Calvert ed­u­ca­tors ad­dress Kir­wan Com­mis­sion

Mem­bers will later in­form new ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy across Maryland

The Calvert Recorder - - Front Page - By AN­DREW CEPHAS acephas@somd­news.com

Hun­dreds of stake­hold­ers in Maryland ed­u­ca­tion from across the state con­vened in Up­per Marl­boro on Oct. 25 to urge the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion to keep a num­ber of items in mind as it be­gins to for­mu­late rec­om­men­da­tions to present to the state del­e­ga­tion on how to more eq­ui­tably fund pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and en­sure school poli­cies are prop­erly ac­com­mo­dat­ing stu­dents.

The 25-mem­ber Com­mis­sion on In­no­va­tion and Ex­cel­lence in Ed­u­ca­tion, bet­ter known as the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion, was formed in June 2016 to re­view and as­sess cur­rent ed­u­ca­tion fi­nanc­ing for­mu­las and ac­count­abil­ity mea­sures and make pol­icy rec­om­men­da­tions, so Maryland stu­dents can per­form at their op­ti­mal lev­els. The com­mis­sion is headed by William E. “Brit” Kir­wan, for­mer

chan­cel­lor and CEO of the Univer­sity of Maryland.

The Kir­wan Com­mis­sion is pre­ceded by the Com­mis­sion on Ed­u­ca­tion Fi­nance, Eq­uity, and Ex­cel­lence, also known as the Thorn­ton Com­mis­sion, which has gov­erned ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing in Maryland for the past 15 years. Alvin Thorn­ton, the head of this com­mis­sion, was in at­ten­dance for the Oct. 25 pub­lic fo­rum at Largo High School.

Last week’s fo­rum was the fi­nal one held by the com­mis­sion to garner pub­lic in­put re­gard­ing its rec­om­men­da­tions to the Gen­eral Assem­bly. Sixty peo­ple signed up to speak dur­ing the fo­rum, many of whom rep­re­sented South­ern Maryland. Fo­rums were also held in Stevensville, Fred­er­ick and Bal­ti­more over the last two months.

At­ten­dees were dis­trib­uted “YES” cards, which were held up high when speak­ers men­tioned some­thing they agreed with. Many mem­bers of the Calvert Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion (CEA), the union rep­re­sent­ing the county’s pub­lic school teach­ers, rode a bus to Largo High and were co­or­di­nated in red shirts de­pict­ing phrases like “ed­u­ca­tors lead ’18” and “this is our mo­ment.” Other Calvert or­ga­ni­za­tions rep­re­sented at the hear­ing in­cluded the Calvert school board and the Calvert branch of the NAACP.

“We are in the stage where we are just be­gin­ning to for­mu­late our rec­om­men­da­tions for the re­port so the tim­ing of this ses­sion could not be bet­ter. We are very much in mode of get­ting things in on pa­per and get­ting our rec­om­men­da­tions in place so your con­stel­la­tions will be into that process,” Kir­wan told at­ten­dees be­fore in­tro­duc­ing the other 14 com­mis­sion mem­bers in at­ten­dance.

Among the speak­ers dur­ing pub­lic com­ment was su­per­in­ten­dent of Calvert County Pub­lic Schools Daniel Curry, who stressed the im­por­tance of stu­dent growth over stu­dent ef­fi­ciency and the value of col­lab­o­ra­tive plan­ning for teach­ers. “YES” cards were held in the air through­out Curry’s tes­ti­mony, fol­lowed by a loud ap­plause.

Lee Reed of Clos­ing the Gap Coali­tion of Calvert County de­scribed the county’s de­mo­graph­ics and re­minded the com­mis­sion of the di­ver­sity of Maryland’s pub­lic school sys­tems. Reed de­scribed the need in as­sist­ing needy and dis­ad­van­taged chil­dren to en­sure they re­ceive the same re­sources as others and leave CCPS col­lege and ca­reer ready.

Af­ter scores of speak­ers, CEA mem­bers were al­lot­ted the op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress the com­mis­sion. Mem­ber-at-large and Patux­ent High School so­cial stud­ies teacher Nancy Crosby woke the au­di­ence with chants at the start of her tes­ti­mony.

“We’re re­ally feel­ing a lit­tle tired out here, so I ask all sup­port­ers of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion to please stand up. When I say Kir­wan, you say fund­ing!” Crosby ex­claimed, as the au­di­ence shouted back in re­sponse. “When I say kids, you say need it!”

Crosby noted that she sees the ef­fects of the un­der­fund­ing of pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and the lack of re­sources. She said she has seen “teach­ers work for years with­out any pay in­creases and ever-in­creas­ing work­loads, re­sult­ing in plum­met­ing teacher morale.”

“My county may have a high me­dian in­come, but there are truly poor chil­dren who at­tend my school. We have fam­i­lies in cri­sis due to ad­dic­tion is­sues, un­em­ploy­ment, un­der-em­ploy­ment, home­less­ness, in­se­cure im­mi­gra­tion sta­tuses and abuse,” Crosby told the com­mis­sion. “To en­sure eq­uity, pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion must be gen­er­ously funded, so that all stu­dents can have equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tional sup­ports.”

Barstow El­e­men­tary School sec­ond-grade teacher and CEA mem­ber Betty Goldstein de­scribed the is­sues she sees in the ma­te­ri­als short­age in her school and how the shift in class­room set­ting has wors­ened the is­sue.

“At the end of last year, the county de­cided to re­turn to a tra­di­tional class­room set­ting for first and sec­ond grades, where stu­dents would stay with one teacher all day. My pri­mary pur­pose for rais­ing this is to note that the shift caused the ma­te­rial short­age that had been en­dured by two or three teach­ers be­came a des­per­ate ma­te­rial short­age en­dured by four to five teach­ers,” she said.

Goldstein specif­i­cally de­scribed a box of ma­te­ri­als five teach­ers — who all teach sci­ence at the same time ev­ery day — are shar­ing to teach a sci­ence unit that works with fos­sils. She said she has had to fill the gap in some ar­eas and buy sup­plies for her sec­ond-grade stu­dents out of her own pocket.

“There is a huge dif­fer­ence be­tween a gov­ern­ment-funded class­room and a teacher-funded class­room and the dif­fer­ences are glar­ing and sig­nif­i­cant. Ed­u­ca­tion be­comes less of an equal­izer when class­rooms are not of­fer­ing equal ac­cess to ma­te­ri­als,” Goldstein said.

Pres­i­dent of the Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion of Charles County Linda McLaugh­lin spoke about a lack of eq­ui­table ac­cess to text­books and tech­nol­ogy in var­i­ous Charles County schools. She said not only are more re­sources needed, but also more trained staff.

“When they have to take a stan­dard­ized test on a desk­top or lap­top com­puter, stu­dents are lost be­cause they haven’t prac­ticed on one,” McLaugh­lin said, ques­tion­ing how stu­dents can suc­ceed on stan­dard­ized as­sess­ments if they don’t know how to work the tech­nol­ogy.

Some of the other re­cur­ring is­sues men­tioned through­out last week’s tes­ti­monies in­cluded smaller class sizes, uni­ver­sal pre-K ed­u­ca­tion, less test­ing, wrap­around ser­vices for stu­dents and more of a fo­cus on stu­dents who speak English as a sec­ond lan­guage.

At a Gen­eral Assem­bly House Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee meet­ing in An­napo­lis ear­lier last Wed­nes­day, Kir­wan an­nounced the com­mis­sion would not have the fund­ing rec­om­men­da­tions com­plete to sub­mit to the del­e­ga­tion in De­cem­ber for the 2018 Gen­eral Assem­bly. He said the com­mis­sion does not have enough time to de­ter­mine the costs of its rec­om­men­da­tions or come up with sug­ges­tions for pay­ing for them be­fore the start of the up­com­ing leg­isla­tive ses­sion.

“What we are charged to do is of such mon­u­men­tal im­por­tance for the state that will im­pact gen­er­a­tions of stu­dents to come, and quite frankly, we’re asked to do some­thing no other state has ever done be­fore. So if it takes up to another six months or what­ever to do this prop­erly, it is time well spent,” Kir­wan told his fel­low com­mis­sion mem­bers.

Kir­wan said the com­mis­sion will get as much work done as pos­si­ble in its fi­nal four meet­ings this year be­fore cre­at­ing a work­group to meet with leg­isla­tive staff and con­sul­tants to de­ter­mine how much each of the rec­om­men­da­tions would cost the state. Some of the rec­om­men­da­tions Kir­wan said the com­mis­sion is propos­ing are an in­crease in fund­ing for teacher plan­ning, uni­ver­sal pre-K, a re­vamped pay struc­ture for ed­u­ca­tors and a for­mula for more eq­ui­table ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing.

STAFF PHOTO BY AN­DREW CEPHAS

Ca­rina McDaniel, french teacher at Mill Creek Mid­dle School, gives tes­ti­mony to the Kir­wan Com­mis­sion dur­ing its pub­lic fo­rum last week.

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