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Maryland Has a Teacher Pay Problem

October 30, 2017 - 5:14pm
Is the state finally ready to help pay teachers what they deserve?Photo © Stephen Cherry

In today’s debate over what should be done to improve education in America, there is a lot we disagree on. While some of this conflict in the public discourse is due to entrenched ideologies, much of it is caused by mixed academic research on almost all things education policy.

But among the least disputed ideas is this: the most important in-school factor in a child’s education is the quality of teaching they receive — in fact, RAND Corporation, a leading non-profit think tank, says teachers “have two to three times the impact of any other school factor, including services, facilities, and even leadership.”

So if teachers are the most important in-school factor in education, and public education is the most important issue to Marylanders according to public polling, why in the world are we underpaying our public educators?

This isn’t just simple logic. There’s solid research that shows huge benefits for students in school systems around the world that greatly elevate the public prestige and compensation of their teachers. In 2011, two European researchers looked at Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) scores and average teacher salary for each OECD country. Sure enough, that simple logic played out in a strong relationship between the two factors:

The researchers concluded that “A 5% increase in the relative position of teachers in the income distribution would increase pupil performance by around 5–10%.” By reducing staff turnover and creating the demand to make the teaching profession more selective, increasing teacher pay is one of the most effective education reforms available to elected officials and school leadership.

Unfortunately…

Maryland Teachers Make 84 Cents on the Dollar

In August 2016, the Economic Policy Institute released a damning study on the pay gap between teachers and other professionals with four-year college degrees. It showed that all across the country, teachers pay a financial penalty to serve the public mission of educating our kids instead of entering more lucrative professions.

In Maryland, that teacher pay penalty is 16 cents on every dollar earned. That’s right — instead of incentivizing high school and college students to join the profession responsible for our state’s educational success, we do the exact opposite.

Of course, this is ignored by anti-public education advocates who want more public funding shifted to the private education sector.

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Did you know? Maryland is one of the highest-paying states for teachers https://t.co/DDcS2AK9EG

 — @MarylandCAN

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MarylandCAN — a pro-privatization group started by Donald Trump’s educator advisor — argues that because Maryland teachers have a relatively high average salary compared to other states, we should send funding to other priorities. But that ignores the fact that while Maryland teachers, on average, earn the 8th highest salaries in the nation, they actually make the 9th lowest when benchmarked against state median household income. Maryland’s average teacher salary is 87% of the state’s median household income.

2016–2017 data from the Census Bureau, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the National Education Association.

Not only does Maryland have the highest median household income in the nation — and therefore a larger tax base with which to pay teachers a competitive salary — but it does the worst job in the Mid-Atlantic region at making teaching competitive with other jobs in the state’s economy. That’s a recruitment and retention double-whammy: uncompetitive within the state economy and with nearby states.

Perhaps this wouldn’t be quite so demoralizing for Maryland teachers if it wasn’t getting worse…but it has since the Great Recession, despite median household income rebounding.

Data from the Census Bureau, Maryland State Archives, and National Education Association.

As the chart above shows, Maryland made great strides following the implementation of the Thornton Funding Formula in the mid-2000s — cutting the gap between average teacher salary and median household income in half (from 14% to 7%) — only to lose that improvement in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Even as the state has returned to fiscal health and median household income has increased by about $9,000 since 2011, the average teacher salary has only increased by $4,700—half as much — as state and local education funding flatlined.

So, with uncompetitive teacher salaries (that are only getting more uncompetitive) and worst-in-the-nation teacher working conditions, is it any wonder we see news stories like this every year?

https://medium.com/media/a9d64b7ccf6d66a27c88aae401336ae9/hrefThis Is a Must-Fix for the Kirwan Commission

Here’s the good news: the Kirwan Commission appears ready to make a strong recommendation on increasing teacher pay. In the video below, the chair of the Commission, Brit Kirwan, tells a reading specialist in Howard County that closing the gap between teacher pay and comparable professions is under consideration.

https://medium.com/media/de469d91cd71e84646ef01148f3f0765/href

If the Commission does in fact make that recommendation, that means average teacher salary would likely need to increase to more than $90,000 by 2025 — including $2,500+ increases each year — or the kind of growth started by the Thornton implementation but discontinued when the recession hit in the late 2000s. According to the international study cited earlier, that could improve student achievement by as much as 25%.

But this potential progress is far from guaranteed. It’s up to educators and our public education allies to consistently remind commissioners and legislators of the importance of elevating the teaching profession by erasing the teacher pay penalty. It will take all of our voices to close the gap.

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Thank you to the incredible educators who stayed out late on a school night to advocate for students at tonight's Kirwan Commission hearing!

 — @MSEAeducators

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Maryland Has a Teacher Pay Problem was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Top 10 Moments at the 2017 MSEA Convention

October 27, 2017 - 3:34pm
Convention breaks records, builds momentum for big year of activism ahead

The 2017 MSEA Convention is in the books, and it was one of the biggest and best ever. Here are some of the highlights:

1. Betty Weller’s Final Convention Speech as MSEA PresidentMSEA President Betty Weller addresses Convention delegates. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

“For the last five years as your president it has been my privilege to fight alongside you and be inspired by you,” declared MSEA President Betty Weller. “Rest assured that whether in the remaining time of my presidency or in my retirement, I will still be fighting next to you, still be inspired by you, and still be in the streets beside you so that we can make the most of this moment.” Watch the full speech below.

https://medium.com/media/67a6eb47258d8900b42c8488bf6afef5/href2. Record AttendanceA packed house at non-delegate registration. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

The 2017 Representative Assembly was the biggest in a decade, and the 3rd largest in 20 years. Workshop attendance soared as well, more than doubling last year’s mark. All told, more than 2,500 people came to the 2017 Convention.

3. 2018 Gubernatorial Candidates Talk Education(Photos © Stephen Cherry)

As the Baltimore Sun put it, “the eight Democrats running for governor climbed a convention center stage here, courting one of the most coveted endorsements in Maryland: the support of the sprawling and powerful teachers union. … They promised members of the state’s biggest teachers union to provide universal pre-kindergarten statewide, to raise teacher pay, to invest in school buildings, to better help students from high poverty areas, and to listen to teachers more than incumbent Republican Gov. Larry Hogan does.”

In her remarks, President Weller called the candidates “what might be the strongest, most diverse field for Maryland governor that we have ever seen.” Click a candidate’s name below to watch Betty’s interview with them:

4. Record-breaking Year for PAC Fundraising(Photo © Stephen Cherry)

In another sign of how energized educators are to elect pro-public education candidates and win on issues that matter to students, fundraising for MSEA’s Fund for Children and Public Education crushed the previous record that was set just last year. This year, delegates raised more than $41,000 in two days.

5. Brit Kirwan Hears from Delegates on Funding PrioritiesBrit Kirwan hears from RA delegates about their funding priorities. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

Educators know that we have a once in a generation opportunity to increase school funding and address the $3 billion underfunding of Maryland schools through the work of the Kirwan Commission. The namesake and chair of the commission himself, Brit Kirwan, spent nearly an hour with delegates—fielding questions, getting feedback, and sharing the commission’s work thus far. “We have no chance of implementing [the commission’s] report, in my opinion, without MSEA’s support,” asserted Kirwan. “You are so critical to this effort.”

6. Lethal Ladies of Baltimore Wow Delegates(Photo © Stephen Cherry)

A Friday morning performance from the Lethal Ladies of Baltimore—a step team of students at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women —electrified delegates and set the tone for an exciting day ahead. The step team is featured in the award-winning Fox Searchlight movie “Step.”

7. More than 100 First-Time Delegates Join the RAFirst-time delegate and MCEA member Liz Jones poses for a photo with former MSTA President Pat Foerster. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

For the fourth year in a row, more than 100 first-time delegates joined veteran activists, putting the strength and diversity of the association on full display.

8. ESP of the Year Mary Stein Inspires RAESP of the Year Mary Stein at this year’s RA. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

Howard County nurse Mary Stein was honored as MSEA’s second-ever ESP of the Year and recounted her long career of activism to RA delegates, particularly her advocacy for earned sick leave. “I had the great privilege to have lunch with President Obama and Senator Barbara Mikulski to discuss this important matter as it related to the impact on students, the elderly, and the people who care for them. Because I was passionate about this coalition I made an impact with our president and our senator.” Watch Mary’s full speech below.

https://medium.com/media/a0da9e2d572af6eb8f4ad347fd06bedf/href9. Delegates Debate New BusinessDelegates voting at the 2017 RA. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

Delegates debated more than two dozen New Business Items (NBIs), passing measures on issues ranging from equal justice, student trauma, special education, dyslexia education, and many more. Look for quarterly updates on MSEA’s work to fulfill passed NBIS at marylandeducators.org/convention.

10. Locals Big and Small Win Membership AwardsFCTA President Missy Dirks accepts the award for Outstanding Membership Plan from Membership Organizing Committee Co-Chair Heather Goodhart. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

Local associations across the state were honored for their hard work expanding membership in teacher, ESP, and administrator units. Awards went to the Association of Classified Employees AFSCME Local 2250, Association of Public School Administrators and Supervisors of Allegany County, Cecil County Classroom Teachers Association, Education Association of Charles County, Education Association of St. Mary’s County, Frederick Association of School Support Employees, Frederick County Teachers Association, Harford County Education Association, St. Mary’s Association of Supervisors and Administrators, and Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County.

Already looking forward to next year’s MSEA Convention? Circle October 19 and 20 on your calendar and come join us!

Top 10 Moments at the 2017 MSEA Convention was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Educators Out in Force at Final Kirwan Commission Hearing

October 27, 2017 - 1:17pm
Addressing salary, class size, and poverty among top issues

They came in buses and in carpools. They came from down the road, over the Bay Bridge, and through rush hour traffic on the Beltway. At Wednesday night’s final Kirwan Commission public hearing, educators packed the room, stood in the aisles, and made their voices heard.

Here are some of the highlights of what they said:

“Low pay and assisting our students at hard to staff schools is overwhelming and increases teacher turnover. Our ask is that you focus on assisting us in meaningful improvements to…address the needs of our highest concentrations of poverty.” — Theresa Dudley, Prince George’s County teacher and Prince George’s County Education Association president“Class sizes matter because in my classroom there are 30 people whose stories matter. … Small class sizes reduce the gap between the highest and lowest achievers.” — Allison Heintz, Anne Arundel County teacher“Community schools should be the new norm in Maryland.” — Sheena Washington, Prince George’s County teacher“We have young, talented, and qualified teachers leaving the profession before they finish five years because they are burnt out before they even get a chance to hone their craft.” — Liz Jones, Montgomery County teacher“I have to take on a second job because I’m a second-year teacher. I’m asking for the ability to teach and to live.” — Ryan Curry, Prince George’s County teacher“As an educator, I know what my students need. Our kids deserve high quality schools with small class sizes.” — Pam Bukowski, Anne Arundel County teacher and Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County vice president

A full room of other educators wore red, cheered on their colleagues, and held up “yes” signs to show their support.

And some even led their colleagues in chants:

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Calvert County teacher Nancy Crosby leads educators in a chant: "when I say Kirwan, you say fund it!

 — @MSEAeducators

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The need to address the $3 billion in underfunding in our schools is clearly there. Hearings like this one show that the public support is also there. But educators and public education allies will need to keep the pressure up on elected officials to make sure that they support recommendations from the Kirwan Commission that are a true game-changer for all Maryland educators and students.

Educators Out in Force at Final Kirwan Commission Hearing was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

We’re $3 Billion Behind and We’re Pushing Back

October 17, 2017 - 7:29pm
This Is Our Moment—Educators are leading by pushing the Kirwan Commission to make the right decisions.MSEA President Betty Weller introduces MSEA’s This Is Our Moment campaign at a Calvert Education Association building rep assembly October 16.

Every educator has stories — the kind that give you goosebumps or bring a tear to your eye. Those are the stories that help keep educators in the classroom — but what also helps are working conditions that lead to student and educator success. That’s why MSEA educators are organizing to influence the Kirwan Commission, the group charged with updating the public school funding formula, which will affect a generation of students.

MSEA’s This Is Our Moment campaign is reaching out to educators, parents, and community members in school and neighborhood meetings across the state. It’s an opportunity to collect input from everyone: What do you want to see changed? What does a first-class education look like? How can we provide it? In Calvert and Anne Arundel counties, association reps recently learned exactly how and what they can do to help from MSEA President Betty Weller and Vice President Cheryl Bost.

Our Moment: Calling All Building RepsThis Is Our Moment: Anne Arundel County teachers learn how they can help influence the Kirwan Commission and improve public school funding for the next generation of students.

“Who remembers the Thornton Commission, the last group that updated the education funding formula,” MSEA President Betty Weller asked Calvert County building reps on October 16. “It’s been 15 years since the school funding formula was last updated.

“Since then, the number of kids in poverty has doubled, we have more students receiving special ed services, and more English language learners than ever. Our class sizes are increasing and we have even more state and federal mandates. The current funding formula hasn’t kept up with these changes.”

What’s Changed Since 2002?

Weller was in Calvert to introduce the campaign, share the resources, and stir up building reps to organize their buildings, share their stories, and, importantly, show up to the next Kirwan Commission public hearing on October 25 at Largo High School. (Read how educators and community members showed up in force at the public hearings in Baltimore and Western Maryland.)

Calvert Education Association President Dona Ostenso and her team will be the teachers in the red t-shirts at the Kirwan Commission public hearing at Largo High School on October 25.

“If we want more funding in education to improve teacher salaries, have smaller class sizes, more time to plan, and additional resources,” said Calvert Education Association President Dona Ostenso, “we need to stand together and speak up like we did last year when we fought to restore our steps and teacher pay. We won that battle and now our contracts are funded for the next three years. It’s time to step up.

“Let’s organize once again and make sure our voices are heard at the public hearing next week.”

An hour later, Ostenso had 25 teachers signed up for the bus ride to represent Calvert schools and their profession at Largo High. “And that’s just the beginning,” she said.

In Anne Arundel County, a similar gathering took place when local president Richard Benfer and MSEA Vice President Cheryl Bost rallied teachers at the Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County building rep assembly. “Over the next couple of months,” Bost said, “hundreds of building reps like you will be holding building meetings with tens of thousands of educators to let them know about this great opportunity, get their feedback for what they want to see from increased funding, and tell us what they’re willing to do to make it happen.

A teacher reviews some of the This Is Our Moment resources.

“Your role is to hold one of these 10-minute meetings in your building. We’ll deliver all the feedback collected from these meetings to the Kirwan Commission — and together we’ll build the power to get them done. We have resources for every building in the county — meeting scripts, sign-in sheets, commitment cards, a slide show, and a video to use during the meeting.

“This is our moment,” Bost said. “The more people we can talk to about what the Kirwan Commission and their recommendations means to the future of public education, the better our chances for success.”

Learn more at OurMomentMaryland.com.

We’re $3 Billion Behind and We’re Pushing Back was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

3 Winners and 1 Big Loser from Last Week’s Kirwan Commission Hearings

October 16, 2017 - 7:27pm
Will the General Assembly answer public calls for a bold school spending plan? We know Gov. Hogan won’t.Ciera Smith, a high school student in Baltimore City, urges the Kirwan Commission to increase school funding. CREDIT: WBAL.

Last week was a big moment for the Kirwan Commission. On Thursday, the 25 commissioners heard from roughly a dozen of the most influential education stakeholders in Maryland: educator unions, superintendents, local school board members, civil rights groups, art education advocates, early childhood education providers, and more. And then later in the evening, they held a listening session in Baltimore City attended by hundreds of concerned parents, educators, and students. By the end of the night, they had heard the public comments of more than 50 speakers.

And every single advocate asked for bold recommendations on how to equitably fund Maryland’s public schools. If the Kirwan Commission was “the best kept secret in Maryland” before, it isn’t any longer. It is now very clear that the public is watching the Commission closely, and expects recommendations that meet the vast unmet needs in Maryland’s public education system.

Governor's commission hears passionate pleas to better fund city schools

Here are three winners and one loser following last week’s public outcry for more education funding:

Winner: Educators

The Baltimore City event’s first speaker probably put it best. To huge applaud from the crowd, Baltimore City Mayor Catherine Pugh told the commissioners:

“Buildings don’t create students, teachers and resources do.”

But it wasn’t just about the city. More than 50 members of the Teachers Association of Baltimore County (TABCO) attended the events, too, wearing red shirts and holding up signs to declare their support for public education. One of those teachers, Pam Gaddy, told The Baltimore Sun that she would put more money toward raising teacher salaries and reducing class sizes if she were on the Commission. “There are just not enough teachers in the classroom,” said the Patapsco High School social studies teacher.

Hundreds urge Kirwan Commission to provide equitable funding to schools

Eileen Edwards, a school nurse at Dogwood Elementary School, echoed Pam’s call for more hiring more staff in schools, telling a reporter at the event: “There is just not enough assistants in the schools that are behavior specialists for students who are coming to us with chronic behavior issues.”

“We have been underfunded for so long. It’s being done on the teachers’ backs and the students are paying the price.” — Abby Beytin, TABCO President

The Commission heard about more than just teachers. MSEA President Betty Weller asked the commissioners to pay just as much attention to the low salaries of education support professionals as they do for other school employees: “Increase salaries. This is a must, not just for the teacher workforce, but also for the education support staff in our schools.”

In MSEA’s presentation to the Commission, Legislative Affairs Director Sean Johnson urged: “We need to increase ESP pay to a benchmark standard and at a minimum guarantee that anyone working in our schools is able to earn a living wage.”

A page from MSEA’s presentation to the Kirwan Commission focuses on raising salaries for all educators.Winner: Future Pre-K Students

Researchers have long pointed to high-quality universal pre-K as a no-brainer part of the policy prescription for closing our stubborn achievement gaps. That’s a big reason why the Kirwan Commission recently received a report from a Maryland task force urging them to adopt a recommendation that all four-year-olds have access to public pre-K.

And just about every speaker last week echoed the call. During the stakeholder testimonies, associations representing superintendents, school board members, and educators all specifically urged the Commission to move an expansion of public pre-K forward. The ACLU of Maryland and other civil rights groups even stressed the need to offer services to three-year-olds, too.

“Support for families and young children before they enter school is important if we are to stop the achievement gap before it starts.” — Bebe Verdery, ACLU of Maryland Education Reform Project Director and Co-Chair of the Maryland Education Coalition

At the listening session, Baltimore City State Delegate Nick Mosby stood in front of the commissioners with his young daughter and told them, “I don’t have to look at empirical data or read reports to understand the importance of early childhood education. Because growing up in Northeast Baltimore, I had the opportunity at three years old to participate in full-day pre-kindergarten.”

Baltimore City Councilmember Zeke Cohen, a former public school teacher, passionately urged the Commission to issue a strong report “starting from birth and working all the way through adolescence and into adulthood.”

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Baltimore, this is our moment. Packed house at the Kirwan Commission. Nothing but love for our kids! https://t.co/KACX71Af9A

 — @Zeke_Cohen

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Councilmember Cohen also made a very specific proposal to the Commission on another pro-public education idea: community schools. The model — which features a school coordinator focused on bringing in non-academic wrap-around services to the school building — has slowly expanded to more and more high-poverty schools around the country. Baltimore City has been a pioneer in this field with more than 50 of their schools using the staffing and services model.

When A School Becomes More Than A School

Baltimore City has already seen increased parental engagement and student attendance in their first few years of utilizing the community school model. Now a landmark study of New York City’s more expansive program — which includes more than 200 schools — shows similar progress in building partnerships between community non-profit services and students and their families.

Councilmember Cohen asked the Commission to adopt a recommendation that every school with 40% or more of its students eligible for free and reduced priced meals utilize the community school model. This idea is similar to the proposal made by Maryland’s Community School Coalition that funding for the model be baked into the new state school funding formula.

As the Commission works to develop solutions for the concentrated poverty facing many of our schools, there has been no policy idea with as much backing as the community school model — and that momentum was again boosted last week.

Loser: Gov. Larry Hogan

On Twitter, many critics of Gov. Larry Hogan have used the hashtag #WhereIsLarry following his silence on Republican proposals to strip away health insurance and raise taxes on the working and middle class — both of which directly affect Maryland families. The concept of Gov. Hogan missing in action has only grown as he’s dodged radio show invitations on WTOP and WYPR, and refused to host town halls to answer constituent questions. That reputation loomed large on Thursday night when hundreds of frustrated Maryland parents, educators, and students passionately urged for more education funding and the governor wasn’t in attendance.

But it’s not just that he doesn’t show up. Gov. Hogan has consistently argued that Maryland public schools have plenty of funding and more money isn’t the solution to closing achievement gaps. Instead, he has pushed an agenda that seeks to privatize public schools through private school vouchers and privately operated charter schools.

Why Larry Hogan Sent Your Taxes to Private Schools

Gov. Hogan will be spending the next year running for re-election at a time when one of the loudest public questions in the state will be: Should we do something about the fact that the average school in Maryland is underfunded by $2 million every year? And if his past actions and words are any indication, his answer — over and over again — is going to be no.

We learned last week that the voters of this state are very, very frustrated with the status quo of school funding under the governor’s watch. He’s going to need a better answer.

3 Winners and 1 Big Loser from Last Week’s Kirwan Commission Hearings was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What’s Changed Since 2002?

October 11, 2017 - 8:01pm
For one thing, there was no Blue Ivy Carter …

…but there was the Bridge to Excellence Act (also known as the Thornton Plan), which the General Assembly passed in 2002 thanks to MSEA’s advocacy. It was an “historic” accomplishment according to the New York Times. Thornton funding helped make Maryland the nation’s highest rated school system five years in a row.

In 2002, Marshall Mathers was already dropping f-bombs and albums and The Eminem Show was the biggest selling album of 2002.

What’s bigger than Eminem was in 2002? Let’s talk about the gains Maryland made when the effects of Bridge to Excellence funding shifted into gear. Here’s a sample:

  • Average teacher salaries jumped from $50,261 to $62,849 from 2003 to 2008 — a 25% increase.
  • Class size went down as more teachers were hired — the student to teacher ratio went from 15.7 in 2003 to 14.1 in 2008 — a 10% drop.
  • Maryland schools were ranked first in the nation by Education Week for five years in a row as achievement gaps narrowed and equity increased.

In 2002, for better or worse…there was no Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and so fewer people had reason to worry about there, their, and they’re.

But since then, we’ve had a lot to to worry about when you look at the big picture for our schools:

  • The number of students receiving free and reduced meals in 2002 was 113,128. Now it’s 382,726, a more than 200% increase.
  • The number of students who are English language learners in Maryland’s public schools has grown more than 120% since 2002.
  • Teacher salaries have remained relatively flat, with the average salary rising only 5% between 2008 and 2016 after the full phase-in of Thornton.
  • The student-teacher ratio has plateaued at 14.6 — behind other top-performing states and a 3% increase since the phase-in of Thornton.

It’s clear: after 15 years, we need a new plan to improve funding for our schools.

The gains that Maryland made thanks to Thornton funding have slowed — and in some cases reversed — as changing demographics have challenged resources and the underfunding of our schools has grown to $2.9 billion.

It’s time to get our students the level of funding that they deserve. And it’s time for us to speak up. Come to a public hearing on Kirwan or get involved in MSEA’s campaign to raise school funding.

What’s Changed Since 2002? was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Thornton Formula Namesake Calls Kirwan Commission “Historic Moment”

October 10, 2017 - 5:19pm
Dr. Alvin Thornton: We’re “significantly away” from equity and adequacy in public schools.Dr. Alvin Thornton decries cuts to public schools made by Gov. Larry Hogan at a press conference in 2015. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

More than 15 years ago, Dr. Alvin Thornton, now a retired professor, worked with Maryland state legislators and advocates to develop the Thornton Funding Formula, a national model at its time for ensuring equity of funding for all school districts.

With the Kirwan Commission — Maryland’s new effort to rewrite the state’s funding formula for public schools — narrowing in on recommendations in the next few months, we sat down with the chair of the last blue-ribbon commission on school funding: the Thornton Commission. Our conversation with Dr. Thornton has been transcribed and edited only for clarity.

What are your overall thoughts on how the formula and the Thornton Commission recommendations have played out all these years? Do you feel like they’ve accomplished what they set out to accomplish? Or have there been shortcomings in your mind?

The initial objective, obviously, was to build clarity constitutionally about the State’s obligation with the education of children. So it has done that. And then secondarily to build a consensus around that enhanced understanding. That was built, but it has not been maintained. Those are two — before we start talking about numbers and formulas — those are two critical things as we enter this new second phase.

We have to build constitutional clarity, because one has to remember that in the early 1990s, there was virtually no clarity among the general population about the constitutional mandate when it comes to educating children. Some of the great members of the so-called Thornton Commission — these are senators, elected people that I was most appreciative of — understood the education article and its connection to the due process equality article. But there’s very little talk about that now. It’s absolutely essential that this be a starting point for the work that is being done now.

When you said that the consensus was built but it hadn’t been maintained, what do you mean by that?

Well, the political network that conceived and supported the so-called Thornton concept. Obviously you can transition, people leave office. People come in. New people don’t have the same memory. I call it loss of memory. Financial and fiscal issues come in.

One of the things that so-called Thornton did was that it helped to create a consensus that allowed us to confront financial limitations, and to some extent — not completely eliminate them — but to some extent move beyond them. That’s very important. Because that’s what we will probably face now when people say there’s not enough money and all those kinds of things.

So that loss of memory is very important. That’s one of the reasons I would strongly recommend that, even now, the Kirwan Commission would do much more engagement with the community. Not broad-based three or four hearings. But aggressive engagement with the community because I thought that was absolutely indispensable to our work.

Dr. Thornton shakes hands with House Speaker Michael Busch. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

What was some of the engagement that you guys did?

Well, we went to every county and spent hours — sometimes five or six hours in the evenings — listening to the people. People testifying. There were limits, five minutes or so. But, I can remember going to Western Maryland, Eastern Maryland, Baltimore, Montgomery, etc. from 6:00 until 12:00 at night. That was very important. Because at the end of the day, you would face the proposal being submitted to Annapolis. You would need the people’s support.

Politically it doesn’t work without the people’s support. We were also able to diminish the degree of partisanship that inevitably surrounds educational funding and accountability. And you can only do that by bringing people together who didn’t really know each other.

I mean the people of Baltimore City and Montgomery County stereotypically didn’t know each other. Eastern Shore, black and white people, Republican and Democrat. That was the broad-based consensus that was built. And it was only able to be built because of direct engagement with the people and then feeding back to them what was heard. I still think that the Kirwan Commission will have to do some more of that if it’s going to get what it wants from Annapolis.

Since the Thornton Commission recommendations came out and then were adopted in the Bridge to Excellence Act, the populations in schools have changed quite a bit. We have a lot more low-income kids, a lot more English language learners. How do you think that affects the work the Kirwan Commission has in building on the success of getting more equity than in the early 2000s?

His first responsibility as the leader, as it was mine, was to provide clarity as to what the concepts mean. So when you have innovation as the lead concept for this work, Dr. Kirwan and the Commission will have to tell the people that innovation means equity, adequacy, and excellence first. It may mean something else, but that’s what it means first.

And if that needs to be debated, as to whether or not the commission accepts that definitionally, then that needs to be a discussion. Because if it doesn’t mean that then they have a problem.

The formula concept takes that into account. You get more children in poverty, there’s the poverty index. You have children with disabilities taken into account, children with limited English proficiency, and then the foundation amount. So it’s a very ingenious formula concept. That takes account of whatever demographic shifts may occur. And that’s what I don’t want to be lost, and I see it being lost.

That’s why I was so chagrined to some extent about the use of the term innovation. To me it didn’t mean anything. It can mean something. But the Commission would have to provide that meaning.

Dr. Thornton is interviewed following a press conference on school funding. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

If you were a commissioner now, what would be the one thing that you would be stressing the most in meetings and trying to remind folks to focus on in their work?

Definitional clarity and keeping children from becoming particular to their municipal identity, to their racial identity, to the partisan affiliation of their parentage, because it doesn’t work without that. If you don’t do that, this will be a partisan, it will be a racial, it will be a rural versus urban divide. So that’s what I would focus on first.

We were together around those questions — which I think most people were shocked about — we were together, there just wasn’t a debate about that. And if you can get that, and then go out together to the people and speak to them about their various differences, we can win this on behalf of the children. If not, it’ll be tough sledding.

How far do you think we are from this concept of equity and adequacy now? You’re talking about the investment not being maintained. How much ground needs to be made up to get back to that place?

Oh, I think we’re significantly away from where we should be. We won’t get to 100%. But we need to get as far or as close to it as we can. We are significantly away. The target keeps moving as you know.

As you pointed out, because of the changing status of our children — particularly children who need the equity and the adequacy — we are some distance away from equity and adequacy. It all depends on what we expect of our children. You know, equity and adequacy is largely a statutorily defined thing.

You know I have my own ideological concept. But ultimately it is a statutorily defined thing by the legislature. They say, and the governor, they say we want high achieving kids. And we want them to pass tests. That’s what they decide. And once you decide that, then we say that there must be a fiscal and educational and curricular umbrella over the kids. That’s what we’ve decided.

I don’t think we can go back. Because we could. We can say to the people of Maryland that we’re going to lower the standards. I don’t think anybody wants to do that. We’re going to accept lower pass rates but I don’t think they’ll want to do that. So, as long as we keep our high standards — which, nationally, I think we’re very competitive — we’re going to have to fund and provide the instructional support for kids.

Do you mind if I ask what your ideological concept of equity is?

No. I am one who believes that children should be constitutionally separate from the particularities from municipal residencies, zip code, and parentage, and proximity to valuable property. That’s my ideological starting point. And, I think it’s not the county’s responsibility or the city. I think it’s a federal responsibility but it won’t go that far.

So, at a minimum it’s the state’s responsibility to insulate the children constitutionally from the particularities that would in fact differentiate them. Which I think ultimately causes all kinds of problems down the line. You know, in terms of kids growing up differently, experientially. It results in all kinds of dysfunction in this society.

Dr. Thornton talks with MSEA President Betty Weller. (Photo © Stephen Cherry)

Any final thoughts or advice for the Kirwan Commission as it really gets into the final stretch of its work?

I think they have to understand that this is a historical moment that they are in, and the broad expectations the people of Maryland have of them. These are our children we’re talking about and there’s nothing more important that the state does than to educate its children. Nothing else. And so they understand that. Then the kind of commitment and the kind of compassion that will be required to engage opposition from whatever sources — legislatively, partisan interests — that may come in to distract them. That’s what I would hope and pray that they will do.

Thornton Formula Namesake Calls Kirwan Commission “Historic Moment” was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“Maryland Schools Are OK, But They Could Be Better”

October 3, 2017 - 7:46pm
Second public hearing draws educators, parents, students, administratorsWashington County educators attended the Western Maryland Kirwan Commission Public Hearing on September 29. Jim Rossi, third from left, and Neil Becker, center, made presentations to the Commission. Read excerpts below.

In opening the Western Maryland listening session — the second of four scheduled — Kirwan Commission chair Brit Kirwan, former chancellor of the University of Maryland, said, “Maryland schools are okay, but they could be better. The commission is looking not only at the funding formula but at ways Maryland schools can function at the same level as the best performing schools in the world. That is a very, very important part of what this commission is all about.” Those top rated schools are in Finland, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Toronto; in the U.S., Massachusetts is the number one ranking system.

The Kirwan Commission Meets the Public

It could easily be said that the one informs the other — last year, national school funding experts found Maryland schools to be underfunded by $2.9 billion (about $2 million per school in the state). In Western Maryland, school systems are grappling with challenging numbers — in Washington County, 52% of students receive FARMs and just one in three enter kindergarten ready to learn; in Frederick County, ESOL students have increased 225% since 2002, and FARMs students have doubled to 27%.

With adequate and equitable funding and resources, the concerns and needs of Maryland schools could be met — raising and meeting the expectations for educators, schools, students, families, and communities.

At the listening session, educators, parents, and students turned out to share their priorities with commissioners, including strong pleas for dedicated pre-k and kindergarten programs and flexible and broad programs of study to prepare every student for success.

Educators found support in areas ranging from paying teachers professional-level salaries — teachers are leaving Frederick for Montgomery County where, as one speaker noted, his wife increased her yearly salary by $42,000 — to pleas for a return to well-rounded curriculums that include the arts, history, civics, and more.

Here are some excerpts from the testimonies of educators, parents, and advocates:

Jim Rossi, Washington County middle school social studies teacher and International Baccalaureate Programme Coordinator: “I call for the Commission to recommend more funding for professional development in the field of trauma informed care. I have students who have witnessed their parents being shot, stabbed, and abused. Some of my students have been exposed to the horrors of human sex trafficking.

“I’ve had the opportunity to participate in trauma-informed care training and I have experienced the positive benefits of this approach with my students. It is essential for more teachers to be trained and given the same tools.”

Tomas Reyna, Frederick County 11th grade student: “Work must be done to prepare students for jobs they want. Why push standardized testing, which is rarely accurate, when students can prepare for a certification for those who want to go into IT, or more lab projects for students interested in the sciences. All the time eaten up by unnecessary required classes or standardized tests could be used for special programs to give specialized classes and instruction.

“Colleges and jobs look for experience and by providing this, we lessen the gap between great test takers and equally promising students.”

Neil Becker, parent and president of the Washington County Teachers Association: “Schools are providing foundational skills for three- and four-year-olds more than ever, but state and federal agencies are not funding pre-k. The Kirwan Commission can fix that. The return on investment for these youngest learners and their families reaps dividends for decades.”

Tomas Reyna and Logan Ojard with Brit Kirwan, chair of the Kirwan Commission. The Frederick County students added their comments to those of educators and the public

Jonathan Araujo, Frederick County high school English teacher: “Please consider the wisdom in the requests of my students as you make your final recommendations — they had varied and insightful thoughts:

  • I would invest in teachers and staff in expanding the school with labs and extra departments;
  • I’d make the building larger, have better cafeteria food, and have better technology;
  • I would want there to be more classes offered, like cosmetology, have a forensic lab with equipment, and a fashion design class;
  • I’d hire more teachers to teach smaller groups of students, to help kids with social anxiety, and have more one-to-one connections with teachers;
  • I’d create an arts program/arts academy; and
  • More teachers, more study halls, more transportation.”

Ryan Nicotra, Maryland arts in education advocate: “A researcher from UCLA found that greater involvement in the arts led to higher academic performance, increased test scores, more volunteerism, and lower dropout rates even among the students form the poorest neighborhoods.”

Logan Ojard, Frederick County 12th grade student: “I have found that our AP classes have issues with overcrowding in classrooms. The College Board recommends that every student do their own lab work or a maximum of two [work together]. In my AP chemistry class, we have four to a lab. We have 30 students in one AP class and 33 in another. We can get only get so much of the one-on-one time we need.”

Evan West, former educator, parent, and MSEA UniServ director in Allegany and Garrett counties: “I find it alarming that the commission is considering as part of its career lattice recommendations that educator compensation be tied to performance. Educating students must be a cooperative undertaking and pay-for-performance and merit pay undermine that effort. A much sounder approach is to increase base pay to a level that is comparable to other professions with similar educational requirements and reducing stressors such as workload, class size, and poorly conceived accountability schemes.

“Maryland Schools Are OK, But They Could Be Better” was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

What Would YOU Change?

September 25, 2017 - 9:54am
The Kirwan Commission is a game-changing opportunity to improve public education in Maryland for every student, school, educator, and community. It’s your turn to speak up.

The news came in last year: Maryland schools are underfunded by a huge $2.9 billion. That’s according to national school funding experts advising the Kirwan Commission, the 25-member board rewriting Maryland’s education funding formula. This daunting figure can come as no surprise to on-the-ground educators.

We see the effects of this funding shortfall snowball every day — classrooms and trailers overflow; achievement is uneven; workloads are untenable; children face challenges that elected leaders and policymakers routinely ignore; threats to salaries and healthcare open every contract negotiation; and the list goes on.

Members of MSEA and pro-public education voters are seizing the moment to make the promise of the Kirwan Commission a reality for students, educa- tors, schools, and communities. MSEA’s Executive Director David Helfman is among the Commission’s members, and he’s fighting for the best possible recommendations that will become the basis for a new funding formula that legislators can vote on as soon as the 2018 General Assembly session.

Betty Weller, MSEA President“As educators, we are both public servants and community leaders. We are change-makers, innovators, and activists and as such, we’re preparing to ask the Kirwan Commission to provide us with the resources to lift every student and educator to the top.” — Betty Weller

“We are at the front of this absolutely necessary shift to equal opportunity for all kids,” said MSEA President Betty Weller. “As educators, we are both public servants and community leaders. We are change-makers, innovators, and activists and as such, we’re preparing to ask the Kirwan Commission to provide us with the resources to lift every student and educator to the top.”

The last rewrite of Maryland’s education funding formula was in 2002, and while the New York Times called Maryland’s formula “historic,” too much has changed. Maryland’s shifting demographics have outpaced the funding needed to meet every student’s needs. Where Maryland once topped Education Week’s annual Quality Counts Report five years in a row — when achievement gaps shrunk by 51% in reading and 49% in math for elementary schools thanks to new funding — the state now lags behind high-achievers Massachusetts, New Jersey, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

That’s because the number of disadvantaged students has more than doubled in our schools since 1990 and the number of ESOL students — many also experiencing poverty — has ballooned, with no commensurate increase in funding.

The number of disadvantaged students has more than doubled in Maryland schools since 1990 and the number of ESOL students — many also experiencing poverty — has ballooned.

Public education is supposed to be the great equalizer, yet educators know better than anyone how deeply flawed the ideal becomes when staff, resources, and time are compromised daily by where a child goes to school, the elected leaders in their district charged to protect those schools, and the will of state leaders.

But, says Weller, “The Kirwan Commission is a chance for educators to take charge of this public conversation about the state of our schools.

“We’ve watched our progress fade as demands on our professions grow, taking us further and further from the reasons we became educators. We don’t need someone else telling us what we need to do our job. We know what it’s going to take.”IT’S TIME FOR EDUCATORS TO TAKE BACK RESPECT

Our work is perhaps the most important in the world. Educators should lead in every country and in every culture and should be among the most respected of professionals. It’s time to take back that respect in Maryland, and make our presence known. Our vision can become the solution.

“We’ve been listening,” Weller adds, “through conversations and surveys. Educators need and want more for their students and their families. Now we’re organizing at every school building and community to hear more voices and find out exactly what educators and the public want to see in their schools.”

The funding recommendations of the Kirwan Commission and the legislature’s action on them will define public schools for a generation of students.

THIS IS OUR MOMENT

“This is our moment,” Weller said. “We need to speak up and we need to put pressure on the elected leaders who can make it happen.”

What do you want to change? And what are you willing to do about it?We have two choices: we can be silent and let others decide what should happen in our schools or we can be the leaders for public education that our students need.Learn more about MSEA’s This Our Moment campaign — watch the video here.

You’ll hear from your local association and building representatives about a 10-minute meeting at your worksite. At these building meetings, tell your building rep what it will take to reach every student. More services to support families? More staff? Better instructional resources? More programs like art and music to tap the potential of every student?

At the same time you’re meeting with colleagues, your local GO (Grassroots Organizing) Team of MSEA members will be reaching out to friends and neighbors in your community through a series of house meetings. Organizers will be taking the pulse of the public through discussion about the kinds of schools our students deserve. Are they concerned about safety? Do they want more options like career and technology training for students who are not college bound? Are they afraid for their neighborhood school?

Every suggestion from every building and house meeting will help form MSEA’s action plan presented to the Kirwan Commission.

“Education funding that gives equal opportunity to every student is inspiring to us all.” Weller said. “But only if the money goes where it truly needs to go — and that’s where you come in. Tell us what you need and what you’ll do to help make sure elected leaders get the message and support our students and schools.”

What Would YOU Change? was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Nurturing Resilience — Post-Traumatic Growth

September 25, 2017 - 9:49am
Educators can help students move away from their trauma towards growth, resilience, success, and happiness.

“So many educators are already using trauma-informed practices and don‘t know it. It’s the nature of educators to be nurturing and accessible, but the real win for students is when we have schools that are consistently responding to students with trauma–sensitive classrooms, embedded restorative practices, and high-quality social-emotional learning resources.” — Prince George’s County School Psychologist Robert Hull

The idea of post-traumatic growth — gains in compassion, openness, and empathy — has been around since 1995, when researchers found that in the trauma of losing a child, bereaved couples somehow reported consistently positive personal change in the years after their loss. Since then, it’s been applied to the effects of war on veterans, a cancer diagnosis, and terror attacks.

Studies show that certain powerful personality traits lend a helping hand. But these traits — optimism, extroversion, and openness to new experiences — aren’t at all what educators see when students arrive in their classroom suffering from trauma in their homes and communities. Not everyone experiences post-traumatic growth, of course.

What educators see are stunned, angry, lonely, hungry, depressed, neglected, and exhausted children — struggling for recognition, acceptance, understanding, and patience. They are frightened and burdened — and their numbers are growing. “Adverse childhood experiences,” said Dr. Robert Block, former president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “are the single greatest unaddressed public health threat facing our nation today.” Where “the resilience of youth” was once assumed to be a given, experts are recognizing more and more the impact of childhood trauma.

Trauma-Sensitive Schools: A Whole-School Approach - Trauma Sensitive Schools

Christopher Layne of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress says that the outcomes for students experiencing trauma range from deterioration of functioning to post-traumatic growth, with many students maintaining themselves in the “stable but maladaptive outcome.”

These students are on high alert for perceived threats and are in a constant state of mobilizing for a fight, flight, or freeze response as they wait for the next betrayal. That makes it hard to concentrate, remember, and learn. It doesn’t matter if the threat is not there — perception is everything to these students and their responses are often beyond their conscious awareness.

“Children are especially sensitive to repeated stress activation because their brains and bodies are just developing,” said Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a pediatrician in San Francisco whose Center for Youth Wellness prevents, screens, and heals the impacts of adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress.

“High doses of adversity not only affect brain structure and function, they affect the developing immune and hormonal systems, and even the way DNA is read and transcribed.” It is an emotional and physical response to their environment.

https://medium.com/media/5f514739b06e0b9e902a6df3a4b4267a/href

This background is helpful, but educators don’t need another degree to help these students learn, says Robert Hull, a Prince George’s County school psychologist and editor, with Eric Rossen, of Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students: A Guide for School-Based Professionals.“So many educators are already using trauma-informed practices and don‘t know it,” Hull said. “It’s the nature of educators to be nurturing and accessible, but the real win for students is when we have schools that are consistently responding to students with trauma–sensitive classrooms, embedded restorative practices, and high-quality social-emotional learning resources.”

What educators and schools do need are training and programs that support post-traumatic growth by recognizing trauma and focusing on removing the barriers to students in the classroom.

“Our job,” Hull says, “is to help children, who lack the resources and mobility of adults, realize that with the support of their school community, they can move away from trauma and towards growth and resilience — even happiness. That’s post-traumatic growth.”

When Schools Meet Trauma With Understanding, Not Discipline

The 10 Principles of a Compassionate School
  1. Focus on culture and climate in the school and community.
  2. Train and support all staff regarding trauma and learning.
  3. Encourage and sustain open and regular communication for all.
  4. Develop a strengths based approach in working with students and peers.
  5. Ensure discipline policies are both compassionate and effective (Restorative practices).
  6. Weave compassionate strategies into school improvement planning.
  7. Provide tiered support for all students based on what they need.
  8. Create flexible accommodations for diverse learners.
  9. Provide access, voice, and ownership for staff, students and community.
  10. Use data to: identify vulnerable students, and determine outcomes and strategies for continuous quality improvement.
Identifying Trauma

Abuse, neglect, and traumatic experiences are called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). In study after study, a high number of ACEs are linked to poor health and well-being. Since those studies, determining ACEs has become the standard for assessing the quality of a childhood.

Mechanism by which adverse childhood experiences influence health and well-being throughout the lifespan.cdc.gov

In many states, the recognition of the impact of ACEs is well-established. Illinois requires social and emotional screenings for children as part of their school entry examinations; Massachusetts’ Safe and Supportive Schools provides a statewide framework and grants for trauma-sensitive schools; the Trauma-Informed Schools Initiative in Missouri requires the departments of mental health, social services, and education to collaborate and provide training to all school districts; and in Washington State, the Compassionate Schools Initiative is a collaboration of the public schools, a university, and mental health agencies.

School psychologist Robert Hull has been advocating for trauma–informed practices for years. Seven years ago, his University of Missouri graduate level class, Supporting and Educating Traumatized Students, became the basis for a three-credit MSDE certified professional development course in Prince George’s County that’s now offered three times a year. “We recently trained the ESOL leadership staff to teach it a a way to respond to the multiple adversities that so many of our ESOL students experience,” Hull says.

Ann Hammond, the Frederick County Public Schools supervisor of psychological services, used Hull’s book in developing her own three-credit professional development course. Hammond says system-wide interest on the effects of trauma is growing; she’ll be presenting on ACEs to the board of education, to all district principals, and to teams from every school in October.

Shifting the Conversation

Poverty and its consequences are the number one cause of ACEs in Maryland, and the biggest impediment to student learning. And while the policy conversation in Maryland is beginning to come into focus on more child-centered and appropriate approaches, there are real opportunities to make further progress.

University of Maryland medical school research finds health disparities hurt early childhood development

In 2014, MSDE banned the controversial zero tolerance policy — which easily suspended or expelled troubled students — and consequently opened the door to a broader conversation on the discipline question. Since then, trauma-sensitive schools, social-emotional learning curricula, and restorative practices have shifted a once one-size-fits all punitive culture to one where what’s behind the child’s behavior becomes the focal point of educators, school psychologists, and administrators.

Yet for that culture to really take root and comprehensively help students experiencing trauma, it takes more than rewriting policy — it takes adequate funding for programs, staff, and training.

As the Kirwan Commission prepares its recommendations for a new funding formula, MSEA will be pushing for solutions that comprehensively address student poverty and its consequences, whether through improving the funding formula to better support students in poverty or through specific, research-backed programs supported by educators.

Bob Hull testified before the commission in August asking it to recognize and fund trauma-informed education, which includes community schools where underserved families experiencing the traumas of poverty, dislocation, and crime can gather for education, social and health services, and recreation. He’ll be working this year with other MSEA members to build a trauma-informed education coalition that will focus on providing students with trauma-sensitive schools.

The urgency of developing trauma-sensitive policies and programs has never been greater. MSEA and its members are leading the way in pushing for trauma-informed practices to be embedded through policies, regulations, and laws.

Nurturing Resilience — Post-Traumatic Growth was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Three Jobs and a Wish to Serve Others

September 25, 2017 - 9:49am
This year, Mary Bordley added building representative to her list of responsibilities. “I want to help my co-workers understand their rights.”Mary Bordley is a building services custodian at Kent Island Elementary School in Queen Anne’s County.I want to help decision-makers understand that just like every other staff member in the building, we’re there because we care about the students and our community.

I never met a person in need that I didn’t want to help. People should be able to count on one another in this world, but I know that these days that’s not always the case.

I love being of service to others and that’s what’s excited me about my new role as the building representative in my school. I’ve been a member of the Queen Anne’s County Education Association for four years, but this year I want to help my co-workers understand their rights.

After my workday at school, I’m off my second job at a local day care center; every other week, I work a third job cleaning houses on the weekends. When I’m not working my third job, I help my mother, who is getting older. It’s the most precious time to me.

I want to help make it possible for building service employees to continue the jobs we love in Queen Anne’s schools without working two or three others to make ends meet. I’m excited to work with my colleagues in building services to give us a stronger presence.

It’s time for us to understand that we have a voice. The importance of a clean and safe school building can’t be understated — we should be recognized for our contribution to our school, students, and staff. I want to help decision-makers understand that just like every other staff member in the building, we’re there because we care about the students and our community.

I have lived and worked on Kent Island all of my life, and I am proud to give a helping hand to my family, my co-workers, and to everyone I meet. I used to think that helping people was no big deal, but I’ve come to realize that it’s who I am and what I do, and it matters.

Three Jobs and a Wish to Serve Others was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Global Competencies

September 25, 2017 - 9:48am
Educator Anu Bajpai’s goal is to “expand the horizons of our students through the study of global issues and the collaboration that may help solve them.”

Halfway around the world, Baltimore County science teacher and department chair Anu Bajpai asked students, “How many languages do you speak?” “Seven,” they said.

When school started this year, she asked her students at Windsor Mill Middle School the same question. “One,” said most of them.

Language fluency is just one of the cultural differences this teacher is discovering as she travels studying the traditions and expectations of learning and how they are changing. Bajpai’s trip this summer as a Teacher for Global Classrooms Fellow took her to Indonesia following a year-long adventure working with 47 other educators on globalizing classrooms.

Our Global Voices - NEA Foundation

This year as an NEA Global Learning Fellow, she’ll study global competence further, learning how educators can integrate global competencies into daily classroom instruction, advance pedagogy in their schools and districts, and prepare students to thrive in the 21st century. Her NEA fellowship ends next July with a nine-day trip to South Africa.

“My goal,” Baipal said, “is to help my colleagues with global competencies and expand the horizons of our students through the study of global issues and the collaboration that may help solve them.”

Global Competencies was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Protecting ESSA from the State Board

September 25, 2017 - 9:48am
It’s a good thing MSEA was the watchdog on MSDE’s ESSA plan — they tried to roll back big gains on less testing, more learning.

Winning good policy outcomes isn’t just about passing laws; we need to make sure they are implemented faithfully, too.

This summer, MSEA worked with leaders in the General Assembly, the attorney general’s office, school boards, civil rights organizations, and other pro-public education advocates to push back against the State Board of Education’s ESSA draft plan.

The State Board’s ESSA plan violated state and federal law, and could have erased one of MSEA’s biggest victories from the Protect Our Schools Act: de-emphasizing test scores in school ratings. They proposed that schools identi- fied for additional resources and support — or what they’d call “failing schools” — should be chosen solely on the basis of statewide test scores. Sound familiar? It’s the same flawed thinking that drove No Child Left Behind.

MSEA’s Protect Our Schools and Less Testing, More Learning campaigns helped pass legislation that protects neighborhood schools from unfair labels based on test scores. MSEA’s continued monitoring of the State Board’s ESSA plan made sure protections remained in place in Maryland’s final ESSA draft plan.

But the law passed by the General Assembly this year required the State Board to include other factors, not just tests — attendance and graduation rates, school climate surveys, and access to advanced coursework and a well-rounded education — when determining whether schools are succeeding.

The pushback was strong and in response, the State Board backed down and dropped their proposal to violate the law. Thanks to the Protect Our Schools Act, Maryland will have a school rating system based less on test scores than any other state in the country.

We knew that when educators helped pass the Protect Our Schools Act in April — overcoming Gov. Hogan’s veto with the help of pro-public education advocates and friends in the legislature — we’d have to keep a very close eye on the governor’s allies on the State Board of Education. It’s a good thing we did.

Protecting ESSA from the State Board was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Toolkit: History Comes Alive One Rowdy HUZZAH! at a Time

September 25, 2017 - 9:47am
Anne Arundel County history and social studies teacher Mark Haring digs deep to find relevance in his lessons.Mark Haring is a veteran social studies and history teacher at Severna Park High School in Anne Arundel County.

Huzzah! I’ve been known to exclaim Huzzah! to accentuate a point. By the end of the course, students join in on hearty “Huzzahs.” I also write “HUZZAH” across the top of the assessments of students who scored 100%. And, Huzzah! is usually the exclamation point at the end of the AP students’ pre-test pep talk.

Tricorn Hat and Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence I’m fascinated by the courage of the American colonists who challenged the British rule. I draw great inspiration from the Founders’ expression of the equality and the rights of man. I emphasize these throughout the entirety the course.

Personal Family Stories To help illustrate the historical narrative, I tell stories of how the times affected my own family. I’ve shared stories of how my grandmother adjusted recipes due to wartime rationing and how my parents coped with the stagnant economy and energy crisis of the 1970s by taking modest camping trips in our station wagon.

My American Places This collection of essays inspired an assignment asking students to write their own essay for what makes a place uniquely “American.” Students wrote about everywhere from New York City, to Arlington Cemetery, to Chico, California. I enjoyed seeing their creativity and thoughtfulness.

Music I’ve created “Era Playlists” that include the music of the time period and modern takes on history. For example, the and They Might Be Giants recorded a song about James K. Polk which nicely sums up his political career. The song is a little corny, but the students always remember Polk.

History as Narrative Two historians — McCulloch and Ambrose — have greatly influenced the way I look at, and teach, history. I tell my students that we won’t be memorizing dates, events, and, names. Instead, we’ll track a great story filled with anecdotes of everyday people, places, and things — the heart and soul of history.

Toolkit: History Comes Alive One Rowdy HUZZAH! at a Time was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

The Kirwan Commission Meets the Public

September 25, 2017 - 9:47am
At a series of public hearings, the Kirwan Commission looks to the public as it prepares recommendations for a new school funding formula.

The Kirwan Commission is holding public hearings for parents, students, educators, and other interested individuals to share their views on improving the public education system in Maryland. The commission’s recommendations are due to Governor Hogan in December and expected to be in legislation before the General Assembly in January.

“Maryland’s public schools are good, but they can be much better,” said Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, chair of the Commission. “Our students deserve to receive the best education in the world — and they will need it to be competitive in the 21st century.”

Kirwan Commission Public Hearing Schedule

September 14, 2017 Stevensville Middle School, 610 Main St., Stevensville, MD

September 28, 2017 LYNX at Frederick High School 650 Carroll Pkwy. Frederick, MD

October 12, 2017 Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, 1400 W. Cold Spring Ln., Baltimore, MD

October 25, 2017 Largo High School 505 Largo Rd. Upper Marlboro, MD

Click here to learn more about how to attend and participate.

The Kirwan Commission Meets the Public was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

An Introduction to Literacy Design Collaborative

September 25, 2017 - 9:44am
Through Literacy Design Collaborative (LDC), I realized when we raise the level of content by boosting active learning and increasing teacher skills, the outcome is systemic change.Heather Lacey Sampselle is an elementary school teacher and passionate, forward-thinking educator. She currently lives in Frederick, Maryland and is pursuing her master’s degree while working as an educational consultant. She has been an active member of the Brevard Federation of Teachers and Frederick County Teachers Association.

My journey with LDC began years ago when I found myself stressed, strapped for time, and unable to develop and design lessons in a way students deserve I taught a social studies lesson because it was the next essential question that needed to be answered, or the next standard I had to cover.

I was in no way offering my students the experiences they deserved to truly understand the concepts. I wasn’t walking away feeling that they truly got it, that they could develop questions to study further, or that they would even remember that lesson. This revelation finally hit me when I was using the textbook (don’t cringe!) to review Mesopotamia.

Fast forward to my first experience teaching a two-week LDC module — one developed with the end in mind, using a backward design approach. The LDC tools, templates, and instructional procedures helped me better understand why the performance of my students was lower than my expectations. It was all due to the task I was assigning.

A common phrase within LDC is “task predicts perfor- mance,” and it could not ring more true. I realized when we raise the level of by boosting active learning and increasing teacher skills, the outcome is systemic change. For me, this was about bringing reading and writing into my science and social studies classes. Since scientists and historians are reading and writing specific texts, shouldn’t our students be reading and writing them as well? LDC allows me to do just that. This was my rationale for using some of my classroom writing time to incorporate scientific articles, or using science time to read and write before prepping for our hands-on experiment.

Another “aha!” moment in this journey was the need for collaboration. The term “collaborative” in LDC’s name intentionally frames the work behind each of the lessons, mini-tasks, and tasks created.

As a teacher here in Maryland, I was working closely with several Florida teachers through LDC to develop tasks appropriate for the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards to help me teach them in my classroom. I also worked with teachers in my grade level, and other teachers within our school, to develop modules that offer a reading standard, writing standard, and content standard that work together.

Having other team members help make this decision, based on what our grade level or school chose to focus on, helped me understand that each of these standards can support one another by offering students the type of intentional thinking we want them to have.

An LDC task not only guides the content you want students to grapple with, but will focus on the thinking students will do while reading the texts and how the student writing will be organized.

This is not about using LDC — it’s about implementing standards-driven instruction. LDC is a mechanism for lifting the level of instruction for all students in all zip codes. It asks teachers to develop our capacities as instructional leaders while raising students’ skills in reading and writing com- plex texts with intentional and deliberate purpose.

If you’d like access to the free library of standards-driven lessons to design or share assignments, view the LDC CoreTools, or see sample curricula for every grade and subject, visit ldc.org.

An Introduction to Literacy Design Collaborative was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Collective Bargaining — It Makes Your Contract Legally Binding

September 25, 2017 - 9:43am
Bargaining is a democratic process — one in which every union member has a say. That’s worth protecting.

You probably know that every several years your local education association negotiates the employment contracts for educators through the collective bargaining process. It’s serious business and a very big deal.

Collective bargaining is so important that it’s part of the Education Article of the Annotated Code of Maryland, which gives certified and non- certified public education employees the right to collectively bargain their employment contracts.

It works like this: your local association negotiations team, made up of members like you and professional union staff, negotiates with local board of education representatives the policies that guide your work life — it’s labor and management coming to the table to exchange positions, mutually solve problems, and reach a written agreement.

The Benefits of Collective Bargaining: An Antidote to Wage Decline and Inequality

Collective bargaining is at its heart a legal process — that’s what makes your contract a legally binding document that protects your rights as an employee. But it’s also a democratic process — one in which every union member has a say. Your local uses surveys, building meetings, and conversations to take the pulse of every member — finding out what’s important to each and why, and preps proposals based on that input to take to the bargaining table. It’s inher-ently democratic at the bargaining table, too, because both sides are considered equal under the law. It’s a level playing field.

Collective bargaining is a right you don’t want to lose. How can it be lost? Through the policies of misguided elected officials who want to take away the rights of working people to influence and improve their work life through higher wages, better benefits, and safer and more humane workplaces. So your vote matters. A lot.

How to Kill the Middle Class

What affects a union’s ability to achieve a good contract? Besides education-friendly elected officials, it’s the strength of the union itself. How many members are there? How active are they in voicing their opinions and rallying around issues? Will members step up to organize and mobilize in crisis? Is the union strong enough to push back against anti-worker agendas like the one Governor Scott Walker led in Wisconsin, where respected contracts have been replaced with flimsy handbooks that offer no guarantee of rights, practice, or policy?

When he was elected governor in 2010, Walker stripped collective bargaining rights from teachers and other public-sector employees.

Who moved my teachers?

The result? Wisconsin teachers now earn less than they did seven years ago; the number of people entering teacher training programs in Wisconsin dropped 28%; the number of teachers in the state dropped 2%; and in August 2016, in an effort to increase the teacher applicant pool, the state superintendent of schools increased emergency teaching licenses.

Under Walker, a rapidly increasing number of custodial and transportation jobs are now outsourced to private companies with veteran employees laid off, then left to fight for the same job with lower wages, fewer benefits, and less job security. “What are we going to do with half our pay?” said one longtime worker.

Scott Walker and management have all the cards in Wisconsin. With no pro- tections under a contract, all educators have is an employee handbook unilaterally imposed by their district. In Maryland, collective bargaining for educators is guaranteed — ensuring, through your union, a contract that provides protections, security, due process, and recourse. That’s something worth protecting.

Collective Bargaining — It Makes Your Contract Legally Binding was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Betty Weller: We’re Leading on Issues That Matter

September 25, 2017 - 9:43am
We must help students and educators who face challenging circumstances.Betty Weller, MSEA President

As our students return to classrooms this year, many did so with challenging concerns. Are they confused, frustrated, or outraged by what they watched on TV just a few hours’ drive away in Charlottesville? Do they experience trauma at home with no the support to process and overcome their experiences?

As educators, we can’t have all the answers. We often struggle with our role — our professional responsibility and capacity versus our humanity. But I believe strongly that it is our responsibility to answer when asked — to greet our vulnerable students with an open heart. We can help them rethink their identity, one that respects their value and potential as a student and as a contributing member of their community.

What else can we do? As your representative, MSEA is leading in a number of important areas that will ultimately affect students and your job. Over the summer, MSEA formed a Coalition for Equity including the Maryland State Department of Education, the NAACP of Maryland, the Greater Baltimore Urban League, Casa de Maryland, the Maryland PTA, the ACLU of Maryland, and others, including the associations representing Maryland’s school boards and superintendents. We are fighting for equity and having challenging conversations together — creating policies that match the times we face.

Through the recommendations of the Kirwan Commission, Maryland is set to rewrite its school funding formula to address the nearly $3 billion in annual under-funding of our schools. This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to improve working and learning conditions and equity — if we lead and speak up.

Beyond the big picture, we’re focused on what we can do now to help the students and educators who face challenging circumstances. For example, there are new approaches to trauma-informed education, and MSEA means to be a leader in them.

I’m convinced that we all can play a role in this work and make a difference for our students.

Betty Weller: We’re Leading on Issues That Matter was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

“We need to fight for the things we need for our students.”

August 2, 2017 - 10:36am
MSEA’s Summer Leadership Conference helps educators lead in their schools, locals, and communities

MSEA’s 2017 Summer Leadership Conference at Salisbury University (July 18–21) brought together activist members from across the state to build the skills they need to fight for change and progress in public education. Eight different three-day schools focused on advocacy, conflict management, contract bargaining, leadership development, empowering leadership, grassroots organizing, union organizing, and restorative practices.

Below, you can meet some of the newest Summer Leadership Conference graduates and hear about why they came, what they learned, and how they plan to use their new skills. Interested in attending SLC next year? Stay tuned for information in the coming months on MSEA’s website and social media about next year’s schools and registration opportunities.

Cheryl Dembrowski (Montgomery County), Advocacy School

I learned so much about what advocacy is and what it means to be an advocate for another member. The instructors were great because they were so experienced and have so many stories — complicated stories that you’d never really think you’d encounter, but they taught us how they worked through them.

The biggest benefit was the role play work. We were each given a case and we had to look through our contract and really break it down and think about what we would do in that situation. We then acted it out as if we were in a meeting with our principal advocating for a member. It was very really hands-on and we got to apply the knowledge we had just learned.

Bryan Trueblood (Prince George’s County), Emerging Leaders Academy

The biggest thing that I gained at MSEA’s Summer Leadership Conference is how we can empower ourselves by self-advocating and in doing so become activists. We need to press forward on the fight we signed up for. Whatever it is that brought us to the profession should also be what is driving us through the profession. It’s been a wonderful experience sitting in the classroom with like-minded individuals who are so passionate about different issues but compelled by a common drive to move forward.

Laura Cromwell (Washington County), Leadership School

As a member of the board of directors, my biggest takeaway from the Leadership School is a new emphasis on creating stronger relationships and connections with our building reps. To do that, we need to have direct one-on-one conversations with them and find out what we can do to make that connection more meaningful and productive. We need to see new faces and bigger numbers.

Terri Wyatt (Cecil County), Conflict Resolution School

I learned how to approach someone in a higher position in a way that can produce results, not confrontation. And I learned how to use that opportunity to build a relationship with that person as a stepping stone to improving the work environment.

I’ll be sharing what I’ve learned to teach others how to handle situations — especially those where they’ve been caught off guard. Sometimes it’s better to step back and out of the situation and review the details before you approach that person in a higher position.

Dwayne Hancock (St. Mary’s County) and Charlene Haynie (Charles County), GO Team School

I’m here because of great teachers like Charlene Haynie — one of my teachers at Lackey High School. We’re here at the MSEA Summer Leadership Conference representing two different counties, but our goals are the same. She empowered me as a student by helping me see history as it affects ‘we the people.’ Understanding that drives me to fight for public education now and provide the best future we can for our students.

Holly Stewart (Washington County), Conflict Resolution School

This is my first year of teaching and my first year on the board of directors at WCTA. I’m involved because I am new to the teaching profession and my husband’s grandfather was an active union member and encouraged me to find my voice through my union.

I was a stay-at-home mom for 10 years and during the last four years, I got my teaching degree. I want to find my voice and I want to find it professionally. Our organization has taught me how to approach my work in a professional way, not an emotional way. We need to fight for the things we need for our students but there are right and wrong ways to do that and I want to model that.

Claudette Clarke (Prince George’s County), Organizing School

What I’ve learned is the need for a union. I’ve already shared the articles I received about what’s happened in Wisconsin regarding the loss of fair share and what it means to the teachers’ rights there. If you have no union you are really at the mercy of the administration.

Kayla Rishell (Frederick County), Professional Issues School

I’ve gained a lot of confidence. I am just starting the restorative practices process and we are beginning to implement that into our feeder schools so that our elementary, middle, and high schools are working together to try to start pushing it into our entire county. I really think I’ve gained some more skills and strategies for ways I can prepare my staff to have a more restorative mindset.

That‘s the biggest thing that I’m taking away is pushing that it’s a mindset — a philosophy. Bottom line is that it’s what’s best for our kids to try to encourage them and break down those barriers that we have and build our community and relationships in our schools.

I chose my Indivisible Howard County tee-shirt as my artifact illustrating why I am a member of MSEA’s Grassroots Organizing Team. Joining Indivisible Howard County was my first venture into politics. I was frustrated at the direction of our country after the presidential election, especially the cuts to public education. I’m using this opportunity to make connections among educators, the community, and elected officials and policy.

I want to learn more about the political process and how to get people elected on the local, state, and national level, how to help with campaigning, and learn more about the legislative process so I can educate my team about how we can make changes.

“We need to fight for the things we need for our students.” was originally published in MSEA Newsfeed on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Events

MSEA Minority Leadership Training

December 1, 2017 - 6:00pm to December 2, 2017 - 3:00pm

MSEA Convention