Search This Blog

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Tonight 10/19 7pm Human Rights Commission. MCPS: East County schools

Tonight, 7:00 pm, the MoCo Human Rights Commission will convene and conduct a discussion among MCPS Superintendent, Dr. Jack Smith, and other MCPS staff and the East County Citizens’ Advisory Board and community members.
Please come and spread the word.
 The discussion will focus on East County (NEC) schools and education, and can be expected to consider MCPS’ achievement gap.

                East County Regional Services Center

                3300 Briggs Chaney Road, Silver Spring

Friday, September 9, 2016

Connecticut court decision on school equity

You may have seen or heard the widely-reported news of a Connecticut court decision about Connecticut school funding.Here’s a chunk of that news:
You probably don’t need to go to law school to know that court decisions make (ok conservatives--interpret) law and that this Connecticut decision makes/interprets law only for Connecticut. Yeah but the decision takes a pretty close look at a state system, so maybe what was seen can help clarify our Maryland/Montgomery County Public Schools situation.
I’ve read just a bit of the decision; it seems worth our read:

Thursday, September 1, 2016

                MCPS Disconnect:
County Economic and Workforce Development, and Fair Housing
New Strategies,​ ​Ready​ ​for​ ​Tomorrow,New​ ​HUD​ ​Affirmatively Furthering​ ​Fair​ ​Housing​ ​Reg  
​ ​Frederick Stichnoth

    September 1, 2016

What’s the point(s)?

1. To show that the achievement gap messes up Montgomery County economic and workforce development and fair housing;

2.  To show that Montgomery County Public Schools has neither yet joined up nor even been recruited for (!!) the County teams of champions  working real-real hard on economic and workforce development strategy;

3. To suggest that the education achievement and related fair housing gaps are about to become real, real embarrassing for the County--especially for County economic development (real);

4. To call on senior public officials and highly influential people (HIP) (and even right-minded, albeit segregated, regular old folk, who can both-Whoa!-think and hit the send button to prod an SPO or HIPster) to get off your fa_...vorite anteroom couch and do your political leadership job: deliver the message to the Superintendent, the Board of Ed and all Moco segregated citizens that the achievement gap is, at long last (because it’s 2016 for gosh sake!) like totally unacceptable--so just ain’t gonna be tolerated no more (and hey--this time we really mean it, for a change; so fasten your seatbelt: no more tax-extracted wads of benjamins in your leaky bucket, no more happy hype for failure, no more election endorsements of lightweight,do-nothing, gap gabbers.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Education First Budget 5.25.16

May 25, 2016

County Executive Isiah Leggett
Interim Superintendent Larry Bowers
Board of Education
President Christopher Lloyd, MCEA,
President Merle Cuttitta, SEIU Local 500,
 President James Koutsos, MCAAP,
 President Frances Frost, MCCPTA,

Re: Education First Budget

Honorable Sirs and Madams:

I very much appreciate your focus on the needs of our community, culminating in the Education First budget. Thank you for your personal and institutional sacrifices, and leadership. This appears to be truly an unprecedented partnership, with several institutions making big commitments.
     I appreciate also your undertaking that residents/taxpayers will see the results of their investment. Through your sacrifices, elected County officials have at last put skin in the game--a necessary condition for school board and system accountability, and thus for progress (after four futile decades) in narrowing the achievement gap. This narrowing is the result that I expect to see, to justify the tax and the permanent MOE annuity. East County schools must significantly improve in relative performance to be recognized throughout the County for their quality. Such recognition is crucial to the development and wellbeing of our East County community.
     The County and school system press releases, with their carefully mirrored initiative itemizations, indicate the specificity of your bargain. Therefore, I am concerned that of eleven agreed initiatives, only two are explicitly targeted to impacted schools, and nine are intentionally generalized across all system schools.

Schools targeted?-
Reduce class sizes 2 students--add teachers

“in many schools”
“Across the board”
Lower student:staff ratio-paraeducators

Add focus teachers: literacy, math

Professional development

School counselors
“larger, impacted Elementary Schools”

Community coordinators, psychologists, pupil personnel workers

“most vulnerable students and their families”
Minority achievement programs

Achieving Collegiate Excellence and Success (ACES)-2 more highschools

College and Career readiness and dual language programs

Achieving the Promise Initiative-mentors, coaches

Chromebooks $27.4 million

11 initiatives total
2 initiatives targeted to impacted schools
9 initiatives not targeted to impacted schools

Targeting should be an integral aspect of the community bargain to which you commit us. Absent targeting the most impacted schools, I do not see how the East County gap will narrow; the futility will persist for more decades and generations; your sacrifices and leadership will have been wasted; and your commitment to recognizable results unfulfilled.
     Subject to my concern over omittedtargeting, your leadership revives my faith in this peculiar mixed structure of County and school system governance.

                                                                    Very truly yours,

                                                                    Frederick Stichnoth,
                                                                      Colesville, Silver Spring
                                                                      East County

     One Montgomery

Thursday, January 21, 2016


January 14, 2015 7:00 pm

Mr. Durso, Boardmembers, Mr. Bowers:
Here’s what I like: grade 3 summer learning, CTE, SEPA enhancements (about $1.28 million, net)
Unfortunately, your message does not seem to be projecting beyond the inner circle of your partners, and you’re not picking up on where your community and funder are headed.
Tonight’s powerful testimony reveals widespread, systemwide, great need, which may suggest the need for a larger budget. I just wish I had faith you were optimizing your expenditures.
I’m a schools guy, and I want to support MCPS.
But I can’t--so long as I don’t see what you’re up to.
Is there a strategy?  What are the priorities? What are the costs? Across what timeline? How does your budget serve the strategy?
Again: I want to support MCPS but I can’t because, even more fundamentally than being a schools guy, I’m a segregated East County guy.  The achievement gap is a west-county/east county wedge, and an east county cancer.
So, let's start right there: is there a gap strategy? i.e, an east-county strategy?  with costs and timelines? I don’t see it.
I used to think that your so-called “strategic enhancements”represented  your latest new, revised gap strategy. Naw--it’s just the “new-spending-for-everything” catchall. But why highlight these items under such a highfalutin title?--dual language immersion consultants? new marking period assessments? I’m not saying that these things should not be done. You got some new chores ; you need to pay to get ‘em done:  business as usual, neither  “strategic enhancement,” nor gap closing, nor east-county revival.
Just where do gap and east-county fall on you priority list ?
The OLO staffing and resources brouhaha was enlightening:
                   -Two successive superintendents trashed OLO for supposedly misunderstanding compensatory spending law: thereby debasing and evading an important discussion: You’re missing the forest on this whole staffing and resources back and forth: This community and your funder are sick and tired of the gap—38 years of your (non)results--and your failure to allocate our resources strategically and equitably.
    -Dr. Starr made explicit your intentional tradeoff of east county education for west county education. You see, if MCPS reallocated its spending, certain, unspecified “core instructional elements” of the MCPS program could be left unfunded for our green zone kids;  that’s “non-negotiable!” you huff—no tradeoffs of your west county priority. You see this tear? No? Hire a Superintendent who’ll do what Dr. Weast did: Invite those poor deprived green zone kids to join us in our “amply-provisioned” red zone schools.
     For the record: I’m betting you’ll negotiate (when the price is right).
    We want equity now: the same results/life-opportunities as our west county children get. You think our east county parents are different?/ have lesser dreams and expectations for our east county children?
    For so long as you refuse to reallocate your budget and you continue to drive our County down this path, throwing more County resources at you would be wasteful--merely enable your mistake.
    We no longer buy the pitch that high test scores for rich neighborhoods is a strategic advantage sufficient for our County’s economic development; we need broad-based, career-readiness success (not least in the new White Oak Master Plan area). If you aren’t voluntarily redirecting our energy there, who must we look to to deliver the message to you?--the Executive and the Council, by holding the spigot for now at MOE.
Thank you.
                                                                                                                                            Frederick Stichnoth
                                                                                                                                Colesville, Silver Spring

cc: County Executive Leggett, County Council

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What’s happening at election-time?

            I’m naïve, having never worked a phone bank, canvassed door-to-door or wheedled the imprimatur of an interest group.

            On the surface, an election appears as grubbing for office, with voters as background medium. And then office is the grind or game of legislation or executive administration.

            Is it too idealistic to think of an election as a space set aside for engagement with citizenry? As a time when the would-be officeholder is most open to citizens’ opinions and feedback? As a venue in which the candidate tries to win the voters not only to him/herself personally, but also to a way of understanding the issues and an approach to resolving them? The candidate explores the issues and possible solutions with the citizens, sharing his/her policy expertise and political skill and judgment, and modeling his/her future practice once elected. This is a win-win-win, for the candidates, the citizens and the issues.

            Is it too idealistic to hope that we’re selecting not just a grinder of decisions in a circumscribed realm, but a politician on a broader canvas orchestrating better community?

            It’s early in this campaign, so not everything that should be discussed has been yet, and I may be naively alarmist.

            The issue of the widening achievement gap among our schools, with corresponding stratification of our students by race, ethnicity and socio-economic status and bifurcation of our County into more starkly-defined geographies, should be discussed. The OLO report indicates a sharp turn for the worse in a condition to which we’ve become accustomed over the past four to six decades (the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, and the end of MCPS de jure segregation, being May 17).

            In early returns, our candidates and citizens are whistling blithely past the chasm. Doug Duncan mentioned it in public; Phil Andrews mentioned it in private; George Leventhal mentioned it on twitter. Otherwise—invisible.

            The gap issue won’t be comfortable to resolve: the real questions being how much effort is enough? And how much inequity is too much? (A red zone 50% as good as the green zone is too much inequity.) But it’s appalling to contemplate a continuing trajectory of social divergence, and it’s embarrassing to hear continuing lip service and temporizing, and to watch posturing and preening passing for executive administration.

            Now, maybe if I weren’t so naïve I’d see that stealth on this issue is the best way to get the best politician into office, and in a position to get down to real work. But what a implausible Rube Goldberg mechanism! I think that a political leader leads even before installation—now, during election time. And the citizens respond. A resolve is fixed--a way forward begun to be charted.   


Monday, April 14, 2014

Half as Effective (Our Red Zone High Schools)

            The proportion of students from 11 of MCPS’ higher-poverty high schools (“OLO” schools) who graduate college-ready is half the proportion of Non-OLO students who graduate college-ready. Three quarters of MCPS white and Asian high school students are exposed to a low-FARMS (14%), high-performance (two-thirds college-ready) Non-OLO peer environment; two-thirds of black, Latino and FARMS high school students are exposed to a high-FARMS (42%), low-performance (one-third college-ready) OLO peer environment.

            Between-school segregation and localized underperformance result from the vicious cycle generated by residential sorting, MCPS’ school assignment, peer influence and school under-resourcing. The consortia choice program in the NEC and DCC was implemented in 1998 to disrupt this cycle by changing school assignment and peer influence.

            It hasn’t worked. Over the past decade, FARMS numbers have doubled in both OLO and Non-OLO schools, while non-FARMS numbers have remained constant in Non-OLO schools but have decreased by a third in OLO schools. Over the past seven years, OLO students have lost ground to Non-OLO students in graduates scoring at least SAT 1650, SAT 1650 or ACT 24 and AP 3—in college-readiness.

            The OLO/Non-OLO performance divergence starts early, then widens. The proportion of OLO elementary students achieving benchmarks is only 70 percent of the proportion of Non-OLO elementary students; the proportion of OLO middle school students achieving benchmarks is only two-thirds the proportion of Non-OLO middle school students. MCPS tracks its lower-performing OLO middle school students into lower-performing OLO high schools. 

            Northeast and Downcounty Consortia high school students perform slightly better than three non-consortia “Like” high school students. But this advantage takes hold prior to consortium treatment -- at the elementary and middle school levels. Consortia students have lost ground to Like students over the past five years (since the 2008 OLO Report) as to graduates taking AP exams, graduates scoring 3 or higher on AP exams, graduates scoring 1650 or higher on the Scholastic Aptitude Test, and graduation (leaver) rate.

            MCPS’ policy of school assignment by residence – a policy of segregation – negates MCPS’ consortium treatment.

            The Office of Legislative Oversight’s 2008 Report and 2014 Update are politically significant exercises in proving the obvious. As the 2014 OLO Update recognizes, the issue is not the sliver of daylight between Consortia and Like schools, but the yawning, still widening, chasm between these schools and Non-OLO schools. The issue is not whether that gap exists, but whether publicity of its eye-popping, way-beyond-expectation, magnitude will provoke our community and our political leadership to do anything about it.

            This paper compares Consortia and Like, and OLO and Non-OLO, demography and performance; and addresses Consortia choice, resource allocation and Superintendent Dr. Starr's response.

Read the paper and the Appendix Tables.