Thursday, March 29, 2012

Northrop Grumman Awards BCP $4,500 Grant to Pilot Calvert School Curriculum

Northrop Grumman has awarded BCP a grant of $4,500 to implement its new Middle Grades Initiative. The Initiative involves piloting the highly-regarded Calvert School Homeschool Curriculum with 40 seventh graders at City Springs Elementary/Middle School.

Goals of the initiative include improving writing skills, vocabulary, and content knowledge in science, history and geography.

For over one hundred years, Calvert School has carefully crafted an integrated, classical homeschool curriculum, which was developed by expert curriculum staff and proven in the Calvert Day School.

The Seventh Grade Homeschooling Curriculum allows students to build strong grammar and composition skills through descriptive and expository writing.

The science program delves into the life and physical sciences and introduces students to the characteristics of living things, sound, light, motion, forces, and energy.

Geography explores a variety of subjects such as thematic maps and the Eastern hemisphere.

History covers the development of the modern world from the fall of Rome to the Enlightenment.

We anticipate that the Calvert Curriculum will help our middle grades students master the material they need to succeed in high school and beyond.

If the pilot proves successful, BCP will expand the program to include grades six and eight and the other BCP schools.

NBS Sponsors BCP Fundraising Gala

Thank you to Network Business Solutions (NBS) for supporting BCP's Are You Smarter Than a BCP 5th Grader? fundraising gala on April 20, 2012 with a $500 sponsorship.

About NBS
NBS takes a unique, business-focused approach to network implementation and custom application development. It not only solves your current IT problems, but it prevents future ones, providing the long-term reliability and efficiency your business needs to succeed.

Mickey Cucchiella to Appear at BCP Fundraising Gala

Professional Comedian Mickey Cucchiella will appear at BCP's Are You Smarter Than a BCP 5th Grader? fundraising gala on April 20, 2012.

Mickey will join City Schools CEO Andres Alonso, Houston Texan Bryant Johnson, and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake in a quiz competition with four 5th grade students from City Springs Elementary/Middle School, Collington Square School of the Arts, Hampstead Hill Academy and Wolfe Street Academy.

Mickey Cucchiella is a professional comedian. He is currently a morning show host in Baltimore, Maryland, on WIYY, 98Rock (97.9 FM). If cutting edge comedy and a hatred of political correctness is what you like Mickey is for you.

Purchase tickets at:

Sunday, March 25, 2012

City Springs Recognized as Model DI School

The National Institute for Direct Instruction (NIFDI) has recognized City Springs Elementary/Middle as a model Direct Instruction (DI) school. BCP brought DI to City Springs in 1996.
While there are many schools implementing DI with NIFDI support, City Springs School in Baltimore, Maryland is a model implementation that welcomes visitors to their site.
Read more at:

Friday, March 23, 2012

Maryland Food Bank Backpack Program Feeds Wolfe Street Families

The Maryland's Food Bank's Backpack Program began two weeks ago at Wolfe Street Academy. The program provides bags full of food to children eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school. Backpacks are handed out on Fridays and children take them home to share with their families over the weekend.

Two Fridays ago, students participating in the BOOST After-School Program at Wolfe Street received bags of food. Food distributions will alternate weekly between students participating in the after-school program and students only attending the day school.

Kathy Stroup, Director of Extended Student Services, worked for two years to bring the Backpack Program to Wolfe Street Academy. The school will continue to receive weekly food distributions until the Food Bank exhausts the funding allocated for this program. Wolfe Street Academy also hosts two larger Maryland Food Bank food distributions twice a year.

The Backpack Program was initiated after Baltimore City teachers began noticing children returning to school on Monday unable to concentrate because they had not eaten all weekend. In Fiscal Year 2009, the Maryland Food Bank distributed 9,360 backpacks to children.

The Backpack Program is one of many services coordinated by the BOOST After-School Program at Wolfe Street Academy, which is funded by a grant from the Family League of Baltimore City.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

HHA Student Si Lin Named Carson Scholar

Hampstead Hill Academy 8th grader Si Lin has been named a 2012 Carson Scholar by the Carson Scholars Fund.

This year, 402 academic superstars have been named Carson Scholars with 24 from Baltimore City Public Schools. These students were nominated by their schools based on high academic achievement and commitment to serving their communities. Each scholar will receive a $1,000 scholarships.

Applications were at an all-time high this year, meaning the 2012 Scholars are truly the best and the brightest students from across the country.To date, the CSF has awarded more than 5,200 scholarships and has scholars in all 50 states!

Dr. Benjamin Carson grew up in a challenging environment in a single-parent household with a childhood dream of becoming a doctor. His mother, with only a third grade education, challenged and supported her sons, and Benjamin Carson is now a full professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He has also directed pediatric neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins Children’s Center for more than 25 years.

Congratulations to Si Lin and all of the 2012 Carson Scholars!

For more information visit:

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Collington Square School March 2012 Newsletter

Check out Collington Square School of the Arts' March 2012 Newsletter. This edition includes articles on:
  • National Women's History Month
  • Higher Achievement Program
  • Student Achievement Throughout the School
  • African Quilt Black History Month Project
  • The Club's at Collington Square's New Middle Grades Class on What it Means to Be a Young Woman
  • Elev8 News
  • Ten Lesson the Arts Teach
View the newsletter at:

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Students Shine Through MSA at HHA

Today and yesterday I had the pleasure of proctoring the Maryland School Assessment (MSA) for Miss Hoover's 5th grade class at Hampstead Hill Academy.

Despite the enormous pressure the MSA places on students, teachers, and administrators, the students were focused and extremely well-behaved.

Perhaps the only thing more impressive than their behavior was the artwork the students drew on their scratch papers (which unfortunately had to be collected with the tests for test security)

Once the test was over Miss Hoover gave the students snacks and some free time to relax. Some of the students read while other played math games or worked on their homework.

I applaud Miss Hoover and her students for their outstanding work.

- Larry Schugam

JESPAR Features Turnaround Article by BCP President

The current issue of the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR) features an article by BCP President and Founder Muriel Berkeley entitled A Practitioner's View on the Policy of Turning Schools Around.

The articles asserts that all BCP schools provide a high-quality education and that differences in state test scores have more to do with the barriers to learning associated with poverty than with any deficiency in instruction.

Read the abstract below:
The concept of turnaround schools implies that decision makers can distinguish between schools that need to be turned around and those that do not need to be. Decision makers assume that schools in which students score at levels deemed proficient on multiple choice standardized tests are successful and that schools with students who do not score proficient are failing and need to be turned around.

Should multiple choice tests be the sole criterion for determining the success of schools? Might society want to consider whether or not schools are motivating students to be productive members of society and equipping them with the skills and habits that they will need to be productive?
To preview and purchase the article visit:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Venable Sponsors BCP Fundraising Gala

We would like to thank the Venable Foundation for supporting BCP's Are You Smarter Than and BCP 5th Grader? fundraising gala with a generous sponsorship of $2,000.

Since 2009 the Venable Foundation has been a generous sponsor of BCP's annual Leading Minds Education Forum. In 2008 the Venable Foundation sponsored a fundraiser for City Springs Elementary/Middle School.

Heather Mitchell, a member of Venable's litigation practice group, has served on the BCP Board of Directors since 2006.

About the Venable Foundation

Established in 1983, The Venable Foundation works to promote the health and well-being of the communities where Venable's clients and attorneys work and live.

In 2011, the Foundation gave more than $2 million in contributions to a wide variety of organizations, continuing a long tradition of unparalleled giving which complements the pro bono legal work and community service of Venable attorneys and staff.

For more information visit:

Monday, March 12, 2012

City Springs Students Create Mural of U.S.

Kasey Trudgeon's eighth grade art class at City Springs Elementary/Middle School recently completed a beautiful mural of the United States. While the students were studying maps and the geography of the United States in their history class, they also spent many hours in their Smart Art class working on a mural of the United States.

The students learned how to grid out a picture of the United States and then used the same proportions to grid out the piece of plywood that the mural was painted on. Then the students drew what they saw in the photo in the corresponding box on the mural. Finally, it was painted and the state names and capitals were added.

"I couldn't be more proud of the hard work that the students put into the creation of this mural," said Ms. Trudgeon.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Book Review: Finnish Lessons

Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (Series on School Reform) (The Series on School Reform)
Reviewed by Jon McGill, Director of Academic Affairs, Baltimore Curriculum Project

Pasi Sahlberg is perfectly placed to tell the story of Finland’s “education miracle”. He has been a teacher, an administrator, an education policy maker and an academic researcher. He is currently the Director General of CIMO (Center for Educational Mobility and Cooperation) at the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. His new book Finnish Lessons, tells the story of educational reform and change in Finland over the past fifty years and as he tells the story, it becomes less miraculous and more obviously the outline of a purposeful, thoughtful and coherent strategy for school improvement.

“Education in Finland is seen as a public good and therefore has a strong nation-building function” (p. 39) is how Sahlberg sets the scene and this notion of a national commitment to education as part of a coherent vision for national development as a whole is what sets Finland apart. Sahlberg is well aware that Finland’s education system is both specific to that nation and capable of serving as a model for other nations in search of “reform”. Sahlberg is well aware that those who disdain Finland as a potential model for the United States focus on Finland’s small size (six million people), and its supposedly homogenous population. While these concerns are taken seriously, Sahlberg manages to dismantle such criticisms.

In his lucid introduction, Sahlberg refers to the “tough solutions” favored in countries such as the United States, England and France. “Tightening control over schools, stronger accountability for student performance, firing bad teachers, and closing down troubled schools are part of the recipe to fix failing education systems.” (p.4) We are reminded that “there is another way to improve”, which means “improving the teaching force, limiting student testing to a necessary minimum, placing responsibility and trust before accountability and handing over school and district level leadership to education professionals.”

Sahlberg provides his readers with a helpful chart (p.103) in which he divides “GERM” (Global Education Reform Movements”) from the “Finnish Way”. In the GERM column, there is an emphasis on punitive strategies, “market-driven” solutions; prescriptive curriculum and high stakes standardized testing. We are familiar, of course, here in the United States, with this kind of “reform”, change without change, movement without progress. In this kind of prescription, teachers become villains, students are laboratory subjects, unions are negative agents and test scores are the evidence of improvement. More and more privatization of the system creeps in, private entrepreneurs bereft of genuine educational experience or philosophies are regarded as instant experts and given greater and greater control of new formats and schools. Increasingly teachers are to be evaluated not by their expertise in method, curriculum and teaching strategies but by raw test scores, without regard to context. Underlying all this “reform” is a refusal to grapple seriously with poverty and its root causes.

Finland sees the pathways quite differently. There are national goals but local and regional ways of meeting these objectives. Teachers are highly trained first in content areas and then, only after achieving a B.A., in teaching methods and philosophy. Teaching is a professional career, with training and national status to match. The curriculum is both broad and deep, structured to give students a foundation on which they will build later choices. There are options after the nine-year mandatory educational period, including vocational training rather than traditional college paths. Resources are targeted with emphasis on those schools and areas where high need is evident. Education is nationally funded, not by the archaic method of local taxation which is used in the United States to the detriment of high poverty areas.

Sahlberg makes it clear that the educational programs and policies of Finland are woven into the national policies of other aspects of the culture. For example, the national commitment of Finland is to equal opportunity throughout, access to a wide range of services and institutions. This is the “welfare state” so often decried in the United States but which forms the philosophical and practical backbone of the body politic. The success of the education system is part of a whole: medical care for the nation, employment strategies on a national level, social and political objectives that receive widespread support rather than political undermining as an election ploy every two or four years.

Finland is small and that’s why it works? Finland is the same size of a large number of American states (Minnesota is one example) and so on a state basis, such a system can work. Is the Finnish success due to homogeneity? Finland is not Canada or the United States in terms of the widespread multi-cultural nature of the society but it is hardly homogenous. Increasing numbers of immigrants have settled over the past forty years, including migrants from the old Soviet system. There are many special needs children and while the poverty rate is less than 5% overall, compared to 22% in the U.S., Finland is hardly a state without historical and current issues to address.

The most important chapter of this highly readable book is chapter five “Is the Future Finnish?” Here Sahlberg makes clear that he believes the GERM strategies are misguided and even harmful to their stated objectives because they are “characterized by increased competition and choice, standardization of teaching and learning, tightening test-based accountability and merit-based pay for teachers” which may actually “jeopardize schools’ efforts to teach for the evolving knowledge society and for a sustainable future”.

Finland has relied on four strategic principles since the 1970’s. These are:

“Guarantee equal opportunities to good public education for all
Strengthen professionalism of and trust in teachers
Steer educational change through enriched information about the process of schooling and smart assessment policies
Facilitate network based school improvement collaboration between schools and non-governmental associations and groups.”

Add a fifth component of school improvement to this list: a strong, functioning national anti-poverty program that reduces the impact of poverty on educational attainments.

The continued insistence in the United States on blaming teachers for the flaws in the system, increasing the evaluative percentage of test scores in assessing teacher competence and ignoring the need for a national anti-poverty program defies rationality. Setting one state against another in “Race To The Top” contests and relying on amateur organizations like Teach For America when what we need is greater professionalism and training would strike many foreign educators as a willful dismissal of what research tells us would really work. There is one area, however, where both the United States and Finland have common ground and that is in the importance they both place in school leadership. Finding the right kinds of people with the right skills and leadership qualities is high on the list of what makes for good schools and good systems. The American enthusiasm for importing leaders from the corporate world is not shared by the Finns; nor is the view that one can teach for a couple of years then move into administration successfully. It also seems apparent that the Finns want their school principals to be central to decision-making on educational policy, something not in much evidence in other countries. The Finns would certainly agree with recent efforts in the U.S. to study the research on school leadership and train leaders accordingly.

Finnish Lessons provides other indicators and reasons for school success that perhaps are more difficult to transpose to other systems and nations. For example, Sahlberg mentions the early reading successes for students and claims that to some extent this is based on the widespread reading habits of Finnish adults along with subtitled programs in movie theaters and on television. He also alludes to the national focus on building schools that reflect learning environment needs, something we have not done very much in North America. In the end, however, what we can learn from Finnish Lessons is both cultural and political: we can also pick up clues from other successful systems, such as those in Hong Kong, South Korea, Singapore, Canada and Australia, all of which teach that a strong educational system begins with investment of time, thoughtfulness and funds, that our education system here should lean much more heavily on educators’ expertise and much less on political factions and political posturing. While it is certainly true that we should not merely imitate successful national systems, it seems also true that our insistence on trying the same old things and expecting different results fits perfectly with Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Support the Baltimore Curriculum Project by purchasing Finish Lessons here: Finnish Lessons: What Can the World Learn from Educational Change in Finland? (Series on School Reform) (The Series on School Reform)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Shep Barbash Delivers Keynote at Winter PD Conference

Journalist Shepard Barbash delivered a moving keynote address on teaching and the importance of Direct Instruction at BCP's Winter 2012 Professional Development Conference at Hampstead Hill Academy on January 26, 2012.

Below is an excerpt from Barbash's keynote address:

You at BCP are really lucky and I mean it. You have Direct Instruction - the most powerful teaching method ever invented. You have the leaders who are committed to that method - to help you learn it when no one else saw fit to teach you; to celebrate your competent hardworking teachers when no one else saw fit to praise you; and to stay the course with DI in a City and a State and a Nation that either cares nothing about it or knows nothing about it.

DI has the best track record of anything in education; and BCP has the best track record of anyone in DI. So I’m honored to be here because I appreciate, probably even more than you do, just how exceptional you are.

Researchers around the country who’ve studied the number find that BCP is the only place in America; the only cluster of schools in America that have closed the achievement gap between rich and poor. The only place. So you’re not only lucky, you’re good. Better than good, you’re the best. You’ve made history and no one can tell you otherwise.

Siegfried Engelmann, the man who created Direct Instruction, keeps a list of all the places that tried DI, got great results with their students, and then abandoned it when a new regime came to town. Last I heard the list was up to 200 places. So BCP is unique in another way. As far as I know you’re the longest running DI implementation in the world. That’s important because kids from poor homes need at least five years with a good program if they hope to catch up to their more fortunate classmates.
View a video of his keynote at:

About Shepard Barbash

Barbash has been a writer for thirty years. His work has appeared in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Smithsonian Magazine, City Journal, Education Next and other publications. He is former bureau chief of the Houston Chronicle in Mexico City and is the author of five books, including Clear Teaching, published in January by the Education Consumers Foundation.

Friday, March 2, 2012

MECU Sponsors BCP Fundraising Gala

Thank you to MECU for supporting BCP's Are You Smarter Than a BCP 5th Grader? fundraising gala on April 20, 2012 with a $500 sponsorship.

MECU has also been a generous sponsor for BCP's 2011 Leading Minds Forum.

About MECU

MECU celebrated 75 years of serving its members in 2011. Members are the employees of Baltimore City and now our field of membership includes anyone who lives, works, goes to school or worships in Baltimore City.