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Saturday, January 30, 2010

CollegeBoard Changes AP Curriculum

Here's an interesting piece of information. The CollegeBoard is getting ready to change it's AP Curriculum. They'll be taking a lot of the focus away from straight-forward memorization and putting it on to concepts and big ideas. My guess is that they're trying to take away the "teaching to the test" approach that plagues many of the schools across the country. I posted the information below for you pleasure:

This is an exciting time to be involved in the AP® Program. The developments under way in AP world languages, history and science directly support AP teachers' ongoing efforts to develop and deliver great courses that align with the most effective teaching and learning at colleges and universities.

The changes detailed on this site for AP French Language and Culture, AP German Language and Culture, and AP World History will go into effect in the 2011–12 school year, with the corresponding AP Exams administered in May 2012. For more information on each individual exam click on the links above.


The revised learning objectives for AP® French and German Language and Culture exams are based on the three modes of communication — Interpersonal, Interpretive and Presentational — defined in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning in the 21st Century. The course revisions also acknowledge the connectedness of comprehension and comprehensibility, vocabulary usage, language control, communication strategies and cultural awareness in developing language proficiency. While the three modes of communication frame the learning objectives, the revised curriculum is structured around six broad themes — Global Challenges, Science and Technology, Contemporary Life, Personal and Public Identities, Families and Communities, and Beauty and Aesthetics — that promote an integration of language and culture. For each theme, the curriculum also identifies several recommended contexts and essential questions, providing teachers significant flexibility to select resources and design instruction.


Revisions to AP® World History focus on helping teachers manage the scope of the course, while at the same time providing students with the opportunity for deep learning. Teachers will have more freedom in designing instruction, and students will be prepared to analyze their subject and its implications for the world around them. Because world history's scope requires students to think on many different geographic and temporal levels, it is imperative that a college-level course prepare students to explore broad trends and global processes that may have developed over centuries or even millennia in various regions of the world. The course content, which has not been substantially revised, is now structured around the investigation of five course themes and 19 key concepts in six chronological periods, from approximately 8000 B.C.E. to the present. The framework defines a set of shared historical thinking skills that will apply to all AP history courses and that will help teachers make more informed choices about appropriate ways of linking content and thinking skills.


Given the speed with which scientific discoveries and research continuously expand scientific knowledge, many educators are faced with the challenge of balancing breadth of content coverage with depth of understanding. The upcoming changes to AP science support AP teachers in their efforts to foster students’ deep understanding of science by reducing the emphasis on broad content coverage and emphasizing the practice of scientific inquiry and reasoning.

The developments underway in AP science courses are exciting because they support what many great science teachers are already doing: cultivating students' understanding of key concepts and development of intellectual skills by focusing on key concepts using a limited number of appropriate content examples, rather than by marching through an exhaustive "checklist" of required content. Teachers will have the opportunity and responsibility to select and use content in ways that help students understand the underlying concepts, as well as the skills, essential to the practice of science.

The revised courses will provide clear signposts about the depth of understanding and boundaries of the concepts and content that will be assessed on the AP Exam. Teachers will not need to cover every possible example related to a particular concept. Instead, the course materials will provide clear guidance as to what course content is the most appropriate for teaching the core concepts, thus providing educators with more flexibility to share what excites them and to take advantage of local resources and phenomena. Courses will be organized around "big ideas" through which students can see the meaning of the material in its current context as well as through its connection to previously learned information. Within each big idea, the subject's concepts, learning objectives and science practices are detailed.

$23.4 Million MOE Fine

On January 29, the State Board of Education upheld the State Superintendent's decision that Montgomery County did not meet Maintenance of Effort for FY 2009-2010 (this current school year). The State Board has thus fined Montgomery County $23,422,297 for the upcoming year. As you'll recall, the Montgomery County Government tried to shift debt onto the MCPS Budget and say that it was fulfilling its duty of funding the MCPS Budget.

Shortly after, the County Executive and County Council President issued this statement:

“We are disappointed in the State Board’s decision to withhold $23.4 million of State education aid from Montgomery County’s schools over the Maintenance of Effort issue.

“From the start, Montgomery County and the Montgomery County Public Schools have, together, pointed to the County’s long history of funding our schools far in excess of State Maintenance of Effort requirements. Together, we presented a waiver request for this one year that both fully funded MCPS’s educational program and preserved other critically needed services for County residents. We emphasized the challenges posed by the sharp economic downturn as a clear justification for a waiver.

“Last May the State Board of Education rejected that waiver request. Now, eight months later, today’s decision would severely impact our County’s schools.

“We will continue to work with the Governor and members of the General Assembly to right this wrong.”

What does this mean? It means that $23.4 Million in cuts will have to be made in the current school year because we simply will not be receiving the money. These will be on top of the $32 Million in cuts already asked for by the County Executive and the County Council. Hopefully, the Montgomery County Delegation will be able to pass the legislative fix to this penalty so that we do not have to see further reductions.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

MC 14–10: Montgomery County – Maintenance of Effort Waiver

Remember that big fine that MCPS was looking at facing for not complying with the Maintenance of Effort law? It looks like the Montgomery County Delegation is taking up a bill so that MCPS would not have to pay $46 Million out of pocket right in the middle of the year. The bill's title is MC 14-10: Montgomery County - Maintenance of Effort reproduced for your viewing pleasure:

FOR the purpose of waiving the maintenance of effort provisions in law for a certain fiscal year for Montgomery County; making this Act an emergency measure; and generally relating to the maintenance of effort requirement of Montgomery County.

Notwithstanding any other provision of law, for fiscal year 2010 only, Montgomery County is not required to comply with the maintenance of effort provisions of § 5–202(d) of the Education Article.

SECTION 2. AND BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That this Act is an emergency measure, is necessary for the immediate preservation of the public health or safety, has been passed by a yea and nay vote supported by three–fifths of all the members elected to each of the two Houses of the General Assembly, and shall take effect from the date it is enacted.

PS: Keep sending in your pictures guys!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

High School Assessment Waiver Regulation

Recently, I've gotten some questions about how the whole HSA Waiver process works. Here are the new regulations posted by MSDE for comment. The Maryland State Board of Educaiton has issued a policy regarding the use of HSA Waivers in Maryland that will affect the Class of 2010 and beyond:

School principals are required to make recommendations to the county superintendent by May 1 of each year after notifying the families by April 1. School districts must notify seniors by the end of February if there is a possibility these students may not complete graduation requirements. And the county superintendent must make recommendations by August 1.

If a student meets the following criteria:

  1. The student will meet all other graduation requirements
  2. The student will take all the HSA exams
  3. The student has had the opporunity to be involved in an intervention program including the Bridge to Excellence

And meets one of the following circumstances:

  1. A fault of the local school system with regards to scheduling, course sequencing, or test taking (this will sunset after 2010)
  2. The student experiences a special, extraordinary, or extenuating circumstance or combination of circumstances preceding the administration of the most recent HSA i.e death in the family, illness, etc.
  3. The student moved to the United States his or her junior or senior year and is illiterate in English
  4. The student moved to Maryland in the senior year, has passed all the HSA courses, but has failed the related HSA(s), and has had no adequate opportunity for intervention.
  5. A student who movies to Maryland in his or her senior year, has passed all HSA courses in their old high school, but has failed the Government HSA and has had no adequate opportunity for intervention.

Fully-Funded MCPS Construction Budget!

The Montgomery County Capital Improvements Program (CIP), which is the budget for construction, renovations, and modifications to buildings, was revealed to the public on Friday (different budget from Operating Budget). In it, Isiah Leggett, the Montgomery County Executive, recommended to the County Council to fund 99% of the projects requested by the Board of Education for a whopping total of $1.5 Billion. This basically means that all of the projects requested in the CIP will be on track and ready to go. With an over 30% drop in construction costs this year due to the economy, he increased the construction budget by 17% over the next six years.

In summary, the CIP requests 118 classrooms, a new elementary school, a new middle school, and several upgrades to buildings around the county, which include:
  1. Additions at 11 schools
  2. Planning for 9 ES addition and 1 HS addition
  3. The modernization of 3 HS (Paint Branch, Gaithersburg, Wheaton), 3 MS, and 12 ES
  4. The construction of 10 new ES gymnasiums
  5. Facility improvements at 2 MS
  6. Restroom renovation projects
  7. Asbestos and ADA Compliance Changes
  8. Changes to Roofs, and Heating and Ventilation Systems
  9. Planned Life Cycle Assets Replacement (Bleachers, Flooring, Resurfacing, Doors, etc)
  10. Technology Modernizations
  11. The start of the process for looking into overcrowding problems around the county (Bethesda, etc.)
Here is a copy of the CIP for your viewing pleasure. We thank Mr. Leggett for his commitment to education and look forward to seeing it in the future in the Operating Budget.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Campaign for Our Future Update!

Wow! You guys are amazing! Keep sending in your pictures, your logos, and your ideas! This logo to my left was actually created by Colin Wiencek, a Junior at Montgomery Blair High School. For those of you who are just tuning in, here is a reprint of what is going on:

SMOB 2.0 Staff is currently in the process of making a video to get students educated about the budget process and show County and State Officials that we care about our future. This video will be sent with the letter to the Governor, the County Executive, the County Council, and the County Delegation. But this video is going to take your help because it will feature the most important person in the school system, you.

What: We will need pictures of different people holding a sign (which can just be on regular paper) that simply says "FUTURE" on it. Make it as fancy or as plain as you want.
Specifications: The sign must be in the center of the photo; send in multiple pictures from different parts of your school; show some school spirit, show what you like most about school, and be creative!
Send to:
Deadline for Photos: January 29

Let's take a look at some pictures that were sent in from Clarksburg, Blake, and from some of our students in their homes. This really shows that students are taking their futures into their own hands. I couldn't post all of them, but rest assured I will put every single one of them in the video:

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Voting Rights Timeline

A lot of people have asked for a history behind the SMOB's voting powers as MC 12-10 comes to a vote this late January. Here is a brief timeline of the events leading up to this historic moment. Students have been fighting for the right of their SMOB to be equal to the other members of the Board for over three decades. Like I have stated over and over again, if the bill passes through the Montgomery County Delegation, this will be a historic moment in student advocacy in the State of Maryland. Students will finally have a powerful voice in their own education.

History of the Montgomery County SMOB:

1975 - MCPS Board of Education considers creation of the SMOB Position
1977 - Maryland General Assembly amended Section 3-701 of the Education Article of the Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Maryland to create a nonvoting student seat on the Board of Education
1978 - First SMOB is elected, David Naimon, by MCR and MCJC (County Student Government)
1982 - Board of Education allowed first Direct Election of the SMOB
1989 - SMOB is allowed a Limited Vote by the Maryland General Assembly (what it is today)
1993 - SMOB is allowed to vote on everything by the Maryland General Assembly for 2 years (sunset provision)
1995 - SMOB's Voting Power reverts back to pre-1993 legislation and Sunset Provision is not renewed
2001 - Legislation to allow SMOB Full Voting Rights fails in the Senate Delegation
2007 - Legislation to strip SMOB of Voting Rights in Administrative Appointments (including appointment of Superintendent) fails
2009 - Legislation is proposed to allow SMOB full voting rights except Negative Personnel

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

County Council Youth Town Hall

The Montgomery County Council traditionally goes to various areas around the County to meet with residents and find out their feelings about whether the County is on the right track and where improvements can be made. But for the first time, your elected officials want to hear from you! This shows the utter importance of the student opinion to our county officials as they craft the budget.

Who: Students of Montgomery County with the County Council
What: Youth Town Hall Meeting
Where: 100 Maryland Avenue Rockville, MD 20850; Third Floor
When: Wednesday February 3, 2010 at 7 PM-8 PM
Why: In order to hear directly from students throughout the County

You can arrive early at 6:30 to mingle with Councilmembers on the second floor Cafeteria. This meeting will be broadcast on Channel 6 on Comcast and Channel 30 on Verizon. The Council Office Building is a three-block walk from the Rockville Metrorail. Free parking in the building's garage on Fleet Street will also be open.

Bring your school spirit (signs, t-shirts, posters, etc) and tell your County Council what you want next year! There's power in numbers. Considering the County Council is the one that gives money to the Board of Education and considering the Campaign for Our Future and the huge Budget Crisis this year, this is our time to show the County Council that we truly care about our schools, our sports, our clubs, our buses, our extracurriculars, our teachers, and our education!

PS: Don't forget to send in your pictures for the Campaign for Our Future so that they get a copy of your pictures!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Campaign for Our Future

As you know, MCPS is facing a huge budget crisis. As a result, the students of Montgomery County will be initiating what I call our "Campaign for Our Future". It will be a three-pronged approach:

1. Letter: A letter is currently being circulated among student leaders around the county. It will be a collection of our voices to the County and State about our views on the current economy and our priorities.

2. Video: As a supplement to the letter, SMOB 2.0 Staff is currently in the process of making a video to get students educated about the budget process and show County and State Officials that we care about our future. This video will be sent with the letter to the Governor, the County Executive, the County Council, and the County Delegation. But this video is going to take your help because it will feature the most important person in the school system, you.

What: We will need pictures of different people holding a sign (which can just be on regular paper) that simply says "FUTURE" on it. Make it as fancy or as plain as you want.
Specifications: The sign must be in the center of the photo; send in multiple pictures from different parts of your school; show some school spirit, show what you like most about school, and be creative!
Send to:
Deadline for Photos: January 29

It may not seem like a lot, but just sending in a picture can make a world of a difference. This campaign will be about students taking their future into their own hands, and we're going to show that literally.

3. Speak Your Voice: Finally, I will be providing you opportunities to get involved at hearings and lobbying events as the time comes. We need to make our voices heard directly by coming out to hearings and writing letters to our legislators. On February 1, we will begin our lobbying efforts and make our voices heard! These opportunities will be posted on my own blog as well as on Facebook. A Facebook group is in the process of being created. But here is the first date for you:

County Council Youth Town Hall: February 3, 2010 - 7 PM; Council Office Building at 100 Maryland Avenue Third Floor

Let's show the people of Montgomery County and Maryland that we can stand up for our rights and fight for what we believe in!