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Thorton Spendning – What’s the old adage about insanity?

Posted by Ed C on Monday, September 17, 2007

Remember the adage: insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. I suppose a candidate for proving this would be Maryland’s Thorton spending. From the Examiner Advocates: $500M in Thornton funds misspent:

Yet this year, the special funding total still will increase to $1.3 billion, for a six-year total of almost $3.5 billion.

Reading and math scores for fourth- and eighth-graders have plateaued on the National Assessment of Educational Progress in the past five years, according to the think-tank analysis.

I was going to write more, but the Editorial: Wasted dollars waste young lives pretty much sums up what I would have liked to have said.

One thing that puzzles me though are the comments by State School Superintendent Nancy Grasmick:

State schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick dismisses NAEP scores as inappropriate for measuring achievement of Maryland’s students. “The NAEP is not aligned to our curriculum,” said Grasmick, noting that NAEP only tests a sample of students.

Okay, but according to Peggy Carr of the National Center for Education, on the NAEP test:

“It’s not aligned with any one curriculum, and that’s by design because it represents the basic skills students should know, regardless of what students are taught.”

So, do the Maryland State tests adequately measure student achievement in basic skills? What is the Maryland curriculum? I’d think that reading, writing and arithmetic would be in there somewhere. If they are, shouldn’t a bunch of teachers and schools administrators be able to figure out a test to measure it? Maybe not:

As William Kirwan, the Chancellor of the University System of Maryland said recently, “exit requirements [for high school] are not at all aligned with entrance requirements of college.”

If Maryland is going to spend $3.5 billion dollars, wouldn’t you think that a few percent of that money could be used to create (or buy) a fair, objective test?

Here is my proposal. We spend a few dollars and team up with another state, say Wisconsin (pop. rank 18) or Arizona (pop. rank 20) (Maryland pop rank is 19) or any state with a similar number of students / teachers and create tests that are given to every 4th, 8th and 10th grader. We have teachers from both states create the tests and then get them reviewed by the NAEP people, the Dept of Education or educators from the State’s universities to verify that it really tests the basics. To measure reading and writing skills, the test should include short essays on material presented in the test to minimize the impact of having the subject covered in a particular locale.

To grade the tests, we send our students tests to Wisconsin and they send us theirs. The tests would be graded by say 3 teachers each and the final score would be the average. Throw in some random sampling and quality control and we’re done. The teachers could do the grading in a day. Because each state would be doing the same thing the only “additional” cost would be for some shipping. Hopefully each state would be a neutral arbiter for grading, because it really isn’t doesn’t matter that much to the Cheese-Heads how a particular Maryland school district performs, besides we would have those quality control samples if it became an issue.

So, the total cost for both Maryland and Wisconsin would be for X teachers to create 3 tests, a day of salaries to give the test (which we would have spent anyway), a day of salaries to do the grading, some money for shipping plus whatever review and quality control would cost. So for a fraction of the $500 million that was “wasted” last year both Maryland and Wisconson could get a netrual, comprehensive assement of every student’s progress.

Would it work? Probably not, but it seems obvious the current method isn’t working, so how about we try something, anything else and see if we can get a different result this time, otherwise its just insane.

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Posted in Ed C, Education, Maryland | Leave a Comment »

HoCo Dem State Legislators Seeking to Reduce Pay of 900 School Employees

Posted by Ed C on Monday, February 19, 2007

The Democrats in the Howard State Delegation are seeking to reduce the pay of about 900 school employees with House Bill 881 . Okay, that’s not the way they portray it, but that will be the effect.  The bill will enable the Howard County Education Association to collect mandatory fees from employees that are not union members. The voting on the bill was along party lines.

As reported in the Baltimore Sun, “Union officials were jubilant. Ann DeLacy, the union president, I think this is a great achievement”

Section 5, part (v) of the bill states:

1. The agency or representation fee shall be based only on the expenses incurred by the employee organization in its representation in negotiations, contract administration, including the handling of grievances, and other activities, as required under this section.

2. Any political activities of the employee organization designated as the exclusive representative may not be financed by the funds collected from the agency or representation fee.

Seems reasonable, for those employees that may object to union activities, these provisions appear to provide some restrictions. Right?  Well, what does the union say:

“DeLacy said the extra money could be used in several ways, including more professional development support to help teachers advance their careers, for hiring staff members and perhaps for expanding union office space.”

The bottom line, the union gets more money from 900 school employees whether they like it or not.

Posted in Ed C, Education, General Assembly | 1 Comment »

SMS Update

Posted by David Keelan on Monday, December 11, 2006

I have written about this extensively.

The Baltimore Examiner reports that the Howard County Public School System has established a Technical Advisory Committee to address this and future technology needs for our schools.

Article here.

It is about time.

The implementation of the SMS upgrade has been problematic (I am being generous).  The school system did not do an adequate job of investigating the system as many many other school districts experienced the exact same problems as Howard County.  One could read the press reports from other communities and think they were reading about local coverage of our own problems.

The school system was trying to save money by avoiding a forklift upgrade of the entire system, but it backfired.  A+ for initiative.  F for implementation and due diligence.

I certainly hope that the administration will be forthcoming with the new advisory committee.

Posted in Education, Howard County | 6 Comments »