starr was the keynote speaker at the event in downtown Washington...
...By the start of the coming school year, every school in Montgomery County is expected to be fully outfitted with wireless access, Starr said. 
Starr said the E-Rate program is one of the most important federal programs available to help schools improve Internet access and increase technology in schools. The E-Rate program was set up in 1997 and provides billions in federal funds to schools and libraries each year...

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Parents Coalition 2013 List of High School Fees

As we start the school year, here is the Parents Coalition annual post of fees allegedly approved by the Board of Education for high school students this coming year. 

We've made this list an almost annual tradition, and we see once again, that arts and music take the biggest hit.   I am curious about whether these fees have any real meaning - do schools actually dry clean music clothes?  Both of my kids played in the concert bands at two high schools and the jazz band at one school.  I recall they wore their own clothes - so why do their schools (both schools) have dry cleaning fees?

Once again, MCPS amazes me.  This year, MCPS even has a site for you to pay these fees ONLINE.
Thanks for being such a good helper, MCPS.  Convenience comes with a  small service charge - wonder who gets that money.  You can click here to get to that site.

Some schools are great - no fees whatsoever.  But other schools?  Look at Edison.  Funny, how their nail technology fee really is for a textbook for the course.  And Churchill - the school that thinks the rules don't apply?  You will find several links to convenience purchases of textbooks available. 

The middle school list will be coming shortly - I can't wait to see what surprises are on that list.

But remember the words from our former first lady, Nancy Reagan.  JUST SAY NO.

Students in Montgomery County are entitled to a free public education.   If you don't pay, have no fear, your child will still get their diploma (and yes, class dues and graduation fees are also illegal).

Happy back to school. 

Northrop Grumman Engineer Wants Gifted and Talented Education Law Followed in Maryland

Comment to Maryland State Board of Education by
Steve Smalley
August 27, 2013

Hello, my name is Steve Smalley. I am an Advisory Engineer at Northrop Grumman and heavily engaged in our Education Outreach efforts. In the interest of full disclosure, I played a role in drafting the COMAR 13A.04.07 Gifted and Talented Education Regulation. I think it's important. This regulation was approved by the Maryland State Board of Education. It is on the books. We just need to emphasize to our superintendents and administrations that it must be followed.

"That which is measured gets done." (Perhaps with negative connotations in the school systems, but its validity has been underscored). The board has a responsibility to ask the systems how differentiation for gifted and talented students is being implemented.

I was, and my children were, unusual students. We had high expectations, sometimes high achieving, and sometimes working outside the classroom norms. I was blessed to receive an education that fit my needs within the boundaries of PA Public Education. My kids received fantastic opportunities, growth and personal care in Howard County public schools. This COMAR regulation was written to better prepare all Maryland schools to provide the type of opportunities on which gifted students thrive.

At Northrop Grumman we focus a lot of attention on engagement: how much more powerful we can be when all of our employees are focused and working at their full capability. We don't expect everyone to contribute the same, but want everyone to have the opportunity to contribute at their personal potential. The COMAR was written to ensure that each of our students can be engaged while in school. Different students have different learning styles and different capabilities.

I believe the trans-disciplinary nature of STEM education can go a long way in engaging our students, but it does not address the need for differentiated opportunities for our gifted students. It may provide some wonderful opportunities, but the school systems need to learn how to make those opportunities available to the right students. Each of our school systems: needs to recognize those differences and make opportunities available to students at all capability levels. As a student, all I wanted was the opportunity to learn something new every day. I'm thankful my school system knew how to make that
happen. I'm now asking that we task each of our school systems to show you how they are making that happen for their gifted and talented students.

Thank You
Steve Smalley
Columbia, MD

N.F.L. Agrees to Settle Concussion Suit for $765 Million

Recommendations for the Math Semester Exam Work Group from Fred Stitchnoth

With Recommendations for the Math Semester Exam Work Group
Frederick Stichnoth
August 29, 2013
            First, very large percentages of students taking final examinations in Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 and Pre-calculus failed semester examinations over the past dozen years (30 to 62 percent in 2013, 64 percent in 2000).
            Second, the 2010 K-12 Mathematics Work Group Report stated that, as a result of Dr. Weast’s reform effort (removing sorting and selecting practices based on assumptions about ability, in order to increase students’ access to higher-level mathematics), “some students were placed in courses for which they did not have adequate preparation. In addition, the achievement gap between African American and Hispanic students and their White and Asian American peers persisted despite some gains (MCPS 2010d, ii).” The MWG Report thus justified elimination of the math pathways and Honors math classes.  
            This paper examines whether the Starr-Durso “super-acceleration” hypothesis explains the semester exam failure rate, and reexamines the MWG Report in light of the conclusion on that hypothesis.
            Failure is not attributable to accelerating students along the math pathway (skipping) or to placing students in Honors courses. Failure is correlated with on-level, regular students, particularly FARMS students. Students fail (in grade level, on-level courses) because they have not mastered prerequisite foundational concepts. Long-term, continuing, outsized exam failure rates indicate that summative assessments have no function, and a concomitant long-term failure of accountability on the part of MCPS and the Board of Education . The MWG was unaware of the exam failure rate and of the function of summative assessments; it found no use for data, with its conclusions assumed from the outset; and it wholly misconceived the roles of access and performance in subgroup disparity. The new one-size-fits-all math instruction regime cannot support lower-performing FARMS students by peer group composition and elevated teacher expectations when FARMS peer groups are composed through concentration of FARMS students in particular schools.
Recommendations for the Math Semester Exam Work Group
            1. Use experts from the Office of Shared Accountability
                        a. Longitudinal data on accelerated student performance
                        b. Longitudinal data on summative exam success and subsequent successful course completion
                        c. Correlations between school FARMS rates and school average performance
            2. Grapple with FARMS and on-level improvement
            3. Take the past into account: read the 2000 and 2004 history and the MWG Report
            4. Identify the MCPS departments responsible for math final exams
            5. Publish a complete report, including extensive data
            6. Consider that it is difficult to credit motive when process and product are so greatly flawed.
            Ten Self-Protective Guidelines for parent-members conclude the paper.

Starr Tweets: Ask Siri what's 3 divided by 4; compare the answers 2 the answer u get w/ a calculator. if you can google it, why teach it.

  1. because we can't ask a police officer to hold on while we google our 4th amendment rights.
  2. (!?) RT : Ask Siri what's 3 divided by 4; compare answers 2 the answer u get w/ a calculator. if you can google it, why teach it.
  3. I can't believe he said that. I'm kind of stunned.
  4. understanding of fractions, decimals, percents need to be automatic. "Hold on, let me google it"...not a response employer wants.
  5. You're 100% right. we must teach math facts & operations. I was trying to make broader point about application vs memorization
  6. broader point duly noted. 100% agree. Students need creative thinking skills in order to apply math skills in varying situations.
  7. we have to make a distinction between memorization and understanding. We Agree on the former. 3/4 is the latter
  8. I hope I misunderstood your point but google>teaching is what I got from this. If that's the point I'm sad for my MCPS kid.
  9. 140 characters not the right forum to make this subtle point.MCPS parents read u.We don't all get edspeak/think.
  10. Understandable one could misinterpret intent. The point is that we need students to think and not just memorize.
  11. Say it ain't so. If we are to prohibit teaching anything that can be googled, we'd be sans the teaching profession.
  12. Strike two ! We MUST teach an understanding of math not just facts and operations.
  13. just say that then. Who needs google or a calc to understand 3/4 anyway? My 8yo understands it. Weird example.
  14. I believe that was intent with application being a priority over memorization. Must understand in order to apply.
  15. No sugar coating the meaning of the tweet. Time for MCPS to teach understanding before application and operations.
  16. You can google just about anything. If is right there would be no profession for you. His idea is wrong.
  17. Not sugar coating anything. That is what Common Core curriculum is all about. Teaching understanding.
  18. Numeracy. Might want to know if you're in the ballpark.
  19. Common Core may be good. How MCPS implements it is what matters. Will welcome respectful dialogue on math with you.
  20. RT “: Ask Siri what's 3 divided by 4; compare the answers 2 the answer u get w/ a calculator. if you can google it, why teach it.”