PTA Council of Howard County, February 2014 Summary

On the first Monday of each month, delegates from each of Howard County's 73 Parent Teacher Associations (PTAs) meet as the PTA Council of Howard County. PTACHC hears from Board of Education members, the Superintendent's office, and guest speakers on a variety of topics related to public education in Howard County. These meetings are open to the public. 

February 10, 2014

Board Report:

Board members shared their desire to hear from parents, both individually and through their local PTAs. The Board of Education reviews and revises many policies throughout the year, as well as passes operating and capital budgets. The Board would like to hear about the things we support as well as our critiques of and questions about policy changes or other proposals. Board members also shared that school boards across the state are interested in pre-Kindergarten expansion but concerned about the details. The Maryland General Assembly is working on legislation now.

Superintendent's Report:

The Superintendent's liaison shared that the weather has been quite disruptive to school schedules. Please check for the latest information on the final day of school, as well as reschedule notices for the many community and Board of Education events cancelled due to snow.

Guest Speaker - Panel of Howard County Educators:

Howard County Education Association President Paul Lemle gave an overview of the changes that have occurred in our schools. They include new instructional standards (aka Common Core) as well as a new teacher evaluation system and a transition between different types of standardized student assessments [from Maryland School Assessment (MSA) to Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)]. Mr. Lemle shared that HCEA would like to begin some new types of communication between county educators and parents, such as an opt-in email newsletter and a parent advisory council that would guide HCEA on issues from the parent perspective.

The overview was brief; the bulk of the night was spent in conversation, Q & A style. School-based staff are feeling more stressed than ever before because of all of these major changes occurring at the same time. Teachers shared that:

  • The new instructional standards - Common Core - don’t come with a curriculum. Some subjects in some grades have more complete curriculum (lesson plans, menus of activities, etc.) than others. Developing the lessons and instructional materials to meet the new standards is time-intensive.
  • The new teacher evaluation system includes a component called Student Learning Objectives (SLOs). Teachers choose two instructional objectives for which they will measure student growth. They develop an assessment to give students at the beginning of the year and again at the end of the year. Using the baseline scores from the beginning of the year, teachers develop a target achievement level for each student. They instruct and collect data throughout the year, then reassess at year-end to show growth. There are many more details that relate to the time-demands of this system.
  • Standardized test scores, such as MSAs, are another component of the teacher’s evaluation. These scores plus the SLOs equal 50% of the evaluation.
  • The rest of the evaluation follows a model that has four categories of professional practice, and each category has several standards. Teachers upload artifacts that demonstrate their performance in each of these standards in each category. This is also a time-consuming process.

The panel concluded by answering the question “What is the one thing that would make the biggest improvement to your work as educators?” Down the line they went, answering as follows:

  1. Resources and time to plan for the new instructional standards
  2. Time for planning lessons, grading assignments - keep planning time reserved for planning and not taken up by meetings; add more time for teachers to plan during the pre-service week
  3. Time during the day to thoughtfully grade assignments
  4. An effectively structured workload

Save the Date:

March 3  PTACHC General Meeting, 7:30 p.m.
Topic:  HCPSS presentation on Wellness Policy.
Department of Education, Boardrooms A & B, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD

March 13  Public Hearing, 7:30 p.m.
Topic:  Policy 9090 - Wellness
Department of Education, Boardrooms A & B, 10910 Clarksville Pike, Ellicott City, MD