Monthly Archives: January 2018

CPS Scandal Having Fallout Across U.S.A – ties to PGCPS.

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Several out-of-state school districts are now asking questions about their leaders consulting for company at heart of Chicago Public Schools bribery scandal which includes Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

The corruption investigation that led to disgraced former Chicago schools chief Barbara Byrd-Bennett pleading guilty to wire fraud has had fallout across the nation.

On April 28, 2017, Byrd-Bennett, 66,  was sentenced to 4 1/2 years in prison.

On August 28, 2017, Byrd-Bennett began serving her sentence at Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, nicknamed “Camp Cupcake”, in West Virginia. This came after pleading guilty Oct. 13 and admitting she rigged $23 million of CPS contracts for The SUPES Academy and a sister company, Synesi Associates, in anticipation of getting a 10 percent kickback.

Byrd-Bennett previously was a paid consultant for SUPES, which provides training for school principals and other educators. The case is connected to the Public corruption currently in progress in Baltimore County with former Superintendent of Schools Dallas Dance and Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS).

Byrd-Bennett before being sentenced said she would cooperate with prosecutors in the case, in which Gary Solomon and Thomas Vranas, the two companies’ owners, had pleaded not guilty at the time.

According to interviews and records reviewed by the Better Government Association and Catalyst-Chicago:

  • SUPES gave a paid consulting position to Baltimore County, Maryland, schools Supt. Dallas Dance in 2013, months after his school board awarded the company a $875,000 no-bid contract. Following the initial news reports about Byrd-Bennett and SUPES, the Baltimore County schools’ ethics commission investigated and determined that Dance had violated district policy by not getting permission from his school board before accepting the consulting work — which involved training CPS principals.
  • Also prompted by news coverage regarding Byrd-Bennett, school board members in Iowa City, Iowa, have questioned Supt. Stephen Murley’s ties to SUPES. The Iowa City school board brought in Synesi to do a $60,000 “operations review” in October 2011 following a bidding process of sorts. The next year, Murley started working for SUPES, also training CPS principals. Murley says the arrangement poses no conflict of interest for him because his district permits him to do “speaking engagements.”
  • In St. Louis, the school board awarded a $125,000 contract for principal training to SUPES in 2012 through a bidding process. Soon after, St. Louis schools Supt. Kelvin Adams started doing consulting work for SUPES in Chicago, working on principal training for CPS. Earlier, in 2011, the St. Louis district had awarded a $16,500 no-bid deal to Synesi, the SUPES sister company. After being asked by a reporter about the deals and Adams’ consulting work, Rick Sullivan, the St. Louis school board president, has now asked an independent attorney to review the district’s contracts with the companies. But Sullivan says he believes Adams is a man of “integrity” and didn’t do anything wrong.

Does it lead to a give and take? Does it lead to a certain kind of coziness with these companies that does not serve the school district well?

  -Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, at Columbia University

Other school districts that hired SUPES and had officials consulting for the company include:

  •  Huntsville, Alabama, where the school system gave a $300,000 no-bid contract to SUPES in 2011 — two years before a top district official was hired by the firm as a consultant to CPS and Rochester, N.Y.
  • Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS), Maryland, where the school system awarded a $175,000 contract to SUPES in 2012 before two district officials were hired as CPS consultants by SUPES.
  • Washoe County, Nevada, where the school system awarded a $300,000 contract to SUPES in 2011 before a top school official was hired as a CPS consultant by the firm.

How much the school officials were paid as consultants in those districts isn’t clear except in Huntsville, where a schools spokeswoman says SUPES paid the district official more than $26,000.

In each case, the school officials from those six out-of-state districts who worked on the side as consultants for SUPES worked for the company as part of its no-bid CPS deal engineered by Byrd-Bennett. None has been accused of any crime.

But the ties are still troubling and should raise questions for students and taxpayers alike, says Samuel E. Abrams, director of the National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education, at Columbia University.

“Does this sidetrack superintendents so they take their eyes off the ball?” he says. “Does it lead to a give and take? Does it lead to a certain kind of coziness with these companies that does not serve the school district well?”

Unlike with those out-of-state districts and despite Byrd-Bennett’s admitted arrangement with SUPES, CPS’ ethics policy bars its employees from having any financial interest in a company that has a contract with the district.

Morton Sherman of the American Association of School Superintendents says he doesn’t see anything wrong with top school administrators working for private companies after leaving their posts. But Sherman says school officials should not work for a company while still in a leadership position with a school district, particularly if that company has a contract with the district.

“I would be very wary about that,” Sherman says.

 This report was first written and reported by the Better Government Association’s Sarah Karp and by Catalyst-Chicago’s Melissa Sanchez.

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Former PGCPS Senior official placed on administrative leave following graduation scandal in DC Schools

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Jane Spence (The chief of D.C.’s secondary schools and a former PGCPS senior official has been removed from her post, making her the highest-ranking official to be relieved of duties following an investigation into whether Ballou High School in Southeast Washington improperly graduated students.

The chief of D.C.’s secondary schools has been removed from her post, making her the highest-ranking official to be relieved of duties following an investigation into whether Ballou High School in Southeast Washington improperly graduated students.

D.C. schools spokeswoman Kristina Saccone said officials placed Jane Spence, the secondary schools chief, on administrative leave, but would not say when or if she would return to her job. Saccone would also not say when Spence was placed on leave.

All middle and high school principals report to Spence, who works out of D.C. Public Schools headquarters.

Spence did not immediately reply to a request for comment Tuesday afternoon.

The school system removed Ballou Assistant Principal Shamele Straughter last week. Reached Monday evening, Straughter declined to comment.

Ballou’s principal, Yetunde Reeves, was reassigned to the school system’s headquarters in December pending the results of the investigation. Chancellor Antwan Wilson announced last week — at the same time the first part of a District investigation into D.C.’s graduation practices was released — that Reeves would not be returning to the school. Neither Reeves nor her attorney responded to a request for comment last week.

The Office of the State Superintendent of Education said in its initial report that Ballou’s administrators told teachers that a high percentage of their students were expected to pass and encouraged educators to provide makeup work and extra credit to students, no matter how much school they missed. As a result, Ballou graduated students who missed large portions of the school year — a violation of city policy.

The investigation was prompted by a November article by WAMU and NPR that said Ballou seniors who did not meet graduation requirements were still given diplomas. While the WAMU-NPR article focused on Ballou, the report from the state superintendent’s office examined attendance and grading practices across the city, determining that truancy is more severe at neighborhood schools such as Ballou than in charter or application schools.

Before working at D.C. Public Schools, Spence spent 13 years in Prince George’s County Public Schools, according to her biography.  She was named Maryland’s high school principal of the year in 2011 while leading Bowie High School.

Via Washington Post 

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Change to Submitting Testimony for Education Subcommittee Hearings -Raises eyebrows.

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Darryl Barnes, Maryland State Delegate has surprised many by requesting written testimony in advance.

In a rather surprising change of procedures within the Education subcommittee hearing under Maryland State Delegate Darryl Barnes, there has been a rather unusual change in procedures to submit written testimony ahead of bill hearings in Annapolis. In an email seen by Reform Sasscer Movement secretariat, (See below), testimony must be submitted by Thursday no later than 5:00pm. Mr. Barnes will then print out copies for each committee member and staff.

According to keen observers, this game man-ship  is meant to screen issues of public concern and identify whistle blowers hence to either cancel the hearing, or bar a participant or participants,  who may submit issues of public concern  they might not like  from testifying on the floor. Prince George’s County citizenry must reject this method ASAP by calling their elected officials or Mr. Barnes himself to recede  this questionable method. Any whistle blower will be identified and  the exercise is raising eyebrows at a time the county is under going a major change due to public corruption including widespread fraudulent scheme to raise the grades in Prince George’s County public schools.

Maryland State Delegate Darryl Banes replaced Delegate Valentino-Smith as the  new Chair of the Education Subcommittee last week. In an an email sent out to various stake holders on January 19th, 2018, Delegate Valentino-Smith stated that she had enjoyed chairing the first year of the Education Subcommittee and thanked all for your interest and involvement in these important matters. Today, Delegate Chair Walker announced the new organization of the Subcommittees for 2018.  Delegate Darryl Barnes has been named Chair of the Education  Subcommittee for the coming 2018 Session.

 In the past during Delegate Valentino-Smith tenure, the procedures were very simple. All one had to do was to sign in a sheet in the Committee Room for persons who wished to testify in support or opposed to a bill.  Written testimony was not required but if one was providing it, the rule was to bring in 9 copies for the Committee Members and staff.

With the new leadership of the committee, there appear to be an hidden card in the dark which many in the movement in the county are yet to clarify what it is being concealed. Any lack of transparency and proper accountability is not good to the public. Transparency is key to maintaining or regaining the public’s trust. Lack of transparency can have devastating effects that sometimes leave a permanent stain on any entity including the legislative branch or brand’s image. Brands or even members of the legislative branch cannot thrive without the public’s trust.

Compromising transparency to benefit an institution or a company’s bottom line may seem like a good idea in the moment, but the long-term damages can be significant.

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All hearings will take place immediately after House Session on Fridays in the Prince George’s County Delegation Room (Room 150).  The delegation is anticipating a start time of 11:15 am – 11:30 am, depending on the length of the session. (See below)

DATE BILLS HEARD ROOM TIME
January 26, 2018 ·         PG 505-18  – Equity in Education Act

(Angel)

PG 506-18  – Students with Disability Report (Angel)

·         PG 510-18 – Teachers and Administrators Child Protective

Services Investigation Findings

(Muse)

·         PG 513-18 – Telecommunications Transmission Facility on Public School Grounds – Public Hearing Notification   (Washington)

150 – Prince George’s County Delegation Room 11:30 am
February 2, 2018 ·         PG 507-18 – Election of Vice Chair and Voting Procedures (Walker)

·         PG 509-18 – Prince George’s County Board of Education – Governance

(Muse)

·         PG 511-18 – Academic Revitalization and Management Effectiveness Initiative – Repeal

(Muse)

150 – Prince George’s County Delegation Room 11:30 am
February 9, 2018 ·         PG 501-18 – Elementary School – Limit on Class Size (Walker)

·         PG 504-18 – Student Hearing and Vision Screenings – Reporting Requirements (Valentino-Smith)

·         PG 508-18 – PGCPS – Office of Inspector General – Establishment

(Washington)

150 – Prince George’s County Delegation Room 11:30 am
February 16, 2018 ·         PG-512-18 – School Overcrowding Reduction Act of 2018

(Sen. Rosapepe & Valentino-Smith)

150 – Prince George’s County Delegation Room 11:3

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PGCPS Emails raise questions about central office pressure in Maryland graduation-rates scandal

Still0122_00008_1516679699961_4848806_ver1.0_640_360Less than three weeks before graduation, a central office staffer in Prince George’s County told an assistant principal at DuVal High School that 130 students still needed to fulfill state requirements to meet the school’s diploma goal for the class of 2016.

“At this point, your graduation rate is trending at 59%,” wrote Anthony Whittington, a data management and strategy analyst in the office of the deputy superintendent, according to a copy of an email obtained by The Washington Post.

The May 2016 email preceded a grading controversy that led to a state-ordered investigation of allegations of graduation-rate fraud in Maryland’s second-largest school district.

On Monday, five DuVal employees were removed following findings that grading and graduation certification procedures were violated.

By Tuesday, the leaked May 2016 email and another from 2017 were raising questions among critics about the role of central office staff in the scandal.

The 2016 graduation rate at the Lanham school was 92.4 percent — a jump of more than 33 points from what was described on May 4, 2016.

“This is the most conclusive evidence to date that not only was central office aware, but they were pressuring these school-based employees,” said David Murray, a school board member who is part of the minority bloc that urged the state to investigate and who represents the district that includes DuVal.

Murray said he finds it “completely unfair” that school-based employees “are being punished for what it appears they were pressured into doing. We have it completely backward in terms of who is being held accountable.”

District officials denied the claims Tuesday, saying the leaked emails do not show that central office staff pressured DuVal leaders. The emails were cited Monday in a WTTG-TV report .

Whittington, the author of the email, said in an interview Tuesday that he checks on graduation rates a few times a year and noticed DuVal’s was uncharacteristically low.

“DuVal’s graduation rate historically is much higher,” he said.

His email discussed a school work sheet that showed 221 students were ready to graduate and the school needed 130 more students to reach its desired goal. “Can you provide further clarity?” he wrote. “How many of the 130 are you projecting to actually graduate? If you need support, let me know.”

A second email, from April 2017, inquired about the school’s rate again, asking the same assistant principal how many students would be eligible to graduate if community service requirements were not an issue. “You are at 28% now,” Whittington wrote.

Several days after the email, the assistant principal circulated a long list of students on an email.

Whittington said he sent his 2017 email because he believed there was a technical issue and was questioning the accuracy of the number.

School district spokesman John White said there is nothing new about setting goals for graduation rates and maintained there was no intimidation and Whittington was offering help.

“There’s a difference between intimidation and checking in and offering support,” he said.

Via Washington Post 👇👇

Read more >>> Maryland delegate Dereck E. Davis must resign over corruption in the county schools. 

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Anthony Whittington,(seen here) a data management and strategy analyst in the office of the deputy superintendent is at the center of the graduation illegal scheme. According to Washington post, wrote pressurizing email stating that, “At this point, your graduation rate is trending at 59%”.

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Mrs. Dereck Davis is a top deputy Superintendent in PGCPS. Baker and Segun Eubanks hired Kevin Maxwell to be school CEO. Maxwell promptly hired Mrs. Dereck Davis as his top deputy. She reports to her husband who is tied to the school system budget through the Maryland legislature. >>> Read more

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David Murray, a school board member who is part of the minority bloc that urged the state to investigate and who represents the district that includes DuVal. Hon. Murray has said that, he finds it “completely unfair” that school-based employees “are being punished for what it appears they were pressured into doing. We have it completely backward in terms of who is being held accountable.”

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Former Baltimore County Schools Superintendent Dallas Dance indicted on 4 counts of perjury

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Former Baltimore County school superintendent Dallas Dance was indicted Tuesday on four counts of perjury for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 in pay he received for private consulting with several companies and school districts beginning in 2012, the Maryland State Prosecutor announced.

The four-count indictment handed down by a Baltimore County grand jury alleges the former superintendent falsely stated on financial disclosure forms filed with the county school district that he earned no additional income personally or through his consulting company, Deliberate Excellence, in 2012, 2013 and 2015.

Each perjury count carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail. Dance is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges on Feb. 12.

The charges allege he negotiated a no-bid contract between the school system and Chicago-based SUPES Academy in 2012 while he was earning approximately $90,000 from the company without telling the school system.

“Parents of Baltimore County Public School students should be able to trust that their Superintendent of Schools is carrying out his duties, honestly, with transparency and in the best interest of the students and the schools,” state Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said Tuesday. “Any violation of that trust is intolerable.”

Dance did not respond to a request for comment. His lawyers, Andrew Graham and Michelle Lipkowitz, declined to comment.

The indictment alleges that while he was superintendent Dance failed to disclose payments he was getting from school districts in South Carolina, California, Rhode Island and New York. It also said he failed to disclose payments from other entities — including the Educational Research and Development Institute, a company that represents educational technology firms seeking to get contracts from school districts including Baltimore County.

The Baltimore Sun reported in November that Dance did not report on mandatory disclosure forms income he received from ERDI in 2014 and 2015.

Interim Superintendent Verletta White also worked as a consultant for the company for four years without disclosing the payments to the school system or the public, The Sun reported. White repeatedly filed county disclosure forms stating she earned no outside income while working as the school system’s chief academic officer, the position she held from 2013 until she was named interim superintendent last year.

White acknowledged when asked by The Sun that she earned about $3,000 a year for attending twice-yearly conferences where she gave advice to ERDI’s clients. She later apologized to the school system and pledged not to accept payments for outside work.

Baltimore County school employees submit annual financial disclosure forms in which they affirm under penalty of perjury that the information is accurate. The forms are designed to assure the public and the school board that school officials are not involved in financial matters that could present a conflict of interest.

White has not been charged with any crime.

In a statement Tuesday, White said, “We are surprised and saddened to hear about the charges against former superintendent Dallas Dance. It is important to note, there are no accusations of wrongdoing by the current administration or me. I have full confidence in the integrity of our staff and organization as a whole.”

Dance, 36, abruptly resigned as superintendent of the nation’s 25th largest school system on April 18, citing the toll of the job on his family. It later emerged he was under investigation at the time by the state prosecutor.

The young, charismatic leader took over Baltimore County schools in July 2012 with a mandate for change. He quickly went to work disrupting the status quo by imposing uniform high school schedules, rewriting the curriculum to include the use of laptops, and persuading the school board to approve multi-million dollar contracts for educational software. He also focused more attention and funding on the lowest performing schools.

His contract was renewed in 2016, and Dance was in the first year of the four-year pact when he resigned last spring. He was earning a $287,000 annually. The school board appointed White, the chief academic officer, interim superintendent.

“I, personally, am saddened to learn of the State Prosecutor’s actions against Dr. Dance,” said Baltimore County school board chair Edward J. Gilliss in a statement. “It is my hope that the board continues to look forward and that today’s news does not have the unintended consequence of derailing BCPS’s progress.”

Other officials responded to the news of Dance’s indictment with expressions of disappointment.

“These allegations, if true, are not only extremely disappointing, but inexcusable,” Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who supported the superintendent during his tenure, said in a statement.

Gov. Larry Hogan’s press secretary Shareese Churchill said the governor “has made very clear, corruption and the lack of accountability in our school systems will not be tolerated.” She noted that Hogan is pushing legislation to create an independent unit to investigate allegations of ethical violations by school officials.

Document: Dallas Dance indictment »

The county teachers union president, Abby Beyton, said she will assume Dance is innocent until he is proven guilty.

“If it is true then he deserves whatever comes his way,” Beyton said. “We have never had anything like this in Baltimore County and I don’t want to ever see it again.”

Baltimore County PTA president Jayne Lee expressed concern that the controversy will distract district leaders from addressing classroom issues. “It is disheartening because our school system is going to be dragged through the mud,” she said.

Ann Miller, a member of the county school board who has been critical of Dance, said she was “saddened and concerned with the indictment but not shocked.”

“There were enough questions over the past five years to prompt due diligence,” Miller said. “Unfortunately the board failed to act accordingly every step of the way.”

Baltimore County school ethics officials ruled in 2014 that Dance had violated ethics rules by taking a part-time job with SUPES training principals in Chicago. The ethics officials again reprimanded Dance in November 2016, ruling that he had violated financial disclosure rules by not initially reporting the $79,000 he received as an adjunct professor at the University of Richmond and for not reporting he had created a limited-liability corporation in 2012.

One of the trips was to the Richland County School District in South Carolina. The Sun reported that in 2015 Dance had received $5,768 from Richland for being a “training and keynote speaker” and hadn’t disclosed the payment as required. Tuesday’s indictment states that Dance failed to report the $5,768 payment on his financial disclosure form despite knowing he had earned the income.

State prosecutors more than a year ago began delving into Dance’s involvement with SUPES Academy, a now-defunct Illinois-based company that trained principals in school districts across the country, including in Baltimore County.

Shortly after Dance became superintendent, the county school board approved, at his request, an $875,000 no-bid contract with SUPES to train Baltimore County principals.

State legislative auditors later faulted the school system for not seeking a competitive bid before hiring the company.

SUPES Academy came to the attention of federal investigators in Chicago several years ago. In 2015, a co-owner of SUPES and the former Chicago school superintendent, Barbara Byrd-Bennett, were indicted on corruption charges.

Byrd-Bennett pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and admitted she had steered more than $23 million in no-bid contracts to SUPES. In return she received tickets to sporting events and meals and promises of kickbacks.

The SUPES official, Gary Solomon, was convicted and sentenced to seven years for his part in offering thousands of dollars to Byrd-Bennett for her help in getting millions in contracts for his company. Byrd-Bennett was sentenced to four and a half years in federal prison.

via Baltimore Sun 

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Prince George’s County removes five staffers at DuVal High amid grading scandal

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Prince George’s County Public Schools chief executive Kevin Maxwell announced changes at DuVal High School following a grading scandal. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)

By Donna St. George

In the wake of a scandal involving alleged fraud in graduation rates, Prince George’s County officials have shaken up some of the top staff at a high school where investigators found violations of grading and graduation certification procedures.

District officials announced the changes Monday afternoon, signaling the first personnel fallout from a controversy that touched off a state-ordered examination of student records and whistleblower complaints in the state’s second-largest school system.

Five people have been removed from DuVal High, including the principal, an assistant principal and three other employees, according to people familiar with the situation. District officials said they could not provide details because personnel matters are confidential, but they said the employees learned of the change Friday.

The school of 1,866 students in Lanham, Md., was once touted as an example of the district’s success — one of eight schools celebrated with fanfare last year for having a graduation rate at or above 90 percent. DuVal’s was 92.4 percent.

“Intentional violations of school system policies and procedures will not be tolerated,” Kevin Maxwell, the system’s chief executive, said in a statement released shortly after a letter went home to families. “Changes are being made to improve student achievement and strengthen the DuVal community’s confidence in its school.”

The changes come a week before Prince George’s is scheduled to appear before the Maryland State Board of Education to present its plan to address problems identified by the state report.

That report, which sampled students with late grade changes in 2016 and 2017, found that at DuVal, more than 27 percent of that group lacked documentation showing graduation eligibility or did not qualify to graduate.

It found that DuVal ran a large, unofficial credit recovery program for students trying to compensate for failing grades. Staff told investigators that previous credit recovery programs were not always graded and that students got points for attempting, according to the report. Seventeen students in 2016 and 2017 racked up more than 50 days of unlawful absences, it said.

School board member Edward Burroughs III, who has been critical of the district administration, raised concerns that punishment appears limited to employees at DuVal.

“It appears that there is one standard for school-based employees and an entirely different standard for executive level staff,” he said.

Burroughs said he expects that other actions will follow the DuVal shake-up.

“DuVal is the first school to go through this but certainly not the last,” he said.

District officials said they have assigned a support team of central office supervisors to assist at the school. An acting principal has been in place since August.

Raaheela Ahmed, a board member who joined Burroughs in calling for an investigation of whistleblowers’ complaints, said the letter sent home to families doesn’t give enough detail.

“It is a statement saying change is being made without specifically pinpointing what exactly is going to happen and what exactly is going on,” she said. “There is a lot of wonder left.”

School district officials said they got a call reporting problems at the school in May 2017, which triggered an internal ­audit.

via Washington Post; >>Read more Fox5DC

Ed-Burroughs

School board member Edward Burroughs III, who has been critical of the district administration, raised concerns that punishment appears limited to employees at DuVal.

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Raaheela Ahmed, a board member who joined Burroughs in calling for an investigation of whistleblowers’ complaints, said the letter sent home to families doesn’t give enough detail.
“It is a statement saying change is being made without specifically pinpointing what exactly is going to happen and what exactly is going on,” she said. “There is a lot of wonder left.”

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A Crisis of Confidence In Maryland Schools: Is An Investigator General The Solution?

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Governor Hogan at the annual Maryland STEM Festival at Maryland International School in Elkridge, Md. 

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has said that parents’ confidence in public schools is waning. Now, the Republican governor is proposing an office of an independent investigator with the power to subpoena to look into corruption allegations in Prince George’s County ––as well as complaints of mold and broken heating systems around the state. Is his move politically motivated? And will it pass in a General Assembly controlled by the Democratic Party? Guest host Brendan Greeley discusses with local parents and education advocates.

Guests

  • Arelis Hernández Reporter, The Washington Post; @arelisrhdz
  • Angela Angel Member, Maryland House of Delegates (D-Prince George’s County); @MDAdvocateAngel
  • Steven Hershkowitz Press Secretary, Maryland State Education Association; @smhershkowitz

Listen here 👇👇

https://thekojonnamdishow.org/audio/#/shows/2018-01-16/a-crisis-of-confidence-in-maryland-schools-is-an-investigator-general-the-solution/111077/@00:00

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EDWARDS: Days of Selling Out Prince George’s Residents Must End

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Former Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards (right) chats with members of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689 and other union representatives outside Metro headquarters in northwest D.C. on Oct. 26. Edwards, who’s running for Prince George’s County executive, came out to support the Metro workers’ push for additional safety measures within the transit system. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

By Donna Edwards

In my 35 years as a resident and taxpayer in Prince George’s County, I’ve watched developers and big-name companies work the process, securing favorable zoning decisions, taxpayer financing, and give little in return for our investment. To be sure, this is not true of every project and every developer, but we’ve had too many instances of under-the-table payments, favorable deals, and indicted and convicted elected officials, some as recent as 2017. This is not who we are, and in 2018 it must change in order for us to make the kind of progress we deserve.

For too long, we’ve seen some of our leaders selling out Prince George’s County to the highest bidder. In my campaign for County Executive, I have decided that I will not accept campaign contributions from developers because we need to turn the page, rid ourselves of a reputation for “pay to play.” My pledge should not be mistaken for shunning development, but I will lead by severing the umbilical cord of developer money that has often gotten in the way of good decision-making. The next era of progress in Prince George’s County must be built on transparency and accountability. We shouldn’t be afraid to hold the public and private sector accountable — whether it’s passing legislation to raise the minimum wage or negotiating project labor agreements and community benefit agreements for large-scale development projects.

Systemic corruption happens when contracts are low-bid and workers are not paid wages that allow them to take care of themselves and their families. It happens when sole-source contracts go to the same handful of friends and political donors, cutting out minority-, women-, veteran-owned and local businesses and leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for lack of competition. Systemic corruption happens when patronage jobs are awarded with no accountability to the institutions of government or to taxpayers. This weakens our reputation and standing in the region and leaves hardworking people across our county struggling to keep up and without the quality services we’ve earned.

2018 is a turning point.

We will grow our county by incentivizing positive economic development and opening up opportunities for those who have been shut out because they’ve chosen not to pay or because they haven’t paid enough. We will target development around our transportation hubs, reinvest in older, gateway communities, protect our cultural and environmental resources, expand participation of small and minority owned businesses, and pay workers a living wage so they can provide for their families. I stand ready to work with my colleagues to ensure that our contracts process is just as competitive as it is transparent. And we’ll work to level the playing field so our homegrown businesses and our local workforce actually benefit from investments in our schools and communities. We need developers to know that we will work with you, but we will always put the interests of our County first.

At every level of government, transparency is the best way to combat corruption effectively and to impose accountability. Whether the question is how much casino revenue is coming to the County and how and where it’s spent; or the details of the school budget and performance, including executive compensation, teacher salaries, and graduation rates; or whether our contracts (tax dollars) are bid competitively so all our businesses play on a level playing field — we deserve answers. In the words of the often-quoted Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, “sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” Justice Brandeis also reminded us that “the most important political office is that of private citizen.” In Prince George’s County, we need more sunlight to empower private citizens so that those elected will engage in public service, not private gain.

Of course, it’s not all bad news. We’ve made great strides over the years. The financial rewards from MGM National Harbor are significant and the fact that they have an organized workforce means that their workers are being paid livable wages with good benefits. We’ve attracted businesses in almost every corner of this county, and we’re on track to establish our county as a healthcare hub in the Washington region. The next decade will dictate much for Prince George’s, and it’s critical that we have leadership that is unbossed and unbought to ensure our county truly gets a fair deal.

I’ve stood unafraid to take on big developers or special interests plenty of times in the past. I believe the time has come for an era of unprecedented transparency and accountability for our county.

In Prince George’s County, transparency and accountability are our most powerful tools for change. It’s well past time we use them. I’m running a people-powered campaign, and I intend to run county government the same way.

Via Washington Informer

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Study Finds that Vast Majority of Students World Over Cannot Meet Common Core Benchmark of ‘Proficient’

area model multiplication.008A new study conducted jointly by the National Superintendents Roundtable and the Horace Mann League concludes that the benchmarks used for Common Core assessments are wildly unrealistic.

The press release states:

“Study finds most students in most nations cannot clear the bar set by Common Core or NAEP benchmarks Washington, DC, January 17 – A detailed report released today concludes that the vast majority of students in most countries cannot demonstrate proficiency as defined by one of America’s most common educational tests. The authors of the analysis suggest the U.S. has established benchmarks that are neither useful nor credible. In their report How High the Bar?, the National Superintendents Roundtable and Horace Mann League linked the performance of foreign students on international tests of reading, mathematics, and science to the proficiency benchmarks of the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), the United States’ longest continuing assessment of students. They also examined major assessments related to the Common Core. The report notes that very few students in most nations would clear the NAEP proficiency bar the U.S. has set for itself in reading, math, and science:

  • In no nation do a majority of students meet the NAEP Proficient benchmark in Grade 4 reading.
  • Just three nations have 50 percent or more of their students meeting the Proficient benchmark in Grade 8 math (Singapore, Republic of Korea, and Japan).
  • Only one nation has 50 percent or more of its students meeting the Proficient benchmark in Grade 8 science (Singapore).

“Many criticize public schools because only about one third of our students are deemed to be ‘proficient’ on NAEP assessments,” says Dr. James Harvey, executive director of the National Superintendents Roundtable. “But even in Singapore—always highly successful on international assessments—just 39 percent of fourth-graders clear NAEP’s proficiency benchmark.”

“Citing the U.S. Department of Education’s own records, the report criticizes the National Assessment Governing Board, which sets policy for NAEP, for misusing the term “Proficient.” The term does not mean what many assume it to mean: performing at grade level. Nor does it mean proficient as most people understand the term, according to Department officials.

“Misuse of the term has confused the public and defeated the valuable purpose of assessment, which is to gain useful insights into school performance,” says Jack McKay, director of the Horace Mann League.

“Far from failing, the U.S. ranked fifth among the world’s 40 largest and wealthiest nations in Grade 4 reading at the NAEP Proficient benchmark. Singapore, the Russian Federation, Finland, and England ranked ahead. The research behind How High the Bar? compared NAEP to two international assessments known as the Progress on International Literacy Survey (PIRLS) and Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Benchmarks also used for Common Core and college-and-career readiness

“The report indicates that in 2015, 43 states used tests to evaluate learning related to the Common Core. They include tests associated with the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC), as well as tests developed by individual states.

“Many have adopted benchmarks similar to NAEP’s, labeling them as “career and college readiness” standards. When Common Core assessments are aligned with NAEP’s benchmark of Proficient, state test results are also likely to contribute to a narrative of public school failure, conclude the report authors.

“Controversy in setting standards The report also criticizes the speed by which the National Assessment Governing Board adopted the benchmarks. The National Superintendents Round-table and Horace Mann League call on NAEP to redefine its basic terminology, and to include a disclaimer in all of its publications reaffirming Congressional insistence that the benchmarks should be used cautiously and on a trial basis.

“The report also encourages school leaders to educate communities about the flaws with the term Proficient and how school systems abroad would perform if held to the same standard. “This report doesn’t endorse an anti-testing agenda or seek to lower standards. We believe in assessment,” says Harvey. “But in the words of a Turkish proverb, no matter how far you have gone down the wrong road, turn back.”

“The statistical analysis of How High the Bar? was performed by Emre Gönülates of Michigan State University. About the sponsors The National Superintendents Roundtable (superintendentsforum.org) is a community of school superintendents who learn, discuss and meet regularly with worldwide experts, sharing best practices and leading for the future. The Horace Mann League (hmleague.org) is an association of educators committed to the principles of public education. Its members believe the U.S. public school system is an indispensable agency for strengthening democracy and a vital, dynamic influence in American life. National Superintendents Roundtable Contact: Horace Mann League Contact: Rhenda Meiser Jack McKay (206) 465-9532, rhenda@rhendameiser.com (360) 821-9877, jmckay@hmleague.org”

Download the press release here.
Download the executive summary here.
Download the full report here.

 

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