Thursday, March 24, 2011

Baltimore County Public Schools: Build a STEM School K-8???

Baltimore County Public Schools latest gimmick shows what happens when a school board constructed exclusively by partisan political leadership with no effective local control is firmly in charge -- Students, Parents, and County taxpapers be damned!

Just a week after it was revealed that Baltimore County Public Schools hired a new deputy superintendent for $214,000 and announced huge staff reductions hitting the high school teaching ranks hard, the system now is talking about building a K-9 STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) specialty school in the rapidly growing northwest area of the county, an area that mixes some of the county's most affluent neighborhoods with an increasingly urbanized population.

There is no denying that preparing students to excel in STEM disciplines is a serious deficiency in American education and Baltimore County is no exception, but to create a select academy for a small number of students doesn't make sense. The whole maggot (as in "magnet") school concept instituted by Baltimore County is a joke, and opening a STEM school would take the folly to new extremes.

Speciality elementary schools make no sense from a purely educational standpoint. Perhaps they satisfy some insane parents' vanity.  Oh my little Billy is going to grow up to be a brilliant nuclear physicist when little Billy is only old enough to start figuring out Legos. Sweet little Sarah is going to be a world class symphonic musician. Little Sarah can't even play "Chopsticks" on a toy piano yet. Devoting tremendous resources to specialty programs for elementary and middle school kids make no sense. Clearly, this is at the expense of the overall program. Maggot programs are set up at select schools around the county that leach students from other nearby schools taking some of the best students out of those schools while often adding a layer of sugar over a dung heap for schools that might have some serious problems or be located in territory where the exodus of top students to private schools is a powerful force. The overall effect is to team some pampered teachers up with some pampered students -- the rest be damned.

We are not arguning against advanced placement or helping serve students with exceptional talent. We are looking at a giant, sprawling, out of control system that is falling apart. What Baltimore County Schools must do is stop pandering to trends, stop throwing up the window dressing as in exotic sounding maggot programs for elementary schools and start recognizing that the overall program in the county is deteriorating like a maggot invested corpse in the hot summer sun. Every county school needs challenging rock solid instruction in math, science, engineering, and technology. Teachers need to recognize the students who have natural ability in those disciplines, nurture them, then begin to move them towards honors and enriched programs as they move through middle school into high school where there should be advanced level classes for such content. If there truly some awesomely gifted students who would be served best by having special programs on the high school level where there might not be enough enrollment for Dulaney, Towson, and Loch Raven each to over the highest level STEM classes, perhaps then it would make sense for one school to concentrate on advanced STEM, while another school perhaps would cater to advanced liberal arts, but this should be based on demand and never used as a publicity stunt or a program which states to be one thing but is accomplishing some political goal beneath the surface.

When many county schools are struggling just to obtain across the board proficiency in the most fundamental areas, the county must get those needs addressed first. In a district that is now a minority majority system, their failure to motivate and advance African American students, the vast majority of whom are middle class and should have every opportunity to reach for the stars, are being failed horribly by county schools who pat themselves on the back when black students only do "C" work. "Hey, Chester's doing good work for a black kid."  That kind of implicit racism is unacceptable but it is the status quo in county schools. The bottom line is Chester should be doing good work, period. Who knows maybe Chester could be a great engineer; however, the county is thrilled if they just get Chester ready for a faceless job working at Social Security of being management material for the local grocery store. Agendas and politics are everything in Baltimore County. Selling the public on a bunch of smoke and mirrors which represent nothing of substance is the modus operende. In a climate of political correctness and ambiguous standards that thumbs its nose at traditional values while having what amounts to a secular Sharia publicized as "Zero Tolerance" the students are caught in a crossfire between being allowed to run wild in some areas while being persecuted in others. The simple notion that schools are places to learn. Every student must do his or her best and follow the golden rule is never articulated in any kind of straight forward message that every kid understands, but they think they can identify five year olds who might be the next Stephen Hawking. In truth, they're more likely to set the stage for the next Bill Maher or Rae Caruth.

The Northwest area of Baltimore County does need another middle school. The Northwest area needs to cater to serving the highly capable students who reside in the area. There needs are not being met whatsoever.  The Northwest area must bring minority students up to traditional Baltimore County Standards (oops, they've been lacking for 25 years) instead of falling off to the level of Baltimore City Schools. The area is growing rapidly and the chaos in the schools is pandemic. Students of all backgrounds and abilities are being lost in the shuffle.

Thinking of creating a "STEM" school in the Northwestern Baltimore County is the same kind of arrogant detachment Nero showed playing his fiddle while Rome was burning. Baltimore County is burning out of control, and rather than sending in the fire department and arson investigators, the attitude of the bureaucratic elite residing in the glorious Greenwood plantation, the mansion on the hill, is "Piss on it."


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