Plan For Flexible State High School Program at Frederick High Moving Forward, Even Without $10 Million Grant

Frederick County Public Schools (FCPS) is moving forward with plans to launch a new kind of high school experience called the LYNX High School at Frederick High, despite missing out on a $10 million grant. The building is scheduled to open in fall 2017.

From The Frederick News Post,

School officials said Thursday that the Linking Youth to New Experiences (LYNX) school could be funded either through grants or by donations from Frederick County businesses. The school system doesn’t have specific business partners in mind yet, spokesman Michael Doerrer said.

Only Frederick High School students would enroll in LYNX, which would allow more flexible schedules. Students could leave school in the middle of the day or enroll in evening classes. More job shadowing, online classes and vocational opportunities would also be offered. LYNX would launch with the inauguration of Frederick High School’s new building in 2017.

Had the district won the $10 million “XQ: The Super School Project” grant, organized by the widow of Apple founder Steve Jobs, it could have relied on that money and not worried about the price of the different elements, Doerrer said.

“We’re not doing anything differently. We’re just moving forward with a few extra steps,” Doerrer said.

Superintendent Terry Alban has until Sept. 30 to give the Frederick County Board of Education the full details of LYNX, under a state law passed this legislative session that also waived some of the state’s regulations for public schools. The plan will be submitted to the Maryland State Board of Education in December.

The school system now will work to pick out possible funding sources, and determine how much the pieces of LYNX will cost, such as teacher training, which will be a significant expense, Doerrer said.

The program has been backed by one of the state’s most prominent names in education, former state Superintendent Nancy Grasmick, who has pledged to use her connections to launch LYNX, Alban said during a previous school board meeting.

LYNX would benefit many Frederick High students, who are racially diverse, and some of whom are disadvantaged and work to support themselves, Campagnoli said. But she said the program could appeal to the entire student body, even honor students, who could take advantage of new, advanced courses or area internships.

The school district’s communications office will arrange many forums, in person and online, for the public to weigh in on LYNX, Doerrer said. Those dates have not been determined.

Read the full article for more information.


UMD System to Feature Global Online Classes

The University System of Maryland has struck a deal with a non-profit online learning company to allow students from across the state to earn cost-free global college credits.

From WBAL,

The University of Maryland University College, the nation’s largest public online institution, is expanding by joining forces with a nonprofit online learning company.

The company, edX, is founded by some pretty big names in education. The partnership will allow students across the state to earn cost-free global college credits.

The global partnership will open the doors to more online learning for thousands of students across the University System of Maryland.

“We’re looking forward to this being a way in which we can increase access and affordability and quality for all students, including those that are a part of our institutions,” said M.J. Bishop, the director of USM’s Center for Innovation and Excellence in Learning.

The deal has been in the works for almost a year between USM and edX, a company founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. USM put up $2 million to support the new online partnership.

Maryland is the second state to sign on with edX.

Coppin, Bowie State University and the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore will be the first historically black institutions to partner with edX.

Read the full article for more information.


Maryland State Board of Education Elects New President

Andrew Smarick, an appointee of Governor Larry Hogan, was unanimously elected president of the Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday.

From The Capital Gazette,

Smarick, who was appointed as a member of the school board a year ago by Gov. Larry Hogan, works as a partner at Bellwether Education Partners, a national nonprofit. He was formerly an education official at the U.S. Department of Education under President George W. Bush.

The school board votes each year on who will be its president and vice-president. The vote is usually decided in private session and then formally taken in public.The election of Smarick was unanimous. School board members are volunteers appointed to the board by the governor.

The school board also made S. James Gates Jr, a prominent theoretical physicist and long time board member, vice-president. Gates is a physics professor at the University of Maryland College Park. He was awarded the National Medal of Science in 2013.

Read the full article for more information.


BCPS Superintendent to Be Honored at Presidential Inaugural Ball

The National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training (NCTET) announced today that Baltimore County Public Schools (BCPS) Superintendent Dr. S. Dallas Dance is one of five award winners who will be recognized at NCTET’s ball to honor the inauguration of the nation’s 45th president. The ball will be held on Jan. 20, 2017, at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, DC.

From the BCPS Press Release:

Since 2001, NCTET has honored individuals from the public and private sectors for their outstanding contributions to the organization’s mission of effectively integrating technology into teaching and learning. Prior honorees included the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-MA), George Lucas (Lucasfilms and Edutopia), Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Rep. George Miller (D-CA), and John Gage (director of the science office, Sun Microsystems).

Dr. Dance is being recognized for his leadership of the school system’s S.T.A.T. (Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow) and Passport initiatives. S.T.A.T., a comprehensive and fundamental shift in teaching and learning, uses technology and other strategies to personalize learning. The Passport Program begins world language instruction at Grade 4 using software and conversational lessons to prepare students to graduate fluent in a second language.

Read the full press release for more information.

Spending On Prisons Growing Faster Than Spending On Schools

In Maryland, state and local spending on prisons and jails  has grown twice as fast as spending on elementary and secondary education over the previous three decades, according to a recent report by the U.S. Department of Education. Nationally, corrections spending has outpaced education spending by three times.

The report analyzes federal data from 1980 to 2013. According to the Baltimore Sun,

Nationally, growth rates for spending on corrections also outpaced appropriations for higher education, even when adjusted for population growth, according to the report. In Maryland, state spending per full-time student declined during the period from $8,946 to $7,020, while spending on prisons increased.

2 sessions on the criminal justice system are being held at MACo’s Summer Conference

Data-Driven Justice: Using Data to Lead to Better Outcomes in Criminal Justice will take place on Thursday, August 18. Speakers will discuss the White House Data-Driven Justice Initiative.

Mentally Ill and Incarcerated: A Criminal Justice Crisis will be held on Friday, August 19 – in this session, attendees will learn more about the challenges local jails face handling this critical population and innovative steps being taken to reduce the number of people with mental illness in jails.

Learn more about MACo’s Summer Conference:


A County Cradle-to-Career Curriculum

 At the National Association of Counties Conference in Long Beach, California, the Promise Neighborhoods Institute presented their programs to support positive education outcomes. County governments are key partners in the success of these programs.

Michale McAfee, Co-Director of the Institute described the way they organize education, health, and social supports to create communities of opportunity.

Muneer Karcher-Ramos, Senior Director, Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood described the way they have implemented this program in Saint Paul Minnesota’s Frogtown Community. In Frogtown, they focused on two key results:

  • Readiness for kindgarten, and 
  • Reading requirements for 3rd grade

But the path to reach these goals came from outside the education system – through various community supports – including ensuring stability in housing, and access to healthcare for families in the Frogtown area. 

The Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood has already seen successes among children in the program’s reach.

For more information, see:

Promise Neighborhoods Institute

Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood

Commission Recommends Local Review of Student Testing

Maryland counties have concerns that tech-heavy testing requirements, such as the PARCC testing creates additional costs for school systems that are not recognized in State funding.

Following advocacy for less testing in schools from teachers, parents, and other education stakeholders, the General Assembly created a Commission to study testing in K-12 education in Maryland.

Maryland’s counties, who have voiced concern regarding the amount of technology needed to implement new tests in line with the common core curriculum, have been tracking the testing issue.

Now the General Assembly’s Commission has come our with a recommendation to create more review at the local level, as reported by the Baltimore Sun,

The commission, assigned by the General Assembly to study the issue, has recommended the formation of local school district committees that would report to the public yearly on the number of hours of testing being required of students. The committees could suggest eliminating redundant or unnecessary exams.

For more information, see the full story from the Baltimore Sun, Testing questions left to local school boards

Aging Schools and Public Safety Radio Funding in Cross Hairs of State Budget Standoff

Several projects and programs are on hold as a result of differences between the General Assembly’s final budget plan and the Governor’s budget as introduced.

In March, the President of the Maryland Association of Counties wrote to the Governor, asking him to release $80 million in budget funding that includes a few projects of particular county concern.

Now Mike Dresser of the Baltimore Sun has written an article featuring several possible effects of a failure to release the funding, including issues for school systems expecting small but helpful grant funding from the $6.1 million aging schools program.

MACo’s letter to the Governor highlighted the need for the aging schools program funding and interoperable radio system funding included in the fenced-off funds.

As described in the Baltimore Sun, the Governor must decide whether to release to $80 million as a whole, he may not pick project-by-project. Dresser writes,

To complicate the governor’s decision, the lawmakers put in that basket a mixture of his favored programs and their own.

If he says no, Hogan would deny funding for several of his priorities, including aging schools, a statewide public safety communications system and demolition of part of the Baltimore City Detention Center that Hogan closed.

To free the money, Hogan would have to allow spending on legislative priorities such as helping local school systems with the cost of employee pensions and improving compensation rates for physicians in the Medicaid program.

For more information, see the full story from the Baltimore SunPrograms in limbo as Hogan weighs releasing money lawmakers ‘fenced off’.

Anne Arundel, Wicomico School Board Selection Changes May Be Decided in November

In Anne Arundel, The Court of Appeals will hear a dispute over a law that changed the composition of the school board nominating commission, in Wicomico, voters will have a referendum. 

As reported by the Capital, The Court of Appeals will hear in November a dispute over a law that changed the composition of the government body that recommends Anne Arundel County Board of Education candidates to the Governor. For more information about the case, see the Capital Gazette‘s coverage.

Also this November, Wicomico County voters will be deciding whether to alter the selection of their school board through referendum. According to the Delmarva Now,

Choices for Wicomico voters are:

  • Retain the current system of seven members appointed by the governor
  • Choose a board with five members elected by district, with two additional members elected as at-large representatives
  • Choose to have five board members elected by district, and two additional members that are appointed by the Wicomico County Council.
  • The measure also would establish a school board nominating commission or task force or other potentially necessary infrastructure.

For background, see Wicomico County Considers an Elected School Board and Wicomico elected school board question going to referendum.

As described by the Department of Legislative Services, in 2014,

The composition of the local boards of education varies, with 5 to 14 members serving three- to five-year terms. Seventeen counties have elected school boards, three counties have school boards that are appointed or jointly appointed by the Governor, and four counties have combined elected and appointed boards, including several unique arrangements. Twenty-two boards have student members, but only seven boards allow student members to vote on matters excluding collective bargaining and other personnel and budgetary decisions.

Here is a chart from the 2014 Department of Legislative Services publication, Education in Maryland, showing the composition of local school boards:

For more information, see Education in Maryland from the Department of Legislative Services.

Wicomico County Executive Leads Creation of Community College Scholarship for Locals

On Tuesday, July 12, Wicomico County officials finalized an unprecedented plan to provide eligible students with free tuition to Wor-Wic Community College. The program was initiated by County Executive Bob Culver and designed to promote economic development by providing greater opportunities for workforce training.

According to Delmarvanow:

The plan allows graduates of private schools or home school in Wicomico County to participate, in addition to public school graduates. The plan covers tuition and fees, but not books.

Courtesy of Delmarvanow

In order to qualify, students must be residents of Wicomico County for at least the past two years, enroll in a degree or certificate program at Wor-Wic, apply for and accept all other financial aid and register for 12 or more credit hours in the fall immediately after high school graduation.

Once they are enrolled, students would be required to maintain a 2.0 average, maintain full-time attendance and earn at least 24 credit hours each academic year.

The scholarships are available to students entering Wor-Wic right out of high school, not to older students. The community college has other scholarship programs available for them.

Read the full article for more information.