Read the ‘Erroneous and Malicious’ Comments that Forced the Board of Education President to Announce He’s Leaving Office
Public frustration with the Comprehensive High School Reform Plan (CSSRP) prompted the Harford County Council to make an unprecedented address to the Board of Education at its meeting tonight (Monday) in Bel Air.
The half-hour presentation delivered by county councilman Richard C. Slutzky, a veteran educator of 39 years, reflected questions raised by parents, students, teachers and administrators who had contacted the council as a result of what they believed was a lack of response from of the board since CSSRP was presented in 2005 and implemented in the fall of 2006.
Before councilman Slutzky was able to begin his presentation, board president Thomas Fidler, Jr. announced that he will not seek a second term and wanted to clear the air about “erroneous and malicious” comments made on a website regarding the scheduling of the county council’s discussion.
Slutzky began by commending the board for their efforts at reform, but noted that an evaluation was necessary to determine whether the “good intentions” of the board had actually been carried out by CSSRP. Using the board’s original rationale for reform as a framework, Slutzky posed questions which he said would assist the board in determining whether intended results were being achieved and what unintended consequences have resulted. He also suggested areas for future exploration.
Among the questions raised was whether the block schedule had delivered appropriate levels of instruction considering anecdotal evidence that teachers were “cutting out parts of the curriculum in order to fit the block schedule format.”
He noted that while the block schedule was intended to reduce teacher load, or the number of students assigned to each teacher, the load had actually increased for the vast majority of teachers.
Slutzky also questioned the merit of adding more electives to students’ course work noting that the Athletic Scholarship Clearing House and many colleges “make decisions based on student achievement in core courses, not electives.”
The concept of career pathways, where students select a course of study in high school directed toward future employment or college entrance, was also discussed. Slutzky asked “What percent of the working population is employed in the field they identified for themselves in high school?”
Slutzky encouraged the board to request answers to these questions from the Harford County Public School administration in its progress report on CSSRP due in April.
Moving beyond concerns specific to CSSRP, Slutzky cited the need for objective trend data when evaluating student achievement. In perhaps the most pointed moment in the presentation, Slutzky displayed this bar graph, which the administration had presented to the board back in December 2007, showing a declining trend in the number of students who had failed one or more classes.
Slutzky noted that by simply adding data from one year earlier, a very different trend emerged
Slutzky concluded that reform was a difficult undertaking but changes must be based on a foundation of research, which he said did not exist in the case of the change to the block schedule. As proof, he offered the following quote from the Director of Secondary Education, David A. Volrath, who was the architect of CSSRP and its chief proponent.
Slutzky cautioned that it was incumbent upon the board of education to apply the words of Hippocrates and “First, do no harm.”
The complete list of questions posed by Slutzky in his presentation is listed below:
- How many classes are not formatted uniformly at all Harford County High Schools?
- What do teachers believe is the effect of the misalignment of class time and existing lesson plans and textbook format on teacher planning and student learning?
- How many schedules had to be done by hand after CSSRP vs. prior years on a school by school basis?
- How many students believe they did not get a schedule that is relevant to their needs and interests?
- What is the actual use of teacher time in the classroom?
- What percent of instructional time do students miss as a result of an absence under the block schedule vs. and absence under a more traditional schedule?
- What course offerings or sections were added to master schedules at each high school?
- What is the effect of the added course load on student achievement? This data must begin with the period prior to the implementation of CSSRP and includes:
- What is the trend in the distribution of grades (#As, #Bs.etc)within schools and within HCPS beginning before and through the implementation of CSSRP?
- What changes were seen in the number of students with at least one failing grade (ineligibility) since the implementation of CSSRP comparing results within schools?
- What percent of students who can benefit from remediation take the necessary courses at each school and how does this compare to the period prior to CSSRP?
- What is the trend, beginning before CSSRP, in student grades in core courses, and on external tests such as AP and SAT tests?
- For teachers who experienced an increase in student workload, due to the block schedule, what was the percent increase over pre-CSSRP levels?
- What percent of teachers experience fewer or more engagements per day? (Per A/B day cycle)
- What is the actual change if any in the planning time for teachers given that the contract stipulates 45 minutes per teacher? This represents the least amount of planning time for HS teachers in 40 years. What percent of teachers are getting more time?
- How many students are being served by the on-line CEO element?
- Do students who have experienced both types of school organization believe that interacting with a smaller group of students and teachers is beneficial to their education?
- Do students believe that the LICW course is relevant to their success in high school?
- What effect has the increased student load had on teachers’ ability to foster better relationships with students? With grading pressures? With planning pressures?
- What math classes have been developed to create a meaningful sequence in the 4th year?
- What math classes are being selected by students in the 4th year?
- What grades are students earning in the 4th year math course?
- What is the trend in math scores on the SAT test?
- What percent of students are participating in off campus experiences in lieu of high school classes?
- What process is used to track student achievement off-campus?
- What percent of classes that students are taking at HCC are core classes, what percent are electives and what percent of classes taken are remedial?
- What percent of students from HCPS attending classes at HCC require remediation in math or English before they can take classes for credit?
- Do admissions officers at 4 year colleges prefer students to stay in high school or take classes at a community college?
- How many students apply to HTHS each year compared to the number of slots available?
- How will the anticipated magnet programs effect individual HS populations?
- What changes have been made to the curriculum to increase the rigor of coursework?
- What percent of the working population is employed in the field they identified for themselves in high school?
- What percent of college graduates major in the field they identified for themselves as freshman?
- What percent of college graduates are employed in the field of their college major?
- What specific jobs will students be qualified to fill directly upon graduation from high school in each of the identified career clusters and magnet programs?
- What skills do employers say are lacking in high school graduates?
- What skills do college counselors say are lacking in high school graduates?