Howard County Maryland Blog

Local Politics and Current Events

Bold Education Initiatives – In Your Best Interest KU

Posted by bsflag2007 on Thursday, December 7, 2006

 Most of us think of Howard County Public Schools and are proud of their reputation and general excellence – and rightly so.  We have lots to be proud of.

Yeah!  Rah! Rah! …

So much for the cheer-leading.   Now for some actual “leading”.

Our new BOE has been sworn in (minus the to be appointed member).  Do we want more from this group than to “not screw it up?”

I do.

While the HCPSS serves many children quite well, and many children adequately …. there are quite a few more than most readers of this blog would think who are being truly disserved.  We have drop outs … we have failures, we have lost futures and dismal outlooks.   We have wasted potential, wasted resources, and places we could and should be doing much better.  And frankly, I’m not particularly satisfied with “adequate” – t least not for my kid.

Whether we will take some bold initiative … or whether we’ll gloss over problem areas and bask in our myopic status quo will be largely determined by the Ulman appointee.

I have the impression that our new exectuive has lofty personal and professional goals, not just for HoCo but for KU.  With all the talk about growth and development, attracting business, shepherding the base expansion…. let’s not forget that the cornerstone, the foundation, of HoCo’s success is its’ school system.

If Mr. Ulman wants to make a national splash … a significant name for himself — he ought to look “outside the box” (i really hate that phrase) for some truly inspired approaches, reforms, and possibilities.

Smart growth and education reform go hand in hand.   If Mr. Ullman makes education initiatives a priority… and backs them with growth, zoning, development directions … he can pave the way not only for HoCo to thrive in the next 25 years…. but for his own political immortality.

Talk about “standing on the shoulders of giants” —- HoCo has a great start…. improving on this base would be “noteworthy”.

Specifically: we truly need to rethink the traditional public education model.

For the hard to reach/chronically underachieving populations – can we just stop pushing around the same playing pieces on the same game table and try something new/bold/innovative… that just might actually work?

see: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/11/26/AR2006112600648_3.html

Excerpts from above article from Wash Post—

“He was only in 10th grade but already 18 _ and still failing many classes. It’s no mystery why Rico Simpson dropped out of Canton High School.”

no kidding!  Didn’t “we” just have an incident in a fairly local school district where a student was ambushed in the school parking lot – premeditated murder attempt.  Did you happen to catch the part where the “high school student” was 20 years old?  20 years old?  Well, I give him “props” for sticking with it. (yes I realize it was an alternative program, etc…. I especially like the part where they shoot craps during the day in the halls)

“educational reformers in some of the most troubled places have decided old, gradual approaches that don’t work must be uprooted and replaced with more radical strategies that might actually succeed…..”  this is the state of Mississippi….. “bold initiative by state education Superintendent Hank Bounds, who wants to reinvent the wheel when it comes to public schools.”  including  …… ” the creation of seven career pathways that students in grades 10 through 12 can select.”

One size does not fit all – not in panythose, and not in education.

“Online courses, flexible classroom hours, and more study options that include dual college credit are among the components he believes will reduce the dropout rate.”

I believe these are some pretty good ideas

“And that’s hardly the only cost when students leave school early.”… “When they drop out of school they drop out of the community, and the associated cost at the other end is an increased crime rate _ not only law enforcement, but eventually prison. You have other costs in welfare,” said Jay Smink, director of the National Dropout Center at Clemson University.

Again – No Kidding!   Money spent on education is money not spent on prison beds, welfare benefits, other tolls on the social fabric.

“…..In Houston, Texas, the public school district began an initiative three years ago to reclaim dropouts by sending out volunteers to knock on the doors of missing students. “… “The volunteers, recruited from the city’s corporate community, “recovered” about 800 dropouts in a district of roughly 250,000 students for the 2005-2006 school year”.

“Another successful strategy for reducing dropout rates can be found in the Guilford County public schools in Greensboro, N.C., Smink said.”… “The district has opened six middle colleges _ high school classrooms set on junior college campuses _ that educate students who had left school or were at risk of becoming a dropout.”… “Surrounded by college students, the high schoolers feel comfortable pursuing a diploma or a working toward a two-year associate’s degree, said principal Tony Wadlington.”..  “Since the Greensboro district started middle colleges its dropout rate has decreased _ from 5.97 percent in 2000 to its current 2.98 percent.”

Mississippi, North Carolina and Texas ….. sometimes when the problems are SOOO big, it is “easier” to try big changes — and when the problems “seem” small we are more tempted to keep trying to “tweak” them instread of being more bold.  I once “tweaked” the legs on a chair until it was a stool.

Mr. Ulman – your appointee needs to have some visions as well as a back-bone…. and if you want to be president some day, take this place in time and hitch your wagon to combining smart growth and education reform…. the two most important things to most American families are their children and their homes…. it doesn’t get any more personal than that…. or any more politically potent.

Cindy Vaillancourt

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6 Responses to “Bold Education Initiatives – In Your Best Interest KU”

  1. b.santos said

    Cindy,

    It is not my intention to repudiate all of the ideas contained in your post. Some of them are certainly worth exploring; however, after reading your post, I got the feeling that you wanted to impose the experimental “self-paced education” that was implemented at Wilde Lake High School during the 1970’s and 80’s. I have many friends that worked through that curriculum. It was beneficial for some, tolerated by most, and a total mess for others.

  2. Freemarket said

    This was a great post. I think one option for education could be government issued vouchers that would let parents have the option of private schools if they wanted too. In Howard County, the government run school system is good. So good in fact, real estate in this county sells at a premium, which in partly attributed to the schools. Sort of like if the government ran grocery stores, a selling point would be “This community has great grocery stores.” I strongly agree that one size does not fit all in education. Especially since the vo-tech school was closed, the HoCo public schools have not met the needs of students that are not college bound. Privatization in one form or another is something that should be looked into.

  3. bsflag2007 said

    To B. Santos,
    I apprecaite your phrasing very much — and I agree completely — I also recoil at the thought of “imposing” “experimental” anything on the general population.
    Your response highlights two common themes when reforming public education comes up —
    — 1) all or nothing thinking, ie. reforms/major changes that are applied to broadly — or dismissed because of the fear of overly broad applications and
    2) the unfortunate history of “experimental education programs.

    Most of the “radical reforms” which are seeing success are really more “reactionary” than “revolutionary”…./ what’s more tried/true/traditional than apprenticeships for tradesmen?? (vo-tech) …. or mastering one skill before moving on to another? … allowing young adults to continue their educations while earning a living or taking care of a family?

    To me, it is all pretty basic… the old, “take care of the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves…” — if each individual’s needs are met — we won’t have an education crisis.

    Cindy V.

  4. bsflag2007 said

    Freemarket-
    Thank you for the kind words.

    I wish I could be as certain about the place of vouchers for private placements as you are.

    I believe in public education — I consider it a cornerstone of our democracy. I absolutely believe nothing less than our contry’s future rests on the quality of public education. For better or worse. For that reason – I hesitate to see resources diverted from public education.

    I particularly worry about the use of vouchers for educational establishments which promote any particular religious organization. But that’s another issue.

    However – the state run monopoly on education … and the roles played by labor unions and commercial interests and the gazillion different hands in the public till via schools make them a very special social/political/economic project.

    Local jurisdictions which have allowed themselves to be overrun by the self-serving interests of the assorted parties have , imho, already abdicated their authority and ought to lose the special priviledges and protections of their “monopoly” status.

    Using a “free market” analogy — all schools are publically held companies and have to answer to their stockholders — when these compaines fail due to corruption, incompetence or plain old bad business practices…. the stockholders ought to have recourse and options.

    So… from that perspective – I think the idea of “vouchers” as penalties… rebates, even…. might play a role.

    Though I think I would lean more toward charter school type alternatives where the “vouchers” could be spent than traditional private schools.

    Cindy V.

  5. Creed said

    Hello,
    I have never responded to this blog but felt that your post was fantastic. Though I do not necessarily agree with everything that you mentioned, I do believe that “out of the box” thinking (and I dislike that overused phrase as well) will be necessary for the educational system, government, AND the non profits in this community.
    Here’s to creativity…

  6. Thank you. I’m not sure I agree with everything I mention, either. For the record, I don’t consider that a prerequisite for open discussion. Anyone who agrees with everything I say probably ought to be evaluated by a trained professional…they’d have to be “schitzo”.

    Cindy V.

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