Monthly Archives: October 2014

Diversifying the MCPS Teaching Staff

The Montgomery County Council’s Office of Legislative Oversight (OLO) recently released a report that showed a “demographic mismatch” between the Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) students and teachers. According to the report, which compared the race and ethnicity of students to faculty, the county’s teaching staff is disproportionately white relative to its student body. The MCPS student body is 33 percent white, 27 percent Latino, 21 percent Black, and 14 percent Asian, while the MCPS teaching staff is 76 percent white, 5 percent Latino, 13 percent Black and 5 percent Asian.

This “mismatch” is not unique to MCPS. A recent state-by-state analysis of student-teacher demographics by the Center for American Progress (CAP) found that there is a significant “diversity gap” between teachers and students in every state in the nation. Using a “parity index” similar to the one used in the OLO report, the study calculated how close each state was to a demographic match (zero equaling a perfect teacher-student match and 100 equaling a perfect mismatch). California had the biggest mismatch, with an index of 44, but Maryland wasn’t far behind with an index of 40.

Using the CAP index, which subtracted the percentage of teachers of color from the percentage of students of color, MCPS would be a 43. Notably, the states that are furthest from parity are also among the most racially diverse (e.g. California), compared to racially homogeneous Vermont, which had the smallest mismatch with an index of 4.  States like California and Maryland, and districts like MCPS, have Latino, African-American, Asian-American and other student populations that are fast out-pacing the relatively static and disproportionately white teacher populations, and a lot of work to do to balance out the teacher-student demographics. The parity index used by OLO is different in its calculation and level of detail (by subgroup, for example), but offered the same conclusion:  the teaching staff does not reflect the great diversity of its students and the county should do more to diversify its teaching ranks.

Waiting for the teaching staff to “catch up” to the students is not the answer. While racial/ethnic diversity in teaching has increased over the last couple decades, according to a recent analysis of federal School and Staffing Survey data, this increase pales in comparison to the explosive growth of student diversity. In fact, the CAP study found that the diversity gap had grown worse since 2011. Unfortunately, the recent OLO study doesn’t show any trend data to see how the MCPS teaching population has changed over time. Curious, I decided to look at some rough numbers from my own alma mater, Springbrook high school, to see how things might have changed in twenty five years. Back in 1989, roughly 55 percent of Blue Devils were white, 30 percent African American, 9 percent Asian and 6 percent Latino. Today, the demographics have shifted but it remains an incredibly diverse mix of students, with 42 percent African American, 34 percent Latino, 12 percent Asian and 9 percent white. In terms of race and ethnicity, the student body is more of a melting pot than it was twenty-five years ago. This is heartening to know, since I believe that the experience of going to a school like Springbrook forced me and my peers to confront, understand and value racial, ethnic and cultural diversity more than most.

Interestingly, I attribute this experience to the diversity of the students, not the faculty, which is far more diverse now than it was in 1989. Then, Springbrook’s faculty was only about 5 percent “non-white” (a handful of African American, Hispanic and Asian-American teachers). Today, the number of non-white teachers has jumped to 40 percent. Still, in terms of parity, Springbrook doesn’t look good, given that 90+ percent of its students are not white.

Superintendent Starr has said he plans to aggressively tackle the issue of staff diversity but it’s not yet clear how that will happen. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Diversify for need’s sake, not diversity’s sake. We tend to include everything under the tent of diversity, which makes defining and executing a clear recruitment and development strategy nearly impossible. The goal is not merely to balance the racial and ethnic make-up of the student and staff populations (step into an MCPS school and you’ll see how impossible this would even be). It’s to diversify the staff so we can better address the needs of MCPS students. So, do we want more African American teachers to benefit the large number of African American students who are disproportionately struggling academically? Should this recruitment goal target certain areas (the MCPS study included a helpful breakdown by MCPS clusters)? Specifically, do we want more African American male teachers, since African American boys in particular are over-represented in discipline counts and in placement for special education? (Gender, notably, was not part of the OLO study but is a huge consideration given that teaching is becoming more, not less, female-dominated). Relatedly, Dr. Starr has said he wants to recruit for “cultural competency” and not necessarily race and ethnicity. “Cultural competence” is more difficult to measure but, unlike race or ethnicity, it is also a skill set that can be gained over time (e.g., knowledge of different cultures and customs, the ability to effectively teach students from a variety of cultures). While we may want it all—a well-prepared teaching staff that is culturally competent, balanced by race/ethnicity and gender and whatever else—it is careless and presumptuous to tackle this as one issue. Some of the best bilingual teachers are white and native English speakers, and there are plenty of Latino and Asian and African-Americans who only speak English and are not “culturally competent” just because of their race/ethnicity.


  1. Prioritize language skills. One important but unmet goal of the OLO study was to explore gaps in linguistic diversity between staff and students. Lacking data on staff language skills, the study wasn’t able to conclude much on this. But improving the language skills of MCPS teaching staff should be among the most important goals of the system, especially given the rapidly increasing non-English speaking immigrant communities in MCPS. Collecting and tracking data on staff language skills and recruiting for bilingual and multi-lingual teachers are goals that would be widely supported not only by non-English speaking communities but also by the English-speaking population, which continues to actively lobby for more language immersion school options in the county. Partnerships like those that MCPS has recently formed with institutions like the dual-language Ana G. Mendez University System would ostensibly bring many more bilingual teachers into the system. The linguistic diversity of Montgomery County is a strength, and building on this should be a priority.


  1. Grow our own. Another long-term strategy for MCPS, and perhaps its best, is to develop our own student-to-teacher pipeline. If MCPS can clarify what skills and characteristics it really needs, its graduates should be able to return to its classrooms as teachers. This would require the availability of more high-quality teacher education programs in the state, which is not within the district’s control (but is certainly something MCPS and the broader community can and should push for). But there’s no doubt that a stronger pipeline can be built, and beyond a few partnerships or a scholarship here and there. Why not build a teacher residency program like its neighbors PG and DC, and others across the nation? Or consider the model of Educators Rising, a spin-off of Future Teachers of America that is starting with high school classes (Intro to Teaching) aimed at engaging and training young students for teaching careers. Given that more than 60 percent of teachers in the nation teach within twenty miles of where they went to high school, this seems like a good bet for MCPS. We have the population for a strong pipeline of high-quality teachers that reflect the demographics of the county. We just need to cultivate it.



Which Washington-area system does best at funding its neediest schools?

(re-posted from The Fordham Institute)

In the era of No Child Left Behind—and at a time of growing concern about income inequality—virtually every school system in the country claims to be working to narrow its student achievement gaps. But are they putting their money where their mouth is?

The data in our brand new D.C. Metro Area School Spending Explorer website allow us to answer this question for school districts inside the Beltway. Specifically, we can determine whether and to what degree they are spending additional dollars on their neediest schools.

To be sure, ever since the Coleman Report, it’s been hard to find a direct relationship between school spending and educational outcomes. Still, basic fairness requires that systems spend at least as much on educating poor students as affluent ones, and investments that might make a difference in narrowing achievement gaps (such as hiring more effective, experienced teachers and providing intensive tutoring to struggling students) do require big bucks.

There are lots of wonky ways to compute the fairness of education spending, but we’re going to use a measure that makes sense to us. Namely: How much extra does a district spend on each low-income student a school serves? Compared to what districts spend on behalf of non-poor students? Ten percent? Twenty percent? Fifty percent?

Read the methodology section below for details on how we got to these numbers (they are estimates, and apply only to elementary schools), but here are our conclusions.

School System Extra spending for low-income students Over a floor of…
Arlington County Public Schools 80.5% $11,817
Fairfax County Public Schools 34.1% $10,669
Montgomery County Public Schools 31.7% $11,464
District of Columbia Public Schools 21.2% $13,514
Alexandria City Public Schools 14.4% $13,120
D.C. Public Charter Schools 5.9% $15,243
Prince George’s County Public Schools 1.9% $10,385

For example, in Arlington County, the district spends close to $12,000 per student at its low-poverty schools (those with very few poor children). But it spends north of $21,000, or 81 percent more, for each student who is eligible for a free or reduced price lunch—significantly boosting the resources of its highest-poverty schools.

Let us be clear that school systems aren’t necessarily achieving these spending outcomes by design. As we explain in the “Drivers of School Spending” section of our D.C. Metro Area School Spending Explorer website, they may not even have been aware of these differences. That’s because individual schools in a given district don’t actually have “budgets” of their own; they are generally given a certain number of staff positions (driven by the number of students they serve) and might be eligible for extra programs or resources depending on need.

Nor is it likely that poverty rates are the only things driving these differences. Larger schools, for example, tend to spend less per-pupil than smaller schools (costs for staff like nurses can be spread over more students); districts might also be providing extra resources to schools with large numbers of special education students or English language learners. So we know that our analysis is oversimplifying what’s causing these patterns.

With those caveats in mind, what to make of these results? The outliers are fascinating. Arlington—with its sky-high tax base and gentrifying population—definitely goes the distance for its high-poverty schools. On the other hand, poverty-stricken Prince George’s County appears to be doing practically nothing to spend what little money it has on its toughest schools. (It makes us wonder how it meets federal “supplement, not supplant” requirements.)

And these findings are more than a little embarrassing for Montgomery County, which prides itself on its commitment to “social justice,” and has an explicit policy of sending extra resources to its highest poverty schools. Yet it is bested by Fairfax County (by a little) and Arlington (by a lot).

Per-pupil spending on high-poverty schools

Let’s look at this question through another lens: Specifically, the perspective of low-income students and parents in the Washington area. What they experience in school is not relative spending but real dollars: How much money does a particular school have to devote to teacher salaries, extra programs, etc.?

So: How much do high-poverty schools in the Washington area spend per pupil, and how does that vary by school system? (Again, we only used data for elementary schools.)

Here’s what we found:

School System
Average spending for high poverty schools* Range of spending for high poverty schools* Number of high poverty schools*
Arlington County  $18,216  $17,604 – 18,827 2
D.C. Charter Schools  $16,136  $13,145 – 19,847 18
Alexandria City  $14,501  $12,734 – 17,272 3
D.C. Public Schools  $14,497  $13,095 – 16,391 10
Fairfax County  $13,821  $12,225 – 17,548 7
Montgomery County  $13,613  $11,862 – 15,698 10
Prince George’s County  $10,607  $7,981 – 16,493 50

* 75% or more Free or Reduced Price Lunch enrollment, primary schools only (i.e., no K-8 schools included)

Arlington again earns plaudits for its generosity towards its high-poverty schools, though by our count there are only two of them. High-poverty charter schools in Washington are well funded too, though it’s important to note that they tend to be extremely high-poverty; more than two-thirds of the eighteen charter schools in our analysis top the 85 percent poverty mark. To the extent that low-income students bring extra resources along with them (including federal Title I dollars), the results for Washington’s charter schools make sense. (And note: These numbers are for operational costs only; they don’t include facilities funding, which is where DC’s charters are at a huge funding disadvantage compared to DCPS.)

Note the numbers (again) for Fairfax and Montgomery County. If Superintendent Josh Starr is an “equity warrior,” what does that make the folks across the river?

The big story here, though, is Prince George’s County and its shockingly low spending for its fifty (!) high-poverty elementary schools. The averages are bad enough—spending that is almost 30 percent lower than for DCPS high-poverty schools and almost a quarter less than Montgomery County spends on similar schools. But looking at specific schools makes the picture even more devastating.

Consider District Heights Elementary, which spends just $7,981 per student, although 77 percent of its pupils qualify for subsidized lunches. Compare that to Moten Elementary in the District, which spends $14,723 for each of its students (76 percent eligible for a free or reduced price lunch)—or almost twice as much. The schools are less than seven miles apart.

Therefore, if a low-income mom moves from the District of Columbia to Prince George’s County, and her child attends high-poverty public schools in both locales, her child’s new school will have dramatically lower-paid (and/or less experienced) teachers, fewer special programs, fewer specialists, larger class sizes, or all of the above.

It’s hard not to conclude that Washington’s rapid gentrification—which is pushing many needy families from the District to Prince George’s County—is leading to a very inequitable outcome, at least in terms of school spending.

As Marguerite Roza has argued for years, school systems ought to live their values. If doubling-down on the education of poor children is something these systems (and their residents) support, they need at least to know whether their dollars are reaching the neediest children. Now we know that some of the Washington-area school districts could be doing a whole lot more for their low-income students. And the state of Maryland almost certainly could and should be doing more for Prince George’s County. Who will act to fix these problems?


To find out how we estimated the per-pupil spending of each school in the Washington, D.C. area, see the methodology section of our D.C. Metro Area School Spending Explorer website; once we had those numbers, the next challenge was to understand the relationship between schools’ poverty rates and their spending. The first step was to estimate the “floor” of per-pupil expenditures (PPE) for each district, and then figure out how much extra they spend on low-income students. Elementary, middle, and high schools tend to have dissimilar spending patterns, so we only included elementary schools when calculating estimates. (There are lots more elementary schools than middle or high schools.)

To make our estimates for each district, we regressed school-level PPE against the percentage of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch (FRPL). The spending floor was derived from the result’s constant coefficient. The extra dollars allocated to low-income students were set equal to the FRPL coefficient. (More simply, we scatter-plotted FRPL (x-axis) and PPE (y-axis) for each district. We then calculated the lines of best fit: the y-intercept is the spending floor and the slope is extra spending.)

From there, it was a simple matter of dividing extra spending by the spending floor to find the extra spent on low-income students. It’s a rough estimate, of course, since we didn’t include any controls and we assume a linear relationship. But minus Prince George’s County, Alexandria, and D.C. Charters, FRPL confidence levels were greater than 99 percent. R-squared values were also large, with Montgomery County at the low end (.24) and Arlington at the high (.85). Because of this analysis’ descriptive nature, the lack of significance and the low R-squared values for the other three districts is not a problem. The numbers are low because none have a strong pattern of progressive expenditures, school-to-school. With a coefficient of 192.6 and an r-squared of -.008, Prince George’s County’s pattern isn’t just weak—it’s nearly non-existent.

For Coherence Sake: Defer Using the New PARCC Tests for HS Graduation

On October 7, MCPS sent a letter from Phil Kauffman the President of its Board of Education to the Maryland State Superintendent of Schools requesting the state to reconsider plans to use the new annual test called the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) assessment as end-of-course exams for purposes of fulfilling high school graduation.  For several years the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has been preparing to use these new tests developed by a consortium of states as a replacement for the Maryland State Assessment (MSA) and High School Assessment (HSA) tests that have been used for the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law’s accountability requirements.

These new PARCC tests hold much promise to improve the information to schools.  They are developed to be aligned with the new Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for literacy and math.  They use state of the art technology for an adaptive testing experience.  They are also unproven and given that they are likely more stringent than the MSA/HAS tests they replace, many students may not pass them, which would require many students to take a transitional class prior to graduating.  The state is considering a two tier approach where there is a criteria (cut-off score) for being considered “college and career ready” and a lower score to allow students to graduate.  This tiered approach has been advocated for by MoCoEdBlog editorial member, Rick Kahlenberg in a piece titled “Hold Students Accountable and Support Them.” 

MCPS is requesting that MSDE delay the implementation of these requirements and enter into a discussion about how to move forward.  Kaufman’s letter posed several important questions:

“If a college-ready cut score differs from the graduation cut score, what is the most meaningful indicator for institutions of higher education or employers? What messages do tiered cut scores send to students? Maryland now requires all students to be assessed for college and career readiness, and those found not ready, must be enrolled in transitional courses. Given this new paradigm, is there benefit added to continuing the requirement to pass end-of-course exit exams to receive a diploma? Moreover, if, during this period of transition from HSA to PARCC, it is appropriate to prohibit use of PARCC for purposes of personnel evaluations, why is it not equally appropriate to delay the use as a high stakes test for students?”

These are important questions.  I will focus on the last one about using the tests for one purpose only: graduation.  I believe that within this question lays an important systemic consideration that Kauffman’s letter only hinted at: if the tests are not ready to be used to evaluate teachers and principals then why should they be used for students?  I believe this is a strong argument in support of MCPS’ request.  While the change from one testing system to another may seem a matter of upgrading the measurement approach, the reality on the ground is that these kinds of changes are not “plug and play.”  There are many interdependent and moving parts in a school system and high-stakes tests impact many of them, including teachers and students alike.  Students are dependent upon the instruction they receive and the instruction is shaped by both the ability of the teachers and the rewards, incentives, and constraints they work within.

To use the tests for one part of the system (student graduation) but not for another part (educator evaluation) would, in my view, create a tension in the system.  It would have part of the organizational focus in one direction and another part in another.  High school achievement, like the achievement gap and many other big problems in education are systemic.  They have multiple interrelated causes and one of the reasons they are so hard to address for MCPS and the rest of the country is that independent solutions rarely address the combination of factors that underlie the problems in complex systems.  Using PARCC for only student accountability is a partial approach.  And, as Kauffman’s letter says, it puts students in the unfair position of being the ones getting the shorter end of the stick as these new tests are tried out on their future first.  For this reason alone, I believe the MCPS request deserves support from both MSDE and Montgomery County’s elected officials.

There are more questions that can be asked of MCPS about their readiness to support PARCC across the system.  Below, I will sketch out some other important factors and end with some questions that could be included in the conversation that MCPS in Kauffman’s letter requests.

Some Observations about PARCC

PARCC Will Initially Be Disruptive

The implementation of the new tests will be disruptive.  How much they will disrupt the work that goes on in schools is not clear.  But, history has shown, including with NCLB, that most large scale changes in schools can “shock the system” and take some time to become assimilated into the routine.  The day to day work of schools is so labor intensive and what teachers do especially is so often based on what they have done in the past that any change such as a new curriculum will take some time to assimilate.  The fact that PARCC will be aligned to the CCSS will help as MD schools will have a couple of years of experience with these standards. Still, the new tests under the best of circumstances will require some adjustment, at least at least in the first year.

The impact on the schools has the potential to be even bigger and more difficult on schools.  If the PARCC results are tied also to high-stakes consequences such as teacher evaluations or school performance.  One of the lessons of NCLB (and there is a lot of research on this) was that schools with greater challenges suffered much more collateral damage than schools with better circumstances.  So, if the PARCC tests will be high-stakes then they will be higher stakes in the schools with the most needs.  The tests can still provide much valuable information and the information should be used, but tying these results to high-stakes for educators would likely be disproportionally absorbed by high-needs schools.  MCPS needs a robust plan that addresses the impacts of PARCC on the system.

Implementation Questions with Technology-Rich Assessments

PARCC Assessments are designed to be delivered on computers rather than paper and pencil. However, not all school systems or school buildings have the same technology and so there are alternative testing approaches that have raised some questions about how PARCC will work when the rubber meets the road. For example, national education expert Rick Hess raised three big issues earlier this year:

  1. Testing under different testing conditions (some in classrooms, some in media centers, some offsite at different locations.
  2. Testing using different devices (ex: computer vs. paper and pencil)
  3. Testing windows that can vary from school to school so that the tests may be taken at different times by different students

None of these issues fundamentally compromises the value of the tests both as well designed instruments and even more being aligned with the CCSS.  But they all can impact the scores in ways that will be really hard to know until after the tests have been administered.  Will the impact on the scores vary based on the kind of school in the same way high-stakes impacts high needs schools more than others?  Quite possibly they will.  MCPS should look at its implementation options and try as best as possible to standardize testing approaches across schools.

Will the Tests Perform as Designed Initially?

When we read that the testing of the tests has gone smoothly, it is important to remember that these are reports from the people who are administering the tests and that smoothly may mean different things to them than to educators.  For example, if the field trial occurs where and when it was planned and the results are able to be tabulated by PARCC, the field trial is smooth from a technical perspective.  This doesn’t mean, however, that the tests were measuring the same things that were taught or that they did as good a job with different populations as the designers hoped.  Larger amounts of real data and more time are required to know this.  Again, it probably will not be until after the first year of full administration that these issues will be clearer.  Also, scuttlebutt from behind the scenes at PARCC has for a few years now has been that the amount of money they began with was less than they needed so don’t be surprised if the quality of the tests is not even; that some parts of the curriculum test more reliably than others.  MCPS should be careful about making inferences based on the results of any part of the curriculum until the broad strengths/weaknesses of the test quality are known.

Some Important Questions for MCPS’ Implementation of PARCC

While it is important to support MCPS’ request, some questions could be asked of them about their plan going forward.

  1. Professional Development and Support. With the recent adoption of CCSS curricula, MCPS along with just about every school district has found the need for professional development was more urgent than expected.  How are the plans coming to train MCPS educators in how to use PARCC?  What lessons have been learned from the pilots thus far about the technology needs as well as the performance of the tests beyond the fairly positive accounts MSDE and PARCC have provided?
  2. PARCC Impact on Technology Budgets. How will PARCC impact the spending decisions throughout the school system?  One of the biggest criticisms of the CCSS has been it is an opportunity for companies to make even more money from education.  School principals, teachers, and even some families are getting inundated with many offers of products that will help prepare students to do well with CCSS and PARCC tests.  Most of these claims are unverified. There is no body that will certify that a product is 100% or 50% CCSS compliant.  There will in the future probably be ways of rating these products this way by the people who use them; but not today.  MCPS would be wise to not to spend too much public money on materials to help prep for first round of tests if it can be avoided.  Much of what is on the market now has been rushed to market and is full of errors. Reviewing materially centrally and making recommendations to schools for how to purchase makes a lot of sense as does working with partner districts to assess the quality of materials and technology.  While MCPS tends to defer a lot to individual schools (site-based management) rather than centrally manage and direct, in this case it may be useful for MCPS to take stock of the products that are out there and provide good technical support to schools.
  3. Accountability Options. One of the driving reasons for high-stakes tests is that not all schools perform as they should and not all schools perform equally well with all groups of students.  Even with all of the many problems with implementation, policies like NCLB have been important ways to see educational differences and also to shift the conversations for many in education towards hard outcomes.  As the sanctions of accountability are even temporarily lifted, what will MCPS be doing to ensure all students are getting the kind of education they deserve?  Will the PARCC test results be combined with other forms of evidence to ask about where there are areas that need improvement and additional attention? While delays in using PARCC for HS graduation make sense, what other external accountability options will MCPS use to ensure all children receive appropriate education.


As Kauffman’s letter spells out, the issues surrounding the use of PARCC tests for high school graduation are complex and consequential.  The MCPS request to delay implementation of the state’s plan is reasonable.  Whether the state will listen is unclear.  Whether more information about how MCPS is getting ready for PARCC and the new testing and standards paradigms it is part of will help MSDE in their decision is unclear.  For those closer to MCPS—parents, teachers, local elected officials—this kind of information is probably important to have.  For the sake of MCPS’ management thinking and capacity to deal with the difficult and complex problems of student achievement, it is probably important to develop.  MCPS, like pretty much all districts, has traditionally been dependent on state policy and so there may be a tendency when in this role to wait and respond rather than taking the lead and driving the discussion.  MCPS is no ordinary district.  It has not only broad needs but many financial and intellectual resources so it is in a better position than most to lead rather than respond.  The tone and message of Kauffman’s letter suggests this is what MCPS is trying to do.  Let’s hope the state is ready to meet them in a discussion about this difficult issue.

Laurie Halverson: Supports Idea of Standards, Concerns about Common Core

  1. Common Core Standards.The MCPS web site does not say much about “Common Core” standards but instead focuses on its own “Curriculum 2.0” and has teachers and students learning new standards through the county’s developing curriculum and teacher training.  Do you support the Common Core?  Is MCPS doing a good job of navigating the new standards?  And, how would you direct them to do it differently?

I support the general idea of standards for school districts. Standards help parents know whether their child is meeting or exceeding expectations and parents value test scores per school for comparison purposes. Standardized test scores are one tool to help teachers identify students who need support or acceleration. They also provide a gauge for school district leaders in determining whether schools need more support or intervention.

Former state superintendent, Nancy Grasmick said in the May 25, 26, 2010 state board minutes that the purpose of Common Core State Standards (CCSS) was to close the achievement gap. But, how we can expect students who already aren’t performing at the lower performing state standard, to close the gap with a new higher standard without significant professional development and additional resources?  Standards and curriculum by themselves will not close the achievement gap.

It concerns me that 500 early educators signed a statement indicating that they have “grave concerns” about CCSS:  It also concerns me that some top educators, such as Sandra Stotsky and James Milgram who were on the CCSS validation panel, refused to sign a document to approve CCSS. It concerns me that MCPS has a policy (IFA) on curriculum that states that teachers should have ongoing professional development and parents should be partners in the development of the curriculum. Yet, the minimum amount of teacher training has been optional and parents have had little role in curriculum development and don’t even have access to the learning materials at home. It concerns me that there is no plan in place on how anyone in Maryland can give input if we want to change or improve any of the standards. It concerns me that it is costing our state taxpayers a tremendous amount without legislation or a democratic process: While the federal government gave $4 billion in Race to the Top Grants to certain states, it will cost our nation at least $16 billion to implement it. Many states have passed legislation and are taking action to gain back control over the content of curriculum, but Maryland has not.

What I would do differently to direct MCPS as a Board of Education member:

  • I want our schools to move away from teaching to the test and emphasize teaching and learning for all subjects. A resident at Leisure World told me she was taught so well at her school years ago that there was no need to “teach to the test” because she could take any test and perform well-that is what I want for MCPS students.
  • I would want to see measures on how MCPS will evaluate the success of Curriculum 2.0.
  • If MCPS continues to adhere to CCSS next year, I would pursue mandatory professional development for CCSS. I have spoken to teachers who say that students with teachers who skipped the optional training will be at a disadvantage.
  • I would push for more accurate and consistent ways of identifying students for acceleration.
  • I would be involved at the national level, seeking ways for the public to provide feedback on the current standards and how they can be improved in the future.
  • I would also seek changes to the MCPS grading and reporting policy to make sure the report card accurately measures student performance and is easy for parents and students to understand.
  • I would ask for more data such as final exam results per school in comparison with the corresponding course grades the student achieved.
  • Before approving new technology, I would ask financially relevant questions such as, “Will the Chromebooks be compatible for PARCC and MAP testing?” (I heard from an administrator that MAP tests are not compatible with the newly purchased Chromebooks.)


As MCCPTA VP of Educational issues I attended at my expense, a White House Community Partnership Summit at the University of Pennsylvania on March 2, 2012.  I wanted to give feedback to the White House about how Race to the Top policies were affecting us at the local level. Here is a link to my report:


Here are two excellent links on the CCSS: Building the Machine-The Common Core Documentary

Diane Ravitch: Everything You’ve Wanted to Know about Common Core:


Maryland State BOE Meeting minutes from May 25,26, 2010 when they discussed Race to the Top and Common Core State Standards:


Kristin Trible: Supporting Common Core

Responding to a Question from MoCoEdBlog on Common Core Standards.  The MCPS web site does not say much about “Common Core” standards but instead focuses on its own “Curriculum 2.0” and has teachers and students learning new standards through the county’s developing curriculum and teacher training.  Do you support the Common Core?  Is MCPS doing a good job of navigating the new standards?  And, how would you direct them to do it differently?

Response:  I support the Common Core as it is a unique opportunity to ensure that educational standards are part of the national conversation and that we continue to prioritize the education of our children.  The other day, I saw someone share a poorly written test and erroneously blame the Common Core standards.  We continue to see individuals become confused between standards, curriculum, and testing.  It is unfortunate inaccuracies such as this one that are taking away from a truly important conversation on educational standards and, just as importantly, what methods we will put in place to gather feedback and determine how to improve upon them in the future.   The current standards may not yet be perfect but it is up to each school system to work with the standards and implement a strong, comprehensive curriculum that meets or exceeds those standards.  MCPS has had its share of missteps in the implementation, but change was going to be difficult no matter what.  It’s time to move forward and ensure our teachers are well supported and enthusiastic about teaching in a new manner.  If slowing down is appropriate, we can slow down.  I would not support turning back.