Mid-Shore Education: Chesapeake College’s Clay Railey

Given Clay Railey’s resume, including a doctorate in English from Vanderbilt, a long teaching career at Chesapeake College, and more recently, being provost of Bucks County Community College, it was not a total surprise that he was appointed vice president of academic affairs of the Wye Mills community college in 2016.

But perhaps missing in that background was another experience that could be seen as a real asset for the job of stewarding the college’s educational goals. And that was the not too trivial fact that Dr. Railey had been a Jesuit priest for twenty years before his move into public education. And while the order’s renowned reputation for scholarship and intellectualism may have little day to day impact on Chesapeake College, there can be very little doubt the Railey remains true to the Jesuit mission of “cura personalis,” which is Latin for “care for the whole person.”

From students moving forward with workforce career training to those on a traditional liberal arts academic track, Clay Railey is redesigning Chesapeake College’s approach with that “whole person” in mind.

In our first Spy interview with Clay, he talks about some of those redesign plans and programs that significantly expand Chesapeake College’s special mission of training the Mid-Shore adults for 21st Century jobs and opportunities.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake College please go here

 

Mid-Shore Education: The Homeschooling Option with Denise Chapman-Toth

With serious debates going on about the quality of public education and expensive private education, it is easy sometimes to overlook the third option for parents and their children when it comes to elementary and secondary education. And that is the possibility of homeschooling.

At present, close to 700 families have selected this option rather than sending their children to various public and private schools on the Mid-Shore. That sparked our curiosity about what it takes to have a successful homeschool program and the kind of commitment it requires from one or both parents during the year, and that is why we were able to track down Denise Chapman-Toth, president of the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore, to talk about this rarely used but relatively successful alternative to mainstream education programs.

In our Spy interview, Denise talks about her own experience over the last sixteen years in homeschooling her children, as well as the satisfaction of having two of them move on to higher education and be on the honor roll. She also talks about the mechanics of starting a homeschool program for your children and the kind of typical day required for parent teachers.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about the Home Educators of the Eastern Shore please go here.

Lawmakers, Educators Push for Less Classroom-testing Time

Maryland is ranked as the second-worst state in the nation for teacher classroom autonomy, according to the Learning Policy Institute, and testing mandates are a major contributor to this ranking, according to the Maryland State Education Association.

Lawmakers and educators testified Wednesday before the Senate Education, Health, and Environmental Affairs committee in favor of the Less Testing, More Learning Act — legislation sponsored by Sen. Roger Manno, D-Montgomery, that would limit standardized testing to 2 percent of class time, or about 21.6 hours for elementary and middle schools and 23.4 hours for high school each school year.

In 2015, The U.S. Department of Education recommended that a student spend no more than 2 percent of their time in class taking required statewide standardized assessments.

“About 21 hours testing or 2 percent of instructional time annually is more than enough time to make sure students are on track to be successful throughout the year,” Betty Weller, president of the Maryland State Education Association and a middle school teacher for Kent County Public Schools said during the hearing.

The bill also repeals statewide social studies assessments both on the middle school and high school levels.

As an alternative, starting during the 2017-2018 school year, each local board of education should design and administer their own social studies assessment as part of the local curriculum, according to the bill.

Manno testified during the hearing that the legislation will allow local committees to be able to determine their own social studies curricula.

About two-thirds of the state Senate — 31 members — are co-sponsors of the bill. The House of Delegates unanimously passed similar legislation last year, according to a Maryland State Education Association press release.

During the 2015-2016 school year, the average student took 249 total hours of standardized tests from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, according to a Maryland State Education Association analysis based on date from the Maryland State Department of Education.

Those hours do not include preparation, in-class tests, Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams and, in a majority of cases, exams such as the ACT and the SAT are not included, according to the Maryland State Education Association.

Celia Burton, testing coordinator for Prince George’s County Public Schools, said at the hearing that since this past September students have had 71 different types of mandated tests.

In her school district, Burton said, some students are not allowed or able to attend Black History Month programs because of testing for student learning objectives that are used for teacher evaluations. They are being assessed for courses such as math, reading, science, physical education, health, foreign language and band.

“They are required to take one assessment per content area and the questions are more than 30 questions on each of the assessments,” Burton said.

Maryland Parent and Teacher Association President Elizabeth Ysla-Leight also supports the act and said she believes there are many benefits to cutting back on testing and spending more time on learning.

“As a stakeholder … for the Every Student Succeeds Act, we believe that the more active time students spend in the classroom — actually learning — benefits their achievement and … meeting their potential in schools,” Ysla-Leight said. “We believe the benefits is that they’re actually going to be learning as opposed to being assessed on what they already learned.”

Manno also said students being exposed to the arts and physical education in school helps them become well-balanced, and well-rounded to prepare for the future.

“The onerous non-stop grind towards these benchmarks — towards these federal, state benchmarks to prepare them for these tests and for them to perform on a dime during these tests are really getting to inhibit their ability to…be productive, wonderful, flourishing young people who I know we all want to continue to grow and to nurture,” Manno said during the hearing.

Manno emphasized that although the bill will limit testing time, he does support standardized testing.

“There’s a great need for benchmarks and preparation for critical subjects but we’ve, I think, begun to pile up in terms of these tests and as a result kids, who we all know need a rich, diverse, instructional experience and environment, have essentially become slaves to the test,” Manno said.

By Brianna Rhodes

Maryland Public Schools Drops to 5th in National Survey Ranking

-Maryland public schools fell to fifth place in Education Week’s national education rankings this year, due in part to achievement gaps between low and high-income students.

A Capital News Service analysis of state education data found the achievement gaps were especially pronounced in counties with the highest success rates.

Education Week ranked Maryland first from 2009 to 2013, until a criteria change in 2015 dropped it to third. The state fell to fourth in 2016 and fifth this year. Education Week did not rank states in 2014.

The achievement gap accounts for 7.3 percent of Education Week’s overall score — and the gap between rich and poor kids is larger in Maryland than most other states. About one-quarter of Maryland students who qualify for subsidized lunches passed the 2016 PARCC exam — the state’s standardized test for Algebra 1 and English 10 – compared with about 40 percent of all students, according to the state Dept. of Education.

In Education Week’s analysis, Maryland’s was 42nd out of 50 states and Washington, D.C., in the category that measures the achievement gap. It’s not unheard of for the highest achieving states to do poorly in that section. For example, Massachusetts – the top state in Education Week’s overall rankings – placed 34th in the achievement gap category.

In Maryland, the counties with the highest PARCC pass rates have some of the largest gaps between rich students and poor students. In those counties, low-income students are still passing the PARCC at higher rates than low-income students in other counties. But their wealthier peers are outscoring them by a much higher margin.

For example, in 2016 Carroll County had the state’s highest PARCC pass rate – 57.7 percent. But only 33.2 percent of poor students passed the tests – an achievement gap of 24.5 percent, the second highest in the state.

By AMANDA SMITH

Maryland Senator Mikulski and News Commentator Roberts at Washington College

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Former Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski

Two influential and iconic Washington women—former Maryland Sen. Barbara Mikulski and news commentator and political analyst Cokie Roberts—will kick off a new series at Washington College on Friday, March 3.The event launches a new series of programs commemorating the upcoming centennial of the amendment that gave American women the right to vote.

In “Climbing the Hill,” Roberts will lead a conversation with Mikulski about the changing roles and influence of women in public life over the course of her 40-year congressional career. John Harwood of CNBC and The New York Times will introduce the speakers.

The free, public event, sponsored by the Harwood Lecture Series,is at 5 p.m. in Decker Theatre, Gibson Center for the Arts. It will be followed by a reception in the Underwood Lobby, and copies of Roberts’ books will be available for purchase and signing.

The Hon. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., served in the U.S. Congress longer than any other woman in American history. At her retirement in 2017, she had represented Maryland for 30 years in the Senate, preceded by 10 in the House of Representatives. The first woman to chair the powerful Appropriations Committee, she began her career in public service as a member of the Baltimore City Council, and while she rose to the heights of power in Congress, she never neglected her Baltimore roots, a commitment that earned her enormous loyalty in her home state. Her legacy includes major achievements in women’s pay equity and healthcare, as well as in advancing political engagement for new generations of American women. In 2015 she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. She is now professor of public policy at Johns Hopkins University.

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News Commentator and Political Analyst Cokie Roberts

Cokie Roberts, an acclaimed reporter and commentator for ABC News and National Public Radio, served as NPR’s congressional correspondent for more than 10 years. From 1996-2002 she and Sam Donaldson co-anchored the weekly ABC interview program This Week. In her more than 40 years in broadcasting, she has won three Emmys and has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame. American Women in Radio and Television named her one of the 50 greatest women in the history of broadcasting. A prolific writer, she has written six New York Times bestsellers, several of them on women’s political lives in early America—We Are Our Mother’s Daughters, Founding Mothers, Ladies of Liberty, and Capital Dames: The Civil War and the Women of Washington, 1848-1868.Her children’s book Founding Mothers, illustrated by Caldecott award winner Diane Goode, was also a bestseller, and the children’s version of Ladies of Liberty, also illustrated by Goode, was published in December 2016.

The event, sponsored by the Harwood Series in American Journalism and the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience, leads off a new series at Washington College, the Women’s Centennial. The series looks ahead to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave American women the right to vote. Over the next four years, leading up to the 2020 anniversary itself, the Women’s Centennial will bring outstanding American women to campus, honoring and chronicling the achievements of women in leadership and public life from 1920 to the present day.

With its distinctive connection to the history of American freedom and its tradition of educating women and men as citizen leaders—and now under the leadership of its first female president, Sheila Bair—Washington College is uniquely suited to host the Women’s Centennial. The College has deep traditions of gender inclusivity: in 1783, it hired the first recorded female faculty member in American higher education, the art instructor Elizabeth Callister Peale. In May 1942, Washington College bestowed an honorary degree on First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.

About the Washington College’s Harwood Lecture Series in American Journalism

The series was established to honor the distinguished career of the late Washington Post columnist and ombudsman Richard Harwood, who served as a trustee of the College, as well as a teacher and mentor of undergraduate journalists. The Harwood series has featured David Axelrod, Susan Goldberg, Tom Wheeler, Howard Dean, Robert Novak, John McCain, James Carville, Judy Woodruff, Al Hunt, Mark Shields, and Paul Gigot, among others. The journalistic tradition has also continued in Harwood’s own family; his son, John Harwood, has had a distinguished career as a political correspondent and columnist for CNBC, the New York Times, and the Wall Street Journal.

About the C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience

The College’s C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience is dedicated to fostering innovative approaches to the American past and present. Through educational programs, scholarship, and public outreach, and with a special focus on written history, the Starr Center seeks to bridge the divide between the academic world and the public at large.

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.

Profiles in Spirituality: WC Professor Joseph Prud’homme Connects Politics, Religion and Culture

For almost the entire length of his academic career, Joseph Prud’homme, Easton resident, Washington College professor, and founder of the school’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture, has investigated the extraordinary links that connect our country’s political life with its religious and cultural heritage. While he is the first to say that he is not a preacher nor a politician, but “just a professor,” he believes the time is right for his institute to move beyond the college classroom and enter into the much larger orbit of public discourse with outreach programs and lecture series designed to inform the Mid-Shore community of these multidisciplinary links.

In his first Spy interview, Joseph highlights how these three of these components interacts in our current state of affairs by using the example of the abolitionist movement in the early part of the 19th Century, where  politics, religion, and American culture were vividly seen as important and co-equal influences on how the United States saw the institution of slavery. In Professor Prud’homme’s mind, that trinity is just as important to consider when talking about abortion rights or the Black Lives Matters movement in 2017.

This video is approximately six minutes in length. For more information about Washington College’s Institute for the Study of Religion, Politics, and Culture please go here

Mid-Shore Arts: WC’s Rose O’Neill Literary House with Director James Allen Hall

Over the last two decades, Washington College has invested heavily into three major institutions on their campus. The first two of these so-called “Centers for Excellence,” are the highly respected C.V. Starr Center for the Study of the American Experience and the equally impressive Center for Environment & Society. Both have built themselves into exceptionally vital parts of campus life as well as the entire Mid-Shore..

The third, the Rose O’Neill Literary House, is perhaps the least known of the triplets, but certainly is the oldest with over forty years of student programs, literary publications and a long list of some of the best known names in the world of arts and letter making campus visits, including the likes of Toni Morrison, Allen Ginsberg and

And while the “Lit House” program does not equal its WC peers in endowment support and operating budgets, it makes up for it with inspired leadership. Starting with the program’s founder Bob Day in 1970 and now under the stewardship of professor and poet James Allen Hall, the College is one of small handful of writing centers in the country that has distinguished itself for its diversity and student participation.

The Spy caught up with James last month to talk about the art and relevance of writing as well as the often underestimated value of being a good writer as college graduates seek their first jobs. The Chestertown resident also talks about his own aspirations for the Lit House and his home there can be more town-gown programming and outreach.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. Additional video was provided by Washington College. For more information about the Rose O’Neill Literary House, please go here.

WC President Pens Op-Ed in NY Times on Student Debt

Editor’s Note: Washington College President Sheila Bair made a strong case to relieve student debt in the New York Times today. We thought our Spy readers would enjoy reading it.

Donald J. Trump has made bold and provocative campaign promises on taxes, trade, immigration and infrastructure. These pledges are all in service of bolstering our economic future. While we hope these initiatives will help our economic prospects, there is one important measure missing from the debate. And it could have an even more immediate and direct impact on economic growth: student debt relief.

Student debt now stands at $1.3 trillion. More than half of student borrowers are unable to repay their loans according to the original terms. In a well-intended but poorly executed effort to make college broadly accessible, the government has lent freely to students, with little attention to whether they can repay those loans. The result is millions of young people with debt they cannot afford.

For the rest of the article, please go here.

College Becoming less Affordable for Maryland Students

During this past election cycle, presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton both highlighted increasing college debt as one of the most important issues in the country.

Since the 2008 economic recession, student loan debt is the only form of consumer debt that has continued to increase, surpassing auto and credit card loans, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

Fifty-eight percent of Maryland undergraduates from public and private nonprofit four-year institutions who graduated in 2014 had debt, and the average total was $27,457, according to the Project on Student Debt.

Many of the reasons loans have increased is because the price to attend college, even at state schools that subsidize costs for some students, has also increased, including in Maryland.

In 2007, the in-state cost of tuition at the University of Maryland, College Park was $6,566. For Maryland residents who enrolled this academic year, the cost of tuition is $10,180.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education created a report diagnosing college affordability in Maryland and found, “Despite Maryland’s strong overall showing on college affordability, the state’s public institutions — enrolling 90 percent of Maryland students — have declined in affordability since 2008.”

This is especially true for the state’s most economically disadvantaged areas.

“Putting food on the table seems to be a higher priority than going to college,” said Cindy Clement, an economics professor from the University of Maryland. “Paying for the price of college requires a lot of means testing; poor people are less able to document what their income is.”

For public two-year institutions in 2008, the percentage of average family income to attend college full time in Maryland was 17 percent. This number only increased by 1 percent by 2013, but it ranks 33rd in country, according to Penn’s report. Public two-year institutions enrolled 45 percent of Maryland students.

The report also estimates that students would need to work 23 hours a week at minimum wage to attend community college and about 40 to pay for tuition and fees at any four-year institution.

Maryland’s most disadvantaged areas in terms of net price as a percent of family income for four-year institutions include the state’s Eastern Shore, Baltimore City and western Maryland.

Under the University System of Maryland, which comprises 12 of the state’s public institutions, tuition, on average, has increased a little less than 3 percent annually since 2009. The system’s budget totals $5 billion annually.

“If you think about budgeting that, you want to be able to deliver the services and necessities students need on campus,” system spokesman Mike Lurie told the University of Maryland’s Capital News Service. “Costs include not only having functional facilities but also safe facilities.”

Clement explained that the cost to attend college has also increased because of students’ expectation for technology to be integrated into the learning experience.

“Technology has gotten more expensive but has not necessarily lowered the cost of education,” said Clement, who teaches a course on the college affordability crisis.

As the job market in certain industries becomes more competitive, the value of a college degree increases, which Clement also attributes to the increased cost to attend school. The Penn report ranked Maryland 16th in terms of states with the highest percentage of jobs that will require a postsecondary credential in the future.

As of 2014, 46 percent of young adults and 47 percent of working-age adults in Maryland had an associate’s degree or higher, compared to the national averages of 42 and 40 percent, respectively, according to Penn’s report.

“The value of a college education has gone up so more people are seeking it,” said Clement, who added that the cost to pay professors also has increased. “Highly educated individuals command a higher wage. That means you have to pay them more to teach.”

However, some Marylanders are working to mitigate the college affordability problem.

Joe Fisher is the president and CEO of First Generation College Bound, which is a college access program that helps its participants, who are primarily moderate to low income, secure financial opportunities.

For 27 years, Fisher and his organization have been helping high school students understand their financial situation and look for grants and scholarships that greatly decrease the cost to attend school. Fisher advises many of his participants who are from Maryland to consider attending in-state schools that provide many financial aid opportunities to their students.

“Many of these students do not realize they can attend college; the money is there,” Fisher said. “Our goal is not only to students to be accepted and attend but also to be able to stay there and graduate.”

Dontra Scott was one of these children who never believed he could attend college. Although he performed well in school, Scott was raised by a single mother in Columbia, Maryland, and no one from his family ever graduated from college.

Fisher was Scott’s sixth-grade teacher and through his guidance and mentorship, Scott was able to attend college at the University of Maryland from 2002 to 2006, only taking out one loan for $2,000.

“One thing I love about this country is that they do have a lot of grants and scholarships for people whose parents aren’t making that much money,” Scott said.

Although Scott wanted to attend Florida State when applying to schools, he said Fisher discouraged him from that because he would have to take out thousands of dollars in loans. Fisher advises students to attend schools that do not require taking out huge amounts in loans, even if it is a dream school.

“College affordability is about going where you can afford to attend,” he said. “Parents and students clearly understand the excitement of college acceptance, not the commitment to understanding financial aid.”

By Katishi Maake

FixedFor4 Offers More Certainty in Planning for the Cost of Tuition

Continuing its attack on the issues of college cost, access, and student loan debt, Washington College today announced FixedFor4, a fixed-rate tuition plan beginning with next year’s freshman class and encompassing current undergraduates. President Sheila Bair, who has spearheaded the College’s efforts toward affordability over the past year, says the change will make it easier for students and their families to plan for and afford a four-year liberal arts education.

“Uncertainty makes financial planning difficult. For families on a tight budget, annual tuition increases make remaining in college financially untenable for many students,” President Bair says. “FixedFor4 means just what it says: Washington College students and their families will know precisely how much their tuition will be for the entirety of their four years here–guaranteed. That’s true regardless of whether the current economic worries about increasing inflation hold true. With FixedFor4, even as other costs may go up, we will protect families from tuition hikes.”

Here’s how FixedFor4 will work: Beginning next fall,tuition will increase 2 percent—to $43,702—to help cover the transitional cost of the program. That will be the fixed rate for freshmen who graduate in four years (the Class of 2021), as well as for students already enrolled. Beginning in the fall of 2018, tuition increases for freshman classes will be evaluated annually, but the rate, once set, will remain fixed for the students’ four years. The cost of room and board is not part of tuition and will continue to change annually depending on economic factors.

FixedFor4 is the latest in a series of affordability initiatives President Bair, the former chair of the FDIC, has pushed since her inauguration in September 2015. Each seeks to tackle the problems of affordability and accessibility from a different angle.

After initiating in September 2015 a tuition freeze through academic year 2016-17, the College launched Dam the Debt in May, which reduced the federally subsidized loan debt of 119 qualifying seniors by an average of $2,630, a 10.2 percent reduction in their total federal loan burden. In August, the first 16 students of George’s Brigade matriculated as part of the Class of 2020; these high-achieving, high-need, first-generation students will have their full tuition, room, board, and fees covered for all four years. Also in August, the College announced the Saver’s Scholarship, a College-matched award up to $2,500 annually, for students and families who use proceeds from a 529 or Educational Savings Account for tuition.

“FixedFor4 will help every single Washington College student currently enrolled, and their families,” President Bair says. “With each of these programs, Washington College is developing fresh solutions to make a college education more affordable and accessible, and establishing itself as a national leader on addressing these issues.”

About Washington College

Founded in 1782, Washington College is the tenth oldest college in the nation and the first chartered under the new Republic. It enrolls approximately 1,450 undergraduates from more than 35 states and a dozen nations. With an emphasis on hands-on, experiential learning in the arts and sciences, and more than 40 multidisciplinary areas of study, the College is home to nationally recognized academic centers in the environment, history, and writing. Learn more at washcoll.edu.