Maryland Taking Over 11 Baltimore Schools

11 Baltimore schools are going to be taken over by Maryland after the state board of education approved the move.

Specifically, the state will take over 4 high schools and direct the city to find a 3rd party to manage 7 middle schools. The takeover is being done under the auspices of the No Child Left Behind Act's accountability provisions.

"It's time for the state's frustration with the lack of progress, the failure to deal with problems more seriously in a timely manner, to be expressed in action. Today is that day," said Ed Root, Maryland State Board of Education chairman.

Flunking the Final Four

NCAA President Myles Brand is defending the academic standing of his tournament's Final Four teams. All four schools Florida, LSU, UCLA – even Cinderella George Mason University – all had unsatisfactory “academic progress rates” (APR). (Think of the APR as the NCAA’s version of NCLB’s AYP…how’s that for education acronym-speak?).

An APR score of 925 equates to about a 60% graduation rate. 925 is the NCAA cut score for satisfactory progress. The APR for the Final Four schools are: George Mason – 918, Florida – 903, UCLA – 915, and LSU – 860.

Teams that continually fail to meet the 925 threshold are supposed to face sanctions, including the loss of scholarship, though none of the Final Four teams have been penalized yet. (Hard to believe a the NCAA considers a 60% graduation rate acceptable. A 60% shooter I can understand, but leaving 40% of your players without a college degree after four years?).

They might have fallen just short of the Final Four, but there is one team whose players are all winners in the academic arena. Villanova was the only school of the Sweet 16 teams with a perfect graduation rate – 1000. Well done, Coach Jay Wright and seniors Randy Foye (Big East player of the Year), Allan Ray, and Jason Fraser.

Colorado Civics Lessons

Tony Lewis, executive director of the Donnell-Kay Foundation, takes aim at the Colorado State Board of Education and administers a self-inflicted wound – and he does so even before his gun is out of its holster!

In his opening sentence Lewis asks, “When a statewide elected body fails to represent the people of Colorado, what action is left other than to replace it with a group that has both the wisdom and experience necessary to make important decisions? When an institution fails to fulfill its basic mission, fails the very people that are represented by it and fails in every attempt it makes to improve itself, what course of action is left but to dissolve it and to begin again?”

What to do, indeed. In fact, the benighted leaders and citizens of Colorado have created exactly the sort of mechanism and action that Lewis can’t quite put his finger on. They’re called “ELECTIONS.” And in Colorado they occur on a regularly scheduled basis. In fact, there is one coming up in seven months.

Imagine what would happen if we took Lewis’ advice and dissolved elected bodies every time we didn’t agree with it. His idea is practically parliamentary! Fortunately, we live in a Republican democracy.

Oddly, though, Lewis wants to do away with the elected board in the name of accountability, as if standing for election before the voters of your community is not the very essence of accountability. In the end, his proposal is not so much democratic, enlightened, or even logical….it’s tyrannical – calling for the dissolution of an elected body with which you don’t agree.

Lewis’ screed is the just the sort of contradictory and ill-conceived thinking that afflicts so-called educational policy experts when they stray from their classroom and curriculum comfort zones and dabble in the complex issues of school governance. I do agree with Lewis’ call for the need for highly qualified, thoughtful and committed people to oversee the state's education system (Colorado already has eight such individuals on the state board right now). A pity, though, that Lewis’ essay isn’t qualified, thoughtful or committed in its “solution” for improving Colorado’s public schools.

Will Reed Run?

Indiana Superintendent Suellen Reed is usually the biggest statewide vote-getter on the Republican ticket – and has been for the past 14 years. But her recent clash with Governor Mitch Daniels over his preference to move the state testing dates from the fall to the spring has some wondering if the fallout will effect the 2008 race – should she decide to run again.

Pay for Performance

This Florida student takes exception to the state board’s recent move to institute pay for performance salary structure.

Student Face to SAT Debacle

Here's a real life example of the unfortunate impact of the SAT's scoring mistakes on a student's academic career from that same NY Times story.

"Jake DeLillo, a star lacrosse player at Yorktown High School in New York, received recruitment letters from more than 50 colleges last year, and he was particularly interested in colleges like the University of Massachusetts, which had strong lacrosse programs. But, he said, some of the coaches told him that his spring SAT scores were not high enough, and he needed to raise them about 100 points to be considered.

When he took the October SAT, he thought he had done well — until he got his scores. The results forced him to shift his search to other colleges, and he was accepted by the New York Institute of Technology, last year's national Division II lacrosse champion. Mr. DeLillo said he was looking forward to attending.

Two weeks ago, he said, the College Board told him it had understated his October results by 170 points. "It was definitely upsetting," he said. "People make mistakes, but this was a big one.""

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