Tag Archives: Students

4 Empty PGCPS School Buses Catch Fire in Parking Lot

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Fire officials say four school buses caught fire in a parking lot, causing a quarter of a million dollars in damage.

The Prince George’s County Fire Department says the fire was reported about 9 a.m. Sunday in the Brandywine area at a school bus parking on Short Cut Road. Four buses were on fire.

The fire was extinguished and no one was injured. Investigators believe the fire originated in one of the buses and then spread.

The cause remains under investigation.

Damages are estimated at $250,000.

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Prince George’s Co. bus drivers worried office infested with mold

IMG_9153PRINCE GEORGE’S CO., MD (WUSA9) – Bus drivers with Prince George’s County Public Schools say the office they check in and out of every day is making them sick. Many are worried the building is infested with mold.

“It’s unbearable. When you go in there you just smell some kind of weird odor”, said driver Kirt Williams. “And then after that your throats starts scratching and your nose feels kinda funny. And with me, my eyes get real watery.”

The building is a temporary trailer, but Driver Tujuana Bigelow said it has been there for about twenty years old.

“It’s hard- our foreman is in such bad shape being in that building all day long he was in the emergency room last night,” she said. “So I mean we can’t continue to work in this environment.

One hundred and eight bus drivers go in and out of the building each day.

Officials with the PGCPS said the building had been tested earlier this week to confirm whether there is mold.

Prince George’s County School Board member Edward Burroughs III said he’s been waiting at the site all week for testing crews- that didn’t show up.

“Frankly, I’m livid,” he said. “And if it has been tested Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday where are the results? We need to make those results public.”

The building was tested Wednesday afternoon.

Susan Nelson is among others who are now wearing face masks when they go into work.

“It feels like your throat is stopping up for one thing, you nose gets discomfort, very much so, and your eyes water,” she said.

via WUSA9

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The big problem with early childhood education

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In this Washington post, which appeared on Valerie Strauss’s “Answer Sheet” blog, Nancy Carlsson-Paige explains that the biggest problem in early childhood education today is the erosion of time for play.

Carlsson-Paige is an emeritus professor at Lesley College, where she taught teachers of early childhood. She explains in this post that the changes in the recent past have damaged children and their classrooms.

She said, in a recent speech:

For the last 15 years or so, our education system has been dominated by standards and tests, by the gathering of endless amounts of data collected to prove that teachers are doing their job and kids are learning. But these hyper requirements have oppressed teachers and drained the creativity and joy from learning for students. Unfortunately, this misguided approach to education has now reached down to our youngest children.

In kindergartens and pre-K classrooms around the country we’ve seen a dramatic decrease in play. There are fewer activity centers in classrooms and much less child choice, as well as less arts and music. At the same time, teacher directed instruction has greatly increased, along with more scripted curriculum and paper and pencil tasks.

Play is very important in child development, she says:

Children all over the world play. They all know how to play, and no one has to teach them how. Any time we see a human activity that is wired into the brain and accomplished by all children worldwide, we know it is critical to human development.

So much is learned through play in the early years that play has been called the engine of development. Children learn concepts through play; they learn to cope and make sense of life experiences; and, they develop critical human capacities such as problem solving, imagination, self regulation and original thinking.

She notes that early childhood educators were never at the table when government officials, think tanks, testing companies, and standards writers decided that play didn’t matter. It does matter, and strangely enough, we need to fight to defend the right of children to play.

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PGCPS system looks for answers to Mt. Rainier enrollment woes

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Thomas Stone Elementary is nearly 200 students over capacity. The school is slotted to hold 574 students, but currently enrolls 746. That puts the elementary school at nearly 130 percent utilization.

MOUNT RAINIER – A major problem faces one small city in Prince George’s County as it tries to tackle the tale of two elementary schools.

Mount Rainier, in Northern Prince George’s County, is in the middle of a problem that is not uncommon for the northern area: overcrowding. However, while one elementary school, Thomas Stone Elementary, struggles with finding room to place more students, across town Mount Rainier Elementary is dealing with an issue that is quite the opposite. Mount Rainier Elementary is in the midst of an enrollment decline.

According to number provided by the school system, Thomas Stone Elementary is nearly 200 students over capacity. The school is slotted to hold 574 students, but currently enrolls 746. That puts the elementary school at nearly 130 percent utilization. In contrast, Mount Rainier Elementary can hold 406 students but currently has 315 students, making the school 78 percent utilized.

Rhianna McCarter, a pupil accounting and school boundaries staffer, spoke with a group of about 30 parents with the help of translator to inform the families of both elementary schools about the options Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) has to balance enrollment in the area.

“The last time (Mount Rainier Elementary) had a boundary change was in 2003 and that was when Cottage City was reassigned to Rodgers Heights (Elementary). Thomas Stone in 2006 had a boundary change,” McCarter said.

Elizabeth Chaisson, a planner with PGCPS, said part of the reason for the urgent need to address the overcrowding issue is the lack of boundary changes over the past several years. She said PGCPS has hesitated to make changes because residents and political leaders alike recoil at the mention of boundary changes.

“People get very upset. They feel, ‘I moved to this neighborhood. This is my school. Don’t change it,’” Chaisson said. “The bottom line is we’re here tonight to talk about boundaries and people don’t like boundary changes, so we’re here to get your feedback about what the best change is for your community.”

The school system has slotted Thomas Stone for renovation in phase two of its 20-year capital improvements plan, but that is approximately six years away from initial discussions of funding, and both Chaisson and McCarter said a solution is needed in the meantime.

Previously PGCPS held a meeting on several different enrollment issues in the northern area of the county at Bladensburg High School on Oct. 28. Approximately five residents from Mount Rainier attended that meeting and requested a follow up.

As a possible interim measure, McCarter said, PGCPS has opened up the possibility of families volunteering to transfer from Thomas Stone to Mount Rainier, though it has not been effective.

“As we look toward possible solutions, one of them is the idea of getting students to volunteer to transfer,” she said. “Right now there is fewer than 20 students that have taken advantage of that opportunity. So, that hasn’t really been an effective solution so far.”

However, McCarter said the school system is currently looking at three different options to solve the enrollment issues at the two schools, but also said PGCPS is open to, and really wants input and ideas from the community.

The three ideas presented to those gathered all dealt with ways to increase numbers at Mount Rainier and decrease those at Thomas Stone and include: 1. creating a major boundary change to reroute the eastern-most portion of the city (the Kaywood Gardens Apartments and surrounding areas), areas of Brentwood essentially between the midsection of the town and Route 1 and all of North Brentwood to Mount Rainier Elementary, and moving all sixth grade students to their boundary middle school, 2. moving pre-k and Early Start classes to Mount Rainier, or 3. making a minor boundary adjustment to reroute Kaywood Gardens to Mount Rainer, which McCarter said would have “no material impact on enrollment at either school.”

All of the homes in Mount Rainier, Brentwood and North Brentwood are within the “walk zone” for Mount Rainier Elementary, meaning they are within 1.5 miles and transportation would not be provided for the students to get to school.

At the end of the meeting, parents and community members were given a feedback sheet to rank the three options and provide their ideas for more options. Several residents asked for another follow-up meeting held at Mount Rainier Elementary.

McCarter said PGCPS would try to schedule another meeting before Kevin Maxwell, chief executive officer of PGCPS, presents his recommendation to the school board on Jan. 19. A public hearing for the changes is anticipated on Feb. 2, 2017.

via prince George’s county sentinel

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Mount Rainier Elementary can hold 406 students but currently has 315 students, making the school 78 percent utilized. The school is less than a mile from Thomas Stone Elementary.

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PGCPS to no longer cover cost of AP exam for all students.

– Students in Prince George’s County are outraged after learning they will have to start paying for their Advanced Placement exams.

The tests used to be paid for by Prince George’s County Public Schools. But now, due to a budget decision plan, the test will no longer be paid for.

It costs around $90 a student for each advanced placement tests and Prince George’s County Public Schools says it cannot afford the half-million dollars it spends every year on paying for the tests, so it’s pulling the plug on the funding. There will be exceptions, but school board member and Parkdale High School senior Juwan Blocker says the timing is terrible.

“We are just now finding out about this, and students – they’ve just now signed up for AP classes planning on taking these tests at the end of this year. So for you to now inform students and parents to pay $93 if they’re not on free or reduced lunch – that’s ridiculous,” said Blocker.

“We are certainly sensitive to students in extreme financial circumstances so we will continue to pay for those students who qualify for free and reduced meals and we will also pay for students who get a three, a four or a five on the exam,” said Raven Hill, a spokesperson for Prince George’s County Public Schools.

Some students say they are not giving up without a fight. There is an online petition that already has 1,500 signatures. Students say they’re going to pack the Board of Education meeting on October 13 to have their voices heard.

via Fox 5 DC

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PGCPS makes international news with horrible school lunches.

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FORT WASHINGTON, Md. – Students attending Prince George’s County Public Schools are complaining about some disgusting discoveries in the school cafeteria. Complaints about moldy and undercooked food were issued to the school district through Twitter directly from these students who say they have not heard a response from the school system.

But the outrage on social media was more than evident from these students who say someone will end up getting sick from these school lunches.

“Criminals are getting better food than we are,” said Tamera Perry, a senior student at Friendly High School in Fort Washington.

Photo Prince George’s County students claim school lunches are undercooked, contain mold
It’s not prison food, but these students allege their school lunches are not up to par.

“You’re giving us something that’s not healthy, that can possibly cause us to die and it’s just unacceptable,” the high school student told us.

A school lunch menu for Friday, Sept. 11 at Friendly included “Rojo Fiesta Pizza.” But Perry said, “What was in it was nowhere near salsa. That wasn’t pizza at all. It was just disgusting.”

Some students may not share the taste in ingredients or choices made by Prince George’s County Public Schools. But they said burger buns with mold and undercooked meat are nothing new to their lunch trays.

“I’ve gotten lunch where my mandarin orange has mold on it,” said Perry. “There have been incidents where the lunch lady had to collect our fruit cup because they were expired. Our milk has been expired. Open up apple juice cartons and it’s been green. It’s just disgusting.”

One picture showed hollowed out chicken nuggets. For these students, their lunches come at a price too high for many.

“They raised our lunches to $3,” said Perry. “We’re paying $3 for something that’s not edible, not organic and it’s not healthy … For some of the population of students, that’s their only lunch, so you’re putting them in a sticky situation where they can either continue to starve or they eat it because that’s the only thing they have to eat.”

FOX 5 reached out to Prince George’s County Public Schools on Monday. The school district was observing a holiday and there were no classes and their offices were closed.

But a school spokesperson wrote in a statement, “PGCPS cannot confirm the origin of the photo circulating on social media, but encourages anyone who has concerns regarding meals to call 301-952-6580. Providing healthy and nutritious meals for all students is a contributing factor to high academic achievement and the district prides itself on doing so for over 129,000 students each day.”

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Real Solutions to the Scandal of Struggling Schools in NYC.

farina_tech_summit_nycschoolsChancellor Fariña (photo: @NYCSchools)

There’s been lots of news and commentary lately about fraudulent credit recovery schemes and grade fixing practices at city schools. The editors of the New York Post predictably want to pin the blame on Mayor de Blasio – with op-eds written by critics such as Senate Majority Leader Flanagan, who claim that these scandals are a good reason to question the extension of mayoral control of city schools.

Truth is that these schemes spread like a virus first under Mayor Bloomberg – the result of pressure on schools to improve quickly or be closed, combined with a troubling lack of oversight to see that improvements were based on real learning and not gimmicks. Credit recovery was widespread, along with instructions from principals that teachers should pass 60 percent of their students “or else.”

Despite the fact that this troubling phenomenon occurred during the Bloomberg administration, Senator Flanagan was then one of the biggest boosters of mayoral control, and in 2009, helped renew it for another six years. This was probably not unrelated to the fact that Bloomberg was also the biggest financial contributor to the Republican Senate majority.

Now that de Blasio is mayor, the hedge-funders and the charter lobby have replaced Bloomberg as the biggest contributors to the state GOP, and keeping its members in charge of the Senate. And as de Blasio has consistently opposed the efforts of these same groups to expand charters and privatize our public schools, Flanagan and the editors of the Post are predictably eager to use the scandal to threaten him with the loss of mayoral control.

To her credit, reporter Sue Edelman, who has broken many of these stories, made it clear in the Post that these fraudulent practices are not new:

Credit- and grade-boosting schemes went into full swing under Mayor Mike Bloomberg, who boasted of raising the citywide graduation rate to 64.2 percent in 2014. Last year, the rate rose to 68.4 percent. But both years only 38 percent of the grads had test scores high enough to enroll in CUNY without remedial help.

But even if this credit recovery and other artificial methods of juking the stats took hold during the Bloomberg years, the de Blasio administration cannot be let off the hook for allowing them to continue.

Edelman’s piece recounts the scandalous allegations at Dewey, Flushing, Richmond Hill, Bryant and Automotive High Schools, which until recently were met with little more than a shrug from both Chancellor Farina and the mayor. Teachers at Dewey in particular had been reaching out desperately for more than a year, before their copious evidence of fraud was finally taken seriously, and principal Kathleen Elvin dismissed in July.

I began to get anguished messages from teachers at Dewey in September 2012. Starting in February 2014, teachers reported the credit recovery to Special Investigator Condon and others. Soon followed numerous exposés in the Post, and by Marcia Kramer of CBS News and Juan Gonzalez of the Daily News, who catalogued in great detail the outrageous techniques of the principal to boost the graduation rate.

Yet in March, de Blasio said, referring to the Dewey scandal and the much-derided capability of the internal DOE investigative unit, “I don’t assume because some teachers talked to you that that’s the whole truth. I believe very, very strongly in the quality of our investigations unit. I have absolute faith in the integrity of that unit.”

As recently as this past June, Farina minimized the clear evidence of the principal’s misdeeds.

In this way, she and the mayor have played into the hands of their opponents. Even now, by appointing a group made up almost exclusively of DOE officials to look into the scandals instead of an independent panel of investigators, the administration seems tone deaf about how its efforts to stem the tide of corruption will be portrayed.

The administration has been less than transparent on a whole host of education issues – as the NYC Kids PAC report card pointed out.

There are 94 schools on the city’s “Renewal” list. These schools, many of which have been struggling for years, are under tremendous pressure to increase test scores and raise graduation rates or be closed or taken over by the state. Yet so far, the remedies introduced by the administration focus on “wrap-around” services – which do not directly address these students’ academic needs – as well as replacing teachers, appointing new administrators, and encouraging more professional development.

These schools do not need a whole new raft of inexperienced teachers. In March, de Blasio visited Automotive High School and said, “It is impossible to sit in one of those rooms and not immediately identify the level of commitment so many of our teachers have – how much they believe in the work they’re doing…These teachers are committed, energetic, creative, and they’re committed to the future of this school.” And yet last month, it was reported that 63 percent of the teachers at those schools had left or been forcibly removed.

Nor do these school need yet more high-priced administrators, though the Renewal division at Tweed is expanding fast and will have 45 administrative positions, many of them at top salaries, filled by the end of the summer. It is also unlikely that more teacher training and professional development will turn around these schools. An article in Politico NY relates how Farina recently met with Karen Ames, the new Superintendent of District 8 in the South Bronx, who briefed her on efforts to improve the Renewal schools in her district:

Ames, [is] the new superintendent of District 8, which encompasses a swath of largely low-income neighborhoods in the Bronx…[Ames is] a former network leader in prestigious District 2, the same Upper East Side region where Fariña spent years as principal of P.S. 6, came prepared for her meeting with the chancellor, whom she hasknown for years….Ames recently led several principals of Renewal Schools in her district on a tour of District 2’s Salk School of Science, one of the city’s best middle schools. Fariña praised the idea of the Salk tour…

It is astonishing that principals of District 8 renewal schools are being asked to visit Salk Middle School on the East Side of Manhattan for tips on how to improve their schools, given their vastly different student populations. Salk is a selective middle school that takes only the highest scoring students, and serves a primarily middle class and even comparatively wealthy school population. Only 11 percent of Salk students qualify for free lunch, according to Inside Schools; and it is home to no English language learners. Its students are 64 percent white; 21 percent Asian, 4 percent black, and 9 percent Hispanic.

Contrast those statistics with the four Renewal middle schools in District 8:

  • The Bronx Mathematics Preparatory School – 95 percent free lunch; 26 percent special education; 10 percent ELL; 95 percent black and Hispanic.
  • Hunts Point School – 91 percent free lunch; 28 percent special education; 25 percent ELL; 99 percent black and Hispanic.
  • Urban Assembly Academy of Civic Engagement: 79 percent free lunch; 30 percent special education; 13 percent ELL; 96 percent black and Hispanic.
  • M.S. 301 Paul L. Dunbar: 83 percent free lunch; 27 percent special education; 24 percent ELL, 97 percent black and Hispanic.

According to the Independent Budget Office, all the Renewal schools have much larger numbers of English language learners, immigrant students, students with disabilities, and students in temporary housing, as well as more black and Hispanic students than the system as a whole.

What the students in these schools desperately need is intensive tutoring and small classes to make significant improvements, not a new cadre of inexperienced teachers or administrators breathing down their necks. And yet more than 60 percent of the Renewal schools still have many classes with 30 students or more, according to DOE data.

When Rudy Crew was chancellor, he drew the lowest-performing schools in the city into a new program called the Chancellor’s District, and capped class size in all of their classes at no more than twenty students. This worked effectively to raise achievement.  Yet not a single elementary or K–8 school on the Renewal list had capped class sizes at 20 students in grades K-3 last year, as most experts would recommend. These were also the goals that the state demanded the DOE achieve citywide in its class size reduction plan in these grades, as part of the settlement of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity lawsuit in 2007.

Only eight middle or 6-12 schools out of 43 Renewal schools last year had capped class sizes at 23 students in grades 6-8, and only one renewal high school out of 31 had capped class sizes at 25 – the goals for those grades in the city’s original class size reduction plan. More than half of the high schools had at least some classes with 35 to 44 students – which mean they violated union contract levels.

The real scandal is that hundreds of thousands of New York City high school students, including those at schools that have allegedly engaged in credit manipulation, like Richmond Hill, Flushing, and Automotive, continue to struggle in large classes of 34 or more.

Rudy Crew had a vision of what high-poverty students need to succeed; but right now, there is no comparable vision on the part of this administration. If we are talking about accountability for schools and teachers, we must also address the accountability of those in charge of running our schools, and here the mayor and the chancellor have unaccountably failed.

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Leonie Haimsonis the Executive Director of Class Size Matters. Follow her on twitter @leoniehaimson

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