Monthly Archives: November 2013

A Little Bit of History — Leading Up to and Including the November 5 Board of Education Meeting

Dr. S. Dallas Dance [link to page], Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent, engaged Scholastic Scheduling Solutions to evaluate the Baltimore County master scheduling process, which has been haphazard in the past, and (he perceives) causing several problems. Additional studies were done by the consultants to recommend improved practices for master scheduling, and to evaluate the bell schedule of County schools.

Links:

Board of Education Meeting 11-5-2013 (alternate direct link)

The decision came to our attention shortly after the November 5 Board meeting, but was obviously in play before then. At that meeting:

Abby Beytin, President of TABCO (Teachers Association of Baltimore County — the collective bargaining unit), speaks (starting at 7min30sec) on the master schedule change, and expresses dissatisfaction with the fact that the change was not discussed with the teachers’ organization in advance, and that self-determination is being taken away from the schools.

Bill Lawrence, Executive Director of CASE (Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees — the principal’s union) speaks (beginning at 18min50sec) on the change, and stipulates that Baltimore County is highly diverse, and one size does not fit all. He suggests that each school should retain the right to choose, and requested a delay in implementation for further study and comment.

Superintendent Dance speaks (beginning at 1hr10min) on the subject of scheduling, and summarizes that, at one year into a four year process, and that the factors in his decision are:

  • mobility of students, primarily within Baltimore County, causes some students to have to “sit out” and miss classes or repeat courses
  • “student choice” (primarily as it relates to a partnership with CCBC) needs to be increased;
  • staff allocation should be increased (primarily applied to schools with eight period days); and
  • he is working with schools (also with Assistant Superintendents Mark Bedell and Maria Lowry) on the best approach.

It’s fairly obvious that Dr. Dance needs a little help realizing how different Hereford High School is from the other 60% of the County. That’s why we’re here.

What Makes Hereford High School Different From the Rest of the County?

In the Zone, we all know the differences from the rest of the County, but we need to spell out the differences that are relevant to the Superintendent’s decision to force a change to our scheduling model.

The fact that we’re so spread out that some of our kids spend an hour on the bus in each direction means they have less time for homework, but that doesn’t mean a hill of beans to the schedule.

Hereford High School gets singular results, due to a “culture of deliberate excellence,” to echo the Team BCPS mission. Our 2012 graduation rate was over 95%, compared to 87% for the County, and 86% for the State. 73% of Hereford graduates head for four-year colleges. That’s almost 50% higher than the County’s 49% and State’s 50%! Hereford works.

At the last Board meeting, Dr. Dance reported to the Board that there were three factors that influenced the announced change to master scheduling direction.

The first one of those was student mobility, primarily within the County. According to school administration, Hereford’s transfer student population hovers around one percent – it’s a very stable population.

The next factor was student choice. Hereford’s unique four period, semester schedule maximizes student choice. It allows them to fit more course advancement into a single year, if they wish. That gives them an incredible advantage in the competition for quality colleges, and is also reflected in performance. Hereford students’ composite SAT scores are over 200 points higher than the average for the County and State. Hereford students’ AP test scores – the mean grade per exam, and percent of exams with scores in the 3 to 5 range – are significantly higher than the County or State. Hereford works.

The last factor Dr. Dance mentioned was an opportunity to better allocate staff. I would assert that the unique master schedule at Hereford does just that. A change, even to a four period A/B schedule, would double the number of students that a teacher has at any given time. That doubles the teachers’ grading load, and dilutes their attention by spreading it out to a full school year.  Our teachers are superstars. We support their current scheduling framework, and applaud their dedication. They’re a large part of the reason that Hereford works.

Note: Performance numbers for this post are from http://mdreportcard.org/. This stuff’s too good to make up!

Hello world!

This is a quick website designed for communicating with folks interested in our efforts to maintain autonomy for bell scheduling at Hereford High School. Over the next few days, we’ll build out content to explain the history of our challenge, what we want, and what you can do to help.

If there’s something you want to see on the site, let us know in a comment. All comments are moderated, so the world won’t see them unless they’re general (and clean, and respectful…)