Tag: education reform

Maryland Schools Get a D+, Says Controversial Education Expert

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where we rank

If Maryland’s education policy experts were middle schoolers, they’d probably be grounded for the foreseeable future for bringing home grades like this. According to StudentsFirst, Michelle Rhee’s advocacy organization, our state’s educational policies and reforms get a D or a D+ in the key areas of empowering parents, elevating teachers, and spending wisely. Ouch.

Johns Hopkins’ Carey Business School Announces Major Shift

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The Carey Business School, an offshoot of Johns Hopkins, has tended to be the institution’s least glamorous sister. Founded in 2007 (but with origins dating back a century before that) thanks to a $50 million donation from William Polk Carey, the freestanding school is too new to have established itself as an MBA powerhouse; instead of banking on a storied history, the program has opted to make its name through innovative programs. And now they’re revamping that system yet again.

The reorganization, announced this week, will shift the school’s focus to business as it relates to health care and the life sciences. The move seems like a smart one, both because Hopkins is such a medical powerhouse and because more and more business is happening in the health care arena.  “Health care is approaching 20 percent of the national gross domestic product, and it’s a key factor in the costs of any economic model, whether in manufacturing or services,” said the school’s interim Dean Phillip Phan. “Understanding the complexities of the modern health care industry is a crucial skill for any business manager. For those who manage in the health care sector, Johns Hopkins is the place to learn.”

The change-up is certainly an overhaul, but will build on previous programs and more closely tie the business school to the university’s other departments. Starting this fall, the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine will start offering a dual MBA/MD degree with Carey, and professors from other divisions are looking into joint research efforts with the school.

So what of the much-vaunted Global MBA program, designed to “reinvent” the traditional MBA, which was launched by Carey in 2010? Well, that’ll still be an option. “This new focus doesn’t mean we’re altering other, traditional areas where we’re strong,” Phan said. “We feel strongly that the best business schools have a mix of people representing various industries, sharing their views and experiences. The intention is not to have a school full of people from just one industry.” But by branding itself as the place to go to study the business of medicine, Carey might’ve just made a smart move.

UM Sends Its Best and Brightest Math Stars to High-Needs Schools

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Everyone’s got a theory about how to close the education gap, and they range from the lofty to the simple. Starting this year, some members of the University of Maryland College of Education will try to change one small thing:  putting well-trained, quality math teachers in high-needs schools.

“We’ve known for years that there are not enough well-trained, quality mathematics teachers to meet the staffing needs of schools,” says UM assistant professor Lawrence Clark. The reasons are many — one big one being that those of a mathematic or scientific bent have the potential to earn way more in the private sector. In an attempt to fill the gap, some schools are recruiting teachers from the Philippines, while some teaching programs offer alternative pathways to certification. This is working to a certain extent, but the lack is still there — and high-needs schools are the hardest hit.

Enter the National Science Foundation, which is teaming up with the university to fund 42 $14,000 scholarships to juniors and seniors interested in teaching math in high-needs middle or high schools. The chosen Noyce Scholars (named after Robert Noyce, who co-founded Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel) will have to commit to two years of service for every one year of scholarship support. The program will also provide support for its students during those tough early years of teaching.

Clark says he hopes that the project will “dispel myths about high needs schools and show students that high needs schools can also be good schools with great teachers, supportive parents, and amazing kids.” The first group of Noyce Scholars will be chosen this spring.

Pointless Silos or Will Rebuilding Baltimore City Schools Mean Shutting Some Down?

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Two movements are promising to rock the foundations of public education in Baltimore. One is the Transform Baltimore campaign, which is drumming up the political will to finance $2.8 billion for renovation and construction of Baltimore City Public Schools buildings. The other is BCPS CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso’s plan to shutter at least a dozen schools by 2014 — because their buildings are crumbling.

The two movements don’t appear to be operating in concert. Transform Baltimore’s $2.8 billion figure is taken from a report put out in June 2010 by the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland’s Education Reform Project. Authored by Frank Patinella and Bebe Verdery and funded by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “Buildings for Academic Excellence: A Vision and Options to Address Deficient School Facilities in Baltimore City” thanks CEO Dr. Andrés Alonso for answering questions. But the collaboration seems to have ended there.

According to Erica L. Green’s reporting in The Baltimore Sun, BCPS will release the first draft of its own assessment — a $135,000 independent study — this month. That objective report will ground the CEO’s decisions about which schools are beyond repair. (The schools to be closed for failing by other measures — such as test scores — are not included in the dozen or more figures cited above.)

Edweek just published an article on the effects of school closures on district budgets and academic performance. (To sum up: They don’t help budgets much, nor do they hurt student performance as much as you’d think.) The article also touches on the pitfalls districts should avoid — namely, political fallout due to a breach of public trust. (Adrian Fenty’s fate as mayor of Washington, D.C. — the mayor who appointed schools chancellor Michelle Rhee — is a case in point.)

It seems hugely important, at least to me, that thinking about improving schools and thinking about improving neighborhoods happen together. Some community organizations are already doing that. But these efforts are doomed to fail if Baltimore City Public Schools, the Baltimore City Planning Office, and Baltimore’s many nonprofit organizations, however consolidated, operate as self-contained silos.

Dr. Alonso has an opportunity to model systems thinking for a generation of Baltimore City Public School students. He can be the CEO who worked with local nonprofit organizations, community groups, and city planners to set an urban public school system on a better course. Or he can be the superintendent who closed a bunch of schools because an independent study gave him permission.

Some Questions:

Should Baltimore City Public Schools’ efforts to address failing infrastructure operate in tandem with Transform Baltimore’s efforts? Why? Why not?

Might BCPS challenge itself to think in interdisciplinary ways about how to “right-size the district”? For example, rather than rely on one report by an independent assessment team, could BCPS enlist geography, urban planning, and urban studies teams from Baltimore-based colleges and universities to work on solving systemic issues of poor attendance, high attrition, and low enrollment alongside BCPS?

In the same interdisciplinary vein: Has Transform Baltimore — the nonprofit consortium spearheaded by the ACLU-MD — considered joining up with TransForm Baltimore – The Zoning Code Rewrite – which is a project of the Baltimore City Planning Office (and currently accepting public comments on its first draft)?

Additional source + recommended reading here.

Edit Barry writes the blog Re:education in Baltimore — this post is original to Baltimore Fishbowl. Find her on [email protected]

Education Reform Theories Get Tested in East Baltimore

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According to friends of mine who’ve gotten Master’s degrees in education, going to school for teaching can sometimes feel a little backward — after all, the most important learning happens when you’re at the front of the classroom.

Plenty of learning will happen for teachers and students alike when Johns Hopkins’ School of Education and Morgan State’s School of Education and Urban Studies take over the daily operations of an East Baltimore school this fall, putting all those theories about “best teaching practices” and “urban-based K-8 education” to the test.

The dean of the Hopkins School of Education says he’s looking forward to putting education reform ideas into practice:  “Johns Hopkins is involved with this school because we can make a difference. We are committed to reducing the achievement gap and making this a demonstration site of best practices. We like to say this is a small school that will leave a big footprint.”

And the school won’t be staying small for long. As it stands now, the charter school has been operational for 3 years, and serves approximately 260 students. In a couple years, though, it’ll re-open as a 90,000 square foot facility with a capacity for 540 students, the first new school built in East Baltimore in a quarter century.

And in an ideal world, Hopkins employees who live and work in the area will happily send their kids to the public school that their institution helped to reform. A lofty-but-reachable goal? Or an impossible dream? Let us know what you think.

School Day Gets Ever Longer…for Some

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Three Baltimore schools will serve as testing grounds for a new expanded school day program, thanks to the TASC Expanded Learning Time initiative. According to the Open Society Foundation, one of the program’s funders, “these schools will partner with local community organizations to provide students with engaging, enriching activities that reinforce classroom lessons” after the normal 3 PM closing time.

President Obama himself has trumpeted programs to keep kids in school longer, either through lengthening the school year or extending the school day. Advocates claim that more time in school leads to better performance and greater rates of on-time graduation. And the more time kids are at school, the less time they have to get in trouble. (It’s also worth keeping in mind that U.S. students have an incredibly short school year [180 days], compared to other industrialized nations. Japanese students spend 243 days in school each year; even the notoriously lazy French have 5 more school days per year than we do!)

Rather than keeping kids sitting at desks for 3 bonus hours a day, TASC schools fill the extra time with “rich and varied” activities from sports to academic enrichment. With the traditional school day increasingly taken up by test-prep activities, TASC makes room for extracurriculars, experiments, art classes, PE, and other hands-on “extras.”

It’s a shame, though, that experiential learning, fun projects, and other ways to keep kids engaged are relegated to the “extras” column. Does this program sound like the right kind of move to you?

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