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: 

“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:

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!)



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:

Baltimore County Update: CBE in Pictures, Words, and a Totally Revamped BCPS Grading Policy Aligned with Mastery-Based Ed

School is out and many are enjoying summer vacation, but local anti-CBE (Competency-Based Education) “warriors” have been hard at work.

This locally produced video just hit the STAR inbox.

It doesn’t pertain directly to BCPS’ digital transformation STAT, but to CBE (or personalized learning or proficiency-based education or insert your own buzzword) in general.  Watch until the end – it’s the viewer’s call to decide which reformer’s face could be superimposed over the wizard’s.

In Search of the Competency-Based Ed Reform Wizard

Another locally produced work is BCPS parent and Towson University Education Professor Morna McDermott’s recent blog post about CBE and the new “gig” economy.

“CBE delivers curriculum, instruction and assessments through online programming owned by third-party (corporate) organizations that are paid for with your tax dollars. Proponents of CBE use catchy language like “personalized” and “individualized” learning. Translation? Children seated alone interfacing with a computer, which monitors and adjusts the materials according to the inputs keyed in by the child.”

The final – and most critical – locally produced work is BCPS’ revamped Grading and Reporting Policy 5210 and accompanying Rule 5210


The details were outlined in a May 2016 presentation.

If we didn’t already know that Baltimore County is in the throes of CBE or Mastery-Based Education (MBE), this presentation proves it.

Stepping through the presentation, all the CBE/MBE signposts are there, including meaningless goals such as “Activate students as the owners of their own learning”  (one of the five “non-negotiable” components of effective formative assessment):

  • “In contrast, students who are motivated by mastering learning goals persevere in the face of such challenges. Difficult tasks or setbacks do not diminish motivation or self-esteem. Students with learning orientations—or growth-mindsets—are more likely to choose more difficult but rewarding ways to demonstrate learning. These students believe effort will lead to eventual success, and thus they develop a willingness to try and persist.” (COMMENT: This sounds like “grit”.)
  • “Teachers should remind students that they are working with them to help them reach mastery” and “teachers are responsible for … determining the degree to which students have mastered grade-level standards based on the body of evidence.”
  • “BCPS also believes penalizing students for late or missing work is not a practice that promotes learning. Recording a zero on a student’s assignment will not motivate the student to work harder or learn content at a higher or faster rate (O’Conner, 2007). While BCPS curriculum guides suggest a standard pacing of instruction, penalizing a student for requiring more time, support, or resources to master a standard or learning goal is contrary to differentiation, customization, personalization, and best practices in teaching and learning.”
  • “Determining final achievement grades based on a collected body of evidence aligned to course expectations and standards.”

The final, and most logical, signpost:

“The final marking period grade … must be based on individual mastery of knowledge and skills.”

Devices are in students’ hands, third-party ed-tech contracts have been signed, teachers have been retrained, curriculum has been revamped (or removed, depending upon your perspective), and the grading and reporting policy has been reworked. It’s official – Mastery-Based Education is the new model for Baltimore County Public Schools.

STAT Without Principle

“I think that there is nothing, not even crime, more opposed to poetry, to philosophy, ay, to life itself, than this incessant business.”
–H. D. Thoreau, from “Life Without Principle”

Thoreau wrote this essay, originally entitled “What Shall it Profit?,” over 150 years ago, but his thoughts about the purposes of work versus the purposes of business still resonate today. One of his main points was how money and fame can distract the individual from the actual work at hand that needs to be done, and he warned against those leaders who might believe that “progress and civilization” depend upon the march of “our boasted commerce.”

For a modern analogue, consider the recent and rapid push by educational technology companies and Silicon Valley millionaires into public schools. According to Forbes Magazine, venture funding for educational technology firms surpassed 1.87 billion in 2014, and it is likely well over 2 billion dollars today. Venture capitalists such as Netflix-powered Reed Hastings and provocateur Tom Vander Ark of Learn Capital (and Getting Smart consulting) are in on the game, which to them promises a quick rush of cash that could be earned from an untapped market—public schools. The increase of business buzzwords, lobbying, bending of education policy, slick advertising, and snake-oil salesmanship of technology that has followed has completely eclipsed the original purpose of the enterprise—to meet the educational, physical, and emotional needs of children.

It may then not be surprising that Baltimore County Public Schools is in the midst of a $300 million plus technology-based initiative, Students and Teachers Accessing Tomorrow (STAT), with the laudable goal of creating more student-centered classrooms through a dubious focus on a 1:1 laptop program, spanning grades kindergarten to twelve. The academic rationale for the STAT program, presented before the Board of Education in November 2014, was prepared by Gus Schmedlen, who is not an educational expert but a salesman and Vice President for Hewlett-Packard, the manufacturer of the laptops contracted for STAT. While not a teacher, administrator, or curriculum expert, Schmedlen’s background does include the management of $8 billion of business for Lenovo, another technology company. Consideration of the longstanding educational theories of Maslow, Piaget, or even Gardner were absent from the academic rationale, as were any of the more modern concerns about child development and technology use.

Two of the key architects of the STAT initiative are BCPS system superintendent S. Dallas Dance and his Director of Innovative Learning, Ryan Imbriale. Since the inception of the STAT program in 2014, both have engaged in frequent and extensive travel, speaking, and interview schedules, often with organizations or technology companies that have either a direct or indirect financial interest in the hardware, software, or ideology employed for STAT.

Ryan Imbriale has presented in at least seven conferences, including for the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE, for which Imbriale was formerly a board member), the Future of Education Technology Conference (FETC, run by the for-profit LRP conglomerate out of West Palm Beach, FL), and Learning Forward, among several others. While these appear to be professional organizations on their surface, a careful review of their sponsors, boards of directors, and vendors reveal underlying connections to educational technology companies, including Microsoft, Intel, SmartBoard, Pearson, BrainPop, DreamBox, and dozens of others. Imbriale has also given at least five interviews with organizations such as Project Tomorrow, T.H.E. Journal (also run by LRP) and EdTech Magazine, which are all promotional platforms for edtech companies and not valid purveyors of unbiased journalism.

Across the same two years, Dallas Dance has had over a dozen speaking engagements and a dozen more interviews with many of the same organizations. He has given interviews to EdSurge (run directly by edtech venture capitalists), Discovery Education (a STAT corporate partner), ISTE (for which Dance is currently a board member), and numerous others. His speaking engagements have included the star-studded SXSWedu conference, the CUE Powerful Learning conference (which favors luxury locations in California and Florida), and even the International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL), which is well known as a trade organization for numerous educational technology companies, including K12, Inc. (one of the worst of the bad actors in the for-profit educational technology marketplace). Most of Dance’s engagements are to promote or hype the success of STAT or the importance of technology in the classroom; it also appears to be a lucrative side business, considering Dance’s speaking fee is listed at $5000 (Dr. Dance reports that he did not make this Orate page). Dance even spoke in a promotional video for Advance Path, a BCPS vendor for credit recovery software, joining the previously mentioned Tom Vander Ark in praising the product’s effectiveness (for more on Vander Ark’s philosophy of education, see his contribution to the book The Profit Motive in Education: Continuing the Revolution, entitled “Private Capital, For-Profit Education, and Public Schools”).

A question that needs to be asked here: does this level of constant promotion help BCPS students, or even the BCPS system, or is it just helping raise the profile (and the future job prospects) of the administrators involved? Several of the county high schools that these leaders are responsible for are literally collapsing, no longer compliant with safety codes and hopelessly outdated for electrical, plumbing, structural, and Americans with Disability Act requirements, much less “21st century learning.” Furthermore, the positions of Executive Director of the Department of Special Education and the Executive Director of Student Support Services have been left vacant for the past year, and word-of-mouth around the schools is of understaffing, disarray and slipshod Least Restrictive Environment compliance for students with disabilities. Even the school feasibility studies completed for the renovations of Lansdowne and Dulaney High Schools were questionable, with pages of identical text (yet different formatting and pictures), suggesting a lack of thoroughness and an absence of oversight by administration (who, when alerted by a teacher, dismissed the copying as “errors”). It is time that taxpayers hold those same administrators accountable, as these errors directly affect the safety and well-being of thousands of children.

The actions of Dallas Dance, Ryan Imbriale, and other administrative leaders should send a clear message about the current priorities of the BCPS system. Leadership is desperately needed here at home in Maryland, not on the road in Florida, California, or Texas. Software companies and iNACOL conference attendees should not be visiting (and disrupting, in the real sense of the word) BCPS classrooms. To again borrow from Thoreau, in the BCPS STAT initiative, “shams and delusions are esteemed for soundest truths,” while reality is proclaimed patently false.