Can You Get This Kind of Feedback from a Device?


A teacher friend was relating to me her angst about an upcoming formal obsveration.   Ahh, the dreaded observation.   It can give sleepless nights to the bravest in the profession and even nightmares to those of us who are retired. (we awaken overjoyed to know we will NEVER have to endure the observation again) So it got me to  thinking about the fact that while so much has changed in teaching, the observation still hangs on, like the aged actor that will not leave the stage.  I thought about the teacher evaluation process and how much goes into a year of teaching that may not be seen in one moment in time or by examining Student Learning Outcomes (more data on student achievement), which every teacher must select as part of the evaluation process.  Then I happened to come across this article.  What makes a good teacher?  What makes one a bad teacher?  These are the questions raised in this article by Lynda Case Lambert.  Lambert’s answers are refreshingly ones that are not about student test scores or graduation rates. Case transcends the simple checking of the boxes on the form that evaluates teachers and presents us instead with the the human interaction necessary for deep teaching and learning,  Although Case is a teacher of college students, what she says here applies to teachers of students of all ages.  Great read!

Read it here

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Expensive Library Cards?


Here is a video introducing the BCPS One cards  – lanyard ID cards that all students and employees were issued sometime in 2014. The contract with Scholar Chip for $10 milion was cancelled after BCPS spent $4 million. Since it was a ten-year contract, a payment of $212,000 is still being made annually.  The cards are now only used to enter the building. I don’t even know when the students have to wear them. They are not needed for anything – not even library books since the library media software program allows for several alternative ways to check out materials. The kisoks that were supposed to be used to monitor attendance stacked up in schools… A rather expensive key entry system?  Recently BCPS announced students can use the cards to borrow books at the public library but that also seems rather costly since BCPL issues cards free of charge.

See video here

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More Devices for BCPS?

BCPS is getting ready to buy more devices…when there has not been any evidence that student achievement has improved since the digital initative began several years ago.

Business as usual?  Read more here

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It Just Keeps Coming


Here is an article from Education Week – once again – about our school district.     Read it here


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Another $200 Million

June 16, 2016

It’s getting ugly at the Baltimore County Public Schools Board of Education meetings.  There are two members who are trying their best to be accountable to the taxpayers and uphold the oaths they took when becoming members.  However, those two members, both  of them women, are cut off at the knees at every turn when it’s time for a vote.  It’s like  watching a reality show.

Last night the Board voted to approve $200 million in contracts. When Board member Kathleen Causey spoke against one of the contracts, she explained that she, once again, had barely received the information in time to digest it before the vote at the meeting was taken.  This is not the first time she has explained that the information needed to vote is seldom forthcoming.   Causey wants to make better decisions about spending and one of her reasons is the recent cancellation of three contacts – Scholar Chip, Print Management and Infinite Campus.  All three were debacles which wasted millions and created disruptions to teaching and learning.   When Causey asked for proof of increased student achievement for some of the contract renewals, answers, once again, were vague.  This is a recurring theme: lack of information and unresponsiveness on the both the Board’s and BCPS’ part.  Don’t people find it strange that so many Maryland Public Information Requests have had to be filed to get answers that should just be available to the public?

When member Ann Miller made a motion seeking a process to create oversight of the Board, the ensuing behavior of fellow members was sad, although predictable.  The vehemence with which some of them responded was startling.  I ask myself how a school district can place so much value on bullying prevention, mandating training on bullying for employees and then behave so disrespectfully and dysfunctional toward fellow members.   For those of you who missed it, at one meeting last month member Johnson accused member Miller of lies and innuendo (see the Towson Flyer article) and when asked about it by the Flyer, denied it and made vague and general comments about who she meant – although she clearly was referring to a fellow board member when she was speaking.  It was interesting to note that Johnson talked about “little blogs and Facebook posts”, as if social media was the great culprit — when Johnson is consistent as one of the loudest cheerleaders for Dallas Dance and his technology initiatives.

It continues to puzzle me that some of the Board members just don’t seem to understand the purpose of being on the Board. With more people showing up at public comment with their discontent every month, how can they not understand that there are problems with BCPS management decisions?  How can you listen to stories about a school sinking into a lake and black mold and another school with such awful discipline problems that the bathrooms are locked and still think that everything is just fine?  How can they think it is okay for special needs children to be on a bus for 90 minutes and for them not to have access to clean water?

I think what we have here is a serious reality disconnect.  It seems the only real answer is that we need new board members.


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Diane Ravitch on Baltimore County

Diane’s comments on BCPS are in italics.  Read her blog post here

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Baltimore County Front Page in the New York Times


On Saturday morning, November 4, 2017, our school district made the front page, above the fold news in The New York Times.  You would think we would be proud to receive national attention, but instead we are saddened and so disappointed with our leadership. We also wonder where The Baltimore Sun, our local newspaper has been the past five years.

                      Read the article here


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Second Language, Second Country

When I was 19 I went on a vacation to Europe that was supposed to last a month. I went to the Netherlands, because in that summer of 1970 everyone I met told me it was not to be missed. Much to my parents’ lament, I did not return to college that fall but got a job and stayed in Amsterdam. It was the beginning of a long love affair with the Netherlands for me. In subsequent years I married a Dutchman, lived in the seaside town of Noordwijk aan Zee and later Rijswijk, working, learning the language and making good friends. I spent 12 years there and when I left, it was with friendships that have lasted a lifetime. One of my children was born during that time, and both of my sons were bilingual when they were small. Now in their thirties, on visits to their father they find the language comes back to them albeit it slowly. When I speak to them in Dutch, they usually understand me.

I left the Netherlands for good 28 years ago but have kept in touch with the friends I made. The arrival of the Internet and especially Facetime brought an end to our snail mail letter writing and made it even easier to keep in contact. I have visited my friends over the years four times, and many have come to the US to visit me.

I recently returned from a month in the Netherlands, and could have easily stayed on…another month, several or even longer. Why? I have asked myself often why I feel so completely at home there, as if it were my country. I was hoping when I did my Ancestry DNA something Dutch would turn up but alas, the results pointed mostly to Ireland and the UK.

Things have of course changed in the Netherlands, just as they have here, but many of the things I loved remain the same. The ability to go places by bike, train or bus is still very much in existence. Towns and cities are usually walkable so life for me there has never required a workout – I  get that just in daily living. Children in elementary school still usually have the option of going home for an hour for lunch – on foot or by bicycle and many mothers and fathers work part time to accommodate them. Electric bikes are now quite popular and having ridden one I can understand why, making the eternal battle with the wind easier. Farmers’ markets also still abound in almost every town and availability of fresh produce is just as I remember it. It’s hard to get lost on the bus or train – stops are posted on electronic screens so you always know where you are. The crime is lower than even when I lived there.

The changes are somewhat disconcerting; Burger King, McDonnalds, Dominos (delivered by youth on bicycles) and other fast food chains litter the urban landscape as well as the train stations. I must admit I wasn’t sorry to see a Starbucks now and then, but some of the quaintness of the shops I remember is gone. Perhaps the most striking change is the number of American words and expressions that have crept into the language – and the fact that some of them are not even ones we would find acceptable. Language is a funny thing. On this visit, unlike others, I was not accompanied by my (American) husband for the first two weeks, and after my first four days I was so immersed in the language again that I began thinking and dreaming in Dutch. Expressions and words flowed out of my mouth that I didn’t even remember learning. And, as most people who command more than one language will tell you, suddenly you can find yourself searching for words in your native language as well as your second one.

I spent the bulk of my time staying with friends, one of whom lives in the city of Haarlem. I would advise anyone who wishes to see Amsterdam to stay in Haarlem with the charm of Amsterdam but without the wafting marijuana smoke and droves of tourists in the city center. To visit the museums and other points of interest in Amsterdam, it is only a short 15 minutes by train from Haarlem.

Of course, there is so much more to see than just Amsterdam. On this recent visit I discovered cities new to me.  Rent a bike and get acquainted with other parts of the country. You won’t regret it. Take really good walking shoes – and a raincoat just in case.


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A Word about Reading Levels

The following link will take you to an excellent explanation of the value of determining and using reading levels to guide students to improve their reading.  Fortunately, the American Association of School Librarians has also weighed in.  Great read!

Librarians Take Reading Stand Level

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Checking Perceptions

This one by Tricia Bishop is great!        Read here

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