Tag: public schools

Maryland Teacher in Trouble for Writing Book About School Shooting

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A Cambridge, Maryland middle school teacher has found himself in hot water after school administrators became aware that he had written two novels involving a school shooting under a pen name. Is that just smart policy in an age of school shooting– or is it “Soviet-style punishment,” as The Atlantic contends?

Charles Darwin Gets His Day!

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How do you celebrate Darwin Day, Baltimore? Act like monkeys? Don fake beards? You don’t mark it? Well, here’s how you might start, especially if it becomes a national holiday, which seems likely, which you can also read about after the jump!

This Week in Research: Absent Students and Mixed-Up Emotions

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Recent research from Johns Hopkins shows that empty desks hurt all students — not just the absent ones.

In this series, we look at the newest findings coming out of our area’s top research universities. We’ve got some great minds in Baltimore — let’s learn what they’re learning!

It’s not shocking that chronically absent students are likely to fall behind their peers; what’s more surprising is that their absenteeism can hurt their classmates with perfect attendance records as well, according to new research out of the Johns Hopkins School of Education.

Schools CEO Andres Alonso Defends Financial Management to Parents, Staff

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Baltimore schools CEO Andrés Alonso sent out the below email addressing the findings of the Office of Legislative Audits and defending his role in the school system’s financial oversight. -The Eds.

Dear City Schools Colleagues, Staff, Partners and Friends,

I am writing to share with you the results of the state’s 2012 audit of Baltimore City Public Schools. Conducted by the state Office of Legislative Audits (OLA), the audit is part of a regular schedule of state audits of Maryland school districts that focus on systems and controls, and the degree to which they allow districts to operate in the most efficient and fiscally sound manner possible. The OLA’s first audit of the district was released in 2006. Today, the office released its second audit of City Schools. Please read it here.

Maryland Gets Funding for Climate Change Education Initiative

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Look, I know that climate change is just a hoax, and even if it’s real, it’s not man-made, and anyway, so what — the earth goes through changes, man — massive changes in the weather never hurt anyone.  But being something of a left-wing nut I’m happy that Maryland schools is receiving funding from the National Science Foundation to teach about the pathological disaster fantasies of a few wacked-out, atheist scientists — you know, “global warming.”

Why I Send My Kids to Public Schools

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The below story was written by a parent whose children attend California public schools, but his arguments apply to public schools across the nation, including those in Baltimore. – The Eds.

My two children, ages 14 and 11, attend their local public schools, and have since kindergarten. Why do I send my children to public schools?

1. Public schools work.

Every year, millions of American children graduate from public schools across the country, having completed the toughest curricula in our nation’s history, surpassing standards that get tougher by the year. In our public schools, students can learn calculus, analyze complex themes by Nobel Prize-winning authors, study advanced chemistry, biology and physics, program computers, and perform music and dance in international competitions in front of crowds of thousands. Every year, public school students learn, graduate and go on to the world’s best colleges and the world’s most competitive jobs.

But what about all those news stories about bad test scores and failing schools? Aren’t many kids falling behind?

It’s true that we’ve got a huge gap between students in our country – one that grows with each grade level as kids advance from kindergarten into high school. But that’s not because we have an education problem in America. It’s because we have a large, and growing, child poverty problem in our country.

The children whose parents can afford to send them to school with money for lunch, and who have the ability to help them with their increasingly difficult homework at night, typically thrive in the public schools, as they always have. But those aren’t the majority of kids anymore in many districts.

If public education were broken, and our schools no longer had the ability to teach, then why is it you never find any of these “broken” schools in affluent communities? I wrote about this issue last spring, when I showed how the schools in my hometown of Pasadena, California were out-performing the California average in all major demographic categories – white, black and Latino, poor and non-poor – but the district’s overall test score average was below the state average because the Pasadena schools have a far above-average percentage of economically-disadvantaged children attending them.

When we raise academic standards and increase homework requirements, we widen the gap between students whose parents studied algebra, geometry and calculus – and can help them with that homework – and those who don’t have parents like that, or any parent at home, to help them.

Yet even students facing immense home challenges – single parents, foster care, parents working multiple jobs who are rarely home, parents who can’t speak English or who didn’t complete school themselves – are still learning and advancing in our public schools, even if they continue to trail those students who have the advantage of living with educated parents who earn a living wage, or better. Test scores in all socio-economic categories continue to rise in our country. Our public school teachers are doing their jobs. Our schools just need more teachers, and more resources to help close the gap between those children whose birth gave them a head start – like my kids – and those whose birth didn’t.

2. Private schools aren’t inherently better.

A University of Illinois study, published in the American Journal of Education, found that public school students scored just as well in math as students attending private schools, when you compared students of similar ethnic and economic backgrounds. The study followed earlier research that showed public school students scored slightly better (though within the margin of error) than private school students in the same income and ethnic demographic.

One of the ways that many private schools portray themselves as superior options to public schools is by cherry-picking the students they admit. It’s easy to show off students with high test scores and impressive academic achievements when you admit only the students who are inclined – through family support and personal initiative – to score and perform well.

What the University of Illinois research did is to make an apples-to-apples comparison which showed that similar students do just as well or better in a public school environment than in private schools.

I don’t want to talk anyone out of attending a private school, if that’s your choice and you can afford it. But I do want to talk you out of believing that you have to choose a private school, if you want the best for your children’s education. Your child can get an excellent education in the public schools, just as millions of other are getting. The data proves it!

3. Public school students score better than charter school students.

Many politicians, including education officials in the Obama administration, are pushing charter schools as a superior alternative to traditional public schools, which are accountable to the local community through elected school boards. Charter schools don’t have to follow the same rules as public schools, and the idea is that greater freedom flexibility allows them to succeed.

Except that they don’t. A Stanford University study found that students at charter schools were more likely to score worse than public schools students than they were to outperform those students – 37% percent of charter schools did worse than comparable public schools, while only 17% did better. The rest, 46%, scored the same.

So, if you are a parent who picks a charter school over a public school, you’re more likely to end up worse off than going to your local public school than you are to end up in a better-performing school.

4. Public schools are for everyone.

Public schools have to serve every child in a community. They don’t get to cherry-pick only the brightest or wealthiest students. And that’s a large part of their appeal to me. Attend a public school, and you’re getting to know people from every corner of your community, not just people of the same religion or social class. In public school, you’re part of the, well, public.

Public education offers every child in the community a chance at an education. While too many children remain limited in their ability to take full advantage of that opportunity due to circumstances at home, it’s important to me – and ought to be important to you – that those opportunities remain available to all. Education ought to be about lifting up, not weeding out. Without a free, public education system open to all, those who are born without money and power never will have a chance to make their lives better by developing new knowledge and skills.

5. Public schools are under attack.

So public schools work, they teach as well or better than private schools, and better than charters. They’re open to all and helping children from all races, ethnicities and economic classes. So why are so many stories and people so negative about public schools?

Here’s my theory: Public schools are run by the government. They’re the place where more people have more contact with government employees on a daily basis than any other public institution. Public school teachers are almost always members of labor unions, too.

So if you believe that government can’t do anything right, or if you believe that people are better off without labor unions representing them, a successful public school system doesn’t help you make your case, does it?

If you’re a business leader and want to distract people from the fact that more Americans are slipping out of the middle class even as you and your colleagues are getting richer than ever, how convenient would it be to fund foundations and contribute to politicians who will blame poor test scores in the hardest-hit communities on failing schools, instead of the growing child poverty problem that’s causing them?

Don’t fall for their stories. The facts show that public education works. Teachers are doing their jobs, even as society makes it harder and harder for them. We should be rewarding our public school teachers with the extra help, recognition and, yes, pay they deserve.

Here’s how you can help: Thank a teacher instead of trashing them. Offer to volunteer or contribute to a local school. If your school district is asking for a bond issue or parcel tax, vote yes. They need the money.

Don’t sign petitions asking to transfer control of local schools from school boards elected by parents to private companies accountable to no one in the community. If you choose to send your children to private schools or to homeschool, that’s fine, but please don’t tell other people that their children can’t get a good education in the public schools.

I’m sending my children to public schools because I don’t believe in the people who are attacking our public schools. Sending my children to public schools is the ultimate sign of support, and helps keep me more deeply involved in a precious public resource that needs, and deserves, our support.

Public schools work – for my children and the children of our community. That’s why I send my children to public schools, and I encourage other parents to do the same.

Robert Niles is a writer based in Southern California.  He writes the blog Truth Vigilante.

 

Maryland Schools Are Number One (and Number Three… and Number Seven… and Number Twenty-four)

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For the fourth year in a row, Maryland’s public schools we’re ranked number one in the country by Education Week magazine. (Massachusetts, New York, and Virgina were second, third, and fourth.)

Gov. Martin O’Malley credits his continued spending on education with the state’s gold medal finish and is hoping that the ranking will justify borrowing $370 million for new school construction in the next budget year.

But the ranking isn’t that simple. We may have been number one over all, but we were third in teaching and achievement and seventh in financing. In “standards, assessment and accountability” we were twenty-fourth. (Remember, there are only fifty states!) Not only that, but one of the categories is average family income, which favors an affluent state like Maryland and is not in itself a measure of education quality.

And considering Maryland’s public schools as just one big mass may be inappropriate given that there exists a wide achievement gap between between counties and across race.

But it raises the question, how should a a diverse state like ours be evaluating our progress in education?

Extra Help for Baltimore’s Brightest Students

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Smart kids in Baltimore just got a boost, thanks to the combined efforts of Johns Hopkins’ Center for Talented Youth, Baltimore City Public Schools, and the Baltimore Educational Scholarship Trust.

Some bright kids grow up in families with an abundance of financial and social resources. Others don’t, and one big block is not knowing what opportunities there are. That’s the niche that Compass, a round-up of educational resources for high-achieving students in Baltimore City, hopes to fill.

As Andres Alonso, CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools, puts it, “The most successful students have entire communities backing them, and it’s hard to think of a bigger community partner in this state than Johns Hopkins. The support they’re providing our kids is invaluable.”

The publication — available here — includes lists of local public and independent schools, as well as mentoring programs, summer opportunities, online learning programs, college application help, and extracurricular activities from chess to movie-making. It also includes helpful information about school choice, admissions lotteries, and what to do if you’re a non-city resident trying to get admitted to a city school.

So if you know a high achiever — or if you are one! — check it out. Maybe you’ll learn something you didn’t already know.

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