Saturday, October 25, 2014

U.S. High School Dropout Rates Fall, Especially Among Latinos

From Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight.  To read the whole story go here.
6:36 AM Oct 20, 2014
By Ben Casselman 


Five years ago, educators at Elkhart Community Schools realized they had a problem. Their dropout rate was too high. More than one third of the northern Indiana school district’s students weren’t graduating from high school on schedule. Among Hispanics, who make up about a third of the student body, the figures were even worse.

“It was a significant moment where we said we have to change the culture,” said Gail Draper, who heads the guidance department at Elkhart Central High School. “We had to do something to turn the tide.”

It seems to be working. In 2013, 85 percent of Elkhart’s students graduated on time, putting the district close to the state average. Perhaps even more remarkably, the graduation rate among Hispanics is now equal to — or even slightly above — that of the district’s overall population.
casselman-feature-dropout-1

 Elkhart’s improvement is a particularly dramatic example of a nation-wide trend: Graduation rates are improving, especially for Latinos.1 Nationally, the on-time graduation rate topped 80 percent for the first time in 2012, up from 74 percent five years earlier. For Latinos, the graduation rate is up more than 10 percentage points over the past five years, to 76 percent. 

And...what works:

“It’s hard to get an 18-year-old to think in the long term when they can get a job for $12 an hour,” said Draper, the Elkhart guidance counselor.

So Elkhart administrators began calling local employers and talking to them about how by offering jobs to teenagers during school hours, they were contributing to the dropout problem — ultimately leaving them with a less educated workforce. In some cases, the administrators worked with employers to turn the jobs into internships, earning students school credit. And they developed an after-hours school program to help students who needed to work during the day stay in school.

“We try and work with the students in the circumstances that they’re in,” Draper said.

Draper recalled one student who had arrived in Elkhart from Mexico in his sophomore year speaking no English. He was a particularly promising student — until one day he walked into the guidance office and announced he was dropping out. His mother had lost her job. He needed to go to work.

“We said no, you can’t do that. You’re too smart,” Draper said. The school raced to find help for the student and his family, reaching out to local community groups to find financial support and working with the student to ensure he could stay in school while working. Draper said the experience showed the importance of relationships — the student’s relationship with his advisor, where he felt comfortable revealing his family’s problems, and the school’s relationship with the community, where they could find a solution.

It worked. The student stayed in school and is on track to graduate with his class this spring — with honors.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Silver Spring neighbors call abandoned Oakview Pool a hazard for kids and an eyesore | WJLA.com - Roscoe Nix Elementary School

See also Parents' Coalition October 21st posting of Montgomery County Citation concerning this abandoned pool next to Roscoe Nix Elementary School.



SILVER SPRING, Md. (WJLA) - A Montgomery County neighborhood is wading into the debate over a long-standing, now-closed community pool that some say is a danger to kids and an eyesore.

Oakview Pool was built right after World War II, but now it’s crumbling, overgrown, and abandoned.
For many years, the pool served the neighborhood, but it’s located right next to an elementary school and in an area where lots of young children live.
“That's not good for the neighborhood and it's certainly not good for the school,” Donna Butts says.
The pool closed when the nonprofit organization that operated it ran out of money. The grounds have not been kept, rainwater sits in the bottom of the pool, and it was broken into and vandalized in August.
Some neighbors fear children can get in and get hurt.

Starr and Morrison on List for Los Angeles Superintendent Job .@mcpssuper .@CMSSupt

Deasy has stepped down as superintendent of LA Unified, replaced on an interim basis by Ray Cortines, it’s open season on speculating who might be considered as a permanent superintendent...

...In any case, let the speculation begin. Below is a list of possible candidates, compiled by LA School Report :
  • Alberto M. Carvalho has served as superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, the nation’s fourth largest school system, since 2008. He was named Florida’s 2014 Superintendent of the Year, the 2014 National Superintendent of the Year and has worked his whole career for the district
  • Richard A. Carranza has served as superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District since 2012. He previously served as deputy superintendent of Instruction, Innovation and Social Justice at the district from 2009 to 2012 and as northwest region superintendent for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas. 
  • Joshua Starr has served as superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland since 2011. He began his career as a special education teacher in New York City and served as superintendent of Stamford Public Schools in Connecticut.
  • Heath E. Morrison has seved as superintendent of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg  Schools district in North Carolina since 2012. He previously served as superintendent of the Washoe County School District in Nevada and community superintendent for the Down County Consortium in Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland....
 http://laschoolreport.com/la-unifieds-next-boss-round-up-the-usual-and-unusual-suspects/

Karl A. Racine has raised about $675,000, including nearly a half-million of his own money, to fund his campaign, which has touted his experience as a litigator and manager.

Audits critical of candidate Karl Racine’s firm roil D.C. attorney general race

MCPS Contends State School Board Should Rule on Turf Field Dispute - Bethesda Beat


Montgomery County Public Schools is asking a Circuit Court judge to dismiss a youth soccer organization’s claims that it unfairly chose other groups to use turf fields at public schools, saying the state school board should weigh in on the issue before the court...

MCPS Contends State School Board Should Rule on Turf Field Dispute - Bethesda Beat

“Teachers say there is too much content to cover” in the standards they have now.

When Mike Petrilli, a national expert on education policy, complained in a Web site post about the thin content of social studies and science lessons in his son’s Montgomery County first-grade class, he received a friendly e-mail from Marty Creel, director of curriculum and instruction for the Montgomery County public schools...

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/adding-content-a-pain-in-montgomery/2014/10/19/e965f3d8-5571-11e4-809b-8cc0a295c773_story.html

Thursday, October 23, 2014

TONIGHT: Fairfax Board of Education Votes to Move High School Start Time




Are educational materials used to promote products to MCPS children?

We hope not.  But we'd like your help.

As our readers know, Pearson Education Inc, the global educational publisher, now is in charge of the curricular materials in Montgomery County Public Schools.

And our students have new media, Google Chrome account, and lots of other bells and whistles to accompany this new curriculum.

But - and there is always a but - have you noticed something else that comes with these packaged materials?

One MCPS parent recently commented on Facebook about a passage his child had from school concerning purchasing an iPhone and insurance.  Yes, a real life example, but how many elementary kids carry cell phones or purchase their own iPhone?  And insurance?  I don't have that for my iPhone.  My elementary school aged kids would have been confused.

Parents in NY noticed that Pearson exam materials frequently reference commercial products.  From the article:

"Just Do It" has been a familiar Nike slogan for years, but some parents are wondering what it was doing on some of New York's Common Core standardized English tests.
Brands including Barbie, iPod, Mug Root Beer and Life Savers showed up on the tests more than a million students in grades 3 through 8 took this month, leading to speculation it was some form of product placement advertising.
. . .

The use of brand names was one of several complaints raised by some educators and parents about the statewide tests, aligned to the Common Core standards intended to increase academic rigor. Some contend they are too difficult and don't measure what students are actually learning.
While such general complaints about Common Core tests have arisen elsewhere, advocates said the prevalence of brand names appears to be specific to New York.
Here is our question to the folks in MoCo:  Have you noticed any product placements in your child's educational materials this year?

We truly hope that our kids aren't seeing pitches for products in our educational materials or on media in the classroom, and that the one parent comment we picked up was an anomaly.  We don't think our children should be for sale in MoCo, and trust that the Board of Education feels the same way.

But you can never be too sure.

Parents and caregivers - we know you are paying attention to your child's progress.  So - as you go over homework and help out in assignments with your kids - keep an eye out for placement of specific trademarked goods.

And if you find something, take a screenshot (I usually print/save the page as a PDF), and send to us at

contact@parentscoalitionmc.com

And, as always, stay tuned.

Exclusive: Family Suing Wootton Principal, Athletic Directors, Coaches and Board of Education #mocofootball

http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/circuitcourt/
On June 27, 2014, a Wootton High School family filed a lawsuit in Montgomery County Circuit Court against Wootton High School principal Michael Doran, Wootton athletic directors Christopher Thompson and Al Lightsey, current and former Wootton coaches Benjamin Tynes, Mark Rabon, Tyree Spinner, and the Montgomery County Board of Education alleging that their student was injured during a football conditioning after school club as a result of "being required to do 125 elevated pushups."

According to the case file the Montgomery County Attorney has alleged that coach Tyree Spinner was not employed by MCPS at the time of the May 2011 incident, but became employed with MCPS a few months later.

The complaint asks for judgment in an amount in excess of $75,000.



City Paper: Karl’s In Charge: Audits Question Bills from Attorney General Candidate’s Law Firm #mocoboe #creditcards #venable

The Montgomery County Board of Education's credit card reviewer in the news: 
...But maybe no one is better positioned to enjoy the new office than Karl Racine, who’s taken a leave of absence from white-shoe law firm Venable to run for the job...

...He’s also loaned or given his campaign $450,000 since the race began, giving him a $40,000 cash advantage over his nearest rival as of Oct. 10...

...While Racine ran the firm, according to the audits, Venable overbilled its clients—including the District—by hundreds of thousands of dollars...

...In 2011, an inspector general looked into whether Venable’s billing to the Treasury Department could be substantiated. Venable submitted bills that were with “vague and inadequate” work descriptions, according to the report, as well as expenses that weren’t allowed under the terms of the contract.
When the inspector general audited $1,027,049 worth of payments to Venable, it questioned $676,840 worth of payments—which amounted to two-thirds of the audited fees. The investigation found many expenses, according to the report, that should have had more documentation...
 ...Venable employees weren’t just remunerated with cash. The audit also found them inappropriately billing for 28 lunch and dinner orders, for a total of $1,737.70 in meals. District taxpayers picked up the check...
 http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/looselips/2014/10/22/karls-in-charge-audits-question-bills-from-attorney-general-candidates-law-firm/

WPost: Poor kids who do everything right don’t do better than rich kids who do everything wrong

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/10/18/poor-kids-who-do-everything-right-dont-do-better-than-rich-kids-who-do-everything-wrong/?hpid=z6

WAMU: What it is like in a Pay to Play Climate

WAMU:   The Cost of D.C. Council’s Power Over Contracts


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Interactive Map: How Much Is Your School District Spending?

http://www.edexcellencemedia.net/Metro-DC-School-Spending-Explorer/

Gazette: Montgomery police planning slow growth for bus camera program

Next phase would require new full-time position

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Breaking: Standing water where "a child could drown" on parking lot of Nix Elementary School in Silver Spring

Open, unlocked pools of standing water on Nix ES parking lot.
Attention Social Justice Warriors:  Montgomery County Department of Permitting Services has now cited the pool on the Roscoe Nix Elementary School parking lot for dangerous conditions that present safety hazards to children at the school. 

The Roscoe Nix Elementary School parking lot abuts a neighborhood pool that has been abandoned for over a year.  The pool property is unlocked and can easily be entered by children.  Inside the property are two pools of standing water.

The Parents' Coalition wrote about this dangerous situation on September 9th.

Would Superintendent Joshua Starr send his children to a school where the parking lot was next to unlocked, abandoned pools of standing water?  Superintendent Joshua Starr wants to drop the terms red zone and green zone.  If that's true, then let's see Superintendent Starr treat Nix Elementary School like it's in the Green Zone! It's time to protect these elementary school children from this dangerous situation.

Note: Access to these pools is only over MCPS parking lots.  The pools do not have a separate entrance.




We ask again:  Would Board members Patricia O'Neill and Shirley Brandman  permit this dangerous condition to exist on the parking lot of any Bethesda elementary school?

MCPS has $1.1 Million in Savings

After maintaining larger fund balances in recent years, Montgomery County Public Schools currently has about $1.1 million in savings, a significantly smaller amount that some school officials say could present a challenge when the next budget season comes around.
At the end of fiscal 2014 over the summer, the school system had $17.04 million left over, creating a total fund balance of $39.34 million, according to the school system. The Montgomery County Council used about $38.2 million to help fund the system’s $2.28 billion budget this fiscal year.

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141014/NEWS/141019656/1124&template=gazette

CNS Maryland Video: Maryland Coalition to Halt Cell Towers at Schools Report

Correct name of new coalition is Maryland Coalition to Halt Cell Towers at Schools.

This video has excellent pictures of the cell tower at Wheaton High School in Silver Spring.  That cell tower was on the football field, now it is smack up against the school building due to construction.



Monday, October 20, 2014

Cell Tower Requested at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown

[Note: It's Verizon that wants to put a cell tower on the school playground, and the PTA will be presented with the plans on December 9th.  Why didn't the MCPS Public Information Officer didn't have these details?]

A communications company has requested a cell tower at Roberto Clemente Middle School in Germantown.
 
Montgomery County Public Schools spokesman Dana Tofig confirmed that a company has approached that school at 18808 Waring Station Road as a potential site for its communications equipment. He did not have specifics about the type of equipment or the name of the company...

 http://www.mymcmedia.org/cell-tower-requested-at-roberto-clemente-middle-school-in-germantown/

PG CoEx Rushern Baker: Credit card expenditures by county school board "very disturbing.. should be a wake up call"


BOE Candidates Talk Budget, Math Curriculum, Westbard

With only one scheduled candidates forum left, the eight people up for four county Board of Educations seats on Nov. 4 made clear Wednesday that there are differences in opinion when it comes to some pressing MCPS issues.
Candidates differed on maintenance of effort, disagreed on whether the school system should institute its own inspector general and shared different views on the importance of later start times. Two candidates challenging incumbents criticized the Board and Superintendent Joshua Starr for what many teachers claim has been a disjointed rollout of the county’s new math curriculum.
The non-partisan Board of Education election pits four pairs of candidates against each other for three district seats and one at-large seat. Every voter in the county gets to vote for every board member, no matter the district.

 http://www.bethesdanow.com/2014/10/16/boe-candidates-talk-budget-math-curriculum-westbard/

Starr Wants Cell Tower on Another Middle School Playground

The school is surrounded by homes on 3 sides.


The Parents' Coalition has learned that Superintendent Joshua Starr is now proposing a cell tower for the Roberto Clemente Middle School playground.  The proposal will be presented to parents at the November PTA meeting.

By our count, this is the 7th cell tower that Superintendent Starr has proposed for a MCPS playground since he became superintendent.
  • Has Superintendent Starr ever made a public statement on why he is pushing for cell towers on MCPS playgrounds? No.
  • Has Superintendent Starr ever made a public presentation to the Board of Education about his 7 cell tower construction projects? No. 
  • Better question, has the Board of Education ever publicly ASKED about Superintendent Starr's 7 cell tower proposals? No.

If cell tower compounds on public school playgrounds are such a super cool awesome deal, then why all the secrecy?

 

Let's hear the Board of Education and Superintendent Starr discuss these plans in public at the next Board of Education meeting!  

Sunday, October 19, 2014

WPost: Montgomery County school board, critics at odds over $140,000 legal bill

First there was public uproar about how members of Montgomery County’s Board of Education used their district-issued credit cards. Now comes fallout regarding the $140,000 in legal bills that piled up as the records for those credit cards went under review and investigation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/montgomery-county-school-board-critics-at-odds-over-140000-legal-bill/2014/10/18/c792f2e0-47cc-11e4-891d-713f052086a0_story.html?hpid=z2

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"this county needs a cultural earthquake to occur on the current Board of Education"

Gazette Letter: 
...I ask the voters of Montgomery County to vote for Kristin Trible, Laurie Halverson, Larry Edmonds and Jill Ortman-Fouse because this county needs a cultural earthquake to occur on the current Board of Education. We need a new breed of leaders who will be accountable to the parents, teachers, students and taxpayers, will be open and transparent with the allocation of $2.3 billion and will respond to constituents emails, telephone calls and questions instead of being ignored or brushed aside.

Furthermore, I ask residents in Montgomery County to vote against the Apple ballot and MCEA’s monopoly of thought that has pervaded MCPS for too long...
 http://www.gazette.net/article/20141017/OPINION/141019216/1014/support-for-school-board-challengers&template=gazette

Friday, October 17, 2014

WPost: Report finds wide disparities in local per-pupil spending

...Montgomery County Public Schools, for example, regularly rates among the top-performing districts in Maryland and spends $12,649 per student, according to Fordham, far less than the public school system in the District, which spent $15,743 per student but ranks poorly nationwide...

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/report-finds-wide-disparities-in-local-per-pupil-spending-dc-charters-spend-most/2014/10/14/f8b94b8c-53cd-11e4-ba4b-f6333e2c0453_story.html

Gazette: Rockville, county at ‘stalemate’ on stormwater fees #mcps

Rockville serves as the center of Montgomery County’s government, housing the offices of the county executive, county council, several of the county’s courthouses and other county facilities.
But for more than five years, the city and the county have been engaged in an ongoing dispute over whether the county should pay stormwater management fees for its properties in the city...

...If the government agencies were subject to the fee, MCPS would owe $236,861 for fiscal 2015, Montgomery College $100,374 and Montgomery County $126,281, according to a memorandum from Rockville city staff...