Worries intensify about student laptops as Baltimore County prepares to expand use of devices

Baltimore Sun and Towson Flyer, December 4:

Worries intensify about student laptops as Baltimore County prepares to expand use of devices

Concerns grow as BCPS prepares to expand use of tech devices in schools

The stream of reporting about our digital initiative was steady throughout November and December.  Much of it centered on the call for an audit based on conflicts of interest. One article focused on teachers being assaulted. Any connection between funding STAT and the lack of funding for support staff or creating smaller classes?

Baltimore Sun, November 15:

Ethics complaint filed against Baltimore County school superintendent Verletta White

Baltimore Sun, November 21:

Baltimore County teachers protest discipline problems in schools

Baltimore Sun, November 24:

Baltimore County schools chief Verletta White agrees to new travel, work restrictions

Baltimore Sun, November 25:

When disclosing 2016 consulting work, Dallas Dance used company alias rather than firm’s name

Baltimore Post, November 25:

Vendor Website Records Suggest Possible “Pay for Play” in Baltimore County Schools

Baltimore Sun, Letter to the Editor, December 4:

Are Baltimore County Schools asleep at the wheel?

Baltimore Sun, December 5:

Baltimore County parents, school board members ask state for audit of tech contracts

WBAL TV, December 5:

State audit called for by some against Baltimore County school district

Towson Flyer, December 5:

Board of Ed members ask for BCPS contract audit

Baltimore Sun, Letter to the Editor, December 6:

Balto. County should be wary of education tech

Baltimore Post, December 6:

Baltimore County Schools on State Board’s “Radar”

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STAT Year Three Year-end Evaluation

UPDATED TO INCLUDE INFORMATION FROM 9/14/17 CURRICULUM COMMITTEE MEETING AND 9/26/17 BOARD OF EDUCATION MEETING

Despite Dr. Dance’s departure, Interim Superintendent Ms. Verletta White is committed to STAT.  As she noted in her message to the BCPS community, First-Week Thoughts, July 6, 2017:

“I do want to make clear that we are not changing course or introducing new initiatives.  Our schools are doing well, and technology is a key leverage tool for personalized learning. S.T.A.T. digital learning and Passport elementary world language instruction are just part of how we do business.”

The STAT digital learning initiative kicked off in BCPS in 2014.  Three years later, here are Johns Hopkins University’s Center for Research and Reform in Education’s (CRRE) Year report and slide-show presentation for 2016-17.  Both were presented at the Board of Education’s August 8, 2017 meeting (click on Meetings tab).  Video available here.  STAT report begins at about 1 hour, 11 minutes into the meeting.

Highlights from the 8/8/17 Meeting:

  • JHU researchers: rare to see P21 skills integrated into instruction
  • JHU researchers: education research is biased; in reference to successful 1:1 initiatives, it’s the “survivors” that make it into research studies (and there aren’t many of them)

The BOE Curriculum Committee discussed STAT at its September 14 meeting; the meeting was recorded and archived.

Comments made at the meeting:

  • BCPS is proud of progress achieved, but recognizes they have work to do.
  • The system is moving in the expected direction at the expected pace.

STAT was also discussed at the September 26, 2017 Board of Education meeting during a REPORT ON STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT – MULTIPLE MEASURES OF PERFORMANCE (https://www.boarddocs.com/mabe/bcps/Board.nsf/Public Meetings tab, select 2017, select 9/26/17 meeting; presentation begins around Minute 1:39)

Moving beyond just MAP and PARCC, BCPS looked at a “constellation” of measures.  KEY POINT made at Minute 1:52 ~ Kindergarten readiness continues to drop; students are coming into the system less prepared (6 out of 10 students).  This is due in part to poverty.  There’s a strong relationship between poverty and student achievement.  We’re confronted with poverty — higher levels in BCPS elementary and middle schools than through the state as a whole — and we’re looking to close achievement gaps over time.

STAT-us BCPS Comment:  BCPS knows that poverty is the most important indicator, yet hundreds (and hundreds) of millions are spent on devices (and everything that goes along with them) to close gaps (and a close review of the BCPS Multiple Measures presentation shows very weak results) instead of addressing poverty and its effects?   What about community schools with wrap-around services?   What about expanding feeding programs?   What about small class sizes, increased support staff, and mentoring programs?

A chart showed that PARCC scores were higher at 10 Lighthouse schools vs. non-LH schools and state schools.  This is misleading; 3 of the 10 LH schools (Fort Garrison, Mays Chapel, and Rodgers Forge) are in economically advantaged areas.  One school, Joppa View, is in a somewhat advantaged area.  Their scores (proportion meeting and/or exceeding CCR) brought up the overall average of schools in economically disadvantaged areas (Chase, Church Lane, Edmondson Heights, Halstead, Hawthorne, and Lansdowne).

Visit schools’ websites to view report cards:

http://www.bcps.org ~ Our Schools ~ School Directory ~ Elementary Schools ~ select school ~ gray box on right has MSDE Report Card for 2016

For example:

Fort Garrison ELA 3 ~ Meeting: 56.8; Exceeding: 25
Fort Garrison ELA 4 ~ Meeting: 36.8; Exceeding: 35.3
Fort Garrison ELA 5 ~ Meeting: 52.2; Exceeding: less than or equal to 5.0
Edmondson Heights ELA 3 ~ Meeting: 6.9; Exceeding: less than or equal to 5.0
Edmondson Heights ELA 4 ~ Meeting: 16.3; Exceeding: less than or equal to 5.0
Edmondson Heights ELA 5 ~ Meeting 9.9; Exceeding: less than or equal to 5.0

Johns Hopkins University Report Highlights:

“An examination of MAP scores in Lighthouse and non-Lighthouse Grades 1 -3 showed some impact on student achievement.  Lighthouse students in Grades 1-2 exhibited improvements in reading and mathematics scores across all three years of implementation and Grade 3 increased reading and mathematics scores in all but the present year.  Further, all grades exceeded the national average mathematics and reading scores. Non-Lighthouse Grades 1-3 also exhibited improvements in reading scores across all three years and, similarly, Grades 1-2 increased mathematics scores. Grades 1-3 exceeded the national.”

“Principals and S.T.A.T. teachers perceived that enhanced teaching practices and stronger curricula were increasing mastery of CCSS.  However, they were generally hesitant to attribute the MAP gains directly or solely to S.T.A.T.  We agree with this assessment for several reasons.  First, gains in achievement were not projected by the Logic Model this early in the implementation, although we cannot rule out more rapidly occurring impacts.  Second, there are numerous programs and initiatives in BCPS, which could contribute to improved student achievement independently of S.T.A.T.”

Lighthouse (LH, pilot) Grade 3 MAP (RIT) Reading Scores:

Pre-program (2013-14): 188.52
Year 1 (2014-15): 194.14
Year 2 (2015-16): 198.37
Year 3 (2016-17): 197.49

Non-LH Grade 3 MAP (RIT) Reading Scores:

Pre-program (2014-15): 194.30
Year 1 (2015-16): 196.30
Year 2 (2016-17): 196.57

STAT-us BCPS NOTE:  While MAP gains are indicated in the report, a close reading shows them to be marginal.  The RIT (Rasch Unit) score reflects a student’s academic knowledge, skills, and abilities.  RIT scores range from 100 to 350.  Additionally, MAP (a growth measure) and PARCC (a proficiency measure) are very different.  As noted on Page 134 of the BCPS FY18 Operating Budget, in FY2016, only 50.2% of third-graders were reading on grade level. Minimal growth in RIT scores is not closing major achievement gaps.

Issues:

~ Off-task device use. “Teachers at all levels described the challenge of monitoring and managing device use during instructional hours, and their comments reflected those when asked to describe off-task/inappropriate use above.”

~ Technical issues. “Some of the technical issues expressed by middle and high school teachers centered on students’ lack of accountability with devices, such as returning to school with a depleted battery, forgetting the device at home, or breaking the devices.  Other technical issues mentioned by teachers at all grade level included slow Internet or BCPSOne not functioning.”

~ Lack of support. Teachers at all levels conveyed feeling overwhelmed and not supported with technology integration.  Some teachers described not having enough time for planning, as noted by a Lighthouse middle school teacher: “TIME!! More planning time is definitely needed!!!”  Others mentioned the challenge of attempting to learn new approaches to instruction along with other initiatives.  A Lighthouse elementary teacher described the struggle of “incorporating the new grading system at the same time as technology,” while another noted, “My greatest challenge is just not taking on too much at one time.  Learning each new innovative ‘thing’ at a time rather than trying to do it all at once.”  Others echoed this sentiment, as a Lighthouse middle school teacher described the challenge of “deciding which resources to use and which to pass on.  There were plenty of resources available but it felt as though I was supposed to utilize as many as I could rather than focusing on/mastering a few. I eventually minimized the resources I utilized.”

Of great concern was JHU researcher Dr. Morrison’s statement, made during her presentation to the BOE, that the initiative was overwhelmingly supported by the community.  This was based on the 2017 Stakeholder Survey, which offered three vague and leading questions regarding personalized learning and technology.  These questions would mean little to community members altogether unaware of STAT and high-school students and parents not even connected to STAT (in 2016-17, the initiative was only in place in four Lighthouse (pilot) high schools).

Personalized Learning:  Parents, school-based staff, and central office staff expressed the most agreement that making learning personalized for students helps teachers meet the academic needs of all students.

Access to Technology:  Agreement was high across students, parents, school-based staff, and central office staff that access to technology increases opportunities for making learning more personalized for students.

Teacher Use of Technology:  Students, parents, school administrators, and central office staff had similarly high levels of agreement that teachers can use technology to meet the academic needs of all students.

Johns Hopkins University’s Mid-Year STAT Evaluation

STAT Year Three Mid-Year Evaluation Presentation by the Johns Hopkins Center for Research and Reform in Education (CRRE), which is working under a 2014-19 $711,000 contractwith the Baltimore County Public School system.

STAT Year Three, Mid-Year Evaluation Report by various CCRE researchers, some of whom also conduct reports for edtech industry companies and organizations; That includes a $80,000 study for DreamBox Learning Math, which is also a BCPS vendor with a nearly $1.2 million contract, set to be expanded. “Co-Principal Investigator (2015 – 2016). Efficacy study of DreamBox Learning Math. DreamBox ($80,000).”

February 16, 2017 Baltimore County Board of Education Curriculum and Instruction Committee meeting at which the evaluation was presented.

During the meeting, which was live streamed (see link above), BOE Member Ann Miller posted on her Facebook page: BCPS Board Member Ann Miller (NOTE:  LH = Lighthouse, the schools where STAT is piloted):

BCPS Board Member Ann Miller
BCPS Board Member Ann Miller Gilliss: What is explanation for performance changes? A: results are not statistically significant. LH schools were slightly more economically disadvantaged. Learning curve. Not enough data to show but encouraging on PARCC compared to state.
BCPS Board Member Ann Miller
BCPS Board Member Ann MillerGilliss: should we expect continued growth as we go forward? A: PARCC we are looking at LH schools in Y2. I would expect performance to be still low for new program. These results aren’t saying STAT was effective in achievement, but does say STAT didn’t interfere in achievement in Y2.

Videos: A Tale of Three Policies; Save BCPS Policy 8120 & STAT Conversations; A Side-by-Side Analysis

Two more enlightening videos detailing what’s happening behind the scenes.

The first video illustrates how Board of Education policies are being altered to advance STAT when no one is watching (except for BCPS Chicken Little, that is).

Policy 8120: Purpose, Role and Responsibilities of the Board of Education

BCPS Chicken Little’s second video carries the tagline:

Conversations about Baltimore County Public Schools’ 1:1 “Student-Centered,” “Computer-Centered,” Personalized and Competency-Based Learning Digital Initiative, its associated costs, convinced elected officials, and the always tardy evaluations.

What’s been lost to pay for STAT?  Compare what was said about this at a recent Board of Education meeting and on the national stage at the ASU GSV ed-tech summit.

A related conversation from Discovery Future@Now Conference Panel: http://www.discoveryeducation.com/futurenow2014/roadmap.cfm 

“I build a case: we will either pay for it now or we pay for it later. And what we can do, and school systems do this, is find the money for things we want to find money for. But we have to be, I think the best superintendents are salesman and saleswomen.

But the other thing, too, is that before we ask for additional money — because we know it’s going to cost more — we have to do serious scrubs of our own budgets, so as positions come open, do we need to fill those positions?

But we’ve also been very upfront with our county as it costs additional money, we’re going to be very upfront and honest whether there are positions that we can decrease in the school system that are non-school based.  How do we then redirect our funds? But we’ve been very upfront that it’s going to cost more. But, we have to demonstrate those early wins, those success stories in our 10 Lighthouse Schools to give us the leverage to say that we need to continue this.”

BCPS’ New Grading Policy: Part of the Big Personalized Learning Plan

Bottom Line Up Front (but read to the end for important background information):

Due to an outcry from students and parents (and we hope teachers and administrators behind the scenes), the recently revamped BCPS Grading and Reporting Procedures were amended as of 11/1/16.  Here are the changes and a related article: Towson Flyer: Baltimore County schools amending new grading policy

Grading Policy Amendment

Grading Policy Amendment

These amendments were published directly after the 10/31 forum on the new policy held by BCPS Community Superintendents.  Principals and certain parents were invited to attend and provide feedback.

The Rest of the Story

As noted in our one blog post for the month of June (it was the summer!), the BCPS grading policy underwent a major revision effective 7/1/16.

In early August, schools reached out to parents to explain that in 2014 (when STAT was implemented), a grading and reporting committee made up of parents, teachers, and administrators:

” … reviewed grading and reporting practices from across the state and the nation. Based on the information gathered, the committee determined the policy needed to be rewritten to reflect more current research-based practices to better align your child’s grades with his/her achievement of grade-level standards. To that end, the new Board of Education Policy 5210 Grading and Reporting was approved in June of 2015 for full implementation beginning August, 2016.”

New Policy and Rule 5210

” … all student grades will align to identified course or grade-level standards and be based on a “body of evidence.” A body of evidence is simply the information a teacher collects to determine a student’s level of performance. In addition to making sure grades are based on evidence aligned to standards, (BCPS) wants to ensure that the purpose for assigning grades is clear and consistent across all schools. To do this, BCPS established that the primary purpose for determining marking period grades is to accurately communicate a student’s level of achievement in relation to the course expectations at a given point in time.”

(NOTE: This is key to Mastery-Based Education and computer-delivered curriculum)

“The school system commits to providing equitable, accurate, specific, and timely  information regarding student progress towards course expectations which includes feedback to you and your child in order to guide next steps and indicate areas growth areas. To promote alignment to research-based practices and stakeholder input, the committee oversaw the creation of a procedures manual, which is broken down into six guiding practices:

  1. Grading practices must be supportive of student learning.
  2. Marking-period grades will be based solely on achievement of course grade-level standards.
  3. Students will have multiple opportunities to demonstrate proficiency.
  4. Grades will be based on a body of evidence aligned to standards.
  5. A consistent grading scale will be used to score assignments and assessments.
  6. Accommodations and modifications will be provided for exceptional learners.”

This sounds somewhat reasonable and child-centered in theory, except for the fact that ASCD is all over this Research & Rationale, which makes them suspect:

https://www.bcps.org/academics/grading/researchRationale.html

The Sun wrote an article about it, as did the Towson FlyerDr. Dance felt obliged to write an op-ed in the Sun.  BCPS devoted a website page to it; highlights included a video and a MythBusters List.

The New BCPS Grading and Reporting Policy is Explained

As the school year rolled out, unprepared teachers, parents, and students began to realize what was going on and were not happy.  One parent started a petition to rescind the new grading procedures.  Another parent wrote a must-read op-ed about it: Towson Flyer: What’s Behind BCPS’ New Grading Policy?

National ed-blogger Emily Talmage has written about grading policies like BCPS’:  Is Your District Changing its Grading Policy? Here’s the Real Reason Why.

Take the time to read the Towson Flyer op-ed and Talmage’s piece; you’ll understand why the BCPS Grading and Reporting Policy had to change to enable “anytime, anywhere learning.”

Also read this from iNACOL, the International Association of K-12 Online and Blended Learning.  iNACOL has a baby named Competency Works, which offered a detailed report on grading changes needed for Competency-based Education (STAT).

Any school that has begun the journey toward competency education, breaking free of the limitations of the time-based system, will eventually come face-to-face with grading policies and practices. Along with the excitement of creating a new grading system that ignites a dynamic culture of learning will come opportunities to engage students, families and the community in creating a shared vision about the purpose of school. Challenging the traditional system of grading practices, rooted firmly in the American culture with its exhilarating A+ to the dreadful F, will prompt questions, fears, and misconceptions. There are likely to be lively community meetings and even a letter or two in the local newspaper. There will also be the mutual delight when a competency-based grading system is put into place that allows students and teachers to work together toward a shared vision of learning. Most importantly, there will be cause to celebrate as students make progress toward proficiency.”

Mutual delight?

Part 4 of 4: I Want it, and I Want it STAT! (from The Truth About STAT)

The final installment in the STAT video series.  Thanks to BCPS Chicken Little for caring enough to research, create, and share.

I Want it, and I Want it STAT!

See the rest of the series here.

Here’s the note which accompanied the video:

There are many advocates here in Baltimore County who have worked long and hard — for many months and years.  It is (and has been) incredibly frustrating, depressing, AND quite scary at times.

Sometimes there is a sense that this is so politically and tech-industry orchestrated that no one should DARE get in the way.

It has felt as if this is happening for reasons well beyond our understanding.  That this “pretendathon” absolutely must happen so that someone can move up the ranks to a larger level of influence and power.

It defies logic, insults our intelligence, and (not to be too dramatic) makes some of us lose a little more faith in humanity.

It is also woefully decadent when there are schools in our system that go without the basic necessities and where school systems across the country have – what seems like –  new issues every day, with blatant and mind-blowing problems with school leadership corruption and – what seems like –  willy-nilly closing of schools, firing of teachers and punishments of principals who dare to do the right thing.

In many ways, Baltimore County has it easier.  And I recognize that.  I look at some other school systems across the country and the inhumane treatment of both teachers and students, as if they are “throwaways” to the world.  So much needs to be done to fix this.

I have no idea what or how, but much needs to be done to help those who don’t even have a shot at a good education or a decent place to live or decent wage to earn (because of the lack of education).  I don’t know what the answer is, but I suspect that there are certainly aspects of technology that can help bridge the chasm.  In fact, I am sure of it.  But it is not all technology, either.  Not in this way and not as an end-all solution either.  I do not believe that our most vulnerable citizens need video-game-type learning to succeed, to make passive learning a way to engage them. I believe that they deserve better than this.  And I do not believe that the ed-tech industry has the answers.  I believe educators have the answers and that technology is a tool that educators can use.

What I have learned through the process of studying (by accident) the problems with my school system (which led me to studying that of others) is that some in this education industry are rock stars for the purpose of being rock stars and, yet, the humble go unnoticed or are even punished.  The ones who are in it for the kids, don’t ask for limelight, don’t seek recognition and are probably too busy to even think about receiving ridiculous amounts of awards.

There is an unbelievable imbalance between the life of a rock star superintendent and the realities of our most vulnerable students.  There is something really wrong when superintendents and other top admin (like my own) are staying in fancy luxury resorts all over the country, when schools in their own system are in need, or when school systems across the country have schools barely scraping by.

There is something wrong when our superintendents (and other admin) find little side-jobs in which they can cash in on their positions and expertise.  There is something really wrong with this and it is so prevalent (and all over the country).  In this way, it honestly seems to me that “school superintendency” is its own industry which has little to do with education.  It is as if they are the portal to many things.  To impacting social change, to geography, to how communities are built, to what happens to pieces of land, to how tax money is spent.  They are in a position to wield a lot of power and I suspect that a great deal of temptation comes along with that.

In my view, we need a different type of leadership in education if we are going to finally solve our country’s problems.  I realize that there is more to it than this, but I think that is a good start.  We don’t need rock stars.  We need people with an expansive vision, who are educators at heart.

In closing and be clear, the videos are in no way an attack on a man.  They are intended to help awaken parents and are a response to the insult of all of the above, to the obfuscation, to the frustration, to the dishonesty.  They were also made as a way to help disallow this from spreading as easily – elsewhere – in the way this has consumed us.

They also make a very frustrating situation a little bit humorous sometimes. I honestly laughed my ass off at points (and THANK GOD for that!)

Peace.

Bullseye!

STAT-us BCPS received an abridged version of the video originally posted by retired BCPS teacher and education blogger Anne Groth.  Both videos harken back to some of the original posts on this blog, when other BCPS watchers were trying to figure out what the heck was happening in our school system.

Abridged Version: Highlights of a High-Tech Takeover of a Public School System (in 5 steps, 7 mins. and 30 secs.)

Original Post containing the full video:

September 5, 2016:  School’s Out … by Anne Groth: Bullseye!

A video was sent to me from an anonymous sender about the Baltimore County Public Schools and our superintendent, Dallas Dance.  After I watched it, I cannot help but wonder if far greater forces were involved in the transformation of our school district.  Was Dr. Dance just part of a larger mission when he arrived on the scene in 2012?

When all of the evidence in the video is viewed as a body of work, my question is simply this: Was Baltimore County targeted in a big way, and was Dr. Dance sent here to facilitate the transformation?

That may or may not be true, but what is true is that the mission to bring personalized (computerized) learning to our children is undermining the role of teaching,  demoralizing teachers, and marginalizing the role of parents, students, former employees, and yes, even taxpayers.

Please don’t take my word for it.  Judge for yourself:

https://teachingafter60.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/bullseye/?fb_action_ids=1281642908515223&fb_action_types=news.publishes