Monthly Archives: February 2016

Maryland board considers two-tier high school diploma system

msde_store_frontSince most Maryland students didn’t pass a tough new test that eventually will be required for graduation, should the state lower the bar?

The state school board began considering the question Tuesday as members discussed options, including setting a lower passing grade or offering a second-tier diploma for students who finish required high school courses but can’t pass the PARCC test now used in a dozen states.

The Maryland board has until May to decide what standard to set for students entering ninth grade next fall.

High schools in the state gave the new Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers test, tied to the Common Core curriculum, for the first time last spring. A much smaller percentage of students passed than did the previous high school exam, known as the High School Assessment. Thousands failed.

 At its monthly meeting, the board engaged in a spirited debate over what to do about that.

Board member Chester Finn reacted swiftly to a suggestion that the state accept a lower standard. “I thought the move to PARCC was to increase standards,” he said. “We are headed toward telling Maryland students they will get a Maryland diploma and they are not ready.” He said a low standard would mislead the public.

He suggested the board consider adopting a two-diploma system, one for students who passed PARCC and are considered ready for college and a second diploma, equivalent to what is given today, for students who have fulfilled the course requirements and achieve minimum passing grades on state tests.

But school board member James H. DeGraffenreidt said he is opposed to such a dual diploma system because he believes it would institutionalize the achievement gap for groups of students with low pass rates, including low-income, minority and special education students.

DeGraffenreidt said he believes it would be better to keep the goal high but gradually phase in the standards, starting with a low passing score and setting specific dates to raise it. The question for the state would then be how quickly students might be able to meet the new standards.

On last spring’s tests, about 45 percent of students passed the 10th-grade English exam and only 40 percent of students passed the Algebra I test. If the state lowered the passing score to three on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest, the pass rates would rise to 65 percent for Algebra and 74 percent for English.

The goal of having high percentages of high school graduates ready for college is unrealistic in the near future, some education experts say. Less than half the states require passage of high school exit exams to get a diploma. And only in the past decade has the idea been entertained of making college readiness a graduation standard.

“There is no state in the U.S. that has made the high school graduation requirement the same as a college-readiness requirement,” said David Steiner, executive director of the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy. “It is just not possible politically or otherwise to introduce a system that would prevent that many students from graduating.”

Because last year’s test takers knew the results didn’t count for them, education officials say they believe pass rates will go up as students view the tests more seriously.

In addition, students can take the tests numerous times, and they can substitute a teacher-supervised project if they fail a test. Because the bar for passing state exams was relatively low in the past, very few students were prevented from graduating.

Whether all students will ever be college ready is still a question, said Michael J. Petrilli, president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative Washington think tank. He believes most states will phase in higher passing scores.

School board member Linda Eberhart, a former teacher, said she is deeply concerned that Maryland may raise standards too quickly for students who have not had the Common Core curriculum for most of their schooling.

“It is going to take 13 years to achieve these new standards,” Eberhart said, indicating that the first class likely to be fully prepared are today’s kindergartners.

She is concerned, she said, that next year’s ninth-graders will be held to an unrealistic standard.

“It is a high standard, and it would be unjust, in my view, to jerk up the standards,” Steiner said. “You have to build a ladder, but you also have to tell the truth.”

Via Baltimore Sun



PGCPS volunteer made pornographic videos with children during school hours


Police say Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School volunteer Deonte Carraway, 22, made pornographic videos with children during school hours and on school grounds.

By Lynh Bui February 23 at 7:46 PM

In one instance, he threatened to take the student to police and the principal if the child didn’t strip, federal authorities allege. In other instances, he told children that they were part of a club before sexually abusing them in their homes.

In all of the cases, investigators say, Deonte Carraway leveraged his position of trust as an elementary school volunteer and choir director to film child pornography or sexually abuse at least 17 children. More victims are expected to be identified.

Authorities announced Tuesday that they filed federal charges against Carraway, 22, a Glenarden resident who police said admitted to filming children engaging in “vile sexual acts.”

Carraway was indicted on eight federal felony counts of child pornography in addition to the 10 felony charges of child pornography and other related sex offenses local authorities filed against him in Prince George’s County about two weeks ago.

The federal complaint against Carraway includes what prosecutors said is an excerpt of his written confession. In it, Carraway said he directed only one video and had the children record the others. He then instructed the children to communicate with him or send images through an anonymous messaging app.

Deonte Carraway. (Prince George’s County Police Department)
“How I get the videos is the kids would send them in the Chat,” Carraway said in a statement to investigators, according to the federal complaint. “I would hide them, but I really do care for the children.”

In some cases, children were instructed to perform sexual acts with each other for Carraway to record, said Rod J. Rosenstein, the U.S. attorney for the District of Maryland, but six of the eight victims identified in the federal complaint were directly abused by Carraway. That complaint describes Carraway engaging in sexual acts with some children in their bedrooms.

One student told police that he received his Kik username from Carraway in the middle of class so they could communicate.

The complaint also alleges that Carraway removed one victim from a class at Judge Sylvania W. Woods Elementary School in Glenarden, took the child to another room in the school and told the child to take off his pants. When the child refused, Carraway said he would contact police and the principal if the child did not undress, the complaint states.

The child then complied and Carraway recorded the child in a sex act, according to the federal complaint.

“It illustrates the evil we see in these sort of cases,” Rosenstein said after announcing the federal charges. “Children are predisposed to trust adults.”

Each federal charge carries a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison, a total of 120 years if Carraway is convicted on all eight of those counts, Rosenstein said.

Carraway made videos of children performing sex acts on the campus of Woods Elementary during the school day, police said.

In addition to the school, where Carraway was assigned to be a library volunteer shelving books, the abuse or filming took place in private homes, at the Zion Praise Tabernacle Lutheran Church in Bowie, the Glenarden Municipal Center and the Theresa Banks Memorial Aquatic Center, police said. Carraway was also director of the Glenarden Voices of Youth Choir, police said.

Police said that in as many as 40 videos, Carraway abused or filmed children who were as young as 9.

Carraway distributed phones to his victims to communicate with them, instructed them to record various sexual acts and then collected the phones, according to two individuals familiar with the investigation and the federal complaint.

“For some of the videos the kids used their tablets or cell to send the videos to me and the one at the school was my phone,” Carraway said in a written confession, according to the federal complaint. “I know I’m older and I knew it was wrong because kids don’t know better . . . ”

Angela Alsobrooks, the Prince George’s state’s attorney, said her office will aggressively prosecute Carraway in addition to the federal case against him. “These charges have kept many of us up at night,” Alsobrooks said.

Prince George’s police and FBI investigators have conducted more than 200 interviews and spent more than 3,000 hours on the case, said Chief Hank Stawin­ski, the county’s police chief.

The case has angered parents, who are demanding to know how Carraway was allowed to be alone with children and whether adults were alerted to any previous concerns.

Carraway is jailed on $1 million bond.

Prince George’s school officials said Tuesday that they will continue to fully cooperate with law enforcement; have created a task force to review policies, procedures and practices; and are retraining central office workers and school staff on procedures for reporting suspected abuse.

“We have pledged our support to the victims and their families, and the safety and welfare of students remains a top priority,” a schools statement said.

Investigators are asking anyone with information about the Carraway case to call 800-CALL-FBI or 301-772-4930.

via Washington post


Deonte Carraway, 22




PGCPS launch task force to review policies after child porn case


Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College and onetime president of the Maryland State Board of Education with a history of misconduct and cover ups is to lead the task force. We must say “NO”.

Prince George’s County’s has created a task force to independently examine policies and practices designed to keep students safe following the arrest of an elementary school volunteer accused of making pornographic videos of children at school during the school day.

Leading the new panel will be Charlene Dukes, president of Prince George’s Community College and onetime president of the Maryland State Board of Education who left under a cloud. Millet can’t expect justice from a court composed of chicken. The conduct of Charlene Dukes who steered public funds in questionable circumstances and who in the past has chosen to suppress the truth plus evidence should be in everyone mind.

“I want parents, students, and all who care deeply about the welfare of children to know that the Student Safety Task Force will be methodical, exhaustive, and swift in our work. We will focus on bringing forth recommendations that keep our children safe,” Dukes said in a statement. However, we doubt that statement and if anything good will come out of such a committee based on Charlene Dukes engagement in misconduct in what appears to be ongoing basis.

As stated previously, If we are going to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the future and help the schools, what we need now is not more of the same, but a willingness to try new and better approaches to fighting corruption including electing or selecting new leaders with better record for engaging the truth to power and not cover ups.

Others on the task force include representatives from universities, a nonprofit group, the private sector, local government, public safety and the school district.

The task force was formed about two weeks after the arrest of Deonte Carraway, 22, of Glenarden, who remains jailed on 10 counts of felony child-porn charges. Carraway admitted to creating videos of children between ages 9 and 13 performing various sexual acts, according to charging documents. Police say the victims in the case now number 17.

 The task force will begin meeting March 1, 2016 and move to review policy, procedures and practices to make recommendations by or before May 2, officials said. The school system outlined four phases of work, starting with expert presentations on key strategies for protecting children and a review of policies on background checks, reporting of abuse and volunteers, among other things.

Besides Dukes, other task force members include:

  • Joshua Sharfstein, associate dean at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
  • Gloria Brown, the county’s director of social services.
  • Renee Battle-Brooks, assistant state’s attorney in Prince George’s.
  • Judy Bresler, a lawyer with a private firm.
  • Kristina Kyles-Smith, assistant state superintendent with the Maryland State Department of Education.
  • Brenda Jones-Harden, associate professor in the department of human development and quantitative methodology at the University of Maryland at College Park.
  • Michele Booth Cole, executive director of Safe Shores, the D.C. Children’s Advocacy Center.
  • Blanca Abrico, a parent of a student at Robert R. Gray Elementary School.

School officials said the newly formed group will be supported by county and school staff members including George Margolies, chief of staff for the school system; Monique Davis, deputy superintendent; Shawn Joseph, deputy superintendent; Adrian Talley, executive director of the office of student services; Erica Berry, executive director of the school board’s office; and Tehani Collazo, education policy adviser in the office of the county executive.

Schools chief Kevin Maxwell said in a statement that he had formed the task force “to carefully scrutinize every single policy and procedure we have in place.”

“We will leave no stone unturned, but we will also act quickly,” he said.




This is a call for Action


The PGCEA Speech that made the Uniserve reps angry.


During the speeches for a Board seat with the PGCEA, candidate Suzanne Windsor ruffled some feathers when she directly addressed the Union’s need for greater action on behalf of its members. She pointed out the disparity between the number of times PGCEA was a plaintiff on behalf of  its members versus the number of times PGCEA was a defendant for failure to represent it’s members. She also mentioned and produced documentation of a “cheat sheet” that Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) Human Resources developed to assist with getting a teacher fired or retired. This candidate is boldly fighting for greater accountability and stands for reform of the entire Prince George’s County Public School District.

To transform the county, teachers and other educators need to stand up for what is right and refuse to let the politicians manage their careers and the innocent children suffer. If Prince George’s County Educators can take ownership of their District, problems such as the ones experienced recently with children being sexually molested will be a thing of the past. Teachers and other Educators interested in public service need to run for public offices to help change the county from within. In the fight against poverty and injustice, local leaders need the tools and power to demand and deliver greater accountability.

As the world works to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030 including here in Prince George’s County,  corruption remains a significant challenge to that goal in many ays. This is because corruption not only steals the precious resources that could create jobs, improve health care, build better schools or build infrastructure, but also erodes trust in public institutions and chills private investment. And though corruption has been a primary concern for both donor community and developing countries around the world, likewise, here in Prince George’s County we haven’t made much progress in several ways.

That’s not for lack of trying, however. The problem is that too many administrators within the county and practitioners hold an antiquated view of corruption — and it’s holding back the fight to improve accountability and good governance including making the Unions such as PGCEA accountable. If we are going to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals in the future, what we need now is not more of the same, but a willingness to try new and better approaches to fighting corruption including electing new leaders with better record for engaging the truth to power.

We are all guilty of getting stuck into a routine on a daily basis. Routines that are not so healthy for us but we keep doing it because it’s comfortable. Then we sit and wonder why we can’t get into shape, keep attracting the same type of person, or experiencing the same life lessons over and over. Well, it’s because you keep doing the same thing! Therefore getting the same results.

Here is the speech which rattled the PGCEA Union and made the Uniserve reps angry.




Former School Aide Faces Federal Charges in Child Porn Case


Deonte Carraway, 22

A former school aide and choir director accused of making child pornography at a school, church and other locations in Maryland is facing federal charges, U.S. Attorney Rod Rosenstein announced Tuesday.

Each of the eight federal child pornography charges against Deonte Carraway carries a life sentence. The total mandatory minimum is 120 years.

“All of our child exploitation cases are horrible,” Rosenstein said. “This case is particularly disturbing.”

Carraway, 22, is accused of filming “vile sexual acts” between children ages 9 to 13 while working as a school volunteer at Judge Sylvania Woods Elementary in Glenarden.

Carraway was arrested Feb. 5 after after the uncle of a 9-year-old boy saw a nude image on the child’s phone, according to police, who said Carraway admitted his role in producing child pornography.

Rosenstein credited the boy’s uncle with putting an end to the crime, allowing victims to get the help they need and protecting other children from being victimized.

“It’s so critical for parents to be alert to what your child is doing online,” Rosenstein said.

He said parents shouldn’t feel like they are invading their children’s privacy. They have the right to know what their children are doing.

Police Chief Hank Stawinski said there was no negligence on the part of parents or caregivers.

According to court documents, FBI agents investigating Carraway discovered dozens of videos depicting child pornography, some of which appeared to have been recorded in a school restroom.

Carraway can be seen in one video molesting a child, according to the documents. In other videos, he can be heard directing the victims.

Police said Carraway victimized children at school, the Zion Praise Tabernacle Lutheran Church, Glenarden Municipal Center, Theresa Banks Memorial Aquatic Center and in private homes.

Carraway was a volunteer teacher’s assistant at the school this year and the director of the Glenarden Voices of Youth Choir at the municipal center, police said. He was a paid assistant at the school during the 2014-15 school year.

Nothing criminal was found in Carraway’s background check before he started working for the school in November 2014, according to officials. But he did have a juvenile criminal record that had been protected, sources said. Legislation introduced by a Maryland state senator would let schools see if a job candidate had a sex offense record as a juvenile.

A lawsuit filed in connection with the case alleges the principal knew about Carraway’s misconduct and failed to act. Prince George’s County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell said Principal Michelle Williams has been placed on leave out of “an abundance of caution.”

Information on an attorney for Carraway was not immediately available.

Via NBC4



Feds Finally Take Action on Crumb Rubber Turf

CGbMcuqW0AAWKspOn February 25, 2015, March 11, 2015 and many other dates, Reform Sasscer Movement opposed synthetic turf from being installed in Prince George’s County Public Schools due to safety of the Children and special interests. After back and forth, the Maryland legislature overwhelmingly passed the bill providing funds for the installation of the turf fields despite the dangers involved.  Now, three federal agencies are teaming up to investigate the safety of crumb rubber artificial turf used in playing fields and playground all across the country — the subject of a series of NBC News reports.

The Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced an “action plan” on Friday  (2/12/2016) to answer questions raised about synthetic turf made from recycled tires and possible risks for young athletes.

“Some of the government’s best and brightest scientists are working to identify what is in recycled tire crumb, identify ways in which people may be exposed to it, and determine if it is harmful,” CPSC Chairman Elliot Kaye said.

The agencies’ announcement said that while “limited studies” to date have not shown a danger, that research does not “comprehensively evaluate the concerns about health risks from exposure to tire crumb.”

Related: Watch the Original NBC News Report

The announcement came three weeks after Sens. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., asked President Barack Obama to spearhead a comprehensive study of the playing surface.

“Parents and athletes of all ages want and deserve conclusive answers on whether exposure to crumb rubber turf can make one sick,” Nelson said. “Combining the resources and expertise of three federal agencies to help find those answers is the right thing to do.”

While critics and supporters of crumb rubber turf don’t agree on whether the surface poses a health risk — the industry says studies have shown no link with illness, while some parents and activists demand more testing — all sides want federal regulators to take a clear public position.

The announcement was welcome news to Jon and Laura Damm, environmental lawyers and parents who live in Fairfax County, Virginia, and have been pushing for local authorities to stop using crumb rubber in athletic fields.

“I think it’s fantastic…This really provides us with a lot of hope,” said Jon Damm, who also plays and coaches lacrosse.

He said that cities across the country should take note of the feds’ assessment that existing studies are not comprehensive enough.

“Hopefully they’ll take a pause and use one of the alternatives and see how this plays out,” he said.

The Synthetic Turf Council, an industry group, also said it supports the federal effort.

“We have consistently said that we support all additional research,” the council said in a statement. “At the same time, we strongly reaffirm that the existing studies clearly show that artificial turf fields and playgrounds with crumb rubber infill are safe and have no link to any health issues.

“We hope the federal government’s involvement, which we have been encouraging for years, will settle this matter once and for all, put parents’ minds at ease, and validate past and recent due diligence by public officials,” it added.

Image: Crumb Rubber/Nike Grind
Crumb rubber pellets recovered from an artificial turf field, left, and Nike Grind rubber bits, nestled among fake blades of grass, at right. Hannah Rappleye (L) / NBC News

The multiagency action plan calls for scientists to test different types of crumb rubber to determine what chemical compounds they contain and whether they are released when a person comes into contact with them.

“Once we better understand what chemicals are in tire crumb, we will also be able to search existing databases of information to understand the potential health effects of those chemicals,” the agencies said.

The feds plan to reach out to athletes, parents and industry representatives and draft a report by the end of the year.

In 2008, the CPSC declared that crumb rubber artificial turf was safe to play on, after the agency performed limited tests for lead on artificial turf’s nylon ‘grass’ blades.

That declaration, Chairman Kaye told NBC News in a recent interview prior to Friday’s announcement, was “overstated.”

“When it came up to the political level there was an effort to say something that, in my mind, overstated the results,” Chairman Kaye said. “It provided a level of assurance that I don’t think the study warranted.”

“As a parent, you’re looking for that,” Chairman Kaye added. “You just want to know it’s OK…I don’t really care about limited studies, or qualifications. Just tell me: is it safe, or not?”

“There’s no clear cut line like, if you do this you will get cancer, and if you don’t do this you won’t get cancer,” Chairman Kaye said. “The best that I think the science can do is try to focus on creating some parameters that are defensible, and coming up with risk scenarios.”

“All that is gobbledygook when it comes to parents who just want you to tell them what the answer is,” he added. “I think the responsibility that somebody in my position faces on the front end, is to try to make sure the process has as much as integrity as possible, and the scientists are getting as much as they need.”

by , and NBC


How U.S. Schools Can Improve Math Education

960With U.S. students regularly placing behind 20 to 25 other nations in mathematics test scores, many education experts are wondering what the sources of the problem are and how we can take steps to fix them. Here’s a look at how American schools can improve their math curricula and help struggling students:

  • Gradually reduce the amount of numbers overcrowding the curriculum
  • Design problems using relatable real-world scenarios, like subtracting specific amounts of funding from an education budget
  • Plead with teacher’s union to make exception in order to get rid of Mr. Donovan
  • Fix smudge on projector transparency sheet on isosceles triangles
  • Institute and fund a sweeping foreign exchange program that offers American children unique opportunity to visit high-achieving Singaporean schools and cheat off their students
  • Decorate classrooms with photos of famous mathletes from throughout history
  • Get students more engaged by having them act out a theorem or conjecture
  • Buddy up Alabama with Massachusetts
  • Allow students to take a few integers home with them after school

Via the ONION