Sunday, February 23, 2014

Wolfe Street Academy - Park School of Baltimore Team Wins Regional Destination Imagination Tournament

A team of students from Wolfe Street Academy and Park School of Baltimore won first place in yesterday's Maryland Destination Imagination North Central Region Tournament at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology.

Park School and Wolfe Street Academy have undertaken a partnership to jointly participate in the Destination Imagination, a program that encourages teams of learners to have fun, take risks, focus and frame challenges while incorporating STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), the arts and service learning.

The team,  led by Park School Spanish Teacher Silvia Patterson, is comprised of three Wolfe Street students - Lucia Given, Edwin Rivera and Makayla Moore - and three Park students. The students will compete in the State Tournament in April. The top placing teams at States advance to the Global Finals in May at the University of Tennessee

The goal of the Wolfe Street Academy - Park School partnership is to undertake a challenging task together that allows students from different backgrounds and experiences to get to know each other and to learn to appreciate each other’s talents and abilities to contribute.

We would like to congratulate the students on their hard work and thank Ms. Patterson for leading the team.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

MSDE Honors Wolfe Street Academy for Strengthening Achievement

Wolfe Street Academy is one of eighteen Maryland Title I public schools that were honored on January 31, 2014 for their efforts to improve student achievement.

The Maryland State Board of Education and the Maryland State Department of Education recognized Wolfe Street Academy as a Title I Highest Performing Reward School for meeting the Annual Measurable Objectives for "all students" and all subgroups for two consecutive years (SY 2011-2012 and SY 2012-2013), for having a 10 percent or less achievement gap between "all students" and the lowest performing subgroups, and for being designated in Strand 1 or 2 for two consecutive years.

Maryland’s Reward Schools program was developed as part of MSDE’s plan for flexibility from parts of the federal government’s Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA).
"I personally want to offer my congratulations on Wolfe Street Academy being named a Title I Highest Performing Reward School. This esteemed certificate not only recognizes exceptional teaching professionals who have raised the bar for student achievement, but also acknowledges your closing the achievement gap for lower performing subgroups"
~Lillian Lowery, Maryland State Superintendent of Schools
A Model Turnaround

Eight years ago Wolfe Street Academy was a traditional public elementary school, with a long record of low test scores and academic failure. The school was on the Maryland State list of failing schools, and so drastically under-enrolled that it was in danger of being closed. In 2005 a new Principal, Mark Gaither, brought a long career in education and a fresh approach.

Working with parents and teachers, Mr. Gaither led a campaign to join the Baltimore Curriculum Project, a charter school operator in Southeast Baltimore with a track record of turning around low-performing public schools.  By becoming a ‘conversion charter’, Wolfe Street Academy continues to serve the surrounding inner-city neighborhood and guarantee every in-zone child a seat, but has greater autonomy in the essential areas of curriculum, hiring and budget.

The Baltimore Curriculum Project provides expertise and extensive teacher training in academic instruction and behavior management, as well as a variety of administrative and back office supports. With these changes in place, test scores began to improve immediately, and doubled over the last nine years.

In fall 2011, Baltimore City Schools CEO Andres Alonso identified Wolfe Street Academy as one of only fifteen schools in the district with “80 and 80”; over 80% poverty rate and simultaneously demonstrating over 80% proficiency in state exams.

For the past two years, Wolfe Street Academy has been identified as one of only a handful of schools with 80/80/80; over 80% poverty rate and over 80% minority enrollment while simultaneously achieving over 80% proficiency on state exams in reading and math.

Other good news about Wolfe Street Academy (WSA)
  • WSA students outperform students in Baltimore City and across the state as a whole on the Maryland State Assessments.
  • Strong academic programs and our Community School strategy, which is supported by the Family League of Baltimore City and the Social Work Community Outreach Service of the University of Maryland School of Social Work, have increased test scores, allowing us to meet every academic and non-academic standard set by the State for six years.
  • Increased parental engagement in activities and involvement in children’s learning. Each morning as many as 40 parents and younger siblings of our students attend Wolfe Street’s morning meeting. 
  • An excellent attendance rate of nearly 97%.
  • Over the past 8 years, enrollment has increased by 34%
We would like to congratulate Wolfe Street Academy on receiving this well-deserved honor.

Friday, February 14, 2014

The Organized Classroom and Teaching

"Successful teaching requires the creation of strong
relationships with students and colleagues..." - Jon McGill
By Jon McGill, Director of Academic Affairs
Baltimore Curriculum Project
November 2013

New teachers, and those experienced teachers taking on new assignments in new schools, think long and hard about the kinds of things they will find in their new teaching contexts. How will the students be? How will I get along with colleagues? Will I be successful? The summer jitters never disappear, we just get more experienced in handling them. These questions emerge out of some truths we know from the start about teaching: that successful teaching requires the creation of strong relationships with students and colleagues; that good teaching is also about structures, organization and building culture in a classroom; that success is created over time, with consistency, clarity and compassion for our kids.

There are a myriad of “how to…” books, teacher guides, bromides, recipes and rules for teacher preparation. Many of them are excellent, like Doug Lemov’s Teach Like A Champion, for example.

In the end, good teachers take what they can from such guidance and adapt it to their personality and style. For example, there is a wonderful advice text entitled The Laughing Classroom, by Diana Loomans, but much of the advice it contains requires some of the skills of stand-up comedy, not everyone’s forte. While it may be true that good teaching requires some acting skills, we are not simply “showing off” and acting in our classrooms: this is much more complicated than that!

So what’s the right kind of advice for teachers going into our East Baltimore schools, either as brand new professionals or as veterans who are simply shifting locales?  Here is the advice I give to myself and share with you in the hope that it provides food for thought and, perhaps, some practical guidance that you can use to implement your strategies in your own way.

  • Forget the old bromide about “not smiling until winter break”: students want genuine interactions and that means we mix laughter and solemnity, seriousness and playfulness as the situation demands.

  • Focus intently on the culture of your classroom.  Ask yourself questions about the environment: what do the walls look like? What does the décor tell students about what we value? Why is organized “neatness” worth developing, even for those of us for whom tidy surrounds don’t come easily? How can I display student work in meaningful ways? Do I have a seating chart and do I stick to it? How does the desk and seating organization reflect learning priorities?

  • Exit and entry into a classroom might be the most reliable predictor of how well time is used. This is part of the transitions aspect of school life and many schools break down into chaos by virtue of transitions that are disorganized, unruly and unsupervised. Be ready from day one to teach your students how you want them to move around the room, to enter the room, to leave the room. Prepare to be diligent and stubborn on this issue. It will bring you rewards aplenty!!

  • Establish your set of classroom rules from the first day.  Limit the number of rules and make sure you have a rationale for each one: the kids will want to know and, in general, students comply with rules they know to be in their own interest.

  • Provide an activity for a student that lures them immediately to their desks as they enter the room: it might be a puzzle for them to solve, a riddle, a math problem, a fact about the world that will interest them or surprise them. One teacher might make the activity a journal entry; another might engage them with a story about a real-life event or person. We often associate routine with boredom but, in fact, routine is a prerequisite for effective learning.  Routine provides structure, clarity, and certainty, all of which students need.

  • Prepare, prepare, and prepare: go over your lesson plans the night before, look for new vocabulary or for ideas that will be new or challenging. Keep in mind that lack of preparation is what creates “dead zones”, those times in a classroom where you find yourself scrambling to find notes, or books or a transparency, or that story you wanted to read. When the teacher is thrown off course, so are the kids and they are harder to get back! Don’t be fooled into thinking that Direct Instruction, for you primary and elementary teachers, means you don’t have to prepare since you have a ‘script”: the best DI teachers got that way by rehearsing, preparing and being ready for whatever might arise.

  • Think about the impact of your vocal delivery: shouting is almost always counter-productive.  It still amazes me how well a near-whisper works when you want attention. Never, ever, be sarcastic, no matter how many times others tell you it’s really possible to be sarcastic in a “good way”. Your interpretation of the impact of sarcasm is not the same as that from a child. Most children experience sarcasm as cutting and unpleasant.

  • One-on-one relationship building is critical for teachers.  Spending even a five minute block of time with one of your students over lunch or at recess, checking in to see how they are, asking about family life (with some caution), letting children know you are interested in them, in all aspects of their life, this is important for relationship-building. It is also possible to do some one-on-one behavior management by finding ways to help individual children fit into your structures or to manage their behavior by teaching them some ways to handle anger or frustration. Remember that very few children set out to intentionally disrupt the classroom: something else is usually going on for those kids and our job is to find out what that is.  It won’t provide a magic behavior bullet but it will inform our strategies in the future.

  • Find out what is important to your kids and to their parents: what are their ambitions? Frustrations? Obstacles? What are their expectations from you? How have their prior experiences with teachers informed their attitudes?

  • Collaborate with your colleagues: this is often really helpful, especially when your colleague is someone who taught your class or an individual student the year before, or knows their backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses.

  • Invite observation: one of the ways we learn about our effectiveness is through the eyes of others who watch us teach: we have been trained too often to see observation as a threat when, in fact, it may be the best ally we have. Use the Baltimore Curriculum Project and site-based coaches for this: video-tape your class, watch the result with a colleague.  The more open we are to a helpful critique, the more likely we are to improve our efficacy and therefore the learning experience of our students.

  • Use the school structures and guidelines especially those that are set up for discipline.  If your school uses referral forms, then complete them without fail, even though it can be time-consuming.  Follow through with students, do not make “idle threats” (don’t threaten them at all!) but make sure they know the rules and the consequences and make them aware, by your behavior, that you are consistent, fair and stubborn!!

  • Incentive techniques are effective (and they are not mere “bribes”). They reinforce your standards, they provide positive perspectives and they also provide you with a chance to be creative and amusing.  We are always developing incentives for adults, why not for our kids also??? Incentives have long-term impact: bribery is short-term, changes nothing and puts the “briber” in a negative light!!!

  • Remember above all that our students want to succeed, want to learn, want to please and want to have positive relationships.  Our job is to teach them how to get this success and keep it. The act and art of learning is not genetically endowed: we have to learn how to learn effectively and keeping this in mind will remind you, I hope, that everything we do has impact, and is consequential. Many of the mistakes we have made in education over the years come from forgetting that our intentions and our practices must be in alignment.
I know that you can add to this list.  Share your thoughts, let others know what works for you, what failed, what you need in order to serve your students.  Best wishes!!!!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

City Springs Elementary/Middle School Newsletter

Check out the City Springs Elementary/Middle School January 2014 Newsletter at:

  • Academy Students Discuss Legacy of Change
  • Courtside: An Interview with the Basketball Team Coach Garrison
  • Tea Time!
  • City Springs Debate Team Champions Once Again

Maryland Science Center Family Science Night at Hampstead Hill Academy

HHA Students Enjoy Family Science Night
By Geri Swann, Director of Community Outreach
Hampstead Hill Academy
Reprinted from the Hampstead Hill Academy February 2014 Newsletter:

On Thursday, January 30th, Hampstead Hill Academy families ventured out into the cold to attend a special Family Science Night hosted by the Maryland Science Center and sponsored by the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds.

Approximately 150 people attended this event. Students were active participants in eight different science experiments which included building a circuit, extracting DNA from wheat germ, battling the forces of science and much more.

We would like to thank the Maryland Science Center and the Joseph and Harvey Meyerhoff Family Charitable Funds for providing this event to the families of our school.

Special thanks also to the following Hampstead Hill Academy staff members for their help: Ms. Swann, Mr. Paz, Mrs. Proto, Ms. Rebekah, Mr. Berry, Mrs. Sias, Ms. Casto, Mrs. LaBella, Ms. Adams, Mr. Swann, Mr. Cobb and Ms. Trainer. 

We also want to thank the following Maryland Science Center staff members for making this event possible:
  • Diane Bellomo, Camp-In Supervisor
  • Lee Billingsley, Director of Public Programs
  • Christopher Blair, Kids Room Manager
  • Julie Harrold, Education and Outreach Specialist
  • Nicole Kawamoto, External Programs Manager
  • Jennifer Liu, DIY Manager
  • Jennifer Payne, Education and Outreach Specialist
  • Jami Spriggs, Education Specialist
  • Maureen Sullivan, School Programs Supervisor

Monday, February 10, 2014

City Springs Students Attend "War Horse"

Last night over 60 students from City Springs Elementary/Middle School and about 20 staff members from City Springs, BCP and Hampstead Hill Academy attended a performance of War Horse at the Hippodrome.

The experience was made possible by a generous ticket subsidy provided by the Hippodrome Foundation and donations from individual donors.

Students and staff were enthralled by the performance; especially the horses, which came to life under the expert hands of the puppeteers. At the climactic moment when the play's star, a horse named Joey, is about to be put down, several of the students cried: "Noooo!"

City Springs seventh graders read the Book War Horse last semester in connection with their study of World War I, which is part of the new Middle Grades Core Knowledge Curriculum being developed by BCP.

In October  the Children’s Bookstore Educational Foundation 85 copies of War Horse for the students to keep. Attending the play was the perfect way for the students to deepen their knowledge and understanding of World War I.

We would like to thank the Hippodrome Foundation, Olive Waxter (Director, Hippodrome Foundation), the Children's Bookstore Educational Founation, and JoAnn Fruchtman (Owner, The Children’s Bookstore) for supporting our students. We would also like to thank the following individuals for helping us purchase the tickets for "War Horse": Dave & Doe Corcoran, Brenda Kahn, Frank ODonnell, Carl Pelton, Joel Rosado, Michele Sabean, Liz Trimmer, and John Ziemann.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Mayor Rawlings-Blake to Compete in "Are You Smarter than a BCP 5th Grader?"

Baltimore City Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and other local celebrities will compete with BCP students in the 2014 Are You Smarter than a BCP 5th Grader? Quiz Show. The Mayor has competed every year since 2012.

Mayor Rawlings-Blake is a regular visitor at BCP's three neighborhood charter schools. In August she visited City Springs Elementary/Middle School to kick off the new school year. She visited Wolfe Street Academy in October to congratulate students on their outstanding attendance and again in November to speak at the school's Lights On Afterschool event. Last March the Mayor held a press conference at Hampstead Hill Academy.

Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was sworn in as Baltimore’s 49th mayor on February 4, 2010. She had served as City Council President since November 2007. Rawlings-Blake was first elected to the Baltimore City Council in 1995 at age 25, the youngest person ever elected to the City Council. She represented the Council’s 5th District from 1995 to 2004 and the 6th District from 2004 to 2007, serving communities throughout West and Northwest Baltimore. She also served as Council Vice-President from 1999 to 2007. She  earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from Oberlin College and received her Juris Doctor from the University of Maryland School of Law in 1995.

We would like to thank Mayor Rawlings-Blake for her ongoing support.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

City Springs Wins Black History Month Project Competition

Playing the Saxophone
 By Kionna Allen
City Springs Elementary/Middle School has won the first prize of $1,000 in the Middle/High school category of the Black History Month Project Competition.

Be sure to visit the display at the Creative Alliance (located at 3134 Eastern Avenue) before Friday, February 8, 2014!

Congratulations to City Springs and the other winning schools: Patterson Park Public Charter, Open Minds Art Club at the Creative Alliance, Highlandtown #215 School, and Eager Street Academy.

Thank you to Johns Hopkins and the Creative Alliance for making this possible for our students.

Below is an article by City Springs Art Teacher Kasey Trudgeon, which was posted on January 29th.

Yesterday, twelve of our 7th and 8th grade Academy students from City Springs had their artwork entered into The Black History Month Art Exhibition presented by Johns Hopkins East Baltimore Community Affairs at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson. Their artwork will be on display from February 1st until February 8th. Their names are Kionna Allen, Dreyon Cooper, Dynasty Eggleston, Demetrius Ellis, Tyriq Elmore, Cameron Gilmore, Kaye Marie Lumayog, Dominic Rabey, Zion Rhodes, Dajana Spriggs, Anthony Webb, and Mackalya Williams.

Since the students were learning about WWI in their history and language arts classes, in art they were taught about the Harlem Renaissance, which stemmed from WWI. After learning about the Harlem Renaissance, the students studied the design principle of Movement. The students' artwork is an arrangement of twelve wire and plaster sculptures, made to look like Billie Holiday, her musicians, and the dancers at a nightclub. The way the students created their sculptures was deliberate; they wanted them to look like they were actually frozen in time: singing, playing music, and dancing during the Harlem Renaissance.

Playing the Saxophone by Kionna Allen
The following caption goes with the students' artwork:
Billie Holiday, although born in Philadelphia, spent many of her childhood years in Baltimore. It is said that she got a job running errands in a brothel so that she could listen to the jazz and blues that played in the parlor. After moving to New York, Holiday had a great influence on jazz and pop singing. Her vocal style was unlike that of any other. One critic, John Bush, even wrote how Holiday “changed the art of American pop vocals forever.” She did so by making a great contribution to the “Harlem Renaissance,” a period in the 1920’s when achievements in art, music, and literature of African-Americans flourished. Without Holiday and her Baltimore roots, however, the Harlem Renaissance may not have been nearly as spectacular

Business Volunteers Maryland Connects M&T Bank with Hampstead Hill Academy

Watch this amazing video about how Business Volunteers Maryland connected Mo Jishi, Group Vice President at M&T Bank, with Matt Hornbeck, Principal at Hampstead Hill Academy.

Business Volunteers has been a faithful BCP partner for over 8 years, providing volunteers and support for our schools through a variety of programs including: the PENCIL school partnership program, GIVE civic leaders program, and the INSPIRE school attendance program.

Business Volunteers Maryland connects companies and individuals to results-focused volunteerism while fulfilling the needs of nonprofit organizations for talented, mission-driven volunteers. Better volunteers means stronger nonprofits, engaged businesses and a more prosperous Maryland. Business Volunteers’ practical approach to business volunteerism provides valuable benefits for your business, your employees and our community.

We would like to thank Mo Jishi and the team at Business Volunteers Maryland for all their support:
  • Kelly Hodge-Williams, Executive Director
  • Vanessa Milio, Deputy Director
  • Patti Carter, Manager, Administration & Operations
  • Nicole Bowens, Manager, Resource Development & Donor Engagement
  • Tom Caron, Manager, Business Engagement
  • Rebecca Hauser, Manager, Communications & Marketing
  • Natashia Heggins, Manager, Volunteer Engagement & Nonprofit Programs
  • Sarah Long, Manager, Civic Engagement Programs
  • Dana Schwartz, Manager, Board Matching Program
  • Nyah Vanterpool, Manager, School Partnership Program
  • Chris Taylor, Coordinator, Business Engagement
  • Tracy O’Connor, Business Associate

Saturday, February 1, 2014

BCP Trains Over 130 Teachers at Winter PD Conference

Brenda Kahn teaches classroom managemnet strategies
Yesterday the Baltimore Curriculum Project provided training for over 130 teachers from City Springs Elementary/Middle School, Wolfe Street Academy and Hampstead Hill Academy. BCP's 2013 Winter Staff Development Day covered a range of topics from teaching tough kids to Core-Knowledge Read-Alouds.

The morning began with a continental breakfast, followed by an inspiring speech by BCP President Laura Doherty.

Early morning sessions included:
  • The IEP Process (Sue Lattimore, BCP, Patrise Carpenter, Hampstead Hill Academy)
  • The Tough Kid Toolbox (Brenda Kahn, BCP)
  • You Cannot Escape from Vocabulary! (Jon McGill, BCP)
  • Lesson Planning for the Non-DI Classroom (Vicky Jennings, City Springs School, Jeff Krick, BCP)
Late morning sessions included:
  •  Lesson Planning for the Non-DI Classroom Part II ((Vicky Jennings, City Springs School, Jeff Krick, BCP)
  •  Reading Mastery Signatures (Stacey Hicks, BCP/City Springs School)
  • Core Knowledge Read-Alouds: How to Plan Engaging Instruction (Brenda Kahn, BCP)
  • Effective Firm-Up Procedures (Marvelyn Johnson, BCP/Hampstead Hill Academy)
The Core Knowledge Foundation provided a 2-day
Language Arts training for PreK and K teachers
A group of PreK and Kindergarten teachers also participated in a two-day Core Knowledge Language Arts training provided by the Core Knowledge Foundation. This training was made possible by a generous grant from the Abell Foundation.

BCP provides customized training for teachers through staff development days and a 1 to 2-week Summer Training Institute for new and returning teachers. BCP staff work with principals to identify training needs and develop training specifically to address these needs.

We would like to thank all of the presenters for their hard work in supporting our outstanding teachers.