Showing posts with label education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label education. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 12, 2024

Rockville Catholic school students meet Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh

Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh hosted students from a Rockville Catholic school at the court Monday. Eighth graders from St. Elizabeth Catholic School were given the grand tour of the Court building by Kavanaugh, a Catholic and native of Montgomery County. Kavanaugh is well-known for volunteering his time as a basketball coach. His tour brought the students to what the school termed "the highest court in the land," a basketball court located above the courtroom. Kavanaugh also participated in a question-and-answer session with the students. 

Photos courtesy St. Elizabeth Catholic School

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville wins 1st Amendment Press Freedom Award

For the fourth time, Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School in Rockville is one of the recipients of the annual 1st Amendment Press Freedom Award. The award "recognizes private and public high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers, with an emphasis on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content." Winners are determined by a committee made up of representatives from the Journalism Education Association, National Scholastic Press Association, and Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society. Twenty-eight schools received the award this year, the most recipients ever. But Charles E. Smith is the only school in Montgomery County and the State of Maryland to win.

Friday, September 15, 2023

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore joins President Biden in announcing adult education funding

Maryland Governor Wes Moore (D) joined President Joe Biden (D) at an event at Prince George's Community College in Largo Thursday, where Moore announced he is directing $17.4 million in funding toward adult education. More than half of the money will come from the federal government, and the remaining $7.9 million will be redirected from the Maryland Department of Labor budget. The recipients of the funds will be all 16 Maryland community colleges, two local K-12 school systems (Somerset and Worcester counties), three community-based organizations, one public library system and the state correctional education system. One of the three community-based organizations is Classroom to Community in Montgomery County.

“Together, we will grow an economy that works for everyone, from the bottom up and the middle out,” Gov. Moore said. “President Biden has been very clear about his vision to empower and educate workers to grow the middle class. It’s a vision I stand by because it’s good for Maryland, good for our people, and good for our economy. Together, we are going to work in partnership to follow the president’s lead, build out our workforce, grow the economy, and win this decade.” 

Moore recently expressed his concern about the state's moribund economy, and the resulting lack of revenue that will limit his ability to fund initiatives he has proposed. That concern was heightened by the announcement this week that Maryland's Transportation Trust Fund is running out of money.

Biden and Moore were also joined by Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer (D) and Maryland's U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D) and Chris Van Hollen (D). The president was introduced by Prince George's County Community College student Sadé Davis.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Pepco makes donation to Montgomery College

has made a donation to Montgomery College, as part of a $650,000 package of donations to local community colleges and historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The money will go to workforce development in the energy field, teacher training and scholarships, the Exelon-owned utility announced in a press release. Montgomery College has campuses in Rockville, Germantown and Takoma Park.

“We hope this funding helps open the door to educational opportunities that all too often are just a dream for many young people within our communities,” Rodney Oddoye, Senior Vice-President of Governmental, External and Regulatory Affairs for Pepco Holdings, said in a statement. “Through our partnerships with local community colleges, HBCUs, and workforce development programs like the DC Infrastructure Academy, we are not only expanding the possibilities for our youth, we are building the talent pool for the future energy workforce.”

Monday, December 28, 2020

Rockville's ABC's & 1-2-3's teacher supply store closing

A rare teacher educational-supply store in Rockville is sporting a sign that has become ubiquitous in store windows countywide in recent years: Going Out of Business. ABC's & 1-2-3's at 825 Rockville Pike in Wintergreen Plaza is now holding a closing sale. A sign in the window advertises a 50%-off sale.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Montgomery County Board of Education candidate forum scheduled for March 16

A Montgomery County Board of Education candidate forum has been scheduled for Monday, March 16, 2020 at 6:30 PM at the Potomac Community Center, located at 11315 Falls Road in Potomac. Candidates vying for the three open seats on the board have been invited to participate.

Thirteen candidates are competing for the At-Large seat; the two top vote-getters in that April 28 primary race will advance to the General Election in November. The two candidates running in each of the District races are unopposed, and will face-off in the General Election. Key issues are the school system's funding and budget, the achievement gap, academic decline over the last decade, student safety and a highly-controversial redistricting study now underway that some on the current board have openly said should include the forced busing of students to schools outside of their communities.

The forum's sponsors include the Montgomery County Federation of Republican Women and its four clubs, as well as the GOP Asian-American Association and the Republican Legislative District 15 Political Action Committee.

Friday, September 27, 2019

Rockville's St. Raphael School named 2019 Blue Ribbon School; MCPS shut out

Montgomery County Public Schools were shut out again in the U.S. Department of Education's 2019 Blue Ribbon Schools list. Not a single MCPS school was named a Blue Ribbon School this year, and it's not the first time this decade this has happened. MCPS performance has steadily declined across the board since 2010. Its failure to close the achievement gap certainly did not help earn an award that partly considers schools' success in doing so among its criteria. Overall academic excellence is the other major consideration for recognition as a Blue Ribbon School.

The failure to show in this annual federal measure of academic excellence is just the latest embarrassment for MCPS. Surging drop-out rates, questions about student safety, failure to fully-vet staff, repeated sexual abuse scandals, a persistent achievement gap, poor test scores, and a chronic class attendance problem have already tarnished what was once considered the premiere school district in the Mid-Atlantic. MCPS has also begun to earn a national reputation as lightweight in academic rigor; a new, easy grading system has really taken the shine off top marks, and when students continued to fail final exams, MCPS simply got rid of the exams. Neither move will impress college admission officials as word spreads.

Unlike Montgomery County, public schools from Calvert, Howard, Prince George's and Worcester counties were recognized on this year's Blue Ribbon Schools list. Only one Montgomery County school made the list this year, and it was a Catholic school - St. Raphael School in Rockville. Students there celebrated with Chick-fil-A, according to the Catholic Standard. 

Montgomery County officials have continued to throw greater amounts of money at MCPS, with no positive result, clearly indicating that the problem is not funding alone. With Montgomery County floundering on every front from education and economic development to crime and traffic congestion, it's clear we need new leaders who actually know what they are doing, and will put the best interests of children ahead of their own political calculations. We must overcome a political cartel that suffers from a severe case of Lake Wobegon Syndrome, and accept that this County is in real trouble, folks.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Story House bookmobile opens bricks-and-mortar bookstore in Rockville

The Story House, a trolley bookmobile marketing books to children and families in Rockville for the last two years, has just opened a bricks-and-mortar location at Rockville Town Square. It is located inside of Dawson's Market at 225 N. Washington Street. Books also remain for sale aboard the trolley. The Story House at Dawson's Market is open from 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM.

Friday, September 28, 2018

MoCo school board approves new redistricting criteria that would force busing of students from "W school" clusters

Move to disconnect
home address from 
coveted school districts 
would reduce home values

Your vote in November's election will now literally determine the future value of your home. The Montgomery County Board of Education this week approved new criteria for redistricting of public schools that would force the busing of students from affluent school clusters in Bethesda, Potomac and Rockville. In their comments prior to the 5-3 vote, some board members specifically cited students in the "W school" clusters in the southwest part of the county as having to be bused to other schools around the county. Because the new criteria puts the heaviest weight on diversity, the policy as written could only be achieved by busing students out of their currently-assigned Walt Whitman, Walter Johnson, Winston Churchill and Thomas S. Wootton clusters (the districts to which the term "W school" are most commonly applied).
Montgomery County Council President Hans Riemer
has made no secret of his desire to change who gets
to attend the most coveted schools in areas like
Bethesda, Rockville and Potomac
Montgomery County Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Craig Rice have openly endorsed the idea of detaching homeownership or residency from school cluster assignment in the affluent southwest of the County for several years. But the BOE move this week is the first formal codification of this desire in County regulations. Rice mocked Whitman parents from the Council dais in 2016, declaring in an entitled-sounding voice, "I moved to the Whitman cluster, and therefore I must go to Whitman High School! People lose sight that somehow you attending Whitman is better than attending Gaithersburg or Northwest. That should not be the case," Rice said. "It should not be about what your zip code is."

On Monday night, BOE members took aim at those same parents. Jill Ortman-Fouse, who ran unsuccessfully for the Council and doesn't face reelection for the Board, also criticized the idea that "when you buy a house, you buy a school. And [parents] even said that in their emails. They said 'I bought my house for that school.'" Chiding those parents, she said, "all of those schools are owned by all of the taxpayers. They aren't owned by certain neighborhoods." She denounced the belief that "only certain kids get to go to those schools." Jeannette Dixon added that "an easy commute to school" should not be a criteria for school assignment.

Board member Judith Docca explicitly called out the "W school" clusters, and said that busing of students must include those students from more affluent families. Of those who spoke during the public comment period prior to the vote, Docca noted, "only one speaker mentioned a W school. And that's where some of the students are that need to interact with some of our other students. That is not happening. When we talk about all students, we mean those students as well. I know that it's not going to be easy to do."

That could be the understatement of the decade. If there's any doubt this move is coordinated between the BOE and councilmembers like Riemer and Rice, note their similar talking points. In 2016, Rice declared that "boundary changes used to be a third rail." Monday night, Ortman-Fouse called redistricting "the third rail."

BOE members acknowledged the new criteria, which would certainly reduce home values in the "W schools" communities, will be a hard sell. Ortman-Fouse referred to parents hitting the "panic button." "There will be unintended outcomes," MCPS Superintendent Jack Smith - who declined to take a position for or against the new criteria - warned, "and we will all live with them."

Smith is usually dead wrong on most topics, having failed to keep students safe or reduce the achievement gap during his term, but he made one of the best points during the discussion. In regards to what most determines student achievement, "the secret is what happens in that classroom," he said.

The superintendent is correct. Busing did not lead to equal education. Instead, we have an achievement gap that persists to this day in America. You can bus a child to another school, but they still come from the same income-level family as they would have in their neighborhood school. If diversity of race or socioeconomic background were the top factor in academic success for a school, Whitman or any number of elite private schools in the area would be among the worst-performing. They are not.

Some proponents of the new criteria are predictably quick to call opponents "racist." In reality, the new criteria is what is racist. This is a dodge by MCPS to avoid the actual challenging work of improving the worst-performing schools in the County. The Council has wasted yet another term, failing to reduce the achievement gap and geographic educational inequities in areas like East County and the Upcounty. 

Dropping final exams has already led to MCPS gaining an "Easy A" reputation across the country, according to the Washington Post. This will hurt Montgomery County public school students in the college admissions process over time, if not reversed. Now MCPS is dropping the PARCC tests, for the same harebrained reason that the kids can't pass the tests. Can't pass the test? Get rid of the tests, our County "leaders" say. Can't improve failing schools? Bus kids around to try to artificially-but-slightly boost test scores, even if it causes scores at the top schools to drop.

This is the definition of "the soft bigotry of low-expectations."

As Jaime Escalante proved three decades ago, student groups of any racial or economic background can perform at the highest levels. It's the teacher and the curriculum that make the difference. Contrary to Riemer's claim that there must be rich, white students in a classroom for black and Latino students to excel, Escalante's students achieved high scores without "Richie Rich" sitting at the next desk.

How do we know "the secret is what happens in that classroom," as Smith said? After Escalante left Garfield High School in East Los Angeles, student math performance tanked. Kind of like Algebra test scores in Montgomery County in recent years.

Redistricting and busing could be a post-election surprise for many parents, especially with no accurate media coverage of Monday night's change. Several schools are already due for new or changed assignments before the end of this year, such as those impacted by a new high school opening for Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg. The clusters affected in that redistricting will be Wootton, Richard Montgomery, Quince Orchard, Northwest and Gaithersburg. Clarksburg Village #2, another new school, will also be districted this fall. Development pressures in Bethesda and Silver Spring make boundary changes inevitable in those areas, especially with elected officials showing a new boldness to touch that "third rail."

According to board veteran Patricia O'Neill, who voted for the new criteria, boundary changes will be "happening pretty darn soon." Docca referred to the implementation of the new criteria as "the operation."

Impacts of the changes are clear: reduced home values when a particular address no longer guarantees entry to coveted schools, perpetuation of failure at failing schools countywide, longer bus commutes for already-tired students, and a continuing achievement gap. 

Can "the operation" be stopped? Yes. By electing Council candidates who oppose this dodge of the County's fundamental responsibility to provide good schools in every neighborhood. If elected, I would use the ultimate power to force the BOE to drop the new criteria. It is the County Council that funds MCPS. The BOE would have a hard time operating with no funding.

If you currently live in an area with coveted schools, your vote on Tuesday, November 6 will literally determine the future value of your home, and the futures of children countywide. We need leaders who won't sidestep the major challenges we face for another four years, including failing schools and an unacceptable achievement gap. The failed solutions of the past won't move us forward into the future.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

MoCo school board thumbs nose at Rockville parents in Richard Montgomery ES #5 boundary decision

Option B was approved in a split
vote by the school board Monday night
The Montgomery County Board of Education will bus some kids out of their home neighborhoods to the new Richard Montgomery Elementary School #5, after choosing Option B out of five redistricting proposals Monday night. While it was far from the worst of the options to parents' minds, it still will result in longer travel times for a good number of Rockville elementary school students. Those students would have originally attended Beall ES and Ritchie Park ES in their own neighborhoods; now they will be bused to RMES#5.

The board's decision maintains a high number of FARMS students at Twinbrook ES, students who qualify for free and reduced-price meals, meaning they will be able to continue going to their neighborhood elementary school.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Corner Bubble, Fusion Academy coming to Rockville Town Center

Rockville Town Square has found a tenant for the briefly-vacant Ev and Maddy's space at 101-C Gibbs Street. Corner Bubble appears to be a bubble tea shop.

Meanwhile, up the road at 275 N. Washington Street, The JBG Companies have found a different type of tenant - a school. Fusion Academy will be a private school offering one-to-one teacher-student learning for middle school and high school students.

With one teacher and one student per classroom, Fusion Academy is designed for children who are not being served well by traditional class sizes. These include gifted students, and those interested in pursuing acting or athletics.

Fusion will hire 15-20 teachers at first, and could have as many as 35 staff members once the school is at full capacity. They will also offer customized schedules tailored to each student's needs. Homework is done at the Homework Cafe at school.

Allison Mapes, who will be the Head of School, is originally from Virginia. “I’m eager to return to the area and to connect with students and parents in a way that fosters true educational, emotional and social growth,” Mapes said in a statement Monday. “Having taught in many private and public school settings, I’m impressed by Fusion’s ability to connect directly with each student, making them feel valued and treasured, which is what we strive to remind them of every day.”

Fusion has schools in Alexandria, Washington, D.C. and Tysons. Fully accredited, the first location was founded 27 years ago in San Diego. The school will share JBG's recently-constructed mixed-use building with Kung Fu Tea and Lavande Patisserie.

Friday, September 30, 2016

Humiliation: No MCPS school makes 2016 National Blue Ribbon School list

Just months after the Montgomery County Council hiked property and recordation taxes to record highs, and falsely claimed it was to benefit schools (but without any major change in education strategy, meaning we're going to keep going the way we've been going - a.k.a. the definition of insanity), there is more alarming evidence that your tax pain is in vain. The U.S. Department of Education has just released its list of 2016 National Blue Ribbon Schools - and not a single Montgomery County Public School is on the list.


We've been told by the Montgomery County political cartel that, while we don't enjoy the booming private sector economic growth of states like Texas, we should still feel superior because we "invest in our schools." Fact check: Montgomery County suffered a humiliating shut-out on the list, while red states like Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia and Louisiana cleaned our clock, with multiple public schools making the cut. In fact, 26 Texas schools in all made the 2016 list. Even a red county in Maryland like Anne Arundel has public school representation on the new list.

It turns out that the excess money spent on MCPS without a plan has been money down the toilet. Ironically, you can be almost certain that grades will rise in MCPS schools in the future - but only because the school system recently adopted an easier grading system for that very reason. Elected officials impotent to solve MoCo's education decline? No problem! Just get rid of final exams and inflate everybody's grades. God help us.


P.S. Congratulations to Montgomery County's St. Patrick's parochial school, which made the 2016 list as a non-public school.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Black students more likely to be suspended by MCPS than by Texas schools

Everything's bigger in Texas - except racial disparities in public school discipline policies, apparently. A new study by Texas Appleseed helps provide further context to a recent report that showed African-American students in Montgomery County Public Schools are 3 times as likely to be suspended from school as white and Asian students.

In Texas, there are also racial disparities in school discipline. But the Texas Appleseed report, titled "Suspended Childhood", found that black students in that state are less likely to be suspended than black students in Montgomery County. Black students in Texas are more than 2 times as likely to be suspended as whites - not laudable, but lower than in MCPS schools.

Montgomery County should consider this comparison, and some of the recommendations in this report, as it continues to struggle with a growing achievement gap. A 2014 County Office of Legislative Oversight report confirmed that MCPS had declined, and the achievement gap had widened, since 2010.

Now we know that Montgomery County students also fared poorly on this year's PARCC exams, the scores of which determined less than half of MCPS high school students are ready for college-level work.

And that superintendent search? Yeah, that search. They'll get around to it. Maybe some of the WMATA runners-up will give it go. The Montgomery County Council and Board of Education have made slouching a science.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Troubling report highlights MCPS decline, achievement gap

The troubling results of a new survey of Montgomery County African-American youths highlight the failure of the County Council and Board of Education to close an achievement gap that has grown since 2010. Connecting Youth to Opportunity was produced by The Community Foundation for the National Capital Region, BETAH Associates, Inc. and Montgomery College.

Survey results showed that black students are 3 times as likely to drop out of Montgomery County Public Schools as white and Asian students. And black students are 3 times as likely to be suspended from school as whites and Asians.

The report also showed that Montgomery County's moribund economy, and weak job creation rate relative to Northern Virginia and the District, are disproportionately hurting African Americans. According to the survey results, only 8.7% of black high school students surveyed are employed, and only 30.7% of black high school dropouts have been able to obtain employment.

Even Montgomery County's young black high school graduates are being hard hit, with only 39.7% of those surveyed currently employed.

My suggestion for years has been to attract high-wage aerospace, defense and tech companies (and their accompanying research facilities) to the County - and have classroom space in those facilities as a provision for receiving County financial incentives. This would create internships, and high-tech skill acquisition, that would lead to high-wage jobs for students in our worst-performing schools.

Instead, our County leadership is doubling down on decline. What are we hearing the MoCo political machine's next moves are on declining schools and record exam failure rates? "Soft bigotry" moves like building more luxury apartments on top of demolished affordable housing complexes, putting more rich white people in places like White Oak and Wheaton while displacing lower income residents, redistricting school boundaries - the third rail of MoCo politics, and - by golly - just getting rid of those pesky exams the kids can't pass.

Let's hope this report provides them yet another wake-up call.

Friday, September 11, 2015

MoCo slouches away from solving MCPS achievement gap

Score another one for "the soft bigotry of low expectations" in Montgomery County. The achievement gap between white students and their African-American and Latino classmates has only gotten worse over the last five years, according to the County's own study of its public schools:

"Since 2010, the economic, racial, and ethnic stratification of students among MCPS high schools has increased."

And since 2010, the County Council and MCPS have spent much money, but have failed to take any substantive action - and most certainly have failed to achieve results.

Now we have the latest example of how the impotent Montgomery County political machine "tackles" the tough challenge of the achievement gap - it runs away from it.

Three out of four students can't pass the Algebra I Final Exam? Just get rid of the exam!

That's right. No new strategies, no hard analysis of what's going wrong. Just get rid of final exams, and replace them with those nifty "extra credit" projects, and other age-old tricks used to push struggling kids through the system for decades, cheating them out of a quality education.

Anybody can do a project. Only a student who has learned can solve the math equations on an exam at the end of the semester.

Try handing your college professor or office supervisor that nifty math-themed collage, instead of your final exam or the economic analysis project you were assigned. The results won't be quite as whimsical as they appear to be in the "leadership" realm of our racially and geographically-unequal school system.

A rudderless system prepared to identify a new superintendent "when they get around to it," MCPS is eerily similar in leadership, money-down-the-drain-spending, and results to the ever-popular WMATA (which can't find a leader, either).

The previous superintendent, Joshua Starr, started his MoCo career with a gaudy champagne toast at the Potomac estate of Mitch Rales, a pioneer of outsourcing American jobs to China; spent much of his time hosting an Oprah-style book club TV program at taxpayer and cable customer expense; and was unceremoniously run out of town as a finisher. "Heckuva job, Brownie."

So they have this idea to get rid of final exams that ensure you actually learned what was taught (assuming parents and education advocates stand by and allow the policy change to go unchallenged). What else do they have in their "toolbox"?

A paltry, pitiful $250,000 Children's Opportunity Fund, with no clear mandate or specific uses for that taxpayer money. A fund led by one of the very school board members who presided over the growing achievement gap, by the way. You can't make this stuff up, folks.

Consider that New York City is now ponying up $400,000,000 a year to provide universal Pre-K, widely-accepted to be one of the most obvious and promising ways to reduce the achievement gap, and the contrast couldn't be more clear.

And MoCo's political machine couldn't look worse.

Kids can't pass exams? Get rid of the exam.

Don't like the increasingly-ghastly traffic congestion numbers that might make it impossible to keep approving new development without finally completing the County's unfinished highway system? Just stop counting the cars accurately.

Getting killed by Northern Virginia and DC in job creation? Just use taxpayer money to buy a fake report from EMSI, with fake job numbers that magically show you ahead of NOVA and DC.

Unable to attract a single major corporate headquarters in over a decade? Just use taxpayer money to buy another fake report declaring suburban office parks dead, even while top companies like Google and Facebook are currently booming in suburban office park headquarters.

Farmer's markets and microbreweries; mixing lattes and folding jeans - these are what you imagine your child doing for the rest of his or her life, right? Well, that's what your elected officials imagine them doing, as those are the only private-sector jobs they've created over the last decade. Then they ask, "Why aren't we able to attract young professionals to Montgomery County?"

This isn't leadership. It's slouching. And continuing to deny an equal education to many children in the county isn't just bad politics; it's immoral.

It's easy to ban things. It's easy to tax things. It's easy to politically grandstand with self-promoting legislative resolutions. But leadership and solving the achievement gap are hard. They are difficult. And our current elected officials are clearly not up to the task.

Our leaders have failed their final exam. Rather than get rid of the final exam, maybe it's time the voters get rid of the "leaders".