Articles Posted in Maryland Education

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American University has a story about a dinosaur camp in Hyattsville, Maryland. This is just incredibly cool. The camp is taught by a paleontologist which gives you an indication that there will be some real learning. While calculating how long and burdensome it would be to send my kids to this camp next summer, this stopped me in my tracks:

    Along this industrial cul de sac in Hyattsville, Md., there is a strip club, a bakery, and a construction site. This is an unlikely place for a classroom, but it is where Dr. Peter Kranz is leading a group of children and their parents on a journey through time.

Ah, I think that has half of the ingredients of my biggest fears as a parent. I think I’ll head back to Danny and the Dinosaur.

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teachingHistorically, there has not been a lot of honest assessment about the quality of our school teachers in Maryland. It is too sensitive, too subjective, etc.
But times are changing. Why? Because kids in too many other countries – China comes to mind – are outperforming us by whopping margins. To make meaningful change, we have to do things that are hard. Being honest – brutally honest – is just plain hard.

With that intro, the National Council on Teacher Quality ranked a random sample of three colleges in each state. The lucky Maryland winners were Mount St. Mary’s University, Salisbury University, and the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Actually, UMBC comes out looking pretty good, getting a “good” ranking. Mount St. Mary’s? Salisbury? Not so well. They were ranked “poor” in training their teachers.

Honesty is tough. This report is part of a much larger study that most colleges renounced even before the first report came out. No one wants to be judged and we don’t want to judge. One byproduct is that it indirectly maligns the good teachers that come out of these schools. But if you think these schools and principals and school officials who hire teachers are not paying attention to this report, I think you are kidding yourself.

The Baltimore Sun publishes this story, using a positive spin with the title “UMBC gets high marks for student teacher training programs.” Potential headlines such as “Don’t let your kid get taught by someone from Mount Saint Mary’s or Salisbury” or “Bad teacher alert” were apparently rejected.

I think most people would say that UMBC is a better school – statistically speaking – than Mount Saint Mary’s or Salisbury. (If you dispute this, you or your kid graduated from there.) That’s no knock by the way on either school. Steve Bisciotti and Frank Perdue graduated from Salisbury and Mount Saint Mary’s produced a number of smart people (that, admittedly, I have never heard of).

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It is so easy to find “best of” lists of just about anything now. But Google “Best Private Schools in Maryland.” What you come up with is laundry list of school but no analysis of the best test scores, user rankings of the top schools, pretty much nothing. What you are left with is where you were before the Internet era: relying on anecdote and hearsay. We don’t even have a comparative “who went to which fancy Ivy League college?” list out there.

Our kids go to a private school that we absolutely love. So why are we always looking around? Because I’m not necessarily sold on the school – I’m sold on my kids’ current teachers. A school is only as good as your kids’ teachers.

If someone puts out a U.S. News & World Report type ranking of private schools in Maryland that provided real information, they would make a fortune. In the meantime, we are left with little to evaluate schools.

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WBAL writes an article about three disciplinary incidents at Maryland schools:

  • At Western High School in Baltimore, school official canceled the school’s Senior Banquet and Senior Farewell and a series of pranks escalated to poisoning the drinking water with unknown medication and substances. ( Poisoning is probably hyperbole but you get the idea.)
  • Northwestern High School in Germantown would not allow a girl to bring her friend to the senior prom because that friend dropped out of school.
  • Two Easton High School boys were suspended for carrying a pen knife and a lighter. Their defense? They were trying to repair their lacrosse sticks.

“Is this Overkill?” is the question WBAL is raising. I have no idea. I think “get tough” is good. Obviously, there is a point where get tough’s victim becomes reason and fairness. I can’t defend the school prom thing. It is silly and it is not discipline it is just being spiteful against someone who exercised his rights under Maryland law (I’m assuming the boy was 16 or older). But the other two? I have no idea.

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“American eighth-graders score 66 points below their Japanese counterparts in math, yet almost 40 percent of American children think they’re good in math. That figure for Japan is 4 percent. “This comes from an editorial by Richard Cohen in the Washington Post. He’s mixing together studies and does not explain what 66 points even means (is a 1% or 20% difference?). But, still, you get the point.

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schoolEveryone agrees something has to be done about deficit spending. The question is what taxes (if any) should be increased and what budget items do we have to cut back if we conclude that taxes are not the only answer.

Lansdowne High School has an opinion. Landsdowne has survived and thrived in recent years in spite of economic challenges the community faced long before the recent economic downturn: half of the children qualify for free or reduced lunch. Landsdowne has shrugged off these challenges, achieving an 84% graduation rate (something you would never expect in South Baltimore after watching just one Wire episode).

But while Lansdowne may have a city feel to it, it is in Baltimore County. Like most municipalities in Maryland and around the country, Baltimore County is struggling. One potential victim: reducing the budget for teaching positions which means Landsdowne is going to have larger class sizes and cancellation of subjects.

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Maryland’s legislature passed Senate Bill 985 this week which tightens the screws a bit on for-profit colleges by tightening regulation of these institutions. Governor O’Malley supports the bill and is expected to sign it soon. Where are the feds on this? The for-profit college industry doubled spending on lobbying this year. Ah. For-profit colleges are not a bad thing.

But government offering loans for tuition which generates people looking to find opportunistic ways to grab onto that money. Some for profit colleges are probably great, some are not so great. We should figure out which is which. Here is what we do know: many people going to these colleges are not paying back their loans and are not graduating. These numbers are twice as high with for profit colleges, a statistic that should give us all cause for pause.

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Maryland State Superintendent of Schools Nancy Grasmick, the longest-serving appointed head of state schools in the country, announced yesterday that she is retiring after 20 years.

Good for her. And she probably did a great job (I’m in no position to access). I don’t like parsing the words of someone I don’t consider a public official. But this line concerns me a little bit: “I just want more flexibility in my life, and I love leaving on top because I think it’s fair to the next person.”

There are three parts to this quote. The first is that she wants more flexibility in her life. She’s earned that for sure. The second part is that she loves leaving on top.

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