Build Schools. Build Neighborhoods.SENATE BUDGET COMMITTEE PASSES THE BALTIMORE CITY SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION BILL UNANIMOUSLY!We’re one step closer to achieving $1 billion for city school teachers, students, and neighborhoods!After winning a 107-30 vote in the MD House of Delegates last week, the Senate Budget and Tax Committee unanimously passed the Baltimore City School Construction bill today. Not only have we succeeded in getting more than a super majority of the votes, we are also getting significant bipartisan support.But our work is NOT DONE. The full Senate has to pass the bill before the Governor can sign it into law. The Senate floor vote could happen this week – we will send out a message asking you to join us to witness this historic event.We are also meeting with senators right now, leading up to this critical vote. If you are able to make calls or join us in Annapolis, please let us know!A HUGE THANKS to all of our partners – Baltimore Education Coalition, ACLU of Maryland, BUILD, Greater Homewood, CHAI, CLIA, Child First Authority, Baltimore Curriculum Project, Advocates for Children and Youth, the Baltimore Teacher Union, American Federation of Teachers, KIPP, Reservoir Hill Improvement Council, City Neighbors Charter, Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance, Elev8, Roland Park Parents, Baltimore Community Foundation, Fund for Educational Excellence, League of Women Voters, Seawall Development, Greater Baltimore Committee, Maryland IAF, and many more for being present and active over the past 3 months in Annapolis to move this bill forward.– Transform Baltimore Team
If you’ve been following the fate of the Baltimore City school construction bill, you were probably hoping for closure Wednesday night. The vote has been postponed to give legislators a chance to read the bill. Haven’t read the details yet yourself? Why wait? Download the PDF of HB0860 here. The bill returns to the floor March 21 at 10 a.m.
For national context on the state of the nation’s public school buildings, this article is also worth a look. It explains that a recent report estimates the cost of repairing America’s dilapidated school buildings at half a trillion dollars. Sounds like a whole lot. But in these days after the 10th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, it may be appropriate to note that Americans spent an estimated $1.7 trillion on that effort at nation building.
The time is ripe for nation building at home. Public school buildings are the right place to start.
This is what parent empowerment looks like.
Organized Parents, Organized Teachers – Working together for effective reform in America’s public schools From the Annenberg Institute on Vimeo. To get related resources on parent-teacher collaboration, visit www.realparentpower.com
These are three of the stories that jumped out at me this week. Lots of room to opine, but I am biting my tongue. (Trying my best, anyway). I said I’d spend only an hour a week on this blog. (Trying on that score, too.)
Methadone clinic next to Margaret Brent Elementary/Middle?
Denied. No sooner than it was proposed, the appeal to the zoning board was dismissed because the woman who filed it didn’t show. Big sigh of relief from parents. Adam Bednar from North Baltimore Patch covered the story:
Methadone Clinic Proposed Near Charles Village School, January 7, 2013
Zoning Board Dismisses Methadone Clinic Request, January 8, 2013
My questions: Who represents our public schools in cases like this one? Is it up to school administrators? Where is the school district in all this? And the city, which owns public school buildings? Or is it the sole responsibility of civic organizations and PTOs? Lucky for Charles Village parents, they have a strong neighborhood association and their schools have the complete support of the good people at Greater Homewood Community Corporation. The fact that the applicant didn’t show was a stroke of good luck. But what would have happened if she had?
Michelle Rhee tangos between limelight and hot seat
Michelle Rhee’s career should matter to everyone in Baltimore because it was Harlem Park Elementary/Middle that gave this notorious education reformer her start. Rhee made news this week in two ways, proving yet again her media savvy:
1) “The Education of Michelle Rhee” aired on PBS’s Frontline, January 8, 2013.
2) The national organization Rhee runs, Students First, put out their 2013 State Policy Report Card.
For coverage and criticism, see:
11 States Get Failing Grades on Public School Policies From Advocacy Group, Motoko Rich, New York Times, January 7, 2013
Michelle Rhee’s new state reform report card, Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, January 7, 2013
RheeFormy Logic & Goofball Rating Schemes: Comments & Analysis on the Students First State Policy Grades, Bruce D. Baker, School Finance 101, January 9, 2013
The Transform Baltimore campaign for 21st century city schools buildings forges ahead
No one who cares about education in Baltimore was watching Frontline on January 8, because something more exciting – and hopeful – was going on down on North Avenue. As BCPS CEO Andres A. Alonso, Ed.D. reported in a mass email:
Tonight, the Baltimore City Board of School Commissioners voted to approve the 10-year plan we proposed in November to overhaul and modernize our entire portfolio of school buildings. Over 10 years, this plan will renovate or replace 136 school buildings, vacate 26 school buildings, relocate 12 school programs and close 17 school programs. And when complete, our students will be in the 21st-century learning environments they need and deserve, and that so many of their peers in school districts across the state and nation already enjoy.
For coverage, see:
City school board OKs 10-year facilities plan: it will rely heavily on persuading lawmakers to approve measure, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, January 8, 2013
The Sun piece reports that Jimmy Gittings, president of Baltimore’s principals union, is not on board with the focus on buildings. He is concerned about the District’s mismanagement of funds. He has given voice before to his concerns about principal firings and the principal turnover rate. (In 2011, the Sun reported that only one quarter of principals remained of those who were in place when Alonso was hired.) Good that the principals’ union isn’t behind new buildings? No. Good that it’s keeping the pressure on about the destabilizing effects of high principal turnover? Yes. (It is really, really hard to build trust with a public school principal in this climate. Maybe even harder than it is to build a new school.)
That aside, thanks to the good work of a lot of good people, the state of our school buildings is an issue engaged citizens can actually do something about. To take action, check out the new Transform Baltimore website. Buses are heading down to Annapolis for a major rally February 25, 2013. And they need some bodies to fill seats at some meetings between now and then. The website says it all. Do something.
Chris from Budeke’s in Fells Point helped choose the colors: Pool party (for water), purple lace, perfect peach, jasper yellow, and green coral. These are really intense in direct sunlight despite being in the pastel range. They also each look great next to every other color. I can’t wait to see how it looks on the ground.
Lots of volunteers will be there. Ciclovia 5 will be racing down the neighborhood a couple blocks to the east – so if you’re going to that, or you’re planning on strolling down The Avenue, take a short detour and check this out. The fun starts at 9:30 a.m.
This is one of those weeks where there was too much going on to reflect. So, I collect:
1. Housing Policy and Educational Opportunity: Some Notes, Rachel Levy, All Things Education blog, April 24, 2012
If you’re interested in the questions that come up in the debates around zoned versus citywide elementary schools – issues about access and prohibitive housing costs and the importance of socioeconomic diversity to student achievement – this is chock full of important links. (Loosely related to this was a piece in the New York Times about a housing fight in Texas. Then there’s this, on political discussions in Washington, D.C., about whether charters schools can be neighborhood schools. (I don’t have time to connect the dots at the moment.)
2. Believing in City Schools, Adam Bednar, North Baltimore Patch, April 26, 2012
The Village Parents have been models of active citizenship when it comes to informing the community about the public school options in Charles Village. This week they brought a panel of parents from Roland Park, Mt. Washington, and Federal Hill – attractive neighborhoods with zoned elementary schools that have managed to lure scores of middle and upper-middle class families into their classrooms – to tell their stories. It was a great small event. Glad Adam Bednar was there to cover it. (There are obvious connections between this story and the housing concerns in the previous post, but I’ll leave that for another day.)
3. As school facilities crumble, executive suites get remodeled, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, April 26, 2012
After the heady effects of the Village Parents event, this story was a downer. The District spent $500,000 on renovations to the central office, half of which went to spruce up the executive suite of the chief of information technology. This story comes against the backdrop of a push to raise $1.2 billion – a fraction of the total needed – to fix crumbling public schools. City Schools CEO Andres Alonso chalked it up to “a bad judgment call.” Right. The story makes me question my willingness to work within a system whose leaders’ have their priorities so crooked. I’m sure I’m not alone.
UPDATE: BCPSS Chief of Information Technology Jerome Olberton resigned his post in January 2013 and took a $185,000 chief-of-staff position in the Dallas public school system.
4. Critics seek more oversight of renovations at school district headquarters, Erica L. Green, Baltimore Sun, April 27, 2012.
City Schools advocates who have to fight for funding in Annapolis have more to be disappointed about than I do. The choicest part of this follow-up piece is where the chief information officer, Jerome Olberton, explains himself by claiming that the reason he needs to improve his department’s work space is to attract more highly qualified applicants. Um, to ask the obvious, how about upgrading school facilities to attract highly qualified teachers?
5. The suite life on North Ave., Sun editorial, Baltimore Sun, April 29, 2012
As a follow-up to Erica Green’s breaking news story, the editorial board weighed in with their view on why the allocations were “more than just bad judgment.”
6. Politics and Education Don’t Mix, P.D. Thomas, The Atlantic, April 26, 2012
News of the crazy renovation expenditures for North Avenue got my mind singing a refrain that’s been in the back of my head for a long time. It goes like this: “It’s the Bureaucracy, Stupid.” I have yet to write that post. Thomas’s opinion sort of takes care of it for me.
7. PD, Jess Gartner, jessgartner.com, April 22, 2012
The newest voice in Baltimore education blogging belongs to Jess Gartner, a teacher who has way more than the average level of commitment to her students. She took on Professional Development a week ago. Ms. Gartner is optimistic about the potential of the Common Core Standards to give teachers more autonomy. She is also far more positive than I am about the potential of the free market to solve problems that I would argue are of the free market’s own making. I commented with a note on Pearson, the educational content powerhouse that is making the kind of tailored instruction that Jess Gartner imagines a difficult dream to realize. She commented back. More on that below.
8. Mass Localism for Improving America’s Education, Yong Zhao, April 24, 2012
I think Jess Gartner would like this post. God knows I do. It talks about creativity, about autocratic rule, about radical localization of decision making. It should be required reading for anyone who works at North Avenue. Especially the ones at the top who moved here from New York and Boston and Atlanta via the Dallas/Fort Worth area and… you catch my drift. Is it me, or is Baltimore run by out-of-towners?
9. A Very Pricey Pineapple, Gail Collins, New York Times, April 27, 2012
Picking up on that Pearson thread I brought up earlier was Gail Collins, who uses a pineapple as a juicy pretext for talking about privatization of public schools. The topic is a yawner otherwise, isn’t it?
10. New York’s Bargain Basement Tests, Diane Ravitch, Diane Ravitch’s blog, April 28, 2012
Diane Ravitch started her own personal blog this week. In this post, she explains the appearance of said pineapple in a test item on a New York state test that Pearson had produced, originally for Texas. Pearson seems to be the goose that laid the golden pineapple.
SPECIAL BONUS: The Common Core: The Technocracts Re-engineer Learning, Anthony Cody, Education Week Teachers’ “Living in Dialogue” blog, April 27, 2012
Like everyone else who reads opinions online, I gravitate toward those that articulate what I already believe. I try to do more than that – to read people I disagree with, to argue with people I wish I agreed with, to question my own positions, which are highly flexible on all but my worst days. This piece articulated all my misgivings about the Common Core. It also made me want to move to Nebraska, a state that held out against No Child Left Behind because its education commissioner values local-level initiative. Just like me. (Not that I have anything against imported fruit.)