Excellence Through Equity

So here’s what’s happening in Towson starting tomorrow:

BCPS and the National Center for Education and Innovation (Hope Foundation) are co-hosting the Maryland Excellence through Equity Summit 2016, August 15-16, 2016 in Towson at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology.  The summit is co-hosted by Dr. Dance and Alan M. Blankstein, Founder, Solution Tree & HOPE Foundation.

Dr. Nancy Grasmick, Presidential Scholar for Innovation in Teacher and Leader Preparation for Towson University and Former State Superintendent of Maryland Public Schools, will present at the conference.

Also presenting will be Dr. Marcus Newsome, who is Dr. Dance’s mentor, was a member of his transition team, and whose brother was a BCPS Assistant Superintendent.

Conference topics include:

  • Anytime/Anywhere Learning: Best Practices in Blended and Project-Based Learning
  • Data Analysis for Equity-Focused School Improvement Planning


Dr. Dance is all about excellence and equity.

But for Dr. Dance, it’s equitable access to a digital learning environment, which, in his view, will close the achievement gap.

“Excellence Through Equity” should ring some bells, since it’s the title of a book co-authored by the summit’s co-host Blankstein (along with Pedro Noguera) available through ASCD.


ASCD, founded in 1943, is the “global leader in developing and delivering innovative programs, products, and services that empower educators to support the success of each learner.”  It’s been considered a respected professional organization for educators and leaders, but it appears to have sold out to become a part of the ed-tech reform movement.

In February 2011, it was granted nearly $3 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to “provide teachers and school leaders with supports to implement the Common Core State Standards at the district, school, and classroom levels.”

Well-known education blogger Anthony Cody in a 2013 post questioned if ASCD was “embracing market-driven education reform” based on the fact that it had first endorsed CCSS, then accepted the Gates Foundation grant.

So here’s the problem with “Excellence Through Equity” as it applies to BCPS:

Blankstein and his co-author Noguera call for equity by addressing the needs of the whole child.  This is admirable and is the basis of the “community school” model, which BCPS will begin piloting.

However, the Blankstein-Noguera-ASCD ETE model also calls for personalized learning and detracking.  BCPS already has both.

If the good “community school” changes — feeding hungry children, mentoring, etc. — are layered atop the obscenely expensive personalized learning reforms, these changes will no doubt make STAT appear successful (which it is not). The truly needed and most basic changes on their own would close the achievement gap. And think of how much could be done to create equitable access to new, safe, and excellent “21st-century” schools if STAT had not been implemented and nearly $300 million in taxpayer dollars had not been spent …