First Allegany County Opportunity Scholarships Awarded to ACM, FSU Students

August 29, 2014

Local students of Allegany College of Maryland (ACM) and Frostburg State University (FSU) are receiving the first Allegany County Opportunity Scholarships, established by Allegany Commissioners Michael W. McKay, Creade V. Brodie, Jr., and William R. “Bill” Valentine.

From Allegany County’s news release,

The county’s investment in higher and continuing education is already greatly enhancing economic opportunities for its citizens and thus supporting families and the community at large, according to representatives from the ACM and FSU foundations.

The ACM Foundation created four categories for the Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship –Merit Scholarship, Tuition Subsidy for Credit Students, “Jump Start” Early College Scholarship and Continuing Education and Workforce Development Scholarship. Scholarships have already been awarded in the first three programs, with additional scholarships scheduled for the fourth this fall.

“The Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship reflects a genuine commitment on the part of the Allegany County Commissioners to enhance the quality of life and increase economic opportunity for our citizens and community through expanded access to higher education,” said ACM’s president, Dr. Cynthia Bambara. “In its first year, we are excited to award nearly 300 Allegany County Opportunity Scholarships for the fall 2014 semester to students enrolled in credit courses. We look forward to continuing these awards throughout the academic year and to expanding the effort to include continuing education students.”

FSU awards the Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship to new and continuing students at the undergraduate, graduate and doctoral levels to offset the cost of tuition and fees. As of Aug. 18, FSU had awarded 98 scholarships to 75 undergraduate students, 15 graduate students and eight doctoral students. Nearly $114,600 has been awarded so far. A review of transfer students is underway to ensure that they are aware of this opportunity, and as many as 27 more may be eligible.

The funds for the scholarship are provided from a portion of Allegany County Government’s share –2.25 percent –of the annual gross revenue generated by the video lottery machines at Rocky Gap Casino Resort. The county commissioners designated 70 percent of this revenue for the Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship –45 percent for ACM and 25 percent for FSU.

Fewer than one in five Allegany County residents, 16.3 percent, have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. The county ranks 22 of Maryland’s 24 jurisdictions.

The county commissioners believe that this scholarship accomplishes many goals: encourages population retention and growth, enhances the quality of the local workforce for current and prospective employers, and supports economic development and the associated prosperity it creates.

The county commissioners determined that the future well-being of Allegany County depends on having an educated and skilled workforce. However, many county residents face financial barriers to pursuing post-secondary education. Funding through the Allegany County Opportunity Scholarship provides additional financial resources to increase educational opportunities, enhance economic development, and support the continued well-being of the community.

Click here to read the full county news release on Allegany County’s Opportunity Scholarships.


Howard County School Launches Food Scrap Recycling Program

August 28, 2014

Howard County’s Pointers Run Elementary School became the first public school in the county to launch a food scrap collection program, which was inspired by letters from a 4th grade class last year.

Coverage from the Baltimore Sun noted,

Students in teacher Deborah Hantman’s class wrote persuasive notes to county government and school system officials asking them to consider including their school in the county’s food scrap composting program, which had expanded to the surrounding Clarksville community in November.

“It would be great if the students could get some kind of response so they know that their letters were received and that they have the power to make a difference,” Hantman wrote in her own letter.

The county did respond, and Pointers Run students will now see bright yellow food scrap collection bins next to the recycling and trash bins in the cafeteria. Teachers will also have a composting bin in the staff lounge.

“The students here… realized that practicing waste reduction at school is just as important as at home,” County Executive Ken Ulman said at the program’s launch on Monday, the first day of school. “We agree. Their efforts show that it doesn’t take long for good ideas to catch on and become part of everyday behavior.”

Click here to read the full story.


Study Indicates Charles County Should Invest $600 Million in School Infrastructure

August 28, 2014

A consultant study recently released in Charles County indicates that the County should invest $600 million in its public school infrastructure over the next 10 years. As reported by the Southern Maryland News,

The county commissioners, on the prompting of state official David Lever, who specializes in public school construction matters and reports to the Board of Public Works, launched the study with an outside contractor, Baltimore-based GWWO Inc./Architects, in late fall 2013.

The $250,000 report, on the dime of the commissioners, would provide the board of education, school and county officials and the public with a look at the state of the county school buildings — a comprehensive roadmap at the successes and failings of the infrastructure of each building, as well as the optimal price tag for the improvements that would bring the schools up to the school system’s standards. The study serves only as a suggestion for school officials.

The article indicates that the reaction to the report varied.  Some lauded the detail, while others felt it was a wish list.

…in the past 10 years, the school system has funneled $60 million of its own funds into school improvements. For some, the disparity of the two numbers highlights what they say is the squishiness of a new study of the county’s public schools and the long road school and county officials have ahead to restore some of the school system’s more aged facilities.


“Eat Smart” School Breakfast Funding Boosted

August 28, 2014

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has awarded $6.9 million in state funds to 481 selected schools to participate in the Maryland Meals for Achievement Program (MMFA). The funds supplement the federal reimbursement schools receive through the U.S. Department of Agriculture School Breakfast Program and will allow the MMFA Program to reach 240,665 Maryland Students in school year 2014-2015.

Maryland Meals for Achievement provides in-classroom breakfast to all students in participating schools at no charge regardless of family income. Students eat at their desks while teachers take attendance and do other morning activities. State funding for the MMFA program was increased by $1.7 million for the 2014-2015 school year. The increased funding will provide in-classroom breakfast to an additional 66,738 students in 122 additional schools throughout Maryland. Since the 2007-08 school year, school breakfast participation among students who already eat a free or reduced-price school lunch increased by 37 percent.

The increase in funding is a result of Governor Martin O’Malley’s commitment to end childhood hunger in Maryland by 2015. The Governor’s Partnership to End Childhood Hunger works to fight childhood hunger through raising awareness and increasing participation in the federal child nutrition programs.

“We have made the choice to drive down childhood hunger in this State, and the Maryland Meals for Achievement Program is a proven winner for our students,” said Gov. O’Malley. “Better nutrition means better learning, and better learning means a better future for all of our children.”

With funding allocated annually, the participating schools are determined by the amount of state funds available. Maryland law requires the selection of schools to represent geographic and socioeconomic balance. The Maryland State Department of Education also considers previous participation in MMFA and the priorities of county food and nutrition service directors when making selections.

“Having access to a healthy, nutritious breakfast prepares students for their academic day and ensures they start the school day ready to learn,” said State Superintendent of Schools Lillian Lowery.

School administrators and teachers credit the MMFA program with improving student test scores, behavior and well-being. Parents praise the program as a way for their children to prepare for their academic day.

For more information on Maryland’s School Nutrition Programs and a list of participating schools visit the Eat Smart Maryland website.


Montgomery Officials Hopeful on School Construction Funding

August 27, 2014

As reported by the Gazette, Montgomery County state and local officials are hopeful that the General Assembly will pass legislation during the upcoming session to direct more school construction funding to the county.

After a Monday event at Wilson Wims Elementary School — built to relieve overcrowding in the Clarksburg area — Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett said he feels “very confident” state lawmakers can “make some progress” in the upcoming session toward a funding method that would help the county accommodate its growing student body.

According to the article, Montgomery County’s increase in its student body this year was the largest since 2000.

Montgomery County legislators introduced legislation this past session to direct more school funding to the county.

Del. Anne R. Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Calverton put forward a bill that would have established a program to fund construction projects based on a county’s bond rating and a school system’s total number of students. Legislators from Montgomery, Prince George’s and Baltimore counties, who likely would have benefited from the program, pushed for the legislation’s passage.

State Sen. Nancy J. King submitted another bill that would have established a grant program and doled out money based on student enrollment growth.

Both legislators felt the bills did not have a strong chance of passage last session, but hope with a new Administration, the outcome will be positive next session.

However, County Council President Craig Rice commented that he is hearing a “different conversation coming from Annapolis.”

Rather than a focus on the state’s three bigger counties, he said, he thinks there will be a “statewide approach” this session concerning construction funding.

The Governor issued an Executive Order in May to conduct a study on school construction in Maryland.  The study will address the topics raised in Delegate Kaiser’s legislation, HB1323 Public School Construction – Creative Financing Study  and HB 349/SB 388 Study of Alternative Financing Methods for the Purpose of School Construction.  Additional information on the Public School Construction Financing Study can be found on Conduit Street.

 


School Systems Prepare For Common Core Testing Changes

August 27, 2014

An August 24 Baltimore Sun article examined the challenges county school boards are facing to implement the new testing requirements under Common Core.  The tests, which will replace the Maryland School Assessments, are called Partnership for Assessment for Readiness for Colleges and Careers (PARCC).

These tests, aligned with the Common Core, will be much harder as the state begins to expect more analysis and deeper thinking from students. Pass rates of 80 percent and higher seen at most Maryland schools are expected to drop substantially in the spring.

Students may also expect to see more computers and laptops in their classrooms, as schools gear up to integrate technology in teaching and to give the new PARCC tests. Many school districts plan to give the PARCC tests online this coming school year, even though they will not be required to do so until the 2016-2017 school year.

The article noted how the Anne Arundel and Baltimore County and Baltimore City school systems have been upgrading student and school technology in preparation for administering PARCC :

Some school districts said they have used federal Race to the Top money to purchase new technology to give the tests online. Anne Arundel County will soon have about 8,000 Chromebooks at a cost of $2.6 million in addition to 33,000 desktops and laptops, according to Greg Barlow, the county’s technology officer. County schools have recently updated the bandwidth so they have the capacity to give the tests online.

Baltimore County has announced it plans to provide a device for every child over the next several years. It is introducing laptops to several grades at 10 elementary schools this fall and has supplied all of its teachers with the devices this summer.

[Baltimore] City officials said that after participating in the state’s PARCC field tests last year, when about 5,300 students took the exam online, the district is prepared. In the 2012-2013 school year, only six schools had administered a state assessment online, compared to 136 last year.


US Education Secretary Allows National Delay in Use of New Student Tests for Teacher Evaluations

August 22, 2014

As reported by the New York Times, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan announced on Thursday that states could delay the use of test results in teacher-performance ratings by another year. As described,

Using language that evoked some of his fiercest critics, Mr. Duncan wrote in a blog post, “I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and he added that teachers needed time to adapt to new standards and tests that emphasize more than simply filling in bubbled answers to multiple-choice questions.

In Maryland, the General Assembly has already delayed use of student performance data in teacher evaluations until the 2016-2017 school year.  For more information on that law, see our previous posts, Bill Delaying Use of Test Scores in Teacher Evaluations Passes, Senate Votes to Delay New Teacher Evaluations, and Legislators Consider When to Use Student Assessments in Teacher Evaluations.

For more information on Secretary Duncan’s announcement, see the full story from the New York Times.


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