Special education (or, why don’t words have meaning?)

In an incredibly frustrating move this past week, the Maryland State Board of Education rejected the possibility of opting out of standardized PARCC testing for Maryland students. Including special education students.
Now, the Yokels have made no secret that we don’t think Cindy Rose’s candidacy is anything special in itself. Over testing of students and onerous curriculum restrictions that impede teachers’ efficacy in their classrooms are concerns shared by absolutely all of the school board candidates running for election in 2016, even if Rose is much angrier and more aggressive in the tone she takes. This issue simply does not make her special enough to stand out from the pack –at least not in any positive light.
That said, just as we criticized her willingness to paint the special education students with a broad brush that could prevent their achievement, this criticism is equally true of the state board’s position. There appears to be absolutely no reason for it, according to the FNP’s editorial from April 30, 2016.

But looking at the statistics of students aged 6 to 21 served under IDEA, it appears unlikely that offering the opt-out option to the parents of severely mentally impaired students would threaten federal funding. According to the Maryland Board of Education’s own Fact Book for 2013-2014, which contains enrollment statistics, 102,578 students were in special education out of a total population of 866,169. Of those, 30,876 were classified with specific learning disabilities — about 3.6 percent of the total school population; 8,095 were classified as having developmental delays. While the fact book doesn’t outline specific details of how many severely mentally disabled students are served statewide, it’s hard to imagine they comprise more than a fraction of that 3.6 percent, and that not testing them would come close to violating that federally required 95 percent.

Special education and IEPs (individualized education programs) are antithetical to standardization. Individualized is not standardized. They are opposites. Why on Earth would you take a child receiving highly individualized services, and then try to make them function in a standardized situation? It defies reason. Wasting the time it takes to administer tests simply so they can check the “done” box when you are working with a student whose learning objectives have nothing whatsoever to do with the test is the very definition of absurdity.
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We do wish that Mrs. Rose would take up her issue with the Maryland State Board of Education. They appear to need someone to come along and rattle their cage, and she seems like just the lady for a bull-in-the-china-shop sort of task. Maybe she can teach them a thing or two about the meanings of words (but lets keep the four letter ones she likes so much out of it). If she comes back to town with some educational experience to put on her resume, that might have a great outcome for everyone invested in Frederick County Public Schools.

Let’s end this week on a high note!!!

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With all our talk of untucked craziness and hissy fits this week, it’s been really easy to lose sight of the good happening in our county government. Today, County Executive Jan Gardner held a press conference to highlight her budget for the Fiscal Year 2017. Now this isn’t a done deal, there’ s still a bunch of hearings and county council meetings to be held, but oh how wonderful it is to have an executive who knows how important it is to invest in our community services.  Here’s some of our faves:

The budget provides $10.5 million in funding to the Frederick County Public Schools above the minimum required Maintenance of Effort (MOE) level and an additional $500,000 in one-time funding for school technology.

Frederick Community College (FCC) plays an important role in lifelong learning and training adults of all ages for the workplace. The budget reflects an investment of $700,000 to help keep community college affordable and accessible. This investment will provide salary improvements for staff and make improvements to campus security.

The budget proposes adding three librarians to restore operating hours at our regional libraries – C. Burr Artz, Urbana and Thurmont. This will allow expanded hours until 9 p.m. during the week at these locations, facilitate greater use of the community rooms, and accommodate the needs of our library patrons.  The long-awaited Walkersville Branch Library will move forward with construction. A significant portion of this project is funded by library impact fees and state funding.

The budget meets increasing demand for early childhood intervention services providing for two Occupational Therapists, a Speech Language Pathologist and funding for substitute therapists.

CREST is Frederick County’s first higher education center. It is uniquely designed to provide higher education in science and technology fields specifically to provide advanced degrees to meet workforce needs for local biotech and life science companies. The budget proposes $40,000 in annual funding to match city and state funds.

This budget provides for a new pay scale for both deputies and corrections staff. It is critically important that we pay competitive wages to value our existing employees and attract the best and brightest to work in our community. In addition, the budget provides for two new deputies for courthouse security, one new deputy for narcotics, and a fiscal services director. Division of Fire and Rescue Service.

The top priority in Fire and Rescue is to improve staffing levels to staff equipment and meet growing call volume. To achieve this goal, the budget adds 12 new firefighter positions. The budget also funds a firefighter/EMT recruit class, supports the fireparamedic conversion approved in the current fiscal year, and provides equipment and training support.

9-1-1 communications is a busy place and our call takers are on the front line of almost every emergency. On average, a call taker handles 50 calls per hour. The budget provides for four new call takers to meet growing call volume. These positions are part of a three year plan to increase current capabilities and to staff closer to industry standards.

Fulfilling a campaign promise to restore the county’s longstanding productive partnership with our non-profit human service agencies, the budget provides a modest increase of $250,000 to Community Partnership Grants. Grants awarded this year went to over 20 human service non-profit agencies in the county to provide for basic human needs, such as food, housing, medical care, car repair so people can get to work, and other basic needs.

The capital improvement program for FY 17 includes funding for the first phase of construction of the Othello Park near Rosemont and Brunswick, which will add needed sports fields and recreational opportunities in this area of the county. The capital budget also provides for planned upgrades to the Kemptown Park near Mount Airy/Monrovia. The Point of Rocks Commons Park also will move forward in the upcoming year.

In the face of a dramatic rise in overdoses and fatalities stemming from heroin and opiod abuse, the State of Maryland has decided to transition Health Departments away from providing direct substance abuse treatment to an oversight role. Treatment programs will shift to private sector providers. The Frederick County Health Department has been approved to continue the substance abuse program in the detention center as well as the methadone treatment program. Because the state will no longer directly support these programs, the budget provides gap funding to continue these critical substance abuse treatment and prevention programs.

There’s much more so read the entire proposal here. 

The future is looking great for our county!

 

 

The Yokel has a new hero: Lois Jarman edition.

At the Yokel we have a wide network of friends. Despite what the naysayers may say about us, we have fans across the political spectrum. We applaud when our politicians work well with one another in an attempt to make our county a better place to live. It’s those that stubbornly govern (or attempt to govern) from a place of dogged ideology, that makes them seem so angry all of the time, that we focus our ire upon.

So it’s oh so refreshing when we do get to focus on the positive. This story was relayed to us so forgive us if any of the details are off. BOE candidate Lois Jarman asked the Republican Women’s Club of Frederick if she could speak at their monthly meeting. Ahem, we’ve received an update to the story: Lois Jarman was refused the opportunity to speak by a member of the Republican Central Committee. She was, however, invited to speak by a member of the Republican Women’s Club. (Yay, ladies!) Reminder – the BOE race is non-partisan.

We believe these stinky details stand, courtesy of the Central Committee member: She was rebuffed, something about her being a Democrat and a union tool. Well, Mrs. Jarman was not to be put in a corner. She showed up anyway! We hear there was some discussion about still not allowing her to speak, however, those ladies who thought that they should actually hear someone out before dismissing them won the day! Mrs. Jarman was not only allowed to speak, but received  positive feedback from some of the ladies in attendance.

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Nice try, Republican Central Committee

So for your leadership and unwillingness to be sidelined, we here at the Yokel give Lois Jarman a tip of our hat:

Hell, we will even tip it to those women who not only allowed Lois to speak, but actually listened.
Hell, we will even tip it to those women who not only allowed Lois to speak, but actually listened.

FHS Cadets United Nations of Opportunity

The Frederick News Post’s feature highlighting the international backgrounds of Frederick Cadets’ soccer team shows a new opportunity Frederick County should consider exploring as we are becoming more diverse. Many people living in the city have been hoping that rumors concerning adding an IB (International Baccalaureate) program duplicating what they currently offer at Urbana High will become reality for Frederick High School . There may be another avenue that would help to build up the community in that area, and benefit the students who were born and raised here equally well.

Looking at the high school academies, there are many options for specialized interests in the high schools in Frederick County (biomedical science, ROTC, technology, leadership, arts and communication, business, environment and conservation, engineering, teaching). When you check that list, it seems that FHS is left behind in this regard. The only academic program listed for the campus is an Advanced Placement focus.  While being a good option for college bound students, an AP program does not cater to any particular interest or draw a magnet population toward what is currently a school under capacity by about 400 students. What if we look at linguistics and language learning for everyone?

According to the article there are 280 students in the English Language Learner (ELL) program at Frederick High–up from 100 just 3 years ago. As they construct the new facility they should build on that positive development by using the international community’s assets to benefit everyone. We should explore a bilingual immersion environment. ELL students are not exclusively Spanish speaking, but we know that Frederick County is now experiencing what has been a long term trend in the U.S.. Spanish speaking immigrants are arriving here faster than any others. Putting newcomers into an environment where their unique circumstances are valued and respected as learning opportunities for everyone will help them to assimilate. We can do this for their minds just as well as FHS is doing this with their enthusiasm for soccer.

Reach Toronto
Monument to Multiculturalism by Francesco Perilli in Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dual immersion is most frequently offered at the elementary level, but there is no reason that a dual immersion environment can not be provided to some degree at a high school level, even if it were modified and targeted to language classes alone to start. This creates an advantage that  may benefit ELL students and those learning a language other than English. The ability to create student partnerships so that they learn from one another is a unique opportunity that can only be achieved in a diverse student population. ELL students are learning a second language concurrent with their other coursework. It should be possible to provide the opportunity to at least become conversant in a second language to our students who are native English speakers. A more international focus would certainly complement an IB program–a rumor many of us would still like to discover is a true thing.

This writer is completely aware of the sentiments of the supporters of English-Only ordinances, as well as the general preference toward miserly financial support for school programs (along with the awareness that these attitudes are shared by largely the same group of people). Recognizing that this is the stuff of fluff, fantasy, and idealism does not make it any less a missed opportunity. We can strengthen our community by involving everyone in greater goals. To borrow a phrase from FIFA, “Vers le grand but!”

Don’t mess with Mr. Donald!!!

As we at Frederick Local Yokel previously reported#KirbyDelauter feels really bad about the horrible position that Frederick County teachers Jerry Donald and Jessica Fitzwater are in. They are not bad people mind you, they just have some Sophie’s Choice-like decisions to make when it comes to voting on FCPS’s budget. And he is not envious at all!

Well, Mr. Donald did not appreciate these accusations and it was on at last night’s meeting! First let us refer our dear readers to the ethics opinion that Mr. Donald referred to in his comments.

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Pretty clear, huh? We would like to think so. Both council members Donald and Fitzwater have removed themselves from any leadership positions AND any other extra positions within the school system. They have also signed a Memo of Understanding that states they will take leave without pay while attending county meetings! It is clear to us here that both council members have been absolutely above board in all their dealings. We support their efforts and wish our other council members were as forthcoming.

Councilman Donald also made the very relevant point that the Board of Education sets salaries, not the Frederick County Council. The two council members who are also teachers have no way of knowing how the money they vote on will be distributed throughout the budget.

Councilman Donald used the words “transparent” and “crystal clear” during his remarks. He must be commended for the restraint he used in looking straight ahead the entire time. We know that if it were any of us we would have turned our entire seat to our left to make sure we were being properly heard. Hopefully, all this evidence will sink in and #KirbyDelauter will end his convoluted notion that teachers’ pockets are being padded by voting on the budget.