Friday, May 22, 2015

State's Attorney Did Not Interview Victims, Concludes No Crime


No crime found in Rock Terrance School incident 

No criminal conduct occurred when Rock Terrace School maintained accounts without parents’ knowledge for special-education students in transition-to-work programs, the Montgomery County State’s Attorney’s Office found.



The office investigated the management of money and the accounts after some parents in 2013 discovered the school had set up bank accounts for their children to receive work stipends but the children had not received the money. The State’s Attorney’s investigation confirmed the findings of Montgomery County Public Schools’ internal investigation of mismanagement but no criminal conduct.
Chief of the Special Prosecutions Division Bryan Roslund said he could not comment on mismanagement because the investigation was focused solely on potential criminal activity.
“No acts constituted a crime ... The broader question of what went on at the school and what was being done with programs is not really for us to answer,” Roslund said.
Roslund said the investigation looked at school records and letters or comments parents had sent to the school about the issue, but did not involve interviewing parents. Lyda Astrove, a local attorney and advocate for the parents and students, said that made it a “one-sided investigation.”...

 ...MCPS has reimbursed students in 71 payments adding up to about $34,400...

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Tech Industry Continues to Lobby for Relaxing Student Data Privacy Standards


Tech industry companies continue to lobby for relaxing the standards  for student data privacy, according to a report by Education Week. It cites loopholes in the recently adopted MD Bill HB 298 signed by Gov. Larry Hogan. According to J. Lupovitz, a student privacy advocate and VP of policy at the Common Sense Media, "One of the biggest issues with the new Maryland law is that it only covers education vendors that enter into contracts with districts, leaving a big loophole for other education technology providers" such as third party apps, websites and other services not covered by contracts.  


http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2015/05/20/state-lawmakers-balance-concerns-on-student-data-privacy.html?cmp=ENL-DD-NEWS2 


PARCC Cuts Total Test Time by 90 Minutes

Press Release: Maryland's State Assessment Program To Be Streamlined

PARCC to be Shorter, Use Single Testing Window

For Immediate Release                                               Contact: William Reinhard, 410-767-0486
Baltimore, MD (May 21, 2015)

Maryland students in grades 3-8 and high school will spend less time taking State assessments next year as a result of changes approved unanimously by the multi-state consortium governing the tests.
The Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) yesterday voted to consolidate the PARCC assessment’s two testing windows into one and cut total test time by about 90 minutes overall beginning in the 2015-16 school year.  The changes were made in response to feedback from parents, students, and educators during the first year of testing and a careful review of test design.
“Next year’s PARCC tests will take less time away from lessons, and cause less disruption to school schedules, while still keeping students on track for college and careers,” said State Superintendent of School Lillian M. Lowery. “These changes will help us focus on what’s most important—ensuring that students are learning to think critically and master the skills they will need to graduate, ready for success.”
The revisions to PARCC will:
  • Combine the two English language arts and two math testing window to one 30-day window near the end of the semester or the school year.
  • Reduce the number of test units that students will take from 8 or 9, depending upon the grade level, to 7 or 6.
  • Cut the testing time for students by about 90 minutes overall depending on content and grade level.
The first full year of PARCC implementation in Maryland has gone smoothly for the most part, with more than 1.3 million tests administered and completed.  The new assessments, aligned to Maryland’s College and Career Ready Standards, replaced the Maryland School Assessment tests this year.  Additional details on the changes to the PARCC test is available here.


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MCPS fails to find new superintendent, asks interim leader to stay on | WJLA.com

MCPS fails to find new superintendent, asks interim leader to stay on | WJLA.com

Today: After years of hiding, live webcast of BOE and Planning Board Meeting!

The Montgomery County Planning Board and the Board of Education have been meeting for years off camera and often without notice to the public.  The meetings were labeled as dinner meetings to give the impression that the events were purely social.  In fact, the meetings were packed with important discussions of public school planning issues.

The Parents' Coalition has attended some of these meetings and videotaped the meeting so that the public could observe the discussion and decision making of these two important public bodies. 

Finally, tonight's meeting will be held in the Montgomery County Planning Board meeting room and the meeting will be televised so that all citizens of Montgomery County can observe the discussions and deliberations as these two public bodies discuss public school planning.  Tune in at 5:30 PM this evening.  The meeting will be webcast by the Planning Board at the link below. 
The Agenda for this evenings meeting is also shown below. 

Past Meetings: 2011
2012 
2013

Tonight:  Thursday, May 21, 2015
Montgomery County Planning Board Agenda

5:30 pm DINNER MEETING MRO AUDITORIUM
Joint meeting of the Montgomery County Planning Board and Montgomery County Board of Education (Meeting may be viewed live on our website, visit (www.montgomeryplanningboard.org)


Community members seek changes to Kensington school plan

Under a Montgomery County Public Schools plan, a new Kensington middle school would be squeezed on a site with inadequate space that will make the school inferior, some opponents of the plan say.
Adding underground parking to the plan, they say, could help fix some of the bigger problems they see.
A group of residents said they are concerned that the site plan, as it stands, would limit athletic and academic spaces and pose safety hazards for drivers and pedestrians. The result, they said, is a school that would fall below the district’s project guidelines and would be unequal to other county schools, particularly Westland Middle School in the same cluster.
However, a school district official said the middle school will be similar to existing middle schools. He added that the district already considered — and decided against — a parking structure.

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20150519/NEWS/150519451/1022/community-members-seek-changes-to-kensington-school-plan&template=gazette

Pearson Blames 'Third Party' Attack for Disrupting Minnesota Online Tests

Minnesota halted its state assessments in science on Wednesday and Thursday due to a lack of confidence "that Pearson's system will operate smoothly," Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius announced.
For the second time this testing season, Minnesota's assessments were disrupted by a "distributed denial-of-service attack," and Pearson, the global education company that designed and is administering the state's tests, told state officials that this was a larger and more sophisticated attack than one that occurred on April 21.
"It is simply unacceptable and unfair to subject students and teachers to this kind of uncertainty in a high-stakes testing environment," Cassellius said in a statement"I have questions about Pearson's ability to follow through on their assurances." The company holds a three-year contract, valued at $33.8 million, to administer Minnesota's reading, math and science proficiency tests. 
Pearson also released a statement, saying the company had worked throughout the day on Wednesday to mitigate what it described as malicious third-party attacks, in an effort to "minimize the disruptions and return service to normal." The company also said it is actively working to "strengthen our defenses to fend off these attacks," and assured the state that student data was not targeted, or at risk.

http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/marketplacek12/2015/05/pearson_blames_third_party_attack_for_disrupting_minnesota_online_tests.html

MCPS 8th out of 10 Area Counties in Percent of ESOL Students

Below is the 2015 Washington Area Boards of Education (WABE) Guide.  The WABE Guide compares data from 10 public school systems around Washington, D.C.  The WABE Guide compares enrollment, class sizes, staffing, revenue, salary and benefits information from each of the 10 counties.

It usually compares data from all 10 counties, except there was the year that MCPS refused to participate.



Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Breaking News: BOE Loses at State BOE with "Have Its Cake and Eat it Too" Legal Argument #msi #churchillhigh #artificial turf

MSI Soccer, Inc. filed an appeal with the Maryland State Board of Education concerning the Montgomery County Board of Education's decision to award the use of the Churchill High School football field to other clubs. 

At the same time, MSI filed a civil action in Montgomery County Circuit Court.

The Montgomery County Board of Education sought to have the appeal at the State Board dismissed.

In arguing for dismissal of the MSI action before the State BOE, the Montgomery County Board of Education's top outside lawyers argued the well known legal principle of "have it's cake and eat it too." (See opinion below.)  The Montgomery County Board of Education's argument was that MSI could not "have it's cake and eat it too" by pursuing an appeal in two different places at the same time. The Montgomery County Board of Education requested that the MSI appeal at the State Board be dismissed.

The Maryland State Board of Education didn't bite.

The Maryland State Board of Education did not dismiss MSI's appeal.  Instead, MSI prevailed in their request to have their appeal to the Maryland State Board of Education stayed until 60 days after the conclusion of their proceedings in civil court.

Tiger Parents

Are Montgomery County Public School parents too tough?

Did these parents force former superintendent Josh Starr to resign?  Did these same parents give Drew Houlihan the jitters?

Probably not.  If anything, our parents send their kids to school, make them sit for tests, sign them up for lots of AP and advanced testing, and even write checks whenever asked.

Not so in NY.  As in the state, not just the small enclave in Manhattan of uber expensive property.  

According to an article in today's NY Times, children across New York state are being encouraged to "opt out" of standardized testing.  

From the article:

At least 165,000 children, or one of every six eligible students, sat out at least one of the two standardized tests this year, more than double and possibly triple the number who did so in 2014, according to an analysis by The New York Times.
As the vanguard of an antitesting fervor that has spread across the country, New York’s opt-out movement already has become a political force. Just two months ago, lawmakers from both parties, at the behest of Gov.Andrew M. Cuomo, a Democrat, increased the role of test scores in teacher evaluations and tenure decisions. Those same legislators are now tripping over one another to introduce bills that guarantee the right to refuse to take tests.
and 

Only 30 of the 440 districts where data was available met the 95-percent test participation rate called for by federal requirements, a far cry from just two years ago, when almost every district complied. 
Can you picture something similar happening in MoCo?

Read the rest of the article here.

I would love to think that our group, or any other parent grassroots organization, could be as successful as the "opt out" movement in NY.  And certainly, don't believe that our local community has the power to scare away potential superintendent candidates.  Its all rhetoric.

Keep in mind - the biggest responsibility for the elected Board of Education in MoCo is to select a Superintendent of Schools.

So - how well do you think the Board of Education is holding up to their promise to voters?








Breaking: Inspector General Investigation into MCPS Charter School Operator

In October, 2014, an individual contacted the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to lodge numerous allegations regarding the school and residency programs at Crossway Community, Inc. (Crossway). This individual expressed concern about alleged abuse of children in the day care program and that program participants who complained were retaliated against and/or kicked out of the school or residency programs.
Several other program participants subsequently expressed similar concerns to our office.
...

Inquiry and Outcome:
Mr. Nelson advised us that DHCA had been made aware of assertions that Crossway residents were threatened with the loss of their project-based Housing Choice Voucher Program subsidy if they did not complete the Crossway Family Learning Academy (FLA) program and enroll eligible children in the Crossway Community Montessori School childcare facility. HOC had previously advised the OIG that if true, this could be a violation of HUD rules.

Hogan Appoints Two from Fordham Institute to State Board of Education

Press Release: State Board Of Education Has Two New Members

The Maryland State Board of Education welcomed two new members today. Chester E. Finn, Jr., Ed.D. of Montgomery County and Andy Smarick of Queen Anne’s County were appointed by Governor Larry Hogan to fill two seats on the 12-member board vacated by the departures of Charlene M. Dukes, Ed.D. and Donna Hill Staton, Esq., whose terms ended in 2014...

~~~~
Chester E. Finn, Jr.

Andy Smarick

$2,310,000,000 +/- MCPS Operating Budget for FY16 Set for Council Approval

MCPS, unions may revise contracts amid budget shortfalls

...“Union and district officials have been “scrubbing the budget” to look for potential savings, Prouty said. He said he doesn’t know where the contracts might stand at the end of the process.”...

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Montgomery County (Md) schools interim superintendent Larry Bowers will be asked to remain on job another year, per source 1 retweet 0 favorites


You Have a Credit Score...and Your Child Now has a Google Tech Score .... And they are selling it.

We work our whole lives to have a good credit score so when we purchase our first car or our first home, the process is fair and equitable.
Imagine if your score included your behavior online, since you were 8 years old.  
No need to imagine anymore.  This is what is happening.  
The state of California, where all these 'tech' companies reside, have passed over 29 privacy laws to protect their kids.  The rest of the states have either passed 'weak' student privacy bills or none.  Maryland recently passed their Student Privacy Bill, but it was gutted of the protection the California Law has b/c the tech companies spent millions to lobby against the stronger language and won.  Parent outcry was needed but few voices were spoken.
If you think this is made up, then listen to the KoJo NPR show today.  These experts tell it like it is... tech companies are working with schools not to better our children but to create profiles that are so detailed, they are calling it:
[Neuromarketing is a new field of marketing research that studies consumers' sensorimotor, cognitive, and affective response to marketing stimuli.]
There’s no such thing as anonymous in today’s digitized world, when everything from web searches to clothing sizes are saved and quantified to create a digital you. Tech companies have become identity managers- collecting our personal data as we use their services, then selling that information to the highest bidder. Join us for a Tech Tuesday conversation about the data we leave behind while we go about our lives, and how that information is being sold and used.

Guests

  • Daniel Castro Vice President, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation; Director, Center for Data Innovation.
  • Alvaro Bedoya Founding Executive Director, Center on Privacy and Technology at Georgetown Law
  • Jeff Chester Executive Director, Center for Digital Democracy

Starr Inked No Bid/No BOE Vote $900,000 Contract with Gallup as Superintendent, Gets Job with Gallup Affiliate

The former superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools is set to become the next CEO of an international association of educators.
PDK International, based in Arlington, announced Tuesday that Joshua Starr will replace William Bushaw, who served as the organization’s CEO for the past 11 years....

...PDK also publishes Kappan, a magazine for educators, and an annual poll in partnership with Gallup about American public opinion on public schools...

 http://www.bethesdamagazine.com/Bethesda-Beat/2015/Former-MCPS-Superintendent-Starr-Lands-New-Job/

Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers has already started MCPS restructuring.

When did Larry Bowers restructure MCPS administration? Any one have a clue? 

We know Mr. Bowers is a firm opponent of transparency and open government so we don't expect to see a memo or any budget details on what he has been up to in the last few months.  Mr. Bowers has a long history of major behind the scenes maneuvers with MCPS Operating Budget funds. 

By the way, what is Mr. Bowers paying himself these days? Perks? Car? Home office? Credit card? 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
...Bowers proceeded to start an administrative restructuring even though he was only planning to stay for a few months before a planned retirement...
 http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2015/05/19/how-not-to-choose-a-schools-superintendent/?hpid=z3

Monday, May 18, 2015

Lead candidate for MCPS superintendent withdraws from search - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Lead candidate for MCPS superintendent withdraws from search - DC News FOX 5 DC WTTG

Keystone Cops Take Over MCPS Superintendent Search


Keystone Cops

The search for a new superintendent to take the helm over Montgomery County Public Schools is turning into a comedy.  

At least, that is one way to read what has been happening since our former superintendent, Joshua Starr, walked away from the job a few months ago.

First, we get a secret search- but its not so secret, because several candidates talk to the media. Perhaps they didn't realize that everyone else in the process signed a confidentiality agreement.  

Then, we get a candidate who withdraws almost as soon as his name is put out as the "preferred" choice.  What exactly is the preferred choice, and how did we get to this point without a convened meeting of the Board of Education?  Did the Board of Education actually meet? 

Rumors abound as to why Drew Houlihan with-Drew his name.  Did the school system have buyers remorse? Did he forget to check out the school system?   Not a good sign if Drew doesn't do his own research.  

Tonight, the latest development is that that Alan Goodwin, a self-described "leader" of the esteemed Montgomery County Association of Administrators & Principals (MCAAP), otherwise known as the MCPS Principals Union,  asks that MCPS keep Larry Bowers, its interim superintendent, on for another year.

Is Mr. Bowers doing a good job?  Does he want to stay?  Lets see that performance evaluation!  Are we happy with the way he handled Rock Terrace fraud?  Are we happy that he let the the numerous sex offenders stay in the classrooms?  Lets talk about this.

Do we know that the current superintendent search will yield no viable candidate by September 1?  Looks like someone broke one of those precious confidentiality agreements by speaking with Alan. 

And - who gave Alan the authority to appoint an interim superintendent for a year?    Yes, Alan is a member of the MCAAP board (a Vice President for the High School Chapter), but when did this entity meet?  

When did Alan have time to talk to his membership?  He's also the principal of Walt Whitman High School, and its testing week.  Does his school run so smoothly that he can conduct union business?  Or did he just canvass a number of his friends for support over coffee (29 agree with Alan - any dissenters)?  Recall MCPS has over 200 schools, and MCAAP membership extends to other administrators in the school buildings.  According to its website, MCAAP has over 750 members.   Do the math - Alan's recommendation is based on less than 4 percent of the Administrators in MCAAP.

And what about the teachers?  The service workers union?  The parents?  Or taxpayers?

Sorry Alan - you lose your Keystone Cops badge.  Don't pretend to represent the rest of the County, or even your membership.  

As for the rest of us?  We'd like a superintendent who will serve the students, parents, teachers, and taxpayers, and be honored to take the helm in Montgomery County






Waiting for (Mr. or Ms.) Right Superintendent

If I ran the Montgomery County school system ... I would not jump to have another "interim superintendent" appointed for the next school year.



Even if some of the top prospects are gone.

I would conduct an review of what happened this year - a search failure - and what happened four years earlier with Dr. Starr's selection process.  In hindsight, this is another search failure, since Dr. S left in a huff and didn't finish out his contract.

Even the search that eventually produced Dr. Weast was an initial failure.  The BOE identified Ellie Massie, who had numerous problems and withdrew after her appointment.

So - over the last 16 years, the taxpayers in Montgomery County Maryland have endured three failed searches for school superintendents.

What I would consider -

1.  Another search firm.  Clearly, the current search firm doesn't work for us.  Maybe for other counties or school systems, but not the folks in Montgomery County.

2.  A transparent process.  Secrecy is just not working.  Same for confidentiality agreements.  Meaningful community input and crowdsourcing are the way to go.  Put the finalists names out there - as many other communities do, and gauge the reaction of the crowd.  If the candidates have something to hide, chances are the crowd will find out, and sooner is better than later.  Would Ellie Massie's financial woes have been discovered earlier?   What about Josh's short fuse?  And who knows what really made Drew Houlihan back down.

We're a tough group in Montgomery County.  We need a superintendent who can work with us - our good points and our not so good points.  The job is a great job - $300,000 and a car - who ever thought an educator could get paid a real living wage.

But please- no finger pointing at anyone outside of the current selection process as scaring away other candidates.  Candidates should have researched us before they accepted the plane ticket to interview with the BOE.  If anything, we are really a pretty tame county, considering what some of the other jurisdictions can do -- think about the test boycott in Scarsdale a few years back, and the outing of the Pearson privacy package.  Oh, yes, and the Smartboard disaster - we're still  buying them in MoCo when other counties have clearly moved on.

Kudos to Krista Brick - from mymedia.com  who provided the following:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Falling Fast -

The rise and fall of Dr. Andrew Houlihan as superintendent designate of Montgomery County Public Schools serves as a reminder that the search process is flawed - because of the secrecy and lack of transparency.  What did the Board uncover after it announced Dr. Houlihan's "preferred status" that it didn't know before?

Lets hope that Pat and her buddies have learned something.  The process should be more open to vet the candidates in the public eye - before more time is wasted on another failed candidate.

815
May 17, 2015
Montgomery County Board of Education President Patricia B. O'Neill released the following statement on May 17, 2015 regarding the status of Dr. Andrew Houlihan as a candidate to be the next superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools:
"On Sunday, May 17, 2015, Dr. Andrew Houlihan informed the Montgomery County Board of Education that he is withdrawing from consideration as superintendent of Montgomery County Public Schools.
 
"The Board appreciates Dr. Houlihan's interest in the position and wishes him the best of luck in the future. The Board will continue to focus on a search for the next superintendent of schools."

Houston: Police Tell Reporter She Can Not Be At Public School Meeting #getreadyforthis

News Station Exposes School Scandal, Gets a Shock After Sending Reporter to Public Meeting

Saturday, May 16, 2015

...community members met with Houlihan... for an interview, but its members signed confidentiality agreements...

...The board said late Thursday it reviewed applications from 25 candidates and interviewed seven in person before choosing Houlihan.
Byron Johns, education committee chair of the Montgomery County branch of the NAACP, described the community reaction he’d heard as “underwhelmed.”
“His lack of experience and track record, I would have thought, is something that would give pause,” Johns said.
A board-created panel of community members met with Houlihan on Thursday for an interview, but its members signed confidentiality agreements.
Two people close to the panel who did not have permission to speak publicly about its work said the group did not officially vote on Houlihan. One said members had questions about his level of experience and his vision, with some expressing concerns about the learning curve he would face as Montgomery deals with challenges including rising enrollment and budget shortfalls. The panel was expected to relay its thoughts to the school board.

 http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/choice-for-montgomery-schools-chief-draws-community-support-criticism/2015/05/15/1b6a2648-fb39-11e4-9ef4-1bb7ce3b3fb7_story.html

Montgomery school board names Houston administrator as ‘preferred’ superintendent candidate

...O’Neill said the Houston district’s superintendent, Terry B. Grier, had identified Houlihan as having “great potential” and was training him to become a superintendent through those different experiences, she said.
“He was rotated through a number of positions with that in mind,” she said.

... Board Vice President Michael Durso and board members Christopher S. Barclay, Jill Ortman-Fouse and Rebecca Smondrowski will visit Houston soon, O’Neill said...

 http://www.gazette.net/article/20150514/NEWS/150519506/1007&source=RSS&template=gazette

Friday, May 15, 2015

Houlihan: Consultant


Background on the Board of Education's pick for the next MCPS superintendent.
B.A. in Elementary Education, Elon University. Before moving to his current position at Shaker High School in New York, Andrew was the Second Grade Lead Teacher at Combs Leadership Magnet Elementary School in North Carolina. Prior to beginning his tenure there he served on the North Carolina State Superintendent’s Teacher Advisory Committee and the Governor’s Teacher Advisory Committee for Character in Education. In addition to teaching, Andrew holds the position of consultant for the International Center for Leadership in Education