Archives for category: Baltimore

Amy Frogge is a parent of children in the Nashville public schools, a lawyer, and served two terms on the Metro Nashville school board. When she read in Chalkbeat that the Philadelphia school board had hired a consulting firm to advise its new superintendent, she was stunned. The consulting firm would be paid a fee of $450,000 for its advice. But what stunned her was that the firm was operated by the former Superintendent of Nashville, who had left under a cloud. This was the same superintendent who brought to Nashville a leadership team that included former Baltimore County superintendent Dallas Dance. Shortly after Dance was brought to Nashville, he was convicted and imprisoned on charges relating to consulting fees on a no-bid contract, which he lied about on financial disclosures.

Frogge sent the following letter to Philadelphia school board members:

Good morning-

My name is Amy Frogge. I am an attorney and former eight-year member of the Metro Nashville school board, where I served as both Vice Chair and Chair. 

I was deeply disturbed to see that your school district has entered into a contract with Joseph and Associates: This article includes comments from two Nashville board members who claim that Shawn Joseph left our school district merely due to personality conflicts, when nothing could be further from the truth.

I know the contract has been finalized, but I am reaching out to you as a warning. When Joseph arrived in Nashville, his former supervisor from another school district reached out to me as well, and I wish I had heeded the warnings. I voted to hire him and remained his strong supporter until I finally realized what was happening behind the scenes.

When Shawn Joseph and his team arrived in Nashville, we were hit by millions of dollars in no-bid contracts and an array unqualified, highly paid consultants. Unauthorized purchasing increased sevenfold, which meant Joseph and his team were not following proper contract procedures. Joseph negotiated contracts in violation of state law, and he could not account for the spending of $1.5 million on a no-bid contract that he awarded to someone he knew and brought with him from another school district. He repeatedly misled the school board and split contracts so that they would not come to the board for approval. In addition, our district endured what was described as a “morale crisis,” and the school board had to hire an independent firm to assess the district’s new Human Resources department. It concluded that employee morale was the lowest it had ever been and that Joseph’s team was engaging in “unconscionable” practices. By the time Joseph left, the state recommended revocation of his state license. This is all just the tip of the iceberg. Here is a short summary of just some of the problems we encountered: There is much more. I have never before or after experienced such corruption and dysfunction.

Shawn Joseph’s severance agreement included a gag order for school board members to prevent us from speaking even truthfully about our experiences. Three of us had to sue to remove the clause from agreement, and we just won the lawsuit. That is the reason I am able to reach out to you today.

I just attended an education conference in your lovely city, and I hate to see Philadelphia go down the same path. I would be happy to speak with any of you about our experiences. Please feel free to call or email me.

Amy Frogge

This story appeared in the Washington Post. This refusal to follow medical advice will continue to spread the disease and cause unnecessary deaths. The world is watching our rudderless response to the pandemic and feeling sorry for us. Why ask a doctor for her best advice in a dire situation and then ignore it?

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee (R) said Monday that he has no plans to close bars and curb indoor dining — minutes after White House coronavirus task force coordinator Deborah Birx recommended those measures at a joint news conference with the governor.

Saying that the coronavirus situation in Tennessee was at an “inflection point,” Birx said Monday that diligence and targeted business restrictions statewide could have an effect on a par with a stay-at-home order.

“We can change the future of this virus in this state today,” she said. “If we continue to social-distance, if every mayor throughout this great state would mandate masks, close the bars and substantially increase indoor dining distancing, together we can get through this.”

But when Lee took the microphone later, he said there are currently no plans to close bars or limit dining. Some mayors can shutter businesses on their own, but the vast majority of Tennessee’s county health departments fall under Lee’s purview, the Tennessean reports.

“I’ve said from the very beginning of this pandemic that there’s nothing off the table,” Lee said after a reporter brought up the issue. “I’ve also said that we are not going to close the economy back down, and we are not going to.”

“But I appreciate their recommendations and we take them seriously,” he said, after thanking Birx for visiting his state and saying there were “productive meetings” about education plans and strategies to encourage mask-wearing, among other topics.

Lee has also declined to issue a statewide mask order, though he promoted their effectiveness Monday, and Birx said Monday that she believes the governor has a “sound strategy” and supports local officials taking the lead. Birx appealed to the mayors of rural counties in particular to mandate face coverings, saying that a majority of counties in Tennessee require them but that “we need 100 percent.”

On another front in the battle against COVID-19, the head of Baltimore’s Intensive Care Unit died of the virus.

Joseph J. Costa, chief of the hospital’s Critical Care Division, died about 4:45 a.m. Saturday in the same ICU he supervised. He was attended by his partner of 28 years and about 20 staff members, who placed their hands on him as he died. Costa was 56.

For a few years, Gary Rubinstein was our nation’s leading debunker of “miracle school” claims. He found that the so-called miracle schools usually had high attrition rates but somehow forgot to mention them or some other manipulation of data.

Probably because of the power of Gary’s pen, corporate reformers stopped making claims about dramatic turnarounds, in which schools zoomed from the bottom 1% to the top 10%, or some such. The Tennessee Achievement District, which Gary covered closely, was an epic example of this kind of failure, on a large scale. Its leader, Chris Barbic, boldly predicted that he would take over the state’s lowest performing schools–those in the bottom 5%–turn them over to charter operators, and within five years, they would be in the top 20% of schools in the state. It didn’t happen. Not even close. After five years, the first cohort of ASD charters were still in the bottom 5%, although one made it to the bottom 6%. The ASD has since announced that it was returning the schools to their districts, but it has not said whether they would return as public schools or charter schools.

Now Gary turns his attention to an announcement by TFA about five schools in Baltimore that were “turned around” by the miracle of having inexperienced and enthusiastic TFA teachers.

He begins:

As an ashamed TFA alum, I receive their quarterly alumni magazine, ‘One Day.’ In the most recent issue, which I also saw on their Twitter feed, was an article called ‘Undefeated: Inside Five Baltimore Turnaround Schools that Refuse to Fail.’

The article is about five Baltimore schools that are run by TFA alumni and were recipients of some of the Obama/Duncan $3 billion school turnaround grant. The most aggressive turnaround strategy is to replace the majority of the staff, which is what these five schools did. The school turnaround grants have generally been considered a failure across the country, even by staunch reformers.

(Actually it was a study sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education that declared that the $3 billion turnaround program was a failure; it was released quietly in the closing days of the Obama administration.)

Gary reported the boasting about miraculous turnarounds and then he reviewed the state data:

Maryland has the star system where schools can get from one to five stars, kind of like the A to F letter grades. The stars are based on test scores and also on ‘growth’ and other factors. There are 1,300 schools in Maryland and about 10% of them get either one or two stars. So 3 stars is like a ‘C’ and over 60% of the schools in the state are either 4 stars or 5 stars. Of the five schools that have been ‘turned around,’ three are still 2 stars, which is like a ‘D.’ But looking more closely at the data from these five schools, I found some pretty awful numbers.

The Commodore John Rogers Elementary/Middle School that has the test score increases got two different percentile ranks, one for the elementary and one for the middle school. While the middle school is the one bright spot of all the schools , or subschools, in the 100% project, having risen to the bottom 28% of schools the elementary school is ranked in the bottom 8%.

One school, The Academy For College And Career Exploration (ACCE) has a middle and a high school. The middle school is ranked in the bottom 2% while the high school is in the bottom 9%. In the high school they had 9.3% score proficient in math and 3.6% score proficient in ELA. In the middle school they had 2.7% score proficient in ELA and, no this isn’t a typo, 0% score proficient in math.

The lowest rated school of the five is James McHenry Elementary/Middle. While the middle school was ranked in the bottom 15%, the elementary school was only ranked in the bottom 1%. If not for the middle school, the elementary school would be one of the 35 schools out of 1,300 that would have gotten just one star and be slated for possible closure.

I’m not sure why TFA is clinging to a narrative that went out of style about five years ago, when Arne Duncan stepped down as Secretary of Education. These five schools, on average, do not prove that firing most of the teachers in a school is likely to cause an incredible turnaround at a school.

The Education Law Center announces good news for equity for children in Baltimore City:

January 24, 2020
By Wendy Lecker
On January 21, Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Audrey Carrion paved the way for Maryland’s long-running school funding litigation, Bradford v. Maryland, to proceed. Judge Carrion denied the State of Maryland’s motion to dismiss and ordered the case be prepared for a trial on the merits.
The Bradford case was first filed in 1994 by Baltimore City public school parents, alleging that the State’s underfunding of City schools violated students’ constitutional right to an adequate education. After granting partial summary judgment in favor of the parents in 1996, the parties entered into a consent decree requiring increased funding. Despite enactment of a new school funding formula in 2002, the State consistently failed to fully fund it.
In recent reports on the school funding system, the State itself has found the Baltimore City schools remain severely underfunded. The funding shortfalls have, in turn, resulted in glaring deficits in essential resources in Baltimore schools, which serve a very high percentage of low-income, at-risk students. Schools are lacking in teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and basic curricular offerings. Many buildings are in disrepair. Student outcomes are inadequate, graduation rates are low, and dropout rates are double the state average.
Faced with consistent State failure to remedy these intolerable conditions, the Bradford parents petitioned to reopen the case in March 2019. The plaintiffs are represented by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, the ACLU of Maryland, and the firm Baker Hostetler.
The State moved to dismiss the case, claiming the petition was untimely, the 2002 consent decree was terminated, and the case presents a purely political question not suitable for judicial review.
In denying the State’s motion, Judge Carrion ruled that the Bradford court intended to retain jurisdiction until the State fully complied with the consent decree, and the consent decree remains viable. The Court also rejected the State’s argument that the case involved a purely political question, ruling that Maryland courts retain an inherent authority to review State compliance with the constitutional guarantee of education.
Judge Carrion’s ruling paves the way for the vindication of the constitutional rights of children in the Baltimore City Schools after a nearly two-decade struggle to secure adequate resources for their public schools.
Wendy Lecker is a Senior Attorney at Education Law Center
Press Contact:
Sharon Krengel
Policy and Outreach Director
Education Law Center
Baltimore Parents Move to Re-Open School Funding Lawsuit


On Saturday, the world witnessed an amazing outpouring of energy and passion to protest gun violence.  The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School (a public school) organized a mass demonstration in Washington, D.C. that drew hundreds of thousands of supporters, accompanied by like demonstrations across the nation and the world.

The media have rightly commended the remarkable young people who brought these events together with amazing skill in a very short time.

But what about their teachers?

Other than those who died protecting their students, we don’t know their names.

We don’t know the names of those who taught them debating skills.we don’t know the names of those who taught them government, civics, and history. We don’t know the names of the English teachers who taught them clarity of thinking and expression and correct use of language.

They too are heroes.

They are unsung heroes. They deserve to be acknowled and thanked publicly.

If you know them, please thank them. Please send me their names, so they get the recognition they so richly deserve.


G.F. Brandenburg has followed Michelle Rhee’s meteoric rise and fall.

He was first to blow the whistle on her specious claim that she raised test scores to miraculous heights as a brand-new teacher in a for-profit school in Baltimore.

She was an unknown until Joel Klein found her and recommended her to Adrian Fenty, the new mayor of D.C.

Brandenburg has a plan for her.


What is SUPES Academy?

Former Chicago Superintendent Barbara Byrd-Bennett is in federal prison because she took payoffs from SUPES.

Now Dallas Dance has been indicted. 

How about an investigation of this SUPES Academy?


Why are children in Baltimore sitting in frigid classrooms?

Republican Governor Larry Hogan says the public schools are mismanaged.

Jess Gartner, a former teacher and current analyst of education finance, fact checks Governor Hogan and says he is wrong/lying, to evade responsibility for inequitable funding.

This is a truly frightening story.

Far-rightwing media giant Sinclair Broadcasting has won approval from the FCC to buy Tribune Media. It will control the news feed into 72% of all homes, writes Jaisal Noor reporting from Baltimore.

Jaisal Noor writes:

“The Trump administration’s FCC recently changed local media ownership rules, paving the way for Sinclair Broadcasting to buy Tribune Media for $3.9 billion dollars. When the deal goes through, Sinclair has access to 72 percent of households nationwide. The Hunt Valley-based Sinclair is the largest distributor of local news in the country, and forces its stations to run commentary from pundits such as former Trump aide Boris Epshteyn and frequently offers up news with an unabashed, pro-administration spin (“Did the FBI have a personal vendetta in pursuing the Russia investigation of President Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn?”).

“While Sinclair consolidates its grip on the nation’s local TV market, in Baltimore, Sinclair is ramping up its local coverage with Project Baltimore on local affiliate Fox45, which aims to “save” Baltimore schools by bashing them. Project Baltimore’s propaganda is subtler than Sinclair’s employing click-bait headlines, skewed statistics, and half-truths to push a narrative that portrays Baltimore schools as beyond redemption and casts Project Baltimore as coming to the rescue.

“Its austere logo, in red, white, and blue offers up the tagline, “Save Our Schools.”

“Although Project Baltimore launched in March, recent stories have gone viral raising its profile and influence. A Nov. 8 report from Chris Papst titled “13 Baltimore City High Schools, zero students proficient in math” reported that over a dozen Baltimore City High Schools had zero students proficient in the math PARCC test—a test that’s part of the Common Core curriculum, aimed at evaluating students and teachers. Project Baltimore’s story was picked up by national right-wing outlets such as Breitbart and Fox News.

“While Papst’s reporting is technically accurate—13 city schools do indeed have no students that are math proficient—the story does not mention that in 2016 some of the highest performing schools in other parts of the state (including Montgomery County’s elite Walt Whitman High School) also have few if any students who scored proficient. Also not mentioned is that the PARCC test is not aimed at measuring achievement, rather measuring proficiency with Common Core curriculum. More than half the states administering the PARCC test have stopped using it due to concerns over the effectiveness of the test in measuring academic achievement and the burden it places on students. The test is also usually given on computers, which many Baltimore students lack access to at home or in their classrooms.”

A few days ago, the New York Times ran a first-page story about the big push by tech companies to get their software and hardware adopted by public schools. The market is huge, and the vendors are pulling out all the stops to woo District officials by inviting them to conferences, giving them awards, and showering them with attention. The district that was featured by the Times was Baltimore County, which had committed to spend $300 million on high tech, while basic physical needs of the schools were ignored. The BC Superintendent Dallas Dance had recently resigned, and he was replaced on an interim basis by his deputy Verletta White, who shared his passion for going high tech.

The big story was that the district bought equipment that was soon discontinued and that ranked third of four choices in an independent evaluation. No, the big story was how cleverly and insidiously the tech industry sold their stuff to school officials.

But now we learn that Dallas Dance and Verletta White both were paid fees by the tech industry and didn’t report the payments on their income disclosure. In relation to the size of the contracts, the payments were relatively small. Which does not excuse the payments but demonstrates how easy it is to buy influence.