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NCLB Outrages

Deasy Witnesses Discord at Board Meeting

Comments from Annie: Lots of “cousins” from the NCLB family are in the news today.

Here is the newly hired, Broad Academy trained, superintendent in Prince Georges County, (just outside of Washington, D.C.) hard at work in his challenging new position.This county is always in the NCLB news for its “chronically underperforming schools” and high percentages of students failing the state's High School Assessments.

They now have a program of “Saturday school -- which hundreds of students attended at five campuses starting [last] January -- and other extended-learning programs.”

I am sure the students are thrilled with this great idea!!!!

In addition, and this is certainly the NCLB mission, Deasy has been looking over the use of Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs in this school system. Quite obviously, and following creed, he plans to increase the volume of students gaining “rigor” in these “opportunities” too.

That is the NCLB way, is it not? Add some more “rigor” and call it a day.

Let’s do the tabulations. If Deasy puts 50% more of his already academically struggling students into “rigorous AP and IB programs,” (the standard, shallow, statistical “formula” for success in NCLB-speak,) he might join ranks with the members of the coveted, (but seriously flawed) “Challenge Index.”

I am sure he hopes that this is his “acceptable” ticket out of blame or responsibility for the continued failure of the economically- and academically-challenged students in this county.

But, take a look at the members of the county council's comments (in the final paragraph.) Some of them are actually paying attention.

by Nick Anderson

New Prince George's County schools chief John E. Deasy last week got his first glimpse of what it's like on school board night when the Board of Education is split, parents are riled, the staff is defensive and people are pointing fingers.

At issue on May 18 was a proposal to establish a special education program for 30 students with emotional disabilities at Crossland High School in Temple Hills. The program, modeled after one at DuVal High School in Lanham, would be run by the Pathways Schools, based in Silver Spring. The goal is to place special-needs students in what educators call the "least restrictive environment," with mutual benefits for them and mainstream students.

No one spoke against the program's merits.
But several Crossland parents, including leaders of the local parent-teacher-student association, complained that they had not been adequately consulted. They also questioned whether the school had enough classrooms to handle the new students.

School system officials asserted that enrollment projections showed there would be adequate space for the program. But the school board was divided, and the proposal drew a 4 to 4 vote, with one member absent. The matter was held over for a future meeting.

Board members balked at approving an initiative they feared had not been vetted with parents. They also blanched when they heard from a school system official that Crossland Principal Charles Thomas had asked for a conference to discuss concerns. Thomas himself was not at the board meeting in Upper Marlboro.

"I see something wrong with this," board member Judy Mickens-Murray (Upper Marlboro) said. Board Vice Chairman Howard W. Stone Jr. (Mitchellville) said he was "gravely concerned."
Deasy said school officials would redouble their community outreach and thanked the board for "a very rich and important dialogue." But he made clear that he expected to bring the proposal forward again.

Political footnote: Stone and Mickens-Murray, appointed to their seats in 2002, intend to seek election to the board this fall.

Deasy's Plans

Deasy also indicated that he intends to push forward with several major initiatives in coming weeks. He told the board he was examining the school system's human resources and fiscal offices, professional development for teachers, scorecards for personnel evaluation, Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs, intervention in chronically underperforming schools and efforts to improve performance on the state's High School Assessments.

This week, Prince George's students are taking HSAs in English, biology, government and algebra-data analysis. Ninth-graders will face higher stakes for the first time. The students will have to earn a combined passing score on the four exams to graduate in 2009.

The county system made a major effort this year to get help to struggling students through Saturday school -- which hundreds of students attended at five campuses starting in January -- and other extended-learning programs. Pamela Shetley, an official involved in the effort, predicted achievement gains. "I can't wait until we see the test scores," she said.
But some County Council members are worried because many students in years past have failed the tests.

Council Chairman Thomas E. Dernoga (D-Laurel), Vice Chairman Camille Exum (D-Seat Pleasant) and members Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) and David Harrington (D-Cheverly) this week introduced a resolution calling for a blue-ribbon committee to study the testing program. The resolution seeks an analysis of the "one-size-fits-all approach to high-stakes testing methodology and its effect on the student population in the Prince George's County Public Schools."

— Nick Anderson
The Washington Post


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